Women’s World Cup Day 3 — Has Africa arrived?

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Heading into Monday’s action, the continent of Africa was 4-25-3 in World Cup play, the last two of those victories (including Nigeria beating Canada in 2011) coming after both teams involved in the match had already been eliminated.

The reasons for the slow growth of African women’s soccer has to do with some of the socioeconomic and cultural reasons I mentioned Sunday. And if it has been difficult for men’s teams from Africa to find their footing on the world stage, you can imagine how hard it is to get funding, respect, common decency, etc., for their women’s teams.

[RESULTS: Japan edges Switzerland  |  Cameroon routs Ecuador]

But, if history has taught us anything, it’s that talent finds a way to shine through barriers. Yes, Nigeria did not advance in 2011, but they only conceded two goals in the tournament, while Equatorial Guinea and Genoveva (Ayo) Anonma went home 0-3, but certainly not outclassed the way African teams had been in the past.

Perhaps you can write down Monday, June 8, 2015, as the date when African women’s soccer finally arrived on the world stage. For the first time in 16 years, the continent got four points in a World Cup, and not only did Cameroon and Nigeria do it within hours of each other, they did it impressively. Admittedly, Ecuador was poor and eventually down to 10 women, but Cameroon was rampant almost from the opening kickoff in a 6-0 rout (no other African victory at the World Cup had ever been by more than two goals).

[KASSOUF: USA gets by Australia  |  Solo saves the day  |  Room to improve]

Meanwhile, Nigeria came from two goals down to draw 3-3 with Sweden, but – despite the reaction of the world as the result being a surprise – likely deserved all three, recording more possession, twice as many shots, and much better chances with a front four of Asisat Oshoala, Ngozi Okobi, Francisca Ordega (of the NWSL’s Spirit), and Desire Oparanozie making Sweden look ordinary. And “ordinary” is being generous.

In 1999, Nigeria beat North Korea and Denmark and came from three goals down against Brazil in the quarterfinals only to have Sissi win it in overtime on a golden goal. Had Nigeria won that game, it would have played the U.S. in the semifinals. So somewhere Mercy Akide (now coaching in Virginia and married to Nigerian sportswriter Colin Udoh) and the other foremothers of the current African generation had big smiles Monday night.

There’s obviously much of the tournament to go, but Cameroon has likely qualified for the second round already with 3 points and its goal differential. Nigeria would have liked 3 points with the U.S. and Australia remaining, but will be far from a pushover for either. And don’t be shocked if the Ivory Coast – who actually looked decent going forward against Germany – finds a way to beat Thailand and join them in the knockout stages.

What else did we learn Monday?

1) Asisat Oshoala might be a household name soon

She doesn’t turn 21 until October, but has already been the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year thanks to her dominance at Liverpool and was voted the best player in Africa last season after winning the Golden Boot at the 2014 U-20 World Cup as Nigeria lost to Germany in extra time in the final. She has pace, strength, size, and skill, and Sweden had no answer for her. Ngozi Okobi may also get some looks from Europe if she continues to torture defenses like she did Monday.

2) However, Nigeria does have a goalkeeping issue

Precious Dede has played for Nigeria in almost every big match they have played since 2003, but shaky doesn’t begin to describe how she looked in the first half against Sweden set pieces (of which they scored on two corners). Edwin Okon does have 23-year-old Ibubeleye Whyte as a back-up and she did post a clean sheet in the African finals last year (against Cameroon). However, she only has six career caps, and it would be asking a lot to put her up against the Abby Wambachs of the world in the air. But Nigeria has to figure that out or all their hard work and young skill won’t help them advance.

3) Meanwhile, Sweden has a defense problem

Pia Sundhage was so scared by Nigeria’s speed that she replaced BOTH center backs (Nilla Fischer and Emma Berglund) while leading in the second half. It didn’t work. Replacement Linda Sembrant (who also scored Sweden’s third goal) stepped way too early, allowing Ordega to tie the game in the 87th minute. Sweden allowed only one goal in 10 games of UEFA qualifying, but that is deceiving because they were in a turrible (as Charles Barkley would say) group, and one certainly devoid of the speed they saw Monday (with apologies to Scotland’s Jane Ross). With the U.S. and Australia coming up, things won’t get easier on that front, so Pia will have to do something, or Sweden could be facing an extremely embarrassing first-round exit if they’re not careful.

4) Gaelle Enganamouit may not be too far behind Asisat Oshoala

The 23-year-old who plays in Sweden looked the part of a world-class striker in picking up her hat trick, even if the competition was dreadful (if I had another bullet point, I could muse about how far South America has fallen behind Africa in women’s soccer because the gap looked pretty significant on Monday, and no team from South America other than Brazil has ever won a match at the World Cup). Japan and Switzerland both looked very good in their opener on Monday and both will pose many more problems for their defense, but it would be surprising to see them get beaten as badly as they beat Ecuador Monday.

5) You can’t qualify for the World Cup from Europe anymore if you’re not good

This may be Switzerland’s first World Cup (and they’ve never even qualified for the Euros), but their roster is loaded with players from the top European leagues (including 11 from the Bundesliga). Rightfully so, Ramona Bachmann will get a lot of the press after Monday’s game (and boy does she wish she has that chance in stoppage time back), it’s great to see her finally healthy and that obviously makes the Swiss a much tougher out in this tournament. But veterans Martina Moser and Vanessa Bernauer (both of whom play in Germany) more than held their own in the middle against the defending world champs. Alas, they got no points for their troubles, but given the weak group they’re in, there is reason to take a lot of positives out of the 1-0 loss.

Wolves vs Liverpool: How to watch, stream link, team news

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Liverpool hopes it can boost its top-four hopes by hurting Wolves’ plans for Premier League safety when the duo meet Saturday at the Molineux (watch live, 10am ET Saturday online via Peacock Premium).

It’s the third meeting since early January between the sides following a 2-2 draw in the FA Cup and a 1-0 Liverpool win in the replay.

STREAM LIVE WOLVES vs LIVERPOOL

Wolves sit 17th with 17 points, only outside of the bottom three due to Bournemouth’s poor goal differential. Last place is just two points away, as there are seven teams within three points between 14th and 20th.

Liverpool, meanwhile, is 10 points off the top four but has played at least one fewer match than all but two of the eight teams ahead of them (Sixth-place Brighton and leaders Arsenal).

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Wolves vs Liverpool.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Wolves vs Liverpool live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
Online: Premier League on Peacock


Key storylines & star players

Winning games is about scoring goals and only two Wolves players have more than one. Daniel Podence has collected five, while Ruben Neves has four. Even more surprising, Wolves are still waiting on a goal from Raul Jimenez, Diego Costa, or injured Pedro Neto. Perhaps Matheus Cunha or Pablo Sarabia will chip in soon.

Liverpool has one win from its last three Premier League outings, but there’s a heaping helping of bad luck to their struggles. The Reds have 24 goals from open play and 20 allowed in that same situation. Their expected goals in those spots is 34.6 – 24. Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez have been especially unlucky despite combining for 12 goals and six assists on the season.


Wolves team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Pedro Neto (ankle), Sasa Kalajdzic (torn ACL), Boubacar Traore (undisclosed), Chiquinho (knee)

Liverpool team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Virgil van Dijk (thigh), Roberto Firmino (calf), Ibrahima Konate (hamstring), Luis Diaz (knee), Diogo Jota (thigh), Arthur Melo (thigh) | QUESTIONABLE: Fabio Carvalho (undisclosed), Nathaniel Phillips (illness)

Newcastle vs West Ham: How to watch, stream link, team news

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Newcastle United can become the third Premier League team this season to cross the 40-point marker when it meets West Ham on Saturday at St. James’ Park (watch live, 12:30pm ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Magpies have been terrific at home in all competitions, including at midweek where they finished off Southampton to claim a spot in the League Cup Final.

STREAM LIVE NEWCASTLE vs WEST HAM

And while the 40-point marker used to just mean safety, Newcastle would stay within sight of second-place Man City and first-place Arsenal.

Meanwhile, West Ham’s mix of bad luck and substandard performances have them just a point above the drop zone, in 16th. A win here would be huge,

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Newcastle vs West Ham.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Newcastle vs West Ham live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 12:30pm ET, Saturday
TV Channel: NBC
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

The Magpies won’t have their best all-around player in influential Brazilian midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, and center forward Alexander Isak will miss out following a head injury suffered against Saints. Sean Longstaff will need to shine again after scoring twice against Saints.

As for West Ham, they have three attackers out but can look to Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen to continue upturns in form.


Newcastle team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Bruno Guimaraes (suspension), Alexander Isak (concussion), Javier Manquillo (undisclosed), Matt Targett (foot), Emil Krafth (knee)

West Ham team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Gianluca Scamacca (knee), Maxwel Cornet (calf), Kurt Zouma (thigh), Danny Ings (knee)

Manchester United vs Crystal Palace: How to watch, stream link, team news

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Manchester United looks to keep climbing up the Premier League table when its hosts improving Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday (watch live, 10am ET online via Premier League on Peacock).

