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USWNT staying patient as wait for World Cup opener drags on

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REIMS, France (AP) The Women’s World Cup is well underway but the United States, the defending champions, are on hold.

The U.S. national team doesn’t play until late Tuesday night against Thailand in the last group-stage opener for the field playing in France, so the American have been relegated to spectators during the opening days.

“It’s fun for us to watch the games, feel that excitement, feel that energy, and at the same time stay one step away from it, and stay really centered and focused with what we’re doing,” said forward Christen Press.

The Americans are certainly focused.

The team spent 10 days ensconced at Tottenham’s training facility in North London before arriving in Reims, a city some 90 miles northeast of Paris that is the first World Cup stop for the United States.

Press called Tottenham an oasis that allowed the team to get grounded before the monthlong tournament across France in pursuit of soccer’s biggest prize.

“You wait years to get here, and that’s a journey, and then you get here and it’s a whole other journey,” she said.

The Americans watched from Reims as hosts France trounced South Korea 4-0 in Paris before a sellout crowd to open the tournament on Friday night.

Lindsey Horan, who is making her first World Cup appearance for the national team, played professionally in France for Paris Saint-Germain after skipping college to turn professional. She now plays for the National Women’s Soccer League’s Portland Thorns.

“The amount of fans that they had and the amount of people watching around the world was just amazing for France, and for women’s soccer in general,” she said about the gala opener at PSG’s stadium, Parc des Princes. “I think that’s something we all should really be proud of.”

The U.S. women have won the World Cup three times, including in 2015 when they defeated Japan 5-2 in Canada. They also memorably claimed the trophy 20 years ago on home soil, downing China on penalties after a scoreless draw at the Rose Bowl.

The team is focused on winning again in France even while at home they are looking for a different victory. Known for championing women’s rights and equality, the players collectively filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination by the U.S. Soccer Federation and are seeking pay equitable with that of the men’s national team.

Megan Rapinoe says the team is “hands off” when it comes to the lawsuit for the duration of the World Cup.

Following Tuesday’s game against Thailand, the United States will head to Paris for a Sunday match against Chile, which is making its first World Cup appearance. The Americans will face nemesis Sweden in the final game of the group stage in Rennes.

It is the sixth time that the United States has landed in the same World Cup group with Sweden. The Americans were eliminated from the Olympics in Brazil by the Swedes in the quarterfinals. Afterward, U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo called them “cowards” for bunkering on defense, and she was dismissed from the team soon thereafter.

Because of the late start in France, there’s the potential that the United States may play the most compact schedule of the field if they go far into the knockout round, which seems likely.

Coach Jill Ellis said she felt the team has been in a good training rhythm and the schedule complements that. Plus, the World Cup always presents different challenges for different teams, like all the flights to traverse Canada in 2015.

“I think our travel in the group stage is very manageable, it’s good,” she said. “Listen, it’s about having these players healthy, and in a good mindset. I think that’s critical. It’s not getting caught up in who has how many days of rest, to be honest with you, because it is what it is.”

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.