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2019 Women’s World Cup preview: Groups D, E and F

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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.

PST’s Nicholas Mendola gave us the tour of Groups A, B and C this morning, so here’s the lowdown on the other half of the field.

Group D

The inside track: After finishing third in a World Cup (2015) and reaching the semifinals of the European Championship (2017) just two years apart, England enter this summer’s showpiece a trendy pick to make yet another deep run. Only this time, the Three Lionesses are under the guidance of a head coach, Phil Neville, without any major tournament experience. If you’re not already familiar with the work of forward Nikita Parris, it won’t be long before you are. Kim Little is one of the all-time greats and she can singlehandedly give Scotland every chance of challenging England for the top spot. Meanwhile, Japan appears halfway through a transition between the old guard (back-to-back World Cup finals, winning it all in 2011) and a younger generation of future stars. They could go either way.

Game schedule

Sunday, June 9: England v. Scotland

Monday, June 8: Argentina v. Japan

Friday, June 14: Japan v. Scotland

Friday, June 14: England v. Argentina

Wednesday, June 19: Japan v. England

Wednesday, June 19: Scotland v. Argentina

Three star players to watch

1) Kim Little, Scotland
2) Nikita Parris, England (below)
3) Karen Carney, England

Prediction

While Group D has three teams that are absolutely worth of the knockout rounds, it’s entirely possible — if not likely — that one of the three will be left out on account of a heavy concentration of points going to England and one of Scotland or Japan. England should finish top, then it’ll be the combination of Little and 20-year-old Erin Cuthbert ascending to superstardom to push Scotland past Japan.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Group E

The inside track: Once upon a time (not so long ago), this would have been Canada’s group to walk over, but that’s simply no longer the case, for two reasons: 1) Christine Sinclair’s legendary career is still going strong, but she’s now 35 and no longer the one-woman terror she once was; 2) the Dutch have built and attacking juggernaut and could very well put three (or more) past every team in the tournament. New Zealand will set out to defend for their lives, while Cameroon is a rising team more than capable of leapfrogging the Football Ferns for the inside track to third place and a spot in the knockout rounds.

Game schedule

Monday, June 10: Canada v. Cameroon

Tuesday, June 11: New Zealand v. Netherlands

Saturday, June 15: Netherlands v. Cameroon

Saturday, June 15: Canada v. New Zealand

Thursday, June 20: Netherlands v. Canada

Thursday, June 20: Cameroon v. New Zealand

Three star players to watch

1) Lieke Martens, Netherlands (below, center)
2) Christine Sinclair, Canada
3) Vivianne Miedema, Netherlands

Prediction

It’s setting up to be a tournament that rewards teams willing to take risks and attack with fervor, therefore it’ll be: Netherlands, Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand.

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Group F

The inside track: Arguably the most straightforward of all the groups, the only question we need answered from Group F is who’ll finish top — is it the obvious choice of the Americans, or the surprising Swedes? It’ll almost certainly be the former, which means Jill Ellis’ team will likely go into the same half of the bracket as England (potential quarterfinals opponent) and France (semifinals), assuming they can get past either Spain or China in a trick round-of-16 matchup. As for the others, Chile and Thailand will try to defend as if their lives depend upon doing so, likely making for an entertaining goal-differential contest between the favorites.

Game schedule

Tuesday, June 11: Chile v. Sweden

Tuesday, June 11: USA v. Thailand

Sunday, June 16: Sweden v. Thailand

Sunday, June 16: USA v. Chile

Thursday, June 20: Sweden v. USA

Thursday, June 20: Thailand v. Chile

Three star players to watch

1) Tobin Heath, USA (below)
2) Alex Morgan, USA
3) Kosovare Asllani, Sweden

Prediction

Tobin Heath is (finally) widely recognized as one of the world’s best players after putting up six-plus goals and assists (combined). The fact that Sweden is the USWNT’s final group game all but assures the starters will feature in all three games.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

DC United back to winning ways with 4-1 rout of FC Cincinnati

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D.C. United hasn’t added too many tick marks to the win column of late, but they got back to victory lane with a 4-1 victory over FC Cincinnati that featured a fantastic second half.

The win is just the club’s second since May 13, and that should give Ben Olsen and company a huge boost as they jump into second place in the East past Atlanta United and move four clear of the fourth-placed New York Red Bulls. With Philadelphia just a single point on top, it’s all to play for despite the nine-match run that saw just one win, now ended by the victory at Cincinnati.

Luis Rodriguez bagged a brace while Wayne Rooney and Paul Arriola added one each to complete the scoreline. The visitors to Nippert Stadium went ahead on the first of Rodriguez’s pair, a curling effort with his right foot that put D.C. United up before halftime.

