Madrid, Oct 16 (AP/UNB) — It was an odd scene at Benito Villamarin Stadium in Seville: The few visiting English fans were chanting "Ole" at every touch of the ball by their squad, while the home Spanish crowd was jeering its own players.
It was only halftime on Monday and the Spaniards had already seen their national team concede three goals for the first time ever in a competitive match at home. By the end, they were witnesses to La Roja's first home loss in 15 years.
Raheem Sterling scored twice and Marcus Rashford once in a stunning first half for England, which held on to beat Spain 3-2 in the UEFA Nations League to get back in contention for a spot in the final four of Europe's newest competition.
In the other match in League A, Iceland lost to Switzerland 2-1 and was relegated to the second-tier League B.
Sterling ended his three-year scoring drought with England with goals on each side of Rashford's strike before the break, leading England to its first win in Spain since 1987.
"For a young team, they put in an incredibly mature performance, withstood pressure reasonably well and should all be really proud," England coach Gareth Southgate said.
Spain suffered its first loss in a competitive match at home since 2003 against Greece. It hadn't lost at home in 38 matches, and had not conceded three goals in a home match since 1991 in a friendly against Hungary.
"It shows how tough it is to come here and win and we have done that," England forward Harry Kane said. "We came out of the blocks firing, great pressing."
Paco Alcacer scored Spain's first goal early in the second half and Sergio Ramos claimed the second on the final play of the match.
"We have to admit we played very badly in the first half," Spain coach Luis Enrique said. "We made a lot of individual mistakes."
Despite the loss, Spain stayed ahead in Group 4 of League A with two more points than England after three matches. Croatia, with a game in hand, was five points behind Spain.
Spain could have secured a spot in the last four with a win, while a draw would have ended England's chances of advancing. Only the group winner moves on.
Spain started well but its high defensive line struggled against the speed of England's young forwards. The visitors were clinical, scoring on all of their attempts on goal. Spain totaled 25 attempts and 70 percent of possession, and blew it.
England opened the scoring early in a fast breakaway. Rashford sent a nice ball into space for Sterling, who entered the area with only the goalkeeper to beat and found the top of the net with a superb finish. It was his first goal for England since 2015, and first ever away from Wembley.
"It was a beautiful feeling," Sterling said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to get in the box and score. Sometimes it works for you and sometimes it doesn't, but it's my position to score goals so I need to keep that going."
Rashford added to the lead in the 30th after a perfect through ball by Kane, entering the area and finishing with a shot from near the penalty spot.
Sterling got on the board again from close range after Kane's set-up in a move which started with a nice pass by Ross Barkley over the top of the Spanish defenders.
Spain got on the board in the 58th through a header by substitute striker Alcacer, who has 10 goals in his last six games with club and country. Ramos' last-minute goal also was a header.
Iceland needed to beat Switzerland for the first time to avoid relegation but the Swiss got off to a two-goal lead and held on to victory.
Switzerland routed Iceland 6-0 at home in the team's opener. It moved into a tie with Belgium for first place in Group 2. The Belgians have a game in hand.
In League B, Bosnia-Herzegovina defeated Northern Ireland 2-1 at home to take a six-point lead over Austria atop Group 3.
In Group 2 of League C, Finland beat Greece 2-0 at home to remain perfect with four wins and a clean sheet after four matches. Estonia and Hungary drew 3-3 in the group's other match.
Luxembourg defeated San Marino 3-0 to take the lead in Group 2 of League D, ahead of Belarus, which was held by Moldova to 0-0.
Frisco, Oct 16 (AP/UNB) — With the Women's World Cup less than eight months away, U.S. national team midfielder Megan Rapinoe is dismayed by what she sees as ongoing issues of inequality in soccer.
From uncertainty about the use of video review and the amount of prize money, to scheduling other tournament finals on the same day as the championship game, equity issues are getting more attention as the World Cup looms.
From Rapinoe's standpoint, that's symptomatic of the short shrift paid to the women's game by FIFA, soccer's governing body.
"And that's not to say they (FIFA) don't do anything. They obviously do things for the women's game. But in the way that they truly care about the men's game, they don't truly care about the women's game," she said.
