Championship Focus: Norwich, Watford set for PL return, but who joins them?

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With the 2020-21 Premier League season heading into the home stretch, three clubs are set to depart via relegation, opening the door for three EFL Championship sides to take their place via promotion.

[ MORE: Open-play goals: The stat to tell the Premier League table’s true story? ]

Between now and the end of the season, PST will have you covered on the latest goings-on in the second division of English football, as the likes of Norwich City, Watford, Swansea City, Brentford battle for automatic promotion, all the while a potential USMNT star of the future leads Barnsley to the unlikeliest of playoff pushes…

Norwich City headed for title, PL return on first try

Norwich’s Pukki Party looks all but certain to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking, thanks in very large part to the namesake himself, Teemu Pukki. Asfter scoring 29 goals in the EFL Champions two seasons ago, Pukki bagged 11 in the Premier League as the Canaries sped toward relegation and finished the season with 10 straight defeats. The 31-year-old Finnish striker was undeterred, though, as he remained at the club following the drop, and he’s once again in contention for the Golden Boot with 22 goals this season.

The real star, however — and those who watched Norwich last season won’t find this at all surprising — is Emi Buendia, whose 10 goals and 12 assists (on 3.4 key passes per game, identical to Premier League leader Jack Grealish’s average) make him a strong contender for Player of the Season. The best player on the league’s best team always has a strong claim to such awards, and Buendia has done more than his fair share to ensure his return to the Premier League.

Under the guidance of Daniel Farke, who also remained in his same position as manager, Norwich have lost just five out of 38 games and they continue to pull away from the chasing pack with their best run of results all season — 9W-1D-0L in their last 10 games.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero to leave Manchester City at season’s end ]


Watford wasting little time getting back to PL, too

The Hornets had effectively made themselves a part of the Premier League furniture over five seasons spent in the top flight before their very sudden and somewhat surprising relegation (after finishing 11th the campaign prior) last season. Life in the Championship got off to a slightly rocky start with yet another manager Vladimir Ivic being fired not long into the new season — Ivic lasted just 20 games (9W-7D-4L) over four months.

Xisco Munoz was hired as Ivic’s replacement on Dec. 21, and all Watford have done is win a league-best 41 points to climb comfortably into 2nd place during Xisco’s 18 games in charge.

Ismaila Sarr remained at the club following the relegation, and the 23-year-old Senegalese winger has 9 goals and 4 assists in Championship action. Joao Pedro also stuck around Watford despite losing Premier League status, and the 19-year-old Brazilian forward has chipped in with 9 goals of his own this season. Troy Deeney was once again leading the Hornets in the goal-scoring charts (7 from 18 appearances) before suffering an achilles injury in early February; the 32-year-old captain has missed Watford’s last 10 league games, during which time Xisco’s side has won 9 and lost just once.

[ MORE: Ranking Man City’s best options for Sergio Aguero successor ]


Swansea, Brentford falling away down the stretch

This is season no. 3 back in the Championship for Swansea City, and it’s undeniably their best chance at a return to the top flight. Steve Cooper is 41 years old and receiving rave reviews just two years into his first appointment as a first-team manager.

The Swans sit 3rd in the table, six points behind Watford with a game in hand, ahead of the return from the international break. Andre Ayew leads the way with 14 goals, followed by 9 from summer signing Jamal Lowe.

And then there’s Brentford, who reached the promotion playoff final last season and suffered a heartbreaking defeat to west London rivals Fulham at Wembley. For the third straight season, the Bees have hit pay dirt on an under-the-radar striker signing as Ivan Toney (28 goals in Brentford’s first 37 games) smashes the recent records of Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins, who took their talents to the Premier League in back-to-back seasons for 27 and $36 million, respectively. One way or another, the 25-year-old, who was signed from Peterborough United for $7 million (plus add-ons) last summer, looks destined for the Premier League in 2021-22.

