Women's World Cup: USWNT's path to final after win over Sweden all set


Women's World Cup: USWNT's path to final after win over Sweden all set

The United States women's national soccer team took care of business Thursday at the Women's World Cup in Le Havre, France.

Lindsey Horan's opener, the tournament's fastest goal so far, and Jonna Andersson's own goal, heavily assisted by Tobin Heath's cheeky creativity, were enough for a 2-0 USWNT win over Sweden to seal Group F and set another World Cup record.

The Americans played on their front foot for most of the day, out-shooting the Swedes 16-7 and building up play through the middle of the pitch despite the precautionary absence of do-it-all midfielder Julie Ertz. Sweden made seven changes from its 5-1 win over Thailand on Sunday, and was unable to capitalize on the counter-attack in the moments the USWNT looked vulnerable at the back.

With the group stage now in the rearview mirror, the knockout stages are set, and the United States' title defense begins in earnest. The Round of 16 kicks off Saturday, but the USWNT won't play until Monday.

Here's what the Americans' path to a second consecutive World Cup looks like.

Round of 16 -- Spain

Four years after qualifying for their first World Cup, the Spaniards advanced out of the group stage for the first time. They finished second place in a difficult Group B, with the only blemish on their record a 1-0 loss to two-time champion Germany.

The sides played each other for the first time in January, as a nearly full-strength USWNT picked up a 1-0 win in Spain on Christen Press' winner in the 54th minute. Spain entered the World Cup ranked No. 13 in the world, but the Americans should be pretty heavily favored to advance.

Quarterfinals -- France or Brazil

If the USWNT beats Spain and advances, a stiff test awaits in the quarterfinals regardless of the opponent.

France, the host nation, is ranked No. 4 in the world by FIFA and, at the very least, entered the tournament as co-favorites with the Americans. There would be no shame for either side's run to end here, but both countries have World Cup-or-bust aspirations, and a USWNT loss would mark the first time in tournament history that it did not make the semifinals.

And if France is upset in the Round of 16? The consolation prize is Brazil, led by the greatest player in the sport's history in Marta. Brazil advanced out of a difficult Group C, thanks to wins over Jamaica and Italy, and would have finished the group stage undefeated had it not blown a two-goal lead to Australia.

The USWNT edged Brazil 1-0 in the SheBelieves Cup finale earlier this year, but the Brazilians would have plenty of confidence if they're able to knock off France and advance to the quarterfinals.

Semifinals -- England, Australia, Norway or Cameroon

Notice a trend? The road to a repeat is littered with quality sides.

England won Group D with relative ease, and allowed only one goal in three group-stage matches. It's likely the English will hold off Cameroon, which advanced to the knockout stage for the first time thanks to a stoppage-time winner over New Zealand on Thursday.

Australia, led by Golden Boot co-front-runner Sam Kerr (five goals), likely will be favored against Norway, but the Norwegians can't be overlooked. Yes, Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg will not be there, as she is sitting out the tournament because of Norway's unequal treatment of its men's and women's teams. Yet Norway hung with France for much of its match on June 12, and has been fairly prolific in front of goal in Hegerberg's absence.

England, Australia and Norway are ranked No. 3, No. 6 and No. 12 by FIFA, respectively. Going through France, then England, would give the USWNT an extremely difficult road to the final, but the Americans certainly would be battle-tested if they made it out on the other side.

Final -- One of eight teams

Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Japan, Sweden, Italy, China and Nigeria will fight it out on the opposite of the bracket.

The Germans should be considered the favorites after keeping three clean sheats in the group stage, but losing Dzsenifer Marozsan (broken toe) for the remainder of the tournament is a major concern. Canada and the Netherlands concluded Group E in entertaining fashion Thursday, but Sweden and Japan will not be pushovers for either country in the Round of 16.

Italy and China both have dark-horse potential, considering the former beat Australia and the latter has advanced to the quarterfinals every time in the tournament's history. Nigeria, meanwhile, essentially was a VAR decision away from earning a point against France on Monday.

[RELATED: Where to watch the USWNT in the Bay Area]

If the USWNT can advance to the final, storylines abound, no matter who advances from the other side of the bracket. In their pursuit of consecutive World Cups, the Americans would have to beat the only country to win two in a row (Germany), their closest geographical rival (Canada), the reigning European champions (Netherlands), the team that knocked them out of the Olympics (Sweden), the team they beat in the last World Cup final (Japan) or a nation that never has made it so far (Italy, China or Nigeria).

But the USWNT has to advance from its side of the bracket first. Given the teams along that path, the Americans face a difficult path to the July 7 final in Lyon.

Aston Villa vs. Manchester City live stream: Watch EPL game online, on TV


Aston Villa vs. Manchester City live stream: Watch EPL game online, on TV

Manchester City are playing well right now and can move into second place in the Premier League with a win over Aston Villa on Sunday.

City is coming off a 3-1 win over rival Manchester United in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal, and enter Villa Park looking to pounce on a vulnerable opponent.

The Villans current sit 17th in the Prem and are in danger of being relegated. A win over City would put a little distance between Aston Villa and AFC Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich City toward the bottom of the table.

Here's how to watch Aston Villa vs. Manchester City live online and on TV:

When: Sunday, Jan. 12, at 11:30 a.m. ET/8:30 a.m. PT

Liverpool set European record after outclassing Tottenham Hotspur

Liverpool set European record after outclassing Tottenham Hotspur

Liverpool's march to the Premier League title continued unabated Saturday in a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur, but the Reds also made European history Saturday in North London.

With 61 points after 21 matches, Liverpool set a record for points at this stage of a season in one of Europe's top five leagues (Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue Un). Paris Saint-Germain (2018-19), Juventus (2018-19), Manchester City (2017-18) and Bayern Munich (2013-14) shared the previous record with 59 points in 21 games.

The reigning kings of Europe fittingly set the record against the foes they vanquished in June's UEFA Champions League Final. Liverpool beat Tottenham 2-0 on June 1 in Madrid, and the Reds dominated Spurs from beginning to end Saturday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. 

Liverpool knocked on the door for the entirety of the first half, completely pinning Tottenham in their own half. Roberto Firmino's 37th-minute opener was a long time coming and happened as Spurs' back line -- featuring 20-year-old Japhet Tanganga on his Premier League debut -- finally wilted under the Reds' pressure. 

Spurs struggled to get the ball out of their own half in the first 45 minutes. Squakwa Football noted that Liverpool central defender Virgil van Dijk completed more passes in Tottenham's half than any Spurs player even attempted on the other end. 

Tottenham managed to fight back in the second half, with Son Heung-Min skying a shot over the bar in the 75th minute on a counter-attack sprung by second-half substitute Giovani Lo Celso. Lo Celso missed a volley in the 83rd minute on Spurs' best opportunity to equalize.

Spurs manager José Mourinho wasn't mad. It was just funny to him.

Liverpool laughed last, however, and have more history in their sights en route to the club's first-ever Premier League title. The Reds are 12 matches away from setting the league record for the longest unbeaten streak, and they've now played the equivalent of an entire Premier League season without dropping a match.

A legendary season for Liverpool, indeed.