Posts by Bowser

Giants rally past Bills to win Hall of Fame preseason game


Just writing down the name of two NFL teams feels good. Since I was so invested in the World Cup this summer, the NFL preseason completely caught me off guard last night. I was aware that it was starting soon but because I had taken a bit of a break from writing, I had to look twice when my TV guide said that the Giants were going up against the Bills. Then I remembered “Oh yeah, the HoF game!” and continued my excitement. It’s preseason so I kept my cool but it was just nice to hear the football intro music (video below) and the player’s names from voices like Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. We only saw a few snaps from the first team players but it was still enough to get a bit of a feel as to what these two teams are going to do this season. The Giants are coming off a disappointing season in which Eli Manning seemed to be throwing an interception every single quarter. This time around, Manning decided that a fumble was his preferred method of turning the ball over. And the Bills, coming off a last place finish in their division, are looking to build on EJ Manuel’s second season, hoping that the sophomore quarterback matures. I’m still a bit confused as to what these two teams will look like this season. The Giants are always a mystery and can go from painfully mediocre to winning the NFC East and going on a Super Bowl run in a two year span. The Bills are the Bills but I like their defense and watching their home games makes me believe that certain NFL crowds still have that old-school feel and support. Still, this is the most relaxed of the preseason games that we’re going to see. Not much to discuss as it’s mostly borderline players trying to make a name for themselves and secure a roster spot.

So let’s talk about some of the news that’s going on around the rest of the league. There will be multiple preseason games starting on a Thursday and they will continue on the weekends for the rest of the month, so i’ll go over the action when the time comes. But because we only got one game last night, let’s just hit some other topics. Controversial news coming from Cincinnati today as the Bengals reportedly reached a 6-year deal with Andy Dalton that it worth up to $115 million. He’s a starting QB for a solid NFL team, so, why the controversy? Well, #14 on the Bengals has yet to win a playoff game. Three straight years of a wild-card playoff spot and three straight losses. I’m just going to say this: let’s just wait and see what he does in the playoffs before we criticize the decision. Other news around the league includes Johnny Manziel’s reps with the first team. No surprise that Manziel started off a bit sloppy but has shown plenty of signs that he can play with the big boys. Richard Sherman, continues to talk about other players and apparently is cool with Patrick Peterson now. Maybe Sherman is a bit jealous because he knows that Peterson is a better CB than him? That’s just my opinion. Also, Brett Favre will have his number retired by the Packers next season. Most of the these “headlines” are pretty irrelevant but i’m just glad that we’re starting to get into the thick of things with the NFL. Football is back and all is right in the US sports world.



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2014 FIFA World Cup: Germany wins their 4th title

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Today’s World Cup final between Germany and Argentina was not for the faint of heart. There was only one goal during the length of the match but it was still an exciting one, filled with plenty of chances for both teams. There were also some controversial calls, hard fouls, great fan reactions and one incredible late goal. Mario Götze, at only 22 years of age, becomes a national hero for Germany after he scores on a brilliant volley in extra time to win Germany’s 4th World Cup title. Götze was initially a starter for the German squad but had been benched after a somewhat unimpressive campaign. No more. Götze will be forever remembered by German football fans around the world as “super-sub Mario” after the young man came off the bench in the 88th minute, and scored with only 7 minutes left in extra time. The addition of Götze seemed to energize the German offense, taking advantage of a well-rested squad and they looked like the team with more legs as the game went into added extra time. Germany wasn’t as impressive today as most thought they would be but they did enough when it counted most. They controlled the pace of the game and despite a couple of key mistakes, they never allowed Argentina to take control of the game for more than a few stretches throughout the game. Argentina had the clearest chances but aside from a few nice break away plays, they never really got into rhythm.

