2018 World Cup Betting: Klinsmann eyes Final Four

usa-czech-republic-soccerThe US Men’s National Team has officially begun their journey to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. They defeated the Czech Republic in Prague last night by a score of 1-0. Alejandro Bedoya scored a goal in the 39th minute to propel the US to victory. ‘”It just shows that the States has a deeper pool,” said Bedoya. “There’s a bunch of great, young, talented players coming through.”

America had better have some young, talented players coming through if they’re to meet head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s lofty goals. As many soccer fans know, USA made it out of the “Group of Death” in this summer’s World Cup. They finished second behind Germany in pool play, while Portugal and Ghana were sent home. However, the Americans’ dreams ended in the Round of 16 with a 2-1 loss to Belgium.

“Once you get out of the most difficult group in the World Cup, you should go further than just Round of 16,’’ Klinsmann told the Boston Globe. “This is our goal going toward Russia, not to stop at the Round of 16, maybe not to stop at the quarterfinal, to say clearly, listen: We have four years to prepare for this cycle. Our goal is going into a semifinal in a World Cup. And that means a lot of work, a lot of competition, a lot of grind.”

jurgen-klinsmannWith four years before the Russian-hosted 2018 World Cup, Klinsmann has plenty of time to prepare younger players. Much has already been made about budding stars like Julian Green, the 19-year-old who scored against Belgium, and John Brooks, the 21-year-old defender who scored the go-ahead goal in a victory over Ghana. However, there were some new faces in the lineup against the Czechs.

18-year-old midfielder Emerson Hyndman made his first national appearance, as did 21-year-old forward Joe Gyau and 23-year-old defender Greg Garza. Klinsmann spoke about the youth movement by saying, “It was important to see what is coming through in our talent pool. For 65, 70 minutes, it went really well.”

One player who was noticeably absent from the starting lineup was Tim Howard. The famed goalkeeper has decided to take a well-deserved year off from international play. However, even at age 35, many expect him to be manning the net for USA when the 2018 World Cup arrives.

Neymar scores Twice in First Match since Back Injury

neymar-vs-leonThe last image that fans got of Neymar during the 2014 World Cup was of him being carried off on a stretcher in pain during Brazil’s 2-1 quarterfinals victory over Columbia. Neymar broke a vertebra in his back when Colombian defender Juan Camillo Zuniga inadvertently kneed him on a header attempt.

Over one month removed from this injury, Neymar was back on the pitch during Barcelona’s preseason tuneup game against Mexican champion Leon. And he contributed two goals during the 6-0 route of Leon along with an assist to Lionel Messi.

The assist came just three minutes into the match. Then Neymar added his two goals in the 12th and 44th minutes. He was substituted out at halftime, making way for Barcelona youth forwards Munir El Haddadi to score in the 54th and 77th minutes and Sandro Ramirez to score in the 89th.

Going back to Neymar, he definitely looks to add another dimension to Barca’s high-powered attack. The 21-year-old, who scored four goals in five World Cup matches, now has two goals in his lone preseason match. So if you’re into Spanish La Liga betting, definitely keep his star power in mind.

Suarez also returns

luis-suarez-vs-leonNeymar’s return wasn’t the only big news for Barcelona this past weekend. Luis Suarez also played his first match since the 2014 World Cup, where he was infamously banned for biting an Italian defender. Unlike Neymar, though, Suarez didn’t have quite the dramatic impact.

He entered in the 75th minute as a substitute, drawing lots of cheers from the Camp Nou crowd in Barcelona. Suarez only touched the ball a few times in his limited minutes, but there should definitely be more to come from the talented striker.

He transferred over from Liverpool after FIFA imposed a 4-month ban on him. Suarez was originally not allowed to practice with Barcelona or participate in exhibition matches. However, FIFA has since softened their stance, which is why he was allowed to play in the match against Leon. He also just started practicing last Friday – a big reason why he only got to play 15 minutes.