2011 Women’s World Cup final loss still burns in Abby Wambach’s memory

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Abby Wambach knows the date by heart: July 17, 2011.

It’s the day that she came closest to but ultimately fell short of the one thing for which she most lusts: a World Cup title.

July 17, 2011 is the only specific date for a match that is etched in Wambach’s memory, she said. It is the date the United States lost the World Cup final to then underdog Japan, twice blowing the lead – including once in extra time – to eventually lose on penalty kicks. “For me, it’s a constant reminder,” she said Friday. “It’s been a constant reminder since July 17, 2011.”

On Sunday, Wambach and her U.S. teammates get a chance to flip the script on Japan in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final – The Rematch. The U.S. beat Japan in the 2012 Olympic gold-medal match, but the World Cup remains the crown jewel of soccer. It’s all that Wambach can think about. And winning the tournament for Wambach is part of United States players’ motivation.

“I love playing with her,” says US midfielder Carli Lloyd, who has very much grown up on this team alongside Wambach over the past decade. “It’s kind of one of those things where I can play with her with my eyes closed. I always know where she is going to be. I always know what she’s thinking, and she’s been a true leader of this team. We wouldn’t be where we are without her. She’s been tremendous over the years and I want nothing more than to help her legacy if we win the World Cup. Obviously I want to win it for myself as well and the team, but for her, this being her last one, I will do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

[LAULETTA: Rampone credits Ellis for meeting open-minded approach]

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Wambach says this final isn’t about avenging the 2011 World Cup final loss. Things are different this time – and she would know.

Wambach is the most decorated scorer in international soccer history – men’s or women’s – scoring 183 goals to date. She is still very much the face and the pulse of this United States team, even at 35 years old.

But after starting three of the first four matches at this World Cup, Wambach has played only 14 minutes combined in the past two games, which have by far been the team’s best matches of the tournament. She has become more of a leader from the bench, a new role famously captured by cameras in a not-so-G-rated halftime speech during last week’s quarterfinal against China.

“Abby in a lot of ways is the glue to this team,” says U.S. forward Alex Morgan, who turned 26 years old on Thursday and who is Wambach’s heir apparent. “No matter how much time she gets on the field this tournament, she’s irreplaceable. I’ve enjoyed my time with her, my time on the field and my time growing our friendship. But she’s a great leader for this team. She motivates us but she keeps us in check.”

[KASSOUF: Why Wambach needs this World Cup title more than anything]

Generational legends being benched isn’t something that always goes smoothly, but Wambach has taken a backseat knowing that it is the way to get to the thing that she wants most.

“We had early conversations and from day one,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “Abby, she wants to win a World Cup. She’s committed to doing whatever it takes.”

Of course the United States women want to win the World Cup; all 24 teams at this largest-ever Women’s World Cup wanted to. The Americans want to end the talk of a 16-year “drought.” They want to squash once and for all the idea that they live in the shadow of the 1999 title-winning team. And most of all, they just want the obvious: to be the best in the world.

But there is no denying that sending Wambach out on top (she has said for a while that this will be her last World Cup, but she hasn’t discussed her plans beyond Sunday) is part of the equation for this team. In many ways it is a similar feeling to Wambach’s early days with the U.S. national team, when she tried to help her mentor – Mia Hamm – and that generation of players exit the game as World Cup champions in 2003 (many of them would leave as Olympic gold-medalists in 2004). This time, however, Wambach is the legend on her way out, providing extra motivation for those around her.

Wambach is an extravert. She never shies away from a question and she loves to talk – about soccer, about teammates – about anything, really. Wambach is by all accounts the team’s best storyteller. “I’m the most obnoxious person on the bench,” she has said repetitively over the past week, as she has spent more time there during matches.

And Wambach is transparent about what this World Cup means to her.

