Chile

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Women’s World Cup: USA, Sweden advance ahead of Group F finale

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A roundup of Sunday’s action at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France…

[ WATCH: Carli Lloyd’s opening goal is vicious and clinical ]

USA 3-0 ChileFULL RECAP

The United States and Sweden were widely expected to finish one-two — or two-one — in Group F from the moment the draw was held, and that’s exactly what happened on Sunday as the Americans breezed past Chile for a 3-0 victory to remain top of Group F with one game left to play.

On the back of their tournament-opening, 13-goal victory over Thailand, the Yanks sit atop the group with six points and a +16 goal differential.

Carli Lloyd made her way into the starting lineup, as one of seven changes to Jill Ellis’ starting 11, and responded with a pair of goals in the opening 35 minutes. The first came after 11 minutes (WATCH HERE), and her second just 10 minutes before halftime.

Lloyd had the best possible opportunity to complete her hat trick in the 81st minute, but the36-year-old, 2015 World Player of the Year smashed her penalty kick just wide of the right-hand post of Christiane Endler, whose Herculean performance (WATCH HERE, HERE and HERE) kept the Chileans within touching distance when it could just as easily have finished 7-0.

Julie Ertz bagged the USWNT’s second goal in the 26th minute (WATCH HERE).

Sweden 5-1 Thailand

In the day’s other game, Sweden cruised to a comfortable 5-1 victory over Thailand — to go with their 2-0 victory over Chile — to also reach the six-point mark, but with a goal differential of only +6. When the Americans and Swedes meet in their Group F finale on Thursday (3 p.m. ET), they’ll be battling for top spot with a hefty, tie-breaking advantage favoring the USWNT.

There is, of course, the interesting subplot that whichever side finishes top of Group F will be just one more victory away from a quarterfinals matchup with the host nation and strong favorite to win this tournament, France. On the other hand, whoever finishes second will move to the other half of the bracket and avoid the French until a potential meeting in the final.

While it was Sweden’s day on the whole, the lasting memory of Sunday’s game will forever be Thailand’s emotional celebration following their first goal of the tournament.

Monday’s Women’s World Cup schedule

Group A

China v. Spain — 12 p.m. ET
South Africa v. Germany — 12 p.m. ET

Group B

Nigeria v. France — 3 p.m. ET
South Korea v. Norway — 3 p.m. ET

Copa America preview: Brazil on home soil, Messi’s last shot at (int’l) glory?

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For the first time in 30, the country of Brazil will host the Copa America when the 2019 edition kicks off on Friday. The pressure to win on home soil, as it was when Selecao hosted the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, will be immense.

[ MORE: Predicting the 2019 Gold Cup ]

For the first time in a long time, there is no clear-cut favorite. The best team in South America is anybody’s guess.

Tite’s Brazil was seen as a heavy favorite a couple weeks ago, but will now have to cope without its brightest superstar and captain, Neymar, after he suffered an ankle injury during a pre-Copa friendly against Qatar. Brazil can still be called slight favorites, with many thanks to the attacking duo of Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus, but more than a few defensive questions must be answered: most notably, does this veteran group of defenders, with just three of eight players under 30 years of age (an average of 58 international caps), have one more major tournament left in it?

All of the attention that will inevitably be paid to Brazil could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for some of the tournament’s other heavy hitters, particularly the two-defending champions from Chile. Lionel Messi and Argentina, who have reached four of the last five Copa finals (2004, 2007, 2015 and 2016) but lost each and every one of them, also fit that billing.

[ MORE: Premier League 2019-20 schedule announced ]

Chile hope to squeeze one last run out of the Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas and Gary Medel era, which is a slightly risky proposition given each of their injury histories and their slightly advanced ages (31 years on average). There’s also a small matter of who’ll start in goal: 31-year-old Gabriel Arias is the most experienced of the bunch, but he’s won just six caps in his career and has never played club soccer outside of South America.

Argentina, on the other hand, are about as inexperienced as a national team of their prestige could be. Messi, Angel di Maria and Sergio Aguero have 130, 97 and 90 caps to their names, respectively, followed by Nicolas Otamendi with 60. After them, Ramiro Funes Mori is the next-highest, with 25. 12 of the 23 players making up Lionel Scaloni’s squad have made single-digit appearances for the Albiceleste. Argentina’s last major trophy came at the 1993 Copa America, when Messi was six years old. Now 31 years old, the undisputed greatest player of all time might be down to his last (realistic) chance at winning a major tournament.

