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Arsenal agree Aubameyang fee; Giroud, Batshuayi latest

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is edging closer to becoming an Arsenal player.

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Multiple outlets (including the Daily Telegraph) are reporting that a $77.9 million deal between Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund has been agreed, which would make Aubameyang the most expensive signing in the Gunners’ history.

The Gabonese striker will also become the highest-paid player at Arsenal, with reports stating his wages will be in-excess of $250,000 per week on a deal which will run until the summer of 2021.

Arsenal’s representatives have been in talks with Dortmund officials since last week and it appears they have now reached a deal which will see the reigning Bundesliga top scorer head to the Emirates Stadium. Aubameyang has scored 141 goals in 213 appearances for Dortmund and his arrival will severely soften the blow of Alexis Sanchez leaving for Manchester United last week.

Aubameyang was due at a court hearing in Dortmund on Monday to give evidence in the Dortmund bus attack from last year but he didn’t turn up with reports saying he had flu. Aubameyang did play for Dortmund on Saturday in their draw against Freiburg but was booed by sections of the Dortmund fans at the Westfalenstadion.

When it comes to Dortmund replacing their leading goalscorer, it is believed the Bundesliga club were keen on Olivier Giroud being part of the deal but the Frenchman is said to not want to leave London and now a loan move to Chelsea could be lined up as he aims to play more regularly to get into the France squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Giroud, 31, almost joined Everton in the summer but with Chelsea aiming to bring in a target forward all January, he could well get his wish to remain in London and play a more pivotal role than he currently is at Arsenal.

To complete this transfer merry-go-round current Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi, who scored twice in the FA Cup win over Newcastle on Sunday, is said to be heading to Dortmund to replace Aubameyang.

German outlet Bild says that Batshuayi will arrive at the Westfalenstadion on loan with the Belgian out of favor under Antonio Conte, but still managing to score 10 goals in all competitions this season for the Blues. Sevilla and Anderlecht have also been linked with a move for Batshuayi who arrived in the summer of 2016 but has found opportunities hard to come by behind Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata over the past 12 months.

Who are the big winners here? You have to say Arsenal.

At the start of January if you would have told Arsenal’s fans that they would get Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in, lose Alexis Sanchez and spend $77.9 million, I think they would be delighted with those deals.

Aubameyang is a proven goalscorer in the Bundesliga and European competitions and he seems to be the mobile target forward that Arsenal have wanted. With Alexandre Lacazette to play off him and the likes of Mesut Ozil and Mkhitaryan creating chances, all of a sudden Arsenal’s top four chances have been given a huge boost with Arsene Wenger‘s side five points off the top four.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

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


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Halted World Cup flip-throw heard around the world

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Milad Mohammadi knew the time was right for something special, but special isn’t always good.

And good is a subjective term. Cause to us this is very good, Milad.

The Iranian national team defender failed with a flip-throw bid in the final moments of a 1-0 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

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

And this wasn’t like he illegally flipped or broke some other rule. No, like a kid trying an audacious jump into the deep end, Akhmat Grozny star Mohammadi just bailed and climbed in from the side (so to speak).

The kiss, the look skyward, the headbutt… all integral parts of a wonderful World Cup moment.

Renard, Morocco ‘very proud’ of unlucky national team

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If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.

Queiroz: Iran has one ‘match point’ left in World Cup group stage

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Iran manager Carlos Queiroz isn’t going to let his tournament be defined by one win or one loss, especially with a massive moment on the horizon.

Iran fell 1-0 to Spain on Wednesday, days after defeating Morocco in its World Cup opener. Team Melli was denied its equalizer despite VAR review thanks to an offside, and failed in several other bids to level the score.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Now Queiroz and his men need a win over Portugal to qualify for the first knockout stage in its five World Cup history.

“We showed that we were ready to suffer and ready to compete. I felt we deserved a better result. There’s no doubt Spain play wonderful, stylish football but I thought we deserved more for the way we played.

“But congratulations to Fernando Hierro and Spain. We will learn a lot from this game. If you think of it like tennis, we had one match point today and we will have another against Portugal. Everything is still open. We are still alive and still dreaming.”

What chance do you give Iran of getting over on Portugal, who only topped a dominant Morocco side via a terrific designed play executed to perfection by Cristiano Ronaldo?

The odds are in Portugal’s favor, if only for its experience in tight games on massive stages. Well, perhaps the better “if only” would be to say if only for Ronaldo. Either way…