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Mexico’s quinto partido curse isn’t particularly ‘cursey’

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Far be it from me to defend Mexico, but let’s talk about this fifth round “quinto partido” curse for a minute.

And it really shouldn’t take much longer.

[ RECAP: Brazil 2-0 Mexico ]

There’s obviously no denying that Mexico continues to lose in the Round of 16, and that 2002 was an absolute nightmare.

For them. Let’s be clear: It was pretty much the best day in American soccer history.

But if anything, look at the wonderful below graphic assembled by our beautiful NBC Sports Soccer crew.

Mexico has lost to better teams more times than not, and their only crime of this World Cup, one in which they beat Germany, is that they didn’t win the group and play Switzerland instead of Brazil.

[ MORE: Kovacic, Plea in PL transfer links ]

[ MORE: Real denies Neymar offer ]

But that Dos a Cero aside, look at the teams that knocked them out and the margins. Mexico scored in the majority of the contests. And they mostly lost to giants.

The curse scales runs from level 1 (no shame) to level 10 (Come on, Mexico).

1994: A team largely devoid of superstars came up against Hristo Stoichkov and Bulgaria. Both teams scored inside of 20 minutes, and Mexico blew it in penalties. Bulgaria, for what it’s worth, then took eventual finalists Roberto Baggio and Italy to the wire in a 2-1 quarterfinal lost. Curse level: 6

1998: This one feels a bit curselike, but only on account of how the match played out. A Luis Hernandez goal put El Tri ahead just after halftime. But Germany, led by Jurgen Klinsmann, scored in the 74th and 86h (Oliver Bierhoff) to win it. Those are a pair of German legends on a team with fellow legends Lothar Matthaus and Andreas Moller. Curse level: 2

2002: Dos A Cero. -clap-clap-clapclapclap- Dos A Cero. -clap-clap-clapclapclap- Curse level: 100

2006: Given a group with Iran, Angola, and Portugal, El Tri had four points before losing to favorites Portugal in the finale. That led to Argentina, who had emerged unscathed from a group with Serbia, the Netherlands, and the Ivory Coast. Rafa Marquez and Hernan Crespo traded goals inside of 10 minutes, and extra time saw a 19-year-old Lionel Messi touch the ball twice in the build-up to this outlandish 98th minute Maxi Rodriguez goal. Curse level: 1

2010: Hopes were high thanks to an upset of chaotic France, but Mexico again drew an Argentina side that went 3-0 despite the absence of a single Messi group stage goal. He didn’t score in the Round of 16 either, but losing to two goals from Carlos Tevez and a Gonzalo Higuain goal shows just how loaded the Argentine contingent was in South Africa. Curse level: 2

2014: El Tri was feeling great under Miguel Herrera, as Piojo oversaw wins over Croatia and Cameroon along with an impressive draw with hosts Brazil. Tiebreakers meant a meeting with eventual semifinalists Netherlands, and Giovani dos Santos scored to give Mexico a 48th minute lead. This one, however, carries a bit of curse for how it ended; Wesley Sneijder scored in the 88th minute before Klaas-Jan Huntelaar converted a penalty won… well… controversially by some clown Arjen Robben. #NoEraPenal. Curse level: 8

Which brings us to 2018: Is losing to a tournament favorite in any way considered a curse? No. Not at all. Is losing to the third-best player in the world while he dives around like the worst example of a soccer stereotype cursey enough to go past curse level zero? Sure, but you did step on the dude’s leg with an immense amount of cameras around. If Casemiro did the same to Javier Hernandez, the little pea would still be rolling on the ground as you read this. Curse level: 1

Four-star Manchester United wins Europa League group

Manchester United Mata Greenwood
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Manchester United is in fine feather and showing it, smashing AZ Alkmaar in a stylish 4-0 win at Old Trafford in Europa League play on Thursday.

Juan Mata had a goal and set up two others, while Mason Greenwood scored twice after Ashley Young opened the scoring in a group-claiming victory.

