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Panama boss blunt and honest before nation’s World Cup debut

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez isn’t in the business of sugarcoating the truth before his team makes history by playing in its first World Cup.

The Central American team has trouble scoring and his players will need to have a good day to have any chance against Belgium on Monday, he said.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Blunt and honest, Gomez didn’t even hide his starting lineup, the normal way of doing things for coaches these days. And when asked if Panama could repeat Iceland’s upset against Argentina — the teams drew 1-1 on Saturday — the Colombian didn’t bother picking the right words when downplaying the Argentine squad.

“Iceland sent Croatia to the playoffs (in European qualifying), and it did well in the European Championship as well,” Gomez said. “It played against an Argentina squad which isn’t at the same level as Belgium right now. I mean, the distance between Iceland and Argentina isn’t as significant as the distance between Belgium and Panama.”

Gomez didn’t completely dismiss Panama’s chances of a surprise result against the Belgians, saying “anything can happen in football,” but admitted it wouldn’t be normal.

“It’s very clear that they are the favorites,” the 62-year-old coach said. “But each game is different, and if we have a good day, maybe we can achieve something.”

[ MORE: Where to watch Monday’s games, feat. England and Belgium ]

If Panama does find a way to advance past the group stage, Gomez said he already knows how he will be celebrating.

“I’ll drink two bottles of vodka,” he said laughing, before taking it back. “No, no … we are professionals.”

Gomez didn’t bother keeping his lineup a secret for the match in Sochi, naming the 11 starters without hesitating when asked about it. He even frankly talked about the formation his team would be playing Monday.

Gomez said Panama won’t be trying anything but defending against the talented Belgians, and admitted that scoring goals has been a weakness of his team entering the tournament.

“We’ve become strong on defense. It’s Panama’s virtue,” he said. “Panama isn’t a team that will score a lot of goals. We may create good chances in some matches, but we aren’t able to score. We arrive at the World Cup with problems scoring the goals.”

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The 55th-ranked Panama drew 0-0 with Northern Ireland and lost 1-0 to Norway in its final warm-up matches before traveling to Russia.

It qualified for the tournament by finishing ahead of the United States in CONCACAF thanks to a last-minute victory over Costa Rica in qualifying.

Gomez said the team carries a big responsibility by representing the nation at a World Cup for the first time, and his biggest job is to get the players ready for the pressure they are about to face.

“The whole country is excited about this,” Gomez said. “I have to prepare the players mentally.”

Gomez has been coaching Panama since 2014. He was previously with Ecuador, Guatemala and Colombia.

Panama’s other Group G games will be against England on Sunday and Tunisia on June 28.

Miami City Commission sends Beckham stadium to Nov. ballot

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David Beckham and his business partners, the Mas brothers, are one top closer to securing the stadium deal required to bring an MLS expansion franchise to the city of Miami — maybe, but also maybe not.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup: Pogba wants Juve move, Grealish to Spurs? ]

The Miami City Commission voted on Wednesday to place a referendum on the November ballot, paving the way for Beckham and Co.’s privately-funded complex on city land currently occupied by a golf course. The final vote tally was 3-2 in favor of sending the issue to ballot. A previous Commission session was conducted, and ended, last week without a final vote taking place as the fifth and final member had yet to make up his mind.

Beckham and partners used the last week, between Commission meetings, to put a full-court press on Miami’s general public, local media and the last remaining member of the Commission.

[ MORE: PHOTOS: 2018-19 Premier League jerseys ]

The key, and most contentious, part of the proposal is (at least) $35 million worth of toxic waste which must be removed from the site. That number could very easily double or triple once clean-up begins, and Beckham’s group would be on the hook for the total cost.

The proposed stadium would seat roughly 25,000 fans and would be just one part of the 58-acre park which will also include retail, restaurants and hotels.

