AP Photo/Sunday Alamba

AFCON semis: Familiar faces vie for title spots

Leave a comment

Four teams with recent experience in AFCON finals remain as the semifinals of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations hit the stage Wednesday and Thursday.

The last two runners-up (Burkina Faso and Ghana) remain alive, as do a pair of nations who’ve won multiple tournaments in the 21st century.

[ MORE: The Chelsea file – What lies ahead ]

An odd fun fact: only one player in this year’s AFCON has more than two goals. It’s DR Congo star Junior Kabananga.

Burkina Faso vs. Egypt — 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday

Burkina Faso boss Paulo Duarte calls Jose Mourinho a “father figure”, and he’ll need some extraordinary tactics to slow down Mohamed Salah, Mohamed Elneny, and Egypt.

Actually, it’ll be even more about finding a way through the Egyptian back line, which is yet to allow a goal in the tournament. Granted Burkina Faso was in a final as recently as 2013, but Egypt will be expected to reach a fourth final since their 3-peat started with a title in 2006.

Cameroon vs. Ghana — 2 p.m. EDT Thursday

It’s hard to believe here in the United States, where Ghana has been a World Cup enemy of the United States, but the Black Stars have been snake bit in this competition.

Ghana has not won AFCON since 1982, reaching only two finals including the 2015 edition that ended 9-8 in penalties to the Ivory Coast. Cameroon is bidding to make its first final since 2008, having won the tournament in 2000 and 2002.

The winner of this one is 90 minutes away from breaking a tie, with each other, for the second-most AFCON crowns in history. Egypt leads the way with seven, while Cameroon and Ghana have four.

Honduras holds Costa Rica 1-1

AP Photo/Moises Castillo
Leave a comment

Honduras did the United States a favor by taking a point from visiting Costa Rica in Tuesday’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifier in San Pedro Sula.

Anthony Lozano pushed a 35th minute chance past an indecisive Keylor Navas, as Los Catrachos set the stage for a hopeful three points.

[ STREAM: T&T-Mexico, Panama-USMNT ]

Vancouver Whitecaps center back Kendall Waston’s haphazard defending helped allow the goal, but he scored off a late Costa Rica corner kick to ensure Costa Rica will finish the international break in second place.

With four points, Honduras moves ahead of Trinidad and Tobago and the United States before both sides play Tuesday.

Costa Rica beat the U.S. 4-0 in 2016, while the Yanks battered Honduras 6-0 on Friday.

WATCH: Video Assistant calls back Griezmann goal

Leave a comment

France and Spain used the Video Assistant Referee program on Tuesday in a friendly, and the French likely rue that decision.

Antoine Griezmann had an incorrectly allowed goal reverse for offside, while Gerard Deulofeu saw an initially ruled offside goal allowed upon review in Spain’s 2-0 win over France.

[ MORE: Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina ]

Here’s an example, as Griezmann’s barely offside goal was overturned in less than a minute (Both calls took less than a minute to decide):

At the risk of sounding like a caveman, I really don’t like these razor thin offside calls being subject to review.

When you consider the improbability of timing the moment of contact with the ball — how many times have you seen a freeze frame conveniently used to make a case? — it just seems to mess with the spirit of sport.

What do you think?

Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina in World Cup qualifying

AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano
Leave a comment

Argentina took steps backward Tuesday in its pursuit of a 2018 World Cup berth, on and off the field.

It started as Lionel Messi was suspended four matches for verbally abusing a referee in Argentina’s Friday win over Chile.

Then La Albiceleste made another move in reverse with a shocking 2-0 loss to Bolivia in La Paz. Argentina started Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala, and Ezequiel Lavezzi on the bench in what many presumed to be an easy win.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Juan Carlos Arce and Marcelo Martins scored as ninth-place La Verde picked up its third win of qualifying with a win over powerful Argentina.

The bad news kept coming for Argentina (and Everton), as Ramiro Funes Mori left the match in the 36th minute with injury.

Bolivia will finish the international break at least 10 points back of the playoff spot, while Argentina could finish as low as that fifth-place spot.

STREAM: CONCACAF tripleheader concludes with USMNT

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
Leave a comment

CONCACAF’s bottom three sides in the Hex standings look to make the table incredibly tight as World Cup qualifying finds three-straight matches on the docket beginning at 5 p.m. EDT.

Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Los Catrachos were creamed 6-0 by the U.S. on Friday, and return home hoping a wounded Costa Rica remains vulnerable. Honduras is dead last on goal differential, but three points would be huge and put them level with Los Ticos. Costa Rica won its first two matches before falling to Mexico on Friday.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico

El Tri has two wins and a draw from their first three Hex matches, and will be without Rafa Marquez on Tuesday. A win guarantees Mexico the top spot heading into the next round of matches in June. The Soca Warriors surprised some with their 1-0 win over visiting Panama on Tuesday. Mexico is a different class.

Panama vs. USMNT

Despite its miserable start, the U.S. can find itself as high as second with a win and help from Honduras. The injuries remain plenty for the Yanks, who are without Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, and John Brooks. Panama has allowed just a single goal through three Hex matches, but also has only managed one.