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Race for Premier League promotion beginning to heat up

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The race for promotion to the Premier League has taken a wild and unexpected turn.

Wolverhampton Wanderers have all but secured the title with a nine point lead and five matches remaining. However, directly below them is where things have suddenly become hairy.

Cardiff City seemed to have second place done and dusted, with a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2013 almost ensured as they sat on a seven-match winning streak and without a loss since New Year’s Day, holding a seven-point lead plus a game in hand as March wound down. Now, just a week later, things could potentially be falling apart as the race heats up.

Following a draw to 9th placed Sheffield United, Cardiff hosted leaders Wolves on Friday in a top-of-the-table meeting, and chaos ensued. Wolves held nearly 2/3 of the possession and went ahead 1-0 past the hour mark as Ruben Neves bagged a beautiful free-kick goal, looping his close-range effort over the wall and tucking it inside the left post.

As the game wound down, Cardiff began to push forward as they looked for a late equalizer. They earned a penalty as stoppage time began, and Gary Madine stepped up to take it hoping for his 11th goal of the year. Instead, former Norwich City goalkeeper John Ruddy dove to his left and acrobatically kept the effort out, preserving the lead as a big celebration ensued. But the fireworks weren’t over.

Six minutes later, as Cardiff continued to press forward in desperation, Wolves’ Ivan Cavaleiro chopped down Aron Gunnarsson on the edge of the box, and the linesman flagged for a foul. That brought a second stoppage-time penalty opportunity for Cardiff still trailing by a goal. This time, former QPR winger Junior Hoilett stepped up to the spot, but his effort clanged the underside of the bar and came back out, and Cardiff could not capitalize on the ensuing scrum.

The loss means Cardiff has wasted its game in hand, suddenly dropping five points in the last two matches, sitting now five points above Fulham in third. The Whites are in spectacular form, unbeaten in a club-record 18 straight matches and leading the Championship form table. Fulham still has memories of playoff failure from last season, and would love to secure automatic promotion with a late-season charge, playing stunningly beautiful possession-based soccer under Slavisa Jokanovic.

Meanwhile, Cardiff next faces fourth-placed Aston Villa, who also remains in contention for promotion just two points back of Fulham. The pressure seems to be getting to Cardiff manager Neil Warnock, who refused to shake the hand of Wolves manager Nuno after the loss on Friday, instead firing some flowery language in his direction for his post-match celebration while applauding the home fans. He chastised Nuno after the game, telling Sky Sports in his post-match interview “in the British game you need to have manners and a bit of class.”

The remaining playoff places are currently occupied by Derby County and Middlesbrough who sit 15 and 17 points back of Cardiff City in 2nd, but that battle is raging as well. Just off the pace sits Bristol City, Millwall, and Sheffield United all at 62 points, just one behind Middlesbrough’s final playoff spot. Preston is another two back of that on 60 points, while Brentford is two behind them at 58.

Predicting the rest of the Women’s World Cup

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The Women’s World Cup is into the final eight, with seven of the eight teams hailing from Europe.

[ MORE: Women’s World Cup Power Rankings ]

The lone outlier is some team from North America who may or may not have won the last World Cup and can become the first team to win four of the things.

Who thinks they will? Our staff weighs in on the matter below.


Joe Prince-Wright

Quarterfinals
England defeats Norway
France defeats USA
Netherlands defeats Italy
Germany defeats Sweden

Semifinals
England v. France
Netherlands v. Germany 

Final
France defeats Germany
Wendie Renard of France celebrates with teammates (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Nicholas Mendola

Quarterfinals
England defeats Norway
USA defeats France
Italy defeats Netherlands
Germany defeats Sweden

Semifinals
USA defeats England
Germany defeats Italy 

Final
USA defeats Germany

Andy Edwards

Quarterfinals
England
defeats Norway
France defeats USA
Italy defeats Netherlands
Germany defeats Sweden

Semifinals
France
defeats England
Germany defeats Italy

Final
Germany defeats France

Dzsenifer Marozsan of Germany  (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

Dan Karell
Quarterfinals
England defeats Norway
USA defeats France
Netherlands defeats Italy
Germany defeats Sweden
Semifinals
USA defeats England
Netherlands defeats GermanyFinal
USA defeats Netherlands

Kyle Bonn

Quarterfinals
England
defeats Norway
France defeats USA
Netherlands defeats Italy
Germany defeats Sweden

Semifinals
France
defeats England
Germany defeats Italy

Final
France defeats Germany

WATCH: Stoppage time missile earns Curacao draw with Jamaica

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This Gold Cup isn’t short on drama.

A day after Haiti stunned Costa Rica to win Group B, it was Curacao’s turn to up the ante.

Needing a point to stay alive for a knockout round berth, Jurien Gaari ripped a stoppage time rocket into the back of the goal to defy Andre Blake and Jamaica a win and the Group C crown (at least for a couple of hours).

[ MORE: Spurs set to add $82M mid ]

Shamar Nicholson had given the Reggae Boyz a 14th minute lead, but Jamaica couldn’t find a second goal.

If Honduras beats El Salvador in the business end of the doubleheader in Los Angeles, Curacao will finish second in the group and advance to face either the USMNT or Panama.

If El Salvador manages a draw or win, well, at least Curacao will have this wonder from RKC Waalwijk’s right back:

AFCON wrap: Pote’s beauty helps Benin draw Ghana; Cameroon wins

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All 24 teams at the Africa Cup of Nations have a match in the books as of Tuesday, and we’ve got another tournament surprise.

[ MORE: Spurs set to add $82M mid ]

Having already seen Uganda upset the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar draw Guinea, this one came when Ghana met Benin.

It was aided by a red card to Ghana, but the 88th ranked Les Écureuils (Squirrels) of Benin managed a result.


Cameroon 2-0 Guinea-Bissau

Scoreless at halftime, Cameroon saw Yaya Banana and Stephane Bahoken score three minutes apart to give the Indomitable Lions the Group F lead on Day One of group play.

Ghana 2-2 Benin

Mickael Pote scored first and last, giving Benin a valuable point against 10-man Ghana.

The Black Stars went behind in the second minute on Pote’s first, only to get Andre Ayew and Jordan Ayew goals on either side of halftime to build a lead of their own.

But John Boye took a 54th minute red card and Pote potted his second nine minutes later to give Benin an early Group F bonus.

How about this sweep behind the leg?

David Silva will make 10th season his last as Man City

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David Silva says his 10th season at Manchester City will be his last with the Etihad Stadium set.

“It completes the cycle,” he said in a press conference this week. “It’s a nice round figure. I can never see myself playing against City for another team. So 10 years – that’s it.”

Silva turns 34 in January, and posted 10 goals and 14 assists in 50 appearances for Pep Guardiola‘s men last season.

[ MORE: Spurs set to add $82M mid ]

All told, he enters this one-year contract with 396 appearances for City, scoring 71 goals with 129 assists. He’s won the Premier League four times, the FA Cup twice, and the League Cup four times.

He was last capped by Spain at the 2018 World Cup, where he’s scored 37 times in 129 caps. He’s also played with Valencia and Celta Vigo in his native country.

The news comes less than a week after a fellow Spanish legend, Fernando Torres, announced his retirement.

But Silva seems like he’s got a bit more in the tank. Could he be one of the big names matched with Inter Miami for 2020? Or might he follow Xavi’s route to the Middle East?