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Granqvist welcomes baby, preps for England at World Cup

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SAMARA, Russia (AP) Even though Andreas Granqvist has a lot going on right now, he claims he’s not overwhelmed.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

The Sweden captain welcomed his baby daughter from afar early Friday while his team gets ready for its World Cup quarterfinal match against England on Saturday.

“I just try to enjoy it,” he said with a grin. “I just try to be present, in the now.”

Granqvist and his wife Sofie each posted photos of the newborn, named Mika, although Granqvist used a hashtag: (hash)worldcupbaby.

“Good timing. I didn’t sleep very well last night, so I’m glad that it’s happened now,” he said Friday after the early morning birth. “My wife did a wonderful job back home. Everything went well.”

Indeed the timing couldn’t have been better.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

Now rather than stress about the arrival of his second child, Granqvist can focus his full attention on guiding Sweden to what the team hopes is its first trip to the World Cup semifinals since 1994. The Swedes have made it to the final once, at home back in 1958, falling to Pele and Brazil.

Granqvist, a 33-year-old center back, has played in Russia for Krasnodar for the past five years, but he will join Helsingborg, a second-tier team in his native Sweden, following the World Cup.

Known by his nickname Granen, Granqvist is part of a stout defense that has been Sweden’s strength in Russia. The team has conceded only two goals so far in the tournament, both in the group stage against defending champion Germany.

It’s part of a team-first strategy as Sweden moves past the Zlatan Ibrahimovic era.

Ibrahimovic, the all-time leading scorer for Sweden, retired from international soccer in 2016 but still plays at club level for the LA Galaxy. There was talk in the run-up to the World Cup that he might be willing to play for the national team, but ultimately coach Janne Andersson decided to go forward without him.

“We’re a team, we do this together on and off the pitch, and this has meant that we’ve been as successful as we have so far,” Granqvist said. “We might not have on paper the best team or individually, but together we’re very high achievers.”

So far the recipe has worked in Russia. After finishing at the top of its group, the Swedes beat Switzerland in the knockout round 1-0. If they can get past England, they’ll face the winner of Saturday’s match between Russia and Croatia.

“I think there was a coach who said about his team once, `They’re quite easy to analyze and quite difficult to beat.’ I think that’s a good description for us,” Andersson said.

England and Sweden have met twice previously in World Cup play, a 2-2 draw in 2006 and a 1-1 draw in 2002. Overall, Sweden has gone undefeated in 13 of the last 15 matches.

Andersson agreed with his captain that Sweden’s strength is its unity.

“We’re in Day 45 now together. And even I will have a bad day sometimes. And then you go to your room for a little rest and you come back with new energy and you can contribute to the team,” Andersson said. “They’ve been extraordinary in how they’ve done it.”

More AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Leeds, Bielsa win Fair Play honor at FIFA’s The Best awards

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Well this is peak FIFA.

Football’s governing body has just awarded Leeds United and much-admired manager Marcelo Bielsa its FIFA Fair Play award at its 2019 The Best awards ceremony in Milan.

[ MORE: Klopp wins manager award ]

The reason the Whites won the award is understandable, if you just ignore the fact that they were publicly caught cheating months earlier… and that the “fair play” moment came after an extremely questionable play which led to a brawl.

The win comes for Bielsa’s decision in late April, when his player Mateusz Klich scored a goal despite Aston Villa’s Jonathan Kodija being injured on the pitch.

Bielsa instructed his players to allow Villa to tie the match after a post-goal fight saw a red card to Anwar El Ghazi.

Fair play? Sure, and Leeds kissed goodbye its slim hopes of finishing in automatic promotion place in the Championship.

However, Leeds was also caught monitoring Derby County training sessions, leading to Bielsa to admit in January that he had spied “all the rivals” that season.

I mean, who were the other nominees? Jose Callejon and the Turkish player who fouled players with a sharp object during play?

Bielsa admitted this during an extraordinary Powerpoint session for media members in England which showed the maniacal depths of his preparation, which curried a lot of favor with the media and fans.

Yes, even though he admitted Leeds cheated the whole season.

He also said, “I thought I wasn’t violating the norm,” which is ridiculous.

Now of course we should be too pious, either; A whole lot of teams cheat in this way and football is a cutthroat game. Bielsa is a managerial legend and loved by Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, and Jorge Sampaoli.

Jurgen Klopp wins FIFA’s The Best men’s manager

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Jurgen Klopp has been named the top manager in the world for the past season at FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony on Monday in Milan, Italy.

The UEFA Champions League-winning manager beat out Premier League winner Pep Guardiola of Manchester City and UCL finalist Mauricio Pochettino of Spurs.

[ WATCH: FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony ]

Klopp, of course, was magnanimous in victory.

 “It is great, nobody expected this 20, 10, five, four years ago that I would be standing here,” Klopp said. “We know what an incredible job Mauricio Pochettino did and what Pep did.”

He thanked the owners and players of his club.

“To the owners thank you, they gave me an incredible team. I have to thank my team – as a coach you can only be as good as your team is. I’m really proud of being manager of such an incredible bunch of players. This is an individual prize, I don’t 100% understand individual prizes, I’m here for a lot of people.”

Good for Klopp.

Watch Live: FIFA’s The Best awards 2019

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FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony takes place in Milan, Italy on Tuesday as the top players and managers on the planet will be crowned.

The ceremony starts at 2:30 p.m. ET and you can watch it live online in Spanish via Telemundo Deportes (click on the link below).

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo are the three nominees to be crowned the best male player on the planet.

USWNT duo Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are up for the top female award, as is England’s Lucy Bronze.

Outgoing USWNT head coach Jill Ellis is the favorite to land the award for the best coach in the women’s game, while Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino are all among the candidates to be named the best managers in the men’s game.

Click on the link above to watch the glitzy ceremony from Milan as plenty of other awards, like the Puskas Award for the best goal scored in the world, will be dished out.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Matchweek 6 produced some stunning displays across the Premier League, with big wins, comebacks and late drama across plenty of games.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Players from Liverpool, Man City and Leicester City dominate our rankings, while the likes of West Ham and Bournemouth are also well represented. There are also plenty of new entries among our top 20.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – New entry
2. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Even
3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – Up 13
4. James Maddison (Leicester) – Up 16
5. Joel Matip (Liverpool) – New entry
6. Bernardo Silva (Man City) – New entry
7. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea) – New entry
8. Steve Cook (Bournemouth) – New entry
9. Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester) – New entry
10. Fernandinho (Man City) – New entry
11. Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea) – New entry
12. Mark Noble (West Ham) – New entry
13. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Even
14. Mason Mount (Chelsea) – Down 10
15. Callum Wilson (Bournemouth) – Even
16. Aaron Ramsdale (Bournemouth) – Up 3
17. Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham) – New entry
18. Chris Wood (Burnley) – New entry
19. Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal) – New entry
20. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – New entry