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Chelsea fire Antonio Conte

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The worst kept secret in soccer is out.

Antonio Conte has been fired as Chelsea’s manager.

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The Italian coach had taken the first few days of preseason training ahead of the 2018/19 campaign, but as he entered the final year of his Chelsea contract it has been clear for months he didn’t want to be around.

And Chelsea released the following statement on Friday, as former Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri is expected to replace Conte in the coming hours.

“Chelsea Football Club and Antonio Conte have parted company. During Antonio’s time at the club, we won our sixth league title and eighth FA Cup. In the title winning season, the club set a then-record 30 wins in a 38-game Premier League season, as well as a club-record 13 consecutive league victories. We wish Antonio every success in his future career.”

Conte won the Premier League title in his first season in charge at Chelsea and he added the FA Cup in his second season, finishing fifth in the Premier League in 2017/18 as they failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. He leaves Chelsea with the best winning percentage (65.1) of any of their managers who’ve managed at least 100 Premier Leaghe games.

The former Italy and Juventus boss revolutionized Chelsea tactically after their disappointing midtable finish in 2015/16 as their title defense went horribly wrong and cost Jose Mourinho his job. The 3-4-3 formation he used was lauded and replicated across the league and his passion on the sidelines was incredible, especially in his debut season in England in 2016/17, as Chelsea won 30 of their 38 PL games.

Last season it was clear from the start he wanted to leave as he signed a new deal in the summer but only on improved terms instead of increased length, plus he clashed with the Chelsea hierarchy over transfer spending and also fell out with Diego Costa, David Luiz and other big name players.

With two trophies in two seasons in charge it is hard to describe Conte’s time at Chelsea as a failure, but the past six months have seen his situation deteriorate rapidly and it was clear he wasn’t going to walk away from the final year of his contract until he was fired.

That’s now happened and it believed Conte will pick up around $12 million in compensation from the club.

VIDEO: Ten best goals of the World Cup group stage

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We’re sure we’re missing some, and goodness knows we didn’t spend a terrible amount of time determining the order, so feel free to marvel at these 10 beautiful goals of the World Cup group stage and then tell us which ones we missed and which ones we sorted poorly.

[ MORE: Top 20 players of the World Cup group stage ]

We know Jesse Lingard, Adnan Januzaj, and Marcos Rojo won’t be jazzed with their omissions. Who else is missing?

10. Coutinho to Paulinho versus Serbia

9. Cheryshev’s cheeky chop

8. Diego Costa dances his way to glory

7. Golovin’s nasty free kick

6. Cristiano Ronaldo’s nastier free kick

5. Ricardo Quaresma sneaks a snappy goal before halftime

4. Philippe Coutinho‘s beauty against Switzerland

3. Wizardry from the unlikely boot of Nacho

2. Banega to Messi: Touch, touch, boom.

1. Kroos. Few words needed.

Top 20 players of the World Cup group stage

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Well this isn’t easy, Mr. Editor…

The World Cup group stage is complete, and we saw some outstanding performances from players in Russia.

[ MORE: Knockout round schedule, bracket ]

Harry Kane scored five, one more than Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo. Philippe Coutinho looked like the player Barcelona spent a whole lot of dough for, and Keylor Navas shone in defeat.

But what about the lesser known names? Aleksandr Golovin went from being linked with mid-table Premier League teams to the wish lists of the globe’s top sides. And Hirving “Chucky” Lozano delivered on his next big El Tri thing promise.

It’s safe to say many of these names will make our 20, but we still had a starting point of 33 names even with judicious trimming.

Don’t hate, commentate (in the comment section below).

Tunisia’s Wahbi Khazri celebrates one of his two goals and two assists at the World Cup (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

20. Wahbi Khazri, Tunisia

19. Luka Modric, Croatia

18. Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland

17. Yerry Mina, Colombia

16. Kasper Schmeichel, Denmark

15. Viktor Claesson, Sweden

14. Lionel Messi, Argentina

13. Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium

12. Carlos Salcedo, Mexico

(Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

11. Neymar, Brazil — 5.3 shots per game and a thrilling performance should have him in the Top Three, but his shameful dive zips him back to here at a minimum. Maybe next round, Ney.

