IN PICS: Juventus and Monaco reach Champions League semis

Sport360 staff 20/04/2017

There was to be no repeat of Barcelona's miraculous comeback against PSG in the previous round, as Juventus held their hosts to a 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou to advance to Champions League semi-finals.

Although Barca needed at least three goals to progress, it was Juventus who made the brighter start, dominating possession for the first ten minutes. The home side got a foothold after that, however, with Lionel Messi and Neymar both missing chances to open the scoring.

Juventus kept Barcelona at arms' length for the rest of the half, with an increasingly tense and chippy game finishing 0-0 at the break.

The second period began in surprisingly open fashion as Barcelona searched for the goal that they hoped would open the floodgates and Juventus looked to hit the counter and bury the tie. Soon, however, Barcelona were camped outside the Juventus penalty area.

But there was no way through Juventus' imperious defence, which repelled attack after attack to frustrate Barcelona and complete a superb two-legged bettering of their opponents.

In the end, Luis Enrique's final Champions League match as Barcelona manager ended with a whimper, just two years after he led the side to a Treble that included a Champions League final win over the same Serie A giants.

In Monaco, the home side beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 to return to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2004.

Monaco raced out to a 2-0 lead, with Mbappe scoring on the rebound after Benjamin Mendy's long-range shot was parried to his feet just three minutes into the tie. Radamel Falcao then made it 2-0 inside 20 minutes with a bullet header past Roman Burki.

In between the two goals, Nuri Sahin hit the woodwork with a free kick for Dortmund, but that was the closest the visitors came to scoring in the first-half.

Right after half-time, however, Marco Reus pulled one back, producing an excellent finish after substitute Ousmane Dembele picked him out with a pinpoint cross at the end of a wonderful run down the right.

From that moment, Dortmund poured attack after attack in hopes of getting a second goal that would put them on the verge of a historic comeback.

Monaco held on, before hitting Dortmund with a classic counter as Valere Germain finished off a slick move to seal his side's spot in the semi-finals.

MOMENT OF THE NIGHT - MBAPPE RACES OUT THE BLOCKS

If there were any nerves in Monaco's young side as they began their match holding onto a slender one-goal advantage, the youngest player on the pitch settled them. Kylian Mbappe's goal set Monaco on their way to the Champions League with a precise finish.

BEST GOAL - MARCO REUS

It proved to be in vain, but Dortmund's goal against Monaco was a wonderful one. Ousmane Dembele's mazy run, followed by an outrageous cross, was met by Marco Reus, who produced a thumping finish.

BEST TWEET - @COPA90 AND @FABRIZIOROMANO

Cristiano Ronaldo was Kylian Mbappe's hero when the young Frenchman was growing up. Mbappe has now joined Ronaldo as the leading scorers in this season's knockout stage.

Meanwhile, after their masterful display over two legs against Barcelona, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are being tipped to reach even greater heights.

BEST STAT - JUVE DENY BARCA

Juventus have only conceded two goals in the Champions League this season, but even with that record, holding Barcelona to a 0-0 draw is no mean feat.

PLAYER OF THE NIGHT - KYLIAN MBAPPE

Any of the Juventus defenders could have taken this, but there's no reason not to jump on the Kylian Mbappe bandwagon at this point. He's only 18, but no stage has proven too big for him so far, and he just can't stop scoring at the moment.

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STATESIDE: USA has an open goal as they bid to host 2026 WC

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Timing is everything. The United States unleashed their bid for the World Cup in 2026 last week, sneaking in at the back post with the defence asleep and the goalkeeper nowhere to be seen.

The net is gaping and US Soccer chief Sunil Gulati, having done all the hard work in the build up, won’t miss from here. With the tournament in nine years time bloated to 48 teams from the normal 32, this joint bid with Mexico and Canada looks like an unbelievably easy slam dunk.

