International soccer

U.S. defeats Czech Republic

Alejandro Bedoya scored in the 39th minute and a youthful U.S. men’s team started the four-year cycle of preparation for the 2018 World Cup with a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic in Prague on Wednesday night.

Three players made their U.S. debuts, with 21-year-old forward Joe Gyau playing the entire match, 23-year-old defender Greg Garza entering in the 63rd and 18-year-old midfielder Emerson Hyndman coming in four minutes later.

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Tim Ream, a 26-year-old defender who failed to make this year’s World Cup roster, entered at the start of the second half, his first national-team match since October 2011. Brad Guzan played the first half as he took over as the Americans’ No. 1 goalkeeper from Tim Howard, who is taking a year off from the national team. Guzan, who turns 30 on Sept. 9, was the oldest player in the U.S. starting lineup.

The only U.S. player over 30 was 35-year-old goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who made several excellent saves in the second half, including a leg stop of Daniel Punil’s point-blank shot in the 89th.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann started just two players who began the last U.S. match at the World Cup: Bedoya and right back Fabian Johnson. Forward Jozy Altidore made his first U.S. appearance since injuring a hamstring as the Americans opened the World Cup with a 2-1 win over Ghana. Altidore captained the Americans for only the second time.

Klinsmann told NBC Sports before the game his goal was to make the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup.

Angel di Maria set up three goals and scored the fourth himself as Argentina trounced Germany 4-2 in their friendly game in Düsseldorf to get a small measure of payback after losing to the host team in the World Cup final.

Argentina was up 4-0 after just 50 minutes to dampen the home side’s World Cup title celebrations in its first game since winning the final in Brazil in July.

With Lionel Messi absent due to a leg injury, Di Maria assumed the instigator’s role, setting up Sergio Aguero in the 21st minute, Erik Lamela’s outstanding volley in the 40th and Federico Fernandez’s headed goal two minutes after the interval.

In London, Wayne Rooney converted a penalty kick in the 68th minute of his first game as England’s captain, an uninspiring 1-0 exhibition victory over Norway in front a record-low crowd of 40,181 at 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium.

International basketball

U.S. improves to 4-0

The Americans wrapped up the No. 1 seed in their group, improving to 4-0 at the Basketball World Cup in Spain with a 106-71 victory over the Dominican Republic in Bilbao.

Kenneth Faried, whose shooting percentage dropped after he missed three shots, scored 16 points for the U.S. DeMarcus Cousins came off the bench and added 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting.

The Americans will finish Group C play in Bilbao on Thursday against Ukraine before playing their round of 16 game Saturday night in Barcelona against the fourth-place team from Group D, which is still to be determined.

Connecticut women’s coach Geno Auriemma said a school had filed a complaint with the American Athletic Conference saying that his congratulatory phone call to Little League sensation Mo’ne Davis constituted a recruiting violation.

“That’s the world that we live in,” Auriemma said.

Davis, 13, the girl who helped lead Philadelphia’s Taney Dragons to the semifinals of the U.S. championship in Williamsport, Pa., drew national attention after saying that her ultimate athletic goal was to play basketball for Auriemma at UConn and then go on to the WNBA.

Auto racing

Comcast to replace Nationwide for NASCAR

Comcast signed a 10-year agreement to replace Nationwide Insurance as the title sponsor of NASCAR’s second-tier racing series. The series will be known as the NASCAR Xfinity Series through 2024. The deal matches the longest single agreement around title sponsorship of any NASCAR national series in its history, and Sports Business Daily valued the package at worth close to $200 million.


• Top-line center David Krejci and the Boston Bruins have agreed on a $43.5 million, six-year deal that will start in 2015-16, reported.

• The Florida Panthers and No. 1 overall draft pick Aaron Ekblad agreed on a three-year entry-level contract.

American Pharoah won the $300,000 Del Mar Futurity for 2-year-olds by 4¾ lengths on closing day in Del Mar, Calif., giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert a record 12th victory in the Grade I race. Ridden by Victor Espinoza, American Pharoah ran seven furlongs on Polytrack in 1:21.48 and paid $8.40 to win.

Fabio Aru of Italy won the 11th stage of the Spanish Vuelta in Santuario de San Miguel de Aralar, while Alberto Contador of Spain hung on to the overall race leader’s red jersey. Nairo Quintana, one of the race favorites, had to withdraw with a broken shoulder blade after crashing.

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