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)

Gold Cup: Mexico secures place in knockout round with win over Canada; Martinique over Cuba

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The Mexico National Team at the 2019 Gold Cup has been very focused on introducing inexperienced players into the squad, and yet, it was a veteran on Wednesday that reminded everyone how much he still has left in the tank.

Mexico captain Andres Guardado, who came off the bench for the injured Erick Gutierrez in the first half, scored a brace as Mexico held off a surging Canada late in the match. Guardado’s first goal was an absolute golazo from 30-yards out, while his second showcased his poise and calm in the box.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]

Mexico – as is custom for El Tri – controlled possession and looked very confident on the ball, zipping it around midfield and at times, playing on a faster speed than Canada, it seemed. However, with Canada sitting in a low defensive block, it took until the 40th minute for Mexico to get on the board through Roberto Alvarado finishing into an empty net after a big save from Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan.

Canada pushed higher up the field in the second half and seemed to be turning the tide before Guardado picked up a loose ball – and there may have been a foul on Canada – and el Principito unleashed a rocket that Borjan had no chance to keep out.

Canada made six changes in the starting lineup from its first game and it was the introductions of Scott Arfield, Jonathan Osorio and Jonathan David in the second half that began to get Canada back into the game. A mistake by centerback Nestor Araujo in the 75th minute, trying to be fancy with a Cruyff turn allowed David to advance down the Mexico goal on a breakaway. After a cutback, David played Luca Cavallini in the box and Cavallini scored to cut it to 2-1.

However, Guardado, and LA Galaxy winger Uriel Antuna, put the game away for good two minutes later. Antuna got around his defender and centered to Guardado. The wily midfielder took three Canada defenders out of the play with a quick touch to his right, before scoring a deflected goal off the post and in.

Earlier in the evening, Martinique recorded a dominant 3-0 victory over ten-man Cuba. Star striker Kevin Parsemain didn’t score, though he did play a role in Martinique’s third goal with an outstanding back-heel pass.

Copa America: Watch Newcastle’s Almiron sets up Paraguay opener with 60-yard sprint (video)

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For the second time in as many games, Argentina has allowed it’s opponent to score the first goal. This time, it has Miguel Almiron to thank.

Starting with a dummy that lead to a more than 60-yard sprint to the end-line, Almiron showcased his top-line speed, strength, and dribbling ability as he lead Paraguay down the field in transition, eventually crossing into the middle. It was there that Olimpia’s Richard Sanchez met the cross and sliced it home to put Paraguay up 1-0 in the first half.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]

Atlanta United fans saw plenty of that blazing speed during Almiron’s two years in the U.S. If Newcastle fans get to witness this in person more this coming season, Almiron will be a fan-favorite.

 

 

Transfer Roundup: Neymar to cost $337 million? Could Jorginho follow Sarri to Juve?

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Will he stay or will he go?

That’s the main question surrounding Neymar this summer. If reports out of France – and there are many – are to be believed, Neymar will have to stay.

[READ: Landon Donovan to lead USL franchise]

Le Parisien reported on Wednesday that if Neymar was to leave Paris Saint-Germain this summer, it would cost an insane $337 million (€300 million) in transfer fees. With that price, and UEFA Financial Fair Play rules, it pretty much rules out any club from Europe from signing the Brazilian star. Neymar has recently been linked with a move back to Barcelona, with $112 million and other players reportedly included in a deal from Barcelona to PSG.

There’s so many moving pieces involved in any case. Antoine Griezmann is expected to leave Atletico Madrid, with Barcelona the rumored destination. But if Neymar goes to Barcelona, could Griezmann head to PSG? Meanwhile PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi pretty much called out Neymar for some of his off the field – and on the pitch – antics, likely hurting their relationship.

So while it seems like Neymar – and PSG – may want the relationship to end, PSG won’t miss out on getting its money back.

Here’s more transfer stories from around Europe:


Jorginho to Juventus? 

Jorginho is to Maurizio Sarri like red wine is to a medium-rare steak. They just go great together.

With Sarri moving to Juventus, that raises the question that Jorginho, who moved with Sarri to Chelsea, could move back to Italy this summer. There’s plenty of reasons why it could make sense. Despite playing 56 times for the Blues, including helping lead them to the UEFA Europa League title, he took plenty of criticism from the media and fans for his lack of defensive ability. Fans were also upset with Sarri’s insistence of playing Jorginho at the 6, and not at the 6 or as part of a double pivot with N’Golo Kante. In Premier League games that Chelsea was undone, it was because Jorginho was overrun in midfield.

Jorginho meanwhile could go back to Italy, where he has citizenship, plays for the national team and enjoyed so much success with Napoli.

According to reports out of Italy, Jorginho’s agent said that the player is happy in London, but they would wait and see what happens next from Juventus.

“Chelsea have a four-year contract with the man,” Joao Santos said, via Football Italia. “We’ll wait a few days to figure out whether there is any truth in this interest mentioned in the papers. His past at Napoli won’t be an issue, because Jorginho is a professional. Right now, Jorginho is happy at Chelsea. He found a great atmosphere and we can’t really say that he’d like to go elsewhere, but anything can happen on the transfer market. We’ll wait and see…”

Follow Live: Mexico faces Canada in Gold Cup doubleheader nightcap

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From Mile High USA, Denver, Colo., the 2019 Gold Cup continues with a highly-anticipated matchup between Mexico and Canada.

El Tri is coming off a 6-0 rout of Cuba in the opener at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena last week, while Canada thrashed Martinique, 4-0 in its opener. All of which leads to Wednesday, when an up-start Canada faces a young and firing Mexico in the 10 p.m. ET nightcap.

[ LIVE: Latest Gold Cup scores ]

The LA Galaxy’s Uriel Antuna, a late addition to the squad, scored a hat-trick against Cuba and is one of the many young players getting their first chance to impress new Mexico coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino. Meanwhile, Canada is having a recent resurgence, with young stars Jonathan David, Alphonso Davies and Mark-Anthony Kaye all making an early impact.

Meanwhile, Cuba and Martinique now battle it out in the first match of the night from Denver at 8 p.m., with both sides hoping for three points and a chance to emerge from the group in third place. Cuba has already lost one player to asylum in the U.S., but it’s unclear what kind of impact that will have on the team.

Follow along with us on the link above and in the comments below.