US defender Krieger ready for familiar foe Germany in meeting of world’s top two teams

Leave a comment

MONTREAL – Ali Krieger says she isn’t quite as sharp as she once was at speaking German, but her words still earn a thumbs-up from fluent German reporters.

The United States national team defender is fluent herself, having spent the majority of her professional club playing career in Germany with 1. FFC Frankfurt. There, she won the treble – UEFA Champions League, Frauen-Bundesliga and German Cup – in her first season with the team, 2007-2008.

Krieger remained in Germany through mid-2012 (with a brief stint in the U.S. in 2009), so she is very familiar with many of Germany’s players, who will serve as opponents in Tuesday’s Women’s World Cup semifinal. And as the only fluent German speaker on the U.S. team, she should be able to understand some of her opponent’s communication.

“Yes, but I don’t know how quickly I’ll be able to tell my teammates,” Krieger says, drawing a laugh. She also joked that she’s played more with the German players than against them.

[KASSOUF: U.S. shows confidence in win  |  O’Hara shines; high pressure pays off]

Tuesday marks the meeting of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the world, for the right to play in the World Cup final in Vancouver next Sunday. The U.S. trained indoors on a windy, rainy and unseasonably cool day in Montreal on Sunday. U.S. defender Christie Rampone was the only player who sat out training, due to a quad strain; a U.S. Soccer spokesman called Rampone sitting “precautionary.”

Germany arrived to this stage of the competition by finishing atop a relatively easy group before throttling world No. 5 Sweden in the round of 16 and escaping world No. 3 France in penalty kicks after being largely outplayed on the day.

The U.S. took an inverted path, finishing atop the tournament’s Group of Death and then getting what objectively could be viewed as the weakest combination of opponents — Colombia and China — in the knockout stage compared to the other three semifinalists.

[MORE: Krieger calls naked magazine photos ’empowering’]

And now the Americans are in Montreal, where they always aimed to be at this stage of the tournament, to take on an old rival which seven months ago stripped them of their No. 1 spot in the FIFA world rankings. Those numbers won’t matter much come Tuesday.

“This is what this tournament is all about, and I really am so happy that we are playing against the No. 1 team in the world,” Krieger said. “I think this is what makes it so fun. This is why we’re here. We want to beat the best team in the world. To win the trophy, that’s what you have to do.”

[MORE: France’s Abily rips FIFA for rigged draw, treating players like ‘idiots’]

Despite the rich history of both teams, the Americans are 18-4-7 all-time against Germany. Three times the world’s leading women’s soccer nations have met at the World Cup and on each occasion, the winner of this heavyweight bout has gone on to win the World Cup (USA in the inaugural 1991 tournament and again in 1999; Germany in 2003).

“I did see that statistic, but I don’t know if we sort of think about it like that,” U.S. midfielder Heather O’Reilly said. “I think both teams are focused on eyes on the prize.”

It has been over two years since the teams last met, a 3-3 draw in Offenbach, Germany on April 5, 2013. The Americans haven’t lost to Germany since the 2003 Women’s World Cup semifinals.

On Tuesday, these two programs look to advance on a path to a third Women’s World Cup title. The U.S. won in 1991 and 1999, but the drought is now at 16 years. Germany won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2007 before crashing out in the quarterfinals in 2011 on home soil. They remain the only two programs in the world where, realistically, anything short of a World Cup title remains a failure.

“This is why we train our entire lives and what we train our entire lives for. These are the moments,” Krieger says.

The stakes don’t get much higher than they will be on Tuesday.

Smalling considering full-time Roma switch: “Long may it continue”

Chris Smalling
Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester United loanee Chris Smalling is talking up life in Rome amidst a possible Serie A Team of the Season campaign.

Smalling had a disappointing 2018/19 season at Old Trafford, so it’s not a surprise that Solskjaer thought he could do better than the 30-year-old.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Instead, Smalling’s numbers are close to that of record-signing Harry Maguire in a Serie A league with slightly more scoring. Smalling ranks in Italy’s top ten for interceptions (2.2), clearances (4.5) and blocks (1.2).

Roma boss Paulo Fonseca wants the player to stay, as i Lupi are fifth in Serie A and Smalling when has played nearly every minute when healthy. Smalling told our friends Sky Sports that he has “an interesting decision to make.”

“Some of the other players said if you really hit the ground running, the love that you can have in this city is unbelievable. That’s really what I’ve felt and so have my family. Long may it continue.”

His age makes it tricky, but the advanced stats show that Smalling has been a very effective Premier League center back for four of his last six seasons.

Smalling may want to leave if Solskjaer isn’t prepared to hand him regular football, which would be a given in Rome. Now what’s the price tag?

According to WhoScored’s player comparison tool:

Chris Smalling
whoscored.com

Watch Live: Liverpool v. West Ham

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool v West Ham takes center stage at Anfield on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Reds aim to reclaim their 22-point lead at the top of the Premier League table.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Jurgen Klopp‘s side remain unbeaten this season and with five more wins needed to guarantee the Premier League title, the finishing line is in sight. They are aiming for an 18th consecutive Premier League win which would equal Man City’s record for the most victories on the trot in top-flight history.

As for David Moyes and the Hammers, they are scrapping for their lives at the other end of the table and their daunting run of fixtures makes them one of the favorites for relegation.

Last season the Hammers did draw at home against Liverpool in the PL which was a key factor in the Reds not winning the title last time out but West Ham look extremely far from the team they were last season.

Liverpool v West Ham is first against 18th and all signs point to a big win for the home side as their unbeaten season continues with 25 victories from 26 games so far.

In team news Liverpool are without captain Jordan Henderson who has suffered a hamstring injury and will be out for the next three weeks.

Naby Keita comes in for Henderson in midfield as the rest of the Liverpool team is what you expect.

West Ham are without the injured Ryan Fredericks who suffered a shoulder injury in the 2-0 defeat at Man City on Wednesday.

Teenager Jeremy Ngakia comes in to replace Fredericks, while Felipe Anderson also comes into the lineup.

LINEUPS

 

Kids under 12 banned from heading in UK

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) Children up to the age of 12 will be banned from heading a soccer ball in practice sessions in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland as authorities look to address the potential long-term impact on health of head injuries.

[ MORE: US Soccer bans heading ]

The governing bodies of the three regions announced the new heading guidelines on Monday, months after a Scottish study found former professional players there were less likely to die of common causes such as heart disease and cancer compared with the general population but more likely to die with dementia.

The guidelines say there will be a “graduated approach” to heading in practice for kids from 12-15, while the heading will be restricted to one practice session per week for kids 16 and 17.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

There will be no change in terms of heading in matches, taking into consideration the extremely limited number of headers which actually occur in youth matches.

The Scottish study did not state that heading a ball was the cause of the increased prevalence of neurodegenerative conditions among soccer players, but the decision to update the guidelines was taken to “mitigate against any potential risks”, the English Football Association said in a statement.

“This guidance is a responsible development to our grassroots coaching,” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said, “without impacting the enjoyment that children of all ages take from playing the game.”

The associations said the guidance had been produced in parallel with the UEFA medical committee, which is seeking to produce Europe-wide guidance later this year.

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

Champions League score predictions: Round of 16

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is finally back as the Round of 16 kicks off this week and two of the four Premier League clubs are in action.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Man City and Chelsea face Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively and both know they face tough tasks to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals as they do battle with two European heavyweights.

Glory in the Champions League is now the main focus for Pep Guardiola and Man City following their two-season European ban from UEFA which they are appealing. Frank Lampard‘s young Chelsea side host the Bundesliga leaders and hugely experienced Bayern, with the German giants the favorites to advance.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

The Premier League sides are up against it but both teams are extremely capable of scoring goals for fun but it is at the other end of the pitch where they struggle as both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich will be hoping their star attackers shine on the big stage once again.

In the other two last 16 clashes this week Napoli host Barcelona as Lionel Messi warmed up very nicely with four goals against Eibar, while Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus head to Lyon for the first leg as the Italian giants are expected to advance with ease.

Both Messi and Ronaldo badly want another Champions League title to their name but Lyon and Napoli are more than capable of picking up big first leg wins at home.

Below we predict the scores for the UCL round of 16 games taking place over the next two days. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below, too.


Tuesday
Napoli 1-1 Barcelona
Chelsea 1-2 Bayern Munich

Wednesday
Lyon 1-3 Juventus
Real Madrid 2-3 Man City