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.

source: Getty Images
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.

USMNT striker Sargent out for rest of 2019

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American forward Josh Sargent will be shut down for the rest of 2019 thanks to a groin injury.

Werder Bremen said the injury first arose during USMNT duty and has bothered the 19-year-old in recent weeks.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Sargent has two goals and three assists in 13 matches this season, playing mostly a center forward or primary striker role.

Here’s Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt:

“Since this is a small, deep-set muscle, the problems only occur at certain, very specific loads, which is why he was able to play and train for so long with problems. We will now give Josh’s injury time to properly heal, then he will get back to training in January.”

There are four more match days in the Bundesliga before the league goes on holiday break until mid-January.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 15

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The congested schedule means we’ve had two match days since we last took stock of the Premier League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

We’ve got a brand new Top Five (well, in terms of the four behind eventual champions Liverpool) and two teams dipping to season lows on our ol’ litmus test.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — As many losses as goals (9), and that figure is one more than the Hornets’ total points. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them on the verge of full-time manager No. 3, as full-time manager of Watford is a bit more like seasonal help.
Last week: 18
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

19. Everton — A top half team in terms of talent seeks the manager who can organize its way out of the drop zone. Might it be this guy? Better than the alternatives.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Leicester City

18. Norwich City — The first team to 10 losses is four points shy of 17th.
Last week: 16
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-0 at Everton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Arsenal

17. West Ham United — A gigantic ball of “blah.” Should thank Everton for existing so people aren’t more focused on this particular collection of currently squandered talent.
Last week: 20
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-2 v. Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Bournemouth — It’s just not good enough, is it? To have held onto Callum Wilson and get another step up in class from Philip Billing and still be so wildly inconsistent.
Last week: 11
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Wolves
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Spurs

15. Southampton — It really feels like the Danny Ings revival show could rival any story for the best individual one in the league this season. Happy to see Ralph Hasenhuttl get some good performances, as he was being scapegoated in a hurry.
Last week: 19
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

14. Aston Villa — Allowing a league-worst 18.8 shots per game, but staying in the mix thanks to Tom Heaton and Tyrone Mings.
Last week: 13
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Newcastle United
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Arsenal — The Gunners back line gets a lot of heat, and rightly so, but maybe a little help from the midfield would be nice considering Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz have combined for 39 blocks. Sokratis is third in the PL and Luiz fourth.
Last week: 12
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Drew 2-2 v. Southampton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Norwich City


12. Brighton and Hove Albion — First win ever away to Arsenal is another feather in the cap of Graham Potter, especially nice considering they had lost four on the bounce.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

11. Newcastle United — No one is punching above its weight more than Steve Bruce‘s Magpies, and they’ve been aided in a big way by Martin Dubravka. The Slovakian goalkeeper has a league-best 44 saves from shots inside the 18.

Also, according to Understat’s xG numbers, they should’ve lost to the Blades. In fat, the xG table says they should be dead last. Life’s funny like that. It’s Steve Bruce’s world and we’re living in it.
Last week: 15
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Aston Villa
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Man City

https://understat.com/match/11786

10. Sheffield United — Just lost for the first time since September. That’s amazing.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 3-3 v. Manchester United
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

9. Burnley — Striker Chris Wood has been credited with 12 “big chances missed” by Sofascore, more than any player in the league.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 3-0 at Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. Saturday v. Crystal Palace

8. Spurs — Jose Mourinho learned Wednesday that Moussa Sissoko is nice for the squad, but not to be leaned on.
Last week: 9
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 3-2 at West Ham United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

7. Crystal Palace — Wilfried Zaha‘s 68 dribbles are 13 more than anyone else in the league.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

6. Manchester United — Ole had himself a moment in outfoxing Mourinho without Pogba or Martial.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 3-3 at Sheffield United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. Sunday v. Aston Villa

5. Chelsea — We told you, Frank. WE TOLD YOU.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

4. Manchester City — Aymeric Laporte is still two months away and that’s two months too long.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle United

3. Wolves — This is going to sound nuts, but there are days I’d rather see Liverpool on my schedule than Wolves. The Reds are obviously better weaponized, but Wolves come at you in waves, man, and Nuno Espirito Santo is doing it without his best center back.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Bournemouth
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Sheffield United

2. Leicester City — How’s this for an unsustainable stat? Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira rank first and second in the league in tackles, with 67 and 62.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton
1. Liverpool — Big Virgil Van Dijk is on track to become the first Premier League player to complete 1000 passes this season, currently at 953.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Brighton and Hove Albion

Report: Everton targeting former Porto, Fener boss Pereira

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Everton might be looking to the Chinese Super League for its next manager.

Vitor Pereira is the top target for the Merseyside set, report our partners at Sky Sports, as the Toffees begin life after Thursday’s firing of Marco Silva.

Pereira, 51, has been in management since 2002, leading Porto, Olympiacos, Fenerbahce, and current club Shanghai SIPG amongst others.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

He’s won titles in Greece, China, Saudi Arabia, and his native Portugal, but there are suitors beyond the Toffees’ reported interest.

The 51-year-old is currently one of the highest paid coaches in the world and was recently offered the job of managing the Chinese national team.

It is understood he is currently considering a new contract offer from Shanghai, which will guarantee he earns £30m a year.

Duncan Ferguson is the interim boss as Everton hosts Chelsea this weekend.

MLS teams no longer will play every opponent each season

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NEW YORK (AP) Major League Soccer is breaking away from soccer’s tradition of having each team play every opponent in its league.

MLS is expanding to 26 teams in 2020 with the additions of Miami and Nashville but will keep a 34-game regular-season schedule. A team will play each of its 12 conference opponents home and away, and will face only 10 of the 13 teams in the other conference.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Nashville opens Feb. 29 at home against Atlanta and David Beckham’s Inter Miami starts March 1 at Los Angeles, the league said Thursday in announcing all home openers. Defending champion Seattle opens March 1 against Chicago.

Other Feb. 29 openers are Colorado at D.C., New England at Montreal, LA Galaxy at Houston, Toronto at San Jose, Philadelphia at Dallas, Salt Lake at Orlando and Kansas City at Vancouver. Games the following day include New York City at Columbus, Cincinnati at New York Red Bulls and Minnesota at Portland.

Home openers on March 7 are Chicago at New England, Red Bulls at Salt Lake, NYC at Toronto, Cincinnati at Atlanta, Houston at Kansas City, Orlando at Colorado and Vancouver at LA Galaxy. Four more home openers are set for March 14: Dallas at NYC, LA Galaxy at Miami, D.C. at Cincinnati and San Jose at Philadelphia.

The final home openers are Red Bulls at Minnesota on March 15 and Atlanta at Chicago on March 21 as the Fire return downtown to Soldier Field, their home from 1997-2005. The played in suburban Bridgeview from 2006 through last season.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports