2015 Women’s World Cup quarterfinal preview: Canada vs England

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Vancouver, B.C – Canada and England know each other quite well as they get set to play in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. The Commonwealth Countries have met in the Cyprus Cup in each of the previous three tournaments. The Lionesses prevailed in 2015, 2014, and 2013 by scores of 1-0, 2-0, and 1-0. A Sophie Schmidt wonder-goal helped Canada gain the upper-hand most recently during an international friendly on May 29, in Hamilton Ontario. For the most part England have owned Canada.

Desiree Scott couldn’t be more excited for what is about to take place.

“I’m excited for it, I think it’s going to be an absolute battle out there. We’re one win away from a semi-final. England’s going to be going for it and so are we. It’s going to be a good match.”

Players on both sides are on friendly terms and get on well with one and other. Desiree Scott plays her club football with Notts County Ladies and will be facing four possible teammates on the pitch. Jodie Taylor has looked to find her form after knee surgery in April. The Portland Thorns player could possibly be looking at teammates Christine Sinclair, Kaylyn Kyle and Rhian Wilkinson on the other side of the half. Goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain played for the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2010. The ties between these teams run deep and will have to be put on hold for 90 minutes.

[ WATCH LIVE on NBCDeportes.com ]

There is a growing rivalry between Canada and England. Desiree Scott senses it as well, but won’t put it as high up on the ladder of a U.S. vs Canada rivalry. The Winnipeg, native is looking forward to a good fight against some of her clothes friends.

“Yeah I think it’s a little bit there. I don’t think it’s as strong as the U.S.A. vs Canada rivalry, but I definitely think it’s going to be going out there for that W and putting in a good fight.”

Ellen White will be looking to dribble around her Notts County teammate, The Destroyer. Not only do Canada and England seem to meet at each and every Cyprus Cup, but it was Canada that knocked out Team Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympics. White has not forgotten as she and her teammates will use that for an extra bit of revenge if they are victorious.

“Yeah, yeah that’s true. We have played each other numerous times in the Cyprus Cup and it’s kind of we’ve beaten them, and they’ve beaten us a couple of times as well. Yeah I think their might be a little bit of a rivalry for those that were involved in Team GB. Obviously still got that in the back of our minds. A little bit of revenge again them for those players that played. It’s going to be a massive game for us and obviously for them being on home soil in Canada, it will be a big game for them.”

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

The pressure on Canada is enormous. The home country has received support from coast to coast. Fans have been stopping John Herdman and players on the street to wish them congratulations and to thank them for playing so well. The added pressure is not something Mark Sampson and England will have to face. Canada squarely has the pressure pointed at them. 

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England captain Ellen White will take on her Notts County teammate Desiree Scott when England meets Canada in the quarterfinals today.

White, the 26 year-old striker gave an assessment on how she see the Red and White.

“Obviously they’ve got a lot of pressure with the whole of Canada watching them. I think they’ve probably grown as the tournaments go on. Gained confidence and momentum. I think they’ve got some very good players. Very good attacking player and they’re good defensively. It’s going to be a difficult game for us, but we know each other quite well. It’s going to be a very exciting game and it’s a semi-final at stake. It’s a big, big game.”

Coaches Mark Sampson and John Herdman both hail from the United Kingdom. Sampson from Wales and Herdman from the Northeast of England in Consett. Both Managers have done wonders for their respective programs since taking over. Canada and England players are motived and finally working and playing in a positive environment where they can thrive. The 32 year-old Sampson talked about his relationship with Sampson and how positive the coaching fraternity is in women’s football.

“I think to be honest, the international coaching scene is a real positive environment. A lot of the coaches we obviously play against each other. With Canada, we play against each other on a pretty regular basis. To play each other for the 4th time in 18 months is incredible, really. Considering it’s an international fixture program. I’ve got a huge amount of respect for John. He’s done an excellent job with the Canadian team. The team certainly reflects John as a coach, as a person. Very competitive, highly organized and determined. He’s certainly going to put a team out that makes our job very very difficult to win tomorrow. I’ve seen him around and of course we’re going to bump into each other in the hotel. Clearly he’s gone a bit more quiet over the last few days with a big game coming up. Certainly we’ll shake hands and wish each other the best, whichever team progresses.”

