Associated Press

U.S. comes back, stuns favorites France at U-20 World Cup

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The United States challenged in the first half, but it appeared as if the U-20 World Cup favorites France were too much to handle. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the U.S. had completed a stunning comeback to win 3-2 and secured a spot in the quarterfinals, while the giants were out.

Sebastian Soto’s brace led the way for the United States, cancelled out by France goals from Amine Gouiri and Nabil Alioui until substitute Justin Rennecks pounced with eight minutes to go for the winner.

The opening 20 minutes were of high quality on both ends. France as expected dominated possession, but struggled to do much with it early. The United States had the first good opportunity as Richie Ledezma couldn’t finish from a tight angle, while France came close down the other end with Mickael Cuisance’s cross to Nabil Alioui much too strong, surprising the Monaco youth product who headed over the bar.

Timothy Weah came close on 20 minutes as he turned Enzo Loiodice around but was foiled by France goalkeeper Alban Lafont coming off his line and snuffing out Weah’s attempted chip. That was a harbinger for the French defense which was torn to pieces on the opening goal 25 minutes in. Ledezma broke through the middle and ran it straight down the French throats, with the favorites caught on their heels. He fed a beautiful ball right between the French center-backs for Sebastian Soto through on goal who controlled nervously and finished a curler for the game’s first goal.

France picked things up after the opener and worked a shot off the woodwork in the 36th minute. A wonderful bit of combination play in the box fell to Cuisance who cut a shot from the penalty spot and clattered it off the outside of the right post. The hosts tied things up just before halftime on the counter with the United States caught way too high up the field, which left Aboubakar Kamara all alone to defend a two-man break. Moussa Diaby fed Lyon youth product Amine Gouiri who was clean through and a cool finish brought France back level at 1-1.

A key moment in the first half was an injury to U.S. midfielder Paxton Pomykal, who seemed to be troubled by a painful knock to his lower back. He returned to the field after treatment, but was clearly slowed.

In the second half, there was a quick VAR check for handball in the 52nd minute but Diaby’s shot hit Kamara’s elbow tucked in to his body and nothing rightly came of it. With the United States looking gassed past the hour mark, Tab Ramos made a double change bringing Ledezma and Konrad de la Fuente off with Ulysses Llanez and Justin Rennecks entering the fray.

Completely against the run of play, the United States found an equalizer with 15 minutes to go. Llanez held the ball strongly as the Baby Yanks entered the attacking third, and Weah did excellent work in heavy traffic to feed Soto who timed his run perfectly off the back of the French defensive line. Through on goal, he finished to level the score at 2-2.

With the United States energized, they surged forward. At times it appeared dangerous, but Ramos understandably wished to try for a winner in regulation rather than suffer through another 30 minutes of extra time on tired U.S. legs. He would find a winner through substitute Rennecks after Sergino Dest fired off an absolute howitzer from distance that stung Lafont’s hands, the ball spilling to the turf at the far post. Rennecks pounced and reached the ball before Lafont could recover, handing the U.S. a lead with eight minutes to go.

Soto nearly sealed it in the 89th minute, through on goal again, but he tried to round the goalkeeper and Lafont was on hand to collect off his feet. France fought tooth and nail for the equalizer, but they couldn’t come any closer than Dan-Axel Zagadou’s missed header in the 91st minute. The final whistle sounded, and the United States was on to the quarterfinals for the third straight cycle while France’s tournament came to an early end. The U.S. takes on Ecuador on Saturday, as the CONMEBOL side took down fellow South American side Uruguay 3-1 in their quarterfinal matchup.

VIDEO: Kei Kamara scores superb bicycle kick goal against Sporting KC

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Kei Kamara has scored plenty of goals at Children’s Mercy Park, but none like his bicycle kick goal on Saturday.

The 35-year-old, now in his 16th season, showcased his penchant for scoring right before halftime against his former team. The goal makes 12 for the Colorado Rapids’ forward this season, placing him within the top 10 of the league and two begin his 14-goal season last year.

Overall, Kamara is fifth in the all-time MLS scoring list with 124 goals, second among active players behind San Jose Earthquakes’ Chris Wondolowski.

Enjoy a superb goal from a superb goalscoerer.

La Liga Roundup: Messi, Barcelona stunned by inspired Granada (video)

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Granada’s shocking 2-0 win over Barcelona and subsequent rise to the top of the table headlines Saturday’s La Liga action.

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Granada 2-0 Barcelona

Not even Lionel Messi, who made his season debut on Saturday, was able to save Barcelona against a red-hot Granada.

Granada, who are off to their best start in their 88 years of existence, had a perfect night in front of their supporters, convincingly getting past a Barcelona that dominated possession, but lacked the offensive ingenuity needed to score.

Barcelona’s defense wasn’t noteworthily robust, either.

Two minutes in, the newly promoted side scored through a headed goal from Ramon Azeez, following a defensive turnover from Junior Firpo.

Unable to record a shot on target in the first half and looking to wakeup a dormant attack, Barcelona brought on wonderkid Ansu Fati and Lionel Messi at halftime. Despite the duo connecting on several occasion and generating a shot on target, it wasn’t enough to get past Rui Silva.

In the 66th minute, following video review, substitute Alvaro Badillo converted from the spot, handing Granada their third win of the season.

Atop of La Liga, Granada set their sights on Real Valladolid, while Barcelona, who are off to their worst league start in 25 years, host Villarreal at Camp Nou.

Atletico Madrid  0-0 Celta Vigo

For a second consecutive week, Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid dropped points, drawing with Celta Vigo 0-0 at Wanda Metropolitano.

Tied with league leaders Granada and Sevilla with 10 points, the alarm bells are far from going off in Madrid. However, as Saturday’s performance showed, los Colchoneros are having trouble finishing chances this season, despite fielding an attack with the likes of Joao Felix, Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata.

In five games, Atletico have managed to score only five goals, six fewer than leaders Granada. Against Celta, Atletico registered 20 shots, five on target, but were unable to crack a stellar Ruben Blanco, who registered five saves.

Leveled with Granada and Sevilla, Atletico Madrid look to get back into winning ways as they take on RCD Mallorca. Elsewhere, Celta Vigo, who have won win after five games, host Espanyol next.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Villarreal 2-0 Real Valladolid

Levante 0-0 Eibar

Almeyda, Wondolowski sent off in Quakes’ fall against Atlanta (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): Melodrama took center stage in Atlanta United’s 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, as Matias Almeyda, Chris Wondolowski and Cristian Espinoza were all sent off on Saturday. Josef Martinez, six games away from tying Lionel Messi’s world record for most consecutive goals, left the field in 79th minute following an injury, ending his MLS-record run at 15 games. Playing with 10 players from the 34th minute onwards, the Quakes held on to the draw up until the 90th minute. Unmarked inside the box, Emerson Hyndman rocketed the ball past Daniel Vega, who recorded nine saves throughout the night. In stoppage time, Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez was rewarded for his stellar performance with a goal of his own. With a game at hand, Eastern Conference leaders, NYCFC, are three points ahead Frank De Boer‘s side. The Quakes, on the other hand, have internal fires to put out as they have lost six of their last eight, and are only a point above the red line with three games to play.

Three moments that mattered

27′ — Great run by Espinoza, greater ball by Vega  — Daniel Vega and Cristian Espinoza were players that San Jose were desperately missing last season. This sequence says it all.

 

90′ — Emerson Hyndman wins it for the Five Stripes   — Hyndman, with no one near him, seals three points for the home side.

 

90′ + 2 — Martinez takes advantage of broken San Jose  — Martinez’s goal was only salt in San Jose’s fresh wound.

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Man of the match: Gonzalo “Pity”  Martinez

Goalscorers: Meram (4′), Guzan (27′ – OG), Hyndman (90′), Martinez (90′ + 2)

FIFA sees no obstacles for women to attend games in Iran

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ZURICH — Soccer’s governing body FIFA says an inspection visit to Iran has shown “no noteworthy operational obstacles” to lifting the country’s 40-year ban and letting women attend a World Cup qualifying game next month.

After meeting government and soccer officials in Tehran this week, FIFA says it will work with Iran’s soccer body to also open domestic league games to female fans.

FIFA wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums which breaches international soccer statutes prohibiting discrimination.

Global attention on the ban followed the death this month of a 29-year-old activist, Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire outside a courthouse. She had been detained for dressing as a man to enter a soccer stadium in Tehran and faced six months in prison.

Ahead of Iran hosting Cambodia at the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on Oct. 10, FIFA says the visit on Thursday focused on “international relations, security and ticketing matters.”

Iranian officials were told of FIFA’s “firm and clear position that women need to be allowed to enter football matches freely” with tickets sold to as many who wanted to attend.