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AFCON: Senegal start with win despite missing Mane

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Senegal reinforced its status as one of the favorites to win the Africa Cup of Nations by starting its campaign in Egypt with a 2-0 win over Tanzania on Sunday.

Senegal didn’t miss forward Sadio Mane, who was suspended for the game, as it opened with a solid display in Cairo.

Playing just his second competitive game for his country, Krepin Diatta powered in a shot from outside the penalty area to make it 2-0 midway through the second half. Senegal would have won the Group C game by much more if it had been just a little sharper in front of goal.

Tanzania goalkeeper Aishi Manula also helped keep the score down.

Keita Balde got the first goal in the 28th minute after finishing off an intricate attack – which swept from one side of the field to the other – by driving his shot into the bottom corner.

Mane missed the game with a suspension for two yellow cards he received in qualifying.

Senegal, host Egypt and Nigeria are seen as the strongest contenders for the title, although Senegal has played more African Cups (15) than any other team without winning the championship.

Senegal is the No. 1 team in Africa while Tanzania is the second-lowest ranked team at the tournament. It’s making just its second appearance at the African Cup and first since 1981.

Also in Group C, Riyad Mahrez scored the second goal as Algeria began its campaign with a 2-0 win over Kenya, which qualified for the first time since 2004.

Baghdad Bounedjah slotted a penalty for Algeria after Aissa Mandi cut into the area from the right flank and was sliced down. Mahrez added the second before halftime. His first-time shot from a cross was heading for the bottom right corner of the Kenyan net, deflected off a defender, and ended up in the bottom left.

Content with 2-0, Algeria shut the game down in the second half and had little trouble in holding off the Kenyans.

But meetings with minnows have provided early headaches for some of the other top teams in the first three days of action in Egypt. The home team struggled to break down Zimbabwe, Uganda surprised Congo 2-0 and Nigeria needed a late goal to finally beat tournament debutant Burundi, the lowest-ranked team to make it to Egypt. Guinea was held 2-2 by Madagascar, another team making its first appearance.

The trend continued in Sunday’s first game. Morocco got lucky and escaped with a 1-0 victory over Namibia in Group D when Itamunua Keimune scored an own goal in the 89th minute.

“The first game is always difficult,” Morocco’s M’barak Boussoufa said. “We are happy to win, even by a slim margin.”

Striker Keimune was at the wrong end of the field and trying to clear a free kick from Hakim Ziyech. Apparently uncertain whether to kick or head the ball, all he did was divert it into his own net with a minute to go. Bitterly disappointed, Namibia’s players slumped to the ground at the final whistle and were consoled by members of their coaching staff.

“We deserved a draw,” Namibia coach Ricardo Manetti said.

The Morocco-Namibia group is arguably the toughest at the African Cup, with 2015 champion Ivory Coast and South Africa the other two teams. They meet on Monday.

Morocco plays Ivory Coast in its next game, when Morocco coach Herve Renard comes up against the country he coached to the title in 2015.

“We have to get ready for that,” Renard said.

Dani Alves leaving PSG after two seasons

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PARIS (AP) Veteran Brazil defender Dani Alves is leaving French champion Paris Saint-Germain after two seasons with the club.

The 36-year-old attacking right back scored eight goals in 73 appearances for PSG, winning the league title in both seasons. Although he scored a good goal in the French Cup final against Rennes in April, he ended up on the losing side as PSG relinquished both of its domestic cups.

At times last season, Alves was used in an attacking midfield role by coach Thomas Tuchel and was reportedly close to agreeing a new deal with PSG a few weeks ago.

But Alves announced his decision to leave shortly after scoring in Brazil’s 5-0 win against Peru in the Copa America on Saturday.

Posting a phot of himself on his Instagram account along with trophies he won with PSG, Alves said “I would like to thank the PSG family for the opportunity to together build a page in the history of this club” and added “now the time has come” to leave.

Alves, who won six Spanish and three Champions League titles with former club Barcelona, did not say where he will play next season.

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.

Africa Cup of Nations: Nigeria beats Burundi on late goal

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CAIRO (AP) Odion Ighalo scored a late winner four minutes after coming on as a substitute to see a relieved Nigeria squeeze past tournament debutant Burundi 1-0 at the African Cup of Nations on Saturday.

Nigeria had been warned when the second day of the tournament opened with its first major surprise: Uganda, playing at the Cup of Nations for the first time in 41 years, beat former champion Congo 2-0.

Nigeria ultimately prevailed over the newcomers when Ighalo pounced to bury his chance in Egypt’s second largest city of Alexandria.

The forward slipped in behind the Burundi defense after a backheeled pass by Ola Aina. He opened his body and stroked a right foot shot across the goalkeeper and into the far corner.

Three-time champion Nigeria deserved the win on the second half evidence, but not on the first 45 minutes.

Then, Burundi was the more adventurous team on the biggest day in its soccer history.

Cedric Amissi controlled a long pass superbly but had his shot blocked by Nigeria `keeper Daniel Akpeyi. Akpeyi struggled to keep out a powerful long-range free kick by Gael Bigirimana and Frederic Nsabiyumva hit the crossbar with a header.

“It was a very difficult game,” Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel said. “It was tough. We knew that they are a tough team. They can run and run and run.”

U.S. Soccer Federation, USWNT tentatively agree to mediate lawsuit

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REIMS, France (AP) U.S. Soccer and players for the women’s national team have tentatively agreed to mediate a lawsuit that accuses the federation of gender discrimination and seeks equitable pay.

The federation and representatives for the players confirmed the agreement, first reported in the Wall Street Journal, to pursue mediation following the Women’s World Cup.

“Here to win a World Cup, lawyers are at home to do their thing, so we both have our jobs,” defender Kelley O’Hara said Saturday. “This team has always been good at compartmentalizing. We focus on the task at hand and I haven’t paid any mind on anything that’s been going on. That’s something we’ll pick back up when we get home but right now my only focus is winning the World Cup.”

[ MORE: USMNT faces T&T for first time since Couva ]

The United States, the defending champion and three-time World Cup winner, won its first three games of the tournament and is set to play Spain on Monday in the knockout stage. The championship game is set for July 7 in Lyon.

Twenty-eight members of the current player pool filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in March. The lawsuit alleges “institutionalized gender discrimination” that includes inequitable compensation when compared with their counterparts on the men’s national team.

“While we welcome the opportunity to mediate, we are disappointed the plaintiffs’ counsel felt it necessary to share this news publicly during the Women’s World Cup and create any possible distraction from the team’s focus on the tournament and success on the field,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement.

The federation has maintained the differences in pay are the result of different collective bargaining agreements that establish distinct pay structures for the two teams. Those agreements are not public. Court documents said decisions surrounding the teams have been made for “legitimate business reasons and not for any discriminatory or other unlawful purpose.”

The lawsuit was an escalation of a long-simmering dispute over pay and treatment. Five players filed a complaint in 2016 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged wage discrimination by the federation. The lawsuit effectively ended that EEOC complaint.

The federation and the team reached a collective bargaining agreement in April 2017. The agreement, which runs through 2021, gave the players higher pay and better benefits.

Defender Ai Krieger said she hasn’t given the lawsuit any thought.

“Right now we’re so focused on the game against Spain, and that’s what’s important for us right now,” she said.

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