Sarri hopes to convince Hazard, Courtois in face-to-face meeting

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The coming days and weeks will be immensely tense times for players, coaches, directors and fans of Chelsea alike — but, for no one more so than new Blues boss Maurizio Sarri, who faces the very real prospect of losing arguably his two best players before managing his first game at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup: Pogba wants Juve move, Grealish to Spurs? ]

Forward Eden Hazard has made it pretty clear he’d prefer a move to his yet-unnamed “preferred destination,” and goalkeeper Thibut Courtois has said he’d like to continue playing with Hazard, either in west London or elsewhere. Sarri hopes he’ll have a chance to persuade the Belgian duo to stay another year, or longer, but he doesn’t plan on doing so until they return from their offseason breaks, at which point he can meet with them face to face — quotes from the Guardian:

“Clearly the players you are referring to are very high-level players and I would like to keep them. But a telephone call without looking them in the eye will not give me any certainty.

“I would like to meet these players face to face and talk to them and understand what the best thing is for everyone to do. Before that I would also like a player to come on the pitch for four or five days with me to have a clear idea of what the plan is.”

Given that the Premier League’s transfer window will close before the upcoming season’s opening weekend (Aug. 9), the period of time during which Hazard and Courtois will be available to meet with Sarri, and the amount of time to reinvest and replenish the squad should they leave, will be an extremely narrow window. After finishing third-place at the 2018 World Cup, they could very easily be away until the final 48 or 72 hours of the window.

USWNT names veteran team for Tournament of Nations

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) The top-ranked U.S. will bring a veteran group to the four-team Tournament of Nations, which begins next week with a match against Japan at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City.

[ MORE: Man City, USMNT’s Mix Diskerud loaned to South Korea ]

U.S. coach Jill Ellis announced her training roster of 25 players Wednesday, all but three of whom played for the national team this year. The newcomers are goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, forward Kealia Ohai and defender Jaelene Hinkle, while defenders Casey Short and Emily Sonnett are back from injury.

The roster will be pared to 22 before the U.S. faces Japan on July 26. Brazil plays Australia the same day in the opener of round-robin tournament.

The Tournament of Nations is an important tuneup for the U.S. ahead of World Cup qualifying, which begins with group matches Oct. 4 in Cary, North Carolina.

FULL ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage), Tierna Davidson (Stanford), Jaelene Hinkle (NC Courage), Merritt Mathias (NC Courage), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns)

Midfielders: Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Allie Long (Seattle Reign), McCall Zerboni (NC Courage)

Forwards: Crystal Dunn (NC Courage), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Kealia Ohai (Houston Dash), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign), Amy Rodriguez (Utah Royals)

Transfer rumor roundup: Pogba wants Juve move, Grealish to Spurs?

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Transfer season has been turned up a notch with the conclusion of the World Cup, and a number of big names are in the news on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Alisson on the brink of joining PL giants Liverpool ]


Paul Pogba‘s performance for France at the World Cup was key for Les Bleus in their run to the title, and now the Manchester United midfielder could be on the move.

Tuttosport is reporting that Pogba wants to complete a switch back to Juventus, which would see him joining Cristiano Ronaldo and the seven-time reigning Serie A champions.

Pogba previously played with Juve from 2012 to 2016, after beginning his professional career with the Red Devils.


With Aston Villa’s ongoing financial struggles, several high-quality players could be sold this summer, and the sale of the team’s most-coveted talent may be on the horizon.

Sky Sports is reporting that Tottenham Hotspur have engaged talks with Villa over a move for midfielder Jack Grealish.

The young creator could command anywhere between $40 and $50 million if a deal is struck with the PL giants, who look to sign their first player of the summer.


Napoli appears confident it can add to its attack this summer, as new manager Carlo Ancelotti looks to one of his former players.

Ancelotti has reportedly reached out to Paris Saint-Germain star Angel di Maria over a potential switch to Serie A, after having coached the Argentina international at Real Madrid four years ago.

With Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Julian Draxler already entrenched in PSG’s squad, Di Maria could be looking for a more stable environment in 2018/19 where he can receive more consistent playing time.