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Copa America: Guests Japan, Qatar still alive ahead of group finales

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PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) Both Copa America guests are still alive as the last round of group stage matches begins, a feature that doesn’t seem to please some of their South American opponents.

Qatar and Japan, who this year played in the Asian Cup final, are in third place in their groups. The top two in each group and the two best third-place finishers advance to the quarterfinals.

If Argentina is prematurely eliminated, it will be because of Qataris with little international experience who are preparing for the 2022 World Cup.

Japan sent to Brazil an under-23 team that is being groomed for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Asian champion Qatar has so far drawn with Paraguay 2-2 and lost to Colombia 1-0.

“We have come to compete, not to take pictures, even if we admire the players of the teams we are facing,” Qatar’s Spanish coach Felix Sanchez said on Saturday. “Our main goal is to evaluate ourselves in a tournament of this caliber, so demanding.”

After winning the Asian Cup, Sanchez’s contract was extended until the end of the next World Cup. On Sunday, his team will have the chance to upset Lionel Messi.

“It would be beautiful to qualify no matter if it is against a monster like Argentina,” Sanchez said. “It will be a great step, even though we know they are also trying to advance to the next stage.”

The Qataris have already been invited to return to next year’s Copa, split between Colombia and Argentina. Australia will be a guest side in 2020.

Japan was thrashed by Chile 4-0 but held favorite Uruguay to 2-2 after leading twice. On Monday the young Japanese can eliminate Ecuador to advance and, depending on other results, possibly face host Brazil in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Venezuela coach Rafael Dudamel is particularly upset with Japan’s decision to bring its Olympic team.

“I do not agree that a guest like Japan gives due importance to its participation by coming with players that are mostly under 23,” Dudamel said Saturday after Venezuela beat Bolivia 3-1 and qualified to the quarterfinals of Copa America.

“I raise my voice and say Copa America needs to be only for South American teams,” he added. “We have not seen South American teams be invited to the African Cup of Nations, tournaments in Europe… We have to respect the hierarchy that we have historically built.”

The list of Copa America guests in past editions is long: Mexico, Costa Rica, United States, Jamaica, Honduras, Panama, Canada and Japan. Mexico had the best result among those, reaching the final in 1993 and in 2001.

Paraguay coach Eduardo Berizzo said he doesn’t like the idea of teams outside of the Americas such as Qatar and Japan playing the Copa America.

“Playing among all American teams, that is logic,” Berizzo said after drawing Qatar. “We should think of a Copa America with Central and North Americas integrated. I never saw any European cup with South American teams. I strongly believe that Copa America needs to be played by American teams.”

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said business was the main reason to invite teams to the Copa America.

“We are few countries in South America to organize a tournament with 10 teams, even more so with four phases like in a World Cup,” Tabarez said.

Newcastle takes three points at Sheffield United

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Allan Saint-Maximin and Jonjo Shelvey scored goals and VAR made its presence felt as Newcastle United toppled Sheffield United 2-0 at Bramall Lane on Thursday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Its Newcastle’s fifth result from six following a loss to Chelsea, while Sheffield United sees the end of its seven-match unbeaten run.

The Magpies pull into 11th place with 19 points, two spots below the Blades on goal differential.

Sheffield United meets Norwich City on Sunday, when Newcastle hosts Southampton.


Three things we learned

1. Blades make rookie mistake in VAR era: The linesman’s flag was raised when Andy Carroll flicked a header into the Blades final third, but Shelvey kept running onto the ball and referee Stuart Atwell allowed play to continue into the 1v1 chance between the midfielder and Sheffield United goalkeeper Dean Henderson. Shelvey passed around Henderson and into the goal, the backstop apparently spotting the flag and assuming the call. Big mistake, as VAR negated the linesman’s flag.

2. Bruce rewarded for lineup risk, and ASM breaks down the door: Manager Steve Bruce pulled the plug on big money striker Joelinton‘s automatic spot in the Starting XI, installing veteran center forward and hometown hero Andy Carroll in that spot. Carroll was solid with Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron on his flanks, and won the pivotal assist in the second half.

Saint-Maximin is either the league’s best dribbler or a fixture in the debate, but he’s been unable to find the back of the goal whether through fine saves or misfired shots. Raise your hand if you had 50-50 header for his first Premier League marker. Didn’t think so. If this busts down the door, look out.

3. Magnificent Martin deserves a rest: Newcastle backstop Martin Dubravka was the biggest factor in the result, as the Slovakian national team goalkeeper was at his shot-stopping best. He was stopping all of the Olivers, with fine stops on McBurnie and Norwood in the first half and a well-controlled box in the second 45.

Man of the Match: Dubravka — Respect to Carroll, but the keeper made six saves on the night for a richly-deserved clean sheet.


[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

A deflection off Miguel Almiron forced Martin Dubravka into a fine reaction stop in the sixth minute.

Newcastle then had the ball for a spell without real threat, as Blades’ Oli McBurnie’s curl wide in the 15th minute was the next moment of danger for either side.