“It’s all that I’m thinking about, all that’s on my mind,” she said recently. “It’s the thing that I haven’t been able to be a part of, I haven’t won yet. It’s something that I know that all of us have to be willing to be forever disappointed in not winning. Because that’s what it takes. You have to completely give in to it. You have to really allow yourself to be crushed by something. It’s like love. And if we give into it, if all of us give into it, then I think we could have a chance at this.”

But on Friday in a room full of press that quadrupled in size from the team’s previous matches – the way it always does on the eve of a major tournament final – Wambach appeared more locked-in and to the point in her answers. Sunday’s goal is simple.

“The truth is that I just want to be a world champion,” she said.

July 5, 2015 is likely to be the second and perhaps only other date of a match that Wambach will ever remember. This time, she hopes the feeling is a good one.

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.

STREAM TOTTENHAM – NEWCASTLE UNITED LIVE

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)

Tottenham Hotspur – QUESTIONABLE: Sergio Reguilon (ankle) | OUT: Gareth Bale (knee), Japhet Tanganga (thigh)

Newcastle United – QUESTIONABLE: Allan Saint-Maximin (ankle), Jamal Lewis (eye) | OUT: Matty Longstaff (thigh), Martin Dubravka (ankle), Fabian Schar (shoulder), Paul Dummett (thigh), Dwight Gayle (knee)


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.

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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

Serie A: Inter win 7-goal thriller with 87th, 89th-minute goals (video)

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s results in Serie A, where Inter Milan scored twice in the final five minutes of regular time to beat Fiorentina 4-3…

[ MORE: Transfer news: Rice in, Jorginho out at Chelsea; Skriniar to Spurs ]

Inter Milan 4-3 Fiorentina

This is your weekly reminder that Serie A remains the most underrated, insane top-flight league in the world — particularly in the last-game-of-the-day time slot, at 2:45 pm ET. Seven-goal thrillers capped off by a late goal, or two, are more of the rule than an exception.

Anyway, Inter Milan’s title dreams looked set to begin with a home defeat to last season’s 10th-place finishers until Romelu Lukaku and Danilo D’Ambrosio scored an 87th-minute equalizer and an 89th-minute winner, respectively.

Inter started in a hole, down 1-0 after just three minutes. Lautaro Martinez pulled Antonio Conte’s side level in first-half stoppage time, but it was hardly an ideal start to the season. Federico Ceccherini put the ball into his own net in the 52nd minute to put Inter ahead.

The lead lasted just five minutes and just as quickly turned into a deficit, as Gaetano Castrovilli and Federico Chiesa bagged goals in the 57th and 63rd minutes. That, of course, only served to set the stage for the end-of-game heroics.

Torino 2-4 Atalanta

Saturday’s other thriller only featured six goals, though it still proved to be highly entertaining as well.

Andrea Belotti fired Torino ahead after 11 minutes, but Atalanta were level through Alejandro Gomez just two minutes later. Eight minutes after that, Luis Muriel put them 2-1 ahead. It was 3-1 in the 42nd minute, but Belotti scored again to make it 3-2 just a minute later. Marten de Roon restored a bit of breathing room and made it 4-2 with the game’s final goal in the 54th.

After finishing third, four points behind Inter and five behind champions Juventus, it’s a strong start for Gian Piero Gasperini’s side in 2020-21.

Other Serie A results

Sampdoria 2-3 Benevento
Cagliari 0-2 Lazio

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Spezia v Sassuolo — 6:30 am ET
Hellas Verona v Udinese — 9 am ET
Crotone v AC Milan — 12 pm ET
Napoli v Genoa — 12 pm ET
Roma v Juventus — 2:45 pm ET

La Liga: Real Madrid steal late win against 10-man Betis

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s results in La Liga, where Real Madrid were quite fortunate to come out with three points…

[ MORE: Transfer news: Rice in, Jorginho out at Chelsea; Skriniar to Spurs ]

Real Betis 2-3 Real Madrid

Opposition own goal? Check. Opposition red card? Check. Late-game penalty kick? Also check. The defending La Liga champions needed all of that in a span of 35 minutes, and a bit more, to escape their trip to Betis with three points.

