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Sam Kerr Jersey

Australia team skipper Sam Kerr hit back at critics after the Matildas came from two goals down to beat Brazil 3-2 in Group C at the Women’s World Cup in Montpellier on Friday.

Kerr roared on full-time, embraced her teammates after a titanic struggle, and then let loose with her emotions when interviewed pitch side.

“There [were] a lot of critics talking about us but we’re back so suck on that one,” she said. “We don’t listen to the haters.

“Look at that performance to come back from the deep. I love these girls, they’re something else.”

The Matildas have always been powered by an us-against-the-world mentality. Back in the 80s and 90s they paid for their own flights, washed their own training gear and played without anyone watching. In the last two decades, as they improved their world standings, they have fought for fair conditions and pay. And last week intense criticism of the side bubbled over after their 2-1 loss to Italy.

“photo caption=”Sam Kerr led Australia to a wild win over Brazil.”>

“We haven’t been reading [the criticism] but at the end of the day you can feel it,” she said. “Social media gives people a platform to say whatever they want, so it was good to kind of send a message back home and send a message to the rest of the world.

“We knew this would happen.

“We knew people would be quick to judge but that’s football and look what we did today. We had three different goalscorers and outplayed them most of the time.

“Coming back from two goals down with the pressure we had on us, it’s pretty special.”

The Matildas sent a message to their detractors, but did they send one to the rest of the tournament as well?

“Hell yeah,” Kerr continued.”Well we’ve got to focus on Jamaica first, we’re not gonna get too far ahead of ourselves.

“Brazil’s one of the best teams in the world, they’ve got the best player probably ever in the history of the game [in Marta].

“So if people don’t keep watching the Aussies, we’ll come get ya like we did then.

“People don’t understand the belief we have in this team, they don’t understand the confidence we have in each other, the confidence we have in [coach Ante Milicic].

“One game was not gonna derail our World Cup hopes — and that’s why it was so frustrating for us because instead of the media being ‘we can turn this around,’ it turned negative on us and it only fuelled us, so thank you.”

Mohamed Salah New Jersey

TOP STORY: Real begin pursuit of Salah

Real Madrid’s desire to bring Eden Hazard to the Santiago Bernabeu is well documented, but the Daily Mail says there’s another Premier League attacker that’s in the La Liga club’s sights: Mohamed Salah.

The Liverpool star was the joint Golden Boot winner in England along with teammate Sadio Mane and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the outlet reports that Zinedine Zidane sees Salah as the perfect player to partner with Hazard and Karim Benzema in what would be an impressive attacking trio.

Gareth Bale looks certain to be headed out of Madrid this summer — along with a number of other high-profile names — and the Mail says “Zidane believes Salah’s pace and movement would inject some real dynamism into his side.”

Of course any move for the Egypt international will be met with stiff resistance from Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool, who are unlikely to want to sell, but perhaps an offer worthy of a new-era galactico could persuade the Premier League runners-up to let Salah go.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah finished the Premier League season in a three-way tie for the Golden Boot.

Dortmund bet on Brandt

Bayer Leverkusen striker Julian Brandt has attracted much attention from clubs like Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, but the Champions League finalists may miss out on the young Germany star, who could stay in Bundesliga.

Brandt is believed to be available for a release clause of just £21.5 million and Sky Sports reports that Borussia Dortmund may be favourites to nab Brandt.

The report also suggests that he could stay at Leverkusen should they get a result against Borussia Monchengladbach in the season finale and thus shore up Champions League play.

PSG’s Alves wants to test Prem waters

Paris Saint-Germain defender Dani Alves wants to hear from Premier League clubs before committing again to the Parc des Princes.

The 36-year-old Brazilian stalwart prefers an offer from England, according to the Daily Mail, and if not, then a new two-year deal from PSG. The Ligue 1 champions, however, are frustrated with the ex-Barcelona man and are only willing to offer a one-year extension.

Alves previously attracted interest from the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United before he signed for PSG in 2017. But there seems to be a long shot if any of “Big Six” would come calling.