Scott and her Notts County teammates have kept in touch during the World Cup by sending texts back and forth. A group of Canadian players got together and watched the Norway vs England match. While they may be chatty and friendly most of the time. The focus is on winning and making it to the semi-finals in Edmonton against Japan or Australia on Canada Day. The former University of Manitoba Bison might just be putting her phone away for a bit leading up to the match.

“Shot them a final text. We’ve been texting through the group stages wishing each other good luck. Now that we’re playing each other, okay, that’s all that we’re going to hear from each other. See you Saturday, it’s game on.”

Can the same be said for Ellen White?

“We’ve got kind of group chat with Notts County wishing everybody good luck. I think once it comes into Canada or England we’ll push aside that and go for our own countries. Desi’s been playing great for Canada and she’s been doing really good. Hopefully she’ll be fit and healthy coming back to Notts County. Coming onto the pitch now, Canada against England. We’ll just put all that friendship aside just for that 90 minutes and see who comes out on top.”

A crowd of 52,000 is expected at BC Place to watch Canada vs England. The Lionesses will be prepared for an atmosphere that will almost certainly be cheering against them. The majority of the crowd in Montreal to watch Colombia vs England, was dressed in yellow kits cheering on Colombia. England have faced partisan crowds before and won’t be worried about it. Mark Sampson has readied his team for all sorts of playing conditions, if they aren’t set to come out of the tunnel and get going after “God Save The Queen”  is played, then it just might not be their day. The England gaffer has his team ready for the big match.

“We’ll it’s not just 55,000 people. We’ve found that out the last couple of days, I think it’s a whole nation hoping for one result.   Let’s not forget they’re a whole bunch of people back in England that really want this team to do well and be successful. We’ve already inspired a nation in terms of our performance in this tournament and results. We’re hoping we can keep that journey going with a big performance tomorrow. The players will be prepared. One of the objectives from the start was to make sure the players have as many different experiences as possible. Big crowds, small crowds, sunny days,  cold wet, windy days. Strong opponents, weaker opponents, must win games, friendly matches. These players have been through all of that and we’ve played in front of 45,000 at Wembley. We’ll be prepared for tomorrow, players are really excited by the challenge. If you asked them 10 years ago, if they want to play in front of nobody like they were, or in front of fifty odd thousand in a World Cup quarter-final. I know what their answer would be.”

The England veteran, White sees her team improving and gaining momentum with each and every day of the World Cup. The key will be controlling the match and making sure they don’t give up the ball wastefully. Playing Canada with the support of the crowd will be a tough test. England not making mistakes and dictating the play will help them tempo wise, according to White.

“I think for us, we’ve grown really well in this tournament. We’ve gained a lot of momentum, a lot of confidence. I think our attacking style has been really good. We’ve had numerous players scoring from different positions, I think that’s really helped us. I think pressing the Canadians, that will be key for us and being on top of the tempo in the game, and keeping hold of the ball really. I think it’s going to be very hot so that will be key. We’ve got a very fit team, a competitive team and we’ve got fantastic players that can really change games. I think it’s going to be a big, big 90 minutes and hopefully we can do the business.”

Canada vs England should be a cracker. Both teams know each other well. Whichever team can get off to a quick start and present a few tricks up their sleeves should earn a date in Edmonton for the semi-finals. The talk is over, time to play.

Report: USMNT keeper Steffen to be Man City No. 2 next season

Zack Steffen Man City
(Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
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United States men’s national team starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen will not be loaned by Manchester City next season, according to ESPN.

Steffen, 25, is set to back up Ederson for Pep Guardiola’s side next season after a year on loan to Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga.

Steffen needed the loan because he had not yet qualified for a work permit in the United Kingdom. Instead, he starred in plenty of games for promoted Fortuna before suffering a nagging knee injury. Fortuna was relegated to 2.Bundesliga on the final day of the season.

