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U.S. Faces Long Road to Victory

Times Staff Writer

The defending world champion United States women’s national team will play at least three and almost certainly four World Cup-bound teams at the 10th annual Algarve Cup in Portugal in March.

The U.S. will play in Group A, along with Canada, Sweden and France in the 12-nation event.

All three U.S. opponents have qualified for the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China in September.

The Americans, who have won the Algarve Cup only once, are favored to win their group and, if so, will meet the winner of Group B in the final.

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Group B includes World Cup host China, Olympic champion Norway, which also has qualified, Denmark and Finland.

Group C, whose teams are not contending for the championship, features Wales, Greece, Portugal and a team to be determined.

Haan Denial

Dutch Coach Arie Haan, who last week was widely reported to have been named China’s new coach, Monday angrily denied that he had accepted or even been offered the position.

“It’s rubbish, a complete fabrication,” Haan said of reports in the German and Chinese media and also carried on the official Web site of the Asian Football Confederation.

“I have the feeling I have been put in this situation by a local Stuttgart newspaper.

“I have called them and told them in no uncertain terms what I think of them. Somebody writes a story and the rest [of the media] reprint it.

“The China story is lies. I did not speak with any Chinese official.”

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Stoilov Recovering

Bulgarian national team player Stoycho Stoilov, who last week was shot in the chest, liver, arm and leg during an argument after a traffic accident, has regained consciousness and is expected to recover.

“What is important is that Stoilov’s life is not in danger anymore,” said Stefan Strugarov, a surgeon in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, where the incident occurred.

“I cannot tell how much time he will need for rehabilitation, but we can be sure it will not be less than several months.”

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Cooper Resurfaces

Keith Cooper, the former director of communications for FIFA who was controversially fired by Joseph “Sepp” Blatter during the FIFA president’s post-World Cup purge of those he felt were not totally supportive of him, has been hired by UEFA, European soccer’s ruling body.

Cooper, 55, will initially be in charge of organizing the events surrounding the Jubilee 2004 project, UEFA’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Mexican Playoffs

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The field for the Mexican league’s quarterfinals was set when UAG and Santos Laguna clinched the final two places in the playoffs.

UAG, coached by former Peruvian national team coach Julio Cesar Uribe, defeated Chiapas, 2-0, on goals by Chile’s Reinaldo Navia and Peru’s Roberto Palacios, to secure its spot in the final eight.

Santos Laguna did so by trouncing Toluca, 5-2.

Toluca had lost only once in 18 previous games.

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One of Toluca’s goals was scored by Paraguayan striker Jose Cardozo, bringing his league-record total to 29 goals in 19 games.

In the quarterfinals, defending champion Club America plays Santos Laguna, Toluca plays Guadalajara, UNAM plays Cruz Azul and Morelia plays UAG.

Limpar Retires

Midfielder Anders Limpar, who played for clubs in Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, England and the U.S., announced his retirement at 37.

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Limpar, whose 58 games for Sweden included those in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, played for Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids from 1998 to 2001.


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