Tap-ins

- Mundo Deportivo is reporting that Barcelona are keeping tabs on three Premier League attackers, despite their interest in Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann. The story says Barca could move for Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford or Arsenal’s Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette in case their reported move for the Atleti striker falls through.

- David Accam has been traded from Columbus Crew SC to 2020 expansion team Nashville SC for $450,000 in allocation money, according to a report on MLSSoccer.com. Accam, who was only just traded to the Crew from Philadelphia Union one week ago, will officially join the team on Jan. 1, 2020 and become the fourth player Nashville’s first MLS roster along with Derrick Jones, Cameron Lancaster and Daniel Rios.

Antonio Valencia Jersey

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has warned his squad he will make “ruthless” decisions as he looks to build a team capable of challenging Manchester City and Liverpool.

Solskjaer will oversee his first summer transfer window at the end of the season and the Norwegian is ready to make big changes at Old Trafford in a bid to mount a serious title challenge for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

“It’s going to be survival of the fittest or survival of the best,” Solskjaer told a news conference ahead of the Premier League clash with West Ham. “That’s how ruthless we have to be.

“We need players here who are going to be able to take us forward. That means culture in the dressing room, what we do every single day here to make us challenge again.

“Liverpool and City are too far head at the moment for what we like. We played against a Barcelona team that sets the standard in European football. We’re under no illusion it’s going to be hard work and there will be some tough decisions made by me, Mick [Mike Phelan] and the club.”

Sources have told ESPN FC that Solskjaer is set to oversee a summer clear out that could involve a number of senior players.

Antonio Valencia will leave after 10 years after the club decided against renewing the Ecuadorian’s contract. Ander Herrera is set to leave on a free transfer with the midfielder ready to commit his future to Paris Saint-Germain while Juan Mata’s contract is also up in the summer. The Spaniard has been offered a one-year deal but it remains unsigned.

Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo, Eric Bailly and Alexis Sanchez are among the other names linked with an exit before next season.

Solskjaer is set to be backed with more than £200 million for new signings, including a centre-back, full-back, a forward and at least one midfielder.

The players have a month left to convince Solskjaer they should remain at Old Trafford next season and the 46-year-old suggested he has learned a lot about his players during a disappointing run of four defeats in the last five games.

“We have a certain standard here,” Solskjaer said. “We got a great boost, now [it's] more challenging times with the results and performances.

“You want to see players step up and say now: ‘I want to be part of this.’ You saw Fred and Scott [McTominay] the other day took the mantle up.

“That’s what we expect from all the players. When you win 5-0, or when you’re 3-0 up, or when you win five games on the bounce it’s easy.

“It’s easy to be a footballer. But it’s not always easy to be a footballer. You get through tougher times. You’ll lose games and your character is revealed.”

Sadio Mane Jersey

Liverpool showed they are back as one of European football’s powerhouses after dispatching Bayern Munich 3-1 in the German champions’ backyard on Wednesday, manager Jurgen Klopp said.

Liverpool, five-times European champions and last season’s Champions League runners-up, eased past the Bavarians and into the quarterfinals with two goals from Sadio Mane and one from Virgil van Dijk after a goalless first leg at Anfield.

In a dominant performance, Liverpool shrugged off an early ankle injury to captain Jordan Henderson and kept their cool after Bayern’s equaliser through Joel Matip’s own goal late in the first half.

Liverpool then scored with headers from Van Dijk in the 69th minute and Mane in the 84th to book their spot in the last eight.

Jurgen Klopp celebrates after Liverpool's win over Bayern Munich.

“It is an important [win] for different reasons. Important money-wise but also confidence-wise,” Klopp told reporters.

“Liverpool’s self-awareness now must be: ‘We are back. We are back on the landscape. Back in big football.’

“That was part of the plan when we started the project.

“We still have space for improvement but beating Bayern here is a big one.”

Liverpool, who have slipped behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race in recent weeks, had lost all their away games in the Champions League competition this season prior to Wednesday.

Yet their victory saw them join Manchester City and Manchester United as well as Tottenham Hotspur in the last eight while Germany will be without a quarterfinalist for the first time in 11 years.

