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I'm really confused about this example:

They were playing football at 5pm yesterday.

They played football at 5pm yesterday.

Which one is right and why?

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riverbottomThey were playing football at 5pm yesterday.

This would usually be understood to mean that the game was in progress at 5 pm, i.e. it started some time before 5 pm and finished some time after.

Just to complicate things, it is also possible for it to mean the same as the next sentence, but expressed indirectly, as if the speaker does not have first-hand knowledge of the game, but is basing the statement on what he understood was expected to happen.

riverbottomThey played football at 5pm yesterday.

This is likely to be understood to mean that the game started at 5 pm (though this is not 100% clear cut).