Thomas Frank’s side got off to a roaring start to the season, including a run to the League Cup semifinals where they were knocked out by Tottenham, en route to topping the table as recently as Feb. 12. Since then, though, effectively operating with an 18-man squad has taken its toll and seen the Bees lose four of their last nine in league play as they tumbled down to 4th.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Dike to Everton, French teen back to Arsenal or Leicester ]


Dike, Barnsley soaring up the table

When Daryl Dike signed for Barnsley on Feb. 1, the Tykes sat 12th in the Championship table, six points out of the playoff places. Fast-forward nearly two months, and the USMNT forward has five goals in 11 appearances for Barnsley and the club is now 5th in the Championship with five points between themselves and 7th place. Like Toney, Dike is increasingly likely to be playing in the Premier League next season — it’s only a matter of whether he will do so by promotion or transfer.

The battle for 6th place — and the final playoff place — looks like it’ll be between Barnsley (64 points, 38 games played), 6th-place Reading (62 points, 38 games played) and last season’s other relegated side, Bournemouth (59 points, 37 games played).

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Argentina overcomes blown two-goal lead, beats Netherlands in penalty shootout

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Lionel Messi scored one goal and assisted another before the Netherlands hit Argentina twice in the final 20 minutes, but the Albiceleste survived a penalty kick shootout to reach the semifinals of the 2022 World Cup on Friday.

WATCH FULL MATCH REPLAY

Argentina will now face Croatia, who shocked the world and beat Brazil earlier on Friday, in the first semifinal on Tuesday.

The opening goal came from virtually nothing, as Messi dribbled through midfield with four orange shirts between him and the goal, and three shading out Nahuel Molina, the eventual goal scorer. It mattered not one bit at all. Messi slipped the ball not only through one line of defenders, but also back across one lane of traffic, stopping it on a dime for Molina to receive it in stride and tuck it inside the far post.

Messi got his goal at the penalty spot in the 73rd minute, atoning for his missed spot kick against Poland during the group stage. At 2-0, with barely a quarter-hour remaining, Argentina had one foot in the semifinals and Messi was just over three hours of football from lifting the World Cup trophy.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

As brilliant as Messi was in attack, Argentina’s defensive performance was suffocating and controlling (for a time) as they allowed just one shot in the opening 82 minutes, before a frantic final eight minutes, which included a goal to make it mighty interesting late on with long ball after long ball to substitute Wout Weghorst. And, it was Weghorst who headed home the first Dutch goal after Steven Berghuis whipped a fantastic cross into the box.

10 minutes into second-half stoppage time, with the entire world watching and waiting to see if he could get the ball over the wall and back down under the crossbar, Teun Koopmeiners slipped a clever ball toward the penalty spot for Weghorst to collect and sweep it past Emiliano Martinez.

Martinez made saves to deny Virgil van Dijk and Berghuis in the first two rounds of the shootout, as Argentina raced out to a 3-1 advantage after three rounds. Things got interesting when Enzo Fernandez pulled his attempt wide of the post in round no. 4, but Lautaro Martinez hammered the ball past Andries Noppert to end it at 4-3.

[ MORE: World Cup odds ]


How to watch Netherlands vs Argentina live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Louis van Gaal is looking for arguably the only major trophy to escape his reach with the World Cup, and Virgil van Dijk isn’t too far behind his manager. Jurrien Timber’s joined VVD in a very good back three, Cody Gakpo had been the breakout player of the tournament in all likelihood before Goncalo Ramos captured the world’s attention with his hat trick for Portugal on Tuesday.

Enzo Fernandez has been shining along with Messi, while Nicolas Otamendi has turned back the proverbial clock at center back in a tour de force for the CONMEBOL powers.


Netherlands quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 8
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 10
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group G)
Coach: Louis van Gaal
Key players: Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong

Argentina quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 3
World Cup titles: 2 (1978, 1986)
World Cup appearances: 17
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (2nd place)
Coach: Lionel Scaloni
Key players: Lionel Messi, Angel de Maria, Lautaro Martinez

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World Cup 2022 schedule – how to watch, quarterfinals, calendar, match schedule, brackets, dates

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The World Cup 2022 schedule is locked in and this tournament in Qatar has been sensational as the knockout rounds will capture the imagination of the globe.

