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New handball, goal kick, and free kick rule changes now into effect

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Beginning yesterday (but not including the Champions League final), the new rule changes implemented by the International Football Association Board are now into effect. These rule changes, announced back in March, include tweaks to free-kicks, goal kicks, drop balls, handballs, and penalties.

There are some significant changes that could come into play quite soon. Here are some of the major rule changes notable to seasons currently in progress such as Major League Soccer and upcoming seasons such as European leagues, implemented as soon as the leagues decide to make the change.

  • During a free-kick – direct or indirect – if the defending team has three or more players in a wall, the attacking team may NOT have a player within one yard of the wall. This means no longer can attacking teams place wall-busters to break up a wall, or look to have players lose their marks by running through or around a wall. If they do, the referee can penalize the attacking team with a free-kick in the other direction.
  • Quick free-kicks can now be taken before a referee shows a yellow card, and the referee is allowed to wait before showing his yellow card until the next stoppage in play. Previously, if a free-kick resulted in a yellow card, the attacking team would have to wait until the referee shows his card before play can resume. However, the rule still stands where a referee distracted by already beginning to display a caution may halt a quick free-kick until he finishes the action.
    • As a caveat to this, if the referee was going to show a red card for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity, the attacking team still may take a quick free-kick, but the punishment automatically reverts from a red card into a yellow as the attacking team is considered to have restarted its course of play.
  • Goalkeepers may now come slightly closer while defending a penalty, only required to have one foot on the goal line instead of required to stand completely on it. Most referees allow leniency on this rule anyways, but now there is a bit of written leniency to go along with the flexibility on the field.
  • Also regarding penalties, an attacker who required medical treatment may now be allowed to take a penalty once treatment is concluded. Under the previous rule, if an attacker required treatment after a penalty was given must come off the field and was not allowed to take the ensuing penalty.
  • A drop ball will now be awarded if a ball strikes a referee and falls in possession of the opposition side, or if the ball strikes the referee and ends up in the back of the net.
  • Drop balls can no longer be contested. However, along with that, drop balls can be taken by an attacking team wherever they possessed the ball when play was stopped, meaning an attacking team can continue from the point at which the attack was stopped.
    • One caveat: any play stopped in the penalty area will be returned to the goalkeeper no matter who possessed the ball at the stoppage.
  • One big change we could see possession-happy teams like Manchester City take advantage of centers around goal-kicks. A goal-kick is no longer required to leave the penalty area before a teammate touches the ball, meaning once the goalkeeper touches the ball for the kick, it is immediately considered in play. Opponents must remain outside the penalty area when a goal-kick takes place.
  • Finally, a rule change has been made to try and combat time-wasting with substitutes. Any substitute must leave the field of play at the nearest sideline point, unless the referee determines he can quickly make his way back to the team’s designated touchline area.

The handball rule has also been re-written, but instead of explaining the changes, it’s better just to display the entire new rewritten rule. According to the newly written laws, the changes are:

  • Deliberate handball remains an offense. The following ‘handball’ situations, even if accidental, will be a free kick:
    • The ball goes into the goal after touching an attacking player’s hand/arm
    • A player gains control/possession of the ball after it has touches their hand/arm and then scores, or creates a goal-scoring opportunity
    • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm which has made their body unnaturally bigger
    • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm when it is above their shoulder (unless the player has deliberately played the ball which then touches their hand/arm)
  • The following will not usually be a free kick, unless they are one of the above situations:
    • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm directly from their own head/body/foot or the head/body/foot of another player who is close/near [this would now put Moussa Sissoko’s opening-minute penalty in serious doubt, as it hit his chest before redirecting off his arm, although one could still argue it “made his body unnaturally bigger” which would still qualify it as a foul]
    • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm which is close to their body and has not made their body unnaturally bigger
    • If a player is falling and the ball touches their hand/arm when it is between their body and the ground to support the body (but not extended to make the body bigger)
    • If the goalkeeper attempts to ‘clear’ (release into play) a throw-in or deliberate kick from a team-mate but the ‘clearance’ fails, the goalkeeper can then handle the ball

The IFAB wrote a lengthy reasoning for the change in the handball rule. This reads,

Greater clarity is needed for handball, especially on those occasions when ‘non-deliberate’ handball is an offense. The re-wording follows a number of principles:

