U-20 World Cup roundup: Knockout round set as Brazil, Germany lead way on final group stage day

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The final day of the group stage produced plenty of expected results, but also some drama as teams locked up the final spots in the knockout round.

Brazil and Germany became the second and third teams behind Portugal to finish their group stages a perfect 3-0-0, dominating the competition en route to their place in the next stage. In more dramatic fashion, Uzbekistan picked up its first points of the competition on the last day of the group stage, but it was enough to send them through in the German-dominated group.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup coverage ]

With the final four games a wrap, here’s how they went down:

Brazil 3-0 North Korea

The Brazilians flirted with disaster in their first two matches, trailing both Nigeria and Hungary at some point across each one despite eventually finding themselves victorious. Here, it was much more pedestrian, and while it took a good hour for the Seleção to get on the scoresheet, they’d put the game away swiftly once the ball hit the back of the net.

It was all Brazil in the first half as North Korea sat back and accepted pressure, but the Group E minnows would not concede through the first 45 minutes, making a goal-line clearance and weathering a few shots off the iron to keep it even at the break. It would eventually come, however, as Brazil poured on the pressure and a weak shot from Jaja took a massive deflection off the foot of Min Hyo Song into the back of the net for an own goal. Jean Carlos would carve up the defense to add a second six minutes later, and a third from Leo Pereira would seal it late as Brazil out-shot North Korea 23-2.

Nigeria 2-0 Hungary

Both teams were likely already through thanks to work earlier in the tournament, but Nigeria cemented their place as the Group E runners up thanks to a brace from Taiwo Awoniyi that bracketed halftime, and a Nigerian defense that locked down 4-goal scorer Bence Mervo.

Nigeria forced a number of acrobatic saves from Gyorgy Szekely before finally finding the breakthrough in the 33rd minute as Saviour Godwin burst up the right side and teed up Awoniyi from close range for his first. The second half got under way as Hungary’s Mario Nemeth rattled the crossbar soon after the break but a wayward backwards header from the Europeans in the 54th minute gifted Awoniyi a breakaway, and he buried the chance. Nigeria’s efforts unfortunately earn them a date with title-hopefuls Germany, while Hungary become the last team through on the third-place table.

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Germany’s Hany Mukhtar bagged his fourth goal of the tournament as they ran through Group F.

Germany 5-1 Honduras

With a loss to Fiji in the previous round, it was always going to be near impossible for Honduras to qualify for the knockout stages, and that reality hit hard as the CONCACAF side was well beaten in Christchurch. Five different goalscorers powered home scores for Germany, and the Europeans marched their way to the most dominating group stage performance of the tournament with a perfect record and a +14 goal differential.

Marc Stendera got things started in just the second minute by slotting home an early penalty, and while it was even for a moment as an own-goal leveled things before 20 minutes, a 30th minute strike from Julian Brandt would put the Germans back up for good before a trio of second-half goals would do the trick. One of those came from Benfica youngster Hany Mukhtar, his fourth goal of the tournament after bagging a hat-trick against Fiji in their tournament opener. The win for Germany would secure Senegal’s place in the knockout stages via the third-place table by eliminating Honduras.

Uzbekistan 3-0 Fiji

With Germany steamrolling Group F, the battle for second-place was a cannibalistic nightmare. Uzbeistan sat bottom of the table having lost to both Germany and Honduras in the first two rounds, but still ended up through after limiting the damage against the Europeans and making their move on the final day. With all three teams on three points, Uzbekistan moves on thanks to a superior goal differential.

With the score level at the break, a somewhat comedic moment led to the opener as a pair of poor shots from Eldor Shomurodov resulted in a goal as the second efford was spilled by the Fiji goalkeeper. Uzbekistan would get another just a minute later as a shot from Zabikhillo Uriboev from a tight angle also trickled through the keeper’s hands. It was a formality from there as Uzbekistan collected the final-day win to move on.

KNOCKOUT ROUND MATCHUPS:

With the group stage finalized, there are plenty of solid matchups to go around. The United States – the only CONCACAF team left standing with Mexico, Panama, and Honduras eliminated – will get a June 10 matchup against Colombia at 3:30am ET. There are a few games featuring members of the same region, as Ghana will take on fellow Africans Mali, while Brazil and Uruguay square off in an all-CONMEBOL tie. The most intriguing matchup seems to be Germany vs. Nigeria, as the Europeans dominated Group F but their African opponents are no slouches, giving Brazil a run for their money before handling North Korea and Hungary.

Ghana vs. Mali
Serbia vs. Hungary
United States vs. Colombia
Ukraine vs. Senegal
Austria vs. Uzbekistan
Germany vs. Nigeria
Portugal vs. New Zealand
Brazil vs. Uruguay

Klopp hits out at Man United’s style of play

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Liverpool host Manchester United this Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Premier League leaders welcome their bitter rivals to Anfield.

This will be feisty, on and off the pitch, as United hope to put a spanner in the works of Liverpool’s procession towards the 2019-20 Premier League title.

These comments from Jurgen Klopp about Man United’s counter-attacking style of play could spice things up in the dugout too.

“It’s strange when you play against a high, high quality team as United still are, and they play the way they play,” Klopp said. “It makes life really difficult. We had it with Tottenham. That’s not normal, how can you expect that? On the other side the counter attacks are of the highest level in the world.

“I don’t say they only counter attack but it’s a main thing they do. People may want to see that as criticism, it’s not, but it’s just a description of the situation that makes life for us more difficult.”

With Liverpool 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League table, now is a good time for Klopp to tell other teams how they should be playing. That is what he is doing here.

