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A little Pep talk is giving England a World Cup boost

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has never coached a game at the international level, yet his influence was considered partly responsible for the success of the last two World Cup champions and could play a role in next Sunday’s final was well.

Here’s how the “Pep Effect” has worked: When Guardiola was managing Barcelona in Spain’s La Liga, six of his players started for the national team in the 2010 World Cup final, which Spain won. Four years later Guardiola was in the Bundesliga at Bayern Munich and six of his club’s stars played in the 2014 World Cup final, which Germany won.

Neither team has won a knockout game since.

In this World Cup, Guardiola’s impact is more spread out. Four City players — Raheem Sterling, Fabian Delph, John Stones and Kyle Walker — have started for England while Belgium has used two, Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany.

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That not only gives England an edge in numbers but its coach, Gareth Southgate, also plays Guardiola’s style of soccer, preaching possession and building out of the back.

“I wouldn’t be here without what he has done for me over the last two years, as a player and as a person,” Stones said of Guardiola. “Since I came to City, he always had the right things to say to me and simple things. That is what is important, not flooding your mind and overloading you with too much information. Giving you the right amount and making everything simple.”

“The ‘Pep Effect,’ he’s definitely had it on us City boys, and we’ve tried to bring what we’ve learned off him into the England squad,” continued Stones, who made his Premier League debut under Belgian coach Roberto Martinez at Everton. “Bringing in a fresh idea, not on the whole game but on certain aspects of it. Everyone does that from their clubs and managers. That is why I think we have got a great combination of players.”

Papal blessing

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Pope Francis, a noted soccer fan, tried to cheer mourning Brazilian fans at the Vatican following their team’s World Cup exit in a quarterfinal loss to Belgium.

“I see a lot of Brazilian flags: Have courage! There’ll be a next time,” the Pope said during his traditional Sunday blessing in St. Peter’s Square.

Francis — an Argentine and a card-carrying member of first-division club San Lorenzo — often meets with visiting national soccer teams, has a collection of gifted jerseys and frequently promotes the value of sports, particularly for young people.

Local ties

Not only is France unbeaten since March, a streak of nine games in which it has gone 7-0-2, but it has trailed just twice, for a total of 42 minutes, in that span. One was a nine-minute stretch in the second half of its round of 16 game with Argentina; the other was in its final friendly before the World Cup, when the U.S. carried a lead into the final 12 minutes before settling for a 1-1 tie. … Sweden’s quarterfinal loss to England on Saturday knocked the last MLS player out of the World Cup. Seattle Sounders defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson made three appearances in the tournament, going the distance in Sweden’s round of 16 win over Switzerland. Sweden won the three games he played in and lost the ones he sat out. Nineteen MLS players were on World Cup rosters this summer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com | Twitter: @kbaxter11


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