  • Football does not accept a goal being scored by a hand/arm (even if accidental)
  • Football expects a player to be penalized for handball if they gain possession/control of the ball from their hand/arm and gain a major advantage e.g. score or create a goal-scoring opportunity
  • It is natural for a player to put their arm between their body and the ground for support when falling.
  • Having the hand/arm above shoulder height is rarely a ‘natural’ position and a player is ‘taking a risk’ by having the hand/arm in that position, including when sliding
  • If the ball comes off the player’s body, or off another player (of either team) who is close by, onto the hands/arms it is often impossible to avoid contact with the ball
  • When the GK clearly kicks or tries to kick the ball into play, this shows no intention to handle the ball so, if the ‘clearance’ attempt is unsuccessful, the goalkeeper can then handle the ball without committing an offense

These rule changes, as a whole, seem to benefit the game. The handball rules are still highly subjective and will likely still cause problems in many cases, but hopefully the rewritten laws will provide clarity on situations which have already occurred and may occur again. It’s tough for a rules committee to predict new situations which may arise, but these all seem to have been born off previous occurrences and aim to avoid uncertainty and subjectivity in repeat cases.

Felix makes decision; Neymar to leave PSG?

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Benfica youngster Joao Felix, 19, has reportedly decided to join Atletico Madrid.

Reports in Spain from Marca said that a deal for Felix has been agreed between Benfica and Atletico, with the Portuguese star deciding to head to La Liga instead of the Premier League with both Manchester City and Manchester United keen on signing him.

Felix has a release clause of $125 million in his Benfica contract and since the reports broke in Spain his current club have released a statement denying that a deal with Atletico has been done and that Felix’s agent, Jorge Mendes, is set to earn a huge $45 million from the transfer deal.

“In view of the set of news published in these last hours, Sport Lisboa e Benfica – Futebol, SAD clarifies that it is false that any negotiation process is currently under way regarding a possible transfer of player Joao Felix. The conditions for its negotiation are public and known, taking into account the termination clause defined in the amount of 120 million euros.

“More serious, and that deserves our most vehement repudiation and denial, is the false news that refers to negotiations that involve commissions of 30% and which, unfortunately, was echoed in Portugal by the newspaper ‘A Bola’, with intentions and goals that we do not know at all. We repeat: this information is totally false, absurd and has clearly intentional intentions for the reputation and dignity of Sport Lisboa e Benfica.”

The Portuguese international burst onto the scene in 2018-19 as he scored 20 goals from midfield to lead Benfica to the Portuguese title and a deep run in the UEFA Europa League.

With Antoine Griezmann on his way out of Atletico this summer, they will have some serious cash to spend and Benfica have been holding out for Felix’s reported release clause as clubs have tried to haggle it down by $20-25 million. There statement is strong that Felix is going nowhere, for now, but these reports suggest a move to Atletico is imminent.

Felix remains one of the top young talents in European soccer and these reports may well give the likes of City and United a friendly nudge in the right direction if they are serious about signing the free-scoring midfielder.


It appears Paris Saint-Germain are getting pretty fed up with the Neymar and a few of their other superstars.

In an interview with France Football PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi was asked about the speculation regarding Neymar’s future and came up with this response.

“I want players willing to give everything to defend the honour of the jersey and to join the club project,” Al-Khelaifi said. “Those who do not want that, or do not understand, we will meet and we will talk to each other. There are of course contracts to be respected, but the priority now is total membership of our project. Nobody forced him to sign here. Nobody pushed him. He came knowingly to join a project.”

Wow. That sounds like a man at the end of his tether.

Neymar arrived from Barcelona in 2017 for a world-record fee of $262 million and Kylian Mbappe arrived from Monaco initially on loan and then for the second-largest transfer fee in history at $200 million.

The former has been linked with a move to Real Madrid throughout the summer, while Mbappe spoke about the possibility of experiencing something new after he was named the Ligue 1 player of the year.

But Neymar is front and center here. Is that harsh given his plethora of injuries for club and country in recent seasons? His conduct off the pitch suggest these stern words from Al-Khelaifi are directly squarely at him.

After he was suspended for three UEFA Champions League games for next season after verbally abusing referees on social media, he was also reprimanded for hitting a fan after PSG’s defeat in the French Cup final to Rennes. His behavior off the pitch has further been called into question after last week a woman alleged she was raped by the Brazilian superstar.

