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Spurs and the Wembley factor

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Tottenham Hotspur faces an obstacle this season in its pursuit of an elusive Premier League title, and that’s home matches at Wembley Stadium.

Or do they?

Yes, it would be better for the North London club to play at White Hart Lane or to have their new home ready one year early, but there’s an argument to be made that Spurs’ Wembley stumbles are a whole bunch of nothing.

[ MORE: Real 2-1 Man Utd | Mourinho reacts ]

Since 2007, Spurs have won just two of nine matches at Wembley, losing six and drawing versus Gent in the 2017 Europa League.

But digging a little deeper begs forgiveness for Mauricio Pochettino‘s men. Consider:

— Only one of those six losses came against a team that would be considered clearly inferior to Spurs (Portsmouth in the 2010 FA Cup semifinal).

— The other losses to English clubs were in FA Cup or League Cup semis or finals, two coming to Chelsea and one to Manchester United. Spurs beat Chelsea in the 2008 League Cup Final.

— Spurs went 1W-1D-1L in a decent UEFA Champions League group with Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen, and CSKA Moscow last season. It cannot be argued that the results weren’t disappointing, but Monaco ran deep into the tournament and Spurs outshot and outplayed Bayer in a 1-0 loss (Spurs beat CSKA).

So perhaps this is about expectations more than performance. If observers expected Spurs to rejoin the Champions League for the first time since 2010-11 and run riot, then yes the Wembley results were dismal (and no one’s arguing against the brutal draw against Gent in the UEL).

But if the UCL is a process, which it surely seems to be, then maybe Wembley isn’t a huge concern (at least in the sense that it’s competition was good more often than not).

We’ll posit that Wembley is more of a concern for the Premier League, where — especially given expectations — we saw West Ham United stumble big time at a new home last season.

But that is quickly redeemed by Spurs’ North London rivals at Arsenal. The Gunners went 14W-3D-2L in their emotional final season at Highbury, and went 12W-6D-1L to open life at the Emirates Stadium.

That’s three fewer points for Arsenal, who finished fourth both seasons. Spurs went a remarkable 17W-2D during an unbeaten 2016-17 at White Hart Lane, only drawing Liverpool and Leicester en route to winning its last 14 home PL fixtures last season.

That’s really, really good, and certainly a cause for concern. But it’s also worth noting that a step back should probably be expected regardless of venue. And perhaps, really, the concern should be that Spurs’ disappointing road record is what blew a massive opportunity presented by its near blemish-free home run last season.

In terms of past champions, Chelsea lost a pair of home PL matches in its title run last season, and Leicester fell once while drawing six in its miracle run of 2015-16. The Blues went 15W-4D at home to win the 2014-15 championship.

Being good at home is important, obviously, and that’s why the uncertainty of a new venue for home PL matches strikes fear into some Spurs’ fans hearts. But should it? Have you say in the poll below:

AFCON wrap: Diaby’s sensational rip highlights trio of matches

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The Africa Cup of Nations said hello to six more competitors on Monday, with a thrilling goal amongst the eight tallied across the competitions in Egypt.

[ MORE: Copa America roundup ]


Mali 4-1 Mauritania

Two different men named Adama Traore — neither of them the Wolves winger — joined Moussa Marega on the score sheet but it’s difficult to describe the class and small margins that defined the tournament’s goal of the day.

Sporting Lisbon’s Abdoulay Diaby somehow got this shot off through two defenders and into the upper reaches of the goal to open the scoring in the three-goal win for Mali, which is having some summer when you take into account the U-20 World Cup.

Ivory Coast 1-0 South Africa

There were only 13 total attempts in the game, and Aston Villa’s Jonathan Kodija scored the lone goal of a tournament opening win for Les Elephants.

Tunisia 1-1 Angola

A draw was probably fair, as Youssef Msakni’s first half penalty was met by Djalma Campos’ late goal to split the spoils in Group E.

