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UEFA Nations League wrap: Turkey comes back, Portugal tops Italy

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There were goals all over the UEFA Nations League on Monday, including a thrilling comeback for a Turkey side which looked down-and-out after 49 minutes of play in Sweden.

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Sweden 2-3 Turkey

Nobody puts Turkey in a corner. Russia beat Mircea Lucescu’s men in Turkey’s home opener, and the UNL away slate didn’t start well for the Crescent Stars.

Sweden’s Viktor Claesson put the hosts in prime position to take three points when he netted a 49th minute goal, but the second marker only helped awake the visitors.

Hakan Calhanoglu scored two minutes later. Emre Akbaba scored two goals in four minutes, the second with a slick header in stoppage time, to give Turkey the win.

Serbia 2-2 Romania

Aleksandar Mitrovic scored twice, but Romanian stunned with a pair of equalizers in League C play.

Portugal 1-0 Italy

Andre Silva scored just after halftime to give Portugal the win its first UNL match, sending Italy third.

The lone goal of the came through terrific Bruma service. Bernardo or Andre, one of them was getting this ball on a — lowers sunglasses — Silva platter.

Elsewhere
Scotland 2-0 Albania
Andorra 1-1 Kazakhstan
Montenegro 2-0 Lithuania
Kosovo 2-0 Faroe Islands
Malta 1-1 Azerbaijan

Five friendlies to watch closely over the next week

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The UEFA Nations League is taking center stage in this international break, but there are several other interesting matches on the docket outside of the new, formal UEFA competition.

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A pair of them involve the United States.

In some circles, you could call that bias (and we certainly care more about U.S. matches than the rest of the world). But there’s hardly such a thing as a friendly against El Tri, and people will have one eye tuned-in any time Neymar hits the pitch.

Here are five top matches to scout this week.

Mexico vs. Uruguay — Friday (Houston)

These two sides boast an even rivalry, though plenty of eyes will be on Mexico without manager Juan Carlos Osorio (he’s off to Paraguay). El Tri‘s hot start to the World Cup cooled with a blowout loss to Sweden and 2-0 defeat by Brazil, and interim boss Ricardo Ferretti will bring a lot of youth to Texas; Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera, and Hector Moreno are among the big names left home.

Uruguay’s World Cup quarterfinal run ended with a loss to champions France, and that was the CONMEBOL side’s lone loss of 2018. Fabian Colto is the caretaker boss as legendary manager Oscar Tabarez’s future is mulled, and Uruguay will have most of its big names: Suarez, Cavani, Godin.

Portugal vs. Croatia — Thursday

We’ll get some tantalizing intra-Europe matches with the top groups of the UEFA Nations League featuring just three teams. This one sees Portugal without Cristiano Ronaldo and with plenty of interesting pieces; Ruben Neves, Andre Silva, Bernardo Silva, and Renato Sanches all bear close watching against a Croatian squad bringing its whole crew.

Colombia vs. Argentina — Sept. 4

While the reception Argentina receives at home to Guatemala earlier in the window will be fascinating, how Lionel Messi-less Argentina reacts to a match-up with Colombia will tell us more much more about the Albiceleste.

This is Paulo Dybala’s chance to shine bright, with no Messi, Sergio Aguero, nor Gonzalo Higuain in sight. Argentina will also hope to see plenty from its inexperienced but tantalizing offensive talent: Giovanni Simeone and Lautaro Martinez are among those hoping to join Dybala in restoring hope to Argentina.

Colombia? James Rodriguez is not coming, but Carlos Bacca, Luis Muriel, and Juan Cuadrado are in the fold, and Los Cafeteros have a lot of young bucks, too; Pay mind to Rangers star Alfredo Morelos and Spurs center back Davinson Sanchez.

USMNT vs. Brazil — Friday (NJ)
USMNT vs. Mexico — Sept. 4 (Nashville)

We’ll dive deeper into these two over the next few days, but the American side’s visits from Brazil and Mexico give us these three fun plot lines.

A) Was the stingy 1-1 draw against France pre-World Cup a fine indicator of progress?

2) How will the Yanks fare in both matches without Christian Pulisic, who’s injured?

D) Who’s deeper: next generation USMNT, or next generation Mexico (the latter featuring relatively-ignored-by-the-Yanks dual citizen Jonathan Gonzalez)?

Porto stunned by Guimaraes, Benfica draws 1-1 with Sporting

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) FC Porto squandered a two-goal lead in a 3-2 home loss to Guimaraes on Saturday, while Benfica needed a late goal by 18-year-old Joao Felix to draw 1-1 with Sporting Lisbon in the Portuguese capital derby.

Defending champion Porto appeared to have the game well in hand after Yacine Brahimi and Andre Pereira both scored before halftime.

But Andre Andre converted a penalty in the 63rd minute and substitute Antonio Carvalho leveled in the 76th.

Substitute Davidson completed the comeback for the visitors with a goal in the 88th, dealing Porto its first loss in three rounds this season.

“We are not doing the things that made us champion,” said Porto coach Sergio Conceicao. “We need to talk.”

Porto’s second goal was scored with Pereira in an off-side position, but the video assistant referee apparently did not advise the referee due to a technical malfunction in the communication system.

“There needs to be an alternative to communicate,” Guimaraes coach Luis Castro said. “If the VAR goes down, there must be another option. A team could be hurt by this.”

