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2019 Women’s World Cup preview: Groups A, B and C

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The Women’s World Cup begins Friday at the Parc des Princes in Paris, where hosts France will tangle with South Korea to kick off a month-long chase for the honor of being crowned the best team in women’s football.

Here’s the lowdown on half of the field.

Group A

The inside track: Hosts France are hoping for a title, or at least a Top Three finish for the first time in history. The French have lost just once since the start of 2018 and have Eugenie Le Sommer leading the line. Norway would present a genuine title threat were it not for the continued boycott of national team duty by Ballon d’Or Feminin winner Ada Hegerberg, who is protesting for equality. South Korea is hoping for a knockout round game, while Nigeria is hoping its dominance of Africa can translate past the group stage for just the second time in eight tries.

Game schedule

Friday, June 7: France v. South Korea

Saturday, June 8: Norway v. Nigeria

Wednesday, June 12: Nigeria v. South Korea

Wednesday, June 12: France v. Norway

Monday, June 17: Nigeria v. France

Monday, June 17: South Korea v. Norway

Three star players to watch

1) Eugenie Le Sommer, France (below)
2) Asisat Oshoala, Nigeria
3) Maren Mjelde, Norway

Prediction

France and Nigeria win their openers, meeting for the Group A winners’ path on the final day. The hosts get it done.

Eugenie Le Sommer (Photo by Joachim Sielski/Getty Images)

Group B

The inside track: Two-time World Cup champions Germany are serial EURO winners and a tournament favorite on home continent soil. Once runners-up to the USWNT, China is seeking to reclaim its status as a threat on the world stage. PSG midfielder Wang Shuang should help that along a bit. Spain’s first World Cup saw a winless 20th place finish, so almost anything would be an improvement. South Africa has not won this year.

Game schedule

Saturday, June 8: Germany v. China

Saturday, June 8: Spain v. South Africa

Wednesday, June 12: Germany v. Spain

Thursday, June 13: South Africa v. China

Monday, June 17: South Africa v. Germany

Monday, June 17: China v. Spain

Three star players to watch

1) Alexandra Popp, Germany
2) Patricia Guijarro, Spain
3) Wang Shuang, China

Prediction

Germany cruises through the group stage, and the final day’s meeting between China and Spain sorts the second slot.

Alexandra Popp (Photo by Alex Menendez/ Getty Images)

Group C

The inside track: Australia has a puncher’s chance in any game, especially given Sam Kerr’s potential to do something wonderful at any given moment.  Brazil is on an almost-absurd nine-match losing run, all matches coming away from South America. The Italians have fared well in the run-up, without testing themselves much. Khadija “Bunny” Shaw will bring a prolific goal scoring record to France for the Reggae Girlz of Jamaica.

Game schedule

Sunday, June 9: Australia v. Italy

Sunday, June 9: Brazil v. Jamaica

Thursday, June 13: Australia v. Brazil

Friday, June 14: Jamaica v. Italy

Tuesday, June 18: Jamaica v. Australia

Tuesday, June 18: Italy v. Brazil

Three star players to watch

1) Sam Kerr, Australia
2) Khadija “Bunny” Shaw, Jamaica
3) Marta, Brazil

Prediction

All four teams remain alive on the final day, with Australia and Brazil earning places in the knockout rounds.

Khadija Shaw of Jamaica (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Haiti stuns Costa Rica to claim Group B at Gold Cup

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Poetic justice, put it in a Song.

Haiti’s Djimy Alexis made up for his early own goal by scoring a deserved winner as Haiti won Group B of the Gold Cup with an upset of Costa Rica on Monday.

[ ROUNDUPS: AFCON | Copa America ]

Los Ticos got everything they could handle from the upstart Gombey Warriors, who are now 3-0 on the tournament, and the World Cup mainstays tossed aside their early lead to meet Mexico in the quarterfinals.

Haiti will challenge Canada in the quarters, guaranteeing the semifinals an intriguing participant.

An early own goal had Costa Rica in control, but Duckens Nason’ 16th international goal was a part of a hard charge from the Haitians in the second half.

The other match saw Bermuda earn a 2-0 win over Nicaragua via goals from Lejuan Simmons and QPR’s Nakhi Wells. That gives the Gombey Warriors a 1-2 record while dropping Nicaragua to 0-3.

Bermuda was ranked 174th by FIFA to Nicaragua’s 129, but that will certainly change next month.

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.