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England advances after beating Wales 3-0 at World Cup

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/2022-world-cup-england-defeats-wales-ae98031fc16d6d4adabf1e719ab9290e

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Marcus Rashford dropped to his knees and pointed up to the sky.

The England forward had just scored against Wales at the World Cup, starting off a 3-0 victory that sent his team into the round of 16.

His celebration, he said, was in tribute to a friend who recently passed away after a long battle with cancer. It could have also been in celebration of working his way into the starting lineup in Qatar.

“Moments like this, this is what I play football for. The biggest moments, the best moments,” said Rashford, who started his first game of the tournament. “I’m happy we are going through to the next round of the tournament because I have massive ambitions for this team and I think we can play even better than we did today.”

Rashford scored two goals at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, making him the co-leading scorer at the World Cup with three goals — the same as France striker Kylian Mbappe and two others. Phil Foden, another England player who made his first start in Qatar on Tuesday, got the other.

Rashford played at the last World Cup in 2018 and also at the 2020 European Championship, but the 25-year-old Manchester United forward was considered to be fortunate to make England coach Gareth Southgate’s squad for this year’s tournament.

Ever since his miss in the penalty shootout loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, Rashford has been going through a turbulent period in his career, compounded by injuries. He and teammate Bukaya Saka, both of them Black, were racially abused after missing their penalties in the shootout at Wembley Stadium.

“It has been a challenge for him,” said Southgate, who also led the team to the World Cup semifinals four years ago in Russia. “I went and saw him in the summer, had a big chat with him and he had some clear ideas on things he felt he needed to think about.

“You can see with his club there has been happiness in his performances and that has shown itself on the training ground. We have a different version (of him) completely to the Euros. That’s great for him and for us.”

In Qatar, Southgate opted to leave Rashford and Foden on the bench in the first two matches against Iran and the United States, starting with Saka and Raheem Sterling up front alongside captain Harry Kane.

Rashford came on a substitute in the 6-2 victory over Iran and scored one of the goals. Foden played 19 minutes in that match.

Against the United States, England was held to a 0-0 draw with Rashford again coming in off the bench.

The lineup changed for the final Group B match against Wales, and both Rashford and Foden took advantage of their time on the field.

Rashford put England in the lead with a free kick in the 50th minute, and followed it with that tribute to his late friend. Foden added the second only one minute later, and Rashford made it 3-0 in the 68th.

The win guaranteed England first place in the group. The team will next face Senegal in the round of 16 on Sunday.

Wales, which was playing at the World Cup for the first time in 64 years, finished last in the group and was eliminated. The United States ended up in second place and will next face the Netherlands, while Iran finished third and was also eliminated.

It may have been captain Gareth Bale’s last match for his national team.

The former Real Madrid player had to come off the field at halftime because of a hamstring injury, but Wales coach Rob Page said he expects Bale to continue.

“He wants what’s best for the team. He understands that and he knew if he had gone back out he would have probably played at about 70%,” Page said. “When you are playing against a team like that you can’t carry anyone.

“I don’t think it will be the last time we see him in a Welsh jersey. There’s games starting again in March in the Euros (qualifying) and we want to get off to a flying start. We will see him in a jersey.”

KANE’S WAIT

Kane won the Golden Boot as the World Cup’s leading scorer four years ago in Russia, but he has yet to find the net in Qatar.

SOUTHGATE DELIVERS

Southgate is coaching England at a third major tournament, and he has navigated the group stage successfully each time. England reached the semifinals at the World Cup in Russia, and then went all the way to the final at Euro 2020.

The team hasn’t won a major trophy since its lone World Cup success in 1966 at home.

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James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Source: https://apnews.com/article/2022-world-cup-england-defeats-wales-ae98031fc16d6d4adabf1e719ab9290e

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Report: NWSL to expand in Boston, Utah and California

The National Women’s Soccer League is close to expanding by three teams, which will be in Boston, Utah and the San Francisco area, according to a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal.

The women’s pro league previously indicated it would add at least two teams by 2024. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the franchises in northern California and Utah are set to start play next year, with Boston to join at a later date.

The NWSL did not confirm the report in a statement Saturday to The Associated Press, saying: “We remain engaged in our expansion process and are excited about our prospects. When we have news to share, we will do so.”

The NWSL has 12 teams, after Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Boston and Bay Area groups will pay about $50 million in franchise fees. The Utah team will pay a reduced fee because of a previous agreement struck when the Utah Royals folded in the 2020 season.

Before the NWSL draft earlier this month, league commissioner Jessica Berman said it would be “somewhere between days and months, more like weeks, when we’ll be in a position to share information” about an expansion.

“What I can say is that I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in front of us,” she added.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Former MVP Candace Parker to sign with champion Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-time MVP Candace Parker announced on social media Saturday that she would sign with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

Parker spent the past two seasons playing for her hometown Sky, leading Chicago to the WNBA championship in 2021. She also won the 2016 title playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.

