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UEFA wrap: Spain clinches, Iceland grabs control

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There were certainly surprises in UEFA on Friday.

Serbia opened the door to Group D’s automatic spot, while Spain clinched the 11th berth in Russia thanks to another big win and a shocking draw between Italy and Macedonia.

[ MORE: U-17 World Cup Day 1 roundup ]

Wales and the Republic of Ireland found new leases on automatic qualifying life, while Group I remains quite murky.


GROUP D

Georgia 0-1 WalesRECAP

Tom Lawrence of Derby County stepped up with a goal in the absence of Gareth Bale, as Wales made sure to put pressure on Serbia with the first result of the day.

Austria 3-2 Serbia

Crystal Palace man Luka Milivojevic scored in the 11th minute to put Serbia on the precipice of Russia, but Guido Burgstaller knotted it up 14 minutes later.

It stayed 1-1 until Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic scored only to find an answer for Serbia in the form of Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic.

Yet Louis Schaub scored just before stoppage time to provide an intriguing final day to qualifying.

Republic of Ireland 2-0 Moldova

Daryl Murphy scored twice in the first 19 minutes to set up a massive final match at Wales on Monday

Matches and scenarios:

Monday
Wales vs. Ireland
Serbia vs. Georgia
Moldova vs. Austria

The read: Serbia can still advance automatically by holding serve against Georgia, but a draw would open the door to Wales or Ireland and Georgia proved no pushover for Wales on Friday. The Welsh can ensure no worse than second at home by beating Ireland, while either winner would pass a losing Serbia.


GROUP G

Italy 1-1 Macedonia

Giorgio Chiellini darted into the heart of the six to pass home a goal which sealed Italy’s place in the playoffs, though it was Aleksandar Trajkovski’s 78th minute goal which assured the Italians would not catch Spain.

Spain 3-0 Albania

Rodrigo, Isco, and Thiago Alcantara all scored before the match was a half-hour old to stylishly insure a spot in Russia.

Liechtenstein 0-1 Israel

Eitan Tibi’s 21st minute goal was the lone marker.

Scenarios: Spain wins group. Italy will head to the playoffs. Imagine, as it stands, the possibility of Italy vs. Portugal over two legs for a World Cup berth.


GROUP I

Turkey 0-3 Iceland

Johann Gudmundsson (Burnley), Birkir Bjarnason (Aston Villa), and Kari Arnarson (Aberdeen) scored to banish Turkey from qualification and put Iceland in the driver’s seat for a trip to Russia.

Kosovo 0-2 Ukraine

It was a second half own goal that kept Ukraine’s World Cup hopes alive, and set up a critical final day between Ukraine and Croatia in Kiev.

Croatia 1-1 Finland

Mario Mandzukic broke through in the 57th minute, but Pyry Soiri scored in stoppage time to score a fine result for Croatia and put Iceland in the Group I driver’s seat.

Matches and scenarios:

Monday
Ukraine vs. Croatia
Iceland vs. Kosovo
Finland vs. Turkey

The read: Iceland is through to Russia with a win. There are other scenarios to send Iceland through, including with a loss (That would require a Ukraine-Croatia draw).

Croatia can advance to Russia with a win and an Iceland draw or loss, and would currently finish second if it draws Ukraine.

Ukraine can finish first if it beats Croatia and Iceland loses to Kosovo, or if Iceland draws and Ukraine beats Croatia by more than a goal. Other scenarios exist, but are more complicated.

Turkey is now out.

MLS 3 Things: Resurgent Zardes, Toronto up, New England down

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A busy Saturday in Major League Soccer sees three interesting results bolstering the story lines of the final few months of the season.

[ MORE: Unstoppable Josef | Zlatan, too ]

1) Imagine a world with the reigning champs as your reward for finishing first.

With 14 matches to play, Toronto FC has Jozy Altidore back in the fold and has pulled to within eight points of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot after a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Sebastian Giovinco looks like Sebastian Giovinco in scoring another outstanding goal, just his fifth of the season, while Jonathan Osorio also scored in the win.

Before you watch Seba’s goal, picture you’ve won the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now picture TFC as your semifinal reward.

2) New England is well and truly slumping

Brad Friedel‘s Revs are slipping after losing a third-straight league match, and New England has gained a solitary point since the calendar turned to July following a 2-0 loss at Red Bull Arena.

Fourth through ninth in the East are separated by nine points, and New England is very much in that mix now. Friedel is certainly at the most trying time of his tenure.

Second half goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer did the trick for RBNY, who have claimed 15 of the last 18 points available to them (The lone blemish is the Hudson River Derby).

The Red Bulls are now 8-1-1 at home this season, while New England is 1-4-4 away from Foxboro.

