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Alexis Sanchez to miss start of Man United’s US tour

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Alexis Sanchez did not fly out to the United States of America with Manchester United on Sunday.

[ MORE: Review of 2018 World Cup

The Chilean star, 29, may end up linking up with the Red Devils further down the line but he will miss the first chunk of their 15-day tour Stateside as Jose Mourinho’s men return to the U.S. after a hugely successful batch of summer games and training camps in LA last year.

Manchester United released a statement via a spokesman which read: “Alexis Sanchez did not travel due to a personal administrative issue.”

Speculation suggests that Sanchez was unable to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. after he accepted a 16-month suspended jail sentence in Spain after being found guilty of tax evasion with regards to a $1.17 million image rights issue.

It is believed that Sanchez and his agents are working on trying to secure a visa waiver but the process is taking longer than expected.

The former Barcelona and Arsenal star last played in the USA in the summer of 2016 as he starred for Chile who won the Copa America Centenario by beating Argentina in the final at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

United have a busy preseason schedule coming up as they play against Club America in Phoenix on Thursday, then against the San Jose Earthquakes in Santa Clara on Sunday.

Mourinho’s men end their tour with three huge International Champions Cup matches against AC Milan in LA (July 25), Liverpool at Michigan Stadium (July 28) and then Real Madrid in Miami (July 31) before heading back to Europe for the final days of preseason.

With so many of their star players not due back until the first week of the 2018/19 campaign due to the World Cup, Mourinho will have been hoping to use Sanchez often during preseason as the Chilean forward took advantage of a rare summer off as his country failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia.

Germany edges past Saudi Arabia, Poland and Chile draw

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Pre-World Cup international friendlies are coming to a close as teams wrap up their preparation before heading to Russia for the big dance. A number of teams played their final tests before making their way to the host country, and matches on Friday gave us a decent look at where teams are, including a couple of matchups featuring World Cup squads on both sides.

Germany 2-1 Saudi Arabia

Timo Werner scored just eight minutes in as Germany skidded to victory at BayArena in Leverkusen despite the positive showing by World Cup minnows Saudi Arabia. The Germans unlocked the opposition for the opener on a dinked chip over the entire defensive unit by Joshua Kimmich which found Marco Reus on the left-edge of the six-yard box. Reus probably could have scored himself with a well-placed shot, but instead he touched across the face of goal to Werner who poked home from point-blank range off the underside of the bar.

Saudi Arabia had a number of chances in the first half that went begging, and Germany scored a second just before halftime as Omar Othman challenged Thomas Muller for a Werner cross at the doorstep, and it went in off the defender. The underdogs made things interesting late as Saudi Arabia won a penalty with six minutes remaining, and while Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved the spot-kick, the rebound was eventually powered home by Taiseer Al-Jassam.

Poland 2-2 Chile

Robert Lewandowski bagged a goal as Poland drew with Chile in Poznan. The Bayern Munich frontman opened the scoring 30 minutes in as he struck a fine effort from outside the top-left corner of the penalty area. Poland doubled its lead four minutes later as Kamil Grosicki caught the Chilean defensive line way too high, eventually feeding Piotr Zielinski for an easy tap-in on the break.

Chile, however, struck right back with seven minutes to go before halftime via Diego Valdes, and Miiko Albornoz scored the day’s best goal just before the hour mark as he rifled home a long-range missile on the volley.

Switzerland 2-0 Japan

Switzerland scored a goal near the end of each half as they waltzed to a 2-0 victory over Japan in Lugano as they head into the 2018 World Cup on a high. The home side put just two of their 11 total shots on target, but both resulted in goals.

Southampton defender Maya Yoshida conceded a penalty in the 42nd minute after fouling Breel Embolo, and defender Ricardo Rodriguez buried the spot-kick with a confident and powerful strike to open the scoring. Haris Seferovic was the man to finish things off in the 82nd minute, capping a vicious and beautiful counter-attack.

Croatia 2-1 Senegal

Another matchup of two World Cup qualifiers saw Croatia come from a goal down to beat Senegal 2-1 in Osijek. After a scoreless first half that saw the visitors appear to have the advantage, Stade Rennais winger Ismaïla Sarr scored the opener thanks to Wolves midfielder Alfred N'Diaye, who timed Sarr’s run perfectly with a pinpoint long-ball that sailed the entire defense.

Ivan Perisic leveled things back up past the hour mark with a heavily deflected free-kick, and lively halftime substitute Andrej Kramaric grabbed the winner off a broken play with 12 minutes remaining. The Hoffenheim striker hit an ugly, off-balance shot from a tight angle that was blocked easily, but the rebound came right back to him and he struck again, catching Senegal goalkeeper Abdoulaye Diallo off-guard.

Sadio Mane was bright for Senegal, but he clanged a free-kick off the crossbar in the dying minutes of the game, unable to secure an equalizer.

