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Euro 2020 qualification set to begin Thursday

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With the international break upon us, qualification for Euro 2020 is set to begin, with 55 countries spread across 10 groups to determine who will make the final field of 24 that will take place in the main event in the summer of 2020.

As the group stage draws nearer, we take a look at the important matches that will begin qualification play through the first three competitive days of the international break in round one of qualifying.

Austria v. Poland

Bayern Munich teammates Robert Lewandowski and David Alaba will go head-to-head as Austria hosts Poland in Vienna. Lewandowski hasn’t scored for the national team since a pre-World Cup friendly last summer, and the visitors will be looking to put a poor World Cup behind them for good. As the two highest-ranked teams in Group G, there will be plenty of eyes on this match between two teams who haven’t met in over a decade.

Belgium v. Russia

The two favorites in Group I go head-to-head to kick off the competition as two teams fresh off happy World Cup memories clash in Brussels. Both of these teams failed to win their UEFA Nations League groups, meaning Euro qualification is their only method of entry into the final competition. Kevin De Bruyne misses out for Belgium, but the rest of the star-studded Belgian roster is intact. The Russians are looking for a new goalkeeper after the international retirement of Igor Akinfeev, and the three men called up to replace him have a combined 12 caps between them.

Slovakia v. Hungary

In surely one of the most hotly contested groups of Euro 2020 qualification, Slovakia and Hungary meet hoping to get the jump on one another as they compete with Croatia, Wales, and Azerbaijan for a slot in the final tournament. Hungary has not won a competitive road match since 2016, and they have scored just one goal against Slovakia in their last five tries. Marek Hamsik, fresh off his move to Chinese club Dalian Yifang, leads the lines for Slovakia in this critical match.

England v. Czech Republic

The two favorites in Group A meet to see if either side can get a leg up on the other four teams early. England will be without John Stones and Luke Shaw due to injury, but otherwise most first-choice players are fit. Jadon Sancho may get a chance to continue his stellar club form on the international level, while Callum Hudson-Odoi is with the squad as well. The Czech Republic called up just 18 players, including Burnley forward Matej Vydra, one of only five players on the squad with over 20 international appearances.

Portugal v. Ukraine

Group B has three main contenders, and two of them will meet on Friday looking for an early advantage. Cristiano Ronaldo is in great club form and was rested in the latest Juventus match as they lost for the first time all Serie A season. All the usual suspects are back for a ridiculously experienced Portugal team that hopes to defend its Euro 2016 title. The squad features five players with at least 50 caps, including three with over 100. Ukraine, meanwhile, is without the injured Andriy Yarmolenko who tore his Achilles back in October. Coach Andriy Shevchenko made the bold decision to leave experienced defenders Yaroslav Rakytskyi and Yevhen Khacheridi at home, with their 104 caps more than the entire defensive unit currently in the squad.

Spain v. Norway

An absolutely loaded Group F begins play on Saturday as Spain hosts Norway in Valencia. While Spain is considered the favorite for the group, the rocky and disappointing World Cup journey and spotty Nations League performances leaves them considered vulnerable heading into qualifying, and with Sweden, Norway, and Romania all considered contenders for that second spot, Luis Enrique’s squad will have to be on top of its game throughout. Enrique has left out Real Madrid struggler Isco as well as Atleti pair Koke and Saul in favor of greener players like Iker Muniain. On the other side, Norway boss Lars Lagerback has an inexperienced squad captained by West Brom midfielder Stefan Johansen.

FULL ROUND 1 SCHEDULE (all times Eastern)

Thursday, 3/21

Kazakhstan v. Scotland – 11am
Cyprus v. San Marino – 1pm
Austria v. Poland – 3:45pm
Belgium v. Russia – 3:45pm
Israel v. Slovenia – 3:45pm
Macedonia v. Latvia – 3:45pm
Netherlands v. Belarus – 3:45pm
Northern Ireland v. Estonia – 3:45pm
Slovakia v. Hungary – 3:45pm

Friday, 3/22

Bulgaria v. Montenegro – 1pm
Albania v. Turkey – 3:45pm
Andorra v. Iceland – 3:45pm
England v. Czech Republic – 3:45pm
Luxembourg v. Lithuania – 3:45pm
Moldova v. France – 3:45pm
Portugal v. Ukraine – 3:45pm

Saturday, 3/23

Georgia v. Switzerland – 10am
Gibraltar v. Republic of Ireland – 1pm
Malta v. Faroe Islands – 1pm
Sweden v. Romania – 1pm
Bosnia & Herzegovina v. Armenia – 3:45pm
Italy v. Finland – 3:45pm
Lichtenstein v. Greece – 3:45pm
Spain v. Norway – 3:45pm

Women’s World Cup: Netherlands and Canada both advance

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A pair of teams secured a spot in the knockout stage of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, including the first non-European team to advance past the group stage.

The Netherlands were first up, downing Cameroon 3-1 behind a brace from Arsenal forward Vivianne Miedema, making her the all-time leading scorer for the Dutch national team at just 22 years old.

