Mexico players say wins ‘not worth anything’ if they can’t advance from group

Mexico has experienced a dream start to the World Cup, but it will be worthless if it can’t close the deal against Sweden on Wednesday, El Tri players said after a 2-1 win over South Korea.

A surprising 1-0 victory over Germany set the tone for Mexico’s World Cup and the positive mood continued after a 2-1 triumph over the Asian nation Saturday. However, Germany’s late goal against Sweden to secure a 2-1 win means everything is still in the balance in Group F. While Mexico tops the group with six points, a loss to Sweden combined with a Germany win against Korea would bring both European teams to six points as well, sending passage to the next round to a tiebreaker.

El Tri players are eager to avoid that scenario by beating Sweden and winning the group, which likely would present an easier rout to the elusive fifth game. Mexico hasn’t progressed to the quarterfinals of any World Cup that took place on foreign soil.

“Again, it’s not going to be worth anything if we end up staying in the round of 16. We have to go step by step and we really do want to have a historic World Cup for us,” Mexico captain Andres Guardado said after the Korea win.

“This that just happened isn’t what we came here to do,” he continued. “We see ourselves as being capable of achieving a lot more, and we know what we have in terms of pressure – that we have this infamous fifth game on our back and we’re trying to get not only to the fifth game but rather much farther. But, we’re going game by game.”

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Just as Mexico avoided a potential let down against Korea after topping the reigning world champion, midfielder Miguel Layun said the focus would immediately shift to the final group contest. 

“We’ve got to be aware that this game against Sweden is going to be really important for us to look for qualification in the round of 16,” he said. “We have to keep the team focused on what we want to achieve.”

El Tri flew back to its Moscow base camp Saturday night and returns to training with a regeneration session Sunday morning.


Possible broken nose leaves Germany’s Rudy in doubt for South Korea clash

Sebastian Rudy is a doubt for Germany’s final World Cup group game after suffering a possible broken nose during the 2-1 victory over Sweden that put his side back on course to reach the last 16.

The Bayern Munich midfielder took a boot to the face after just over half an hour of the game, in which Germany fell behind to an Ola Toivonen goal before Marco Reus equalised following the interval.

Toni Kroos then scored a 95th-minute winner to complete a gripping comeback and move Germany up to second place in Group F with two games played.

Victory over South Korea on Wednesday would make sure of Germany’s place in the knockout phase but head coach Joachim Low told reporters he could be without Rudy in central midfield.

“Sebastian Rudy may well have broken his nose. It wouldn’t stop bleeding, so we had to take him off,” said Low, who replaced Rudy with Ilkay Gundogan.

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“He may still be able to play on Wednesday though. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Jerome Boateng will miss the clash with South Korea through suspension, having been sent off eight minutes from time against Sweden, and Low assessed the damage to his squad, saying: “We have to take stock and see what the situation is.

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“The players were tired at the end – Marco Reus started having cramps in his legs 10 minutes before the whistle, Boateng won’t be playing, Rudy broke his nose.

“We’ll start by resting and then prepare for South Korea on Monday. Our scouts have watched them twice already, but we’ll have to see what players are available.

“Mats Hummels will probably be able to play and that offers another variant in the back line.”


Transfer news & rumours LIVE: Man City & Man Utd in for Mbappe

Man City & Man Utd in for Mbappe

Manchester United and Manchester City are considering ambitious bids for Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, The Mirror says.

The Ligue 1 champions will have to start paying the gargantuan fee the agreed with Monaco to sign the 19-year-old attacker, but are being investigated by UEFA over their lavish spending.

The Manchester sides will be ready to swoop in if PSG find themselves in trouble, with United considering offering Anthony Martial and a large sum in exchange for him.

Mahrez puts Man City deal at risk

Riyad Mahrez’s move to Manchester City could fail to materialise because of his demands of a part of the transfer fee, The Sun reports.

City have long been after the Algeria star and are ready to snap him up this summer in a deal that could cost £75 million ($99m).

However, Mahrez is demanding a cut of the profit after playing a starring role for the Foxes and the hierarchy are reluctant to give in.

Kante race heats up between Barca, Real & PSG

Real Madrid are leading the race to sign Chelsea star N’Golo Kante, but Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona are still in, Le Parisien reports.

The midfielder is contracted to Chelsea until 2021, but offers are expected to swarm in, as PSG director Antero Henrique has already been in London to discuss a deal with the Blues.

However, Madrid have made him a top priority, while Barca continue to hold an interest.

Man Utd target Jose Gaya as Alex Sandro alternative

Manchester United have given up on their pursuit of Juventus star Alex Sandro and will turn to Jose Gaya instead, reports The Mirror.

The Old Trafford side had the Brazilian at the top of their list of targets this summer but will not meet Juve’s asking price.

Instead, Valencia left-back Jose Gaya, who is expected to cost around £30 million ($40m).

Barcelona to sell Yerry Mina

Yerry Mina will leave Barcelona after just half a season at the club, Sport claims.

The 23-year-old defender joined the club from Palmeiras in January and made six appearances for the first-team but is not part of Ernesto Valverde’s plans for next season.

The imminent arrival of Arthur Melo from Gremio means the Catalan side will have too many foreign players, leaving Mina out in the cold.

Juventus eye De Ligt & Godin

Juventus will turn their attention to Ajax star Matthijs de Ligt and Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin if they lose Medhi Benatia and Daniele Rugani, Gazzetta dello Sport   reports.

The Serie A side fear losing Rugani to Chelsea if the Blues make a big enough offer and see the 18-year-old Netherlands international as an ideal option.

With uncertainty surrounding Benatia, it will be Uruguay veteran Godin they look to as the experienced star to step in to the back line.

Inter hoping to snap up Carvalho

Inter will try to sign William Carvalho this summer, but are hesitant because of his situation with Sporting, according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

Carvalho is one of several players to have cancelled his contract with Sporting, but the Portuguese side are threatening legal action against each of them.

With the possibility of FIFA getting involved, Inter will have to consider whether it is worth the trouble before they make their move.

Everton want Loftus-Cheek and Wilshere

Everton are hoping to boost their midfield by landing Jack WIlshere and Ruben Loftus-Cheek this summer, The Mirror says.

The Toffees are confident of persuading Wilshere to head to Goodison Park in the hunt for regular football and will try to get Loftus-Cheek on loan from Chelsea after he impressed at Crystal Palace.

Abdou Diallo agrees Dortmund move

Mainz centre-back Abdou Diallo has agreed to join Borussia Dortmund, L’Equipe claims.

The 22-year-old Frenchman had attracted interest from Lyon, but has opted to stay in Germany by linking up with the Bundesliga title hopefuls.

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Liverpool make €180m Asensio bid

Liverpool have made a €180 million (£158m/$210m) bid for Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio, reports Mundo Deportivo.

The midfielder has a €700m release clause in his contract, and new manager Julen Lopetegui is keen to keep the 22-year-old.

However, they will examine Liverpool’s offer, with Jurgen Klopp looking for midfield reinforcements.


Shaqiri, Xhaka facing disciplinary action over controversial goal celebration

Switzerland stars Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka are facing disciplinary action from FIFA after their provocative goal celebration against Serbia at the World Cup .

The pair struck in the second half to lead Switzerland to a come-from-behind 2-1 win in Russia on Friday, but it was their celebration that took most attention.

Shaqiri and Xhaka put their hands together to form what looked like a two-headed eagle, similar to the one on the flag of Albania, threatening to inflame political tensions in the Balkans.

“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Swiss players Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri for their goal celebration during the match Switzerland vs. Serbia,” the governing body said in a statement on Saturday.

Shaqiri and Xhaka are of Kosovar heritage, with the former born in the partially recognised nation which was fought over by forces from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – Montenegro and Serbia at that time – and the Kosovo Liberation Army in the late 1990s.

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Despite being recognised by UEFA, Serbia refuses to see Kosovo as an independent state, meaning relations remain tense.

FIFA has also opened proceedings against the Serbian Football Association for “crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans”.

A preliminary investigation was opened against Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic for alleged statements made post-match.


Kroos winner can be catalyst for Germany success – Hummels

Mats Hummels believes Toni Kroos’ stoppage-time winner against Sweden can kick-start Germany’s World Cup campaign, though he recognises the champions have plenty of room for improvement.

Germany emerged from the jaws of elimination to the cusp of the knockout phase thanks to Kroos, whose 95th-minute free-kick lifted Joachim Low’s 10-man side to a last-gasp 2-1 victory in Sochi on Saturday.

The holders, who had Jerome Boateng sent off late for a second yellow card, dominated in attack but were vulnerable in defence throughout the Group F showdown at Fisht Stadium.

Star defender Hummels, who missed the crucial fixture due to a neck injury, acknowledged Germany’s need to improve ahead of their final game against South Korea, having lost to Mexico in the opening match.

“We were better than Sunday but not as good as we have to be in the next games,” Hummels told reporters afterwards. “It will be a different game, a different opponent. We will analyse it. See what we have to do better.

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“For our emotional side, it was a very good thing today because you start believing with games like this that you can pull a lot off.”

Asked about Kroos’ dramatic winner, Hummels said: “Something like this can be a big moment in a tournament but if we lose to South Korea or don’t advance, it doesn’t mean anything.

“We got a little bit lucky today. We have to show and prove that we can be better.”

Hummels was replaced by Antonio Rudiger for the game in the Black Sea resort city, having sustained a neck injury in the lead up to the clash.

“I had a problem in training on Thursday. A big problem,” the Bayern Munich centre-back added. “It’s healing good since then but the doctor said it was too much of a risk that something very serious could happen. It was very hard for me to accept.”

Rudiger deputised in place of Hummels, partnering Boateng at the heart of Germany’s defence.

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The Chelsea defender and Boateng were often exposed as Germany pushed numbers forward against Sweden.

“It’s not that easy but we did it good against a defensive setup,” Rudiger said. “We had many chances and in crucial games, you have to take it.”

“We gave our all. It’s easy for others to say it’s easy to play against Sweden but it’s not easy because they defend very well,” he continued. “We have to look game per game. The next is South Korea and we will give our all.”