Monday, November 28

Only Ronaldo’s Man Utd exit can upstage Messi’s bad day: World Cup daily


What a day at the World Cup! From a historic upset to superstar drama to a record-tying performance, Tuesday had it all. Nobody could have predicted Saudi Arabia’s shocking win over Argentina, which could be among the sport’s surprising results.

Also, Cristiano Ronaldo’s feud with Manchester United is over as he has left the club, right before Portugal kick off their campaign. We also saw Olivier Giroud join a France scoring legend, and Mexico keeper (and five-time World Cup participant) Guillermo Ochoa continue to do what he does best.

Be sure to check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Qatar. Here’s what you may have missed from Tuesday’s World Cup happenings.

– World Cup news, features, previews, and more
– Stream FC Daily and Futbol Americas on ESPN+


Greatest upset ever? Argentina fall flat vs. Saudi Arabia

Seismic. Unbelievable. Phenomenal (if you’re a Saudi Arabia fan). Catastrophic (if you’re an Argentina supporter).

However you want to describe it, Tuesday’s result will go down as one of the most memorable scorelines in soccer history. Just days ago, we were all talking about how Lionel Messi would finally lift the World Cup trophy and secure that GOAT status. Now, Argentina have work to do to get out of the group stage.

Where to begin? Well, first of all, let’s look at how this game ranks among the biggest upsets at the World Cup. Hint — it’s not Argentina’s first time to be on the short end of one of these games. And how will an elite side such as this one bounce back after this bump in the road? Messi, seeking the only major trophy that has eluded him in his career, said that his teammates have “no excuses” if they are to advance in Qatar.

So, kudos to Herve Renard’s side for ripping up the script and producing possibly the biggest win by an Asian side at the World Cup. Whether it was VAR-aided luck or due to securing the best practice facilities, Saudi Arabia can celebrate their fourth win ever at World Cup matches in style. So much so that the King Salman declared Wednesday a public holiday in Saudi Arabia.

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Dale Johnson explains some of the refereeing decisions in Argentina’s loss to Saudi Arabia at the World Cup.


Can Portugal handle Ronaldo-Man United drama?

It was one busy day at the World Cup, but you can always count on Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United to grab some headlines even if neither is in the direct spotlight.

After Tuesday’s announcement that Ronaldo has left the club by mutual consent (that happens when you bad-mouth your bosses in public), it’ll be interesting to see how the aftermath could affect Portugal’s preparation ahead of their Group H opener against Ghana on Thursday. Portugal coach Fernando Santos and possibly Ronaldo himself will address the media on Wednesday, and no doubt it will be the top topic.

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And as if that wasn’t enough news from Old Trafford, the Glazer family announced late Tuesday they are open to selling the club. The Glazers completed their takeover in 2005 but have faced fierce opposition to their ownership from supporters lately.

So now that Ronaldo will be free to find another club after he returns from Qatar, where could he possibly land? ESPN looks at the options for the 37-year-old superstar.

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Mark Ogden lays out the options for Cristiano Ronaldo’s future after the forward left Manchester United with immediate effect.


England vs. USA countdown: Kane injury a concern?

The good news from the United States’ 1-1 draw against Wales on Monday? The U.S. started the first half on the gas pedal and looked dynamic. The bad news: They failed to cope with Wales’ excellent second-half strategic adjustments and then gave up a late penalty.

And for perhaps even worse news for USA fans? England looked spectacular earlier in the day, walloping a defensive-minded Iran team by an eye-popping 6-2 margin.

But it’s not all roses in Gareth Southgate’s squad, as it was revealed that Harry Kane will undergo a scan for a right ankle injury suffered in that game. It is unclear at this stage whether the scan is precautionary or a consequence of Kane feeling more discomfort.

That won’t stop us from assessing Friday’s big match between the Stars and Stripes and the Three Lions. We take an initial look at how things are shaping up for both sides and what we can expect.

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Sam Borden reports from Doha as Gio Reyna features in training in front of the media ahead of Friday’s crucial match against England.


News and notes

Some other Premier League-related tidbits amid the World Cup action.


The best bits from today

Mexico’s memorable ‘Memo’ party continues as Lewandowski denied
El Tri couldn’t capitalize on a raucous crowd, but Guillermo Ochoa’s save on Robert Lewandowski’s penalty attempt was as impactful as any goal that Mexico could have scored.

Barcelona’s Ansu set to shine for Spain after journey that began in Guinea-Bissau
Spain’s Ansu Fati, already a star for Barcelona aged 20, has experienced more highs and lows than most players.

What’s it like to win a big World Cup upset like Saudi Arabia vs. Argentina?
World Cups are usually won by elite sides, but there are still seismic shocks. What’s it like to be on the winning end of a massive upset?


Matches on tap for Wednesday

– Group E: Germany vs. Japan (Khalifa International Stadium; 2 a.m. ET)
Among a roster list of household names, expect 17-year-old Jamal Musiala to outshine them all as Germany seek a fifth World Cup title. But Japan can very well pull off a victory — plenty of their players ply their club trade in the Bundesliga and will be very familiar with their German opponents.