This was supposed to be the game where Lionel Messi ascended into greatness and could very well ended the debate of who the greatest football player of all time. It didn’t quite occur that way. Sure, when given a bit space or a nice through ball, Messi looked poised to make a great play but overall #10 for Argentina was largely absent. Argentina’s attack was mostly limited to the outside wingers as they tried to control the ball in order to force Germany into some mistakes. They happened but the “albiceleste” team didn’t take advantage and they’re left with a handful of what ifs. I thought that if Messi had a bit more help, the offense could’ve been more fluid but with Angel Di Maria out and only one half of Sergio Aguero, there wasn’t enough firepower up front. Striker Gonzalo Higuain failed to capitalize on a huge German mistake in the first half and had an unimpressive game overall. I gotta give it up for the Argentine fans. They were among the best of the tournament and their presence was felt throughout a game that featured a nice flow from end of end. No one really thought that Argentina would make it to a World Cup final that is being held in Brazil but they did it and while their night might end with tears and disappointment, they have nothing to be ashamed about. But what else are we going to take away from this World Cup?

I can’t imagine it being a better World Cup when we head to Russia four years from now and if FIFA does go through with Qatar in 2022, that might end up being the worst of all time. But we’ll get to those tournaments when they’re closer to us. Let’s praise Brazil for a moment. After months of scrutiny for a number of reasons, Brazil was able to overcome, hosting a brilliant tournament that accounted for some of the best world football that we have ever seen and i’m pretty we’ll look back at this World Cup as one of the best ever. Did the “right” team win it all? I think so. Germany was the most impressive team of the tournament from start to finish and they held the concept of team more than any other nation. Were there other team that were worthy of winning the title? Yes, and no. Netherlands certainly had their stretches, as did teams like Brazil, Colombia and France. But they all had one or two glaring issues that were certain to doom them. Germany only held minor issues and seemed to be the best, most complete tournament. Also, I may or may not have wagered on Germany before the tournament and may, or may not, have collected some sort of prize today. Ich danke Ihnen sehr Deutschland.

Thank you Brazil. Thank you to all the players, all of the coaching staffs, the wonderful fans (especially the pretty ladies) in the stands and for a great month of high-level world football. See you in four years.

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LeBron James will return to the Cleveland Cavaliers


The NBA free agency is always an interesting one. Unlike the NFL and MLB (somewhat), pro basketball teams actually make trades and the possibility of a big name changing teams is likely. That’s what we’ve gotten so far this season. Most of the world is focused on the tournament down in Brazil but here in the United States, the sports world was waiting for something to happen. Because this off season, LeBron James was going to make a move. There were other big names out there like Carmelo Anthony, who could very well leave New York, but the entire league took a step back and waited for LeBron to make a move. It’s hard to imagine a time when one single player could affect the process of an entire league but that’s what we got. Social media networks sprouted rumors and statements with “sources say” from people around the NBA but nothing was set in stone. I had a feeling that only LeBron, and whoever was going to break the story, knew exactly what he was going to do. That part of this process was one that I liked. While ESPN and other sports networks built the story up with random developments, Sports Illustrated did the actual reporting. LeBron James will opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat and return to the Cavaliers; in a simple message he simply stated “I’m coming home” to all of his Instagram followers.

We can go on and on about the Miami Heat and their fan base, always putting quotation marks when referring to them. And as much as I dislike the Heat, let’s not make it about them. This is about Cleveland now. This is about a city that has had their heart broken and about a player trying to mend whatever wounds he caused. Things ended very salty between LeBron and the city of Cleveland but now he’s trying to fix that while adding something else to his legacy. Let’s not forget that he was emphatically boo’ed when he first returned to play in the Cavaliers arena while wearing a different team’s uniform. Those same fans will now have to support James as both sides try and leave the past where it is. LeBron stated that he talked to Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert “face-to face and man-to-man” and by all accounts they’re on good terms now. It’s interesting but at the same time, what other narrative is there to take? But wait, shouldn’t we be talking about this from a basketball standpoint?

LeBron was never going to leave the eastern conference. Why would he? The conference is in such bad shape that just by him moving to the Cavaliers, they’re automatically the favorites to win the east. Several teams are on the rise (Raptors, Hawks, Wizards and Hornets) while no one knows what’s going to happen with the Pacers. Let’s also add that reports indicate that Chris Bosh will end up in Houston, so who’s left to represent the conference in the Finals? Unless Melo decides to join the Bulls, the Cavs are the de facto best team in the eastern conference. The Bulls are also a candidate but i’m waiting to see how Derrick Rose recovers and how they fix their scoring issues. So right now the Cavaliers starting five consists of Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins in the backcourt, LeBron, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao in the frontcourt. Not exactly world-beaters and they still have some chemistry issues but with LeBron, anything really is possible. LeBron’s future is with the Cavaliers remains with a bit of mystery but he’s made his decision and the sports world must accept it, for better or worse.

