World Cup preview: France vs. Belgium

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The two most exciting teams remaining in the field square off in the semifinals, when France and Belgium meet at Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Bobby Wood staying in Bundesliga ]

With apologies to Harry Kane and Mario Mandzukic amongst others on Croatia and England, the managers for France and Belgium have fleets of top-end talent to make selection a headache.

The 2 p.m. ET kickoff features some of the most prolific boots in the world of club soccer. Consider these numbers from last season:

France
Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid: 29 goals, 15 assists
Florian Thauvin, Marseille: 26 goals, 18 assists
Kylian Mbappe, PSG: 21 goals, 16 assists
Nabil Fekir, Lyon: 23 goals, eight assists

Belgium
Romelu Lukaku, Man Utd: 27 goals, 9 assists
Dries Mertens, Napoli: 22 goals, 12 assists
Eden Hazard, Chelsea: 17 goals, 13 assists
Michy Batshuayi, Chelsea + Borussia Dortmund: 21 goals, 3 assists
Kevin De Bruyne, Man City: 12 goals, 21 assists

Several of those players may not even be chosen for the XIs. It’s bonkers.

So defending will be oh-so-important, and both groups are coming off big asks in the previous round. Belgium bent but didn’t break in ousting Brazil, while France stopped Luis Suarez when it matched up with Edinson Cavani-free Uruguay.

There are more similarities, one of which is Premier League star goalkeepers who were at less than their best last season in Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) and Hugo Lloris (France).

And while Belgium’s Axel Witsel and Youri Tielemans are fine talents, the difference may come down to Ballon d’Or should-be finalist N'Golo Kante of France.

Who wins it?

Mourinho, Man Utd revel in Pogba performance

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Paul Pogba blessed Manchester United with a powerful performance in the Red Devils’ 3-0 UEFA Champions League win at Young Boys on Wednesday, and it was impossible not to notice his class.

[ UCL: Real rocks Roma, Man City falls ]

Jose Mourinho did, as did several of his teammates on a night the French midfielder scored twice and assisted United’s other goal.

“Solid, class and gave the team the pace we needed at times,” said Manchester United’s manager. “He controlled the tempo and of course it was a very good goal.”

Pogba again captained the side, which has won three-straight and allowed just one goal in wins over Burnley and Watford in addition to Wednesday’s win.

Luke Shaw drew a penalty that Pogba converted for the match’s second game, and loved what he saw from his captain. From the BBC:

“He gets some stick sometimes but we know what quality he has. For me, he is one of the best in the world. He is important as captain. He shows on the pitch what kind of leader he is. Hopefully he can carry that on.”

Mourinho’s praise carries a bit more weight considering he didn’t quite enjoy the competition.

“Job done,” he said. “Not phenomenal but good enough. (Young Boys) were intense, compact and had self esteem.”

UCL wrap: Real rocks Roma, Vlasic finishes CSKA comeback

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What a day in the UEFA Champions League!

CSKA Moscow came from two down to get a draw, Paul Pogba put on a one-man show in Switzerland, Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off in Spain, and Manchester City slumped to a home loss.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

And, oh yeah, Real Madrid scored a pair of show-stopping goals in a 3-0 win over Roma that left few worries about life post-Ronaldo.

Young Boys 0-3 Manchester United RECAP

Paul Pogba scored a brace, the first a sensational dribble and drive, as Jose Mourinho’s men had little trouble in Switzerland. The second half saw the Frenchman assist Anthony Martial to help the Red Devils cruise home.

Shakhtar Donetsk 2-2 Hoffenheim

Hoffenheim led twice, the second time through Havard Nordtveit, but would only take a point home from Ukraine thanks to an 81st minute goal from 21-year-old Brazilian attacker Maycon de Andrade Barberan.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Benfica 0-2 Bayern Munich

Robert Lewandowski scored in the 10th minute and Renato Sanches after halftime as Bayern eased to a win at the Estadio da Luz.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Viktoria Plzen 2-2 CSKA Moscow

Czech midfielder Michael Krmencík scored twice to give the hosts a first-half lead, but Fyodor Chalov finished a 49th minute chance to pull one back for the Russian visitors. And it was a precursor to another CSKA goal, the leveler coming from Everton loanee Nikola Vlasic and his penalty kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Real Madrid 3-0 AS Roma

We need your help deciding whether Real Madrid’s first or third goal was more spellbinding, please.