3) Gyasi Zardes’ return to form is surprising and wonderful

Columbus has its second win since May 19, and will be feeling much better about itself following a 3-2 comeback win over Orlando City which included a pair of equalizers.

One of those came in the 88th minute, as Gyasi Zardes completed his brace by converting a penalty won by new arrival Patrick Mullins.

The Crew won late via a rare Wil Trapp goal — the USMNT midfielder has just two in 161 matches — but let’s focus on Zardes.

Zardes’ 13th goal of the season continues an amazing turnaround under striker whisperer Gregg Berhalter. It’s Zardes’ second double-digit season, and his first since 2014. He is firmly in frame for another USMNT look, this time as a center forward, but first there’s plenty to like about the big man.

Surging Galaxy ride Ibrahimovic magic to 3-1 win (video)

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a man on fire, and the LA Galaxy are rounding into form.

The Galaxy overcame an early deficit in Chester to clobber the Philadelphia Union 3-1 on Saturday behind a goal and an assist from their world-class striker.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

Romain Alessandrini had two assists, while Michael Ciani and Ola Kamara also scored for LA. CJ Sapong scored for Philly, assisted by Borek Dockal.

Unbeaten-in-seven LA moves into fourth in the West with the win, while Philadelphia remains three points back of sixth in the East.

Ibrahimovic has now scored in six of his last seven matches, and has 12 goals and two assists in 21 matches overall.

Let’s start with the assist, which we must’ve seen two dozen times when the big Swede was with Paris Saint-Germain.

Ibrahimovic takes a difficult pass out of the air with absurd touch, then waits for the right time to send an impeccable through ball into the path of Kamara.

As for the goal, you almost feel for Mark McKenzie.

The Union’s Homegrown defender has to choose between Alessandrini darting into his box and allowing Ibrahimovic a lick of space.

He gives it, understandably, then rushes to close down Ibrahimovic.

It wasn’t fast enough. Boom.

Americans on both sides, Weah scores as PSG fall to Bayern (video)

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Two hopes of the USMNT’s future — one more immediate than the other — squared off in the International Champions Cup on Saturday.

Paris Saint-Germain teenager Timothy Weah, 18, went 90 minutes and scored his side’s only goal in the 3-1 loss in Austria.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

On the other side of the field was 62nd minute substitute Chris Richards, far less known to the American supporter.

Richards is on loan from FC Dallas, where he’s a Homegrown Player. The 18-year-old center back is going to play for Bayern’s U-19 side following a successful trial in April.

Both Bayern and PSG were without key pieces, as Weah went up against a decent Bayern back line of Juan Bernat, Javi Martinez, Josip Stanisic, and Rafinha.

Arjen Robben, Sandro Wagner, and Franck Ribery were the biggest names in Bayern’s XI, while David Alaba, Kingsley Coman, and Serge Gnabry came off the bench.

For PSG, Gianluigi Buffon started as did Adrien Rabiot.

Weah’s goal is below, and here’s what he had to say about it:

“It’s an amazing feeling and getting a well-done job. Me scoring goals, I was really happy to get my first goal for PSG and first goal in this competition. We’re going to Singapore with our head on our shoulders. We’re going to be really humble and keep playing.”

Klopp talks Pulisic, Liverpool’s spending

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Jurgen Klopp admits he’d love to work with Christian Pulisic again, but isn’t going to butt his nose into Borussia Dortmund’s business.

Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s International Champions Cup match against BVB, Klopp was asked about his interest in the American teenager.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez bags 3 more ]

Klopp was quick to point out that Pulisic is under contract to Dortmund and not for sale, as much as he’s aware.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“He had not his best season last year but he was still a decisive player but it’s important in that age group that there’s no rush. He still has 14 or 15 years to play in his career and that’s good and he wants to be the best Pulisic he can be. For this, there is still space for development.

“If – at one point – he will join us, I don’t know. I like him, it’s not that that could be the problem, but we respect contracts still and there’s no market I know about at the moment. We did our business and Dortmund are doing theirs. All good.”

Also all good? Klopp’s evolution on spending after blasting other Premier League clubs for big money buys in the past.

Klopp said he would quit football if transfer fees like Paul Pogba‘s became the norm. Well, they have, and no club has spent as much money as the Reds this summer.

“That’s the problem these days, hey? Whatever b.s. you say, nobody will forget it. On the other side, it’s still kind of true. I couldn’t have imagined since then that the world would change like it has. Two years ago £100million was a crazy number. Since then the world has changed completely.”

He said he’s going to do whatever it takes to make Liverpool successful, and Klopp now has the world’s most expensive goalkeeper and most expensive defender in his squad.