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Croatia tops Denmark on penalties to move to World Cup quarterfinals

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A furious start devolved into a sporadic chess match that required penalties to make the difference, and it seemed penalties would be required to decide the match. Then Croatia had its moment. Then Denmark snuffed it out. Then Croatia was celebrating anyways.

A wild, roller coaster of emotions sandwiched 100 minutes of forgettable play as Croatia and Denmark draw 1-1, and Croatia goes through in the exciting penalty shootout 3-2. Luka Modric had a penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel in the 117th minute in what certainly appeared to be the potentially winning moment, but the Real Madrid midfielder came back to score his spot-kick in the shootout on the way to victory.

The match got off to a beautifully sloppy start, and it resulted in a pair of absurd goals. First, it was Denmark to benefit from a stroke of luck as a long throw caused a scramble in the box and Mathias Jorgensen scuffed shot inexplicably found its way through the legs of three different defenders and trickled over the line off the fingertips of Danijel Subasic who will have expected to do better.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Three minutes later, Croatia was level as a beautiful bit of play on the wing saw Ante Rebic threat Ivan Rakitic through on the right edge of the box. The Barcelona midfielder saw his cross cleared, but the boot by Henrik Dalsgaard crashed into the face of Andreas Christensen and fell right in the lap of Mario Mandzukic who finished calmly on the turn.

The game settled slightly with Croatia controlling the majority of possession. Ivan Perisic has a free-kick from a dangerous area in the 12th minute but couldn’t get it past the wall. Mandzukic shouted for a penalty after going down in the box on 20 minutes, but nothing was given and VAR concurred.

Croatia continued to be the more dangerous side, with Perisic flubbing a major chance just before the half-hour mark. The Inter Milan attacker drove his half-volley straight into the ground, and with the ball bouncing straight back to him, he skied the second attempt well over.

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Denmark’s best chance of the second half came in the 71st minute as Yussuf Poulsen cut into the right edge of the box and found Nicolai Jorgensen in space but his shot was weak and directly at Subosic who collected easily. The game quieted significantly down the stretch run of regulation, with the only looks on net for either an Ivan Rakitic shot from distance that skidded just wide left and a Braithwaite volley that also just missed.

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The game progressed to extra time, and Denmark took over as the more dangerous side, but still couldn’t put anything significant together. Then, the moment came where Croatia seemed to have the game by the scruff of the neck. Modric fed a brilliant through-ball to Ante Rebic, and through on goal he’s taken down by the last man Zanka as he rounded Schmeichel. That drew a penalty, although only a yellow card was shown to the Danish defender thanks to the new double-jeopardy rule.

With Croatia on the doorstep of the quarterfinals in the 117th minute, Schmeichel stepped up and saved Modric’s weak penalty, and the game would go to a shootout. Both goalkeepers were fantastic in the penalty shootout, saving a combined five attempts – the first time in World Cup history a penalty shootout featured five saves – but Subasic picked up a kick-save of Jorgensen’s penalty in the final round, and Rakitic scored the decider to put Croatia through.

Court date for USWNT’s law suit versus U.S. Soccer delayed

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A court case that has dragged U.S. Soccer’s administration through the mud and led to a change of leadership may drag into the summer.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A judge in California has delayed the May 5 trial of gender discrimination against the USSF until June 16 due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. A pretrial conference was also moved to June 1.

The federation is being sued by members of the two-time reigning World Cup champion USWNT under the Equal Pay Act.

The women are requesting more than $66 million in damages.

The extra month gives both parties more time to reach a settlement which could keep this ugly case away from trial. Given the uncertainty in our world, it could of course be delayed again.

The USSF has a new CEO in Will Wilson, who can make a major statement of change by stopping the trial from reaching court.

Handicapping the Final Four of Premier League March Madness

Premier League March Madness
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Our Premier League March Madness results have been as topsy-turvy as the 2019/20 on-field campaign before coronavirus halted it last month.

Yes, the runaway No. 1 seed is alive, but the second, third, fourth, and fifth seeds have been expelled from the tournament within the first two rounds.