Colombia will again be the favorite pick as “dark horse,” but their route to a first major trophy since winning the 2001 Copa will be difficult: facing Messi and Co., in the two sides’ Group B opener on Saturday (6 p.m. ET). Japan and Qatar, the two non-South American teams invited to participate in 2019, will be fascinating wild cards as well.

What we’re saying is: Brazil and Argentina taking a small (or large) step back to the pack should make for one of the best editions of the Copa we’ve ever seen, and just about every game should be appointment television beginning with Friday’s curtain raiser between Brazil and Bolivia (8:30 p.m. ET).

Quick facts

Final date: July 7

Semifinal dates: July 2 and 3

Current holders: Chile (2015 and 2016)

Most titles: Uruguay (15), Argentina (14), Brazil (8), Chile (2), Paraguay (2), Peru (2)

Most goals: Zizinho and Norberto Mendez (17)

Most goals (active): Paolo Guerrero and Eduardo Vargas (11)

This weekend’s Copa America schedule

Friday

Brazil v. Bolivia — 8:30 p.m. ET

Saturday

Venezuela v. Peru — 3 p.m. ET
Argentina v. Colombia — 6 p.m. ET

Sunday

Paraguay v. Qatar — 3 p.m. ET
Uruguay v. Ecuador — 6 p.m. ET

Previewing USWNT’s Group Stage Opponents

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The U.S. Women’s National Team kicks off its World Cup defense on Tuesday, but who exactly are the USWNT facing? Let’s take a closer look.

[MORE: Women’s World Cup Content]

Thailand

How They Got Here: Thailand finished in the top five in the Women’s Asian Cup in Jordan in 2018, qualifying them for the 2019 World Cup.

Star players: Suchawadee Nildhamrong (Miranda Nild), Forward; Kanjana Sungngoen, Midfielder.

Nild, who’s Thai name is Suchawadee Nildhamrong, is one of two American-born players on the team (the other is backup goalkeeper Tiffany Sornpao). Nild just wrapped up a four-year career at the University of California. Along with Sungngoen, the pair combined for six goals at the Asian Cup. Sungngoen is the top attacking player on this Thailand squad.

Style of play: Compact, counter-attacking system

Manager: Nuengrutai Srathongvian

Expectations: They shouldn’t be very high. Thailand may be able to compete in the Asian landscape, but against nations in Europe and the Americas, they’ve struggled mightily. The U.S. previously beat Thailand, 9-0 in a friendly match and finished third out of four in their group at the Cyprus Women’s Cup earlier this year. Just winning a game at the 2019 World Cup would be a huge accomplishment

What the USWNT should focus on: Considering that Thailand will be defending for their lives, it’s up to the USWNT’s creative players to not only make clever runs into space but to also find their teammates open in the box for chances on goal.


Chile

How they got here: Chile finished as runners-up in the Copa America Femenina, landing a place at the World Cup thanks to a 4-0 thrashing of Argentina in the final match of the tournament. It’s an amazing story, as Chile’s team basically didn’t play for two years between 2015 and 2017, and the majority of the team’s players are as such, inexperienced at the international level and playing abroad.

Star players: Maria Jose Rojas, Yanara Aedo

Style of play: Quick in transitions, fast passing.

Manager: Jose Letelier

Expectations: Playing in its first World Cup, expectations are low, but perhaps Chile can leave with a win, likely over Thailand.

What the USWNT should focus on: The USWNT had the fortune of playing Chile in a pair of friendly matches in late August-early September 2018, winning by a combined 7-0 margin. By working the wings with Crystal Dunn and Kelley O’Hara, the USWNT can create overloads on the outside and deliver great balls into the box, where the likes of Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe can finish them off.


Sweden

How they got here: Sweden easily won Group 4 of the UEFA World Cup qualification process, with seven wins and just one defeat.

Star players: Stina Blackstenius, Caroline Seger

Style of play: Compact, defensive, direct counter-attacks in transitions

Manager: Peter Gerhardsson

Expectations: While not considered one of the favorites, Sweden is certainly a dark-horse to make a deep run in the tournament. They are very focused on keeping a compact defensive unit and then playing long and scoring on the counter. If they’re not giving up goals, they have a chance, especially after finishing runners-up at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

What the USWNT should focus on: Sweden of course is a team that the USWNT knows very well. It will be a huge challenge to break down the Sweden defense, so they’ll need Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe to combine with the midfield at times and make deep runs to open up space in behind for other teammates to use when attacking Sweden’s goal.