“We scored a wonderful goal in the first half, outstanding,” Klopp said. “We conceded one, but everyone could see it was possible [for us to win]. The second half I was really happy by how mature the performance was, how strong we looked, how good we defended.

“It’s a big step for us. We have set a mark that this wonderful club is really at the top of the landscape of European football.”

“I am really proud of the boys because it is a massive achievement. We are on a good way and I like what the boys did tonight.”

Ross Barkley Jersey

Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud each scored as Chelsea beat Swedish side Malmo FF 2-1 in Europa League group-of-32 action on Thursday night.

The win at Swedbank Stadion provides a bit a relief for embattled boss Maurizio Sarri following Sunday’s 6-0 drubbing to Manchester City and ahead of a FA Cup clash with Manchester United.

The Blues took the lead in the 30th minute when Malmo defender Lasse Nielsen had trouble clearing the ball, allowing Barkley to jump in and get the score.

Giroud doubled it for Chelsea’s in the 58th minute after flicking in Willian’s cross in front of the net, built up from Barkley’s counter-attack.

Malmo pulled one back in the 80th minute when Anders Christiansen chased down Markus Rosenberg and comfortably put it past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

The second leg is set for Feb. 21 at Stamford Bridge.

Thomas Muller Jersey

Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller is suspended for both legs of the upcoming Champions League round-of-16 clash against Liverpool, UEFA has confirmed.

Muller was sent off in Bayern’s final group match in December when, in attempting to bring down a high ball, his high boot caught Ajax defender Nicolas Tagliafico on the back of the head.

After the match, Muller posted an apology on his Twitter account which read: “I am very sorry for that what happened yesterday! Was not intentionally [sic]. Get well soon.”

Tagliafico went on the score a 95th-minute equaliser for Ajax to claim a 3-3 draw. Both teams had already confirmed their qualification from Group E before the match. Bayern finished as group winners, with both teams each going unbeaten over their six games.

Thomas Muller was sent off with 15 minutes remaining in Bayern Munich's game against Ajax.

Muller, 29, has only scored four goals in 16 Bundesliga appearances this season, and has not found the net in Europe since he scored a brace against Besiktas in February last year.

Bayern will travel to Anfield for the first leg against Liverpool on Feb. 19, with the Premier League leaders coming to the Allianz Arena on March 13.

Gary Cahill Jersey

Maurizio Sarri has confirmed that Gary Cahill is not suited to his style of play, adding that it is up to the Chelsea captain whether he chooses to seek a move away from Stamford Bridge in January.

Cahill has played just 21 minutes of football in the Premier League this season, and admitted in September that he felt inclined to leave Chelsea in the January transfer window if he could not force his way into Sarri’s plans.

Sarri has named Andreas Christensen on the substitutes’ bench ahead of Cahill for Premier League matches in recent weeks and, speaking ahead of Thursday’s clash with Vidi in the Europa League, the Italian confirmed that the 32-year-old does not possess the technical qualities he requires in his defenders.

“I respect him very much because he has won everything with this club, but then I have to do my job,” Sarri said of Cahill.

“Every match I have to choose. For me it is not [possible] to have him on the bench. Maybe he is the best [of our defenders] in the box, but our defenders may play 100 or 110 balls in a match so I need defenders [to play] very technically.

“It is not my decision, it is up to him and the club [whether he stays]. He is in the last year of the contract, he has to decide for a new contract here or another club.

“For the [players] over 30 the club usually offers only one year of contract. If he has an offer of three years [somewhere else] he can of course choose something. It doesn’t depend if I am sentimental or not.”

Gary Cahill has only played 21 minutes in Premier League action this season for Chelsea.

Cahill did not travel with the rest of the Chelsea squad to Hungary due to injury, while Mateo Kovacic and Victor Moses are also sidelined. Sarri has chosen to leave Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger and Kepa Arrizabalaga in England with Europa League qualification already assured.

