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2018 World Cup preview: Germany

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Getting to know Germany: The reigning World Cup champions head into Russia as one of the clear favorites to hoist yet another title, despite having a significantly different squad than four years ago. Joachim Low and his side do benefit from getting star goalkeeper Manuel Neuer back just in time for the tournament, which gives Germany extra assurance in front of net.

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Although familiar faces like Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are long gone from the international picture, Germany boasts one of the fiercest attacks in the competition with Red Bull Leipzig striker Timo Werner and Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller, while relying on an experienced center back pairing of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng to keep opposition at bay as the Germans aim to capture their fifth World Cup victory.

For more on Germany’s history, click this link.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

What group are they in? Low and Co. will be paired with Mexico, South Korea and Sweden in Group F, as the Germans will be expected to be heavy favorites to not only top the group but do so in style.


Game schedule – Group F – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Sunday, June 17: Germany v Mexico, Moscow 11 am, ET

Saturday, June 23: Germany v Sweden, Sochi  2 pm, ET

Wednesday, June 27: South Korea v Germany, Kazan 10 am, ET


Projected lineup (4-2-3-1)Check out the 23-man squad list in full

Neuer

Kimmich ——– Boateng ——- Hummels ———- Hector

Kroos ——- Khedira

Muller —- Ozil —- Draxler

Werner


Star player: Timo Werner — For all the success that Germany has had throughout the years, have they ever had a full-on superstar in their squad? The beauty of this team is they have an embarrassment of riches in a variety of positions, however, Werner is the guy to watch in this tournament. Despite only boasting 13 caps heading into the World Cup, Werner has seven international goals and will be expected to build on that goal total in Russia.


Manager: Joachim Low — In terms of managers at the World Cup, there’s Joachim Low and then there’s everybody else. That’s not a slight on the other 31 coaches heading to the World Cup, but Low’s track record speaks for itself. Since taking over Germany, the worst the country has finished at a major competition is fourth. That encompasses World Cups, European Championships and the Confederations Cup, which Germany ironically enough won last summer with many of its stars in preparation for Russia.


Secret weapon: Marco Reus — When healthy Reus is arguably one of the top attackers in the Bundesliga. The problem recently for the Borussia Dortmund man is that he hasn’t be able to keep a clean bill of health. Heading into Russia, Reus is fit though, making him a viable option for Low to turn to off the bench.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Prediction: Between Germany’s track record at major competitions and the current squad Low has coming into this summer, the European giants are on pace for yet another lengthy run at the World Cup. They should breeze through Group F, before benefiting from being on the “easier” side of the bracket if everything holds true. A semifinals clash with Spain appears very likely, which could shape up to be the match of the tournament, and potentially decide the de facto World Cup champion.

PSG signs American defender Alana Cook from Stanford

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain’s women’s team has signed American defender Alana Cook from Stanford University.

The 21-year-old Cook, who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, has signed until June 2022. She was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year this season for her performances with Stanford and has represented the U.S. at Under-20 level.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

She played 93 games and scored five goals for Stanford.

PSG’s women’s team is second in the French first division and sits two points behind five-time European champion Lyon after 15 rounds.

Cook says “I really wanted to play in a European club and to play against the best teams in the world.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MLS notes: Zimmerman spurns Europe, Vazquez sold, DC youngster in remission

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Let’s sweep up some good, somewhat-expected, and wonderful news from around Major League Soccer.

DC United defender and Maryland product Chris Odoi-Atsem announced that he is in remission after a fight with Stage Two Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

Odoi-Atsem was expected to undergo four months of chemotherapy, and the announcement comes just under three months into the journey.

At 23, Odoi-Atsem hopes to rejoin the team after his final round of chemo later this month. He was the 12th overall draft pick in 2017.

Another defender is extending his stay in Los Angeles.

USMNT center back Walker Zimmerman was a huge part of LAFC’s success as an expansion club following his arrival from FC Dallas, and was reportedly ready to test the waters of European soccer with interest from the Premier League, Ligue 1, and the Bundesliga.

But Bob Bradley pushed the right buttons and LAFC will have its 25-year-old mainstay back in the fold via a Targeted Allocation Money contract running through the 2022 season.

Finally, one of the key pieces to Toronto FC’s 2017 MLS Cup triumph is on his way out of Ontario.

Victor Vazquez is going to be sold to an unnamed Qatari club, pending a physical according to TSN’s Kristian Jack.

The 32-year-old scored posted 18 goals and 15 primary assists for TFC.

Transfer rumor roundup: Pellegrini to Man Utd? Dabbur wants Liverpool

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As Arsenal might be losing its head of recruitment, other Premier League movers and shakers are looking to bring big names to the Top Four fight.

If Northern Ireland is the hub for transfer movement, January is going to be a wild ride for one of the Premier League’s flagship clubs.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

The Belfast Telegraph is reporting that Manchester United is pursuing young Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini in addition to the whispers linking the club to former Liverpool wizard Philippe Coutinho.

Pellegrini, 22, has two goals and six assists for Roma this season, having become a regular call-up for Italy. He reportedly has a $35 million release clause in his contract, though he is cup-tied in the Champions League (Roma next faces Porto).

His 2.6 key passes per game lead Roma and only AC Milan’s Suso and Atalanta’s Alejandro Gomez average more across Serie A. Pellegrini is second on Roma in crosses with 1.5.

How does $115 million sound for an elite 27-year-old defender? That’s what Napoli would reportedly accept from Real Madrid to bring Kalidou Koulibaly west to Spain.

The report, which also links Real with interest in Roma’s Kostas Manolas and Porto’s Eder Miliato, says United remains interested in the player despite the exit of admirer Jose Mourinho.

Anything more than $97 million, the fee Liverpool paid for Virgil Van Dijk, would break the world transfer record for a defender.

Meanwhile, Israeli striker Munas Dabbur is angling to bring his 20-goal season to Anfield.

Reports that Dabbur has turned down a move to Valencia in the hopes of joining Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino at Liverpool.

The Red Bull Salzburg striker has scored half of his 20 goals in the Champions League and Europa League, and has 11 Israel caps.

The cost for Dabbur is said to be $28 million, but is there any guarantee Dabbur can produce at a level that would demand playing time. Divock Origi has three goals in six matches and can hardly get time for the Reds, and Daniel Sturridge has only found 576 minutes in the first half of the season.

Arsenal to reportedly lose head of recruitment Mislintat

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The man expected to usher in an era of exciting new young talent at Arsenal may be leaving the club after less than 14 months.

Arsenal head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, 46, has been hailed as the man who discovered Christian Pulisic and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang while at Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

Well-connected reporter Raphael Honigstein says Mislintat is frustrated by a change in recruitment policy since Ivan Gazidis left the Emirates Stadium. Gazidis hired Mislintat to use analytics and stats to find diamonds, whereas new head of football Raul Sanllehi prefers to work his own network for players.

Mislintat is considered the key to bringing in Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi, as well as clear connections like former BVB center back Sokratis Papastathopolous.

His departure would be a shot across the bow of an organization which enjoyed stability under Gazidis and Arsene Wenger for years.