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2019 Africa Cup of Nations preview, schedule, predictions

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The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Egypt on Friday and for the first time in its history the tournament will be played during the summer months.

It will also be the largest-ever AFCON tournament, with 24 teams competing to be crowned as Champions of Africa.

[ LIVE: Africa Cup of Nations scores

Egypt, the runners up two years ago as they lost to Cameroon in the final, are favorites and will have a huge support on home soil, while Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast will all be favored to make deep runs.

The likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez will lead their respective nations, as plenty of Premier League stars will be strutting their stuff.

Below is everything you need to know ahead of the tournament kicking off on June 21 (the final is in Cairo on July 19) including the full schedule, group stage predictions and which Premier League stars you can keep an eye on in Egypt.


TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Group stage

June 21
Group A: Egypt v Zimbabwe – Cairo International Stadium

June 22
Group A: Democratic Republic of Congo v Uganda – Cairo Stadium
Group B: Nigeria v BurundiGuinea v Madagascar – Alexandria Stadium

June 23
Group D: Morocco v Namibia – Al Salam Stadium, Cairo
Group C: Senegal v Tanzania, Kenya v Algeria – 30 June Stadium, Cairo

June 24
Group D: South Africa v Ivory Coast – Al Salam Stadium
Group E: Tunisia v Angola, Mauritania v Mali – Suez Stadium

June 25
Group F: Cameroon v Guinea-Bissau, Ghana v Benin – Ismailia Stadium

June 26
Group B: Nigeria v Guinea – Alexandria Stadium
Group A: Uganda v Zimbabwe, Egypt v DR Congo – Cairo Stadium

June 27
Group B: Madagascar v Burundi – Alexandria Stadium
Group C: Algeria v Senegal, Kenya v Tanzania – June 30 Stadium

June 28
Group E: Tunisia v Mali – Suez Stadium
Group D: Morocco v Ivory Coast, Namibia v South Africa – Al Salam Stadium

June 29
Group E: Mauritania v Angola – Suez Stadium
Group F: Cameroon v Ghana, Benin v Guinea-Bissau – Ismailia Stadium

June 30
Group B: Madagascar v Nigeria, Alexandria Stadium
Group B: Burundi v Guinea – Al Salam Stadium
Group A: Egypt v Uganda – Cairo Stadium
Group A: Zimbabwe v DR Congo – June 30 Stadium

July 1
Group D: South Africa v Morocco – Al Salam Stadium
Group D: Namibia v Ivory Coast – June 30 Stadium
Group C: Kenya v Senegal – June 30 Stadium
Group C: Tanzania v Algeria – Al Salam Stadium

July 2
Group F: Benin v Cameroon – Ismailia Stadium
Group F: Guinea-Bissau v Ghana, Suez Stadium
Group E: Mauritania v Tunisia – Suez Stadium
Group E: Angola v Mali – Ismailia Stadium

Round of 16

July 5
Match 41: Group D winners v 3rd Group B/E/F – Al Salam Stadium
Match 38: Group A runners-up v Group C runners-up – Cairo Stadium

July 6
Match 42: Group B runners-up v Group F runners-up – Alexandria Stadium
Match 39: Group A winners v 3rd Group C/D/E – Cairo Stadium

July 7
Match 37: Group B winners v 3rd Group A/C/D – Alexandria Stadium
Match 40: Group C winners v 3rd Group A/B/F – June 30 Stadium

July 8
Match 43: Group E winners v Group D runners-up – Suez Stadium
Match 44: Group F winners v Group E runners-up – Ismailia Stadium

Quarterfinals

July 10
Match 45: Winners match 38 v Winners 41 – June 30 Stadium
Match 48: Winners 42 v Winners 39 – Cairo Stadium

July 11
Match 47: Winners 43 v Winners 40 – Suez Stadium
Match 46: Winners 37 v Winners 44 – Al Salam Stadium

Semifinals

July 14
Match 49: Winners 45 v Winners 46 – June 30 Stadium
Match 50: Winners 47 v Winners 48 – Cairo Stadium

Third-place

July 17
Match 51: Losing semifinalists – Al Salam Stadium

Final

July 19
Match 52: Winning semifinalists – Cairo Stadium


PREMIER LEAGUE STARS TO WATCH

Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

Sadio Mane (Senegal)

Wilfried Ndidi (Nigeria)

Idrissa Gueye (Senegal)

Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)

Victor Wanyama (Kenya)

Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast)


PREDICTIONS

Group A
1. Egypt
2. DR Congo
3. Uganda
4. Zimbabwe

Group B
1. Nigeria
2. Guinea
3. Burundi
4. Madagascar

Group C
1. Senegal
2. Algeria
3. Kenya
4. Tanzania

Group D
1. Ivory Coast
2. Morocco
3. South Coast
4. Namibia

Group E
1. Tunisia
2. Mali
3. Mauritania
4. Angola

Group F
1. Ghana
2. Cameroon
3. Benin
4. Guinea-Bissau

Court date for USWNT’s law suit versus U.S. Soccer delayed

USWNT equal pay
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A court case that has dragged U.S. Soccer’s administration through the mud and led to a change of leadership may drag into the summer.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A judge in California has delayed the May 5 trial of gender discrimination against the USSF until June 16 due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. A pretrial conference was also moved to June 1.

