Cup of Nations: Penalty kicks see Mali eliminate hosts South Africa

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Yaya Touré may still be the best player in this tournament, but contrary to what was written in this space at the Cup of Nations’ onset, the second-best player in this competition may not be Ivorian. While Didier Drogba may yet live up to his reputation in the knockout round (and he did have a goal in the final group game), he has not been able to match Malian Seydou Keita, another Europe-based player who made the move to China last summer.

On Saturday, Keita gave his third Man of the Match performance of the tournament, scoring a tying goal in the 58th minute that ultimately allowed his team to take the host nation to penalty kicks. There, three failed conversations from South Africa put Mali into the semifinals, 3-1 on kicks after a 1-1 result.

MORE: Ghana reverts advances past Cape Verde

The Bafana Bafana came out the stronger side and executed a near-perfect counter in the for Tokelo Rantie’s 31st minute opener. Shortly after half, Keita pulled Mali even after he headed home a Mamadou Samassa cross from just in front of the goal. A practically even final hour played out with Mali havin the better chances. South Africa head coach Gordon Igesund was late to put in players like Lehlohonolo Majoro and Siphiwe Tshabalala – player who could provide a bit of creativity or dynamism.

The shootout started with both teams scoring before South Africans Dean Furman and May Mahlangu failed to convert. Malians Adama Tamboura and Mahamane Traoré gave their side a 3-1 lead going into the fourth round of kicks. Lehlohonolo Majoro went well wide with South Africa’s final kick, seeing the hosts out of the tournament.

Despite the defeat, the effort was one of redemption for a team that can fallen so far since 2010. One of the lowest rated teams in the tournament, South Africa wasn’t expected to challenge any serious contenders, yet in closing  group play with wins over Angola and Morocco, the hosts showed more fight than many had predicted. Their first half of play on Saturday validated their place in the quarterfinals, even if that’s as far as they got.

Mali, in the interim, wait for the winner of tomorrow’s Cote d’Ivoire-Nigeria winner. Should Les Elephants advance, their win would set up a rematch a 2012 semifinal won by the Ivorians, 1-0.

Wigan player races off for son’s birth after scoring 2 goals

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WIGAN, England (AP) It was better than a hat trick.

A player for English soccer team Wigan had a night to remember when he scored his second goal before dashing off the field and to the local hospital, where his girlfriend was in labor.

[ MORE: Chelsea advances to UCL Round of 16 after win over Qarabag ]

A picture of Ryan Colclough holding his new-born baby, Harley, while still in his soccer uniform was shared on social media by Wigan chairman David Sharpe.

Colclough said his father, sitting in the stands on Tuesday for Wigan’s 3-0 win over Doncaster in the second division, “gave me the action that the waters had broken,” but he didn’t want to come off until the ball was out of play.

“My head was a little bit battered, but I went and scored, looked at the manager and he said we’ll bring you off now,” Colclough said Wednesday of his 58th-minute goal, which he celebrated by pretending to rock a baby. “I came off and was straight down the tunnel, grabbed my keys and my phone, and went to hospital.”

Colclough had visited the midwife that day, and was told the baby was unlikely to arrive for “another couple of days.”

Lille suspends coach Marcelo Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) French club Lille has provisionally suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa following a string of poor results in the top tier.

[ MORE: Basel stuns Man United late to keep UCL hopes alive ]

The northern side said in a statement that Bielsa has been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club.” Lille did not elaborate.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but has failed to make the club competitive again, with the team second to last after 13 matches.

The 2 Robbies podcast: PL sides in the UCL, Pulis sacking and more

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In today’s Euro Pod Edition, the Robbies breakdown the latest Champions League action. Man United lose at Basel, Chelsea cruise at Qarabag, Spurs impress against Dortmund, Man City continue to win, Liverpool surrender a 3-goal lead against Sevilla. Plus, the guys weigh in on the Oumar Niasse ban for diving and the Tony Pulis sacking.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Europa League preview: Arsenal looks to wrap up Group H and more

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While several teams have already booked their place in the knockout phase, the Europa League reaches its penultimate round on Thursday with many big matches in hand.

[ MORE: Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training ]

Of the two Premier League sides in the competition, only one will advance to the Round of 32, as Arsenal have all but assured themselves of the top spot in Group H. The Gunners can do so tomorrow with a win over Koln or a Red Star Belgrade defeat.

The other end of the spectrum features Everton, who has already been eliminated from reaching the next round after acquiring just one point in its first four matches.

European giants AC Milan can lock up a spot in the knockout phase on Thursday despite the club’s ongoing struggles in Serie A, while fellow Italian side Atalanta can move a step closer to the Round of 32 in Group E along with Lyon.

Here’s the full rundown of Thursday’s UEL matches.

Astana vs. Villareal — 11 a.m. ET
Konyaspor vs. Marseille — 1 p.m. ET
Rosenborg vs. Real Sociedad — 1 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. Vitesse — 1 p.m. ET
Viktoria Plzen vs. Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m. ET
Lokomotiv vs. Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit vs. Vardar — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Vitoria — 1 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao vs. Hertha Berlin — 1 p.m. ET
BATE vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Zorya — 1 p.m. ET
Koln vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET
Nice vs. Zulte Waregem — 1 p.m. ET
Lugano vs. Beer-Sheva — 1 p.m. ET
Ludogorets vs. Istanbul — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga vs. Hoffenheim — 3:05 p.m. ET
AEK vs. Rijeka — 3:05 p.m. ET
AC Milan vs. Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m. ET
Lyon vs. Apollon — 3:05 p.m. ET
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Slavia Praha — 3:05 p.m. ET
Sheriff vs. Zlin — 3:05 p.m. ET
Partizan vs. Young Boys — 3:05 p.m. ET
Skenderbeu vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:05 p.m. ET
Everton vs. Atalanta — 3:05 p.m. ET