Her first came just four minutes before halftime, stemming from great combination play down the right from Jackie Groenen and Shanice van de Sanden, with the latter delivering a cross to the doorstep that found Miedema who slipped in front of Christine Manie for a diving header. Cameroon equalized just two minutes later through Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene on a long ball straight down the middle, but it wouldn’t stay level much longer after the break.

Three minutes after the restart as the Netherlands worked a set-piece from the training ground, again using the right flank to work a similar cross and while Dominique Bloodworth completely whiffed on the first chance, Cameroon defender Michaela Abam also whiffed on the clear, sending the ball right back to Bloodworth for an easy follow-up.

Cameroon had a golden opportunity to draw level once again with 10 minutes to go, but a critical block by Desiree van Lunteren kept the Dutch in front and Miedema got her second and the record with five minutes remaining. On a two-on-two break, Miedema kept it herself and fired a low shot into the bottom-left corner and sealed the victory.

They only netted twice but Canada thoroughly dominated New Zealand to become the first non-European side through to the knockout stage with a 2-0 win in Grenoble. Jessie Flemming secured the win, able to find the back of the net with two of Canada’s 24 shots in the match.

The game ground to a halt 15 minutes in as Catherine Bott took a close-range cross off the right hand and was down for significant treatment before coming off. On the restart, the game jolted to life again as Christine Sinclair had a glorious opportunity in front of net but somehow the New Zealand defense combined to keep the ball from crossing the line.

Canada remained the more dangerous side through the first half-hour with the New Zealand defense barely staying alive on numerous occasions. The Ferns finally had their best chance in the 39th minute as a few bounces in midfield went their way and it created a two-on-two break, but they were unable to find a wide-open Rosie White in the middle.

After halftime, Canada seemed rejuvenated and struck just three minutes in. A long ball down the left released Nichelle Prince on the break, and she had all too easy of a cutback to Fleming waiting in the middle. Sinclair missed one just a minute later over the bar that would have doubled the lead, and Canada began to truly pour on the pressure. A fabulous header from Prince was only kept out by a stunning Erin Nayler save in the 72nd minute.

The win put Canada on six points, even with the Netherlands and behind only on goal differential, with the two set to meet in the final round of group stage play to determine the group winner. New Zealand and Cameroon are both eliminated, with either side yet to secure a point in its first two matches.

Watch Live: Copa America — Day 2

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Hosts Brazil kicked off the Copa America with a 3-0 defeat of Bolivia on Friday, and now it’s Argentina’s time to leave the runway.

Lionel Messi and Argentina meet Colombia in a 6 p.m. ET blockbuster in Salvador, Bahia. The match will go a long way toward determining who wins Group B.

[ LIVE: Watch every single Copa America game ]

That happens three hours after Salomon Rondon and Venezuela tries to ride momentum from a demolition of the USMNT into a Group A date with Peru at Porto Alegre.

You can watch every single game from the tournament live online in Spanish via Telemundo Deportes and via the NBC Sports App. All you have to do is click on the links below.

2019 Copa America schedule

Group A: Venezuela v. Peru – 3 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group B: Argentina v. Colombia – 6 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE

Ukraine wins U-20 World Cup behind Supriaha brace (video)

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Vladyslav Supriaha scored goals in each half as Ukraine overcame an early penalty to beat South Korea 3-1 and win the U-20 World Cup in Poland.

The Dynamo Kiev 19-year-old was kept off the scoreboard for most of the tournament, with Danylo Sikan scoring four times to pace the champions to the final. Ukraine beat the U.S. in the first match of the group stage.

Fellow Dynamo Kiev teen Heorhiy Tsitaishvili, 18, scored a magnificent solo goal to put the win on ice with two minutes to go in regulation.

It was South Korea who took the early lead on a VAR-given penalty following a foul on the very edge of the box.

But Supriaha turned and slotted a fine finish home before the break, then scored the below winner early in the second frame.

Amazingly, though, the play of the day was a save from Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin off a bullet header in the 70th minute. Lunin has already been capped three times by the senior team.

Report: Manchester United bids big for West Ham’s Diop

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Somewhere, Jose Mourinho just threw something through a window.

Manchester United is being linked with a swoop for West Ham United revelation Issa Diop, mere months after the former Red Devils manager credited the Irons for identifying the player in France.

[ MORE: USMNT roster shuffle ]

United is said to be willing to spend approximately $57 million and send a player to the London Stadium.

Sky says West Ham doesn’t want to sell him and has a minimum price of $75 million in mind.

Mourinho not only famously begged for center backs from chairman Ed Woodward during his last season at United, he called Diop “a monster” and congratulated the scout who found him.

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright rated Diop as the 10th best center back in the Premier League season. The now 22-year-old was already Toulouse club captain when West Ham came calling last summer.

This would be a solid buy for United, though we’re not sure the Irons would be willing to sell the big man. Diop has proven himself at the Premier League level, is very young for the position, and West Ham is investing all over the pitch in a bid to become a contender.

As for the player to come back, that’s an odd nut to crack. We’re pretty sure West Ham isn’t going to want to pay huge wages for a middling talent. I’ll duck from the rotten tomatoes, but maybe West Ham is willing to make Romelu Lukaku its long-sought center forward (Marko Arnautovic is 30, and he’s also Marko Arnautovic).