Liverpool’s style is absorbing and easy on the eye. Their high-pressing and speedy attack sees them swarm over teams and totally involve their fans and it is fun to watch. Man United this weekend, and Spurs last weekend, know they can’t match Liverpool’s well-oiled, blood and thunder machine so they sit back and counter. And that can be almost as exciting when it’s right.

Can you blame opposing teams for playing this way against Liverpool? No. But what Klopp is trying to do here is suggest that the quality of players United and Spurs possess means they should be more ambitious and on the front foot rather than playing on the counter. What a rascal.

Klopp isn’t quite stirring things up but from a position of strength he is lending his view on the tactics of other teams and what he would do if he was in charge of them.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won’t change his plan against Liverpool. Everybody wants to play like Liverpool but Man United have a different style and that worked well to nullify Liverpool’s threat in their 1-1 draw at Old Trafford earlier this season. With Marcus Rashford a major doubt that will be tough to replicate on Sunday but as Klopp’s Liverpool go all out for the win, United will happy to sit back and counter.

Watch Live: Watford v. Tottenham

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Watford host Tottenham Hotspur at Vicarage Road on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Hornet aim to stay red hot and out of the relegation zone.

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New manager Nigel Pearson has won four of his first six games in charge of Watford, including the last three on the trot, and they have dragged themselves out of the bottom three for the first time this season.

As for Spurs and Jose Mourinho, he’d love form like that as they continue to struggled without the injured Harry Kane and have gone three games without a win in the Premier League. Tottenham are nine points off the top four heading into this game.

In team news Watford are unchanged from the win at Bournemouth.

Spurs start Erik Lamela, Giovani Lo Celso and Heung-Min Son in support of Lucas Moura, while Japhet Tanganga starts once again. New signing Gedson Fernandes is on the bench.

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Pearson: ‘I was semi-retired’ before Watford came calling

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Nigel Pearson had come to terms with the fact he would never again manage in the Premier League — or any league, perhaps — before Watford came calling out of sheer desperation last month.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s Lampard prepared to go without January signings ]

“I was semi-retired, more or less,” Pearson admitted on Friday. He had been out of work for nearly 10 months following an 18-month spell at Belgian side Leuven. That came on the heels of a disastrous five months at EFL Championship side Derby, where he compiled a win percentage of just 21.4 percent — quotes from the Guardian:

“I wouldn’t have been thinking it was possible, of course I wouldn’t. It really is a situation that’s come out of nothing. I was semi-retired, more or less.”

“I’ve been asked whether I was worried about getting a reputation as a ‘firefighter’ and it doesn’t bother me. If that’s how people want to look at it, fine. From my own perspective, coming into a situation like this, it’s just a good opportunity to work back in a league I didn’t think I’d be working in again. In terms of risk to my reputation or anything like that, I’m not bothered about those things. I wouldn’t have taken on the challenge if I didn’t think we had a realistic chance of succeeding.

“It’s just one of those situations where clearly there was a need for something different. So far it’s going OK. I’m pleased with how we’ve started to turn things around but I’m also experienced enough to know that it’s still going to be a tough job to maintain the standards we’ve set and push on again.”

Now at Watford, and back in the PL for the first time since 2015 (Leicester City), Pearson has guided the Hornets to four wins in his first seven games, including five straight without a defeat, and a 17th-place standing ahead of the weekend’s round of fixtures. When he took over, Watford sat 20th out of 20 teams with eight points from 15 games. Less than a month later, they sit a point outside the relegation zone with 22 to their name.

USWNT: Olympic qualifying roster minus five from World Cup team

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The United States’ roster for the upcoming CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will look very similar to the one that won the Women’s World Cup in France, with notable exceptions.

Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, Allie Long, Morgan Brian and Tierna Davidson were on the title team but were left off the 20-player CONCACAF tournament roster announced Friday.

Morgan is expecting her first child with husband Servando Carrasco. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said that Davidson is still recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined her during January camp.

Pugh, a young forward who has shown promise, was one of the most surprising omissions. Andonovski said she has been invited to train with the team even though she didn’t make the roster.

“It was competitive and she did well,” Andonovski said. “But there were other players that I believe that performed better than Mal. Now, I just want to be clear that she is very good, very talented player and she performed well. She has a big future in front of her. So I’m really sure that if she keeps on developing going forward, she will be on this roster.”

The roster includes 18 players who were on the World Cup squad. Newcomers include midfielder Andi Sullivan and forward Lynn Williams.

Sullivan, a former standout at Stanford who plays for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League, has 13 appearances with the national team. Williams, who plays for reigning NWSL champion North Carolina, has made 21 appearances with the national team since 2016, scoring six goals.

Carli Lloyd, who will turn 38 before the Tokyo Games, is the oldest player on the roster. Lloyd scored three goals in the 2015 World Cup final against Japan, but last year in France started in just one game as she took on more of a reserve role.

Andonovski, who was named coach of the team last October after Jill Ellis stepped down, praised Lloyd’s work ethic and said that if she continues to play well, he sees “no reason for her not to be a starter.”

Andonovski said Megan Rapinoe, the Ballon d’Or winner who scored six goals in the World Cup, was also nursing minor injuries during January camp.

“In the end, the ones that I believe will give it the best chance to be successful, that will give us the best chance to win the games and qualify for the Olympics, are the ones that made the roster,” he said.

The United States opens qualifying on Jan. 28 in Houston with a match against Haiti. The top two finishers in the eight-team tournament’s two groups advance to the semifinals in Carson, California, on Feb. 7. The final is in Carson on Feb. 9.

Two berths in the Tokyo Games this summer are up for grabs. The United States has made the field for every Olympic tournament since women’s soccer was added to the Games in 1996 and has won four gold medals.

FULL USWNT ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Emily Sonnett (Orlando Pride).

Midfielders: Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).

Forwards: Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue), Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Megan Rapinoe (Reign), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage).