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Germany edges past Saudi Arabia, Poland and Chile draw

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Pre-World Cup international friendlies are coming to a close as teams wrap up their preparation before heading to Russia for the big dance. A number of teams played their final tests before making their way to the host country, and matches on Friday gave us a decent look at where teams are, including a couple of matchups featuring World Cup squads on both sides.

Germany 2-1 Saudi Arabia

Timo Werner scored just eight minutes in as Germany skidded to victory at BayArena in Leverkusen despite the positive showing by World Cup minnows Saudi Arabia. The Germans unlocked the opposition for the opener on a dinked chip over the entire defensive unit by Joshua Kimmich which found Marco Reus on the left-edge of the six-yard box. Reus probably could have scored himself with a well-placed shot, but instead he touched across the face of goal to Werner who poked home from point-blank range off the underside of the bar.

Saudi Arabia had a number of chances in the first half that went begging, and Germany scored a second just before halftime as Omar Othman challenged Thomas Muller for a Werner cross at the doorstep, and it went in off the defender. The underdogs made things interesting late as Saudi Arabia won a penalty with six minutes remaining, and while Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved the spot-kick, the rebound was eventually powered home by Taiseer Al-Jassam.

Poland 2-2 Chile

Robert Lewandowski bagged a goal as Poland drew with Chile in Poznan. The Bayern Munich frontman opened the scoring 30 minutes in as he struck a fine effort from outside the top-left corner of the penalty area. Poland doubled its lead four minutes later as Kamil Grosicki caught the Chilean defensive line way too high, eventually feeding Piotr Zielinski for an easy tap-in on the break.

Chile, however, struck right back with seven minutes to go before halftime via Diego Valdes, and Miiko Albornoz scored the day’s best goal just before the hour mark as he rifled home a long-range missile on the volley.

Switzerland 2-0 Japan

Switzerland scored a goal near the end of each half as they waltzed to a 2-0 victory over Japan in Lugano as they head into the 2018 World Cup on a high. The home side put just two of their 11 total shots on target, but both resulted in goals.

Southampton defender Maya Yoshida conceded a penalty in the 42nd minute after fouling Breel Embolo, and defender Ricardo Rodriguez buried the spot-kick with a confident and powerful strike to open the scoring. Haris Seferovic was the man to finish things off in the 82nd minute, capping a vicious and beautiful counter-attack.

Croatia 2-1 Senegal

Another matchup of two World Cup qualifiers saw Croatia come from a goal down to beat Senegal 2-1 in Osijek. After a scoreless first half that saw the visitors appear to have the advantage, Stade Rennais winger Ismaïla Sarr scored the opener thanks to Wolves midfielder Alfred N'Diaye, who timed Sarr’s run perfectly with a pinpoint long-ball that sailed the entire defense.

Ivan Perisic leveled things back up past the hour mark with a heavily deflected free-kick, and lively halftime substitute Andrej Kramaric grabbed the winner off a broken play with 12 minutes remaining. The Hoffenheim striker hit an ugly, off-balance shot from a tight angle that was blocked easily, but the rebound came right back to him and he struck again, catching Senegal goalkeeper Abdoulaye Diallo off-guard.

Sadio Mane was bright for Senegal, but he clanged a free-kick off the crossbar in the dying minutes of the game, unable to secure an equalizer.

Iran 1-0 Lithuania

Olympiakos striker Karim Ansarifard grabbed the game’s only goal in the 88th minute as Iran heads to the World Cup on a winning note. Ansarifard had a spectacular Greek Super League campaign, scoring 17 goals and grabbing 6 assists in 25 league matches this season.

LIVE, UCL: Two knockout spots remain; Man City, Tottenham in play

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Two more spots in the knockout round remain unclaimed as the final day of group stage play begins on Wednesday.

Groups C and D both require a second team to progress through to the Round of 16, with five teams still in the mix.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Manchester City has already won Group D, but the remaining three teams Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb, and Atalanta all remain in contention for the second spot. Shakhtar currently sits second and has a home match with Atalanta, while Dinamo Zagreb host Man City in Croatia. Both those games feature in the early 12:55 p.m. ET kickoffs.

Group D, meanwhile, has a pair of sides vying for the last spot. Atletico Madrid has a point advantage, currently sitting in second with a home match against already eliminated Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow. Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, hosts group winners Juventus in Germany.

Elsewhere, Tottenham Hotspur has already locked up a spot in the knockout stage, locked into the second spot in Group A, and they finish out the group stage with a visit to confirmed group winners Bayern Munich. Jose Mourinho told the press he forbid his players from watching any footage of the 7-2 defeat to Bayern to begin group stage play, and is resting “a few players” ahead of the festive Premier League fixtures.

