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Poch reiterates “massive commitment” to Spurs amid Madrid rumors

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With Zinedine Zidane’s position as Real Madrid manager coming under additional scrutiny with each passing failure — Los Blancos currently sit 19 points(!!!) behind La Liga leaders Barcelona and were bounced from the Copa del Rey quarterfinals round by Leganes on Wednesday — Mauricio Pochettino‘s next contract gets richer and richer.

[ MORE: Friday’s transfer rumor roundup | Thursday | Tuesday ]

After all, it’s Pochettino who’s been frequently linked with a move to Madrid should Zidane be relieved of his duties between present day and August. It’s a win-win scenario for the Tottenham Hotspur boss, whose current contract runs until the summer of 2021, as he’ll either move to the Spanish capital for a massive raise or sign a new contract — for, you guessed it, a massive raise — to remain in north London.

Asked about the rumors this week, Pochettino was quick to reiterate his “massive commitment” to his current employers, while also stopping well short of ruling out a move to Madrid at a yet-to-be-determined point in his career — quotes from the BBC:

“My commitment is massive [to Tottenham]. I am working like I am going to be here forever. But in the end you never know what is going to happen in football.”

“Tomorrow, chairman Daniel Levy could have a bad night and say, ‘Oh, I am going to sack Mauricio,’ then I look stupid saying I am not going to work in one place or another or another.”

Pochettino did, however, take a much harder-line stance on three other clubs in particular. As a supporter of either Spurs, Espanyol or Newell’s Old Boys, it must be impossible to not love Pochettino for his passion, fierce loyalty and intensity:

“I am so clear: I am never going to be manager of Barcelona or Arsenal because I am so identified with Tottenham and Espanyol. I grew up in Newell’s Old Boys and will never manage Rosario Central.

“That is my decision because I prefer to work on my farm in Argentina than in some places.”

Various reports from a handful of outlets across Europe have stated that Levy is willing to offer Pochettino a new contract in order to ensure he’s the club’s manager for the opening of the new stadium next fall. A couple hundred million dollars to reinforce and retain a solid, young squad over the course of the next four transfer windows probably wouldn’t hurt, either.

VIDEO: Portugal lead Iran at HT; Spain 1-1 Morocco

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We’re through the first 45 minutes of Monday’s Group B finales at the 2018 World Cup, and things are happening. A quick rundown…

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos combined to commit a disastrous gaffe at midfield, resulting in a goal for Khalid Boutaib in the 14th minute. At this point, Spain would have finished second, behind Portugal, and headed to the far more difficult side of the knockout bracket.

Five minutes later, it was Iniesta who, with a little help from some slightly lesser geniuses, unlocked the Moroccan defense to set up Isco for an emphatic finish. La Furia Roja moved back to the top of the group, on goals scored.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

In the afternoon’s other game, Portugal and Iran appeared destined for a 0-0 scoreline at halftime, until Ricardo Quaresma unleashed a stunning, outside-of-the-foot curler from outside the box to beat the goalkeeper and put Portugal ahead — both on the day, and in the table. As things currently stand, Portugal would win the group and Spain would finish second.

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 4

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In the fourth episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England players have been preparing for their next match in an unusual way, Argentina has a huge meltdown, and more.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

Click play on the video above to watch the fourth episode in full.

Atlanta leads way with six All-Star Fan XI selections

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It may be hard to believe with all the World Cup festivities going on, but the Major League Soccer season is nearly halfway over.

[ MORE: Toronto FC’s 2018 has been far from their cup-winning 2017 ]

And that means it’s almost All-Star time.

The MLS All-Stars will continue their recent tradition of facing a European superpower in August, with Juventus being welcomed to the United States in early August.

But, which players from MLS will we see in action?

Last season’s expansion sweetheart Atlanta United leads the way in the fan voting with six players from the Eastern Conference side voted into the Fan XI, including attackers Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco, Darlington Nagbe and Josef Martinez.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender/captain Michael Parkhurst also made the team from Atlanta.

In all, only five clubs were represented based on the Fan XI, with the LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Los Angeles FC’s Carlos Vela and Laurent Ciman, Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi and Portland Timbers star Diego Valeri each rounding out the squad.


Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United)

Defenders: Michael Parkhurst (Atlanta United), Laurent Ciman (Los Angeles Football Club), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Miguel Almirón (Atlanta United), Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)

Forwards: Josef Martínez (Atlanta United), Zlatan Ibrahimović (LA Galaxy), Carlos Vela (Los Angeles Football Club – EA SPORTS™ “More Than a Vote” Challenge)

Saudi Arabia steals late win over Egypt in Group A finale

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Saudi Arabia pulled off a late 2-1 win against Egypt on Monday in their Group A finale, as the two nations ended their 2018 World Cup run in the group stage.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Salem Al Sawsari scored in the fifth minute of second half stoppage time to give the Saudis a late winner in the match, as the attacker struck the post in the dying moments before the ball crossed the line.

The Pharaohs took the lead in the 22nd minute, after a tremendous run from Mohamed Salah and lob over the Saudi Arabia goalkeeper.

Salah has two goals at the World Cup for Egypt, who were already eliminated heading into Monday’s match.

Saudi Arabia was granted a chance to equalize prior to halftime, however, goalkeeper Essam El Hadary brilliantly stopped Hattan Bahebri’s penalty kick in the 41st minute to preserve the Egypt advantage.

El Hadary became the oldest player in World Cup history to appear in a match at the age of 45.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

The Egypt keeper wasn’t as lucky the second time around though, with Salmon Al Faraj converting a penalty kick in the 51st minute.

Saudi Arabia finishes group play in third place on three points, while Egypt goes winless in its three matches.