Copa America roundup: Uruguay tops Chile; Full knockout bracket

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Ecuador and Japan drew to allow Paraguay to sew up the final knockout round spot, sending Miguel Almiron and Co. into a match-up with Brazil.

[ MORE: Johannsson to MLS? ]

And Uruguay rode Edinson Cavani’s goal into the other side of the bracket, moving ahead of Chile in a tight match.

Ecuador 1-1 Japan

There was a lot to like in a match with 30-plus shots and the ultimate prize of a match-up with Brazil on Thursday in Porto Alegre.

Shoya Nakajima put the Asian side ahead a quarter-hour into the match, but Angel Mena provided an equalizer before halftime to put both sides in danger of failure to reach the knockout rounds.

Chile 0-1 Uruguay

Cavani scored for the second time this tournament as Uruguay claimed first place in Group A and a knockout round meeting with Peru.

Cavani’s deftly flicked header of a Jonathan Rodriguez pass pushed Uruguay above Chile, which had won both of its group matches and now meets Colombia on Friday.

Knockout round schedule

June 27
Brazil v. Paraguay

June 28
Venezuela v. Argentina
Colombia v. Chile

June 29
Uruguay v. Peru

July 2
Brazil/Paraguay v. Venezuela/Argentina
Colombia/Chile v. Uruguay/Peru

July 6
Third place playoff

July 7
Final

Norwich City adds Switzerland international Drmic on free transfer

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Norwich City has added a new star striker to a unit which produced 93 goals in the Championship last season.

Josip Drmic will join Swiss national teammate Timm Klose with the Canaries for the next three seasons, hoping to bring his Bundesliga and international experience to a Premier League safety campaign.

[ MORE: Johannsson to MLS? ]

Drmic turns 27 next month, and scored two goals in five appearances for Borussia Monchengladbach last season. He has 31 goals and seven assists in 107 Bundesliga appearances between Gladbach, Hamburger SV, Bayer Leverkusen, and Nurnberg.

Coach Daniel Farke got 30 goals from target forward Teemu Pukki, who plays a similar role to Drmic and has plenty of top flight experience with Celtic and Schalke amongst others.

Drmic can also operate on the wing, usually left over right, and has featured in both the 2014 and 2018 World Cup. From Canaries.co.uk:

“I’m going to do everything and give 100% on the pitch. I will be ready to give everything for the club. My job is scoring but I also want to help my team and help us be successful.

“When I first came to Norwich, the first thing I noticed was how kind everybody was. It’s given me a lot of positive energy and I’m excited to see what happens.”

Between Pukki and Drmic, Norwich can have faith that its well-prepared to have an answer up top.

Canada’s Beckie: Sinclair asked if I wanted to take penalty v. Sweden

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Prolific forward Janine Beckie didn’t dodge cameras after her missed penalty helped seal Canada’s fate at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and she also explained why legendary striker Christine Sinclair wasn’t at the spot.

Beckie, 24, scored two goals in Canada’s run to the bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and the Houston Dash forward and Texas Tech product has 25 goals in 57 caps.

[ MORE: Sweden tops Canada ]

The American-born Beckie was called upon to try to level the score against Sweden on Monday in the Round of 16, and took a solid effort which was parried by Hedvig Lindahl in an outstanding bit of goalkeeping.

“I’m confident in my penalty,” Beckie said. “I thought I hit it really well. I thought she made a really good save. It’s the big moments. It’s the moments that you live for. You get all the glory if it goes in, and you take the blame it feels like if you miss. That’ll stay with me for a long time.”

So why was she at the spot? Here’s Beckie on TSN, and Sinclair’s confirmation of the tale. As we expected, Lindahl’s success against Sinclair at the Algarve Cup played a role.

“Christine actually asked me if I wanted to take it. That’s a big moment for me and it’s gonna be hard for a while.”

Full marks for stepping up to both places: The penalty spot and the post-match interview.