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England’s “great opportunity” for glory

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Football isn’t coming home just yet. But a win for England against Sweden will signal that it’s well on the way.

Gareth Southgate is about as level-headed as managers come, but the England coach knows his young team have a monumental opportunity to make the World Cup final.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

The Three Lions, the youngest team left in the competition, face Sweden in Samara on Saturday and if they win they’ll face either Russia or Croatia in the semifinals.

Southgate acknowledged that England are on the kind side of the bracket but isn’t underestimating Sweden’s veteran squad at all.

“It’s a great opportunity, and although our team will be individually better in two years, we might not have this opportunity again,” Southgate said. “We have huge respect for Sweden. They are a team that I think in the past have been underestimated – we won’t make that mistake. Our players come from the same background as their players. We shouldn’t get carried away with ourselves being better than Sweden. They are older, more experienced, and have a better tournament record than us.”

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

England’s first big test of the World Cup, their Round of 16 penalty shootout win against Colombia on Tuesday, answered plenty of questions about the mentality of this young squad.

Colombia tried every trick in the book but Harry Kane scored (of course), England kept their cool and they rallied after a 93rd-minute equalizer to exorcise their penalty kick demons from major tournaments in the past.

This truly feels like a monumental moment for the English national team, with this likeable squad hungry to achieve and capable of fine attacking, flowing play.

As memes and videos do the rounds on social media, for the first time in what feels like a long time there is positivity around the English national team. There’s no more moaning about not beating minnows 8-0 in qualifying games, no more complaining about superstars not caring about wearing the Three Lions on their shirt.

That is one of the nicest surprises. There are no egos in this team.

This is a squad Southgate has said perfectly represents the modern day society in England as fans back home gather in pubs and parks together to roar on a team they expected very little from, given the amount of shocking defeats in the past.

“We are a team with our diversity and with our youth that represents modern England,” Southgate said. “In England we’ve spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is and I think as a team we represent that modern identity, and hopefully people can connect with us.”

England’s players now have that connection with its fans thanks to an openness with media outlets, Southgate encouraging his players to speak out and Kane leading a new generation by example.

That ‘golden generation’ came and went without a trip to the semifinals of a major tournament but now this team, who have captured the imagination of their nation along with their amiable leader Southgate, have the chance to do what the likes of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lamprd and Wayne Rooney couldn’t.

“We are based on working hard for each other, we don’t carry anybody, they all pressed, they all have good organisation and they are prepared to graft and dig in for each other,” Southgate said. “I know those are slightly old-fashioned qualities but we don’t have the right to just stroll around a pitch. We play with character and I love that about them.”

For England the equation is now simple.

Win and they’ll exceed expectations and the wave of euphoria surrounding the team not just in England but around the globe will continue to the semifinals and beyond. “Football’s Coming Home” will dominate the minds of every Englishman until at least next week.

Lose and everyone will lament them stumbling at a key moment once again, as England, whether they like it or not, will be expected to beat Sweden and then reach the final.

The time has arrived for this young England side to become the darlings of the tournament as they try to bring football home.

Chelsea needs to wait “48 hours” to assess Mount

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Mason Mount‘s move from the Championship to the Premier League has been nearly seamless.

His adjustment to the Champions League was cut down too quickly to get an understanding of whether it would be too big of a jump.

[ MORE: Match recap | Barkley drama ]

Mount, 20, was chopped down by Valencia’s Francis Coquelin, the former Arsenal man, and had to leave the game after just 16 minutes.

Here’s Frank Lampard, from ChelseaFC.com:

“He’s got an ankle injury but we don’t know how bad it is. We’ll have to assess it in the next 48 hours to see the scale of the injury. It was a shame because he started the game well and it meant we had to make the change early on.”

Mount scored nine times with four assists on loan under Lampard at Derby County last season, and has already chipped in three goals for Chelsea this season.

Lampard turned to Pedro off the bench on Tuesday, but any lengthy absence for Mount will spell more time for American youngster Christian Pulisic.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday preview: Man City, Spurs debut

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns on very different results and with very different vibes.

City is coming off a stunning 3-2 loss to injury-hit Norwich City, and is set up in Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk for the third-straight season, a side which beat Pep Guardiola once in four tries between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in the UCL.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. wrap ]

But on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men are going to carry a similar feel to one of his old Barcelona teams, as Pep seemingly will have Fernandinho pull a Javier Mascherano and drop into the back line.

Yes, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are Manchester City’s hopes at center back, now that John Stones has joined Aymeric Laporte on the shelf.

“For me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge,” said Pep Guardiola. “But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players going to come back with Dinho, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis. … It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. We have to have 11 players on the pitch and I like it, to find a solution. For the players as well to find an incredible step forward.”

Spurs, meanwhile, will simply be trying to build on any momentum gained by a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win which came after manager Mauricio Pochettino begged his side to “re-focus” after a relatively poor start to the season.

Now a bit more relaxed, Spurs head to Greece as the clear favorites against stingy Olympiacos. These are, after all, the finalists of last season’s tournament.

Pochettino won’t be sleeping on the challenge, from The London Evening Standard:

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take our best game we are going to suffer. But last season we played in the final of Champions League, so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

Spurs are one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday.

Full UCL Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Tottenham Hotspur

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Dinamo Zagreb v. Atalanta
Bayern Munich v. Red Star Belgrade
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City

American coach Marsch speaks after landmark Champions League day

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Jesse Marsch made his UEFA Champions League debut on Tuesday, a historic first for not just the Wisconsin native but also his country.

Marsch, 45, oversaw Red Bull Salzburg’s 6-2 demolition of Genk, becoming the first American to win a UCL match as manager.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

“We knew we were going into the match full of confidence,” he said, via the Salzburg site. “We knew too that we could put in a performance of this quality. I wasn’t pleased with a few situations, such as conceding for 3-1. That shows our incredible mentality though as it prompted us to give a few more percent and immediately score two goals.”

The ex-New York Red Bulls manager and RB Leipzig assistant manager got another three goals from incredible 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who nows has 17 goals in nine matches this season.

“It is an absolute joy to work with this team. We have a lot of players who just know how to battle, and that rubs off on the others. You can see that on the pitch on nights like tonight.”

There will be tougher nights ahead for Marsch, who is in a group with Liverpool and Napoli, but Tuesday was a fine start for the tactician. And it was a banner moment for American coaches abroad, who’ve been led by past and present USMNT coaches Bob Bradley and Gregg Berhalter.

Maybe one day that’ll be Marsch’s title… but it seems like he may have some loftier ground to cover on his path through world soccer.

Klopp: Liverpool made wrong decisions; Penalty also incorrect

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is going to bat for his left back after Andrew Robertson gave away what became the decisive penalty in a 2-0 loss to Napoli in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it’s a penalty,” Klopp said. “What can I say, for me, it is clear and obvious no penalty. He jumps before any contact, we can’t change that.”

[ RECAP: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool ]

For what it’s worth: It sure seemed like both a foul on Robertson and a comical embellishment from Callejon, but we digress.

Liverpool just didn’t have it on the day, like when Sadio Mane played a terrible pass to Mohamed Salah on what could’ve been an easy 1-0 lead.

In the moments they did have it, there was Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret making a splendid save.

“We played a lot of good football but didn’t finish it off. We controlled moments but had not enough chances in the end. We made decisions that were not right and have to accept the result. It was very often the final ball that was not right.”

Also, forgive Klopp if he has stopped enjoying the beautiful country of Italy.