The United States qualified for the World Cup on Sunday night with a victory over Jamaica in the semifinals of the CONCACAF women's championship tournament. The top three finishers earn spots in the World Cup, so the U.S. and Canada secured berths with semifinal victories. The two teams will play each other in the championship match Wednesday night.
Rapinoe has always been one of the most vocal players on the team. She was among a chorus of voices that criticized FIFA in the run-up to the 2015 World Cup in Canada because the tournament was played on artificial turf, which was considered a slight to the women.
So it's understandable the 33-year-old national team vet would call out FIFA for more recent issues.
FIFA has been criticized for scheduling the Women's World Cup final on the same day as the men's Copa America final and the CONCACAF Gold Cup final.
There have been calls for FIFA to use VAR, or Video Assistant Referees, at the tournament in France. VAR was used at the men's World Cup for the first time in Russia.
Prize money has been an issue since 2015, when the U.S. women's team received $2 million for winning the World Cup, out of a pool of $15 million. By comparison, the prize pool for the men's World Cup in Russia was $400 million.
FIFA's Chief Women's Football Officer Sarai Bareman responded to some of the criticism last week when the organization released its first-ever global strategy for women's soccer. The wide-ranging policy seeks to grow the women's game overall — and one aim is to get more women involved in the decision-making processes at all levels.
"We have to keep pushing," Bareman said. "Because it's proven that having more women in these decision-making bodies creates a more diverse decision-making process, and also a more robust and I would say — how do I put this diplomatically — a more honest and integral process as well."
The strategy shows that FIFA is committed to the women's game, she said.
As for VAR, a decision has not been announced. FIFA did not announce its intention to use VAR for the men's World Cup until just a few months before the tournament.
Bareman also confirmed that World Cup prize money would be increased but did not reveal a figure. An announcement is expected later this month at the FIFA Council meeting in Rwanda. She said the prize structure would include "new elements that haven't existed before in the women's game" including money to help qualified teams prepare.
Sports Illustrated reported last week that the prize pool would be doubled, to $30 million. Rapinoe wanted to know what metric was used in determining the amount — especially in light of the disparity with the men's.
"I mean, I think that they're probably looking for pats on the back for the increase. They're not getting any from here. I mean, until they're really going to take meaningful steps to truly show that they're caring about the women's game in a sort of deeper way, I don't know. $15 million is nothing to them. ... If they wanted to just sort of arbitrarily do it, they could increase it by $100 million," she said.
Rapinoe is not alone. Alex Morgan and Becky Sauerbrunn have also publicly addressed some of the controversies. Coach Jill Ellis first called for VAR at the Women's World Cup when she visited Russia for the men's tournament, and during qualifying she has questioned the scheduling decisions.
The U.S. team is uniquely positioned to speak to contentious issues. The players fought for and received an improved collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer in 2017 that brings player compensation more in line with the men's team.
And as the No. 1 team in the world, the players' voices carry weight.
"I think they themselves are an incredible mouthpiece for our game, for the women's game. Not just because of their popularity, but also their investment. This is a group that wants the game to grow," Ellis said. "So I think them speaking their minds, honestly, and being open about how they feel about issues — as in bonuses for winning, dates of competition, VAR, all those things that you want to be on the same level and same platform as the men's game. And that's the expectation, and anything less that that is not acceptable."
Frisco, Oct 15 (AP/UNB) — The U.S. women's national team breezed through CONCACAF qualifying to secure a spot in the World Cup next year in France.
The Americans still have to face Canada.
"Just because we qualified for the World Cup doesn't mean we're going to take our foot off the gas," Alex Morgan said. "We want to win this tournament and we always think of playing Canada as an important game for us."
Morgan and Tobin Heath each scored twice in the first half and United States earned a World Cup berth with a 6-0 victory over Jamaica on Sunday night in the semifinals.
Heath's first came in the first two minutes of the match and she added a second in the 29th. Megan Rapinoe, Julie Ertz and Morgan also had first-half goals as the United States built a 5-0 lead.
Morgan's second goal was a penalty kick in the 84th minute.
Canada, ranked No. 5 in the world, also clinched a spot in France with a 7-0 victory over Panama in the earlier semifinal at Toyota Stadium.
