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Three things we learned from USWNT win

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Wow. Exhale.

The United States women withstood another big European challenge on Tuesday and stayed on track to defend their Women’s World Cup title following a 2-1 defeat of England which included VAR calling back an England goal and awarding the Lionesses a penalty.

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Oh, and one of the Yanks’ perceived weak links stopped said penalty.

Again: Wow.

Alyssa Naeher stands tall… again

“She has to be Player of the Match,” said Alex Morgan of goalkeeper Alex Naeher’s performance. “She saved our butts today.”

It’s difficult to put it any better than the American striker, who scored what stood up as the match-winning goal because her goalkeeper was so good in the second half.

Naeher’s most notable moment will go down as the save of Steph Houghton’s late penalty kick, but the 31-year-old Connecticut stood a whole lot bigger than her listed height of 5-foot-9 when she flew through the air for a two-handed save earlier in the second half.

But again, everyone’s going to be talking about the penalty save (even with the poor attempt from Houghton).

“I just said that was your shining moment, but we have one more game,” said USWNT coach Jill Ellis. “What a fricking stop.”

(AP Photo/Francois Mori)

No Rapinoe, no problem: Lineup tumult fails to faze

To a player, the United States women’s national team has spoken about its strength in depth, with backup left back Ali Krieger issuing the most confident/arrogant of any quotes in the tournament (depending on if you’re a supporter or a detractor).

“We have the best team in the world, and the second-best team in the world,” she said in mid-June.

While, of course, that’s an exaggeration, the belief clearly flows through the team. Christen Press stepped in for Megan Rapinoe and scored the opening goal, then put in a monumental shift which included a hockey assist on Morgan’s headed winner.

It should be noted that Press is actually more productive than Rapinoe over her USWNT career, with 48 goals in 121 caps as opposed to Rapinoe’s 49 in 157. But we digress…

“It’s crazy. It was so emotional. The heart and grit it takes to score twos goals with our head early, save a penalty, have a goal taken back… to stay strong, stay composed, and stay calm,” she said.

Women’s soccer is at its pinnacle

Perhaps it would be more fitting for this tournament had the English upset the USWNT, because an all-newcomer final between the Netherlands and England would’ve met the tournament storyline at eye level.

This Women’s World Cup is the best top-to-bottom tournament yet, with collective guards down and nations 100 percent on show.

Comparing the men’s and women’s games is fraught with risk and rather silly, so let’s dance with the one that brought us here; Each Women’s World Cup has been a step in the right direction, right down to the once-dominant USWNT needing to brush off its shoulders as Germany and Japan kept them from the final for two cycles.

As the Americans angle to become the second nation to repeat as World Cup champions, it’s worth noting the nations not in the semifinals. No Germany, no France, no Japan, no Brazil. Dark horses at the start of the tournament had a real chance to shine, and it’s difficult to see that dipping as Italy and Spain rise and many more are sure to follow by investing in the game.

Preview: Brazil v. Mexico in U-17 World Cup final

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There will be plenty of 2005 U-17 World Cup final shades at Estadio Bezerrão on Sunday.

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On that clear night in Lima, Peru, the likes of Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos wrote history for Mexico, as they powered El Tri to its first-ever World Cup title over a favorite Brazilian side, who was composed of Marcelo, Renato Augusto, and Anderson, in a 3-0 win.

14 years and some change later, both youth powerhouses meet again in the same tournament, for the same silverware, and with the same pressure looming over them from entire nations who expect nothing but excellence from their respective teams.

But of course, to the Brazilians, there is a sense of added pressure given the fact that they’re on home soil.

“We’re familiar with Mexico’s quality,” Brazilian forward, Veron, said ahead of the final. We know they are a great team. But we’re Brazil, and we have five stars on our chest. We intend to play our best match and get the result that makes history.”

As it stands, Mexico is the clear-cut underdog, having barely crept into the knockout stages and being composed of players with far less notoriety to its Brazilian counterpart, who boast three players with three goals or more in the tournament.

That said, Mexico pose as a balanced, reliable, and pragmatic team under coach Marco “Chima” Ruiz. Throughout the six games this tournament, El Tri have found the back of the net 14 times and have conceded a mere three goals (two of which came against Italy). With four goals and two assists in only 344 minutes, Los Angeles Galaxy’s Efrain Alvarez has proven to be the team’s most productive player going forward.

Asked who he would rather take between France or Brazil in the final, the Mexican American answered with the same confidence that has made him one of the most exciting players in the tournament.

“It doesn’t matter which of the two it is, we’ll beat them,” he said.

