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Witness explains how bribes were paid to soccer officials

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NEW YORK (AP) An Argentinian accountant described on Wednesday how he handled the payment of millions of dollars in bribes to former South American soccer officials, including former FIFA vice president Julio Grondona, by using wire transfers, offshore accounts and money couriers.

Eladio Rodriguez, who kept track of finances and bribe payments at the Argentinian sports marketing company Torneos and Competencias, testified for hours in New York in the federal corruption trial of the former soccer heads of Paraguay, Peru and Brazil. The company, along with two others, made the payments to obtain the rights to broadcast tournaments and matches.

Rodriguez said it was necessary to pay bribes “to maintain a good relationship with CONMEBOL (South America’s soccer governing body) and to obtain the signing of contracts.” He said he kept track of the payments by occasionally emailing himself copies of ledgers.

The cash payments to Gondrona were made after Torneos deposited money into overseas accounts of exchange remittance businesses. Money couriers would then take the money to Torneos in Buenos Aires and Grondona’s chauffeur normally would pick it up, Rodriguez said.

Grondona was paid at least $3 million in 2013, according to Rodriguez. Payments to him were masked under the name “Pope”.

Juan Angel Napout, the ex-president of Paraguay’s soccer federation, Jose Maria Marin, the former president of Brazil’s soccer federation, and Manuel Burga, the ex-head of Peru’s soccer federation, are on trial for racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies.

Payments to former presidents of the soccer federations of Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia were made through Argentinian-based Full Play Group.

Bribes to Marin and Marco Polo del Nero, the current president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, were made under the code name “brasileiro,” according to Rodriguez, who explained that in 2013 Torneos paid $1.5 million to each for the rights of the Copa America.

When U.S. officials began arresting soccer officials in 2015, Rodriguez said he ordered the destruction of the servers he maintained in Uruguay with bribe information. He also testified that he saw Torneos employees shredding documents at the Buenos Aires office.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen dismissed one of the jurors for allegedly sleeping during the trial.

Rodriguez has a deal with U.S. prosecutors and has forfeited more than $600,000, he said.

Ronaldo’s early tally gives Portugal win over Morocco

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It was far from a convincing performance, but manager Fernando Santos and Co. came away with their first win at the World Cup and now sit in the drivers’ seat in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Portugal earned a narrow 1-0 win over Morocco on Wednesday, after Cristiano Ronaldo’s early header proved to be the difference.

Santos’ group now sits atop Group B with four points, while Morocco is eliminated after losing its first two matches.

It took just four minutes for Portugal to break the deadlock, with Ronaldo once again at the center of the Portuguese attack.

The Real Madrid man brilliantly latched onto a header at the near post off of a corner kick, giving Ronaldo his fourth goal at this World Cup (seventh goal overall).

Morocco did well to insert its presence in the match following the early goal, but various chances from Medhi Benatia and Hakim Ziyech weren’t enough to break past Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio.

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The African side also had a legitimate appeal for a penalty kick in the first stanza, however, referee Mark Geiger opted to play on despite the Moroccan protest.

Morocco continued its pressure in the second half, and Patricio was forced to make an incredible save in the 57th minute when Younes Belhanda headed a cross towards the far corner.

Portugal will close out Group B play on June 25 against Iran, while Morocco takes on Spain

Arena says there’s no reason for Pulisic to leave Dortmund

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Christian Pulisic has been the subject of transfer talks for some time now after becoming an instant star at Borussia Dortmund, but one of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s former coaches says it might be wise for him to stay put; at least for now.

MORE: Ronaldo scores fourth goal in World Cup ]

Former USMNT boss Bruce Arena spoke about Pulisic, who has had rumors of moves to Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United surrounding him recently.

Arena cited consistent playing time as the main reason why Pulisic may want to consider holding off on a transfer for now.

“I think Christian is in a great place. Dortmund has a very good reputation for developing players.

“In his couple years there with the first team, he’s done very well. Hopefully, he can continue to do that, be consistent at the club level, and if he does that, he’s going to be a real plus for the national team program.

“Any move Christian makes in the future, it’s important he goes to a club where he plays on a regular basis. There’s no point in him leaving Dortmund and going to a club where he doesn’t get the kind of minutes he needs to continue to develop.”

Pulisic has spent three seasons at Dortmund, scoring 12 goals in all competitions during that span.

Video: Ronaldo scores fourth goal, gives Portugal early lead

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He has four goals in less than two matches, and Portugal is off to another flying start courtesy of their star forward.

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Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Portuguese a 1-0 lead against Morocco in the fourth minute after brilliantly heading home a corner kick.

The Real Madrid star gave Portugal a similar spark at the beginning of their 3-3 draw against Spain in their first Group B match when Ronaldo drew, and scored a penalty kick inside of the opening three minutes.

Is there anything this man cannot do?

Reports: Alli unlikely to play in England’s second Group G match

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The Three Lions may not have taken all good news away from the team’s 2-1 win over Tunisia in their World Cup opener.

[ MORE: Russia races past Egypt, likely en route to next round ]

Several reports are suggesting that England will likely be without Tottenham playmaker Dele Alli in their second Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

Alli was forced out of England’s opener with a thigh strain, which gave manager Gareth Southgate the decision to put in Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There isn’t a timetable for the 22-year-old’s return to the pitch, but his absence will definitely present a major question for Southgate heading into the rest of group play.

Without Alli in the starting XI, it’ll likely be between Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard to fill the role where Alli normally sits.

In the case of Lingard, who started against Tunisia, the England boss would have to bring in another starter if Southgate opts to have the Red Devils attacker sit in as the number 10.