Wambach scores twice as US women end disappointing Algarve Cup with win over North Korea, 7th place finish

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The U.S. women’s national team ended a disappointing 2014 Algarve Cup with a 3-0 victory over North Korea to claim a seventh-place finish in Portugal.

Abby Wambach scored twice, first 11 minutes into the match when she headed in a cross from right back Ali Krieger and again in the 59th minute when she back-heeled Carli Lloyd’s low cross into the net. The goals were Wambach’s 166th and 167th in her career.

Heather O’Reilly also scored in her 200th cap with the U.S., becoming the ninth player to appear that many times for the team. O’Reilly came on at halftime and roofed a cross from Carli Lloyd in the 88th minute.

With the victory, the U.S. avoided going winless in four consecutive games for the first time since 2001. Only twice have the Americans lost three straight games, in 1993 when they fell Norway and twice to Germany in a one-month span and in 1991 when they lost twice to Norway and again to China.

After opening the Algarve Cup with a 1-1 draw against reigning World Cup champions Japan, the United States lost 1-0 to Sweden to snap a 43-game unbeaten streak and then suffered a stunning 5-3 loss to Denmark on Monday. That was the first time since 2001 that the U.S. had lost two straight games and the most goals ever conceded by the Americans, against a Denmark team ranked No. 13 in the world.

source: Getty ImagesGermany made a statement on Wednesday, defeating Japan 3-0 in the Algarve Cup final to firmly plant their stake as 2015 World Cup favorites.

After a scoreless first half, the European champions needed less than a minute to score in the second half and put the game beyond doubt within 17 minutes. Nadine Keßler opened the scoring right after halftime and Anja Mittag scored a crafty backheel goal four minutes later to put Germany in control.

Dzsenifer Marozsan scored a sublime goal from 20 yards out with her right foot to ice the game for Germany, making it 3-0. The goal was her fourth of the tournament.

Disappointment from the 2011 World Cup is well behind the Germans, who are ranked second in the world behind the United States. Germany bowed out to Japan in the quarterfinals on home soil in 2011 and missed the 2012 Olympics as a result, they won the EURO 2013 title and just dominated world No. 3 Japan. With 15 months until the 2015 World Cup, Germany looks like the team to beat, especially with the struggles the U.S. endured over the past week.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.