United has won all three of its cup matches since a Jan. 22 setback at Premier League leaders Arsenal, and now face Palace before two matches with Leeds

STREAM LIVE MANCHESTER UNITED vs CRYSTAL PALACE

Palace hasn’t won in 2023, though the Eagles managed back-to-back draws with Manchester United and Newcastle in their past two matches. Both of those were at Selhurst Park.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Manchester United vs Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Manchester United vs Crystal Palace live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
Online: Premier League on Peacock


Key storylines & star players

Man United’s lost Christian Eriksen through April but acted quick and in impressive fashion with the loan addition of Marcel Sabitzer from Bayern Munich. Desperate for playing time and a more attacking role than what was asked of him by Bayern, the Austrian star may be just what the doctor ordered even before Eriksen went down. This is a hard-edged player with plenty of attcking firepower to boot.

Palace, of course, is still all about their creative players, as Wilfried Zaha, Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze, and Odsonne Edouard can deliver the goods with just a half-chance, but look out for Deadline Day adds Albert Sambi Lokonga, on loan from Patrick Vieira’s former team Arsenal, and Naouirou Ahamada, who they hope will add a needed ball progressor in the heart of the pitch.


Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Christian Eriksen (ankle), Donny van de Beek (knee), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Jadon Sancho (undisclosed), Anthony Martial (undisclosed), Diogo Dalot (thigh), Luke Shaw (illness), Scott McTominay (undisclosed)

Crystal Palace team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Wilfried Zaha (hamstring), Joachim Andersen (calf), Nathan Ferguson (undisclosed), James McArthur (groin)

Everton vs Arsenal, live! How to watch, stream link, team news

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The first match of the Sean Dyche era at Everton is a visit from the leaders, as Arsenal visits Goodison Park on Saturday (watch live, 7:30am ET on USA Network and online via NBCSports.com).

Dyche has been out of work since his time ended at Burnley last April, but he’ll have instant familiarity with Dwight McNeil, James Tarkowski, and Michael Keane.

So how’s it been around the club as he prepares to take hold of a team that isn’t Burnley for the first time since, thumbs through calendars… still thumbing…2011!

STREAM LIVE EVERTON vs ARSENAL

“A new voice, training ways, going about your business, building a bit of rapport,” Dyche said. “I had a good chat with a few players, not in an office kind of chat but speaking to them generally. Their careers, life, how they’re feeling, I always thought if you affect their lives you’ll affect their performance. It’s hard to do visa-versa, I’ve been honest with them. I’ve been down that, we did a Q+A session, I just wanted their feedback. What was the feedback? After that I shared it back with them, this is what we fed back ,what do you think? Gives us a chance to open it up a bit. We need to get to the truth of them, what we can offer, best thing to do is ask them – simple as that. Giving our feel, a different feel to understanding, that’s all. Hopefully they’ll respond and flourish. We’ve got to work, it can’t all be fluff, plenty of hard work this week.”

Former Everton star Mikel Arteta leads Arsenal into the affair with a five-point lead on Man City and a match-in-hand, but it’s also the first match since Arsenal fell 1-0 to City in an FA Cup match considered by many to be a first test for the leaders’ title hopes.

Everton sit 19th in the Premier League table, ahead of last-place Southampton by five goals in the goal difference column.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Everton vs Arsenal.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Everton vs Arsenal live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 7:30am ET, Saturday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

Is this what Dwight McNeil has been waiting for after stop-start usage from Frank Lampard? He’s one of the key pieces to monitor when team news arrives Saturday.  Everton hasn’t played since Jan. 21, when it rolled out a 5-4-1 in a 2-0 loss to West Ham. Dyche hasn’t used five at the back since 2019, but this Arsenal team, man…

Arsenal enters having navigated the absence of Gabriel Jesus pretty darn nicely, thank you very much. Will Eddie Nketiah keep feasting off the playmaking of Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka?

Let’s just say Everton’s new manager bounce is going to have to include Flubber.


Everton team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Michael Keane (knee), Nathan Patterson (knee), Andros Townsend (knee) | QUESTIONABLE: Ben Godfrey (knee), James Garner (back)

Arsenal team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Gabriel Jesus (knee), Reiss Nelson (thigh), Mohamed Elneny (knock) | QUESTIONABLE: Thomas Partey (chest), Emile Smith Rowe (thigh)