She posted on Instagram that Chicago would always be her home, but “my family’s home is on the west coast.

“To play for a championship close to home is the perfect situation for us. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”

The free-agent signing period begins Wednesday, and the Aces can’t comment until then.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, adds to an already loaded lineup that includes reigning MVP A’ja Wilson, who also won the league’s top award in 2020. Wilson also was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Chelsea Gray was MVP of the WNBA Finals and Kelsey Plum MVP of the All-Star Game. Wilson, Plum and Jackie Young were All-Star starters.

Parker and Gray were teammates on Los Angeles’ 2016 title team.

The Aces traded one of their key pieces, two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, to the Sparks on Jan. 21, creating speculation Las Vegas was creating salary cap room to sign a big-name player.

Parker, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2016 Finals MVP, certainly fits that bill. Even at 36 last season, she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Sky.

“Candace has done so much for our franchise in her time here,” Chicago coach and general manager James Wade said in a statement. “I understand her reasons for wanting to be closer with her immediate family. We wish her nothing but the best. She will always be a part of the Sky family. We will celebrate her time here as she deserves.”

Losing her is a big blow to the Sky, who made the semifinals in last season’s playoffs before losing in five games to the Connecticut Sun. Kahleah Copper is the only starter under contract for next season, so the Sky could head into a rebuild.

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to win a championship in my hometown and parade down the same streets I watched the Bulls parade down as a young girl first falling in love with the game of basketball,” Parker posted.

Parker joins the Aces at a time the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said it wanted that organization investigated regarding allegations that Hamby made after being traded. She posted on Instagram she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” because she is pregnant with her second child.

The Aces still have not commented on Hamby’s allegations.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Estrada, Hofstra end No. 18 Charleston’s 20-game win streak

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This season, Hofstra has been a one-man show. This time, Aaron Estrada had some help as the Pride ended the nation’s longest winning streak.

Estrada scored 25 points, but just two in the second half, while Darlinestone Dubar added 18 as Hofstra had four players in double figures to knock off No. 18 College of Charleston 85-81 on Saturday — ending the Cougars’ 20-game win streak.

“That’s a really big for our program,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “To beat a nationally ranked team on their home court when they’ve got it rolling like they do speaks volumes about our kids.”

Claxton saw a team effort to take down the hottest team in the country.

“It wasn’t just Aaron,” Claxton said. “He had a great first half, but we had other guys step up and make baskets or get rebounds when we really needed them.”

The loss ended Charleston’s spotless run that began after losing to then-top-ranked North Carolina on Nov. 11.

Hofstra, the CAA’s leader in field-goal shooting, used that to move past Charleston in the second half as it made 18 of 32 attempts. The Pride led 76-69 with 6:10 to play before the Cougars cut it to two points on Ryan Larson’s foul shots with 2:02 to play.

But Charleston managed just two free throws after that and missed all four 3-pointers they tried.

This is the second straight season the Pride have beaten a Top 25 team. A year ago, Hofstra defeated then No. 24 Arkansas 89-81. The Pride’s only other victory against a Top 25 team came against Southern Illinois in 1976.

Hofstra (15-8, 8-2 Colonial Athletic Association) beat the Cougars (21-2, 9-1) at their own game — 3-point shooting. The Pride were 11 of 22 from 3-point range and overall shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half.

Estrada, who had 23 points in the opening half, shredded the Cougars defense at will. Estrada was 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

“Estrada is a great player, hit a bunch of tough shots, especially in the first half,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “Hofstra is a very, very talented team. It’s not just Estrada. They were better than us tonight.”

Then Estrada took over. The CAA’s leading scorer at 21.1 points a game scored 16 of the next 24 points for the Pride, including four 3-pointers.

Ante Brzovic’s dunk at the buzzer gave the Cougars a 46-44 advantage at halftime.

Tyler Thomas had 17 points and eight rebounds for Hofstra.

Brzovic finished with 18 points to lead the Cougars.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride are on a roll in 2023. winning seven of their past eight games, including three in a row.

College of Charleston: The Cougars chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament at-large bid took a major blow with the loss to the Pride. Despite having the nation’s longest win streak for three months, Charleston will most likely have to win the CAA Tournament in March to advance to the NCAAs.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Cougars’ 20-game win streak wasn’t the only streak to end on Saturday. College of Charleston played 14 of its first 23 games at TD Arena to start the season and were a perfect 13-0 at home before facing the Pride. Charleston’s 13-game home win streak included three wins in the Charleston Classic. The Cougars became the first mid-major program to win the ESPN event, beating Virginia Tech 77-75 in the championship game. Charleston will finish the season playing four of their final eight games on the road.

POLL POSITION

Charleston’s first loss in nearly three months might drop the Cougars from the national rankings. They have been part of the last four rankings, entering at No. 23 before reaching No. 18 this past week.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to play Towson on Thursday night.

College of Charleston starts a two-game road trip at Drexel on Thursday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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