The Magpies scored soon after, Saint-Maximin rising high to thump a header inside the post after Andy Carroll laid off for Javi Manquillo‘s cross.

McBurnie then forced an incredible save out of Dubravka when George Baldock sent a terrific cross into the heart of the box.

Almiron gave away a dangerous free kick in first half stoppage time, but Dubravka was again there for a two-handed parry of Oliver Norwood‘s rip.

VAR made its voice heard in the 71st minute, when it ruled that

Everton must think bigger than retread replacement for Silva

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Marco Silva is out as Everton manager, the Toffees turning the page on a disappointing execution of their ambitious vision.

Despite plenty of investment, Silva’s Everton wasn’t able to do much of anything good and now sits in the Premier League’s Bottom Three after 15 match days.

[ MORE: Everton sacks Silva ]

Silva’s men finished eighth in the league during his first season, but the best he can say about his truncated sophomore campaign is that the club are into the League Cup quarterfinals.

So what will Everton do now? Well, Duncan Ferguson is in charge for the Toffees’ Saturday visit from Chelsea, though the club has vowed to “swiftly” find their next full-time boss.

Frankly, the club could do its next man a favor by taking its time, as the post-Chelsea fixtures are Manchester United, Leicester City in the aforementioned cup fixture, and Arsenal.

Back on topic, what the Toffees should do is appoint a man with vision. While it would be tempting to slide into the comfortable slippers that are David Moyes, appointing him or some Sam Allardyce or Mark Hughes type would be another step in the wrong direction.

That’s because this is truly an opportunity for the right coach to take the club in a tremendous direction. Everton might be in the drop zone, but its talent is a mile ahead of true relegation candidacy.

Whoever is hired — and this is why Big Sam is probably holding aloft a boombox outside Goodison Park — is going to “save the Toffees” and earn another season at the helm. Allowing that to be some retread would be a mistake.

Rafa Benitez isn’t going to come to Goodison Park because of his relationship with Liverpool, but a a manager of his ilk should very much be in play. The Toffees boast a still-improving star forward in Richarlison and two proper fullbacks in Lucas Digne and Djibril Sidibe.

Richarlison is 22, Alex Iwobi is 23, and Moise Kean just 19 and adapting to a new country. Defenders Yerry Mina, Mason Holgate, and Michael Keane are all under 26. A manager who can develop and fine tune talent will have a field day with this roster. Imagine Dominic Calvert-Lewin reaching his potential.

Their 9.1 shots allowed per game is a figure bettered by only Man City and Chelsea. The side has been prone to allowing those shots to be dangerous ones, but there’s every reason to believe that fixing their fourth-worst goals conceded total should happen soon given some adequate goalkeeping performances.

Jordan Pickford is England’s No. 1, but hasn’t been right for the Toffees. Logically, he’ll get back to at least average and start stealing some points. The goals are going to keep coming, and likely increase with the wins; Everton is eighth in the xG table.

The Premier League is better when Everton is a good side. The Toffees are not going to be relegated this season, and need to approach that hiring with that mindset. Get someone worth believing in, not just blind hope and a nod to the past.

Watch Live: Arsenal v. Brighton, Sheffield Utd v. Newcastle

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Matchweek 15 of the 2019-20 Premier League season wraps up on Thursday, with two more midweek clashes featuring two mid-table sides, and two more from much nearer to the relegation zone, in action.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

First up, PL new boys (and 9th-place side) Sheffield United will host 14th-place Newcastle United, who sit just two points outside the relegation zone ahead of kickoff. 45 minutes later, 10th-place Arsenal will host 16th-place Brighton & Hove Albion in Freddie Ljungberg’s first home game as Arsenal interim manager.

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The schedule for Thursday’s two games is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


2:30 p.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Newcastle United [STREAM]
3:15 p.m. ET: Arsenal v. Brighton & Hove Albion [STREAM]

Marco Silva fired by Everton

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Marco Silva has been fired as manager of Everton, making him the fourth Premier League manager to lose his job in the last 16 days.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Silva reported for a regular day’s work at Everton’s training ground on Thursday, a day after suffering a 5-2 defeat to local rivals Liverpool, all while a conference call was expected to take place involving the relevant figures: owner Farhad Moshiri, chairman Bill Kenright, chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale and director of football Marcel Brands.

15 games into the 2019-20 PL season, the Toffees currently sit 18th in the league table with less than a point per game — relegation territory — on the back of three straight losses and just four wins all season. Silva’s only victory since mid-October came against fellow bottom-four side Southampton nearly a month ago.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

It’s not just the number of losses for Everton (now up to nine) on the season thus far, but many of the sides to which they’ve lost (newly promoted Aston Villa, 12th-place Bournemouth, newly promoted Sheffield United, 11th-place Burnley, 16th-place Brighton & Hove Albion and 19th-place Norwich, to name a few) that forced them further and further down the table and made relegation a semi-serious threat, at least for the time being.