Voting in the semifinal round begins Thursday.

[ RESULTS: March Madness Round of 16 ]

Before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar: To make sure you’re not missing out on either March Madness or the business end of the PL season, we’ve gone ahead and merged the two competitions. The March Madness Final Four and Championship game were due to take place this weekend in Atlanta but now you will be voting on Tottenham v. Arsenal instead of Duke v. Kansas.

Teams are seeded from 1-16 based on their current spot in the table, with Aston Villa winning the relegation playoffs on Monday to remain in the Premier League.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Before we handicap the semifinal matches, let’s take a look at where the field sits after your Wednesday voting.

No. 1 Liverpool v. No. 12 Everton
No. 6 Wolves v. No. 7 Sheffield United

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Look, all bets are off for the derby. The Everton faithful has shown up in a big way during voting, dispatching Manchester United and Chelsea.

That’s big time stuff, though Liverpool ended the dreams of our presumptive sleeping giant favorite Arsenal after beating West Ham in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Reds are going to have to not just been upstart Everton but overcome the legions of rival supporters who would happily click the Toffees’ box rather than see Liverpool gain the crown.

The other side of the bracket sees No. 7 Sheffield United looking to continue its surprising run in both the PL season and our voting.

The Blades knocked off Man City, potentially aided by the same phenomenon Everton hopes to see on Thursday.

Now they meet Wolves, who may be riding a crest of North American momentum in the form of affinity for El Tri hero Raul Jimenez.

Our prediction: Everton and Wolves in the Final.

RESULTS: Premier League March Madness Elite Eight

Premier League March Madness
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Everton continued its upset path toward in our Premier League March Madness voting, showing its sensational support and setting up a fantastic eMerseyside Derby in the Final Four.

Thousands of votes were cast Wednesday, and the Toffees upset isn’t even the top underdog story.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Chris Wilder’s Blades of Sheffield United won a back-and-forth affair with No. 2 seed Manchester City to move into the semifinals.

That’s where they’ll meet No. 6 seed Wolves, who powered past Leicester City as if it wasn’t a challenge.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results in full
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

IFAB: New handball rule can be adopted when games resume

Handball rule
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The International Football Association Board (IFAB) issued a letter from secretary Lukas Brud on Wednesday, outlining several changes to the game.

The “tee shirt line” handball rule may be coming to club football quicker than expected due to the coronavirus suspension of the 2019/20 season.

IFAB will allow leagues the choice to use the new handball rule when matches resume this season, also making changes to VAR protocol and vowing to review the offside rule.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The new handball rule states that the shoulder goes to the end of the shirt sleeve or the bottom of the armpit (though obviously not in the case of a long-sleeve jersey).

For the purposes of determining handball offences, the ‘arm’ stops at the bottom of the armpit

So… get ready for baggy, longer jersey sleeves, or the increased recruitment of players with the longest armpits.

Kidding aside, the handball rule desperately needed clarification and we’ll see if this gives enough to fans and players alike.

Referees will now be “expected” to go to the screen on the field when a call is subjective, forcing the official to either uphold or overrule his initial call.

This same post says IFAB will now allow accidental handballs in the run-up to a goal in certain situations.

“Accidental handball by an attacking player should only be penalized if it ‘immediately’ results in a goal or an obvious opportunity for the player and/or their team to score a goal (i.e. following the handball, the ball travels only a short distance and/or there are very few passes).”

Well, that needs some clarification.

Back to the timing issue for the new handball rule, it seems logical that leagues would want to introduce new laws with a new season but stand-by for the decision of your favorite league.

As for the offside rule, “The members agreed that the fundamental philosophy of offside is underpinned by a desire to encourage attacking football and the scoring of goals. It was further agreed, therefore, that Law 11 – Offside should be analyzed and reviewed with a view to potentially proposing changes reflecting this philosophy.”

It’s a lot to unpack, and we’ll surely here from proponents and opponents of the changes soon. As always, implementation will make the biggest difference in how these changes are received.