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USWNT tops World Cup group with 2-0 win over Sweden

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Jill Ellis said the United States wouldn’t duck France in the knockout stages, and they echoed that sentiment on the field, downing Sweden 2-0 and emphatically winning Group F. The win means they will earn a Round of 16 matchup with Spain, and would likely meet the hosts in the quarterfinals if both teams hold strong in their first knockout game.

The meeting between the two teams was the sixth in Women’s World Cup play, including a fifth straight, both records. While Sweden had its moments, the game was controlled by the favorites and was never really in doubt. The second goal came in controversial fashion, but it had been coming as the U.S. came out firing and scored early in both halves.

It took no time for the United States to get on the board just three minutes in as Megan Rapinoe mishit a corner and sent in a worm burner that somehow squirted through the Swedish defense and fell to Lindsay Horan on the doorstep who was free on a late charge to tap in the opening goal.

After the opener, the U.S. continued to dominate attacking possession, and Crystal Dunn had a pair of half-chances, putting both over the bar. Alex Morgan then got on the end of a Sam Mewis ball and looked for an audacious chip but just missed the far post.

Sweden built into the game by the 20th minute and had a golden opportunity as Kosovare Asllani found space down the right half of the box but her shot was weak and right at Alyssa Naeher. Towards the end of the first half Naeher was tested again, diving to punch away a Sweden cross from the right. Otherwise, the first half was all the United States, looking to break Sweden down to put the game away.

After the break, Jill Ellis made a change to bring on Carli Lloyd for Alex Morgan, the latter of whom appeared slightly dinged up and was brought off as a precaution. The appearance for Lloyd is her 277th cap for the United States, passing Mia Hamm for third all-time with the country.

The U.S. came out of the break as strong as they started the game, and Tobin Heath put the United States 2-0 up from a very tight angle. The goal was reviewed by VAR after replay appeared to show Carli Lloyd offside on the play as she looked to receive the cross which eventually rebounded to Heath, but the referee allowed the goal to stand despite Lloyd’s influence on the play. Also controversially, the goal was later changed by FIFA to an own-goal by Sweden defender Jonna Anderson who was defending Heath on the play.

The goal woke up Sweden who tested Nahaer on two separate occasions before the hour mark, but the U.S. goalkeeper held firm. A free-kick from the left edge of the U.S. box on 70 minutes came close to the near post but no Sweden attacker could get a head to the delivery.

Lloyd had a chance to extend both the lead and her goal streak with a chance in the 90th minute but on a breakaway ball from Mewis she fired her wide-open chance straight at Hedvig Lindahl who stayed strong to make the save. With the win, the United States wins the group with a perfect 3-0 record and a stunning +18 goal differential. They move on to the knockout stage to play Spain in the Round of 16, with a potential meeting with France looming in the quarterfinals.

U.S. comes back, stuns favorites France at U-20 World Cup

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The United States challenged in the first half, but it appeared as if the U-20 World Cup favorites France were too much to handle. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the U.S. had completed a stunning comeback to win 3-2 and secured a spot in the quarterfinals, while the giants were out.

Sebastian Soto’s brace led the way for the United States, cancelled out by France goals from Amine Gouiri and Nabil Alioui until substitute Justin Rennecks pounced with eight minutes to go for the winner.

The opening 20 minutes were of high quality on both ends. France as expected dominated possession, but struggled to do much with it early. The United States had the first good opportunity as Richie Ledezma couldn’t finish from a tight angle, while France came close down the other end with Mickael Cuisance’s cross to Nabil Alioui much too strong, surprising the Monaco youth product who headed over the bar.

Timothy Weah came close on 20 minutes as he turned Enzo Loiodice around but was foiled by France goalkeeper Alban Lafont coming off his line and snuffing out Weah’s attempted chip. That was a harbinger for the French defense which was torn to pieces on the opening goal 25 minutes in. Ledezma broke through the middle and ran it straight down the French throats, with the favorites caught on their heels. He fed a beautiful ball right between the French center-backs for Sebastian Soto through on goal who controlled nervously and finished a curler for the game’s first goal.