[ MORE: Man City sets a very Pep record ]

There were rumors earlier this year that Claudio Bravo might head for New York City FC in MLS in order to make way for Steffen.

The 17-times capped USMNT bolted for Freiburg in Germany after making his name at the University of Maryland. He returned to the U.S. and became a star with savvy penalty-stopping ability with now-USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter and the Columbus Crew.

Guardiola has usually given his No. 2 plenty of time to shines in cup matches, and City expects to compete for every trophy it can. If the club’s European ban is upheld, however, there will far fewer matches on the schedule for the serial Champions League qualifier.

Sheffield United – Chelsea preview: How to watch, start time, stream, prediction

Sheffield United - Chelsea preview
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Sheffield United – Chelsea preview: Frank Lampard’s Chelsea begins life defending third place on the Premier League table when it visits Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday (Watch Live at 12:30 pm ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues’ 60 points are one more than Leicester City and two clear of old rivals Manchester United.

Also of interest to Chelsea and USMNT fans: The Blues have posted a 20-minute video of every Christian Pulisic touch since Project Restart began earlier this Summer.

Sheffield United beat Wolves at midweek to pull within a point of sixth-place. If Blades stumble, there are three teams within a win of pushing them back beneath the Europa League places.

STREAM SHEFFIELD UNITED – CHELSEA LIVE


Team news

Billy Gilmour is a doubt for Chelsea while Mateo Kovacic is back in training and could be available to Frank Lampard. N’Golo Kante remains out and Jorginho may get a Starting XI recall on Saturday.

John Fleck, Luke Freeman, and John Lundstram are out for Sheffield United while David McGoldrick is a question mark.

What they’re saying

Blades boss Wilder to our own JPW after a 1-0 win over Wolves: “We like to think we’ve brought something in terms of our attitude and our performances to get the results that we’ve got. We had a stretched squad and really had to dig in to get a result. I don’t think you get the result and the performance tonight if you haven’t got something with the ball and I think we did have something with the ball and out of it everybody did a job and tried to stop a very, very talented side from gaining momentum and dominating us. Second half, especially, we looked and it felt like we were really desperate to go and get a winner. Regardless of how late its come, we’ve been rewarded for that attitude.”

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard on Christian Pulisic earning Eden Hazard comparisons: “Having played with Eden, he had special talent straight away and draws players towards him to open up space to others. Christian is more direct. He has the ability to break a line and run forward which is a great trait in the modern game. Why I shy away from it the other night is because Eden has been here and done it over a period of time to an incredible level. Christian has it in his hands to make a real impact over time. It’s great to see him [doing well] but there’s a lot of development to come. Christian is taking responsibility to change games.”

Odds and ends (Full matchweek odds here)

The Blades are +575 underdogs according to DraftKings, with Chelsea -167.

A two-goal game for Tammy Abraham was only enough for a Chelsea point at Stamford Bridge when the sides met in a 2-2 draw earlier this season.

Prediction

Chelsea’s had one more days’ rest than the Blades and that seems plenty given the congestion this time of year. Give the Blues a 2-1 win.

How to watch Sheffield United – Chelsea

Kickoff: 12:30 pm ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBC
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Man United’s fear factor, title hopes return

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Manchester United have regained their fear factor since ‘Project Restart’ arrived.

The Red Devils beat Aston Villa 3-0 to become the first team in Premier League history to win four consecutive games by a margin of three of more goals.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Manchester United is an attacking juggernaut once again with Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford firing on all cylinders.

They are 17 games unbeaten in all competitions and this run means they are two points off third place and one point off fourth-place Leicester (who they play on the final day) as their quest for the Champions League looks likely to be successful.

Speaking after the game, Paul Pogba told Sky Sports that challenging for the Premier League has to be the standard Manchester United sets for itself.

After the win at Villa, ProSoccerTalk asked Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for his reaction to those comments.

