China holds off debutantes Cameroon, returns to Women’s World Cup quarterfinals

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EDMONTON, Alberta – China is headed to the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup for the first time since 2007 after defeating Cameroon, 1-0 on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.

Wang Shanshan scored the game’s only goal in the 12th minute, volleying the ball into the net in front of a hearty group of China supporters on a cool, breezy day in the tournament’s northernmost host city. Li Dongna settled the ball at the back post on a corner kick and sent it back into the mixer toward Wang, who placed it into the net with her right foot.

“This goal was important because it gave us the upper-hand early in the game, so we can take more initiative,” said Wang, who typically plays defender but lined up as a striker on Saturday. “We had more room to play in the second half of the game. [It] reinforced our defense.”

China, which finished runner-up to the United States at the 1999 World Cup, exited in the quarterfinals of the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, but did not qualify for the 2011 edition, missing the tournament for the first time. Saturday’s victory came in the Round of 16, the first time that has taken place at a Women’s World Cup, which expanded to 24 teams for the first time.

Cameroon was playing it its first-ever Women’s World Cup, making the knockout stage after finishing second in Group C behind reigning world champions Japan. China finished second in Group A behind hosts Canada.

China will face either the United States or Colombia in the quarterfinals next week in Ottawa. Chinese players say that if they do meet the United States, the pressure will be on the Americans.

“We are already in the quarterfinal,” Wang said. “We obtained our initial objective, so we just need to go as far as we can. No more pressure.”

Cameroon controlled much of the match, out-shooting China 21-9, but failing to convert opportunities. Gaelle Enganamouit was active all night – as she has been all tournament – but failed to find the back of the net for Cameroon. Enganamouit best chance of the night came in the 64th minute, when her looping header hit the top of the crossbar.

Defense has been China’s calling card the entire tournament, and it held strong again on Saturday, to the frustration of Cameroon.

“There were good chances, but look at the statistics and they don’t usually score many goals,” Cameroon coach Enow Ngachu said of China. “They don’t score many goals, but they defend very well. We knew that if did concede a goal, it was going to be very difficult for us.”

China coach Hao Wei was suspended for the match after being ejected from the team’s final group game against New Zealand. Hao watched the match from the stands, but he can return to the bench for the quarterfinal match.

The pre-match messages, assistant coach Chang Weiwei said, were still clearly laid out ahead of the match despite Hao’s absence from the bench.

“Today all the players are wonderful,” Chang said. “They put on a spectacular performance, spectacular, resilient and brave. They are like warriors, fighting like warriors for over 90 minutes.”

Cameroon is only the second African team to qualify for the knockout stage of a Women’s World Cup, joining the 1999 Nigeria team.

Ngachu credited China’s experience – despite the team’s youth – for their victory. He rued Cameroon’s missed opportunities, but he didn’t appear overly dejected by the result.

“That is football,” Ngachu said on several occasions after the match.

On Saturday, football was in favor of China.

FOLLOW LIVE, Gold Cup: USMNT closes out group v. Panama

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It’s a fully-changed starting XI for the U.S. Men’s National Team as it closes out the group stage against Panama at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Omar Gonzalez and Matt Miazga start together in the backline, Jozy Altidore returns to the starting lineup up top, and Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis feature on the wings alongside Altidore. Ten of the 11 players now ply their trade in MLS, including the Gonzalez, who recently moved to Toronto FC.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT takes on Panama in Kansas City]

Hit the link above to follow along for the next two hours, and check back on PST for a full recap and in-depth analysis after the final whistle.

Must-See Goal: Wayne Rooney v. Orlando City

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I’m going to go out on a limb and say it. Wayne Rooney just scored the most amazing goal in Audi Field’s young history.

In the 10th minute of D.C. United’s match against Orlando City SC on Wednesday evening, Rooney noticed Orlando’s Brian Rowe straying way off his line. And so, with an audacious but accurate attempt, Rooney let fly from 65 yards and SCORED. Just check this goal out below.

[FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT v. Panama]

Rooney took advantage of a crazy bounce and with his literal first touch, unleashed a thunderbolt that Rowe couldn’t catch up to. It automatically becomes one of the top contenders for the MLS Goal of the Year, and should make it on every top ten countdown this evening and tomorrow.

Benfica: Atletico Madrid make $143 million bid for Felix

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The legend of Joao Felix appears to have reached full market value potential.

The 19-year-old Portuguese striker is coming off a breakout year for Benfica, and now the Portuguese giants have received an impressive $143 million offer from Atletico Madrid for Felix. The club confirmed the offer in a statement on its website, stating it was analyzing the deal. Felix has a $136.5 million release clause in his contract, but it appears the additional $7 million is in processing costs.

[READ: Kroos wants to retire at Real Madrid]

Felix was outstanding at Benfica last year, scoring 15 goals with seven assists in 26 league games and three goals and one assist in five Europa League game. Felix has already made his international debut for Portugal.

If confirmed, Felix would become the fifth-most expensive transfer in world history, and the second-most expensive transfer for a teenager behind Kylian Mbappe.

AFCON: Nigeria 1st team through to round of 16 at African Cup, joined by host Egypt

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CAIRO (AP) Former champion Nigeria became the first team to reach the last 16 at the African Cup of Nations after defender Kenneth Omeruo‘s second-half goal delivered a 1-0 win over Guinea on Wednesday.

The Nigerians were unimpressive in the first half in Alexandria but lifted their game in the second. Alex Iwobi‘s rasping shot was pushed away by Guinea goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone and Ahmed Musa almost set up Odion Ighalo on a counterattack.

The former Chelsea defender Omeruo did what the forwards had not been able to do when he beat Kone with a glancing header at the near post off Moses Simon’s corner in the 73rd minute.

Nigeria, which won the title in 2013, has two wins from two games in Group B. It beat Burundi 1-0 in its first match and now needs a draw from its last fixture against Madagascar to finish top and stay in Alexandria for the last 16.

There was more good news for Nigeria when Samuel Kalu came on as a substitute near the end. The midfield player collapsed at a training session the day before the first game, suffering from dehydration, and was hospitalized.

Coach Gernot Rohr rested captain John Obi Mikel against Guinea.

Elsewhere, Egypt also confirmed a place in the knockout stages with a 2-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ahmad Elmohamady and Mohamed Salah each scored in the first half to lead the Pharoahs to victory, the hosts second-straight win in the competition.

In the other match of the day, Uganda tied Zimbabwe, 1-1.