The high-profile absences have created opportunities for some of Chelsea’s talented youngsters to get some rare minutes. Sarri indicated that Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi will both feature, while Marcin Bulka, Jamie Cumming, and George McEachran have all travelled with the squad.

“For tomorrow we have three [players born after] 2000 in the 18,” Sarri added. Maybe Odoi will be on the pitch, I don’t know at the moment. Ampadu maybe on the pitch because of Cahill’s injury.

“[In the] Premier League, I don’t know. I don’t think in Manchester City, [Manchester] United, or in the other big teams there are [players born after] 2000 with a lot of minutes. I hope in the future there will be a chance [in the Premier League] for Callum, for Ampadu. It is up to them I think.

“Odoi played in August, the Community Shield, two Europa League matches. Tomorrow maybe he is on the pitch so it is four opportunities. I think they have only to play very well in this opportunity. For the moment Odoi did it.

“Now I am looking forward to [seeing] Ampadu. The future for them is very important. They have to improve every day. Technically they are very good.”

Olivier Giroud Jersey

France striker Olivier Giroud believes that it is “impossible to be openly homosexual in football” and that the idea that the sport is a long way from accepting openly gay players is an “understatement.”

Speaking with Le Figaro in French, the 32-year-old recalled the “emotional” time when former Germany international Thomas Hitzlsperger came out back in early 2014 — still the highest-profile former footballer to date. The Chelsea forward also pointed to his various gestures with former clubs Arsenal and Montpellier in support of the gay community.

“When I saw Thomas Hitzlsperger come out back in 2014 [post-retirement], it was very emotional,” he said. “It was at this time that I thought that it is impossible to be openly homosexual in football.”

“In the dressing room, there is a lot of testosterone, teasing and collective showers. It is delicate but that is how it is. I can understand the pain and the difficulty for guys in coming out — it is a real challenge and it takes years of work on yourself.

“When I joined Montpellier, I got involved in the fight for tolerance and was on the cover of [French gay magazine] Tetu. At Arsenal, when asked, I wore rainbow laces in support of the gay community.”

Premier League and EFL clubs will again show their support for Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign at the end of this month, with players wearing the laces and clubs using rainbow colours on corner flags and captain’s armbands. Premier League clubs will do so for two rounds of games from Nov. 30, while EFL clubs will select a game between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1.

“To say that there is still a lot of work to be done in the football world on this topic is an understatement. It’s the least one could say,” Giroud said.

Olivier Giroud was part of France's squad that won the World Cup in Russia this past summer.

In the all-encompassing interview, Giroud also spoke in detail about his struggles on the pitch and specifically recalled his lowest point as a player for France.

Giroud has scored 32 goals in 85 appearances for France and was part of the World Cup-winning squad but he also recalled his lowest point as a player — being heckled by fans at a 3-2 friendly win over Cameroon just before Euro 2016 on home soil.

“I have never thought about giving everything up because I am not one for quitting,” he said. “However, it was more of a headache for me before Euro 2016 when I was whistled and jeered against Cameroon — despite scoring.

“I was very annoyed. L’Equipe went with the headline ‘the unloved’ the next day and I was teased by my teammates as they sang the Claude Francois song to me.

“All of the attention was on me and we know why,” said Giroud, inferring that his call-up was linked to Karim Benzema’s absence following the Mathieu Valbuena blackmail scandal. “But I did my job and scored on the pitch — it felt unjust.”

Giroud is part of the French squad that will take on Netherlands in Group 1 of UEFA’s Nations League in Rotterdam on Friday before a friendly against Uruguay at Stade de France next Tuesday to close an immensely successful 2018 in style.

Josef Martinez Jersey

An own goal proved the difference as Atlanta United FC moved a step closer to the Supporters’ Shield and booked a place in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League with a 2-1 victory against the visiting Chicago Fire on Sunday afternoon.

Franco Escobar scored for Atlanta, which won for the fifth time in its past six matches to remain a point ahead of the New York Red Bulls in the race for the Eastern Conference title and the Supporters’ Shield, which also includes home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Atlanta will close the regular season next Sunday at Toronto FC, the defending MLS Cup champions who have already been eliminated from playoff contention. The Red Bulls, who beat Philadelphia 1-0 Sunday, play host to last-place Orlando City SC next weekend.

Atlanta also set new Major League Soccer records with a total home attendance for the 2018 season of 901,033 — including 71,812 on Sunday — and a single-season average of 53,002.

Atlanta broke the records it set in its inaugural season a year ago, when they drew 819,404 and an average of 48,200.

Josef Martinez and Franco Escobar celebrate during Atlanta United's MLS win over the Chicago Fire.

Escobar opened the scoring in the ninth minute. A Josef Martinez shot deflected off a defender and to Escobar on the right wing. His left-footed, one-timer from about 15 yards beat Chicago goalkeeper Patrick McLain and found its way just inside the left post.

The Fire tied the score on Michael De Leeuw’s goal in the 24th minute. A through ball from Brandt Bronico sprung De Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic on a two-on-none break against goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Mihailovic’s pass allowed De Leeuw to tap the ball into an empty net.

Atlanta regained the lead just two minutes later on a Chicago own goal. Atlanta’s Chris McCann drove down the left wing and sent a low cross into the middle. As McLain dove to his left to corral the cross, defender Johan Kappelhof slid in front of him and inadvertently deflected the ball into his own net.

Martinez, who has already set an MLS single-season record with 30 goals, failed to tally for the fourth straight game. Martinez put two of his three shots on goal, but was thwarted on a 15-yarder in the first half, as the ball ricocheted off McLain’s shoulder, and by a diving stop in the second half.

Atlanta midfielder Miguel Almiron, an MVP candidate with 12 goals and 14 assists, missed the match because of a hamstring injury.

Leroy Sane Jersey

Pep Guardiola has backed Leroy Sane following criticism about his body language, despite dropping him for Manchester City’s last game.

Germany teammate Toni Kroos praised Sane’s quality following his shock omission from the World Cup squad, but claimed that his body language made it appear as if he didn’t care if he won or lost.

Sane, who was named last season’s Young Player of the Year, was left out of the squad for City’s last game against Newcastle United but Guardiola said he will be a key player for him.

“His body language is the same as last season and he was the best young player in the league,” the City boss told a news conference ahead of Saturday’s clash with Fulham.

“Leroy was so important, is so important, and will be so important for the club. There’s no doubt about that.

“It’s a challenge for him — not just for him, for everybody. There’s a lot of nice strikers and midfield players and the season will be judged in 11 months, not just in three weeks or one month.

“He’s a nice guy, so I don’t have any bad words about him — we are here to try to help, not just him, but everybody.”

Sane, 22, has not started a game for City this season and has played just 75 minutes in their opening fixtures.

The winger also started just one of their first six matches last season with Guardiola saying he didn’t have a good preseason, but the Catalan says he isn’t concerned.

“For some players it’s like this,” he said. “Some players, at the end of the season, are a little bit down. We cannot forget he’s 21-22 years old.

“All our strikers, except Sergio [Aguero], are so young. Bernardo [Silva], Gabriel [Jesus], Raheem [Sterling], Leroy, Brahim [Diaz] — the average is 21-22.

“Sometimes you need to see the situations. He will grow up. The most important thing and the most important issue we have is to help them to grow.”

Sane faces more competition for a starting place following the arrival of club-record signing Riyad Mahrez in the summer, but Guardiola believes he will thrive on the rivalry in the squad.

“Of course, he’s going to respond in the right way, he’s a competitive guy,” he said. “He was so professional last season and he had competition as well — because Sterling could play in that position on the left.

“It’s a challenge for all of them and it’s a challenge for me, the manager, to keep the level and it’s a challenge for the players to keep their level and compete with their mates. It’s the only way to maintain the level we achieved last season.

“It’s not about ‘I don’t like you anymore’ or ‘I prefer this one or the other one’ — it’s not. I know them. When I don’t like one player, at the end of the season I go to the club and say I don’t want to work with that guy if it’s possible and I want to change them. That is not the case.

“Everybody is here because after three seasons I want to work with them and I think they want to work with us.”