10. Ivan Rakitic, Croatia

9. Philippe Coutinho, Brazil

8. Aleksandr Golovin, Russia

7. Jose Gimenez, Uruguay

6. N'Golo Kante, France

5. Eden Hazard, Belgium

4. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal

3. Isco, Spain

2. Harry Kane, England

1. Romelu Lukaku, Belgium

Honorable mention: Wilfred Ndidi, Nigeria; Gen Shoji, Japan; Kieran Trippier, England; Casemiro, Brazil; Thiago Silva, Brazil; Toni Kroos, Germany; Artem Dzyuba, Russia; Hirving Lozano, Mexico; Diego Costa, Spain; Luis Suarez, Uruguay; Diego Godin, Uruguay; Andreas Grandqvist, Sweden; Sardar Azmoun, Iran; Aleksandar Mitrovic, Serbia; David Ospina, Colombia; Cho Hyun-Woo, South Korea; Mohamed Salah, Egypt; Edgar Barcenas, Panama; Grzegorz Krychowiak, Poland; Aaron Mooy, Australia; Kendall Waston, Costa Rica; Salem Al Dawsari, Saudi Arabia; Amine Harit, Morocco; Gylfi Sigurdsson, Iceland; Luis Advincula, Peru; M’Baye Niang, Senegal.

Spain gets win after Iran sees equalizer ruled out

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  • Spain goal: Costa (54′)
  • Iranian goal disallowed
  • Next: Spain-Morocco, Portugal-Iran

Iran had an equalizer taken away via Video Assistant Referee and Spain picked up its first win of the 2018 World Cup with a 1-0 win in Kazan on Wednesday.

Diego Costa scored Spain’s goal, as La Furia Roja joined Portugal atop Group B on four points. Iran has three, while eliminated Morocco has yet to get a result.

Team Melli lost their chance to sit atop the group when Saeid Ezatolahi rebound was ruled to have come after an offside touch from a teammate.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Spain certainly had its chances in the first half hour, capped off by an attempted overhead kick from David Silva.

Man City’s 32-year-old attacker had a great deal of chances in the contest, and would see a deflected rip bound wide of the goal during three minutes of first half stoppag time.

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After Gerard Pique missed an in-tight chance to start the second half, Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand made an outstanding punch save on Isco before punching away the rebound bid.

Iran found its first true chance of the match in the 53rd minute, with Karim Ansarifard lashing into a shot from 15 yards that tore into the outside of the goal.

It was moments later that Spain went ahead, Costa getting a goal when a clearance bounding off his shin and into the net.

Mehdi Taremi flicked a header wide of the goal, and Iran thought it had an equalizer through Saeid Ezatolahi only for VAR to step in and call offside on the previous Iranian to touch the ball.

It was off, but only just.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Beiranvand was again on the scene for a 70th minute goal mouth scramble following a drawn-up corner kick by Spain.

Taremi pounded a header over the goal after a Vahid Amiri nutmeg of Pique led to a back post cross.

Portuguese team reacts: “Above all else, an amazing Cristiano performance”

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s amazing performance glossed over a disappointing job from Portugal’s players, at least according to the national team’s manager.

Fernando Santos said, “Spain’s players didn’t let our quality players show what they could do.”

[ RECAP, VIDEO: Portugal 3-3 Spain ]

Viewers would beg to differ, at least in the case of Ronaldo (Cheers to Portuguese soccer expert scribe Tom Kundert for the quick post-game quotes).

The Real Madrid megastar scored his first World Cup hat trick in the 3-3 draw with Spain. Ronaldo won and converted a penalty, took advantage of a rare David De Gea howler, and scored with a wonderful 88th minute free kick.

“It’s worth a lot,” Ronaldo said after the game. “It’s a great work of many years. I worked for this, but obviously it’s the team and we’re winning together. We fought to the end and the draw is fair. Spain had control of the ball but it was a great match and it was good for us.”

Portugal does need to be much better in defense by the next time it faces anyone, let alone someone of Spain’s quality.

When Diego Costa is allowed to bull his way around the field, you can’t sit down after contact like Pepe. At some point, Portugal will pay for waiting on Ronaldo.