2015 Women’s World Cup quarterfinal preview: Germany vs. France

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When: Friday, 4 p.m., EDT
Where: Olympic Stadium, Montreal
TV: NBCDeportes.com
Team records: Germany 3-0-1 (def. Sweden 4-1 in second round); France 3-1-0 (def. South Korea 3-0)
Best performance at World Cup: Germany 2003 & 2007 (champion); France 2011 (semifinalist)

Key players:
Germany – Babett Peter: With Saskia Bartusiak suspended thanks to FIFA’s (not so) popular yellow card rule, it’s likely Peter will be the one to take her place in the center of the German defense. It should not affect Germany as much as it would a less deep squad; Peter is 27 and has 91 caps of experience at the international level, and was a starter throughout the 2011 World Cup. She also started and played 90 minutes against Thailand, so she won’t be completely cold here. However, it’s been a while since Peter has featured as a starter for Silvia Neid, and making a change in the backline before such a big match can be tricky. The United States was in a similar position in the 2011 semifinals when Rachel Buehler was suspended (red card), and Becky Sauerbrunn filled in admirably against … France, of course.

[KASSOUF: China seeks ‘re-blooming of Steel Roses vs. U.S.]

France – Marie-Laure Delie: For some reason, Philippe Bergeroo kept Delie on the bench for not one but two matches in the group stage (she did come on as a sub in one), but Delie still leads France in goals (tied with Eugenie Le Sommer) and shots on goal. Germany’s defense has not really been tested in this tournament and with Bartusiak suspended, Delie may be ready to have a big Friday afternoon that could see France win the biggest game in its history.

Under the radar key players:
Germany – Alexandra Popp: Popp has starred everywhere she’s played since she was in Germany’s youth teams, but she hasn’t looked up to the task in this World Cup, most importantly where it matters most, in the final third. She has the size, strength, and left foot to score a key goal or two for Germany and they may need her to take the chances they set up for her in this one (she currently leads the team in shots with 18 but only seven have been on goal, just one has gone in).

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

France – Sarah Bouhaddi: She hasn’t had a whole lot to do, which unfortunately is often the case when France plays, and is not widely considered to be on the same level as the goalkeepers for the other favorites (USA’s Hope Solo and Germany’s Nadine Angerer). It’s not like she isn’t experienced — when she takes the field Friday in Montreal, it will be the 99th international cap for the 28-year-old. This could be her chance to make a name for herself, though, Germany will certainly test her and a couple of big saves in key spots could give France all the confidence they need to put themselves over the top and into the semifinals.

Inside the numbers:
2 — Competitive international losses for Germany dating back to 2008. One, of course, was to Japan in the 2011 World Cup and the other came in the group stage of Euro 2013 when they fell to Norway, a loss they avenged in the final (they, of course, did not qualify for the 2012 Olympics thanks to that 2011 Japan loss). Their record of titles is truly impressive: 2003 and 2007 World Cup champs to go with six straight European titles, and eight of nine (mysteriously, they have never even been to an Olympic gold-medal game). Germany was also undefeated in 2015 World Cup qualifying (it didn’t have to qualify in 2011 as hosts), and qualifying for both the 2009 and 2013 Euros. They just don’t lose very often.

Random stat:
France and Germany have somehow met only three times ever in competitive matches. They were in the same group in 2011 and Germany rolled to a 4-2 win, but the other two were worse: a 3-0 beating that eliminated them in the group stage of Euro 2005 and a 5-1 loss four years later in Finland (they did advance and lost in penalties to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals). That match could possibly be seen as the turning point for the French, until then they had qualified for just a single World Cup and weren’t even in the top echelon of Europe, let alone in Germany’s class. Six years later, here we are.

Breaking it down:
Although the two teams meeting this early is more than likely unfair, it’s hard to imagine a more mouthwatering match between any two teams in the world from a technical and tactical perspective (obviously a US-Canada final would be fascinating culturally, but probably not as compelling on the field). Germany has rolled through everyone, including Sweden in its last game, using high pressure and frightening opponents into mistakes, but they’re mistakes that the unflappable France rarely makes. So does Neid stick with the gameplan and take the chance of getting exposed? And can France crack them open if they do?

Tactically, Neid has a tough call. Dzsenifer Marozsan is on most people’s short list for best players in the world, but she was slightly injured coming into the tournament, and bringing her on in a 4-2-3-1 for Melanie Leupolz creates the dilemma that Jill Ellis has: Marozsan is not a natural holding midfielder and will likely go forward more. That would up Germany up for counters, but that is not really France’s strength, either, although Elodie Thomis could certainly be a one-person assassin with her speed.

