Daniel Karell

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Mane named CAF Player of the Year

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Sadio Mane has bragging rights for at least the year over his club teammate, and fellow African, Mohamed Salah.

On Tuesday, the Confederation of African Football voted Mane as the African Player of the Year for 2019, his first continental individual award. Mane beat out Salah (Egypt), who had won the previous two seasons and Algerian and Manchester City midfielder Riyad Mahrez. Interestingly, it’s the first win for a Senegalese player since El Hadji Diouf won it in 2002, shortly after joining Liverpool, Mane’s current club.

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“I’m very happy and proud to win this award,” Mane said, per the CAF. “I thank my teammates at the Senegal national team and also my club, Liverpool for their support.”

Mane’s had a heck of a last 18 months or so. He finished tied for the Premier League Golden Boot with 22 goals and also won the UEFA Champions League and the Golden Boot for that competition in 2019. Then he followed that up by leading Senegal to the African Cup of Nations final, and so far this year, he’s got 11 goals in 18 Premier League matches as the Reds are way ahead in the race for the league title.
In addition to Mane, Salah, and Mahrez, Liverpool’s Joel Matip, Tottenham’s Serge Aurier, and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were all named to the CAF Best XI for 2019. Former Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye was also named to the list.

Court date set for UAE appeal against Qatar’s Asian Cup win

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GENEVA — A legal challenge by the United Arab Emirates soccer federation that threatens Qatar’s 2019 Asian Cup title will be heard at sport’s highest court.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Tuesday it will hear the UAE’s appeal on March 12 in a case that alleges Qatar fielded two ineligible players at the tournament. The Asian Cup was hosted by the UAE during an ongoing diplomatic rift with neighboring Qatar, which will stage the next World Cup in 2022.

A verdict by CAS judges is likely at least several weeks after the hearing in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The ruling could strip Qatar of its biggest success in world soccer, affect key young players in its World Cup planning, and see the UAE inflict an embarrassing loss on a regional political rival.

The UAE filed a complaint with the Asian Football Confederation after a 4-0 loss to Qatar in the Asian Cup semifinals in Abu Dhabi last January.

When an ineligible player case is proven, AFC rules say a team must forfeit the game.

The Asian governing body’s first disciplinary ruling cleared Qatar of wrongdoing hours before beating Japan 3-1 in the final.

UAE officials have appealed to CAS against the Qatar Football Association and the AFC, whose appeal committee also later dismissed the claims of wrongfully submitted documents.

The UAE alleges Qatar’s star forward Almoez Ali and defender Bassam Al-Rawi were not born there and did not meet FIFA nationality requirements to represent the country.

FIFA’s statutes say players can acquire a nationality if they have “lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant association.”

Both Ali, who turned 23 since the Asian Cup ended, and Al-Rawi, who is now aged 22, seemed not to meet the five-year residency rule.

However, both reportedly claimed their mothers were born in Qatar – meeting FIFA’s national eligibility standard if a parent or grandparent is born on a territory.

Ali scored against the UAE, and again in the final, for a tournament-leading nine goals. Al-Rawi was suspended for the semifinal but returned to play against Japan.

They are also club teammates at Al-Duhail, runner-up in the Qatari league last season, and fellow graduates of the state-of-the-art Aspire youth academy in Doha which has educated many players born outside of Qatar.

The latest appeal extends difficulties between the soccer neighbors which showed in a heated semifinals game played 20 months into an economic and travel boycott of Qatar by regional political rivals.

After Qatar took a 2-0 lead in Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium – named for the UAE crown prince – players celebrating the goal had to dodge shoes thrown by some spectators.

The UAE soccer body was later fined $150,000 by the AFC for the fans’ misconduct, including the shoe-throwing and disrespecting the Qatari anthem.

The teams met again in Doha five weeks ago, when the UAE and Saudi Arabia agreed to travel to Qatar to play in the Arabian Gulf Cup, won by Bahrain. Qatar beat the UAE 4-2 in a group-stage game.

League Cup: Man City rolls past Man United

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There’s no doubt anymore as to which color Manchester is these days.

Manchester City extended its bragging rights over their now not so noisy neighbors, with a 3-1 first leg win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Tuesday in the League Cup semifinals. Bernardo Silva opened the scoring early with a wicked strike from outside the box and it was all up from there for the visitors. Man United showed some brief sparks in the second half, but despite Marcus Rashford’s goal, couldn’t find enough quality to get closer to Man City.

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The action moves to the Etihad Stadium for the second leg on January 29, though Man United will have a two-goal deficit to dig out of.

Manchester City mananger Pep Guardiola made the decision not to play a recognizable striker, leaving both Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero out of the starting lineup. And yet, it quickly paid dividends as Man United’s backline of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, and Brandon Williams struggled to stay with players like Raheem Sterling and Silva.

Indeed, in the 17th minute, it was Silva who found a pocket of space off a short pass from Kevin De Bruyne and unleashed a blast from 28 yards out that had eyes for the upper corner. As good as the strike was, it was also noticeable that Silva easily took the ball past Fred while Jones didn’t jump forward to cover the space, leaving Silva with plenty of room to uncork the shot.

The goal was just what Man City was expecting and afterwards it confidently pinged the ball around midfield and into Man United’s defensive third of the field, threatening to score again. In the 33rd minute, Man City did just that, as Silva found Riyad Mahrez open in the box before Mahrez rounded de Gea and scored into an empty net to put his side up 2-0.

Man City made it 3-0 five minutes later as again Silva was the architect. He played Mahrez into space in the middle before the ball made its way out left to de Bruyne. His shot on goal was parried by de Gea but it went right into the body of Andreas Pereira, which ricocheted into the goal. Even before firing, de Bruyne’s switch to the left sent Jones flying, adding to his rough night.

After being played off the park in the first half, there was only one way to go in the second half for Man United, and it started to get a few minutes of possession on the ball at a time.

After Man City could have made it 4-0 through Mahrez, Rashford pulled one back for the hosts. In the 70th minute after a turnover, Mason Greenwood played a great pass into the run of Rashford, who lashed a strike past Claudio Bravo to make it 3-1.

This story will be updated. 

Must-See Goal: Bernardo Silva

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There’s scoring goals, and then there’s doing what Bernardo Silva just did.

The Portuguese international collected a pass in the right channel, dribbled in towards the box and unleashed a perfect curling strike into the far corner to put his Manchester City up 1-0 over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening in League Cup action. Man United goalkeeper David De Gea had no chance, despite making  all efforts to parry the shot.

Silva’s shot had everything. Pace, precision, timing. It was just what Man City needed on the road and it appeared to demoralize Man United. As of halftime, it’s 3-0 to Man City on the road.

Heres a look at Silva’s exquisite strike:

Reports: Hudson to be new U.S. U-20 MNT coach

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U.S. Soccer has reportedly found a replacement for Tab Ramos as U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team coach. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly an inspiring choice.

Multiple reports state that former Colorado Rapids and New Zealand National Team coach Anthony Hudson is set to become the new U.S. U-20 coach. It ends a more than two month vacancy in the position and along with Laura Harvey’s hiring as U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team coach, it leaves U.S. Soccer with just 11 vacancies in its youth national teams.

[READ: USMNT likely to play Wales in March]

Its hard to imagine how Hudson wound up with this job. He was an abject failure with the Rapids, finishing the 2018 season with just 31 points in 34 games and opening the 2019 season with seven defeats and two draws. His current MLS managerial record stands at 8-26-9.

On top of that poor domestic record, he’s never really succeeded with men’s national teams. He coached the Bahrain National Team from 2013-2014 but only earned a third-place finish in the West Asian Football Federation Championship.

After taking over the New Zealand National Team, he easily qualified out of Oceania but couldn’t prevail past Peru to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. In addition, New Zealand lost all three games at the 2017 Confederations Cup.

It also doesn’t help that at least one of his former players has come out against this hire. Jared Watts, a former member of the Colorado Rapids under Hudson and a long-time U.S. youth national team member, had this to say.

In Hudson’s defense, success in the professional game isn’t necessarily a perfect barometer of whether someone will be successful youth national team coach, and vice versa. Brad Friedel was a youth coach at Tottenham during his later playing years and after retiring and then he coached the U.S. U-19 MNT before taking over the New England Revolution, and he wasn’t successful there. Similarly, John Hackworth struggled in his first pro stint at the Philadelphia Union to develop a winner after solid stunts as U.S. U-17 MNT coach.

Ultimately, it is unclear who is making decisions at U.S. Soccer regarding these hires, but Hudson has a lot to prove in the coming months to show that he is the right choice. Missing the FIFA U-20 World Cup would be a nightmare for the federation and if Hudson can’t lead the U.S. there, it will be another bad mark on his career.