The Afghanistan Women’s National Team

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Modern football is a funny thing. Players are brands. Coaches are heads of state. And a club in China is willing to spend $64 million on Oscar. As Dickens said, portending that Oscar transfer specifically… Best of Times. Worst of Times.

Last week, we spoke with Haley Carter, goalkeeping coach and assistant manager for the Afghanistan Women’s National Football Team. Carter also happens to be a United States Naval Academy Graduate, two-time Iraq veteran, former NWSL goalkeeper for the Houston Dash, and, as she proudly points out, a mother and wife. While the conversation left us feeling even more inadequate than usual, the story she told was one that drove home our long standing belief that football is often the least important, most important part of life. Or as Haley put it so beautifully, “This little speck of optimism in a really chaotic world.”

After our interview, we produced a short digital video about the Afghanistan WNT, its history, the challenges players face, and the hope it provides for women across that nation. WATCH IT HERE.

As Haley says in the video, “The bottom line here is we’re talking life and death to be able to play this game.”

The team’s players are scattered around the globe with roughly a third coming from Afghanistan itself, a third coming from Europe and a third from North America. Despite what Haley called tremendous support from the Afghanistan Football Federation, funding for the team is tight, and they can rarely afford to get together for training camps. As a result, they rely heavily on funding from outside sources. The team has partnered with Soccer Without Borders in an effort to raise money. CLICK HERE for more on how you can help, and more on the team’s story. #Courage

Manchester Derby Might Trigger Shift In English Premier League Futures

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Manchester United offers value on the field and the futures board heading into a derby against suddenly human-looking Manchester City.

With the rivals set to meet at Old Trafford on Sunday, Man City is a -1000 favorite on the odds to win the English Premier League at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Man United (+1000), eight points adrift, and Chelsea (+2000) are within eyeballing distance of City, while Liverpool (+5000) and Arsenal (+10000) are the long shots.

The three-game ban to midfielder Paul Pogba for a studs-up tackle that resulted in a red card last weekend has led to sharps giving a big moneyline on Manchester United (+240) against Manchester City (+115, +245 draw) in their matchup. However, United, if midfielder Maroune Fellaini is fit to play, could keep Man City’s brilliant passing attack at bay long enough to create counter-attacks and chances for Romelu Lukaku to score.

Manchester City, which may not have David Silva in the lineup, has conceded goals in three league games in a row, so the over on the 2.5 total looks like an odds-on hit.

Burnley (+145) and Watford (+195, +215 draw) are both surprisingly in the top half of the standings, but the host Clarets have done so through defending. Watford has thrived by attacking, but a lengthy injury list could diminish its firepower. Even with a 2.0 total, the under offers value at +120.

Last-place Swansea City (+160) is on a seven-match winless skid in the league, but it has won its last three matchups against West Bromwich Albion (+195, also +195 draw). Swansea’s Wilfried Bony, who tends to score in bunches, tallied in his last game and might be due to score again.

Huddersfield Town (+160) faces Brighton & Hove Albion (+200, +195 draw) in Premiership play for the first time. Huddersfield has lost four in a row and scored only one goal in that time. Brighton, thanks in large part to Glenn Murray, has scored in seven of its last eight games, and it’s posted a draw or win in five of its last nine away games at Huddersfield.

Newcastle United (+155), which hosts Leicester City (+180, +220 draw), has been lost defensively without Jamaal Lascelles, who’s doubtful for this week. Leicester has come on with winger Demerai Gray complementing Jamie Vardy in the goal-scoring department, so it stands a chance of winning a game that goes over the 2.5 total.

Liverpool (-360) has not lost at home against rival Everton (+950, +475 draw) in 18 years, and have been consistently starting well. Liverpool, with Philippe Coutinho and Mo Salah both slated to start, offers better value at -135 for the over on the 3.0 total.

Those who believe Everton has truly turned a corner under new manager Sam Allardyce could back the Toffees for the draw, with the +105 at plus-1.5 goals as a cushion.

 

Premier League Heavy Favorite Manchester City Facing Hectic December

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Bettors hopeful of Manchester City coming back to earth can take some solace from the Sky Blues’ approaching schedule.

City is now a -1000 favorite on the English Premier League outright winner board according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Rival Manchester United (+1000) and Chelsea (+2000) are the only teams in contact.

But Manchester City has 10 matches between Saturday and January 2, which will likely force manager Pep Guardiola to hold back some first-choice starters at some point. A loss could pump some value back into City’s price.

Manchester City has been so dominant that bookmakers have taken it off the board for a Top 4 finish and Champions League qualification. With that prop, Arsenal (-110) might offer the best realistic value since its energy will not be siphoned by Champions League knockout ties, unlike Chelsea (-400), Liverpool (-150) and Tottenham Hotspur (+125).

Liverpool also offers value since manager Jurgen Klopp is looking to upgrade his roster big-time during the January transfer window.

On the pitch, Arsenal (+150) takes a 12-match home win streak in EPL play into a feature matchup against Manchester United (+190, +230 draw). Man United looks depleted in the central midfield with Marouane Fellaini (knee) doubtful, so its best prospect might be getting a draw.

Stoke (-115) is leaking oil with 19 goals against over its last seven games, but Swansea City (+350, +235 draw) and bright young striker Tammy Abraham went 0-for-November in the goals department. A low-scoring game is likely in the offing, so the under on the 2.5 total at -145 is the percentage play.

Watford (+400) has lost its last four games against Tottenham (-145, +290 draw), but it is looking for a bounce-back at home and has finishers Troy Deeney and Abdoulaye Doucoure together again. Tottenham’s propensity for slow starts – it’s trailed at some point in each of its last four games – suggests there is upset potential.

Leicester City (-130) has been something less than airtight defensively at home, while Burnley (+385, +255 draw) has four away wins in seven starts. Burnley, with forward Chris Wood facing his former team, is a good bet to get a result. Both teams will likely push forward in a way that makes both likely to score, so the +115 for the over to hit on the 2.5 total is enticing.

Super Sunday concludes with a super mismatch as Manchester City (-1100) hosts West Ham United (+2300, +1000 draw). Manchester City looks eminently capable of winning by a multi-goal margin and covering the minus-2.5 goals spread, which offers -130 with West Ham coming back at +110 to cover