No European or Asian country were allowed to enter the race thanks to Russia and Qatar staging the next two. South America, meanwhile, are building up to a 2030 World Cup co-hosted by Uruguay on what will be the greatest show on Earth’s 100 year birthday.

The massive logistical difficulties in staging another African World Cup means Uncle Sam is locked in a one-horse race.

Following the official announcement in New York, it was revealed that 60 games, including everything from the quarter-finals onwards, would be staged Stateside with the other two countries hosting 10 games each. Cue, anger from Mexico City. ‘Mexico could get crumbs’ cried a newspaper. Fans were up in arms.

“People aren’t happy,” a Mexican source told me. “They expected the US to get most games but were hoping to have a big one – a semi or the final – at the Azteca. That would be something.”

You can understand the dismay. The amount of games is paltry in the grand scheme of things though this isn’t Mexico’s party. They’ve been invited along for the ride knowing, with FIFA politics and financial muscle pulling the strings, it was always going to be this way or nothing at all. Gulati worked the floor at the FIFA congress last year ensuring Gianni Infantino was appointed Sepp Blatter’s replacement. Now it’s payback time.

Gianni Infantino.

Calling the shots: FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

Like it or lump it, amigos. You won’t hear a squeak from Canada.

The Maple Leafs have made just one World Cup appearance in 1986 and following on from the successful women’s version of the tournament two years ago, this is a welcome boost. Oh, and of course, the new CONCACAF President, Victor Montagliani, is Canadian.

Keen to put up a united front following the disgraceful FIFA scandal which revealed toxic widespread corruption, Montagliani and Gulati were desperate to show their intent of inclusion.

President Donald Trump is said to be behind the bid though whether some countries will be stuck behind his wall and visa protocols come 2026, remains to be seen.

He was, apparently, “especially pleased” to hear his Mexican chums were involved. Of course he was. There is a lot of time for debate – bids must be submitted by next December and a decision won’t be made until May 2020. Nothing is set in stone and Mexico will certainly push for more action.

Though, expect the US to hold firm. They don’t need the Mexicans or the Canadians.

All the funding, sponsorship dollars and infrastructure won’t be problematic. With soccer specific stadiums popping up all the time plus some of the best sporting arenas in the world already in place – imagine a semi-final in Dallas in front of 90,000 at the sparkling, hi-tech $1 billion AT&T Stadium – the United States are ready to go.

Their last attempt to stage the World Cup in 1994 saw one of the least memorable tournaments ever at a time when soccer was still fighting for air under the mainstream. Nevertheless, it set attendance records which stand today – quite a feat considering there were less teams and matches 23 years ago.

Yet, fast forward to 2026 and the times will have seriously changed. I have been living here for four years and the game has undeniably been thrust in the public’s conscious like never before.

All the press reports here have been glowingly positive too.

Of course, TV reporters will walk down a street in Chicago and draw blank looks from men wearing baseball jerseys who think David Beckham is an underwear model.

But don’t be fooled. This wouldn’t be like the Rio Olympics where the locals didn’t appreciate what was unfolding on their doorsteps. It will be bold and brilliant.

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WATCH: Schweinsteiger scores his second goal for Chicago

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Enjoying a dream start to his MLS campaign: Schweinsteiger.

While Bastian Schweinsteiger might have endured a torrid time at Old Trafford, ever since his departure from Manchester United, he has been enjoying himself in the MLS.

The German legend who left United to join Chicago Fire only recently, scored his second goal for his new team, on Saturday, against New England.

And it was his second strike in just his third MLS match.

He penetrated the opposition defence with a clever run, then got past two defenders and blasted in a fine shot to gift his team the opening goal, in what was a 3-0 win.

And, if he can still notch up goals for his team at 32, what more would you want from him. It looks like there’s still plenty of fuel left in Schweini’s tank.

Do you think Schweinsteiger could turn out to be the best signing in MLS this year?

Share with us your thoughts by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.

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