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2014 FIFA World Cup: Germany destroys Brazil to reach final

Brazil v Germany: Semi Final - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Earlier today, I had moved some things about in my normal life to make some room for the match between Brazil and Germany. A part of me was hesitant to have such high aspirations for a game that would be missing two of the five, or six, most important players on the field. But the pure sports fan in me wanted to say “Brazil is at home, it’ll be a competitive game” just for the mere fact that fans around the world deserved a competitive match. I mean, this is one of the semifinals in the World Cup. Right? As we’ve learned throughout the history of professional sports, the word “deserve” should seldom, if ever, be used. We get some feel good stories here and there, but for the most part it’s just whoever decides to show up that day. Germany showed up today and Brazil did not, plain and simple. Playing without two of your best players in tough but playing like you shouldn’t even be on the same field as your opponent, well that’s a completely different story. Brazil started the match off well, attacking and risking as they forced Germany to drop back and hold their own on defense. I watched, thinking Brazil might get the early lead and “park the bus” or something of that sort. Not even close. Germany scores their first goal on a massive defensive mistake and it’s a barrage of German goals from there. From the looks of it, the game looked like Brazil was trying to recover from their first goal and all of a sudden, they were down 2-0. Then 3-0, and so on. Halftime arrives and football fans around the world are wondering, trying to comprehend, just what in the world we just witnessed.

After Germany’s first two goals were in the back of the net, it was pretty obvious that they were going to advance to the final. But then only six minutes later and Germany had scored as many goals, in one match, as Brazil had received so far in the World Cup. Astonishing. To put it frankly: it was men against boys out there. The cameras kept showing the tearful and bewildered Brazilian fans in the stands, turning the game turn into a sad affair. Then again, how sad can one really feel for Brazil? Winners of five titles and perennial favorites from competition to competition. Brazil also didn’t help themselves by playing with the swagger of a team that figured it could just cruise into the final of the tournament they were hosting. Not to mention that because of their perceived preferential treatment from the referees, fans that supported Chile or Colombia, among others, had little sympathy for the men in yellow jerseys and their fans.

What of the winners today? I’m sure that the German beer was flowing heavily throughout the match and it might still be flowing as i’m typing this out. Not since their 6-1 win over Armenia (last friendly) and their 4-0 dominant win over Portugal in the group opener has Germany looked so dominant. Germany was balanced, focused, tactically sound and knew when to strike, turning the match into a rout. Oh yeah, among their shocking win over Brazil, Germany also made history. 84-year history in that they matched Brazil’s largest defeat ever and were the first team to beat them in their home stadium in an international competition since the mid-70s. Also, veteran striker Mirosav Klose became the sole leader of most goals scored in a World Cup over an entire career; passing Brazil’s own Ronaldo, who watched in agony from the stands. With a 5-0 lead in their pocket, the Germans spent much of the second half passing the ball around and holding off Brazil’s best efforts. Two more goals for the Germans, the second of which (7th overall) came on a quality finish from Andre Shurrle. Oscar managed to put the home team on the board but Brazil will do some heavy soul-searching. Meanwhile, Germany will watch tomorrow’s match between Argentina and Netherlands, learning about the future opponent, fully knowing that they are now the team to beat and the favorite to lift the trophy after their impressive win.

Prediction: We saw what injuries can do to a team. But Argentina still has their best player and Messi will be the best on the field tomorrow. Netherlands risks too much and Argentina takes advantage, winning 2-1.

