For Colombia, Women’s World Cup performance a chance to advance role of females in sports back home

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EDMONTON, Alberta – In the case of the Women’s World Cup, the hope is that bigger means better.

Much has been made of the tournament’s expansion from 16 to 24 teams for the first time this year. Many feared that the inclusion of eight additional teams in the group stage could bring blowouts. While there were a few lopsided results, matches were largely entertaining and most were pretty close. Even some expected duds, like Thailand vs. Ivory Coast in a matchup of debutantes, turned out to be thrilling.

And now the games have more meaning than ever. Colombia is in the knockout stage of a major international women’s tournament for the first time. Las Cafeteras’ (the coffeemakers’) reward? A match against world No. 2 USA in the Round of 16 on Monday.

“For me it’s really exciting because it’s a game I played in my head a thousand times,” said Colombia goalkeeper Catalina Perez, a rising redshirt sophomore at the University of Miami. “It’s what kind of has motivated me throughout my career, so I’m very excited. I really respect and admire everyone on this team because we all have a winning mentality, because our dreams are bigger than our fears. I’m very excited to step on the field with them and play the United States.”

That bold attitude is newfound among a Colombia team whose words this week have drawn headlines. Colombia players claim that the Americans “belittle” them and that the U.S. has disrespected Colombia. The Americans said they’ve done nothing of the sort and they remain perplexed by Colombia’s comments.

Colombia forward Yoreli Rincon said Sunday that the Americans “don’t have the heart that we Colombians have. She is

“We came with great expectations we want to make headway into the future we want to have a new league in our country,” Rincon said.

[KASSOUF: Colombia’s claims of trash-talking leave US women perplexed]

This sense of confidence from Colombia players did not previously exist. Much of that confidence stems from advancement to the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time and the sense that what they are doing is bigger than them.

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Colombian goalkeeper Catalina Perez. (Getty Images)

Colombia’s run at the Women’s World Cup – which thus far includes a win over world No. 3 France in one of the biggest upsets in women’s soccer history – is paving a path to make women’s soccer acceptable in still machismo countries like so many in Latin America and Africa.

The 20-year-old Perez, who could see time against the United States on Monday in the Round of 16 of the World Cup, since starter Sandra Sepulveda is suspended, said she didn’t even know that Colombia had a national team for women before the team’s recent relative successes at the 2011 World Cup and 2012 Olympics. She grew up in Florida after being born in Colombia.

But now, Perez is part of a Colombia squad inspiring little girls back home. She said sees the messages from kids and fans on social media. The hope is that there will be a cultural change in how women in sport are viewed in Colombia, which is the last-standing South American team in this tournament after Brazil’s upset loss on Sunday.

“I see it changing a lot,” Perez said. “In the past few years it has been very difficult. It’s been something that wasn’t seen too much, but I feel like we’re opening a new path for that, for all of soccer to grow in Colombia. I feel like it is more than just a game to us. I feel like we can really be the generation that makes soccer acceptable and bring a lot of opportunities to Colombian girls.”

[MORE: How a 50-50 ball changed fates of Australia, Brazil in historic upset]

Colombia coach Fabian Taborda, 36, says he grew up in a time of antiquated thinking. Parents did not think it was acceptable for girls to play sports and those females who did were harassed. Those issues persist today, but views of women’s roles in sports are changing in Colombia and other countries.

“It’s not about gender,” Taborda said through a translator. “It’s not about a man or a woman. It’s about sport and it’s about the passion that people can feel about football, and the passion that football represents for the whole world.”

Colombia is not alone in its fight for equality. Spain is a team that participated in its first Women’s World Cup this year. Players viewed advancing from the group stage as a way to earn respect back home and stimulate social change to start making soccer acceptable for women. Spain missed out on the knockout stage, but all 23 players penned a letter following the team’s exit that demanded a coaching change. Ignacia Quereda has been in charge of the team for 27 years.

[MORE: Complete coverage of 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup]

Five of the 16 teams to make the knockout stage did so for the first time at a Women’s World Cup, including Cameroon, only the second African nation to ever advance out of the group stage (Nigeria in 1999).

Cameroon narrowly lost, 1-0 to China on Saturday to miss out on a berth in the quarterfinals. But the team’s appearance in the Round of 16 – as second-place finishers in Group C behind reigning world champions Japan – was mildly surprising and inspiring for its country – inspiring enough to maybe be cause for change in how women in sport are viewed.

“It is quite complicated in Africa. At times, they don’t allow women to play football,” Cameroon coach Enow Ngachu said prior to Saturday’s match. “But I want to assure you that with the results we’ve been having, just today I received over 50 messages of young girls interested in playing soccer. So I’ve given them appointment when I come back home.”

Like anything in life, experience is paramount. Ngachu said after his team’s loss to China that he and the players have learned a lot.

“You must always believe in your dream,” he said. “We are believing in our dream. I want to say that the game against Japan had a positive influence on the Cameroonian squad. After that game, we started believing our dream. If we could play like that against Japan, the current champion, why not the others?”

The Women’s World Cup’s expansion to 24 teams has countries like Colombia and Cameroon dreaming for the first time. And with the seeds planted for future success, it could mean new opportunities for girls in countries where soccer has long been viewed as a man’s game.

“Girls that dedicate so much of their lives to it are actually having a good life and succeeding,” Perez said. “I feel like that is making the difference.”

On Monday, Colombia gets a chance to play out the big game against the United States in real life, not in anyone’s head. But the match could mean wonders inside the head of the young girls watching back home.

Report: Edinson Cavani set to join Inter Miami next summer

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Edinson Cavani is reportedly set to make a big splash in Florida.

