Saturday, December 20, 2014

Seven Hot Matches

Club action takes a break as World Cup qualifying kicks into high gear.

Seven Hot Matches

South Africa at Brazil

2:30 p.m. Friday (GolTV)

The last World Cup host nation crosses the Atlantic Ocean to face the next World Cup host nation in a friendly match at Sao Paulo's Morumbi stadium. It's Brazil's first home game in over a year, and fans will demand their money's worth from the Seleçao.

The five-time world champions' roster includes big stars with small names: Santos forward Neymar, Chelsea midfielder Oscar and Real Madrid defender Marcelo. Another player to watch is midfielder Lucas Moura, who recently joined Paris Saint-Germain for a nearly $40 million transfer fee. 

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Panama at Canada

7:45 p.m. Friday (ESPN3.com) 

The first of many significant CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers Friday night takes place at Toronto's BMO Field. Canada's hopes of reaching its first World Cup since 1994 could be extinguished with a loss in this game. D.C. United's Dwayne De Rosario, Major League Soccer's reigning MVP, will have to lead his country the way he does his club team. 

Panama might be the best team in a qualifying group that also includes Honduras and Cuba. Led by Union midfielder Gabriel Gómez, the canaleros have quietly become one of North America's better teams in recent years. If they reach the final round of qualifying, a first-ever trip to the World Cup might not be far behind. 

United States at Jamaica 

7:50 p.m. Friday (beIN Sport 1) 

The U.S. men's national team's World Cup quest resumes with a trip to the always-raucous Bob Marley National Stadium in Kingston. "The Office," as the venue is nicknamed, is finally back in the spotlight after a few lean years for Jamaican soccer.

Led by a dynamic forward tandem of Omar Cummings and Darren Mattocks – both of whom play in Major League Soccer - the Reggae Boys are ready for their biggest game in years. 

U.S. fans, meanwhile, are ready for a tricky night of trying to watch their team. So far, only DirecTV and Dish Network carry beIN Sport's English feed. Comcast carries the network's Spanish feed (channel 583 in Philadelphia), but it will only show this game on tape-delay at 11:45 p.m.

Comcast is the only cable provider that has struck a deal with beIN Sport so far. If you have Verizon or another service, you'll have to find a friend – or a nearby establishment – to watch the game.

Mexico at Costa Rica

9:00 p.m. Friday (Telemundo)

In its first game since losing on home soil to the United States for the first time ever, Mexico hits the road to play what might be the third-best team in CONCACAF.

There are no official rankings just for the continent, but there's no question that El Tri would be number one, and for good reason. Manchester United's Javier Hernández, Santos Laguna's Oribe Peralta and Valencia's Andrés Guardado lead what is unquestionably the most potent attack in North America.

Costa Rica will look to Fulham's Bryan Ruiz and Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborío for goals and creativity. Expect plenty of entertaining soccer from this game and the rematch Tuesday in Mexico City (9:00 pm., Univision). 

United States under-20 Women vs. Germany

6:10 a.m. Saturday (ESPNU; ESPN3.com)

Wake up early Saturday to watch the U.S. play in the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup championship game, live from the National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. 

The U.S. squad includes Villanova goalkeeper Jami Kranich, and two members of Penn State's nationally-ranked women's team: forward Maya Hayes and midfielder Taylor Schram. They'll face a very tough test against Germany, which beat the Americans in the group stage by a 3-0 margin.

Ukraine at England

3:00 p.m. Tuesday (Fox Soccer Channel)

England's first home World Cup qualifier of the 2014 cycle is a rematch of a game from this summer's European Championship. Roy Hodgson has mixed familiar faces and young talents in his latest squad. Chelsea's John Terry and Ashley Cole will likely lead the defense, while Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Manchester United's Danny Welbeck should put a spark into the Three Lions' attack.

Ukraine no longer has forward Andriy Shevchenko to rely on for goals, so Bayern Munich midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk is the biggest name on a roster of mostly domestic-based players.

Jamaica at United States

8:00 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN2; ESPN3.com; Galavisión)

The fact that a United States national team is playing a major game on September 11 will be enough on its own to rouse fans. But this game, to be played at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, could take on even more significance if the U.S. fails to win in Kingston.

It will be up to Clint Dempsey – newly-signed with Tottenham Hotspur – and Jozy Altidore to lead the Americans' attack. Team captain Carlos Bocanegra, who recently moved to Spanish club Racing Santander, will marshal the defense. He'll likely be joined by Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu, who recently became teammates at English Premier League club Stoke City.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.S. national teams and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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