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Germany, France even in 2-2 draw; Spain, Russia’s 6-goal thriller

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A roundup of international friendlies featuring 2018 World Cup-bound national teams on Tuesday…

[ MORE: USMNT draws Portugal | Player ratings | Three things ]

Germany 2-2 France

In what could very well be a preview of the World Cup final next summer, Germany and France traded blows on Tuesday, as the home side came from a goal behind on two occasions to draw Les Bleus, 2-2.

Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette put France ahead just after the half-hour mark, courtesy of Manchester United attacker Anthony Martial‘s assist, but Timo Werner, who over the last 18 months has played himself into serious consideration for the starting job at center forward, equalized in the 56th minute.

Lacazette made it 2-1 in the 71st, but Lars Stindl, the other late emergence of this cycle, brought the defending world champions level once again in the 92nd minute.

Russia 3-3 Spain

Sergio Ramos scored twice (both times from the penalty spot) and Jordi Alba provided another for Spain, but Julen Lopeteguia’s side gave all three goals back to a Russian side which hasn’t played a competitive fixture since EURO 2016, and hasn’t fared well at all in recent friendlies.

Alba’s opener came after nine minutes, followed in the 35th by Ramos’ first penalty kick. Six minutes into the second half, it was 2-2 after Fedor Smolov and Aleksey Miranchuk scored either side of halftime. Three minutes later, Ramos converted another from the penalty spot, only so see Smolov hit back for Russia’s third in the 70th minute.

Having opted to play his first-choice backline, Lopeteguia might have a few small concerns following the final international break of 2017.

Argentina 2-4 Nigeria

Speaking of shoddy defending, Argentina conceded four against fellow World Cup qualifiers Nigeria.

Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi (times two) Brian Idowu more than canceled out goals scored by Ever Banega and Sergio Aguero.

The big story coming out of this game, though, is the health of Aguero, after he fainted in the locker room at halftime. He reportedly “got dizzy and had to leave,” and was taken to a nearby hospital, but quickly rejoined his national teammates and is expected to once again be available for selection for Manchester City.

China 0-4 Colombia

Felipe Pardo, Carlos Bacca and Miguel Borja (times two) made sure Colombia bounced back immediately following their loss to South Korea over the weekend. Notably absent for Colombia was James Rodriguez, who departed camp before Tuesday’s game and returned to Bayern Munich.

Elsewhere in int’l friendlies

England 0-0 Brazil
Belgium 1-0 Japan
Austria 2-1 Uruguay
South Korea 1-1 Serbia
Qatar 1-1 Iceland
Hungary 1-0 Costa Rica
Wales 1-1 Panama

Mohamed Salah starts for Egypt despite int’l retirement talks

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Mohamed Salah is coming off of his best season as a professional, but reports suggest that his time with the Egyptian national team could soon be coming to an end for reasons that extend beyond soccer.

Salah will however be included in Egypt’s Group A finale against Saudi Arabia on Monday, though, after the team sheet was revealed by the Pharaohs ahead of the match.

CNN reported over the weekend that Salah believes he is being used by Egypt as a political symbol to represent Chechnya, which has sparked talks of the talented Liverpool winger ending his international career.

Egypt has already been eliminated from reaching the Round of 16 after losing its first two matches at the World Cup.

The tides have turned significantly for Toronto FC

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2017 gave Toronto FC its first MLS Cup, as well as significant notoriety for the club’s historic season, but Greg Vanney and his side are in a world of trouble in 2018 for reasons that are still unfathomable.

[ MORE: NYCFC tops TFC in come-from-behind victory ]

A deep run in the CONCACAF Champions League (which ended in heartbeat at the hands of Chivas) and a number of injuries have plagued Toronto this season, and for that, the defending champions find themselves in unchartered MLS waters.

Over the course of Major League Soccer’s 22 previous seasons, only three defending champions have gone on to miss the playoffs the next year (D.C. United in 2000, LA Galaxy in 2006 & Portland Timbers in 2016).

So, how poor has TFC been through nearly half the season?

The Canadian side has acquired 15 points in as many matches, which puts the club on pace to finish with 34 points in 2018.

That total would leave TFC well below the average points needed for a club to get into the playoffs. It varies on a year-to-year basis, but teams typically need somewhere in the range of 45 to 50 points to finish above the red line in their respective conferences.

Last season, three teams in MLS finished with less than 34 points (D.C. United, LA Galaxy & Colorado Rapids), and none of the clubs finished within striking distance of the postseason.

While Toronto wouldn’t be the first team to show signs of struggles in the first half of the season and then proceed to turn things around over the second portion, there are definite concerns for Vanney and Co.

In 2018, the Reds haven’t earned back-to-back victories in MLS play, leaving the club in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

The talent within the squad remains there, and if TFC gets the rest of its squad healthy there could be a run made by the team, but as things stand, the club’s historic run a season ago looks to be crumbling in 2018.

Gressel ties it in Atlanta United’s 1-1 draw with Timbers

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ATLANTA (AP) Julian Gressel tied it in the 56th minute and Atlanta United held on for a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

A loose ball deflection off defender Larrys Mabiala bounced into Gressel’s path and he pounced on it with a right-footed volley. Atlanta (10-3-4) stayed atop the MLS standings and extended its unbeaten streak to five games.

Mabiala opened the scoring in the 32nd minute. Samuel Armenteros was the first to get a touch with a left-footed stab on Diego Valeri’s free kick. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan blocked it out, but Mabiala headed home the rebound and Portland took the early lead.

The Timbers (6-3-5) extended their unbeaten run to nine.

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.