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Euros 2022: Players to watch for England, Sweden, France and Germany

Beth Mead went on a tear for England during the Euros. (Maddie Meyer/UEFA via Getty Images)

England, Sweden, Germany and France will face off in the UEFA Women’s Euro semifinals, starting with host England’s clash with Sweden at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday.

With little separating the four group-stage winners, the teams will rely on their stars to help book a ticket to the final at 12 p.m. ET Sunday at Wembley Stadium. Just Women’s Sports has one player to watch on each semifinalist.

England: Beth Mead

Beth Mead is on a tear for England, leading all Euros scorers with five goals and three assists through four matches played.

The Arsenal striker exploded during England’s 8-0 group-stage win over Norway, logging three quality finishes for a hat trick. Mead also played hero for the Lionesses during the team’s 1-0 win over Austria, notching her side’s lone goal to secure a narrow victory.

Mead is thriving under manager Sarina Wiegman’s fast-paced, attacking-minded system, with the winger showing her explosiveness in the final third. The 27-year-old’s meteoric rise on the national team comes after being left off of Team GB’s Olympic roster.

“It lit a fire under me. I was not going to feel like that again,” Mead said. “If anything, I was the most determined and focused I’d ever been … I play my best football when I’m angry.”

The Olympic snub ultimately paid off, with Mead in the best form of her career, scoring 19 goals and 12 assists through 18 appearances with England.

Sweden: Kosovare Asllani

Kosovare Asllani has provided Sweden with a trusted veteran presence throughout the 2022 Euros, leading her side to a semifinal appearance against host England.

The 32-year-old is a commanding presence in the middle of the pitch for the Swedes, weaving in and out of tight spaces with ease. Asllani is masterful on the ball, allowing her to hold up play and unlock backlines to open up channels for Sweden’s attack.

The midfielder’s ability to facilitate sets her apart from nearly everyone in the international game, recording three assists in Sweden’s four matches played.

Asllani left Sweden’s quarterfinal matchup against Belgium with an apparent knock, with her future in the tournament in jeopardy.

Sweden will have a massive hole to fill in the midfield should Asllani’s absence extend into the tournament’s semifinals and final.

France: Kadidiatou Diani

Kadidiatou Diani, a star in her own right, has been asked to step up for Les Bleus following Marie-Antoinette Katoto’s exit from the Euros with a knee injury.

The 27-year-old has answered the call, spearheading France’s attack from the flanks. Creating five chances during the team’s 1-0 quarterfinal thriller over the Netherlands, Diani showed her uncanny spatial awareness.

Fantastic on the ball, Diani is also a master at finding space behind opponents’ backlines, as evidenced by her finish against Belgium during the tournament’s group stage.

If France wants to make a Euros final run, the squad will need Diani to continue to stretch defensive units and open up options for Les Bleus’ offense.

Germany: Lina Magull

Germany as a unit looks like a well-oiled machine, staying in sync to make a semifinal run at the England-hosted Euros.

Solid on both sides of the ball, Germany has yet to give up a goal and has notched the second-most goals of the tournament.

Midfielder Lina Magull is a critical factor in Germany’s cohesive performance, providing the team with a commanding midfield presence. The 27-year-old is expert at winning balls in the middle of the pitch, working tirelessly to earn tackles and triggering Germany’s attack.

Magull, a proven distributor, is also world-class at finding the back of the net herself, boasting three goals and an assist through three matches played. Her presence will be daunting for semifinal opponent France, who will need to get through Magull if they hope to get out in transition while also being forece to quiet her attacking presence.

Caitlin Clark stuns in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports. It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation and shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing him a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her best line of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns start NWSL season winless, in uncharted territory

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage and remaining winless through its first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before. Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, answers need to be had from head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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