Round of 16 Women’s World Cup preview: China vs. Cameroon

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CHINA vs. CAMEROON

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., EDT
Where: Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton
TV: NBCDeportes.com
Team records: China 1-1-1 (second in Group A); Cameroon 2-1-0 (second in Group C)
Best performance at World Cup: China 1999 (finalist); Cameroon 2015 (first appearance in knockout stage)

Key players:
China – Wang Fei: Fei is one of the best goalkeepers in the world and the only Chinese player in Europe (Turbine Potsdam). Much of the Chinese success at the defensive end revolves around her and her 5-foot-11 frame, but a closer inspection of recent results shows Wang has not been perfect. Cameroon will likely get chances and Wang will need to be equal to the task.
Cameroon – Gaelle Enganamouit: One of the breakout stars of the World Cup, Enganamouit is hoping that on Saturday, the attention of her game matches the attention her hair has gotten. She has not been a prolific goal scorer for Cameroon in her international career thus far, but his size and athleticism should give China lots of trouble. Judging by her attitude in the group stages, she won’t wilt in the spotlight and having played a couple of seasons in Sweden, she has some big game experience many of her teammates do not.

Under-the-radar players:
China – Li Ying: This will be just her 14th cap for her country and she’s only 22, but Li has been the most skillful player for China in the group stages, and they are going to need her to not only keep the ball, but pick out her teammates. She stands to have some room to operate if Cameroon sticks to its open style, and on a team without many scoring options, Li may be the one to step up.
Cameroon – Christine Manie: The 31-year-old captain is listed at 5-foot-3, and she might not even be that tall, but she plays huge as both a severely undersized center back and leader for Cameroon. It was Manie who scored the winner over Ivory Coast in qualifying to put Cameroon in Canada, and she also has some big game experience, having played for Romanian champion Olympia Cluj, which also allowed her to participate in the UEFA Champions League.

“I am the only black player in Romania, and one of the only foreign ones,” Manie told FIFA. “It is true Romania is far from my country and my family, but I chose to do this job, that can bring you to every corner of the world. For the moment, I play in Romania, I don’t know where I will play next. Only God decides.”

As Julie Johnston has proven for the United States, a little guts can go a long way at the center back position.

Inside the numbers:
1 — Number of African teams to qualify for the knockout stages in World Cup history (1999 Nigeria). The continent also only had four wins in this tournament lifetime – two by that 1999 Nigerian team and none by debutant Cameroon, obviously – so this is a chance on the big stage not just for Cameroon, but largely underfunded African women’s soccer as well.

Random stat:
Cameroon outshot all three group stage opponents (Switzerland was close at 16-15, but they had a 20-4 edge on Japan), while China only had more shots than their opponent once (although that was an impressive 27-8 edge over the Netherlands).

Breaking it down:
It’s a fascinating contrast of styles with China playing very compact and lacking offensive talent with Cameroon preferring an open match and having several players (like Gabrielle Onguene who starred against Switzerland) that could give the organized Chinese defense trouble. However, it also breaks down fairly evenly once you take into account strengths and weaknesses.

Cameroon’s athleticism may be China’s biggest problem, they pretty much bullied Japan around in the second half (ending up with a 14-3 foul advantage, but also creating a few chances off Japanese mistakes. This is not to say aggressiveness = dirtiness, although Cameroon (after getting only one card each in its first two games) were given four yellows against Switzerland.

China, of course, had a sportsmanship controversy against New Zealand, when several players went down in the final 10 minutes and then head coach Hao Wei was removed from the touchline for interfering with a Ria Percival throw-in.

Many (with us included) have made comparisons between this Cameroon team and the 1990 men’s team that caught the world’s attention both with their results and style of play. In both occasions, most insiders figured Cameroon’s disorganization would eventually trump its entertaining and talented attacking play, but it really hasn’t been apparent thus far in Canada, with the possible exception of the first half against Japan. So China may beat them, but it probably won’t be due to a defensive meltdown.

In the end, this will be a remarkable quarterfinal appearance for one of these teams considering where they were four years ago, which is not at the World Cup. Making a call is one of those ever popular heart-head dilemmas, but the heart has its days.

Prediction: Cameroon 2-1 (AET)

Chelsea needs to wait “48 hours” to assess Mount

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Mason Mount‘s move from the Championship to the Premier League has been nearly seamless.

His adjustment to the Champions League was cut down too quickly to get an understanding of whether it would be too big of a jump.

[ MORE: Match recap | Barkley drama ]

Mount, 20, was chopped down by Valencia’s Francis Coquelin, the former Arsenal man, and had to leave the game after just 16 minutes.

Here’s Frank Lampard, from ChelseaFC.com:

“He’s got an ankle injury but we don’t know how bad it is. We’ll have to assess it in the next 48 hours to see the scale of the injury. It was a shame because he started the game well and it meant we had to make the change early on.”

Mount scored nine times with four assists on loan under Lampard at Derby County last season, and has already chipped in three goals for Chelsea this season.

Lampard turned to Pedro off the bench on Tuesday, but any lengthy absence for Mount will spell more time for American youngster Christian Pulisic.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday preview: Man City, Spurs debut

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns on very different results and with very different vibes.

City is coming off a stunning 3-2 loss to injury-hit Norwich City, and is set up in Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk for the third-straight season, a side which beat Pep Guardiola once in four tries between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in the UCL.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. wrap ]

But on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men are going to carry a similar feel to one of his old Barcelona teams, as Pep seemingly will have Fernandinho pull a Javier Mascherano and drop into the back line.

Yes, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are Manchester City’s hopes at center back, now that John Stones has joined Aymeric Laporte on the shelf.

“For me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge,” said Pep Guardiola. “But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players going to come back with Dinho, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis. … It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. We have to have 11 players on the pitch and I like it, to find a solution. For the players as well to find an incredible step forward.”

Spurs, meanwhile, will simply be trying to build on any momentum gained by a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win which came after manager Mauricio Pochettino begged his side to “re-focus” after a relatively poor start to the season.

Now a bit more relaxed, Spurs head to Greece as the clear favorites against stingy Olympiacos. These are, after all, the finalists of last season’s tournament.

Pochettino won’t be sleeping on the challenge, from The London Evening Standard:

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take our best game we are going to suffer. But last season we played in the final of Champions League, so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

Spurs are one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday.

Full UCL Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Tottenham Hotspur

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Dinamo Zagreb v. Atalanta
Bayern Munich v. Red Star Belgrade
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City

American coach Marsch speaks after landmark Champions League day

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Jesse Marsch made his UEFA Champions League debut on Tuesday, a historic first for not just the Wisconsin native but also his country.

Marsch, 45, oversaw Red Bull Salzburg’s 6-2 demolition of Genk, becoming the first American to win a UCL match as manager.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

“We knew we were going into the match full of confidence,” he said, via the Salzburg site. “We knew too that we could put in a performance of this quality. I wasn’t pleased with a few situations, such as conceding for 3-1. That shows our incredible mentality though as it prompted us to give a few more percent and immediately score two goals.”

The ex-New York Red Bulls manager and RB Leipzig assistant manager got another three goals from incredible 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who nows has 17 goals in nine matches this season.

“It is an absolute joy to work with this team. We have a lot of players who just know how to battle, and that rubs off on the others. You can see that on the pitch on nights like tonight.”

There will be tougher nights ahead for Marsch, who is in a group with Liverpool and Napoli, but Tuesday was a fine start for the tactician. And it was a banner moment for American coaches abroad, who’ve been led by past and present USMNT coaches Bob Bradley and Gregg Berhalter.

Maybe one day that’ll be Marsch’s title… but it seems like he may have some loftier ground to cover on his path through world soccer.

Klopp: Liverpool made wrong decisions; Penalty also incorrect

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is going to bat for his left back after Andrew Robertson gave away what became the decisive penalty in a 2-0 loss to Napoli in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it’s a penalty,” Klopp said. “What can I say, for me, it is clear and obvious no penalty. He jumps before any contact, we can’t change that.”

[ RECAP: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool ]

For what it’s worth: It sure seemed like both a foul on Robertson and a comical embellishment from Callejon, but we digress.

Liverpool just didn’t have it on the day, like when Sadio Mane played a terrible pass to Mohamed Salah on what could’ve been an easy 1-0 lead.

In the moments they did have it, there was Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret making a splendid save.

“We played a lot of good football but didn’t finish it off. We controlled moments but had not enough chances in the end. We made decisions that were not right and have to accept the result. It was very often the final ball that was not right.”

Also, forgive Klopp if he has stopped enjoying the beautiful country of Italy.