The federation is being sued by members of the two-time reigning World Cup champion USWNT under the Equal Pay Act.

The women are requesting more than $66 million in damages.

The extra month gives both parties more time to reach a settlement which could keep this ugly case away from trial. Given the uncertainty in our world, it could of course be delayed again.

The USSF has a new CEO in Will Wilson, who can make a major statement of change by stopping the trial from reaching court.

Handicapping the Final Four of Premier League March Madness

Premier League March Madness
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Our Premier League March Madness results have been as topsy-turvy as the 2019/20 on-field campaign before coronavirus halted it last month.

Yes, the runaway No. 1 seed is alive, but the second, third, fourth, and fifth seeds have been expelled from the tournament within the first two rounds.

Voting in the semifinal round begins Thursday.

[ RESULTS: March Madness Round of 16 ]

Before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar: To make sure you’re not missing out on either March Madness or the business end of the PL season, we’ve gone ahead and merged the two competitions. The March Madness Final Four and Championship game were due to take place this weekend in Atlanta but now you will be voting on Tottenham v. Arsenal instead of Duke v. Kansas.

Teams are seeded from 1-16 based on their current spot in the table, with Aston Villa winning the relegation playoffs on Monday to remain in the Premier League.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Before we handicap the semifinal matches, let’s take a look at where the field sits after your Wednesday voting.

No. 1 Liverpool v. No. 12 Everton
No. 6 Wolves v. No. 7 Sheffield United

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Look, all bets are off for the derby. The Everton faithful has shown up in a big way during voting, dispatching Manchester United and Chelsea.

That’s big time stuff, though Liverpool ended the dreams of our presumptive sleeping giant favorite Arsenal after beating West Ham in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Reds are going to have to not just been upstart Everton but overcome the legions of rival supporters who would happily click the Toffees’ box rather than see Liverpool gain the crown.

The other side of the bracket sees No. 7 Sheffield United looking to continue its surprising run in both the PL season and our voting.

The Blades knocked off Man City, potentially aided by the same phenomenon Everton hopes to see on Thursday.

Now they meet Wolves, who may be riding a crest of North American momentum in the form of affinity for El Tri hero Raul Jimenez.

Our prediction: Everton and Wolves in the Final.

RESULTS: Premier League March Madness Elite Eight

Premier League March Madness
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Everton continued its upset path toward in our Premier League March Madness voting, showing its sensational support and setting up a fantastic eMerseyside Derby in the Final Four.

Thousands of votes were cast Wednesday, and the Toffees upset isn’t even the top underdog story.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Chris Wilder’s Blades of Sheffield United won a back-and-forth affair with No. 2 seed Manchester City to move into the semifinals.

That’s where they’ll meet No. 6 seed Wolves, who powered past Leicester City as if it wasn’t a challenge.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results in full
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

IFAB: New handball rule can be adopted when games resume

Handball rule
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The International Football Association Board (IFAB) issued a letter from secretary Lukas Brud on Wednesday, outlining several changes to the game.

The “tee shirt line” handball rule may be coming to club football quicker than expected due to the coronavirus suspension of the 2019/20 season.

IFAB will allow leagues the choice to use the new handball rule when matches resume this season, also making changes to VAR protocol and vowing to review the offside rule.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The new handball rule states that the shoulder goes to the end of the shirt sleeve or the bottom of the armpit (though obviously not in the case of a long-sleeve jersey).

For the purposes of determining handball offences, the ‘arm’ stops at the bottom of the armpit

So… get ready for baggy, longer jersey sleeves, or the increased recruitment of players with the longest armpits.

Kidding aside, the handball rule desperately needed clarification and we’ll see if this gives enough to fans and players alike.

Referees will now be “expected” to go to the screen on the field when a call is subjective, forcing the official to either uphold or overrule his initial call.

This same post says IFAB will now allow accidental handballs in the run-up to a goal in certain situations.

“Accidental handball by an attacking player should only be penalized if it ‘immediately’ results in a goal or an obvious opportunity for the player and/or their team to score a goal (i.e. following the handball, the ball travels only a short distance and/or there are very few passes).”

Well, that needs some clarification.

Back to the timing issue for the new handball rule, it seems logical that leagues would want to introduce new laws with a new season but stand-by for the decision of your favorite league.

As for the offside rule, “The members agreed that the fundamental philosophy of offside is underpinned by a desire to encourage attacking football and the scoring of goals. It was further agreed, therefore, that Law 11 – Offside should be analyzed and reviewed with a view to potentially proposing changes reflecting this philosophy.”

It’s a lot to unpack, and we’ll surely here from proponents and opponents of the changes soon. As always, implementation will make the biggest difference in how these changes are received.