Things started off well for Zinedine Zidane’s side Federico Valverde put Los Blancos ahead after 14 minutes, with a little help from Karim Benzema. The 1-0 scoreline didn’t survive until halftime, though, and neither did the 1-1. Aissa Mandi and William Carvalho each scored two minutes apart for Betis just before the break.

Real Madrid got back to level terms three minutes after the restart, thanks to an own goal from Emerson. 20 minutes later, Emerson was shown a straight red card for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity. Things went from bad to worse for Betis in the 82nd minute, when Marc Bartra was deemed to have handled the ball inside the box following video review. Sergio Ramos stepped up and sealed the win with a delicate chip down the middle.

Full-blown crisis averted, for now, after drawing with Real Sociedad on the opening day of the season.

Valencia 1-1 Huesca

This season looks set to be a hugely difficult one for Valencia as the club endures untold financial hardship and looks to sell off as much of the first-team squad as possible in an attempt to balance the books.

Saturday’s draw with newly promoted Huesca was simply the latest chapter, of which there will be many, of struggle for Javi Gracia’s side.

Other La Liga results

Alaves 0-0 Getafe
Elche 0-3 Real Sociedad

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna v Levante — 6 am ET
Eibar v Athletic Bilbao — 8 am ET
Atletico Madrid v Granada – 10 am ET
Cadiz v Sevilla — 12:30 pm ET
Real Valladolid v Celta Vigo — 12:30 pm ET
Barcelona v Villarreal — 3 pm ET

Fulham – Aston Villa: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Fulham – Aston Villa: How early is too early to call a game “must-win” in the Premier League? Perhaps we will find out on Monday (Watch live at 12:45 pm ET, online via Peacock), when bottom-of-the-table Fulham host Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.

FULHAM – ASTON VILLA STREAM LIVE

Scott Parker’s side has had a torrid start to life back in the PL — not at all dissimilar to the way their last stint ended — and find themselves with zero points and seven goals conceded after their first two games. Losing 3-0 to Arsenal on the opening day of the season wasn’t altogether surprising, but following that defeat with four more goals conceded to Leeds United last weekend will undoubtedly have done a number on the Cottagers’ confidence.

Villa, on the other hand, have played just once and secured a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United earlier this week. A win on Monday would see Dean Smith’s side start the season with back-to-back PL victories for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Fulham – Aston Villa this Monday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Fulham – Aston Villa (INJURY REPORT)

Fulham – No injuries or suspensions

Aston Villa – OUT: Bjorn Engels (thigh), Tom Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), Ahmed Elmohamady (thigh)


What they’re saying: Fulham – Aston Villa

Scott Parker, on a “must-win” game: “I don’t see it as drastic as a must-win. We want to win. I know it’s either high or low in a drastic world, but we need to stay level and take realism of where we are in the campaign and where we are as a team. We will try everything we can to take some points and be up to the challenge. I don’t think we’re the only team at this present moment in time who have let in some goals in the first two games. It’s not ideal, of course not. Villa at home on Monday is a game we’re going to try to get three points.”

Dean Smith, on needing another signing: “We’re always looking in the market, we’re probably one short in the squad at the moment so we’ll keep looking at that. I think there’s seven days left until the window shuts internationally, another seven days domestically. Our sporting director at the moment has got his finger on the pulse, hopefully we might get one more in and maybe a couple more out.”


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

This one is just about a coin flip with Fulham (+185) ever so slight underdogs to Villa (+150). In a game that could go either way like this one, the draw (+225) might just be the safe middle ground.

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Prediction: Fulham – Aston Villa

There’s not much to separate these two sides right now, and there likely won’t be much ground between them come the season’s final table. There should be a few goals, but that’ll be more down to poor defending than excellent attacking quality from either side. Fulham 2-2 Villa.


How to watch Fulham – Aston Villa stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:45 pm ET Monday
Online: Stream via Peacock