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2014 FIFA World Cup: on to the semi-finals


Before the World Cup began, Brazil was the favorite to win it all, followed closely by Argentina, Germany and Spain. With the exception of Spain’s unorthodox early exit, the addition of Netherlands, we’re more or less where everyone expected before the tournament began. The Dutch were a potential threat to advance this far but the group they were put in and their chemistry issues had people doubting. And they haven’t done much to convince people. They were inferior to Mexico for most of the game and while they should have scored multiple times against Costa Rica, they still needed to survive penalties in order to make it this far. Just goes to show how interesting and, frankly, chaotic this World Cup has been from the start. The only downside is that after seeing so many goals, the action slowed down in the quarterfinals. Teams were unwilling to take as many risks because they knew that the slightest mistake would cost their team and their country the chance to lift world football’s most coveted trophy. Just take a look at the goals: Argentina scores after an awkward/favorable bounce, Germany appeared to have fouled Varane on their goal and Brazil’s first goal was on a clear defensive mistake that came in a game filled with fouls and sloppy play. The only quality goal of all four quarterfinal games was David Luiz’s incredible free kick that is my personal favorite of all the goals in tournament. The only shame greater than the goals is that we’re going to be absent from two of the better players in the world. Neymar’s back injury and Di Maria’s thigh injury are keeping us from some great football but they’re also hindering their teams, who just so happen two of the favorites to win it. Is Brazil more likely to perform or is Argentina the more likely?

It’s tough to say. The obvious answer is that Argentina will still be near their top level because while Di Maria has been key, it’s not on the same level as losing Lionel Messi. Which would be equivalent to what is going on with Brazil. But can Brazil REALLY lose at home in an international competition? Hasn’t happened since 1975 but it’s going to be very tough for the home team to win against Germany after the personnel that won’t be participating. We can’t forget to mention that center defensive-back Thiago Silva will also miss the match after getting another yellow card on one of the silliest plays that I’ve ever seen. Two key players missing for Brazil has the Germans thinking that they could finally be back in a World Cup final since their loss to Brazil during the 2002 World Cup in South Korea/Japan. It’s hard to imagine that we’re going to have a real chance that it’s going to be two European teams in a final that is being held in South America. Especially after the group stages, when it felt like the UEFA teams were falling like flies and there wasn’t a doubt that a non-European team would be winning the title. The script has flipped. Can Argentina take down the Dutch? The “albiceletes” didn’t look impressive for any of their group stage games and needed heroics from Messi in order for their World Cup campaign to not be an embarrassment. They seemed to have gained some form but they haven’t been through the toughest of competitors. Yes, Belgium was the token “dark horse” team before the Cup began but they still carried lots of questions. As expected, all eyes will be on number 10 as he tires to lead Argentina against all odds.

Predictions: I’m still torn on Netherlands-Argentina so i’ll wait until tomorrow night to predict them. Too big of a loss for Brazil as Germany dominates the pace and wins 2-1.

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2014 World Cup: transition to the quarterfinals


From an entertainment standpoint, it’s been the best World Cup that I’ve ever witnessed. The ’98 France World Cup was about as dramatic as we’re going to get, but I was only 11 years old when it happened so I was more into imitating the star players, rather than actually analyzing their play. This time around, Brazil, despite the obstacles they were facing, has produced some excellent game play that has refused to slow down even as we’re through the first round of the knockout stages. My two favorite teams, Mexico and USA, both were eliminated in heartbreaking fashion but while their demise still stings at the sight of highlights, i’m still intrigued in every single game. I’ve been watching about as much as one can but I haven’t been able to discuss on here as much as I can. My favorite underdog of the tournament was Chile from the start and they put up a solid effort in their nail-biting game against Brazil. Big props to them and other teams like Greece who over-performed and gave us, at the very least, some really entertaining games in the first phase of the knockout stages. And while we can continue to go on about the losing team’s efforts, they’re no long part of the competition and it’s time to look forward to the quarterfinals.

