World Cup Qualifier

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Saudi Arabia, Australia involved in controversial moment’s silence (video)

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A moment of silence to honor victims of last week’s London terror attacks, including two Australians, has caused a major controversy.

The minute’s silence was reportedly agreed between Australia and Saudi Arabia before a World Cup qualifier on Thursday.

[ MORE: Iniesta to NYCFC? ]

The Socceroos lined up and linked together around the half-circle, while the Green Falcons did not take part in the tribute in any traditional sense.

According to the Associated Press:

“Both the (Asian Football Confederation) and the Saudi team agreed that the minute of silence could be held,” the Australian federation said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “The FFA was further advised by Saudi team officials that this tradition was not in keeping with Saudi culture and they would move to their side of the field and respect our custom whilst taking their own positions on the field.”

The move has caused uproar, though it’s unclear whether the Saudi Arabian team misinterpreted the tribute.

Here’s a report from Australia:

USMNT-Trinidad and Tobago: Don’t screw it up

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Win Thursday and finish this international break in at least the inter-confederation playoff spot.

That’s what’s at stake for the United States men’s national team heading into Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago in Colorado.

Sure, the Yanks could go down to Azteca and win against a Mexico team as difficult to figure out as them, but Thursday’s three points should be a sure-fire and wonderful thing.

[ MORE: How will Arena line ’em up? ]

That’s not to say Bruce Arena’s men are going to get the job done. They are, Christian Pulisic’s growth and Geoff Cameron‘s health aside, the exact same flawed bunch that saw Jurgen Klinsmann fired after underperforming late last year.

This is a group that only drew Venezuela 1-1 on Saturday night in Utah, allowing a goal off another set piece to a team that entered the match on a 2W-2D-6L kick.

But it’s also a group playing a Trinidad and Tobago team that just doesn’t win here in meaningful games. Say what you will about MLS standouts Kenwyne Jones and Kevin Molino, but they are just that and facing a strong enough U.S. side in the high altitude of Commerce City. The Soca Warriors lost their last away WCQ 3-1 to Honduras, the same Honduras side that fell 6-0 to the U.S. last international break.

This should absolutely, positively, be a comfortable win. Frankly, it’s the sort of match-up that makes Jozy Altidore one of the scariest men in CONCACAF, whether paired with Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood, or a tiny toy dog. Altidore scored twice when the Yanks waxed T&T in September, and has five in five career appearances against the Soca Warriors.

So, yeah, like the headline says: Don’t screw this up, fellas. Don’t overlook T&T but also be sure to enter the match with the swagger of a heavy favorite. The bettors say the Yanks are more of a lock (1:9) to beat T&T then Mexico is to beat visiting Honduras and Costa Rica is to handle Panama.

Simply put, if Arena spent the last few days firming up his defending on corner kicks, and if Geoff Cameron’s center back mate doesn’t turn into a turnstile, the Yanks win this easy and we turn our attention to Mexico.

USMNT AT HALF: Dempsey, Gomez trade goals in chippy first half

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Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey combined for another goal, and the USMNT leads Panama 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier Tuesday in Panama City.

A physical, chippy first half didn’t see many clear cut chances and was 0-0 after 38. minutes.

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The first 10 minutes were a bit frenetic, with the U.S. focused on adventurous first touch passes when it managed to earn the ball from Panama.

That feel wasn’t aided by the officiating, as Cesar Ramos was inconsistent in a very physical opening half-hour.

Then, the breakthrough. Dempsey moved to within a goal of Landon donovan’s all-time mark thanks to Pulisic, who cooked Felipe Baloy and held off Roman Torres before laying off to the veteran. 1-0, 39′.

The lead lasted all of three minutes, as Gomez pounced on a loose ball with the Yanks’ back line at sixes and sevens off a long throw-in. Gomez turned off Jermaine Jones and lost Villafana to bury his chance behind Howard. 1-1, 44′.

McClean to wear No. 5 in honor of deceased ex-teammate

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James McClean is a colorful personality who doesn’t shy away from strong opinions — he once called Jurgen Klopp “a bit of an idiot” — and the West Brom man is using the big stage of World Cup qualifying to proudly honor a deceased ex-teammate.

McClean has long before friends with Derry City captain Ryan McBride, who shockingly died hours after leading his side to a league win this weekend. Given his age (27), few saw it coming even after McBride admitted to feeling ill after the match.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

McBride and McClean played together at Derry, and the latter was excused from Republic of Ireland training to attend funeral services this week.

He’s still expected to play a role in Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Wales on Friday, and McClean will don the No. 5 of McBride. Irish defender Richard Keogh usually wears the number and agreed to the change.

WATCH: Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Who You Got?

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When asked last month about who he preferred, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, FIFA president Sepp Blatter noted his marginal preference for the former but not without noting that a third name has now entered the ring: Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

For FIFA and the world at large, perhaps the biggest downside of the 2014 World Cup is that audiences will only be able to watch two of these players come next summer.

Messi will be one of them. But either Ronaldo or Zlatan will not be in Brazil.

Merely writing that last sentence is incredibly painful. It’s a realization that I, like yourself (presumably), am not ready to come to grips with.

This cruel reality will play itself out over the course of two matches, the first in Portugal this Friday and the second in Sweden next Tuesday.

Upon collecting his seventh Swedish national footballer of the year award in eight years, Ibra discussed why his country is more deserved of a place in Brazil. “We finished second in a very hard group, while they finished second in one they should have won,” said the striker.

It’s a position that is backed in fact. As they so often do in qualifying, Portugal took a relaxed approach. Taking only two points from Israel and drawing with Northern Ireland in Lisbon, Portugal gifted Russia first place in the group and automatic qualification to Brazil.

Sweden, on the other hand, came second in a group with world-powerhouse Germany, who the Swedes lost to in a 5-3 thriller before managing a 4-4 draw in Berlin.

Yet despite each country’s qualifying form, most would agree that Portugal has the better potential for a deep World Cup run. In addition to CR7, they possess great talent in the likes of Fabio Coentrao, Joao Moutinho, Pepe, Nani, Bruno Alves and Helder Postiga.

When they’re up for it they can be great, as displayed in their semi-final run in Euro 2012. But too often, whether prompted by boredom or over-sized egos, the Selecção suffer let-downs.

Which is where Sweden excel. They are consistent, always play hard, rarely drop focus and have long been known to slay giants when the big game comes.

Inevitably, however, your preference for this match has little do with Portugal over Sweden (or vice versa) and is all about Ronaldo or Zlatan.

Joe Prince-Wright and myself debate this exact topic in the video above. As we’re both long time backers of Ronaldo in his competition with Messi you’d think we’d be in agreement over who we want to see in Brazil. But that wasn’t the case.

So have a gander at our debate and let us know your thoughts on what is the most explosive topic of the week – Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic?