Los Angeles FC v Portland Timbers: Neville relishing swift rematch

By Sports Desk April 25, 2024

Phil Neville is looking forward to a quick reunion with Los Angeles FC when the Portland Timbers head down to southern California.

The Timbers face LAFC on Saturday, just two weeks after they drew 2-2 with Steve Cherundolo’s team at home.

Felipe Mora and Evander scored for Portland that day, but Mateusz Bogusz’s double ensured a share of the spoils, with the Timbers having goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau sent off.

LAFC had a goal disallowed late on, and Neville believes both teams will feel they deserved more from that match.

He said: “Both managers came out of the game two weeks ago feeling hard done by – they had a goal disallowed in the last few minutes, we were really disappointed too in the performance of the referee.

“Saturday’s another game where we have to go for it. When you play teams really close together, there’s not much scouting, there’s only been one game between, so it’s about remembering the good things we did and how we can cause problems.”

Portland drew 2-2 with the Columbus Crew last time out, and Neville is satisfied with the level on show from his side, who sit down in 11th in the Western Conference.

“We took a lot of confidence out of the game against Columbus,” he said.

“We came up with chances to win the game, but we were beaten by an incredible goal. The boys are in really good shape, they’re looking forward to the game on Saturday – my first trip to LAFC so I’m looking forward to that. It’s another brilliant game against a really good team. We played them a couple of weeks ago. We know each other, both teams know each other.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

LAFC – Denis Bouanga

Bouanga scored both of LAFC’s goals against the New York Red Bulls last time out, including the equaliser in stoppage time. It was the eighth time Bouanga has scored multiple goals in an MLS match since the start of last season (incl. playoffs). No other player has more than four multi-goal games in that time.

Portland Timbers – Felipe Mora

Mora has scored in each of his last four appearances for the Timbers, though Portland have not won any of those matches (D3 L1). Mora is the fifth player in the post-shootout era (since 2000) to score in four straight matches but not be on the winning side in any of them.

MATCH PREDICTION: LAFC WIN

LAFC are unbeaten in eight straight home matches (W6 D2) in all competitions. They have scored multiple goals in seven of those eight matches.

However, LAFC have won only two of their last 10 regular-season matches against the Timbers (D4 L4).

The Timbers have scored in all 14 meetings with LAFC in league play since 2019 while LAFC have scored in 13 of those 14.

Portland are winless in six straight matches (D3 L3), including drawing the last three in a row. The Timbers have only three longer winless runs within a single regular season, most recently an eight-match run in March-April 2014.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

LAFC – 56.2%

Portland Timbers – 19.5%

Draw – 24.3%

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    England know that the last 16 of Euro 2024 is within touching distance as they head into a reunion with Denmark.

    The Three Lions beat the Danes in the semi-finals at Euro 2020, coming from behind to win 2-1 after extra time.

    Harry Kane was England's hero as he converted a penalty winner, though spot-kicks would of course go on to prove to be their downfall in the final against Italy.

    There is less on the line when England face Denmark again on Thursday, though Gareth Southgate's team will progress to the knockout stage should they win.

    Here, we use Opta data to preview the Group C clash.

    What's expected?

    England are forecasted to win this one, with the Opta supercomputer handing them a 54.5 per cent chance of getting the job done in Frankfurt.

    Denmark are sure to be no pushovers, though, and have a 20.6 per cent win likelihood, with the draw threat at 25 per cent.

    This will be the fourth encounter between Denmark and England at a major tournament. Three of those will have come at the Euros, and one at the 2002 World Cup.

    Denmark won none of the previous three meetings (D1 L2), scoring only one goal in the process, Mikkel Damsgaard's free-kick in the semi-final of Euro 2020.

    There have only been five goals scored in the last four meetings between Denmark (two) and England (three) in all competitions.

    Meanwhile, the Three Lions only had 12 touches in Serbia's box in their 1-0 win on MD1, their lowest total of touches in the opposition box in a European Championship game since 2012 against Ukraine (also 12).