Bergeroo has gone to a 4-4-2 for this tournament and while Amandine Henry has been fantastic, it’s a tough ask for her to try to help win the midfield 2 vs. 3 (with Camille Abily likely) against a team with the quality of Germany. If they are unable to, that will make Thomis and Louisa Necib defend for long periods of time, and that could spell doom for France, even though its defense has been excellent and is probably the more experienced of the two. Both teams love to get their outside backs forward in the attack, but against such a formidable opponent, will they be a little more cautious against the dreaded counter?

You excited for this one yet? In the minds of most people that watch a lot of women’s soccer, France is among the elite in the world. But the French would love a statement win to cement its place there, and give it a chance to grab its first world title. Its record in these recent games has not been good. In 2011, it was beaten by the United States 3-1. A year later at the Olympics, it was a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Japan in the semifinals, and in 2013, it was a brutal Euro quarterfinal loss to Denmark in penalties. In none of those matches did they keep a clean sheet, and while they have come so far in a short period of time, France has to feel its time is now.

Alas, even without Bartusiak, I think Germany just has too many weapons and is playing too well right now for this to be France’s time yet. Maybe next year in Brazil.

Prediction: Germany 2-1

Benfica boss: Man City’s Otamendi “could be involved in Dias transfer”

Dias to Man City
Photo by Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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Benfica boss Jorge Jesus expects Ruben Dias to skip town, likely to Manchester City, pending a last-minute turn of events.

He’s hoping that Nicolas Otamendi will head back the other way, validating rumors this week that City had been dangling the Argentine in a hope to land Dias or Sevilla back Jules Kounde.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news ]

Jesus saw academy grad and Portuguese national teamer Dias score in a 2-0 win over Moreirense on Saturday, a goal the defender described as emotional in a nod to a possible departure.

The manager admitted that a Dias sale became likely when Benfica bowed out of the UEFA Champions League and was drawn into a discussion on Otamendi, whose value is being challenged by his lack of import at the Etihad Stadium.

“Otamendi is a Manchester City defender who could be involved in the Ruben [Dias] transfer. He already showed his ability at FC Porto, he plays for Argentina and has been a regular starter most years at Manchester City.

“He has stopped starting now and if it hadn’t been for that, maybe he wouldn’t have been included in this possible transfer.

“Of course, he’s a player we’d like to have. The player who joins us will have to be understand that my ideas are completely different from those at Manchester City.”

So that’s something.

Dias would combine with Aymeric Laporte and/or Nathan Ake to continue City’s center back revolution. John Stones and Eric Garcia are also currently at City with Otamendi and last season’s makeshift center back Fernandinho.

Bamford nods Leeds past Blades in goalkeepers’ duel

Photo by ALEX LIVESEY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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Sheffield United – Leeds United: Patrick Bamford’s late goal gave Leeds an entertaining 1-0 win over Sheffield United in a day dominated by strong goalkeeping at Bramall Lane on Sunday.

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Leeds moves to 2W-1L on the season and keeps its first clean sheet after allowing seven goals through two matches.

Blades are now 0-3 and have not scored a goal.

3 things we learned: Sheffield United – Leeds United

1. (Mostly) Stymied! Leeds has been involved in two 7-goal thrillers and Blades were without two longtime starters at center back, so goals were on the menu. What was served? Enticing, small plates. The football was good but the finishing not there for most of the affair.

2. Bamford perseveres: Chance after chance came for Bamford, who looped a header over the goal and saw another good effort saved by Ramsdale before he pounded a header inside the far post with mere minutes to play.

3. Ramsdale shines: Blades goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was just okay last season with Bournemouth so it was a bit surprising to see the price tag attached to him. He looked the part on Sunday, making six saves including two inside of the box and would’ve been Man of the Match had Bamford not won their day-long duel.

Man of the Match


Sheffield United – Leeds United recap

Leeds was bright and ready, a dynamic long pass to Jack Harrison undone by a rough touch and Blades goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale making a save on an advanced Luke Ayling.

At the other end, John Lundstram hit a shot wide in the sixth minute to signal intent from the hosts.

Illan Meslier made a terrific save in the 29th when David McGoldrick’s cute flick to Lundstram was saved in the heart of the six.

Ramsdale made a good save on Stuart Dallas eight minutes later, both teams finding openings to shoot.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Bamford popped a header over the goal in the first half and challenged Ramsdale to win a corner in the 56th minute.

Basham cleared a Stuart Dallas chance off the line five minutes later, the opportunities certainly real and dangerous.

Bamford found his winner in the 88th, Leeds grabbing a second win on the season.

Tottenham – Newcastle United: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

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Tottenham – Newcastle United: Can Newcastle United score an upset against travel-weary Tottenham Hotspur in North London on Sunday (Watch live at 9 am ET Sunday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)?