Player ratings: USMNT starts strong, quickly fades v. Chile

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Who stood out — for better or for worse — in the U.S. men’s national team’s 1-1 draw with Chile on Tuesday?

[ MORE: USMNT, Chile wrap up March window with 1-1 draw (video) ]

GK – Ethan Horvath — 6: It was Horvath’s long ball that started the sequence on the USMNT’s goal — and it appeared he meant to hit it where it went — which is a part of the position we’ve never really seen with this team.

RB – DeAndre Yedlin — 5.5: As uninvolved in the attack as he’s been during his entire USMNT career, which is frustrating given the fact he’s playing the best soccer of his career with Newcastle United right now.

CB – Omar Gonzalez — 5.5: Not Gonzalez’s most confident, sure-footed showing defensively, but he was better and more controlled in possession than we’ve come to expect.

CB – Matt Miazga — 6: It’s quite jarring to contrast the passing maps of Miazga and Gonzalez, as Gonzalez tends to play simpler, shorter passes (oftentimes to Miazga), whereas the Miazga is tasked with progressing the ball from the backline, and doing so quite aggressively. He remains very, very good at it, by the way.

LB – Tim Ream — 5: Should have conceded a penalty when he went studs-up into Arturo Vidal in the box, and was one of few who failed to clear the danger on Chile’s equalizer. His showing when in possession was… not great.

MF – Michael Bradley — 7: Bradley’s full range of passing was on display in the first half, when he slotted a curled ball into acres of space to release Corey Baird down the right win, then dropped a feathery ball over the heads of two defenders and landed it on Baird’s foot. Finally, after a decade, a role suited to many of the things Bradley does well.

MF – Cristian Roldan — 6: If nothing else, Roldan’s presence deeper in midfield frees up Bradley to get farther forward — while still not the most advanced midfielder — and affect the game by finding spaces and applying pressure. Roldan was mostly tidy in possession, as always.

MF – Christian Pulisic — 7: The goal was stunning in how confidently he chipped the goalkeeper and strolled away, but he lasted just 34 minutes due to injury — something that’s becoming just a little too common for comfort…

RW – Corey Baird — 6.5: Baird brings an intriguing blend of skills — quick and shifty, strong and physical, always looking to attack upfield — without having fully settled on a positional home. He was constantly getting into good positions, but couldn’t produce the final ball or take the chance when it came to him.

CF – Gyasi Zardes — 6: His first touch to set up Pulisic for the goal was, in theory, sensation, assuming you believe he intentionally flicked the ball behind him as he took it down from the goalkeeper.

LW – Paul Arriola — 5.5: Considering the USMNT have barely 33 percent of possession in this game, Arriola wasn’t on the field for his creative work. He made as many, if not more, ball recoveries deep inside his own half than he completed passes.

USMNT, Chile wrap up March window with 1-1 draw (video)

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The U.S. men’s national team wrapped up its maiden first-team voyage under new head coach Gregg Berhalter with a 1-1 draw against Chile at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Zardes-to-Pulisic gives USMNT the early lead ]

The goals came early, and came in quick succession. Christian Pulisic opened the scoring with just four minutes on the clock (WATCH HERE), courtesy of a deftly received and played ball from Gyasi Zardes to split the Chilean backline. Pulisic raced into the penalty area all alone and chipped Gabriel Arias with a touch even more deft than the one Zardes used to set him up.

Pulisic, at the age of 20 years and 189 days, became the youngest American player to double-digit goals.

The lead lasted just five minutes, though, as the ball pinballed around the USMNT’s 18-yard box, a handful of defenders able to boot it clear. Eventually, it fell Oscar Opazo at a very tight angle, but he put his left foot through the ball and fit it just inside Ethan Horvath’s right-hand post.

Pulisic’s night ended just after the half-hour mark when he was subbed off with a right leg injury. Initially, it looked as though Pulisic was favoring his knee, but once he reached the bench the trainers appeared to be examining his quad. Berhalter announced after the game that Pulisic was already undergoing an MRI>

Zardes went very close to putting the USMNT back ahead in the 55th minute, as he was quickest to react after Cristian Roldan was clattered atop the penalty area and the ball squirted free. Zardes pounced and glided past the last remaining defender, but skied his shot with Arias racing out.

The Yanks will convene again in late-May, when they begin preparations for the 2019 Gold Cup following a June 9 friendly against Jamaica.