So, which looks like the favorite to win it all? Right now the clear choice is Colombia. Them, and France, were the only two nations to win their previous game by a score that wasn’t a single-goal difference. But i’d say that Suarez-less Uruguay is tougher competition than a complete Nigerian team. It’s also impossible to ignore how good Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez has been; a 22-year old player who has risen his game above anyone else’s and is the undisputed best player in this World Cup. Just like Diego Forlan did four years ago, Rodriguez has led his national team with excellent play. He’s scored several goals but his volley against Uruguay the other day stands as the best of the tournament, so far. How high is his ceiling? Rumor has it that several of the biggest club teams in Europe are already starting their bidding war. But luckily for us, we won’t have to wait until club play in order to see more of him. Colombia faces off against Brazil tomorrow and the way things are going, this could be one of the best and most important World Cup games of all time. Yes, of all time. Brazil has been “champion or bust” since the start of the tournament and if they’re eliminated by a fellow South American team, expect lots of backlash. We also have Neymar, another player who has carried his team, go head to head against Rodriguez. Also, Colombia has never been made it this far into a World Cup and every single game going forward is their most important of all time. If you’re going to watch one game this World Cup, make it Colombia-Brazil tomorrow.

Hold on a minute: don’t we also have a huge European battle before that? Of course we do! Germany, who appeared to be the most balanced team in the World Cup, struggled to find rhythm in the opening match and needed extra time to take down Algeria of all teams. Now they’re up against a French team that has looked more comfortable but many wonder whether or not they’re more a product of their opponents rather than actually being that dominant. France has the individual player potential, while Germany looks to use their stack midfield players to control the pace of the game. This is the quarterfinal game that i’m most confused about and that i’m finding hardest to predict. My gut feeling (aka I have money on them) is to go with Germany. The Germans have looked like the more balanced team and faced tougher competition so far in the tournament. Yes, Algeria was lucky to be there, but they played the type of game that works well against Germany and I don’t think France will be as effective. Although, the Frenchmen’s attack is tempting with all of their talent. Forward Karim Benzema is looking for the tournament’s golden boot (most goals) and along with Mathieu Valbuena, they have been a deadly one-two combination for any defense. In the end, i’m leaning towards Germany their balance. I expect it to be a close game that might even go into extra time and quite possibly penalties.

Predictions: Germany edges out France; Colombia shocks the nation of Brazil. If you’re going watch some matches, do it during the holiday weekend.

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2014 World Cup: Groups G and H round out the group stage

Argentina's Lionel Messi scores on a free kick during the 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match against Nigeria at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre

Since the World Cup began about two weeks ago, I’ve been trying to watch it more and more. My watching endeavors have been successful for the most part but it’s just a shame that I can’t go back and watch more of the group play. Only until the final round games have I been able to really pay attention to what’s happened. Sure, I’ve focused on the teams that are my rooting interest and can dissect those games pretty well, but for those other countries, I don’t feel well prepared. Prepared more than some, but not as much as I’d like. No worries, i’m going to watch as much of every game as possible going forward. But first we have to figure out just how we got here. I wasn’t able to talk about yesterday’s games because of a previous engagement, but i’ll discuss more of Argentina and France’s chance of a deep run tomorrow when I preview the knockout stages. Despite their loss to Germany earlier today, the United States was still able to quality to the next round of the World Cup. They joined their foes from today but it wasn’t easy. Ghana was poised to once again be the reason that the US went home but then the Americans were blessed by a Portugal goal that essentially sealed the deal. So, pat on the back to Cristiano Ronaldo for helping the Stars & Stripes make their way into the knockout stages of the tournament. Germany looked dominant for much of the match and the US never looked comfortable so it’ll be interesting to see how they adjust heading forward. Portugal and Ghana were facing off at the same time, both trying to play spoiler, but the teams played their final game of the World Cup. It was a choppy game, all of goals coming off little mistakes by the other team’s defense. Disappointing for Ronaldo, who appeared to having the year of his professional life. Limited by injuries, the Portugese superstar was never able to play at the level that we had hoped he would.

And who would the teams from Group G be going up against? Well, it just happens that their future opponents would be decided just a couple of hours after the previous matches had ended. How convenient, no? Belgium, the undisputed dark horse of tournament, was trying to secure their top spot in the group and did so by defeating South Korea. This was all with a 10-man squad from the 44th minute one. The Koreans gave it plenty of heart throughout the match as they tried to take advantage of their situation, but failed to finish the job. Chances kept coming inside Belgium’s area but never into the back of the net. The Belgians join the 9-point club and set up a nice date with the United States. Should be great. The other part of the group was in a tighter game, with Algeria only needing a tie and Russia needing a win. For a good while, it looked like Russia would betting squaring off against Germany after their early goal. But the Algerians answered in the second half and held on to take the second spot in the group. This it actually the first time that the country of Algeria has had their team in the second round of the World Cup so big props to them. Believe it not, the Russian goalkeeper was a victim of a laser pointer from the crowd. It’s still up for debate how much it affected him on the play where Russia was scored on, but it’s a crazy story line that I’d thought possible. Algeria moves on and Russian football prepares for the 2018 World Cup that they will be hosting.

