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U.S. WNT launch 2012 Olympic campaign with comeback win over France

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What’s a U.S. WNT match without some suspense, horrid defending, and heroic interventions from Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan?

The American women clawed out of an early 2-0 deficit and scored four unanswered goals to seal the victory against France in its opening match of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

– Alex Morgan did what Alex Morgan does. The U.S.’s newest superstar helped spring the comeback with her nimble equalizer in the 31st minute. Her second goal was significantly more pedestrian in comparison, as she met Tobin Heath’s squared pass on the goal line.  Her brace today leaves her just one goal shy of reaching the historic 20-goal threshold this year. It’s still only July and she’s barely 23. Scary.

– The U.S. defense had a torrid time in the opening stanza. After just 11 minutes Gaetane Thiney made the most of her unmarked positioning and unleashed a wondrous goal past Solo. France’s second goal arrived after several painfully inept clearance attempts by the U.S. backline. Marie-Laure Delie exploited the disorganization and made her opponents pay. The sudden deficit forced a tactical re-think. The U.S.’s switch to a more direct style helped shore up its defense. Amy LePeilbet’s positioning and 1 v. 1 skills were particularly impressive on the day.

 

– Murphy’s Law looked to be in full effect in the early going. Shortly after France’s flurry of goals, veteran midfielder Shannon Boxx came up lame with a hamstring injury. Carli Lloyd was then summoned from the bench to replace her customary midfield partner. From that moment on, the U.S. abandoned all attempts to play a more ambitious possession game – something the team has honed since the World Cup final – and went back to basics. The reversion to a more direct style of play worked. Morgan’s equalizer came as a result of a punted ball from Hope Solo. The U.S.’s fourth goal materialized from a deep ball from midfield. The long ball ain’t always pretty, but it’s effective.

– French striker Laure-Marie Delie is the prime definition of a goal poacher. Delie’s killer instincts were on full display in Germany last summer. Delie nearly got the best of Solo twice today. Fortunately for the U.S., their no. 1 was just as dialed in.

– As was the case in France’s opening match at the World Cup last summer, Les Bleues failed to hit top gear. There were glimpses of attacking ingenuity, but France were unable to sustain the pressure. One has to imagine the best is yet to come.

– Megan Rapinoe is in the best form of her career right now. Rapinoe ended the day with a pair of assists and helped engineer the U.S.’s other two goals. This comes on the back of an absolutely unstoppable performance against Canada in the team’s most final pre-Olympic friendly. Rapinoe has learned to balance her explosive dynamism with tactical discipline. Her transformation helps make the U.S.’s offense so fearsome.

Final verdict: France looked set to outclass a weary American defense. The U.S. attack – namely Wambach and Morgan – led an inspiring revival that helped galvanize their teammates. France ended up being bullied into submission by the U.S.’s superior physical strength and undisturbed mental focus.

Up next: Colombia on Saturday. A slew of Colombian players were hardly left standing by the time the final whistle blew in their 2-0 loss against North Korea today. An apparent aversion to running contributes to the team’s low fitness levels, as per the TV commentary. That doesn’t bode well for the young Colombians as they got tonked 3-0 by the U.S. the last time the two faced each other in the World Cup last summer. It’s hard to imagine any other result taking place this weekend.

WATCH: USMNT’s Gonzalez nets first for Pachuca, earns exuberant “Gol” call

Marouane Fellaini, ,Omar Gonzalez
AP Photo/Themba Hadebe
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Come for the goal, stay for the “Gol” call.

Or should we say the “Gol. Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Gol” call.

[ MORE: Angry Louis van Gaal rips journalists for “inventing” stories ]

USMNT defender Omar Gonzalez has opened his account for Pachuca with this 88th minute header, and it’s worth it if just for the auditory performance.

Gonzalez also pulls out the high-capacity weapon celebration, though he’s apparently opted to do the version closer to the “Scarface” finale (Spoiler alert).

VIDEO: Premier League Team of the Week – Round 25

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In a week where defenders scored critical goals, it’s no surprise to see a 4-3-3 in the Premier League’s Team of the Week.

Robert Huth‘s brace while blanking Manchester City leads the way for the PL’s top XI from the weekend, while Southampton’s vaunted back line and keeper have two in mix.

[ MORE: Ailing Chelsea, Man Utd showcase obvious deficiencies ]

Liverpool and Arsenal both put offensive forces on the team, while big goals for safety hopefuls Newcastle United and Aston Villa found three players between the two in the XI.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Premier League Team of the Week — Round 25 ARCHIVE ]

Goalkeeper: Fraser Forster (Southampton)

Defenders: Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Robert Huth (Leicester City), Joleon Lescott (Aston Villa)

Midfielders: Aaron Lennon (Everton), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

Forwards: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United), Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa)

Premier League Player of the Week — Round 25

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Score one for the Midlands.

In a season for lowlights, Aston Villa captain Gabriel Agbonlahor is celebrating a bit of hope for his beleaguered club after his classy finish gave the 29-year-old his first goal of the season.

[ REACTION: Agbonlahor says Villa now ready to produce great escape ]

It also inspired Villa to consider that eight points off the Premier League safety chase isn’t unrealistic if it can put together some more gritty performances like the 2-0 defeat of Norwich City on Saturday.

Premier League Players of the Week

Week 1: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City

Week 2: Romelu Lukaku, Everton

Week 3: Callum Wilson, Bournemouth

Week 4: Bafetimbi Gomis, Swansea City

Week 5: Steven Naismith, Everton

Week 6: Anthony Martial, Manchester United

Week 7: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal

Week 8: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

Week 9: Raheem Sterling, Manchester City

Week 10: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

Week 11: Arouna Kone, Everton

Week 12: Jesse Lingard, Manchester United

Week 15: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City

Week 16: Ayoze Perez, Newcastle United

Week 17: Odion Ighalo, Watford

Week 19: Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City

Week 20: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland

Week 21: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland

Week 22: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

Week 23: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur

Week 24: Fraser Forster, Southampton

Week 25: Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa

Napoli fans wear Koulibaly masks to support defender after racial abuse

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 07:  Fans of Napoli  during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Carpi FC at Stadio San Paolo on February 7, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.

At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.

A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”

[ VIDEO: Van Gaal rips journalist who questions his Manchester United future ]

Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.