Sports Burst - Ronaldo's New Rivals


By Tim Stannard
Ronaldo gears up for new sharp-shooting battle
Ordinarily, Cristiano Ronaldo’s focus is on…well, himself really…but aside from that it’s Leo Messi as much as both players would like to deny that they are motivated by each other’s successes and failures. But realistically, the fates of both are intertwined like Harry Potter and Voldemort, while the internet bickers over which is which.
The goal-scoring rivalry was expected to be continued at the World Cup with Neymar thrown in for good measure. However, Ronaldo’s opponents have failed to step up to the mark. Messi is sulking in his bedroom, whilst Neymar appears to be having an emotional breakdown with Brazil. Again.  

Ronaldo’s four goals in two games should have been enough to top the Golden Boot stakes, however two other players from the Premier League are challenging the Portugal poacher’s supremacy with Harry Kane on five and Romelu Lukaku on four.
CR7 has the chance to take the lead again on Monday by popping in some more for Portugal in a Group B finale clash against Iran and in doing so, plonk his country into the Last 16. A draw will be enough to go through. If Portugal win, then Spain can also pass, even with a defeat to Morocco, but a win will be needed by Fernando Hierro’s men just to avoid any last-minute heart palpitations.

Head to our beIN SPORTS USA Facebook page at every halftime for the best 360-degree analysis at our World Cup Watch Party.

Mo problems for Egypt with talk of Salah turning back on Pharaohs
After eleven days of frenetic football action starting with Russia’s rampant debut against Saudi Arabia to the comeback kings of Colombia on Sunday, there is a brief…’and breath’…letting-the-tummy-out moment in the World Cup before Portugal and Spain clog away to reach the knock-out stages later on Monday.
Due to Russia’s rather surprising burst of form - which often happens when major tournaments are held in their country for some reason - Group A’s finale will be a little more subdued. Both Russia and Uruguay have already qualified through very different paths – the former scoring lots of goals and the latter boring the world to tears with 1-0 wins. The pair square off in Samara to find out who will top the group and potentially face Spain if Group B’s denouement goes to script.

The more subdued affair is between the already eliminated Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but one of the two teams will go home with at least a point. However, there is a subtext to the clash as it may be the last for Mohamed Salah for his national country, with the Liverpool man reportedly unhappy at being used as a marketing pawn of Egypt’s federation, including being given honorary citizenship Chechnya by the region’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a man with a spotted human rights record to say the least.
You XTRA is the place to be at 7PM ET / 4PM PT for all the news and views from the World Cup.
Masche denies Argentinean in-fighting ahead of Nigeria showdown

From one team with one foot out of the World Cup and having major problems with its main star to…Argentina.

Pretty much the same thing, really. Jorge Sampaoli will be talking to the press on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s huge clash against Nigeria and the Argentina coach is probably dreading that moment as much as the game itself.
Ever since Argentina capitulated against Croatia, the talk has been of rebellion in the camp and even the notion of Sampaoli being ditched before Tuesday’s game. As expected, much of that chatter was hyperbole, but the Albiceleste-world is definitely rift city with reported disagreements between manager and players on who should start the Nigeria game. A lovely way for Messi to celebrate his birthday on Sunday.

Javier Mascherano, supposedly one of the kings of chaos in the team was keen to play down the disagreement - "the relationship with the coach is completely normal," said the former Barca man redefining the concept of ‘normal’.
Croatia has already qualified from Group D, leaving one spot for Nigeria, Iceland or Argentina.

Paul Pogba could be leaving Manchester United!
No, don’t turn away in bored despair, this comes from the Frenchman himself, while talking to reporters ahead of France’s clash against Denmark on Tuesday. When asked if the personal problems between himself and Jose Mourinho could be overcome to see the midfielder stay at Old Trafford the reply was - “contractually speaking, yes, but you can never be certain of anything.”

Here’s an interesting one. Unai Emery might be coaching Ever Banega for a third time with the Sevilla man being linked with a move to Arsenal, once the living nightmare of Argentina’s World Cup is over for the midfielder. The money for Banega could well be spent by Sevilla on Mexico wide-man, Miguel Layun, who has admitted that he would like a permanent stay with the La Liga club after a spell on loan from Porto.
And breaking news! Radja Nainggolan has completed his medical with Inter and should be announced imminently as a new Roma player.

The life philosophy of Sports Burst is that if you are not upsetting someone, then you are not trying hard enough. Sports Burst is a daily trawl and troll through the morning's sports news to bring you fact-nuggets to make you both smile and swear. Hopefully at the same time.