[ LIVE: Watch World Cup en Espanol en Peacock ]

Japan, Australia and Morocco made the last 16 with so many huge shocks during the tournament, but the Atlas Lions are the only one of the trio to survive into the quarterfinals. Germany, Denmark, and Belgium all crashed out in the group stage.

In the quarterfinals Croatia dumped out red-hot favorites Brazil on penalty kicks to blow the tournament wide-open, while Argentina edged past the Netherlands on penalty kicks in an epic encounter.

[ MORE: World Cup rosters for all 32 teams ]

The other side of the bracket sees Morocco meeting Portugal for the right to tangle with the winner of England vs France.

So, yeah, the quarterfinals, semifinals, and final should be dynamite. Bring. It. On.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]  

Below is the schedule in full, details on how to watch the games and everything else you need..

[ MORE: World Cup odds ]


World Cup 2022 schedule, start time, dates, how to watch live

  • When: November 20, 2022 to December 18, 2022
  • Knockout round kick-off times: 10am, 2pm (both ET)
  • Location: Qatar
  • TV channels en Español: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock
  • Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Follow along with ProSoccerTalk for the latest news, scores, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 World Cup, and be sure to subscribe to NBC Sports on YouTube!


Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D | Group E | Group F | Group G | Group H | Full tables


Quarterfinal schedule

Match 58 – Friday, December 9: Croatia 1-1 Brazil (Croatia wins 4-2 on penalties) – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan

Match 57 – Friday, December 9: Netherlands 2-2 Argentina (Argentina wins 4-3 on penalties) – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail

Match 60 – Saturday, December 10: Morocco vs Portugal (preview) – Al Thumama Stadium, Doha – 10am

Match 59 – Saturday, December 10: England vs France (preview) – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm


Semifinal schedule

Match 61 – Tuesday, December 13: Argentina vs Croatia – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm

Match 62 – Wednesday, December 14: Winners Match 59 vs Winners Match 60 – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm


Third-place play-off

Match 63 – Saturday, December 17: Losers Match 61 vs Losers Match 62 – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm


Final

Match 64 – Sunday, December 18: Winners Match 61 vs Winners Match 62 – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 10am


Round of 16 results

Match 49 – Saturday, December 3: Netherlands 3-1 USA – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan

Match 50 – Saturday, December 3: Argentina 2-1 Australia – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan

Match 52 – Sunday, December 4: France 3-1 Poland – Al Thumama Stadium, Doha

Match 51 – Sunday, December 4: England 3-0 Senegal – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor

Match 53 – Monday, December 5: Japan 1-1 (AET, 1-3 PKs) – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah

Match 54 – Monday, December 5: Brazil 4-1 South Korea – Stadium 974, Doha

Match 55 – Tuesday, December 6: Morocco 0-0 (AET, 3-0 PKs) Spain – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan

Match 56 – Tuesday, December 6: Portugal 6-1 Switzerland – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail


Group stage results

Group A

Recap/highlights: Qatar 0-2 Ecuador – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Senegal 0-2 Netherlands  – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 5am
Recap/highlights: Qatar 1-3 Senegal – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Netherlands 1-1 Ecuador – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Netherlands 2-0 Qatar – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Ecuador 1-2 Senegal –  Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan

Group B

Recap/highlights: England 6-2 Iran – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: USA 1-1 Wales – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: England 0-0 USA – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Wales 0-2 Iran – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Wales 0-3 England – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Iran 0-1 USA – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor

Group C

Recap/highlights: Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: Mexico 0-0 Poland – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Poland 2-0 Saudi Arabia – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Argentina 2-0 Mexico – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: Poland 0-2 Argentina – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Saudi Arabia 1-2 Mexico – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail

Group D

Recap/highlights: France 4-1 Australia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Recap/highlights: Denmark 0-0 Tunisia – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: France 2-1 Denmark – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Tunisia 0-1 Australia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Recap/highlights: Tunisia 1-0 France –  Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Australia 1-0 Denmark – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah

Group E

Recap/highlights: Spain 7-0 Costa Rica – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Germany 1-2 Japan – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Spain 1-1 Germany – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Japan 0-1 Costa Rica – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Japan 2-1 Spain – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Costa Rica 2-4 Germany – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor

Group F

Recap/highlights: Belgium 1-0 Canada – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Morocco 0-0 Croatia – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 5am
Recap/highlights: Belgium 0-2 Morocco – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Croatia 4-1 Canada – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Croatia 0-0 Belgium – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights Canada 1-2 Morocco – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor

Group G

Recap/highlights: Brazil 2-0 Serbia – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: Switzerland 1-0 Cameroon – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Recap/highlights: Brazil 1-0 Switzerland – Stadium 974, Doha – 11am
Recap/highlights: Cameroon 3-3 Serbia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Recap/highlights: Cameroon 1-0 Brazil – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: Serbia 2-3 Switzerland – Stadium 974, Doha

Group H

Recap/highlights: Portugal 3-2 Ghana – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Uruguay 0-0 South Korea – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Portugal 2-0 Uruguay – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: South Korea 2-3 Ghana – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: South Korea 2-1 Portugal – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Ghana 0-2 Uruguay – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah


Morocco vs Portugal: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Can red-hot Portugal find a way past Yassine Bounou and Morocco when the World Cup quarterfinals hit Qatar on Saturday?

Match 60 of the tournament will see Bounou riding high after stopping three of four penalties faced in the Round of 16 versus Spain, but Portugal won’t be thinking about going more than 90 minutes after scoring a half-dozen goals against Switzerland.

STREAM MOROCCO vs PORTUGAL LIVE

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a fourth-minute goal to lead Portugal past Morocco in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup, but Morocco’s yet to lose in Qatar.

The Atlas Lions needed penalties to beat Spain in the Round of 16, while Portugal had no such trouble in clobbering Switzerland 6-1.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Morocco vs Portugal.


How to watch Morocco vs Portugal live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday December 10
Stadium: Al Thumama Stadium, Doha
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Bounou — spelled Bono on his jersey — was sensational in penalties, but Morocco’s defenders limited Spain to a single shot on target. Romain Saiss has been especially good in the middle of the back line while Achraf Hakimi and Noussair Mazroui have been effective out wide, going forward and defending.

Portugal put Goncalo Ramos in the Starting XI for Cristiano Ronaldo and the 21-year-old center forward scored three goals and added an assist against Switzerland. Bruno Fernandes has been wonderful for Portugal, while Ruben Neves and Rafael Leao were able to get through the match with small sub roles and should be rested if called upon by Fernando Santos, who is seeking a World Cup to go with his EURO crown.


Morocco quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 22
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CAF
Coach: Vahid Halilhodzic
Key players: Achraf Hakimi, Yassine Bounou, Youssef En-Nesyri, Romain Saiss

Portugal quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 9
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 8
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs
Coach: Fernando Santos
Key players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruben Neves, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Cancel

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England vs France: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Match 59 of the 2022 World Cup features a pair of European heavyweights duking it out for a place in the semifinals when England faces France on Saturday.

[ MORE: Lineup projections for England vs France ]

Didier Deschamps’ France is bidding to become a back-to-back World Cup winner, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are tournament-hardened and have shown their explosive nature three times this tournament.

STREAM ENGLAND vs FRANCE LIVE

France beat Poland 3-1 in its Round of 16 match while England overcame a dodgy start to pound Senegal 3-0.

Neither team can say its faced a test like this in the tournament, and this could be a fantastic fight in Qatar.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for England vs France.


How to watch England vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday, December 1
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

England will look to Harry Kane, though the question remains who will flank the Tottenham center forward. Marcus Rashford’s been very good but Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden got the starting spots against Senegal and it paid off for Southgate.

Kylian Mbappe has been borderline unstoppable and will test Harry Maguire, John Stones, and friends and Antoine Griezmann pulls the strings in behind and Aurelien Tchouameni continues to strengthen his reputation in the center of the pitch.


England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Pickford

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann

Follow @NicholasMendola