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Ukraine’s league expands after conflict disruption

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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) Ukraine’s soccer league is expanding back to 16 teams after years of turmoil sparked by the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the country’s east.

The Ukrainian Football Federation says the coming 2019-20 season will be the last with 12 teams before an expansion to 14 for 2020-21 and 16 the following year.

The Ukrainian Premier League had 16 teams in 2013-14 but lost two based in Crimea after Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014.

Just 12 teams have competed since 2016, with some top clubs folding due to economic problems and others – including champion Shakhtar Donetsk – forced to play in exile because their home cities are held by Russia-backed separatists.

None of UEFA’s other top-10 ranked leagues has fewer than 16 teams.

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Ukraine wins U-20 World Cup behind Supriaha brace (video)

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Vladyslav Supriaha scored goals in each half as Ukraine overcame an early penalty to beat South Korea 3-1 and win the U-20 World Cup in Poland.

The Dynamo Kiev 19-year-old was kept off the scoreboard for most of the tournament, with Danylo Sikan scoring four times to pace the champions to the final. Ukraine beat the U.S. in the first match of the group stage.

Fellow Dynamo Kiev teen Heorhiy Tsitaishvili, 18, scored a magnificent solo goal to put the win on ice with two minutes to go in regulation.

It was South Korea who took the early lead on a VAR-given penalty following a foul on the very edge of the box.

But Supriaha turned and slotted a fine finish home before the break, then scored the below winner early in the second frame.

Amazingly, though, the play of the day was a save from Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin off a bullet header in the 70th minute. Lunin has already been capped three times by the senior team.

U-20 World Cup: Ukraine keeps chugging, Italy downs Mali

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Ukraine and Italy confirmed places in the 2019 U-20 World Cup semifinals with impressive victories over skillful Colombia and Mali sides on Friday.

Danylo Sikan scored the game’s only goal 11 minutes in as Ukraine topped Colombia 1-0 to remain unbeaten in the competition and become the first semifinalist of the tournament. The strike came on an ugly error in judgement by Colombia goalkeeper Kevin Mier who came way out of the box to play a long ball over the top, but with Colombia center-back Carlos Cuesta slow to react and Mier late to arrive, Sikan won the contest outside the box and poked the ball into the empty net.

Colombia looked for an equalizer but it never came, holding 63% possession and popping off 11 shots, but only one of those efforts found the target. With seven minutes remaining, Colombia fell down to 10 men as substitute Johan Carbonero was harshly sent off for a challenge on Dynamo Kiev youth product Denys Popov.

Italy, meanwhile, moved on as well thanks to a wild 4-2 victory over 10-man Mali on a brace from Andrea Pinamonti that twice gave Italy the lead, including the winner from the penalty spot in the 83rd minute. The European side went in front just 12 minutes in on an awful own-goal by Ibrahima Kone who kicked an Italy corner into the back of his own net right on the doorstep under very little pressure.

Mali fell down a man in the 21st minute when Ousmane Diakite, who plays in the Austrian second tier, went in studs up on Gianluca Scamacca with a nasty follow-through. That left Mali with a mountain to climb, but they would manage to stick right with the Italians through the final minutes. The first equalizer came via Seikou Keita before halftime on a wonderful back-heel delivery from Kone.

Pinamonti would give Italy its second lead in the 60th minute, latching onto a deflected shot and finishing from an absurdly tight angle almost standing on the end line. Now down 2-1 with a half-hour left, Mali would not quit, drawing level at 2-2 with 11 minutes to go when substitute Boubacar Traore roasted Davide Bettella which set up a two-on-two break, and Traore fed Mohamed Camara for the finish on the doorstep.

That’s when the wheels fell off for Mali and Italy took control. Just four minutes after Mali’s late equalizer, Pinamonti was felled by Mali goalkeeper Youssouf Koita and earned a penalty, dispatching it for the lead. Just a minute later, Davide Fratessi confirmed the victory with a bullet long-range header on a perfect looping cross from Raoul Bellanova to make it 4-2.

Koita had a chance to make it 4-3 deep in stoppage time, but his 94th minute penalty was saved by Alessandro Plizzari before he fired a chance wide on the ensuing corner with the last kick of the game.

The two European sides will meet in the first semifinal set for Tuesday in Lublin. The other semifinal will take place on Wednesday between the winners of quarterfinal matchups United States vs. Ecuador and South Korea vs. Senegal, both to be determined tomorrow.