    Indeed, the England v Serbia match saw only 11 shots (five for England, six for Serbia) – that tally is the lowest on record in a European Championship match, fewer than every one of the other 322 matches in the competition since 1980.

    England have also kept a clean sheet in each of their last five group-stage matches at the European Championship finals, the longest such run in the competition's history.

    So, this game is probably not one to expect too many goals in.

    Bellingham a safe bet but can Foden and Kane flourish?

    Jude Bellingham came into Euro 2024 with the pressure and hype ramped right up. He is the face of this England squad, and there is an onus on him to deliver.

    Well, he started on the right foot, scoring in the 13th minute on Sunday to seal that 1-0 victory over Serbia.

    Bellingham displayed the kind of chance-sniffing instinct he has demonstrated so brilliantly during his first season at Real Madrid, getting on the end of Bukayo Saka's deflected cross and powering home with his head.

    Having become the first player to play at two European Championship tournaments before the age of 21, he is also the second England player to score at two major tournaments before turning 21 (also scored vs Iran at the 2022 World Cup), along with Michael Owen, who scored at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.

    Bellingham was crucial in every aspect against Serbia. He led England for touches (93), while only Declan Rice (81) and Kyle Walker (77) attempted more passes than the 20-year-old, who also competed in a team-leading 16 duels, winning 10 of them, and was successful with two of his three tackles.

    Southgate's system seems designed to allow Bellingham to flourish, though has that come at the expense of Phil Foden?

    The Manchester City star struggled when he did find space against Serbia, though there is perhaps a case that the Premier League Player of the Year is being shoehorned in out of position, too.

    Kane, meanwhile, had just two touches in the opening 45 minutes, before finishing with 24 – exactly half that of Jordan Pickford and the lowest of any England outfielder who started the match. The Bayern Munich striker did have a header tipped onto the crossbar, but that was his only chance of the game. Southgate needs to get him more service.

    England average 1.9 goals per game under Southgate at major tournaments, the best ratio of any Three Lions boss, but there could be so much more to come from this star-studded attack.

    Christian the Great (Dane)

    Christian Eriksen scored his maiden goal at the European Championship in Denmark's 1-1 draw with Slovenia.

    At 32 years and 123 days old, he became the oldest Dane to score at the Euros and oldest at a major tournament since 33-year-old Jon Dahl Tomasson at the 2010 World Cup.

    It was a clever run and deft finish from the Manchester United playmaker, who created seven chances from set-pieces in the match, the most by a player in a European Championship fixture since Gary McAllister in 1992 for Scotland against Germany (eight).

    Getting Eriksen into dangerous positions has to be the gameplan for Kasper Hjulmand's team, who completed 583 passes and enjoyed an 89 per cent passing accuracy against Slovenia, both record highs for the Danes that Opta has on record (since 1980) at the European Championship.

    Despite their run to the last four three years ago, Denmark have won just one of their last six group stage games at the Euros (D1 L4), beating Russia 4-1 at Euro 2020 to ensure qualification to the round of 16.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Denmark - Rasmus Hojlund 

    Eriksen will be the one England have to stop influencing the match in midfield, but John Stones and Marc Guehi – should they start – will have to be on high alert to keep Man United's Hojlund under wraps, too.

    He only had one shot against Slovenia, which he did get on target, but he is a quality finisher and can certainly do some damage.

    England - Phil Foden

    Foden created just one chance in a subdued performance against Serbia, but there can be no doubting his quality.

    Get him more involved, and in fairness, Foden has to sharpen up when he does get on the ball, and England will surely have far too much for Denmark's defence.

  • Turkiye 3-1 Georgia: Guler scores stunner in Euro 2024 thriller Turkiye 3-1 Georgia: Guler scores stunner in Euro 2024 thriller

    Arda Guler scored a sensational goal as Turkiye came out 3-1 victors after a thrilling clash with Georgia at Euro 2024.

    The Real Madrid midfielder curled home a stunner from outside the area to put Turkiye 2-1 midway through the second half and become the youngest player to score on his Euros debut, with Kerem Akturkoglu confirming the win after a wave of Georgia pressure. 

    Ahead of the encounter in Dortmund, fans from both nations were involved in scenes of violence inside the stadium as torrential weather conditions threatened to postpone Georgia's maiden bow at an international tournament. 

    Turkiye led in the 25th minute, as Mert Muldur, who had scored just once before for his nation, fired home a goal of the tournament contender with a sweet volley into the top corner. 

    The Turkish supporters packed into Westfalenstadion were in raptures when they thought their side had doubled their advantage two minutes later, only for Kenan Yildiz's effort to be disallowed for offside by VAR. 

    And a moment of history arrived for Georgia when Georges Mikautadze neatly flicked a finish beyond Mert Gunok at the near post.

    Yet Turkiye's lead was restored when Guler picked out the top-left corner, breaking a record set by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2004 in the process.

    Georgia went agonisingly close to an equaliser - Giorgi Kochorashvili hitting the crossbar and drilling off target from close range while Khvicha Kvaratskhelia struck the post and Samet Akaydin made a goal-line block.

    But with Georgia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili up for a corner deep in injury time, Turkiye broke and Akturkoglu placed the ball into the empty net to settle a thrilling Group F clash.

    Data Debrief: Guler steals the show as Turkiye and Georgia light up Euro 2024

    In a match that featured 36 shots and a combined 4.3 xG, Guler's sublime effort saw him become the youngest Turkish player to score a goal in the history of major tournaments at just 19 years 114 days.

    Turkiye became just the second team ever to start a match at the Euros with two teenagers (Guler and Kenan Yildiz), after Hungary did so in 1964. 

    Mikautadze scored Georgia's first ever goal at a major tournament, meanwhile. He has now netted six goals in his last six starts for his country.

  • Nagelsmann claims the pressure is on Hungary, not Euro 2024 hosts Germany Nagelsmann claims the pressure is on Hungary, not Euro 2024 hosts Germany

    Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann has claimed all the pressure is on Hungary, and not his team, ahead of Wednesday's Group A clash.

    Euro 2024 hosts Germany got off to a flying start as they thrashed Scotland 5-1 in Munich last week.

    Hungary, meanwhile, were beaten 3-1 by Switzerland.

    While the four best third-placed teams will progress to the last 16, Nagelsmann believes the onus will firmly be on Hungary, rather than the host nation, in Stuttgart.

    "I had put Scotland and Hungary on a very similar level," Nagelsmann told reporters. 

    "It depends how we play tomorrow. Hungary are under a bit more pressure than we are after the first match.

    "I think they have to be a bit more aggressive than against Switzerland as they could potentially be out of the tournament."

    Nagelsmann is not taking anything for granted, though.

    "We have analysed the Hungarians and have a clear idea how we will play," Nagelsmann added. "It is about winning the game tomorrow.

    "We saw their first match against Swiss where it was a game of two halves. Hungary deserved more than they got in the end.

    "In the qualifiers, Hungary were the second-best team when it came to creating or converting chances from set pieces.

    "They play a good transition game. They have strikers who are powerful in the air. They play with precise crosses. They are very dangerous."

    Hungary are without a win in their last seven games at the European Championships (D4 L3) since beating Austria 2-0 in the 2016 group stage. 

    However, Germany have won only one of their last six matches played on home soil against Hungary (D2 L3), a 2-0 friendly victory in June 2016.

    Indeed, Germany and Hungary's three previous meetings at a major tournament have produced 20 goals, an average of 6.7 per game. Hungary opened the scoring in each of those three matches.

    They met in the group stage at Euro 2020 – the match ended 2-2, with Hungary ultimately heading out while Germany progressed to the last 16, only to lose to England.

    And Hungary coach Marco Rossi stated his team must be perfect if they are to pull off a win.

    "We've paid for these mistakes in the first game and tomorrow we are playing Germany which, in my opinion, is the toughest rival, toughest team to play now, but we will do our best," Rossi said.

    "We know on paper the German team is better than us. This should further motivate us, allowing us to give our very best show.

    "Hopefully we can grasp a point tomorrow and that will allow us, I hope, to qualify for the next round. But this will call for the perfect match, all those playing must give 100 per cent."

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