In Lisbon, Joao Felix jumped to head in a cross from Rafa Silva to score for Benfica in the 86th minute, cancelling out a penalty converted by Sporting’s Nani in the 64th.

Goalkeeper Romain Salin made several saves to keep Sporting ahead until Felix finally got a ball past him.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Champions League preview: Liverpool’s fate rests on Benfica-PAOK

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Four Premier League clubs will know who they could face in the group stage of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League following the playoff round, which begins Tuesday with a trio of matches.

The most interesting tie of the bunch is Benfica against PAOK Salonika, starting Tuesday in Portugal.

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PAOK is the biggest underdog in the playoff round, but Liverpool fans will be rooting hard for Razvan Lucescu’s Greek side. That’s because the Reds will joining Pot 2 of the UEFA Champions League draw if Benfica exits the tournament.

Frankly, many of the European hot shots would prefer Liverpool exit Pot 3. As it stands, the much-improved Reds would be a part of a horror group.

As it stands, these are the pots:

Pot 1: Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Juventus, PSG, Man City, Lokomotiv Moscow

Pot 2: Borussia Dortmund, Porto, Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Napoli, Spurs, Roma

Pot 2 or 3: Liverpool

Pot 3: Schalke, Lyon, Monaco, CSKA Moscow

Pot 3 or 4: Valencia, Viktoria Plzen

Pot 4: Club Brugge, Inter Milan, Hoffenheim, Galatasaray

Of course, Liverpool could be a Pot 3 team and be the best club in its group should Lokomotiv Moscow, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Club Brugge join them.

But it’s also possible that you could get the Reds in a group with Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, and Inter Milan. Yikes.

So look for most non-English Pot 1 and 2 teams to want Benfica to fall victim to Pontus Wernbloom, Chuba Akpom, and Vieirinha’s PAOK.

Playoff round schedule
All times ET

BATE Borisov vs. PSV Eindhoven
3 p.m. Tuesday in Belarus
3 p.m. Aug. 29 in the Netherlands

Benfica vs. PAOK Salonika
3 p.m. Tuesday in Portugal
3 p.m. Aug. 29 in Greece

Red Star Belgrade vs. Red Bull Salzburg
3 p.m. Tuesday in Serbia
3 p.m. Aug. 29 in Austria

Young Boys vs. Dinamo Zagreb
3 p.m. Wednesday in Switzerland
3 p.m. Aug. 28 in Croatia

MOL Vidi (Videoton) vs. AEK Athens
3 p.m. Wednesday in Hungary
3 p.m. Aug. 28 in Greece

Ajax vs. Dynamo Kyiv
3 p.m. Wednesday in the Netherlands
3 p.m. Aug. 28 in Ukraine

Season preview: Wolves a high-powered promoted team

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Wolverhampton Wanderers at a glance

Premier League titles: 0 (English First Division titles – 3 — 1953/54, 1957/58, 1958/59)
FA Cups: 4 (1893, 1908, 1949, 1960)
League Cups: 2 (1974, 1980)

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They will challenge for top half because… The roster, man. Joao Moutinho? Rui Patricio? On a promoted team? Come on. There are questions of adaptability to the league, but it won’t be a surprise should Wolves scrap enough points to be in the discussion for a top half finish come January.

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They’ll fail to launch and find relegation a probability if… they can’t quickly find their footing in a tricky first half-dozen match days. Apart from the challenges of Manchester City and Manchester United, Wolves will meet Leicester City, Everton, Burnley, and West Ham. Not a dud amongst the bunch.


Transfers in: Diogo Jota ($16 million, Atletico Madrid), Willy Boly ($14 million, Porto), Joao Moutinho ($7 million, Monaco), Leo Bonatini ($5.5 million, Hilal), Raul Jimenez ($4 million loan, Benfica), Rui Patricio (free transfer, Sporting Lisbon), Jonny Castro (loan, Atletico Madrid).

Transfers out: Benik Afobe (loan, Stoke City), Barry Douglas ($5 million Leeds), Ben Marshall ($2.5 million, Norwich City).


Best possible XI

—– Patricio —–

—- Jonny —-  Saiss —-  Boly — Vinagre —- 

—- Neves —- Moutinho —-

—- Cavaliero —- Costa —-Jota —-

 —- Jimenez —-


Ranking their offseason: 9/10 – Joao Moutinho for $7 million? That alone is insane, even with Wolves’ connection to Portugal. Throw in Raul Jimenez (El Tri!), Diogo Jota, and Rui Patricio, and it’s difficult to see Wolves not beating the drop.


Star player: Joao Moutinho — There are other candidates for this position, but the AS Monaco man was strong in both Ligue 1 and the UEFA Champions League last season. The 31-year-old has been linked with everyone from Manchester United to Real Madrid during his celebrated career; Who would have thought he’d wind up at the Molineux.

Coaches’ Corner: Nuno Espirito Santo — The 44-year-old is a rising name in the management, winning more than half his matches at Valencia and Porto before spearheading Wolves’ run to the Premier League. He’ll have a chance to really raise his profile as a story of the season.


PST Predicts: A hot enough start allows Wolves to focus on cups, where they make a decent run in either the League or FA Cup while finishing somewhere between 14th and 11th.