Gareth Bale scored a second half goal, but it’s impossible to discuss this game without mentioning the delightful free kick goal from Isco and Mariano Diaz’s outstanding stoppage time belter. My goodness.

Valencia 0-2 Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off in controversial fashion, but Miralem Pjanic scored twice from the penalty spot to help 10-man Juve to the win. Wojciech Szczesny stopped a stoppage time penalty to preserve the shutout for The Old Lady.

Ajax 3-0 AEK Athens

Left back Nicolas Tagliafico sandwiched a pair of goals around Donny van de Beek’s 77th minute marker as Ajax scooped up an easy win against Greek opposition.

Manchester City 1-2 LyonRECAP

The French visitors took advantage of sloppy midfield play and an awful clearing attempt from Fabian Delph to build a 2-0 lead, and Bernardo Silva‘s goal from a Leroy Sane feed was all City could muster in its comeback bid.

Pogba runs show as Man Utd cruises

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  • Pogba scores twice, including beauty
  • His first UCL goals since 2016
  • Assists Martial’s second half marker

Paul Pogba scored two first-half goals and assisted Anthony Martial‘s second half marker as Manchester United eased to a 3-0 win over Young Boys at the Stade de Suisse in Bern on Wednesday.

United’s next UCL match is home to Valencia on Oct. 2, the same day Young Boys visit Juventus in Turin.

Summer buy Diogo Dalot made his United debut. The 19-year-old played all 90 minutes for Jose Mourinho’s men.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Pogba’s first goal was a sensational strike with an equally eye-catching dribble to create his yard of space.

Luke Shaw then won a penalty when his cross hit Kevin Mbabu‘s hand before the ex-Newcastle man could get it to his body.

Pogba converted the effort without a problem, and would not need to play the whole 90 minutes. His second half included this assist to Martial.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Man City slumps to home loss vs. Lyon

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  • Cornet, Fekir score
  • City sloppy in midfield
  • Sane-inspired comeback bid falls short

Maxwel Cornet and Nabil Fekir scored first half goals as Lyon stunned Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League.

Leroy Sane set up Bernardo Silva to pull a goal back for Man City, but the second did not arrive for the hosts.

Man City is off to Hoffenheim next on Oct. 2, when Lyon will host Shakhtar Donetsk.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

City had a lot of the ball, but a giveaway at midfield helped Lyon go on top.

Kyle Walker didn’t close down his mark on the left, Ederson was slow in acting on the cross, and Fabian Delph made a laughable mess of defending it.

The ball fell to Cornet, who left little doubt with a drive inside the far post.

City was denied an Ilkay Gundogan equalizer when assist man Raheem Sterling was inches offside.

And the hosts took a 2-0 deficit to the locker room with more poor midfield play, with Fekir blasting a Fernandinho giveaway past Ederson.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Anthony Lopes made a fine stop on Gundogan as City pushed to get back into the game.

Mikel Arteta opted for Leroy Sane off the bench as suspended manager Pep Guardiola watched from the stands.

A counter attack nearly saw the score line balloon to 3-0, but Memphis Depay‘s clever bid was touched by Ederson before hitting the post and bounding in front of the line.

Sane was the provider on City’s strike back into the contest, as he cut back for Bernardo to finish.

Riyad Mahrez sent a cross into the box that Sane couldn’t turn on goal, and it remained 2-1 as the 84th minute began in Manchester.

Ederson had another timely intervention on Memphis in the 89th minute to keep City alive.

Sergio Aguero tried to put the game on his back in the 90th, but his shot was touched out for a corner.