Spurs have gone from London to Bulgaria to Southampton to Macedonia and are now back in London for Sunday’s match-up with a Newcastle team that surprised them at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium a little over a year ago.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Spurs bent Shkendija in Europa League play on Thursday, with Heung-min Son posting a goal and two assists over 90 minutes. Harry Kane and Giovani Lo Celso came off the bench in what could be a sign of Jose Mourinho’s intent for Sunday.

Newcastle has been off since Wednesday’s 7-0 demolition of 10-man League Two side Morecambe in the League Cup. Steve Bruce did the trick without fitness-question Allan Saint-Maximin as well as rested Jonjo Shelvey and Callum Wilson.


Here is everything you need to know ahead of Tottenham – Newcastle United this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.

Team news: Tottenham – Newcastle United (INJURY REPORT)

Sergio Reguilon makes the bench for Tottenham, but the big news is that Dele Alli has been left off the 18 altogether.

Miguel Almiron finally gets his place back in the Newcastle XI, but it’s only because electric winger Allan Saint-Maximin missed out through injury. Jamal Lewis (eye) makes the bench after a scary injury at the foot of Yves Bissouma, while Andy Carroll heads to the bench for Joelinton.

What they’re saying: Tottenham – Newcastle United

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho on Tanguy Ndombele’s 90 minutes versus Shkendija: “He played very well. Of course in a game where I can imagine our percentage of ball possession was very, very high and our percentage is high he feels obviously much more comfortable. However, even without the ball he had recovery, he had duels, he had defensive transition. It was a really positive game from Tanguy, really happy.

Newcastle’s Steve Bruce on meeting Spurs: “We can’t think we can go and play against the top teams and match them just in a game of football. We have to do something different, tactically. We did it well against the top teams last year. Let’s hope we can do the same again this year.”

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Newcastle United is not expected to get anything out of this, +600 to win and +360 to take a point compared to Tottenham’s -225 to win.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links

Prediction: Tottenham – Newcastle United

The Magpies can take some hope from Palace’s consecutive wins away to Manchester United, but Spurs should deliver the goods. Questions about Saint-Maximin’s fitness even if he does play ask even more, as does the fact that Steve Bruce has been keeping Miguel Almiron on the bench to start matches. Throw in Bruce versus Mourinho and it’s safe to expect Spurs to overcome their travel-weary legs and post a 3-1 win.

How to watch Tottenham – Newcastle United stream and start time

Kickoff: 9 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Former Huddersfield Town boss, USMNT striker Wagner fired by Schalke

Wagner sacked
Photo by Tim Rehbein/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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Lopsided defeats to Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen have cost former USMNT striker David Wagner his job as Schalke boss.

Wagner, 48, was fired Sunday after his league unbeaten run as Schalke manager reached 18 matches through a 3-1 loss to Bremen.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news ]

Schalke gave Wagner a little more time to right the ship after wobbling without a win over the final 16 matches of the 2019-20 season, going from fifth to 12th.

From a Schalke release:

“We had all hoped that we could improve on the pitch together with David Wagner. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen the right performances and results from the first two games of the season for this to happen,” explained Jochen Schneider, Head of Sport. “We have therefore decided to make a fresh start. Despite the disappointing results, this wasn’t an easy decision for us to make. I would like to thank David Wagner, Christoph Bühler and Frank Fröhling, who, up until their departure, have done everything they can to get Schalke back on track.”

The eight-times capped Wagner began his coaching career with good friend Jurgen Klopp and took his first managerial position at Borussia Dortmund II.

He was then hired by Huddersfield Town and led the Terriers to the Premier League, keeping them in the top flight for one season before leaving the club midway through their relegation-bound second season.

Hired in May 2019, Wagner and Schalke was third after 13 weeks last season, having drawn Revierderby rivals Dortmund and beaten RB Leipzig. But they sunk quickly and had a run of eight matches in which they scored just two goals.

It’s worth monitoring what’s next for Wagner. Back to the Terriers or a Championship side to test his promotion prowess? 2.Bundesliga for that matter?

His star might have appeared to dip due to this run but Schalke has had to deal with significant financial upheaval and sent Weston McKennie to Juve on a loan-to-buy and Daniel Cagliari to Augsburg. Young goalkeeper Alexander Nubel was also sold to Bayern and the only incoming moves were for Vedad Ibisevic and Goncalo Pacienca.

Another thing to note will be whether this is a positive or negative for young American midfielder Nick Taitague, who has battled injuries but had received first team training. The 20-year-old attacking midfielder has one goal in 10 appearances for Schalke II.