Iran 1-0 Lithuania

Olympiakos striker Karim Ansarifard grabbed the game’s only goal in the 88th minute as Iran heads to the World Cup on a winning note. Ansarifard had a spectacular Greek Super League campaign, scoring 17 goals and grabbing 6 assists in 25 league matches this season.

West Ham’s Pellegrini mugged in Chile

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Manuel Pellegrini was mugged at gunpoint in Santiago, Chile over the weekend.

West Ham United’s new manager was attacked in his homeland by a gang as he and his wife, along with two others, were walking to a local restaurant.  The gang pointed a gun at them and then stole the handbag of Pellegrini’s wife as the shot at police as they escaped.

The perpetrators sped away in a stolen Porsche which was later found, along with the handbag, but no arrests have been made.

Pellegrini took to Twitter to thank the local police force for dealing with the incident quickly.

The former Manchester City boss won the Premier League title in 2013/14 and left his role at Hebei China Fortune in May to take over at West Ham for the 2018/19 campaign.

 

Manuel Pellegrini takes the reins at West Ham United

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West Ham United was said to be chasing Rafa Benitez, and instead got a manager with more recent big time success.

Manuel Pellegrini is the new boss at West Ham, returning to the league which saw him guide Manchester City to a Premier League title and two League Cups.

[ MORE: Man Utd after pair of mids ]

The 64-year-old Chilean is well-traveled, and most recently managed Hebei China Fortune. He was released from his contract with the Chinese Super League side last week.

Pellegrini has also led Villarreal, Real Madrid, and Malaga since arriving from South America in 2004.

From WHUFC.com:

“I think that West Ham had a difficult season last season and I hope that next season we are going to play football that will delight the fans. I always play attacking football and we must try to reach important targets in the season.

“Every time you have a meeting you have feelings about whether it was a good meeting or a bad meeting and I had the meeting with him, just talking about football and talking about West Ham.  We agreed on a lot of things he wants for this Club in the way I think a football club must be managed, so we have a lot of common ideas.”

Pellegrini is missing more than a few elements to play the way he’d like to play, and his arrival could spell the end for long-time players like Mark Noble. It could also be a boon for Pablo Zabaleta as the former Man City pair is reunited in London.

West Ham has spent freely in recent years, and Pellegrini’s status could help it land a breed of player unavailable to Sam Allardyce, Slaven Bilic, and David Moyes.

Int’l friendlies: Sweden fall to Chile; Canada win Herdman’s debut

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A roundup of Saturday’s (less-than-stellar) slate of international friendlies…

[ MORE: France blow a lead, lose to Colombia; England top Holland ]

Sweden 1-2 Chile

Sweden, who’ll be at the 2018 World Cup, fell 1-0 behind Chile, who won’t be joining them in Russia, when Arturo Vidal hit a simply stunning, off-balance volley into the upper-90 from the edge of the box in the 22nd minute. Ola Toivonen brought Sweden back to 1-1 just a minute later, but Marcos Bolados broke Blagult hearts in the 90th minute, when he pounced on a bouncing rebound and hammered the ball into an open net.

[ MORE: New USMNT kits for 2018 World Cup ]

Northern Ireland 2-1 South Korea

Speaking of World Cup-bound sides falling to those who failed to qualify themselves, South Korea went ahead away to Northern Ireland after just seven minutes, but watched helplessly as Kwon Chang-Hoon’s opening goal slipped away from the Taeguk Warriors.

Min-Jae Kim scored a mostly unavoidable own goal in the 20th minute, and Paul Smyth slipped through a sea of South Korean defenders to fire home a wonderful winner in the 86th minute.

Canada 1-0 New Zealand

Among the national teams not currently preparing for this summer’s tournament, but instead building toward qualification in 2022, there’s Canada, who knocked off New Zealand in Murcia, Spain, to begin the John Herdman era with a victory on Saturday.

Tosaint Ricketts scored the game’s only goal, a 54th-minute volley from the Toronto FC forward, courtesy of a long, searching ball out of the back from defender Dejan Jakovic.

Herdman took over the Canadian men’s post in January, when he stepped down as head coach of the women’s team, which he led to two straight appearances in each the World Cup and Olympics during eight years on the job.

Come September, the Canucks will be competing in the CONCACAF Nations League, a 34-team tournament featuring all but the six nations to have competed in the Hexagonal of World Cup qualifying. The top 10 finishing sides will qualify for the 2019 Gold Cup, alongside the Hex combatants. Canada will face the U.S. Virgin Islands in September, followed by Dominica in October, Saint Kitts and Nevis in November, and finally French Guiana in March 2019.

Elsewhere in int’l friendlies

Israel 1-2 Romania
Togo 2-2 Ivory Coast
Georgia 4-0 Lithuania
Zambia 0-2 South Africa
Kenya 2-2 Comoros
Kosovo 1-0 Madagascar
Armenia 0-0 Estonia