Finally, Group A has already been decided with Real Madrid confirmed to finish second behind winners Paris Saint-Germain, but the two still have to complete the fixture list. Madrid heads to Belgium to take on Club Brugge, while PSG hosts Galatasaray. The Spanish side is most likely to rest players, with a weekend visit to Valencia coming up on Sunday followed by a midweek El Clasico that was rescheduled from earlier in the season.

Below is the full schedule for the last UCL games on Wednesday, with all games kicking off at 3 p.m. ET unless otherwise noted, and you can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.


Wednesday Champions League action

Group A

Club Brugge v. Real Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain v. Galatasaray

Group B

Bayern Munich v. Tottenham Hotspur
Olympiakos v. Red Star Belgrade

Group C

Dinamo Zagreb v. Manchester City (12:55 p.m. ET)
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Atalanta (12:55 p.m. ET)

Group D

Atletico Madrid v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen v. Juventus

Late goalkeeper strike seals knockout spot in UEFA Youth League

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Club Brugge goalkeeper Senne Lammens may just be 17 years old, but he just lived every goalkeeper’s dream: to score a dramatic equalizer in the dying seconds of a game to send the club through to a European competition’s knockout stage.

The young goalkeeper came forward on a corner in the 94th minute of a game against Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League Wednesday morning in Belgium. With the visitors leading 2-1 and added time just about expired, Brugge needed to score an equalizer to secure passage to the knockout stage, lest they be left at the mercy of Galatasaray’s match against PSG.

Lammens delivered. The corner swung in to the top of the six-yard box and the youngster was on hand to head home a pinpoint effort inside the far post.

The header was quite literally the last act of the game, with stoppage time already creeping more than 60 seconds past the minimum three added minutes.

Lammens has shuttled back and forth between the youth squad and the senior squad this season serving occasionally as an emergency third goalkeeper behind Simon Mignolet and Ethan Horvath. Mostly, though, he’s been with the youth squad appearing in five of their six UEFA Youth League games, with three wins and a draw.

Report: Arsenal not interested in Ancelotti “profile”

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According to The Athletic reporter David Ornstein, Arsenal is not interested in a manager of Carlo Ancelotti’s “profile.”

The Italian was recently let go by Napoli after a disappointing first half of the season despite qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage.

Ancelotti has won a Premier League title, three Champions League titles, and a Scudetto during his career but apparently a manager with his resume does not interest the Gunners, who may be looking for a more youthful boss with a longer-term strategy and potentially stronger club or domestic ties.

At 60 years old, Ancelotti has been fired from posts at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and now Napoli over the last four years. Over those four seasons, he has just one league title, the 2016/17 Bundesliga crown he won with Bayern in runaway fashion, and has exceeded expectations in very limited capacities, instead seeing things turn sour at each job relatively quickly. This season at Napoli, the club sits seventh in the Serie A table, mired in a horrible seven-match winless run that has seen them tumble further from the Champions League places.

Ornstein’s report also touched on the timeline of a potential hire, with the club apparently still deciding on whether to see out the season with interim manager Freddie Ljungberg or make a mid-season appointment. He states that the club “want situation settled asap” but also prefer “right man over quick decision.” He does not identify who the number one target is, but suggests that if that person is available at this point in time, they will make the hire mid-season, otherwise there will be a waiting game.

Jorge Sampaoli resigns as Santos boss

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Brazilian club Santos confirmed Tuesday evening that manager Jorge Sampaoli has resigned as boss.

Sampaoli, who won the 2015 Copa America in charge of Chile but could not recreate that success with the Argentinian national team, signed on with Santos a year ago and guided them to a second-place finish in the Brazilian top flight, 16 points behind runaway champions Flamengo. His contract had another year, expiring in the winter of 2020, but with reports of offers from multiple clubs, he has stepped down.

The most widely reported destination is fellow Brazilian club Palmeiras, whom many believe Sampaoli has already entered talks with. He has also been linked with Argentinian club Racing, and his name has cropped up on occasion with the Arsenal vacancy, although that seems like a longshot. It was said in late October that Sampaoli had an offer from an unnamed La Liga club, but those rumors have cooled.

His reason for leaving Santos after just one successful season in charge is unconfirmed, but rumors are circulating that Sampaoli had incredibly ambitious transfer plans for the offseason, and when club president Jose Carlos Peres could not guarantee his support, the relationship became strained.

The 2019 season was mostly successful for Sampaoli at Santos, finishing second in the league table, but the secondary competitions were somewhat disappointing. They received a tough first-round draw in the Copa Sudamericana, falling to River Plate on away goals. They were also ousted from the Copa do Brasil in the Round of 16, falling 2-1 to an Atletico Minero side that finished 13th in the league table.