According to Uruguayan journalist Alvaro Izquierdo, Cavani, 32, is set to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami next summer. The club will make their MLS debut next season.

The specifics of the supposed move are not know, but per the report from Izquierdo, Cavani will join Miami on a free transfer after his contract with PSG expires in June. Since joining in 2013, El Matador has been irreplaceable for the French giants, scoring over 160 goals and becoming the club’s all-time leading goalscorer. This season, Cavani is off to a perfect start -scoring in the first two games of the Ligue 1 season.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The striker is one of the first superstars linked to Miami, but the general vibe given off by owners Jorge Mas and Beckham is that the club will look to spend big – similar to Atlanta United, LAFC and LA Galaxy.

Miami has signed three players so far ahead of their 2020 MLS debut – Christian Makoun, Julian Carranza, and Matias Pellegrini all currently makeup the squad.

‘But hey this is MLS’: Wayne Rooney slams MLS’ travel arrangements

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Wayne Rooney is not a fan of MLS’ travel arrangements.

D.C. United lost 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday in Canada, and had to fly back to the nation’s capital before prepping for a midweek showdown with visiting New York Red Bulls. To the 33-year-old Englishmen the trip should’ve taken six hours, not half a day.

MLS is notoriously known for the lack of charter flights it offers its teams, a mere four per season is the reported amount each team is allocated. Traveling on commercial flights has caused routine delays for a slew of team’s this season, with certain teams arriving only hours before the first whistle in some cases.

Players, however, will reportedly push for better travel in the upcoming CBA negotiations. Not only for Rooney, but for the majority of professional athletes around the world, flying charter is customary.

Upon his arrival to D.C. in 2018, Rooney turned down first-class flights offered by the Black-and-Red, among other fine accommodations. “If you are going to be part of the team, you have to be part of the team,” Rooney said on his decision to reject first-class flights and private hotel rooms. “All in and do the same things. I don’t want special treatment — I wanted to be treated the same as the players. I’m part of this team.”

Rooney, despite being on his way out of D.C. to join Derby County in January, is certainly a part of the team.

He is also now a part of the complex fight for better travel in MLS.

Vela scores 24th, LAFC clinches playoff berth

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SANDY, Utah (AP) – Carlos Vela scored his MLS-leading 24th goal of the season, Tyler Miller had four saves and Los Angeles FC beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Saturday night to clinch a playoff berth.

LAFC played a man down after defender Walker Zimmerman, who was shown a yellow card for time wasting in the 17th minute, was given a red for unsporting behavior in the 48th., Real Salt Lake’s Aaron Herrera, who blocked two would-be goals in the first half, was shown a straight red for denial of a goal scoring opportunity on Vela, who then converted from the spot to make it 1-0 in the 64th minute.

Vela, whose 15 assists are tied with Diego Valeri of the Portland Timbers for the league lead, broke the MLS record for combined goals and assists. Sebastian Giovinco’s had 22 goals and 16 assists for Toronto FC in 2015.

Miller has eight shutouts this season for LAFC (18-3-4), who have won four consecutive games and seven of their last eight dating to June 28.

Adama Diomande side-netted a rising right-footer to cap the scoring in the 82nd minute.

Salt Lake (12-10-4) had its six-game unbeaten streak, including three straight wins, snapped and allowed multiple goals for the first time since a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on June 1.

Lampard: ‘We need more personality’

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Frank Lampard‘s baptism of fire as Chelsea boss continued on Sunday, as the Blue coughed up a 1-0 lead and were lucky to draw at home against Leicester City.

[ MORE: Pulisic watch. How did he do?

After being hammered at Manchester United in their opening PL game last weekend, then losing to Liverpool on penalty kicks in the Super Cup final in Istanbul on Wednesday, Chelsea started superbly against Leicester but only led 1-0 thanks to academy graduate Mason Mount scoring his first goal for the club.

Speaking to our partners Sky Sports after the game, Lampard revealed he was not happy at all with the second half display and urged his young side to show more personality on the pitch.

“It was a really good start, fantastic, and we could’ve been two or three goals up. We were quick, bright, energetic, then we allowed Leicester back in the game and in the second half I was not very happy, we offered them too many chances on the counter attack,” Lampard said. “We can only look at ourselves. In all our matches I have been delighted in big passages of having the ball but we didn’t have enough angles or options to keep the ball moving. We have to have more personality, we saw that in midweek, but today we didn’t have that.”

The most disappointing thing for Lampard will be the way Leicester grabbed hold of the game in the second half.

Brendan Rodgers‘ side launched counter after counter as Jorginho and N’Golo Kante were overrun in midfield by James Maddison and Youri Tielemans, and both Maddison and Jamie Vardy should have won the games for the Foxes.

“You can attack, but still be in positions to not allow the counter-attack,” Lampard added. “I’m not here to play great attacking football and then concede counter-attack goals. We need to show more than we did. I was under no illusions that there would be moments like this. We have to work on the pitch on the things we can improve.”

Lampard is spot on with his assessment, but how does he change things?

The most obvious thing is that he needs his team to be more consistent. They’ve started their last three games fast but failed to make the most of big chances and have been made to pay for that with some sloppy passing in midfield.

It is still early days for Lampard in his first season as a PL boss, while many of his youngsters are also finding their feet in the top-flight. Chelsea’s fans will stay patient but the fact that have yet to grab a win shows there is plenty of work to do but the Blues have shown flashes of brilliance, usually at the start of games.

Having a consistent lineup is one thing, but Lampard now needs his players to be brave, show their personality and stand tall for the cause as he ushers in his new era. Too many of them went missing in the second half against Leicester at Stamford Bridge, which will be more than a little concerning for the Chelsea legend.