[ MORE: Saka leads Arsenal comeback ]

United wins the group with 13 points, conceding just twice in six matches.

The Red Devils have won three-straight matches, as AZ joins Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in the loss column. Up next is a Sunday visit from Everton in the Premier League before Wednesday’s League Cup quarterfinal visit from Colchester United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed starts to James Garner, Brandon Williams, and Axel Tuanzebe, bringing youngsters Ethan Laird and Tahith Chong off the bench.

Greenwood, 18, now has six goals in 22 senior appearances, while Mata, 31, gets on the score sheet for the first time this season.

For his career, the award-winning Spaniard is doing okay, though: 125 goals and 149 assists in 542 senior appearances.

Ljungberg hails ‘amazing’ teen Saka after game-changing performance

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Arsenal phenom Bukayo Saka‘s big day spurred the Gunners to a top seed in the Europa League knockout rounds.

Arsenal went behind on two deflected goals in the second half’s first 25 minutes, but Saka answered with a goal and an assist in three minutes to take a point from Belgium in a 2-2 draw at Standard Liege.

[ RECAP, VIDEO: Standard Liege 2-2 Arsenal ]

Saka was at the heart of it of all good things Arsenal, the 18-year-old handed plenty of responsibility. despite his tender age.

“He was amazing,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg. “He was a bit upset with me before the game that he had to play wing-back and full-back. He’s a tremendous talent.”

Saka had four key passes to go with his goal and assist, winning six of eight duels while producing two tackles and an interception.

Ljungberg said Arsenal hasn’t sent its young players on loan enough, though that hardly applies to Saka given he was 17 until September.

The injured Gunners used Konstantinos Mavropanos, Emile Smith-Rowe, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson in the Starting XI, and brought Gabriel Martinelli off the bench.

“I feel sorry for our young players,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t been on loan, they’ve not had that exposure to men’s football. Some of them made mistakes but they’ll learn from those mistakes and won’t do them again.”

Smith-Rowe was loaned to RB Leipzig last season and Nelson starred on loan at Hoffenheim. Mavropanos played first team football for Greek Super League side PAS Giannina in his late teens.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Arsenal uses thrilling comeback to win Europa League group

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Nothing Arsenal-related is allowed to be easy, it seems.

The Gunners used a goal and an assist from Bukayo Saka to come back from a two-goal deficit and draw Standard Liege 2-2 in Belgium on Thursday, winning its Europa League group when Vitoria came back to beat Eintracht Frankfurt on a wild afternoon of soccer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Arsenal trailed on second half goals from Samuel Bastien and Selim Amallah, but rallied behind Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette to score a second-straight win for interim boss Freddie Ljungberg.

Saka sent in a laser cross in the 78th minute and Lacazette did quite well to power it under the bar.

He’s loving this competition, having made a serious entrance earlier in the tournament versus Eintracht Frankfurt. The 18-year-old now has two goals and five assists across all competitions this season.

The Gunners needed just three more minutes to tie the score on a day they outshot the hosts 15-11.

Saka showed his nose for goal to tie the score five minutes later with a dribble to the top of the 18 and a sly finish to the keeper’s left.

This was all happening around the same time Vitoria scored twice in three minutes to take a 3-2 lead on Eintracht Frankfurt.

Standard Liege goes from the knockout rounds to nothing in a blink, while Eintracht goes from winning the group to second.

The field for the Europa League is looking fierce, with Inter Milan, Benfica, Ajax, Club Brugge, Olympiacos, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, and Red Bull Salzburg joining the competition via transfer from the UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Matchweek 17 is here in the Premier League as the games continue to come thick and fast during the festive season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Chelsea 3-0 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Liverpool 3-1 Watford – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM] 

Crystal Palace 3-1 Brighton – (Monday, 2:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Leicester 3-0 Norwich – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Southampton 1-1 West Ham – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Sheffield United 2-1 Aston Villa – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Man United 2-1 Everton – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Arsenal 3-3 Man City – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Wolves 1-2 Tottenham – (Sunday 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-2 Newcastle United – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM