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Women’s World Cup: Spain’s controversial comeback, Germany wins

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The first full day of Women’s World Cup action brought plenty of fireworks, some controversy, and great goals as well Group A and B begin to take shape. Here’s a recap of the action on the day as three European sides emerged victorious over Asian and African opponents in France.

Germany 1-0 China

China put up a fight, but wastefulness in the final third was their undoing as 19-year-old Giulia Gwinn scored a 66th minute winner to see Germany secure all three points. Germany struggled to put shots on target, ripping off 18 shots and only able to put five on target, but defensively they remained strong. China was plucky, but they failed to finish off opportunities, only able to put four shots together throughout the match.

Gwinn arrived at the key moment for Germany, delivering a scorching strike to win the match and becoming the first German teenager in 20 years to score a Women’s World Cup goal.

China had opportunities, the best of which came just before halftime when Yang Li struck the post before Germany goalkeeper Almuth Schult arrived to snuff out any danger. The loss is a disappointment for China who may have felt they were up to the task, but the performance is still positive overall headed into games against Spain and South Africa where they will feel confident after challenging Germany closely. Germany is unbeaten in 13 matches, the longest current streak of any Women’s World Cup participant.

Spain 3-1 South Africa

Spain looked shaky in the first half seeing South Africa go in front 25 minutes in via Thembi Kgatlana, but the European side was the recipient of a pair of controversial VAR decisions to propel them in front after halftime. The first came with 20 minutes to go as a Spain cross caught Janine Van Wyk in the arm as she turned away, with a penalty given after a VAR check. Jennifer Hermoso dispatched the spot-kick to draw the two sides level.

The second and far more controversial decision happened with just seven minutes remaining as a VAR check determined that Nothando Vilakazi followed through a clear dangerously, slamming her spikes into the groin of Lucia Garcia. That resulted in both a penalty and a sending-off, and Hermoso was there again to deposit the chance for her second of the day and a Spain lead.

With Spain in front and South Africa down a player, Garcia scored a third and put the game away, sneaking behind the defense and latching onto a long-ball to give Spain a 3-1 lead.

Norway 3-0 Nigeria

For at least one match, Norway didn’t miss Ada Hegerberg as an end-to-end saw the European side clinical with goals from Guro Reiten and Lisa-Marie Utland before halftime, with an own-goal from Osinachi Ohale capping off the wild first 45 minutes. Both sides had big chances, but Norway was the one to capitalize as Nigeria couldn’t find a way through, with Norwegian defender Maren Mjelde on hand to snuff out a big early Nigerian chance on the break and the back line again holding firm just before the break in a wild scrum.

There was a lengthy delay soon after the start of the second half as Nigerian defender Faith Ikidi was stretchered off after a collision with her goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi. Nigeria settled in a bit through the second half but failed to find a breakthrough and Norway cruised to victory.

Late goalkeeper strike seals knockout spot in UEFA Youth League

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Club Brugge goalkeeper Senne Lammens may just be 17 years old, but he just lived every goalkeeper’s dream: to score a dramatic equalizer in the dying seconds of a game to send the club through to a European competition’s knockout stage.

The young goalkeeper came forward on a corner in the 94th minute of a game against Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League Wednesday morning in Belgium. With the visitors leading 2-1 and added time just about expired, Brugge needed to score an equalizer to secure passage to the knockout stage, lest they be left at the mercy of Galatasaray’s match against PSG.

Lammens delivered. The corner swung in to the top of the six-yard box and the youngster was on hand to head home a pinpoint effort inside the far post.

The header was quite literally the last act of the game, with stoppage time already creeping more than 60 seconds past the minimum three added minutes.

Lammens has shuttled back and forth between the youth squad and the senior squad this season serving occasionally as an emergency third goalkeeper behind Simon Mignolet and Ethan Horvath. Mostly, though, he’s been with the youth squad appearing in five of their six UEFA Youth League games, with three wins and a draw.

Report: Arsenal not interested in Ancelotti “profile”

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According to The Athletic reporter David Ornstein, Arsenal is not interested in a manager of Carlo Ancelotti’s “profile.”

The Italian was recently let go by Napoli after a disappointing first half of the season despite qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage.

Ancelotti has won a Premier League title, three Champions League titles, and a Scudetto during his career but apparently a manager with his resume does not interest the Gunners, who may be looking for a more youthful boss with a longer-term strategy and potentially stronger club or domestic ties.

At 60 years old, Ancelotti has been fired from posts at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and now Napoli over the last four years. Over those four seasons, he has just one league title, the 2016/17 Bundesliga crown he won with Bayern in runaway fashion, and has exceeded expectations in very limited capacities, instead seeing things turn sour at each job relatively quickly. This season at Napoli, the club sits seventh in the Serie A table, mired in a horrible seven-match winless run that has seen them tumble further from the Champions League places.

Ornstein’s report also touched on the timeline of a potential hire, with the club apparently still deciding on whether to see out the season with interim manager Freddie Ljungberg or make a mid-season appointment. He states that the club “want situation settled asap” but also prefer “right man over quick decision.” He does not identify who the number one target is, but suggests that if that person is available at this point in time, they will make the hire mid-season, otherwise there will be a waiting game.

Jorge Sampaoli resigns as Santos boss

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Brazilian club Santos confirmed Tuesday evening that manager Jorge Sampaoli has resigned as boss.

Sampaoli, who won the 2015 Copa America in charge of Chile but could not recreate that success with the Argentinian national team, signed on with Santos a year ago and guided them to a second-place finish in the Brazilian top flight, 16 points behind runaway champions Flamengo. His contract had another year, expiring in the winter of 2020, but with reports of offers from multiple clubs, he has stepped down.

The most widely reported destination is fellow Brazilian club Palmeiras, whom many believe Sampaoli has already entered talks with. He has also been linked with Argentinian club Racing, and his name has cropped up on occasion with the Arsenal vacancy, although that seems like a longshot. It was said in late October that Sampaoli had an offer from an unnamed La Liga club, but those rumors have cooled.

His reason for leaving Santos after just one successful season in charge is unconfirmed, but rumors are circulating that Sampaoli had incredibly ambitious transfer plans for the offseason, and when club president Jose Carlos Peres could not guarantee his support, the relationship became strained.

The 2019 season was mostly successful for Sampaoli at Santos, finishing second in the league table, but the secondary competitions were somewhat disappointing. They received a tough first-round draw in the Copa Sudamericana, falling to River Plate on away goals. They were also ousted from the Copa do Brasil in the Round of 16, falling 2-1 to an Atletico Minero side that finished 13th in the league table.

Tierney out months as Arsenal injuries pile up

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According to multiple reports, including Mark Mann-Bryans of PA Sport and Charles Watts of Goal.com, Arsenal full-back Kieran Tierney could be out up to three months after dislocating his shoulder in the 3-1 win over West Ham on Monday.

Tierney was withdrawn in the 29th minute after an awkward fall, using the bottom of his shirt as a makeshift sling. The club is still deciding on whether he will require surgery, according to Mann-Bryans, and that decision will ultimately determine the length of time he will miss. Still, even without surgery, it could leave him sidelined for a month or more.

The 22-year-old has struggled with injuries since joining the Gunners this past summer, missing the first seven games of the year with a hip injury. He has seen action in just five Premier League games thus far, and again could be sidelined for a significant spell. He could also end up missing Scotland’s critical playoff match against Israel in late March depending on his recovery timeline and fitness level.

Tierney’s injury is not the only one Arsenal is currently sweating. Granit Xhaka will miss the Europa League group stage finale against Standard Liege with a concussion, while Hector Bellerin is struggling with a hamstring problem. “Hector had a feeling in his hamstring during the warm-up [before West Ham] and we took the decision,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg after the win over the Hammers. “Not going to force anyone to play if they don’t feel 100%.”

Dani Ceballos is still sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered against Vitoria in October Europa League play and won’t return to training until later this month, while Rob Holding is a question mark this week after missing the West Ham game thanks to a bruised knee.

Arsenal, currently sitting ninth in the Premier League table and is scheduled to host Manchester City this coming Sunday following the trip to Belgium. They have upcoming games against Everton, Bournemouth, Chelsea, and Manchester United through the festive period.