France picked things up after the opener and worked a shot off the woodwork in the 36th minute. A wonderful bit of combination play in the box fell to Cuisance who cut a shot from the penalty spot and clattered it off the outside of the right post. The hosts tied things up just before halftime on the counter with the United States caught way too high up the field, which left Aboubakar Kamara all alone to defend a two-man break. Moussa Diaby fed Lyon youth product Amine Gouiri who was clean through and a cool finish brought France back level at 1-1.

A key moment in the first half was an injury to U.S. midfielder Paxton Pomykal, who seemed to be troubled by a painful knock to his lower back. He returned to the field after treatment, but was clearly slowed.

In the second half, there was a quick VAR check for handball in the 52nd minute but Diaby’s shot hit Kamara’s elbow tucked in to his body and nothing rightly came of it. With the United States looking gassed past the hour mark, Tab Ramos made a double change bringing Ledezma and Konrad de la Fuente off with Ulysses Llanez and Justin Rennecks entering the fray.

Completely against the run of play, the United States found an equalizer with 15 minutes to go. Llanez held the ball strongly as the Baby Yanks entered the attacking third, and Weah did excellent work in heavy traffic to feed Soto who timed his run perfectly off the back of the French defensive line. Through on goal, he finished to level the score at 2-2.

With the United States energized, they surged forward. At times it appeared dangerous, but Ramos understandably wished to try for a winner in regulation rather than suffer through another 30 minutes of extra time on tired U.S. legs. He would find a winner through substitute Rennecks after Sergino Dest fired off an absolute howitzer from distance that stung Lafont’s hands, the ball spilling to the turf at the far post. Rennecks pounced and reached the ball before Lafont could recover, handing the U.S. a lead with eight minutes to go.

Soto nearly sealed it in the 89th minute, through on goal again, but he tried to round the goalkeeper and Lafont was on hand to collect off his feet. France fought tooth and nail for the equalizer, but they couldn’t come any closer than Dan-Axel Zagadou’s missed header in the 91st minute. The final whistle sounded, and the United States was on to the quarterfinals for the third straight cycle while France’s tournament came to an early end. The U.S. takes on Ecuador on Saturday, as the CONMEBOL side took down fellow South American side Uruguay 3-1 in their quarterfinal matchup.

Weah chose to fight for PSG spot over loan spell

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While USMNT youngster Timothy Weah may be just 18 years old, he has hopes of competing not just with the best players on his team, but the best players in the world.

At USMNT camp this morning, the American teenager told the media today that he made the decision himself to reject a loan spell this season in favor of staying at PSG and attempting to earn a place in the team. Sticking around at a team with Champions League title aspirations might sound daunting enough, even before considering who he’s competing with.

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Weah had a strong preseason and earned a spot in the PSG squad early in the season, and found the field enough to score his first competitive goal for the club in the 4-0 season-opening Trophee des Champions victory over Monaco. He then came off the bench to score in the regular season opener against Caen. Unfortunately, that was before the big guns came back.

As superstars Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Edinson Cavani slowly trickled back from World Cup duty and regained their fitness, Weah once again faded into the background. 31-year-old Cavani was the last to return, and once that happened, Weah was no longer even among the substitutes.

However, now that Mbappe will miss three matches due to a red card suspension, it’s possible that Weah could make a return to the matchday squad and play a part. That’s likely what Weah’s season hinges on – injuries, suspensions, and anything else that creates an opening in the otherwise logjammed attacking presence at Parc de Princes.

Aside from Neymar, Mbappe, and Cavani, Weah has to compete with the likes of Angel Di Maria, Julian Draxler, Jese, fellow PSG youth product Moussa Diaby, and now new signing Eric Maxim Chupo-Moting. That’s an absolutely star-studded squad that Weah might find it hard to crack. Nonetheless, his performances in both preseason and the beginning of competition this season may go a long way towards helping him earn Thomas Tuchel’s trust.

It will be interesting to see if Weah can find playing time with so much major competition, but even if he’s simply a bit-part player, at just 18 years old, being with that first team could provide valuable experience and go a long way towards his future development. If the opportunities don’t arise, he could always move out on loan in January.

