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Pochettino urges Tottenham to grasp European chance

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Tottenham Hotspur have only reached the last eight of the UEFA Champions League once in their history.

If they get a win or a 0-0 or 1-1 draw on Tuesday against Juventus at Wembley Stadium, they will advance from the UEFA Champions League last 16.

Following their 2-2 draw in Turin in the first leg, Spurs picked up  plenty of plaudits from across Europe as Mauricio Pochettino‘s players dominated the Italian champions who have been the runners up in two of the last three Champions League tournaments.

Speaking to the media ahead of Wednesday’s monster clash, Pochettino urged his players to make the most of this chance.

“In front we have a big possibility, but in football we know you have to deserve it,” Pochettino said. “We are going to play a team that has played in two of the last three finals. It will be a fantastic battle. Only think about tomorrow and not the consequences. We need to feel free. At the end of the season we will see. I am confident that the team is mature enough… We are going to enjoy tomorrow. We are playing against one of the best teams in Europe, but we are a brave team, positive people, that love the challenge and we all think we can win.”

Tottenham finished the group stage with the best record of any team in the competition and with Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli ripping teams apart in attack, their entire team is receiving plaudits from across Europe for their high-pressing brand of soccer.

Pochettino believes that Spurs’ reputation is at an all-time high.

“After the group stage it’s not only that it was a fantastic stage but that we improved our reputation in Europe,” Pochettino said. “Last season was a massive disappointment to be out in the first stage, but this year of course the people in Europe start to respect Tottenham. They respect the philosophy we build and the football we play. We feel we have respect for the brand of football we show, they respect us in Europe we feel.”

With Toby Alderweireld the only real absentee through injury, Spurs will go into this Juventus clash without trepidation despite Juve’s superior experience at this stage of the competition.

You feel that the best way Spurs can make it through the last eight is to start fast and score early to put away any nerves that Juve may put on a defensive masterclass and snatch a 1-0 win which will take them through. With Pablo Dybala and Blaise Matuidi back for this game Max Allegri’s side will have more options, but it is Spurs who are the favorites to make it through.

Now, all they have to do is hold their nerve and stay positive.

That is exactly what Pochettino is preaching.

Nothing to separate Portland and 10-man LAFC

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There was entertainment value in Los Angeles FC’s potential playoff preview with the Portland Timbers on Sunday in the City of Angels, but all that arrived was a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: Atlanta 1-1 Seattle ]

Both Giovani Savarese’s Timbers and Bob Bradley‘s nickname-free expansion club remain in the West’s Top Four. PLAFC remains unbeaten at home during their maiden voyage through Major League Soccer.

Adama Diomande came close for the hosts, who finished with 10-men when Lee Nguyen went studs-up on Sebastian Blanco‘s thigh for a pretty easy red card (though it took some time for Silviu Petrescu to produce the red).

VIDEO: France stars projected onto Arc de Triomphe

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If France’s players had any doubt about the level of import their World Cup title had back home, it was erased when their photos were projected onto one of the most celebrated monuments in the world.

The photos of Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, and company made their way onto the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, hours after France defeated Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup Final.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Arc de Triomphe honors those who died in the French Revolution and early 19th century wars, and sits above France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

How humbling must it be for those players to grace such a heavy monument (both in weight and substance).

Dalic: In one day, Croatia went from lucky to unlucky

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Ante Cacic’s Croatia was on pace to miss out on the World Cup.

Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia rallied the troops to second place in their qualifying group, a playoff defeat of Greece, and a run to the World Cup Final.

Pretty decent stuff.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

And surely the 51-year-old will reflect on that, probably even this evening, but he’s more focused on a letdown after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to highly-favored France.

Key to the match was a penalty awarded to France when a partially-obscured Mario Mandzukic handled a ball inside the 18, leading to Antoine Griezmann’s pivotal goal.

The PK was awarded via VAR, and France went up 2-1 en route to a three-goal lead. From the AFP:

“I never comment on referees but in a World Cup final you do not give such a penalty,” said Dalic.

“It in no way diminishes France’s win. We were a bit unlucky. Maybe in the first six games we were favored by luck and today we weren’t.

“I have to congratulate my players. Maybe today we played our best game at these championships. Against such a strong side as France you must not make mistakes. We are a bit sad but we must also be proud of what we’ve done.”

Croatia had two-thirds of the ball and doubled France’s shot attempts, and Dalic isn’t the least bit controversial in wondering whether the match is much different if that penalty goes unawarded by referee Nestor Pitana.

Atlanta comes back to draw 10-man Seattle (video)

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A scrappy if not downright venomous affair between the lowly Seattle Sounders and high-flying Atlanta United ended in a 1-1 draw in Georgia on Sunday.

The Sounders went ahead through a Nicolas Lodeiro penalty kick, awarded via VAR a la this morning’s World Cup Final, but Atlanta leveled the score with a highlight which show every bit of the game story.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

Just check Josef Martinez’s barking at Stefan Frei, who made an uncharacteristic error on the play, after his 19th goal of the season (Nice cross, Julian Gressel).

Martinez needs nine more goals to break the MLS single season record, and he has 13 games to score them.

Jordan McCrary was sent off for Seattle in the 63rd minute for a second yellow, but Seattle navigated the final half hour or so to scoop up an unlikely point.

Atlanta still sits first with its earned point but opens the door for New York City FC to reach the top of the table when it plays its match-in-hand, while Seattle is now 11 points back of the West’s final playoff spot.