“I’m sure Man United will mount a challenge and get back to winning the league. When that is going to happen, that is up to every single person here and how quickly we can make this process go. We are definitely improving as a team, developing but we have to remember we’ve come a long way in one season. Let’s just take Paul’s words into the dressing room and expect and demand more from each other every single day,” Solskjaer said.

This team is brimming with confidence and hunger, as they’ve scored 100 goals in all competitions this season and have playmakers and forwards who are creating 10 or 15 chances every game and have a largely sturdy defense.

When Manchester United turn up to play an opponent, there is now an inevitability they will win. Solskjaer knows all about that fear factor from his playing days, but does he feel other teams now fear them again?

“I don’t know about how teams feel when they want to play us but we scored three today and talking about goal difference, the defenders have done their job. We created chances and could have scored three, four or five more. Of course, you are happy with the way we create chances but we need to be more clinical though,” Solskjaer told ProSoccerTalk.

“Coming into half time 2-0 up, I don’t think our performance warranted a 2-0 lead but I thought second half we played really well. Of course we had the game where we wanted. They had to press and leave gaps and space but it is not easy, there is game after game  after game. We have to keep doing the right things on the pitch and off the pitch.”

Manchester United could easily finish this season by winning eight of their final nine games and it is these results against teams they ‘should’ be beating that will make the difference. Yes, they have a long way to go to reach the levels of Liverpool and Manchester City but they are on that path and making progress.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired the fear factor around Man United disappeared. Almost overnight teams felt like they could beat them, and did, under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

There have been shock defeats under Solskjaer too, but this feels different now. This feels different to brief winning spells and FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League trophies won under LVG and Mourinho.

This Man United side is relentless and Solskjaer not only wants to keep winning, but keep scoring goals too.

“We could have scored many, many more goals and we keep keeping clean sheets. We go into every game wanting to win. If you win 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0, it doesn’t matter, you get the points. Hopefully the goal difference won’t be the deciding factor in the end because we should have had 10 more goals the last few games,” Solskjaer said.

With Leicester City to come on the final day of the season in what could be the pivotal clash in deciding whether or not the qualify for the Champions League, the hunger and belief is evident among the Manchester United squad based on Pogba’s reaction.

“We are really pleased with ourselves but know we have to carry on. We talked before the game, we talked in training that we have to carry on. That’s what Manchester [United] is it is a big club. We want to keep the level up, always, and the performance today and the past few weeks, they are very good and they are the standards of Manchester United,” Pogba said. “We didn’t win the Premier League and that is the goal. We didn’t win anything this year. We have to keep working and there is a lot to do. A lot.”

Pogba: Manchester United hoping to win FA Cup, Europa League

Aston Villa - Manchester United recap
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Paul Pogba and Manchester United are cruising through matches and sending a message to the Premier League.

The Red Devils won by three-or-more goals for the fourth-straight match, something that hasn’t been done in the history of the PL, and moved within a point of fourth place thanks to a 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa at Villa Park on Thursday.

[ RECAP: Aston Villa 0-3 Man Utd ]

Injured for most of the year, Pogba scored his first goal of the season in the win. He’s been looking tremendous in the midfield since returning from the coronavirus pause, and has even triggered hope that he’ll sign a new long-term deal with United.

Pogba was asked how he’s feeling about his time at Old Trafford and where it may run:

“Right now I’ve been injured for a very long time,” Pogba said. “I focused on myself to get back and help the team as much as I can. This year I have two goals, to go for the Europa League and the FA Cup so we focus on that.”

United faces Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinal and has one foot, well, most of its body in the Europa League quarterfinals.

The Frenchman says it’s good that the Red Devils are playing as well as they have been, but he’s not getting carried away with accolades.

ASTON VILLA – MANCHESTER UNITED FULL MATCH REPLAY

“We didn’t win the Premier League,” he said. “That’s the goal. We didn’t win anything this year so obviously we have to keep working. There’s a lot to do.”

Pogba thinks United can achieve all of their season goals regardless of what the top four chasers do, but cautioned that the Red Devils cannot ignore their poor start to Thursday’s win.

“We are our own enemy. We have to play not like we did the first 15 minutes but how we finished the game.”