Gold Cup 2017: Predicting Semifinals

At last the four best teams have done their jobs. Some have smashed their way through to the semifinals, and some merely survived. This is where it gets harder to predict.

Costa Rica vs. United States

This is going to be a simply thrilling Saturday night in Phoenix. On one hand you have the sleeping American giant, fresh off absolutely dominating El Salvador. Then you have Los Ticos, who just barely scraped through against Panama. However, El Salvador is hardly on Panama’s level.

Costa Rica is missing four key players to injury, and star goalie Keylor Navas has not been allowed to come to the Gold Cup as he is in Real Madrid’s squad for the club’s preseason tour. The US are also without players that play for a European clubs, as Christian Pulisic, Fabian Johnson, and John Brooks are not able to come. The Americans should be able to get through to the final, as they can exploit Costa Rica’s lack of healthy wingers and second-string goalkeeper. Pick: USA

Mexico vs. Jamaica

Mexico brought their B-team to this Gold Cup, as many players including Hirving Lozano and Carlos Vela were subject to CONCACAF’s international playtime restrictions as they had taken part in the Confederations Cup recently. It hasn’t hindered El Tri yet as they face a full strength Jamaican team that made the final in 2015. Mexico’s midfield presence should dominate Jamaica, and the high press they’ve been utilizing should cause problems. Pick: Mexico

 

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James Rodriguez finally leaves Real Madrid!

Colombian star James Rodriguez has finally completed a move away from Real Madrid, after being linked to Inter, Arsenal, PSG, Manchester United, and others. But he hasn’t gone to any of the aforementioned teams.

Speculation had grown over James’ future after Real manager Zinedine Zidane repeatedly left him on the bench, choosing to play Casemiro in a defensive 4-3-3. The Spanish giants initially demanded close to £75 million for him, which ruled out most clubs as potential destinations for Rodriguez.

Yesterday it was announced that James (Haw-mace) has moved to Bayern Munich! Real Madrid put the correct price tag on the world class CAM. However, sources report that the German club has decided to loan him for two years, with an option to buy. This is the staggering bit: the fee. Bayern will pay £5 million each year of his loan, and then have an option to buy him permanently for only £30 million! Incentives could see the total fee rise to £45.2 million, well below Madrid’s asking price.

This is a ridiculous deal for the Bavarians. Remember when 22 year old James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup, scoring in every game? Remember how he took control of the round of 16 clash against Uruguay? (And that ridiculous volley!)

At age 25, the Colombian wizard hasn’t even hit his prime, but has notched 46 goals, 45 assists, and 27 Man of the Match awards in just over 10,000 minutes of game time. The list of active players to go 45/45/25 in 10,000: James, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar. That’s it.

 

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Real Madrid 4-1 Juventus: Reviewing the Champions League final

A wild game, to say the least.

Cardiff, Wales was the site of the Final of the most prestigious club competition in the world. It’s also Gareth Bale’s hometown. Bale was left on the bench, though, as Real Madrid cemented their place in history, becoming the first team in 27 years to win the Champions League back-to-back years.

Once the—um, interesting pregame show had been cleared, Juventus almost immediately went ahead when Miralem Pjanic’s 20 yard effort in the 6th minute forced a terrific save from keeper Keylor Navas.

In the 20th minute, Real Madrid made them pay for their attacking play. It was a typical Madrid counter-attack: deadly and not wasting time. Karim Benzema fed Cristiano Ronaldo, who then played a sweet one-two with Dani Carvajal on the wing and made no mistake with the 15-yard finish.

Juventus didn’t roll over and play dead, though. On the stroke of halftime, superb build-up play from the Italian giants led to Mario Mandzukic scoring one of the best goals of the year, a terrific overhead kick that Navas’s outstretched fingers couldn’t reach.

In the second half, however, it was all Madrid. Goals from Casemiro, Ronaldo, and 20 year old substitute Marco Asensio sealed Juventus’s fate, though the Asensio goal wouldn’t have come to be if Juventus hadn’t decided to roll over and play dead. They did and it did.

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