The top three finishers in the CONCACAF Women's Championship represent the region in France, so the winners of both semifinals earned a berth before the final.
The title match between the United States and Canada and the third-place game are set for Wednesday in Frisco. The fourth-place finisher will face Argentina in a playoff for a spot in France.
"This is obviously going to be a different change of pace for us in this tournament because we haven't faced a lot of shots from other teams, from opponents. But I think it will be good for us. We want to play the best teams in the world and Canada's continuing to evolve and play well," Morgan said.
The top-ranked United States is the defending champion of the sport's premier event, having won the final in the 2015 World Cup against Japan. It was the team's third World Cup title.
Jamaica, ranked No. 64th in the world, is still vying to become the first Caribbean nation to go to a World Cup. The Reggae Girlz upset Costa Rica 1-0 in the group stage before routing Cuba 9-0 to finish second to Canada in Group B.
The island nation re-started its women's national team program in 2014 after a six-year hiatus, boosted by the support of Bob Marley's oldest daughter, Cedella Marley.
Coach Hue Menzies said the match against the United States was a good test.
"We came ready to play five games, and we're playing five games. So it's a big plus for our program. Obviously we're trying to create some history. We're still on track," Menzies said.
The United States has dominated the competition in the tournament. The team averaged six goals a game in its group stage, winning all three matches. They took 114 shots, far more than the second-best team in the field, Canada (77). In their final group-stage match, the U.S. women outshot injury-depleted Trinidad and Tobago 59-0.
The United States outshot Jamaica 26-1.
"We feel good right now. Like I said, the competition has not been very good, so we have to take it with a grain of salt," Rapinoe said about where the team is at right now. "I think we're moving the ball quicker, not hanging on to it too long, sharing it, a bunch of different people are scoring. We got a lot of different kind of goals today, too. ... It's clicking right now. It's pretty good."
Morgan's goals tied her with Canada's Adriana Leon for the tournament lead with six.
Morgan has 16 goals for the United States this year, and she has 23 goals in her last 23 matches. She has 96 career goals.
Heath, who spent much of 2017 and the beginning of this year sidelined by injury, has seven goals in seven starts this year. Her second goal of the night came on a spectacular serve from Portland Thorns' teammate Lindsay Horan. On the run, Heath smashed it past Jamaica goalkeeper Sydney Schneider.
"They're at another level," Menzies said about the U.S. team. "Another level from us. It's something we can learn from. The best game that we played so far was a loss to Canada, we learned a lot from that. So we've got to take these situations and add them into training and see if we can solve those things and use them against Panama."
The match slowed down in the second half, played in a steady rain. But the thunderstorms that had been forecast never materialized.
Seventeen teams have earned trips to the World Cup. There are seven spots yet to be determined.
Frisco, Oct 15 (AP/UNB) — Christine Sinclair isn't concerned about chasing records. She's set her sights on the World Cup.
Sinclair scored twice and Canada went on to secure a spot in next year's World Cup in France with a 7-0 victory over Panama on Sunday in the semifinals of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament.
Sinclair has 177th international goals. She ranks second on the career list — among both men and women — behind former U.S. forward Abby Wambach's record of 184 goals.
After her header in the 44th minute gave Canada its opening goal, Sinclair pumped her fist in celebration. She added another header in the 49th minute.
"It's my teammates that keep reminding me of it," she smiled. "Especially in this tournament, it's just all about qualifying."
Adriana Leon, who came in as a sub for Sinclair in the 68th minute, also scored a pair of goals.
Canada will face the United States in the final. The defending World Cuo champoion Americans beat Jamaica 6-0 in the second semifinal at Toyota Stadium.
The final and third-place match are set for Wednesday night. The top three finishers in the CONCACAF Women's Championship will represent the region in France, so the winners of both semifinals earn a berth. The fourth-place finisher will face Argentina in a playoff for a spot.
Canada, ranked No. 5 in the world, will make its seventh World Cup appearance. The only time Canada has missed out on the game's premier tournament was in 1991, the event's first year.
"It's massive for us," Sinclair said. "It was obviously our goal coming into this tournament. It's getting more and more difficult qualifying out of CONCACAF, you see different teams making it the semifinals, with Panama and Jamaica making it."
Panama coach Victor Daniel Suarez gave half of his starters from earlier in the tournament the night off, including 17-year-old goalkeeper Yenith Bailey, who turned heads in a 5-0 loss to the United States in the group stage. Carli Lloyd shook the teenager's hand following a gutsy performance. Panama started Farissa Cordoba instead.
The strategy was apparently to give the starters a break in anticipation that 66th-ranked Panama will play in the third-place game, perhaps against Jamaica, and a win there can still secure a World Cup berth.
Suarez said after the match that Bailey had a sore shoulder, so he wanted to keep her fresh for Wednesday's match.
Panama has never been to a World Cup.
"There's a lot of changes happening," Suarez said through a translator about Panama's recent rise. "They (he players) want to make history, as they are right now, but it will be step by step."
Canada had the best chances in the first half, including Allysha Chapman's shot in the 12th minute that was just off target and hit the side of the net, before Sinclair broke through.
Jesse Fleming added another goal for Canada in the 48th minute, a short time before Sinclair's second. Janine Beckie and Rebecca Quinn also scored before Leon's brace. Leon has six goals in the tournament.
Diana Matheson made her 200th appearance for Canada. The midfielder has played for the national team since 2003.
Rome, Oct 15 (AP/UNB) — Italy is finally showing signs of emerging from its crisis, nearly a year after failing to qualify for the World Cup.
Cristiano Biraghi's goal in stoppage time earned the Azzurri a much-needed 1-0 win in Poland on Sunday in the UEFA Nations League.
Playing in Group 3 of League A, Poland became the first team to be relegated in the new European competition.
Italy also hit the crossbar twice in the first half, first with Jorginho then with Lorenzo Insigne.
Still, the match appeared headed for a scoreless draw until Biraghi slid in to redirect a corner inside the far post two minutes into injury time.
"We dominated the game completely and should have scored earlier," Italy coach Roberto Mancini said. "A 0-0 would have been an unfair result. We played very well but we can still improve a lot. In football you only need time and hard work; magicians do not exist."
It was the first national team goal for Biraghi, a full back at Fiorentina.
Biraghi celebrated by making a No. 13 with his fingers, a dedication to former Fiorentina captain and Italy defender Davide Astori, who died from cardiac arrest in March.
Astori wore the No. 13 shirt.
"Astori is a part of me," Biraghi said. "I dedicate my goal to him because if I'm here it is only thanks to him and all the things he taught me when we played together."
It was Italy's first competitive victory in more than a year, since beating Albania 1-0 in World Cup qualifying last October.
It also ended a five-match winless streak in all competitions and gave Italy a slim chance to catch group leader Portugal.
Portugal leads with six points, two ahead of Italy, while Poland is last with one.
Italy hosts Portugal in its next and final match but then Portugal has another game at home against Poland.
World Cup quarterfinalist Russia needs only one more point to be promoted into League A following a 2-0 win over visiting Turkey in Sochi with goals in the Group 2 game from Roman Neustadter and substitute Denis Cheryshev.
Turkey will be relegated from League B if it loses to Sweden on Nov. 17, while Russia can move up with a draw in Sweden three days later.
A long pass from goalkeeper Ariel Harush set up Israel's first goal by Tomer Hemed in a 2-0 win over visiting Albania in League C.
Harush also made a series of saves before Israel got its second from Dia Seba.
Israel is three points ahead of Scotland and Albania atop Group 1.
Also in League C, Romania played the entire second half with 10 men and still drew 0-0 with Serbia.
Serbia, which had captain Dusan Tadic miss a penalty, stayed atop Group 4, one point ahead of Montenegro, which won 4-1 in Lithuania.
Romania is two points back.
Kosovo held on for a 1-1 draw in the Faeroe Islands to remain unbeaten atop Group 3 in League D.
After Milot Rashica's early opener, Rene Joensen equalized after the break for the Faeroes.
In the same group, Azerbaijan and Malta also played to a 1-1 draw, with Araz Abdullayev's second-half equalizer canceling out Rowen Muscat's opener for Malta.