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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.

Costa Rica downs pesky Bermuda 2-1 in Gold Cup

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A hot night in Frisco, Texas saw Costa Rica deal with a pesky but wasteful Bermuda side and secure passage to the Gold Cup knockout stage with a 2-1 win on goals bracketing halftime. Jerseys were soaked through with sweat after just 20 minutes, and the minnows were up to the task but couldn’t finish off their chances and were punished on the other end.

Costa Rica remained in the majority of possession throughout but Bermunda continued to disrupt their early flow, holding the favorites to just one total shot through the first 25 minutes. Bermuda, meanwhile, had a few great opportunities in the opening minutes. They had an early chance on the counter just two minutes in, but Nahki Wells scuffed his shot wide after the Costa Rica defense somehow whiffed on stopping the through ball. Reggie Lambe found himself on the doorstep in the 19th minute after a Wells shot from outside the top of the box was blocked right to Lambe’s feet, but he took too long to get a shot off and put it into Leonel Moreira’s breadbasket.

Costa Rica had its first chance in the 27th minute as Allan Cruz rose high and got his head to an Elias Aguilar cross from deep in the corner, but the effort was right at Bermuda shot-stopper Dale Eve. Bermuda was lucky to keep 11 players on the pitch on the half-hour mark after an ugly tackle by Jaylon Bather who went studs-up high onto the lower leg of Bryan Oviedo. They broke through on a subsequent corner as Mayron George headed home at the back post.

Oscar Duarte came close to a second with another header off a corner 10 minutes later, but he put it just over the bar. Eve was required again just before halftime as he flew through the air to keep out a Celso Borges free-kick effort destined for the top corner. After the break, Costa Rica was bright and found a second as Elias Aguilar bagged his second of the tournament on a simple shot from left side of the box.

Bermuda woke up after the second Costa Rica goal, and a Donte Brangman scorcher from distance forced a save of Moreira on 57 minutes. On the ensuing corner, Borges tripped Jalen Harvey and a penalty was awarded, which Wells blasted down the middle to get Bermuda on the board. Zeiko Lewis had a glorious opportunity to draw level as Lambe fed him through on goal but he couldn’t settle properly and the chance disappeared.

Costa Rica controlled the ball as the game wound down and while Bermuda tested them in spells, they never truly had what it took to equalize. They came closest in the 89th minute on a turn-and-shoot from Wells but he put it wide right. Somehow, Costa Rica failed to find a third with the final kick of the game as George saw his breakaway shot saved by Eve and his follow-up on the doorstep blasted off the underside of the crossbar.

The win for Costa Rica secures a spot in the knockout round, while Bermuda is officially eliminated with no points from their first two games. Nicaragua is also eliminated with the result, and Costa Rica will take on Haiti to determine the group winner in the final match of Group B play on Monday.

Watch Live: Uruguay takes on Copa America visitors Japan

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Uruguay looks to continue its hot start to the 2019 Copa America when they take on tournament guests Japan in Porto Alegre.

A hot first half saw Uruguay down Ecuador 4-0 in its opener and positioned the South American giants well in Group C alongside fellow 4-0 winners Chile. A Uruguay win tonight and Chile win tomorrow against Ecuador would see both sides clinch spots in the knockout stage.

[ WATCH LIVE: Uruguay vs. Japan on Telemundo Deportes ]

Manager Oscar Tabarez has made one change to his starting lineup against Japan, installing Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira in place of Matias Vecino who will miss the rest of the Copa America with a thigh injury. Otherwise, the team is unchanged with Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez, and Nicolas Lodiero manning the front lines.

For Japan, there is still plenty riding on this match as well despite their poor start. The Asian side can still qualify for the knockout stage in a number of ways, including one of two third-place slots. Still, they need points for that to happen and with each of the other two groups sporting third-place teams that have picked up points, Japan is behind the eight ball.