The home side struck back with a penalty by Emmanuel Ledesma nine minutes after the break, but it took D.C. just two minutes to restore the lead as Rodriguez again came through, this time via a deflection that took the ball into the top-left corner.

Rooney and Arriola were then on hand to put the game away, with the former England international latching onto an exquisite long ball from Leonardo Jara that was presented on a platter for Rooney to split the center-backs and finish cooly for a 3-1 lead. Arriola finished it off with 17 minutes to go, again on the breakaway as the American international burst down the left and finished it himself from a tight angle.

Playing with the lead for most of the second half, D.C. United was happy to let FC Cincinnati hold much of the possession, 57% to be exact. They were deadly on the counter, leading the shot count 17-11 despite the possessional deficit, including 8-3 on target. Up next for D.C. United is a critical date with Atlanta United on Sunday as the two duke it out near the top of the Eastern Conference.

Winks says trophies for Spurs are “round the corner”

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Tottenham Hotspur has just one trophy in the last 20 years, but midfielder Harry Winks says the club is knocking on the door and should be earning hardware in no time.

With the club reaching the Champions League final this season before falling to Liverpool, Winks – who started the big game in midfield – is believing in what Mauricio Pochettino has brought to the squad.

“As long as we keep believing in what we have to do… I’m sure they [trophies] are round the corner,” Winks said after the club’s first training session in Singapore. “Everybody is ambitious in the squad. Of course there comes a time when players want to start winning trophies. But there is a bigger picture at Tottenham.”

Winks signed a new five-year contract at Spurs just over a week ago, rewarding the Spurs academy product for breaking into the first team and earning a significant role throughout last season, only cut short by a groin injury. Winks made 17 starts and 26 total appearances last season and was a consistent presence in the Champions League run as well, starting eight of the team’s 13 matches in the competition.

Tottenham’s only trophy of the last 28 years is a 2008 League Cup victory, when they topped Chelsea 2-1 in the final with Jonathan Woodgate scoring the winner in extra time. You have to go all the way back to 1991 for their previous trophy, when they won the FA Cup by beating Nottingham Forest 2-1 in the final on a stoppage-time own-goal.

Spurs has come closer in recent years, with last season providing a legitimate title chase until Liverpool and Manchester City pulled away at the turn of the calendar year. They reached the Champions League final before falling to Liverpool, and fell to Chelsea in the League Cup semifinals as well.

Big things have taken place for the club this summer, with Winks’ contract extension plus the addition of Tanguy Ndomele on a club record fee. Spurs is also rumored to be in for attacking midfielder Giovani Lo Celso in what would be a quality addition to the squad. Christian Eriksen has not yet made a move to depart despite heavy interest from the top Spanish clubs, and Toby Alderweireld has also not yet departed despite his low release clause sparking rumors. Meanwhile, Danny Rose has not made the trip to Asia for preseason and the 29-year-old is reportedly on his way out.

Europa League: Rangers, Aberdeen, FCSB advance in first qualifying round

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The first qualifying round of the 2019/20 Europa League wrapped up Thursday as the competition pairs down teams en route to the group stage.

A couple of notable teams lived to see another day, including Steven Gerrard and Scottish side Rangers who passed its test with flying colors, hammering Gibraltar side St. Joseph’s 6-0 for a resounding 10-0 aggregate win. Jermaine Defoe scored a late brace but Colombian international Alfredo Morelos was the man of the hour, bagging a hat-trick including a stunning rabona at the doorstep that probably wasn’t necessary but still found the back of the net.

Fellow Scottish side Aberdeen who topped Finnish club Rovaniemen Palloseura – or RoPS – 2-1 for a 4-2 aggregate victory. English striker Sam Cosgrove put Aberdeen in front from the penalty spot in the 26th minute, and 19-year-old Scottish youth international Lewis Ferguson picked up the late game winner in the 94th minute with essentially the last kick of the game.

FCSB, previously known as Steaua Bucuresti, knocked off Moldovan club FC Milsami Orhei 2-1 for a 4-1 aggregate victory. FCSB, who finished second in the Romanian top flight last season, got the winning strike from 21-year-old Romanian youth international Razvan Oaida in the 42nd minute to give FCSB the victory.

Danish club Brondby advanced despite a 2-0 road loss, topping Finnish side FC Inter Turku 4-3 on aggregate thanks to their 4-1 victory in the first leg. Turku struck twice in quick succession after the break, scoring in the 52nd and 56th minutes, but it was too little too late.

Legia Warsaw shook off a 0-0 first leg draw and secured a 3-0 win over aptly-named Gibraltar side FC Europa. A brace from Spanish striker Carlitos led the way, with goals in the 7th minute and 60th minute to set the pace for the Polish side.

Irish club Shamrock Rovers advanced over Norwegian side SK Brann on a late winner by new signing Gary O'Neil who bagged an 87th minute strike to secure the 2-0 win and lead the Irish side through 4-3 on aggregate. O’Neil only just joined Shamrock Rovers from UCD this summer, and he came off the bench for the final 10 minutes and found the winner.

Swedish club Malmo, famous as Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s boyhood club, finished off Ballymena out of Northern Ireland 4-0 for a 11-0 aggregate bashing. Malmo featured four different goalscorers, including American international Romain Gall, who picked up his only international cap with a late bench appearances against Italy back in late 2018.

Croatian side Hajduk Split was upset by Maltese club Gzira United 3-1 at home, which gave the visitors the win on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate tie. Gzira striker Ben Hamed Kone struck for a pair, including the game – and matchup – winner in the 97th minute that sent the Maltese side through. The two goals were utterly spectacular, with the first coming in the 69th minute on a bicycle kick from all the way at the top of the box, while his second was a flick from nearly the same position that sent them through.

All Europa League scores (bold team advances)

Rangers 6-0 St. Joseph’s
Ballymena 0-4 Malmo FF
Legia Warsaw 
3-0 FC Europa
FC Milsami 1-2 FCSB
RoPS 1-2 Aberdeen
FC Inter Turku 2-0 Bronby
Apollon Limassol 
4-0 Kauno Zalgiris
Hapoel Be’er 1-0 KF Laci
Hajduk Split 1-3 Gzira United
Kilmarnock 0-2 Connah’s Quay
KR Reykjavik 0-0 Molde
Shamrock Rovers 
2-0 SK Brann
Hapoel Be’er 1-0 KF Laci
Tobol Kostanay 1-1 Jeunesse Eche 
FK Makedonija 0-3 Alashkert FC
Kairat Almaty
2-1 Siroki Brijeg
KS Teuta 1-0 FK Ventspils
FC Levadia Tallinn 3-2 Stjarnan
Rigas Futbola Skola 0-2 Olimpija Ljubljana
Universitatea Craiova 
3-2 Sabail
Dinamo Minsk 1-2 FK Liepaja
Levski Sofia 2-0 MFK Ruzomberok
Cracovia 2-2 Dunajska Streda
FC Vaduz 
2-1 Breidablik
Haugesund 5-1 Cliftonville
Neftchi 6-0 Speranta Nisporeni
Petrocub-Hincesti 0-1 AEK Larnaca
Torpedo Kutaisi 0-2 Ordabasy Shymkent
Zalgiris Vilnius 1-1 Honved
Zrinjski Mostar 
3-0 Akademija Pandev
Progres Niederkorn 1-2 Cork
UE Engordany 0-1 Dinamo Tbilisi
B36 Torshavn 2-3 Crusaders
FK Kukesi 1-1 Debrecen
Hibernians 0-1 Shakhter Soligorsk
IFK Norrkoping 
2-1 St. Patrick’s
NS Mura 2-3 Maccabi Haifa
Vidi 0-0 FK Zeta
FC Vitebsk 1-1 KuPS Kuopio
Shkupi 1-2 Pyunik
Buducnost Podgorica 4-0 JK Narva Trans
FC Spartak Trnava 2-0 Radnik Bijeljina
NK Domzale 1-0 Balzan FC
Radnicki Nis 2-2 Flora

Report: Barcelona logs bid for Neymar

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According to a report by Sky Sports, Barcelona has officially submitted an offer to Paris Saint-Germain for Brazilian superstar Neymar that includes a $113 million cash component as well as a two-player offer that PSG can choose from.

The report states that Barcelona submitted a six-player list to PSG which includes Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Ivan Rakitic, Nelson Semedo, and Malcom. PSG can reportedly pick two from those six players, and the deal would be complete. Sky Sports did not know the identity of the sixth player at the time of the initial report.

Neymar has become unsettled at PSG after his time in France has been marred by suspensions and disappointing results in European play. He was involved in an altercation with a fan after PSG fell to Stade Rennais in the Coupe de France final in May, and has been accused of rape this summer by a Brazilian girl he flew to Paris late last season. Neymar was also suspended for three upcoming Champions League matches for critical comments made on his Instagram page after PSG was beaten by Manchester United this past spring.

Neymar has reportedly told PSG sporting director Leonardo that he wishes to leave the club in a recent meeting following the Brazilian’s late arrival to PSG preseason training. He missed the Copa America this summer thanks to an ankle injury suffered in a pre-tournament friendly against Qatar.

Over the last two years at PSG after joining from Barcelona via a world-record $250 million transfer fee, Neymar has made 58 appearances, scoring 51 goals and assisting 29 more. However, he’s been eliminated from the Champions League Round of 16 both years, finding himself injured for at least the return leg of the knockout matchup in both years.