PSG’s main aim is to dominate European soccer but despite Al-Khelaifi leading the charge and their Qatari owners pouring billions into the project, they haven’t got past the last eight stage in the UCL. Even though Thomas Tuchel’s side continue to dominate French soccer with six titles in the last seven seasons, European glory is what PSG crave.

Until Neymar is fully focused on the PSG project, it is unlikely to happen.

No deal: Willian, Wan-Bissaka bids rejected

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According to Sky Sports Chelsea have reportedly rejected $44 million bids from both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona for their Brazilian winger Willian.

Willian, 29, has just 12 months left on his current contract at Chelsea but given their transfer ban and after losing Eden Hazard to Real Madrid already this summer, the west London club are not willing to lose a player they believe will be key for them next season.

With Pedro and Christian Pulisic also around in the wide midfield positions, the fact that Callum Hudson-Odoi is recovering from a long-term injury also means that Willian is needed at Stamford Bridge.

He turns 30 soon and he has been linked with a move to Barca in the past. That said, his experience and quality will be needed for this young Chelsea squad and with Hazard gone he can now step up and be the main man cutting inside and scoring goals.


Another London club have turned down a bid, as Crystal Palace have brushed aside an offer of $44 million up front plus another $19 million in add-ons from Manchester United for right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

The 21-year-old was Palace’s Player of the Season in 2018-19 and excelled in his first full season as a professional.

Man United are desperate to bolster their defense, with right back and center back key areas where they want to strengthen this summer.

Wan-Bissaka is currently away with the England U21 squad for the European Championships in Italy and Palace know it will be tough to hang on to both him and Wilfried Zaha this summer as the latter has reaffirmed his desire to challenge for trophies and play in the UEFA Champions League.

Sky Sports believe that a straight offer of $65 million would be accepted, and United will likely return to pay what Palace want for one of the most promising right backs in the Premier League.

Watch Live: 2019 Women’s World Cup – Day 11

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The first double headers of the 2019 Women’s World Cup has arrived, as Groups A and B come to a close on Monday.

Hosts France are already through to the last 16 of the tournament but they face Nigeria who are aiming to finish in second place as they have three points from their first two games, and so do Norway who face South Korea in the other Group A finale.

[ MORE: Women’s World Cup news

Germany are already through from Group B and a win against South Africa, who sit bottom of the standings, will see them top the group. The real drama will be in the game between Spain and China as both teams have three points heading into their final group game.

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.

[ LIVE: Watch every single 2019 Women’s World Cup game ]

Here is your full schedule for Monday, June 17 at the Women’s World Cup.


2019 Women’s World Cup schedule

Group B: China v. Spain – 12 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group B: South Africa v. Germany – 12 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE

Group A: Nigeria v. France – 3 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group A: South Korea v. Norway – 3 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE

USWNT: “We have best team and second best team in world”

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Well, I’m sure this will calm down the folks who believe the USWNT are overconfident and a tad arrogant after scoring 16 goals and conceding zero in their opening two games of the 2019 Women’s World Cup…

Via Andrew Keh from the New York Times, defender Ali Krieger believes that such is the incredible depth of Jill Ellis’ U.S. women’s national team, they actually have the best team on the planet and also the second best team.

“We have the best team in the world, and the second-best team in the world,” Krieger said of the no. 1 ranked team on the planet.

Alex Morgan added that the USWNT have “two starting lineups” and the fact that Ellis made seven changes from the team which beat Thailand 13-0 and the U.S. then beat Chile 3-0 on Sunday says a lot.

All 20 of the USWNT’s outfield players have now played at the World Cup, and ahead of their Group F showdown with Sweden on Thursday for top spot it is likely the U.S. will continue to rotate its starting lineup.

In a month-long tournament, having such a large squad of talent to call on is enviable and Ellis knows it.

The USWNT toned down their goal celebrations from the 13-0 hammering of Thailand to the relatively run-of-the-mill victory against Chile, but their confidence levels haven’t dipped at all.

Just as the fresh legs will take them far in this tournament, so too will a whole squad brimming with confidence after getting valuable minutes at a World Cup.

It will be intriguing to hear what France, England and Germany think about these claims that the USWNT’s reserve squad is better than they are…