LINEUPS

Uruguay: Muslera; Caceres, Godin, Giminez, Laxalt; Nandez, Betancur, Torreira; Lodeiro, Cavani, Suarez.
Bench: Campana, Silva, Coates, G Gonzalez, Saracchi, Valverde, Arrascaeta, Pereiro, J Rodriguez, Stuani, M Gomez.

Japan: Kawashima, Sugioka, Itakura, Ueda, Tomiyasu, Shibasaki, Nakajima, Miyoshi, Shinji Okazaki, Iwata, Hiroki Abe.
Bench: Nakayama, Suga, Matsumoto, Tatsuta, Hara, Osako, Kubo, Kojima, Ito, Ueda, Watanabe, Maeda.

Copa America: Lodeiro’s golazo paces Uruguay; Qatar, Paraguay draw (video)

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action at the 2019 Copa America in Brazil…

[ WOMEN’S WORLD CUP: USA, Sweden advance ahead of Group F finale ]

Uruguay 4-0 Ecuador

Nicolas Lodeiro, in the company of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, completed Uruguay’s attacking trio to kick off La Celeste‘s Copa America quest on Sunday, and the Seattle Sounders star made the most of Oscar Tabarez’s faith by not only opening the scoring with a true golazo, but also by creating Uruguay’s second and third goals.

It was also Lodeiro who suffered the elbow to the face that saw Jose Quinteros sent off, and Ecuador reduced to 10 men, (following a lengthy video review) in the 24th minute.

Nine minutes after the red card, Cavani hit a side-volley to smash home two touches after Lodeiro headed the ball back into the box, bringing his tally of international goals to 47. 11 minute after that, Suarez poked home a second ball from Lodeiro’s corner kick to notch his record-extending 57th goal for Uruguay.

The rout was complete following Arturo Mina’s own goal in the 78th minute.

[ MORE: Copa America organizers worried about empty seats in Brazil ]

Paraguay 2-2 Qatar

Qatar, one of two guest nations (along with Japan) at the Copa America, fell 2-0 behind Paraguay before storming back to rescue a 2-2 draw and begin their first-ever Copa campaign with a point.

In truth, Qatar was the better side and would have never trailed by two goals if not for the early heroics of Paraguay goalkeeper Gatito Fernandez.

Paraguay went ahead after just four minutes, due to Pedro Miguel’s handball and Oscar Cardozo converting the ensuing penalty kick. Derlis Gonzalez made it 2-0 in the 56th minute, and advantage which held for all of 12 minutes before Almoez Ali halved Qatar’s deficit with a stunning strike in the 68th minute.

Juan Rodrigo Rojas was responsible for the equalizer — an own goal — just nine minutes later.

Monday’s Copa America schedule

Japan v. Chile — 7 p.m. ET

Sevilla in danger of missing top-four after home hammering

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SEVILLE, Spain (AP) Sevilla suffered its worst home loss of the season on Friday, falling 3-0 at home to Leganes in the Spanish league and stumbling again in the fight for a Champions League berth.

It was a second consecutive defeat and third in four games for Sevilla, which is vying with Getafe and Valencia to accompany champion Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid in the competition next season.

Sevilla remained in fifth, tied on points with fourth-place Getafe and three points ahead of Valencia. Getafe hosts Girona on Sunday before Valencia visits last-place Huesca.

Denmark forward Martin Braithwaite scored and had two assists for Leganes. He redirected a long pass with a subtle touch to set up Youssef En-Nesyri, who capped the counterattack with a curling shot in the eighth minute, then scored in the 20th when he used his chest to control the ball and open a firing angle around defender Jesus Navas.

Braithwaite assisted Oscar Rodriguez to round off the rout in the 82nd minute. Navas tried to clear Rodriguez’s goal-bound shot, but it went off his leg and into the net.

Leganes, a modest club from Madrid, is quietly having a solid campaign, moving into ninth place with the win.