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Lion Links: 10/12/21

Alex Morgan promotes youth sports, USMNT prepares for Costa Rica, World Cup qualifying continues, and more.

Soccer: USWNT International Friendly Match-Paraguay at USA Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Tuesday, everyone. The soccer continues to come thick and fast, with both the Orlando Pride and United States Men’s National Team in action tomorrow evening and then Orlando City and the Pride both playing this Saturday. Let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Alex Morgan is Committed to Growing Youth Sports

Pride forward Alex Morgan is one of the best United States Women’s National Team players to ever do it. Not only has she scored plenty of goals, won trophies, and been an all-around important contributor for her club and country, but she’s been a key voice for growing the women’s game off the field. She joined up with plant-based snack maker GoGo squeeZ to launch a program aimed at promoting youth sports participation and making soccer more accessible for young girls. Morgan will also be speaking with Pride teammates Sydney Leroux and Ashlyn Harris during Aspen Institute’s Project Play Summit later this month.

The U.S. Prepares for Costa Rica

The United States Men’s National Team has an important World Cup qualifying match against Costa Rica tomorrow at 7 p.m., so our friends over at Stars and Stripes FC took the time to get everyone up to speed on the Ticos. It’ll be the 41st all-time meeting between the two regional powers as the USMNT aims to bounce back after a 1-0 loss to Panama. Costa Rica prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation, but the U.S. could face the 4-5-1 that was used against Honduras. To win, the USMNT will need to get past Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Keylor Navas and a back line that includes MLS talent in Rónald Matarrita and Francisco Calvo. However, Costa Rica will be without two notable players on offense as Joel Campbell and Jose Ortiz aren’t making the trip to Columbus for this game. They have been replaced by veterans Christian Bolaños and Álvaro Saborío.

World Cup Qualifying Heats Up

Germany became the first team apart from Qatar to punch its ticket to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Timo Werner scored twice in a three-minute span to lift Germany to a 4-0 win over North Macedonia while Armenia fell 1-0 to Romania. Russia beat Slovenia and Croatia drew with Slovakia to lock up the top two spots in Group H. The Czech Republic, Wales, Turkey, and Norway also came up with big wins to boost their qualification chances. Today, Denmark can qualify when it takes on Austria while England, Portugal, Serbia, Switzerland, and Scotland can all clinch top-two finishes.

In Africa, both Cameroon and the Ivory Coast won their latest qualifiers, with the Ivory Coast staying ahead in Group D’s standings. In other results, Egypt won 3-0 over Libya, Burkina Faso beat Djibouti 2-0, and Gabon won 2-0 against Angola. This window’s action wraps up today with Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, and Ghana all playing.

Thibaut Courtois Echoes Concerns Over Burnout

Pep Guardiola and Kevin de Bruyne have already spoken about player burnout and overworking due to congested international windows, and now Thibaut Courtois has echoed their concerns. De Bruyne said several days ago that he required two painkilling injections to play against Italy in this summer’s European Championship. Courtois has now added his voice to the conversation around player burnout, criticizing UEFA in the process.

“It’s just a money game, and we have to be honest about it...for UEFA, it’s extra money and it’s an extra game because it’s on TV. Of course everyone wants to play, but look at how much both teams changed. If the teams had been in the final, there would have been other players playing. This just shows that we play too many games.”

The reshuffling and tweaking of the international calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the already emerging issue as athletes push themselves to play for club and country.

Free Kicks
  • The Orlando Pride are hard at work to prepare for their two games on the road this week.

That does it for me today. Y’all stay safe out there.