U-20 World Cup roundup: Quarterfinalists set, ranked

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The United States’ stunning come back to topple favorites France at the U-20 World Cup in Poland was followed up by the battle for the eighth quarterfinalist slot.

It took penalty kicks, as Mali and Argentina staged a thriller of their own that sat 2-2 after 120 minutes.

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Aboudlaye Diaby had a wild day, scoring an equalizer in regulation before conceding an own goal in the first minute of extra time and then scoring in penalty kicks as Mali clinched a spot in the final eight.


So who is going to win this thing, especially with France now out of the mix?

8) Ecuador — By putting them here, we’re assuring that La Tricolor will upset the Americans in the next round.

7) South Korea — The only team left from its group, they face a match-up problem with quarterfinal opponent Senegal.

6) Colombia — The wild card of the quarterfinalists, it’s difficult to have a read on Los Cafeteros other than to say its win over the hosts on Day One is laudable.

5) Mali — It may look insane to have Mali so low, given how exciting their matches have been and their taking of France to the wire, but nine goals allowed in four matches isn’t promising much.

4) United States — It’s just as easy to argue they can win the tournament than it is to say the Baby Yanks will bow out against Ecuador.

3) Ukraine — Still relatively untested after waxing Panama, but has to sit above the Baby Yanks after beating them in the group stage.

2) Senegal — Unbeaten with a pair of clean sheets on their record, the Senegalese are in the better part of the bracket when it comes to seeking the title.

  1. Italy — Vintage, tactical Italy has allowed one goal through four matches while averaging a single goal per game. Next up is a Mali team who’s shown an ability to be easily opened up by nearly every attack on the schedule.

U-20 WC roundup: Ukraine, Ecuador, Senegal advance to QF (video)

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A roundup of all of Monday’s round-of-16 action at the U-20 World Cup in Poland…

[ WOMEN’S WORLD CUP PREVIEW: Groups A, B and C | Groups D, E and F ]

Ukraine 4-1 Panama

Danylo Sikan (Mariupol) scored two of Ukraine’s four goals to send them through to the quarterfinals, where they’ll face a Colombia side that knocked off New Zealand in penalty kicks on Sunday.

Sikan opened the scoring in the 23rd minute and made it 3-0 in the 45th, bookending Denys Popov’s (Dynamo Kyiv) 41st minute tally to make it 2-0. Sikan’s first was a delightfully delicate finish inside the far post, and the second a simple finish from a cross to the near post. It was Popov’s goal that broke Panamaniam backs, though, as goalkeeper Emerson Dimas pushed an innocuous ball onto the front side of his crossbar — rather than over — to hand the defender a wide open header from two yards out.

Panama pulled a goal back through Ernesto Willis in the 50th minute, but Serhiy Buletsa (Dynamo Kyiv) restored the two-goal lead with seven minutes left to play.

Ecuador 3-1 Uruguay

Uruguay jumped out to an early lead through Ronald Araujo’s (Barcelona) close-range finish in the 11th minute, but Ecuador scored three unanswered goals to knock off the 10-man La Celeste and reach the quarterfinals, where they’ll face either France or the United States upon completion of the round of 16 on Tuesday.

The comeback began right on the half-hour mark, though, when Ecuador were awarded a penalty for perhaps the clearest shove in the back you’ll see all year. Alexander Alvarado (Aucas) converted right down the middle. Sergio Quintero (Imbabura) struck a half-volley from the edge of the box in the 75th minute to score what would ultimately be the winner, but not before Gonzalo Plata (Independiente del Valle) converted Ecuador’s second penalty of the day in the 83rd.

Senegal 2-1 Nigeria

Senegal raced out to a 2-0 halftime lead over Nigeria and held on for dear life in the second half to set up a quarterfinal showdown with either Japan or South Korea.

Amadou Sagna (Cayor Foot) made it 1-0 in the 36th minute, followed by a goal from Ibrahima Niane (Metz) to double the Lions of Teranga’s advantage just before halftime. Aniekeme Okon (Akwa United) pulled Nigeria back to within one in the 50th minute, but that’s as close as the Super Eagles would get.

Tuesday’s U-20 World Cup schedule

France v. USA — 11:30 a.m. ET
Japan v. South Korea — 11:30 a.m. ET
Argentina v. Mali — 2:30 p.m. ET