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Russia says it thwarted drone attacks at World Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Russia says it thwarted attempted drone attacks at this year’s World Cup.

Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, says his officers “took measures to detect and foil attempts by terrorists to use drones during the preparation and hosting of various major political and sports events, most of all during the soccer World Cup.”

Bortnikov gave no further details in comments reported by the Tass state news agency.

Russia used thousands of police and cutting-edge surveillance technology to guard the World Cup. However, four Pussy Riot protesters managed to run onto the field during the final.

In April, Russia said “extremists” and nationalist soccer hooligans had planned to attack World Cup events in the city of Samara but were foiled.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

USMNT at 23 in latest FIFA Rankings; Belgium top, England into Top Five

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The United States men’s national team slipped a spot to 23 in the latest FIFA Rankings.

Sandwiched between Tunisia and Austria, the USMNT remains three points below their average spot of 20.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 10 ]

The spot is four higher than the less celebrated but more trusted ELO Ratings, which has the U.S. at 27 (five spots higher than it was a year ago after the World Cup qualifying failure in Couva).

Belgium moves out of its tie with France for the top spot in the FIFA Rankings, while Brazil is third and England moves into the Top Five.

The biggest riser in the Top 50 is Russia (up five spots to 41). Northern Ireland and Democratic Republic of Congo each dropped six spots to Nos. 34 and 46, respectively.

Mexico drops a spot to 16th, while Canada rises three to 76.

Tadic misses penalty as Serbia draws Romania, Russia tops Turkey

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Dusan Tadic‘s awful penalty was the only real highlight of an otherwise drab 0-0 draw between Serbia and Romania at Arena Nationala in Bucuresti.

Serbia was awarded the spot-kick after Gabriel Tamas was sent off for a high boot in the box right to the face of Mijat Gacinovic. Tadic stepped up to take the penalty and after a slow, awkward run-up, he blasted his penalty well over the top-left corner, not even close to hitting the target.

Many after the match criticized Serbia for not having in-form Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic take the penalty instead of Tadic. Mitrovic scored a penalty just three days ago in a 2-0 win over Montenegro. There were just six total shots on target throughout the entire match split three and three between the two teams. Serbia dominated the majority of play, holding 70% of possession and winning the corner count 11-3.

Elsewhere, Denis Cheryshev continued his hot streak for Russia as they stole a 2-0 win over Turkey in Sochi. Cheryshev has scored six goals in his last nine international appearances dating back to the World Cup. Cheryshev didn’t start the match, but came on with 19 minutes to go and Russia already a goal up on a Roman Neustädter 20th minute strike.

Turkey, featuring a lineup that included Everton striker Cenk Tosun and Roma youngster Cengiz Ünder, held 60% possession and out-passed a Russia team that only completed 67% of its passes. Still, they struggled up front as 30-year-old Fenerbahce CB Neustadter partnered well alongside Georgi Dzhikiya. Neither defender was part of the Russian World Cup squad this past summer.

Also in Nations League play, Faroe Islands drew 1-1 with Kosovo, while Malta and Azerbaijan also finished level at 1-1 in Baku.

Two Russian soccer players investigated for attacking official

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MOSCOW (AP) Russian police are investigating two soccer players accused of beating an official at a Moscow cafe.

Officials say that Zenit St. Petersburg striker Alexander Kokorin and Krasnodar midfielder Pavel Mamayev are accused of beating a department head from the Russian Ministry for Industry and Trade who rebuked them for behaving improperly.

[ PL ROUNDTABLE: The story so far ]

A video taken by a surveillance camera and broadcast by Russian TV stations on Tuesday showed the two players hitting the man with a chair over his head and slapping him in the face. A probe is under way, and the players could face up to two years in prison if found guilty.

The Russian Premier League strongly condemned the “hooliganism.” Krasnodar said it may terminate Mamayev’s contract, while Zenit said it would take disciplinary measures against Kokorin.

UEFA Nations League preview: Germany, England, Russia in focus

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One of the unique challenges presented by the three-team groups of the League A and B of the UEFA Nations League is the seriousness of two-match weeks for one team in each group per international break.

With the tournament in its first edition, perhaps the strategy will change over time. But for now, the results have been mixed for the “two-fers.”

[ PL ROUNDTABLE: The story so far ]

Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ukraine both went 2-0 and are enjoying the driver’s seats. Italy went 0-1-1 and put itself in a deep hole, while Turkey and Wales came away with a win and a loss. Iceland went 0-2, but was probably the long shot of a group with Belgium and Switzerland.

There aren’t conclusions to draw yet, so let’s take a look at the eight teams playing two matches over the next week within the top two leagues.

LEAGUE A

Germany: Joachim Loew will have been accepting of a home draw with France, but it puts pressure on the Germans to get at least that at the Stade de France on Oct. 16. First, though, a Saturday trip to Johan Cruyff Arena to face a Dutch side which really needs to find a win. After the World Cup failure, there’s special attention on Loew’s men even in a nascent competition.

Switzerland is off to Brussels and Reykjavik for a four-day span. The first one could make the second must-win as opposed to draw-acceptable: Belgium has already won at Iceland, and is home for two of its remaining three tilts.

Poland is home for both of its matches and will stay in Chorzow for visits from Portugal and Italy. There’s still no Ronaldo in the Portugal side, something that may well change when the reigning EURO champs have their two-match week. The time is now for Poland to go atop the table, and hope Portugal slips up in Italy come November.

England will not have Dele Alli and Jamie Vardy, and will have a host of green players during visits to monsters Croatia and Spain. Gareth Southgate is going to have a very good idea of where his project’s depth and youth stand — as well as Harry Kane‘s energy levels — as it hopes to cement its spot in League A for another cycle by defeating both. Tall asks, for sure, and England may be content to put its eggs in the Croatia basket since both sides lost to Spain in the first week.

LEAGUE B

Czech Republic is away to Slovakia and Ukraine in a group which staged a pair of tight encounters to start the league.

Russia can clinch the Group 2 with home wins over Sweden and Turkey.

Northern Ireland is away to Austria and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Winning the former is almost as important as challenging perfect BNH in the latter.

Republic of Ireland is home to Denmark and Wales after getting thrashed by the Welsh in Cardiff during Week 1. Handing L’s to both feels necessary.