Associated Press

U-17 World Cup semifinals feature 3 powerhouses, one minnow

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On Wednesday morning, the final of the U-17 World Cup will be decided. In contention are three familiar faces and one very unfamiliar one.

Mali stands among habitual powerhouses Spain, Brazil, and England as the African nation looks to find a stunning path to the U-17 World Cup final. They will take on Spain in the semis, opposite a mouth-watering matchup between the electric young England side against a Brazil squad that took down Germany in the quarterfinals.

England will have its hands full with tournament favorite Brazil with a 7:30 a.m. ET kick from Kolkata. The young South American squad boasts wins over Germany and Spain already, and they have conceded just two goals all competition. Their attacking talent is incredibly balanced, with Santos product Lincoln running the show in attacking midfield. Internacional striker Brenner is his target man up front, while Cruziero’s Gabriel Brazao holds things down between the sticks, conceding just a penalty and an own-goal so far this tournament. Their captain is Palmeiras center-back Vitao, who ranked #16 on Sports Illustrated’s Top 20 Under 20 list, and he will lead the charge for Brazil’s first U-17 World Cup trophy since 2003.

England will be up to the task. They dispatched the United States in the quarterfinals thanks to a hat-trick from Liverpool youngster Rhian Brewster, who has recently joined the Reds after spending much of his youth development at Chelsea. They have been prolific most of the time, but a 0-0 performance against Japan in the Round of 16 (where they won in penalties) leaves them vulnerable against a stifling Brazil defense. They will need to muck up the midfield, where Brazil makes its hay, in order to have a chance in the match. That might fall to Manchester City youngster Phil Foden, along with the more defensive-minded Tashan Oakley-Boothe of Spurs development.

What makes the Mali and Spain matchup – scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET in Navi Mumbai – so intriguing is that both teams lost their very first game of the competition. They have both recovered in spectacular fashion, with Spain finishing second to Brazil in Group D, while Mali finished second to Paraguay in Group B. Despite their early slip, the two sides have been spectacular.

Mali has outscored opponents 13-3 since their opening match loss, including a five-goal output against Iraq in their first knockout match. 17-year-old striker Lassana Ndiaye has been spectacular, tied for the tournament lead with five goals and the only man standing of the other two individuals level with him. On the other end, goalkeeper Youssuf Koita has made 19 saves, although he has just one clean sheet to show for it. This team has been here before, as runners-up at the 2015 World Cup, but their knockout path in that run included North Korea, Croatia, and Belgium.

They take on Spain who has been exactly what you’d expect from the European giants. After falling by a single goal to Brazil in the opening match, they have dispatched opponents by a combined 11-2, holding a pair of clean sheets in group stage matches but looking somewhat beatable in knockout games against France and Iran. Nevertheless, they have spectacular talent, led by captain and leading goalscorer Abel Ruiz, a striker in the Barcelona youth system. Another Barcelona youth product Sergio Gomez is a dangerous attacker down the left flank. This should be a match of stunning attacking quality and fabulous future talent.

Both matches will prove to be of delicious intrigue, with the stars of the future set to make their mark on the international stage.

Tunisian player who collapsed in Spain regains consciousness

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MADRID (AP) Spanish third-division club Toledo says a Tunisian player who collapsed from heart failure during practice 10 days ago has regained consciousness.

The club says doctors removed sedative medication and Lassad Nouioui was responding well to treatment on Monday.

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They will consider removing the 32-year-old Nouioui from the intensive care unit if his condition keeps improving. Nouioui has played for a number of clubs during his 14-year professional career, notably a four-year stay at Deportivo La Coruna and a one-year spell with Celtic.

Nouioui collapsed on April 14.

The game against Real Madrid B the following day was postponed because of the problem with Nouioui.

FIFA force pace on $25B Club World Cup, global league plan

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA is forcing the pace on talks over a $25 billion offer to revamp the Club World Cup and create a global national team competition.

FIFA says President Gianni Infantino hosted a meeting last Friday with invited officials from some top European clubs.

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The European Club Association has strongly opposed FIFA’s hope for a four-yearly club tournament starting in 2021, which could rival the UEFA-organized Champions League.

UEFA has also proposed a Global Nations League. A similar project is tied to the FIFA-controlled $25 billion, 12-year offer from a consortium including investors from Saudi Arabia and China.

FIFA says it’s holding “informal ongoing discussions with different stakeholders on the topic of the future Club World Cups.”

Infantino is set to meet confederation presidents and general secretaries “in the near future,” FIFA says.

Video: De Rossi, Roma make classy visit to Hillsborough memorial

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On many occasions there are instances where teams and individuals exemplify the fact that real-life occurrences are more meaningful than sports.

Ahead of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League meeting, Italian giants AS Roma visited Anfield –where they will face Liverpool in the competition’s semifinals.

After walking around the venue where the two sides will compete in less than 24 hours, Roma captain Daniele de Rossi and the rest of the Roma squad visited the Hillsborough memorial at Anfield to pay tribute to the 96 victims lost in the 1989 event that rocked the entire country.

De Rossi was seen laying a floral arrangement on the site, along with a note from the club that read, “In memoria delle vittime di Hillsborough AS Rome.”

Liverpool, Roma ride major emotions into the UCL semifinals

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Four clubs remain in this season’s UEFA Champions League competition, and while two of the teams have been considered heavy dogs in the fight all year long the other two sides look to continue on their storybook run.

Liverpool, Roma, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have found themselves in the semifinals of this season’s UCL, creating a strong mix of storylines as the tournament heads towards its most critical point.

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Anfield will be the site for Tuesday’s first leg between Liverpool and Roma, with both sides still riding major highs from their victories in the last round.

The Reds enter the final four after having disposed of fellow Premier League side Manchester City in relatively dominating fashion. Meanwhile, Roma completed a seemingly impossible comeback against Barcelona to progress in the competition.

Liverpool is led by three of the year’s top goalscorers, including Mohamed Salah — who has scored eight goals in the UCL and 41 across all competitions.

For Roma, much of the side’s success has been predicated on finding defensive strength at the right moments throughout the tournament.

Despite falling behind 4-1 in their first leg defeat to Barca in the previous round, Edin Dzeko and Co. rallied for a 3-0 win at the Stade Olimpico to stun the Catalan club by holding Lionel Messi and his side in check.

Manager Eusebio Di Francesco will have to find creative ways to halt the Liverpool attack though over the course of two legs, with the Reds boasting the top attack in this year’s UCL.

Liverpool has scored 33 goals in 10 UCL matches, while only conceding seven in the process.