It’s 90 minutes for either team to make history, again. A win for Brazil will raise the number of U-17 stars to four, while Mexico can claim its third with another historic performance. Will Brazil’s high-flying attack crack Mexico’s solid defense? If Alvarez starts, will he rise to the occasion and guide Mexico to another U-17 title?

That has yet to be seen; the second final between two, routine winners awaits the first whistle.

Report: Man City considering Kingsley Coman as Leroy Sane replacement

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Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are considering Bayern Munich’s Kinglsey Coman as a replacement for injured Leroy Sane if he were to leave for the defending German champions over the summer, according to a report from Sky Sports.

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Sane, who is projected to be out until February or March with an ACL injury, was the subject of a $176 million move to Bayern Munich over the summer, but a move never came to fruition, largely due to the aforementioned injury. If negotiations between Sane’s camp and the defending Bundesliga champions pick up again this summer, City have a replacement in mind: 23-year-old Coman.

Coman, who has played in 10 league games for the Bavarian club this season, was managed by Guardiola during his time with the club and flourished during the title-winning 2015-2016 season. In 2017, the Frenchman revealed that the Spaniard’s departure was tough on him, saying, “I found life easier at Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola.”

As expected, Coman is not the only option City are exploring.

Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal, who has a reported $82 million release clause, is also on the Premier League giant’s shortlist. Txiki Begiristain, City’s director of football, has strong ties to La Reala that goes back to his first day in the sport.

At the Etihad, the general feeling from Guardiola’s players is that the German winger is one foot out of England, and is instead focused on a move to Bayern and a return back home. With his contract in the final 12 months this summer, it is expected that the release clause for Sane will not be as lucrative as before. 

In 134 appearances for City, Sane has scored 39 goals, while Coman has scored on 28 different occasions in 139 appearances.

Abidal: Barcelona, Messi negotiating a new deal

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Lionel Messi and his representatives are in talks with Barcelona over a new contract, the defending champion’s sporting director Eric Abidal confirmed  to Mundo Deportivo in an exclusive interview.

“They are already talking,” Abidal, the former Barcelona defender, said. “I do not know if we will have news soon because the decision will depend on the player, but for us as a club I hope it is sorted as soon as possible.”

Messi – a five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer – joined the club’s well-known academy, La Masia, at the age of 13 and is under contract until 2021 but was recently questioned about his future after Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed that the Argentine can leave Camp Nou on a free transfer due to a clause in his contract.

Asked when he expects an announcement to be made on a new and improved contract, Abidal made it clear he’s unsure but hopes it happens: “It will be known when it is known, but I am positive.”

Throughout seven games in La Liga this season, Messi has scored eight goals and assisted in four occasions. In his latest appearance for the Catalonian side – a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo – the No. 10 scored a first-half hat-trick.

Abidal also confirmed that Barcelona are in talks with breakout teenage starlet Ansu Fati and his camp on a new deal.

“We are also talking to him,” Abidal said. “He is a young player that we have to protect. We have to talk to his family and representatives.”

Earlier this year, the 17-year-old became the youngest player in the league’s history to score and assist in the same game.

EURO qualifying wrap: Germany, Austria, Croatia join Netherlands in qualifying

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Like the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Croatia qualified for EURO 2020 after wins on Saturday.

[ READ: Netherlands qualify to first EURO since 2012 ]


Germany 4-0 Belarus

With goals from Matthias Ginter, Leon Goretska, and a second-half brace from Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos, Germany routed an uncompetitive Belarus side 4-0 at Borussia-Park. The scoreline, however, should have been more lopsided, as the home side easily won the possession battle and outshot the visitor’s with a total of 31 shots (10 on target). Leaders of Group C, Germany is an early favorite for next summer’s tournament. Not hard to believe that, right? 

Austria 2-1 North Macedonia

Qualifying for Europe’s main tournament is becoming a norm for Austria.

Bayern Munich’s David Alaba scored early while Stefan Lainer added his own three minutes into the second half, as Austria edged North Macedonia 2-1 at Ernst Happel Stadion. Das Team, who stand second in Group G with 19 points after nine games, have now clinched a berth for the EURO on back-to-back occasions.

Croatia 3-1 Slovakia

When all was said and done, Croatia was too much for a 10-man Slovakia, who, initially, broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute.

Bayern Munich’s Ivan Perisic scored the home side’s third and final goal of the match, which punched Croatia’s ticket in next summer’s tournament. Nikola Vlasic and Bruno Petkovic also contributed goals in the second half for Croatia.

Elsewhere

Russia 1-4 Belgium

Azerbaijan 0-2 Wales

Cyprus 1-2 Scotland

Israel 1-2 Poland

Armenia 0-1 Greec