Morocco jibes at North American cash pledges for 2026 World Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) In a FIFA election where money could be key, Morocco tried to heap doubt on North American promises of multi-billion dollar 2026 World Cup profits on Monday.

Moroccan jibes at projections from the United States-Canada-Mexico bid came when leaders of the rival campaigns met voters from five of FIFA’s six continental groups.

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“There is lots of uncertainty,” Morocco Football Federation president Fouzi Lekjaa said of the detail in North American pledges of $14.3 billion revenue for FIFA.

“That doesn’t correspond either to historical facts or future extrapolation, it’s an exercise that goes beyond that,” Lekjaa said in French.

Money will not be the only factor on the minds of up to 206 expected FIFA member federations who can vote on Wednesday in Moscow.

Still, a FIFA-appointed panel assessing the two candidates already noted the “significantly higher” number than Morocco’s projected income of $7.2 billion for football’s governing body from a 48-team tournament.

Morocco’s counterattack is that $5 billion pure profit for FIFA would be a World Cup record.

“We do not blush when we propose that,” Morocco tourism minister Lamia Boutaleb said in an impassioned speech to 53 African voters in a Moscow hotel conference center.

The Moroccan bid team took to the stage at a Confederation for African Football (CAF) meeting minutes after the North Americans presented their plan to what shaped as its most hostile audience of the day.

“We have shown the best we have to offer to all the FIFA members,” Decio de Maria, the Mexico federation president, said.

Though the American team was met with just polite applause, and no follow-up questions, it still hopes for African votes on Wednesday.

Liberia, Namibia, and Zimbabwe pledged support before arriving in Russia, and the North Americans have targeted voters in the southern African group known as COSAFA.

It was perhaps telling that CAF President Ahmad stressed the need to “show cohesion within our continent” in a contest where FIFA will publish each member’s choice soon after the ballot.

“There is an obligation to remain within our family,” the Madagascar official said “But of course it is an individual choice.”

The African meeting began with Ahmad announcing his first vice president, Kwesi Nyantakyi, resigned from CAF and FIFA’s ruling council while facing a corruption investigation in his native Ghana.

A television documentary last week showed Nyantakyi taking $65,000 in cash from undercover reporters posing as businessmen to secure favor with Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo and other government officials.

Ghana can vote on Wednesday, though Moroccan attempts to pressure FIFA into acting against four American territories seem sure to fail.

FIFA election rules suggested American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands could be barred from voting by a potential conflict of interest.

“Our voting delegate has a New Zealand passport,” American Samoan official Sandra Fruean, a FIFA Council member, told The Associated Press.

The last-minute lobbying continues on Tuesday morning at another central Moscow hotel, where the rival bid teams make presentations to 54 European voters.

Report: France expected to vote against U.S. in 2026 bid

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What once seemed like a certainty is now once again proving to be a nightmare for the United States, as the country’s United bid took a major hit on Thursday.

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L’Equipe spoke with French football president Noel Le Graet, who has stated that France will vote in favor of Morocco ahead of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, leaving the United bid of the United States, Mexico and Canada with another major setback in its plans to host the tournament.

“I don’t see myself not supporting a country that is close to us,” Le Graet said. “Africa has only had one World Cup. That’s not a lot.

“Morocco is ready, even if they don’t have the same means as their fellow contenders. France only has one vote, but perhaps we will give momentum in Europe to choose Morocco.”

Earlier on Thursday, it was reported that two CONCACAF nations — Dominica and Saint Lucia — would also vote for Morocco, going against their fellow North and Central American allies.

The United bid looked a strong favorite to host in 2026 when it was first announced, particularly given the United States’ success hosting the World Cup back in 1994, however, recently the attention has shifted to Morocco, with the country receiving significant support from not only African nations but also Asia and South America, too.

In the voting process for the 2022 World Cup, the U.S. was faced with a similar task in trying to obtain hosting rights. The CONCACAF nation ultimately lost out on hosting to Qatar, despite major links to voter corruption.

Voting for the 2026 World Cup will take place in Russia on June 13, the day before this summer’s tournament takes place.