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– Group F: Morocco vs. Croatia (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor; 5 a.m. ET)
The runners-up of the 2018 World Cup return a bit older, but don’t overlook Luka Modric’s ability to create some midfield magic for Croatia. Morocco have key players such as Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi across a talented roster, so don’t count them out to make a splash in the group stage.

Group E: Spain vs. Costa Rica (Al Thumama Stadium, Doha; 11 a.m. ET)

Looking for a “just vibes” teams among the favorites? Go with Spain. Plenty of youngsters (Gavi, Pedri, Ansu Fati, Ferran Torres) even if we can only guess how coach Luis Enrique will line them all up. As for Costa Rica, they’ll look to recapture that 2014 magic, all of which will depend on Keylor Navas’ ability to keep them in games.

– Group F: Belgium vs. Canada (Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan; 2 p.m. ET)
It may be twilight for Belgium’s “Golden Generation” of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, but that experience should guide them well in a wide-open group. Canada are back in the World Cup for the first time since 1986, but don’t expect them to just enjoy the trip. Even without an injured Alphonso Davies, there is a solid core in this squad.


What else caught our eye

Does it seem like some of these games are longer than usual? Well, because they are.

Prolonged periods of stoppage time being added due to injuries, and VAR have made each of the first four games of the tournament go over 100 minutes.

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Dale Johnson explains the reasons we’re seeing longer injury time added to nearly every World Cup game so far.


Your best bets (odds via Caesars Sportsbook)

If you’re looking to bet on the World Cup, ESPN contributors Paul Carr, Dan Thomas and Dalen Cuff are here to give you key tips on odds, options and futures.

Here’s what we have for the Wednesday matches.

Group E

Germany (-230) vs. Japan (+625), Draw (+340)

Paul Carr: Germany are obviously the heavy favorite, and I think a physical Japan team could be sneaky dangerous. Germany have a ton of attacking weapons and will surely score, as they’ve done in 15 out of 16 games since last year’s Euros. Germany have also been shaky defensively, and I think Japan will give them enough trouble to find a goal. I like both teams to score (-115).

Dalen Cuff: I’m with Paul, I really like this Japan team. I think despite being in this group, they could be a dark horse to get out of it and make an impact in the knockout stage. I also like both teams to score, but also may sprinkle in a “Draw no” bet on Japan (+410).

Daniel Thomas: In spite of the fact that he chose Germany over England I love everything about Jamal Musiala. Taking him at +220 for anytime goal scorer looks like the bet of the day.

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Spain (-750) vs. Costa Rica (+2600), Draw (+600)

Carr: Costa Rica were fortunate to qualify, making it only because of Keylor Navas’ heroics in goal throughout the final round, and they still haven’t found the next generation to replace the stars of the 2014 World Cup quarterfinal team. Spain have plenty of young stars, and they are no longer the tiki-taka team that will grind out 1-0 wins. They’ll press Costa Rica and create plenty of scoring chances and win this one going away. Give me Spain -2.5 (+127).

Cuff: Spain will dominate both the ball and the game, but this side still lacks a clinical striker. Costa Rica have veterans. They’ll hunker down in front of one of the world’s best keepers — still — in Navas. I like under 2.5 goals (+120).

Thomas: Pedri is already one of the best players in the world, despite his young age. Selecting him for one or more assist (+300) for Spain offers excellent value.

Group F

Morocco (+305) vs. Croatia (+105), Draw (+205)

Carr: No bet for me on this one, although I like a lot about both teams. Croatia has the advantage in the midfield, and Morocco might have the best pair of fullbacks at the tournament in PSG’s Achraf Hakimi and Bayern’s Noussair Mazraoui. I feel like just about any result is in play here.

Cuff: I have high hopes for this match being one of best in the opening round of games. There’s been a youthful injection into the veteran Croatian squad, while Morocco have the dynamic attacking players whom Paul mentioned above. It’s anyone’s game in my mind, and I like both to score (+110).

Thomas: I’ll take the draw in this one as I expect it to be an evenly matched contest

Belgium (-200) vs. Canada (+550), Draw (+320)

Carr: Even with Alphonso Davies doubtful due to injury, I like Canada here. They don’t have to change their style of play for this game, being content to defend and counter. And when they counter, they’ll blitz an old Belgium defense that will likely have 35-year-old Jan Vertonghen and 33-year-old Toby Alderweireld trying to keep up with Jonathan David and Cyle Larin. I’m playing Canada on the double chance (win or draw) at +155.

Cuff: I like Canada as well. They topped CONCACAF qualifying ahead of both the United States and Mexico. The Davies injury concerns me, as he is Canada’s most dynamic and dangerous player, but I still think they can at least get on the board. Give me both to score (-110).

Thomas: Belgium should win this easily with Kevin De Bruyne being the star. I’ll go with KDB (+140) for an assist.

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