Unfortunately for fans of the World Cup, we will not have any matches to look forward to tomorrow. The weekend will be full of action so no worries, plenty of time to predict and debate. Tomorrow i’ll try and predict the first round of the knockout stage.

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2014 World Cup: Groups C and D finish group play


Officially, we have locked in the top half of the brackets. That means that for the knock out stage, we’ve assembled eight teams out of the 16 possible. Uruguay had a close win over Italy, surrounded by story lines, while Costa Rica secured their top spot in the group after a meaningless draw against England. We’ll get the Costa Rica-England game out of the way because neither team really anything to play for. There was a chance for Costa Rica to lose their top spot, but it would take a monumental loss or a lopsided win by either Italy or Uruguay for that to happen. The Costa Ricans were playing not to lose and their opponents, the English, well, they were just playing for pride’s sake. And with nothing at stake, little was expected. The play was mediocre, the crowd wasn’t very into it and it was just a lackluster atmosphere overall. England had a few chances but when they didn’t have the ball, Costa Rice focused on possession, passing the ball to make the English players chance. The Costa Ricans even managed to get a few “Ole!” chants from their compatriots in the stands. Let’s just move on to the bigger focus of the day: Italy-Uruguay. Despite their big win over England, the pressure was on Uruguay to come out on top. Italy only needed a single point (tie) to advance into the next round and they looked seemed pretty comfortable with that situation. The match produced a stagnant first half but in the second half, the action picked up and so did the incidents. Uruguay takes advantage being up a man, scoring a late goal despite some rather familiar antics by their star Luis Suarez. The red card received by Italy was justified, in my opinion. I can’t defend Suarez’s actions, no matter how much hilarious content continued to fill social media long after the match was over. Believe it or not, Suarez managed to overshadow LeBron’s headlines in a matter of under five minutes with his actions. It’s still undecided as to what FIFA will do but I can’t imagine that they’re just going to turn their head in the other direction. Still, Costa Rice and Uruguay are in the knockout stages.

The second half of day was left for Group C to sort themselves out. Colombia had already qualified, but needed a point to secure the top spot, while the rest of the teams were vying for a second place spot. I gotta give it up for Japan. They played their hearts out for their entire match against Colombia, who was clearly the superior team. The Japanese had plenty of chances and continued to play at an aggressive pace, but eventually it caught up to them and Colombia took advantage of the situation, turning the game into a rout. The Colombians are one of the few teams that have mounted to 9 points, and they have looked impressive in every single one of their games. Sure, they didn’t have the hardest group but I expect them to continue to play well going forward in the tournament. Japan showed lots of heart and had some of the best pound-for-pound fans, but they weren’t able to close things out when key situations presented themselves. The other side of the group featured Ivory Coast and Greece, with the Greeks needing a victory to advance into the next round. Oh, what a crazy finish we witnessed. After a last minute penalty decision, the result is a heart-breaking loss for Ivory Coast and an almost dream-like win for Greece. And if you’re wondering how I feel: yes, I do think it was the right call. The Greek forward was going to have a decent attempt at the goal but I still thought the foul was unnecessary from the Ivory Coast defender. It appeared that the Africans were going to be the first representing their continent in the next round but they let Greece attack much too easily at the end. Gotta give the Greeks some credit, because the continued to attack, hitting the goalposts on multiple occasions and finally, a little luck went their way. Colombia and Greece advance from their group.

Tomorrow’s games (June 25th): Group F Argentina-Nigeria and Bosnia & Herzegovina-Iran (both 12 pm ET); Group E Honduras-Switzerland and France-Ecuador.

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