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Associated Press

U-20 World Cup: Panama bumps Portugal, US to face France

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The final day of group stage play has come to an end and the knockout stages are set, with some surprises.

Most notably, Panama took down Saudi Arabia 2-1 for its first U-20 World Cup victory ever to finish with four points, good enough not only for third in Group E behind powerful Mali and France, but also good enough to pip mighty Portugal for the final third-place qualification slot. Both teams ended group stage play with four points and a -1 goal differential, so Panama advances having scored three goals to Portugal’s two.

Portugal could have advanced with a win on the final day, but instead a 1-1 draw with South Africa left them to their fate, while Argentina and South Korea advanced out of Group F, each with six points after a 2-1 South Korea win over the Argentines on the final day.

In addition, France’s narrow 3-2 win over Mali sees the favorites win Group E and earn a date with the United States in the Round of 16. France could have won the group with a draw as well, but found an 87th minute winner from 19-year-old Lyon striker Amine Gouiri. That goal made it 3-1 at the time, but Ousmane Diakite made it the decisive goal with his 95th minute goal with the last kick of the game.

The U.S. advanced out of Group D yesterday with a second-place finish behind Ukraine, and with France’s victory on Friday, the two will meet Wednesday in what will prove an uphill battle for the Americans, missing key players Alex Mendez and Chris Durkin due to yellow card accumulation.

Other Round of 16 matchups include Colombia vs. New Zealand, Ukraine vs. Panama, Italy vs. Poland, Japan vs. South Korea, and Senegal vs. Nigeria. The winner of the U.S. and France will match up against the winner of Uruguay and Ecuador, while maybe the match of the round pits Argentina against Mali.

Reports: 48-team 2022 World Cup decision in June

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If FIFA can find appropriate countries to help Qatar host the 2022 World Cup, we may very well have a 48-team tournament.

The 2022 edition has been under the microscope about as long as Qatar has held the rights to host it, with workers’ rights and slave labor joining a suspicious bidding process which ultimately helped usher former FIFA czar Sepp Blatter out of his seat of power.

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Ten venues across five countries have been mentioned as possible co-hosts, with Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait in the running to host select World Cup matches.

FIFA conditionally approved the expansion of the tournament on Friday, pending a “joint feasibility study” conducted by Qatar and FIFA.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino infamously quipped that sharing the tournament could bring a measure of peace to the Middle East.

A 24-team 2021 Club World Cup was also approved, as the threat of big European teams boycotting the summer edition looms over Infantino’s plan to expand FIFA’s marquee club tournament.

Giovinco out, Boyd in at Toronto FC?

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Sebastian Giovinco has one year left on his Toronto FC contract, but also wants his next contract sorted quickly.

That may mean a move abroad, as the Italian wizard considers interest from Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal.

Selling Giovinco would allow TFC to cash in on their star, and may also prod Jozy Altidore to the door — Liga MX? — ahead of a new contract as Ali Curtis reshapes the championship team reared by Tim Bezbatchenko.

Al-Hilal is managed by former Benfica and Sporting Lisbon boss Jorge Jesus, and has Bafetimbi Gomis, Andre Carrillo, and Jonathan Soriano on the books.

The move comes as Toronto is linked with oft-injured Darmstadt striker Terrence Boyd. The Reds acquired the top spot in the allocation order from FC Cincinnati this week in a trade for Nick Hagglund, and USMNT striker Boyd is believed to require allocation to arrive in MLS.

Boyd, 27, was one of the top American talents abroad when he sealed a 2014 move to RB Leipzig following a standout pair of seasons at Rapid Wien, but has played just 43 times for RBL and Darmstadt.

He scored four times in 24 Bundesliga matches during the club’s 2017-18 relegation campaign, but counts just one appearance of more than 15 minutes amongst his 13 times on the field for the 2.Bundesliga side.

Boyd was last capped in 2016.

Make sure to tune-in for our special Transfer Deadline Day show on NBCSN on Thursday, Jan. 31 from 5 p.m. ET as we focus on all of the moves across the Premier League in the January window. You can stream the show live online right here.

Asian Cup: Japan tops Saudi Arabia to reach quarterfinals

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SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates (AP) Japan advanced to the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup on Monday by beating Saudi Arabia 1-0.

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Takehiro Tomiyasu scored with a header in the 20th minute while the Saudis created few chances despite having more than 75 percent of the possession.

Japan, which is looking to win a record fifth Asian Cup title, will next face Vietnam. Saudi Arabia has not reached the Asian Cup quarterfinals in 12 years.

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Again at the sparsely attended tournament, there were banks of empty seats and chants echoed around the stadium.

Later Monday, defending champion Australia plays Uzbekistan while host the United Arab Emirates faces Kyrgyzstan.

Asian Cup: Iran and Iraq advance; Saudis on verge

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Iran and Iraq advanced to the knockout stages of the Asian Cup on Saturday with a game to spare.

Three-time champion Iran beat Vietnam 2-0 and secured its spot in the round of 16 when 2015 semifinalist Iraq beat Yemen 3-0 in another Group D game.

Another three-time champion, Saudi Arabia, moved closer to gaining its spot in the next round after beating Lebanon 2-0 in Group E.

With two wins each, Iran and Iraq meet in Dubai on Wednesday to decide the group winner.

Saudi Arabia meets Qatar on Thursday to close the group stage in a highly charged game amid the political tensions between the two nations.

The top two teams in each group and the four best third-placed teams advance to the round of 16.

It was a record ninth successive victory for Iran in Asian Cup group matches. Asia’s top-ranked team has dominated possession and looked comfortable in its opening two games, scoring seven goals without conceding.

Iran’s Sardar Azmoun took care of the goals against Vietnam, scoring in each half.

Saman Ghoddos crossed for the forward to put Iran ahead with a close-range header before halftime. Azmoun added his second in the 69th with a left-footed strike from the middle of the box for his third goal at the tournament.

Vietnam lost a second straight match after falling to Iraq 3-2.

Iran is led by former Real Madrid and Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz, who is chasing a major title with Iran after eight years in charge.

In Sharjah, Mohanad Ali Kadhim and Bashar Resan Bonyan scored with low shots from outside of the area early in the first half to give Iraq a comfortable advantage against Yemen. Substitute Alaa Abbas sealed it in second-half injury time.

Yemen and Vietnam are pointless and will fight for third place in Al Ain on Wednesday.

In Dubai, Fahad Al Muwallad opened the scoring 12 minutes into the game and Hussain Almoqahwi doubled the lead in the 67th.

With two wins from two, Saudi Arabia leads Group E with six points and could advance with a game in hand if North Korea fails to beat Qatar on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia won its opening two games at the Asian Cup for the first time since 1996, when it last won the title.

After two defeats, Lebanon faces a must win against North Korea to have a chance to make it to the next round.