Tuesday, 15 July 2014

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Friday, 11 July 2014

Argentina into World Cup final on penalties!

  Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-2 on penalties to reach the World Cup final after a dire two hours of defence-dominated football failed to provide a semifinal goal for the first time in the tournament's history on Wednesday.  Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved Ron Vlaar's first penalty then made a superb diving save to deny Wesley Sneijder, allowing Maxi Rodriguez to crash home the decisive kick as his side converted all four of their penalties.   The game was a forgettable one as the Dutch struggled to build any meaningful attacks and completed 90 minutes without a shot on target as Arjen Robben's last-minute effort was brilliantly blocked by Javier Mascherano. 
Argentina were not much more adventurous and had only a handful of half-chances to their name as, in total contrast to Tuesday's match when Germany waltzed through a wide open Brazil to win 7-1, both defences were absolutely on top.

​In Sunday's final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro Argentina will play Germany in a repeat of the 1986 and 1990 finals - the first time the same two teams will have faced each other three times in the decider. 

The Netherlands will play Brazil in the third-place playoff in Brasilia on Saturday.


Germany crush Brazil 7-1 to reach World Cup final!

  The nation whose attacking soccer has thrilled the world for generations was left heart-broken on Tuesday after Brazil's humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the World Cup semi-finals.  Brazil has hosted one of the most memorable World Cups ever but the country's dream of winning on home soil was not the only thing shattered by a ruthless Germany in an extraordinary match in Belo Horizonte.   The South American country's pride took a battering as the carnival atmosphere that had swept over the samba nation gave way to a state of shock and disbelief following Brazil's heaviest ever international defeat.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari issued a heart-felt apology to a country that had spent more than $11 billion to host the World Cup and invested its heart and soul in making the tournament a success.
"My message for the Brazilian people is this. Please excuse us for this performance," he said.
"I'm sorry that we weren't able to get to the final and we're going to try to win the third place match. We still have something to play for."
Germany played superbly but were aided by a woeful Brazilian defense, which conceded five goals in a devastating 18-minute burst in the first half.

An unmarked Thomas Mueller got the first from a corner after 11 minutes before Miroslav Klose struck to become the World Cup's all-time leading scorer with 16 goals.
Toni Kroos grabbed two in three minutes before Sami Khedira added a fifth in the 29th minute as boos rang out around the Mineirao stadium and young children in the crowd started to cry.

German substitute Andre Schuerrle struck twice more late in the second half before Oscar scored a last-minute goal that was of little consolation to the five-times world champions, who had waited 64 years to try to bury the ghost of their 1950 final home defeat by Uruguay.
'I just wanted to make my people happy,' said a sobbing Brazil defender David Luiz. 'Unfortunately, we couldn't. I'm sorry, I'm sorry to all Brazilians, I just wanted to see them smile, everyone knows how important it was.'  The hosts' defense simply caved in.  Germany have the chance to win the World Cup for the fourth time when they play the winners of Wednesday's semi-final between Argentina and the Netherlands in Sunday's final in Rio de Janeiro.  Many fans at Copacabana Beach, who had been happily singing and dancing with excitement before the game, left the planned party before halftime.  In Germany, the celebrations were in full swing, with hundreds of thousands of people flocking to the avenue stretching from the Brandenburg Gate to the golden statue-topped Victory Column in Berlin.  Organizers extended the fan zone to 1.3 kilometers in anticipation of the massive crowd who roared with excitement as each goal was banged into the Brazilian net.  'Five goals in 18 minutes. It???s clear that they were shocked and didn???t know what to do,' Germany coach Joachim Loew said.  'We played well in the first half obviously. But it continues. We need to be humble. We don't want to overvalue this.'  Germany's win came exactly 24 years to the day since their last World Cup triumph in 1990, when they beat Argentina in the final.  They lost to Brazil in the 2002 final and were knocked out in the semi-finals when they hosted the tournament in 2006.  'We had great hopes in 2006 too and you can feel the pressure that the hosts have in a match like this,' Loew said.  'All 200 million people here want you to get to the final. That can cause your players to tighten up. I feel sorry for him (Scolari). I think I know how he feels.' Toni Kroos, who scored two goals and set up Mueller's, said, 'we are here to be World Cup winners.''We played an incredible match. If someone had told me before the match that we'd win 7-1, I'd have said, 'good, we'll take it,'' Kroos said.  Kroos has been crucial in executing Germany's set pieces, especially from corners. Five of Germany's 17 goals at the tournament have come after corners, while one was a penalty.   The Germans have been practicing set pieces, part of the team's meticulous preparations that are paying off as it seeks to capture its first major title since the 1996 European Championship.  

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Brazil mull Neymar conundrum as consistent Germany loom!

Brazil must overcome the massive blow dealt by the injury to marquee forward Neymar if they are to beat frighteningly consistent Germany on Tuesday and book a World Cup final spot on home soil for a second time.

Brazil, chasing a sixth world title, are still reeling from Neymar's injury in their quarter-final win over Colombia, and the entire nation is holding its breath and hoping the team's chances have not been irreparably damaged.
Neymar, who scored four goals in the tournament, fractured a vertebra late in the game and will be out for the rest of the tournament but for Brazil there is no alternative but to get to the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 13.

Any other result would be a national catastrophe for the country of 200 million football-mad fans, similar to the 1950 final defeat by Uruguay, also in Brazil.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will be forced to reshuffle his team in two positions with captain Thiago Silva suspended for the game against opponents who have made a record fourth consecutive World Cup semi-final.

"We'll miss Neymar," team mate Oscar said. "Whoever comes in his place has to play as part of the team and beat Germany. "The best thing we do is play as a team and I just hope that whoever comes in plays well," the attacking midfielder said.

To play as well as Neymar is probably expecting too much of Willian, likely to be his understudy at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

Neymar has netted 35 times in 54 games for Brazil, more than anyone else in the squad and Scolari has selected him for every one of the 27 matches he has coached since returning to manage Brazil for a second time in 2012.

But if anyone knows how to beat the Germans it is Scolari who led Brazil to their most recent world title in 2002 with a 2-0 victory over Germany in the final in what is, surprisingly, the teams' only previous World Cup meeting.


The European heavyweights' consistency since then is nothing short of spectacular, coming back as title contenders every four years and making the semi-finals in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

However, what they have failed to do is lift a fourth trophy, stumbling at the penultimate hurdle each time.

Without a World Cup win since 1990 and an international title since Euro 96, the Germans are convinced they finally have a team that can deliver the killer punch.

"I can only urge you to go and reward yourselves," German football association President Wolfgang Niersbach told the players through the announcement system on board the airplane back from their 1-0 quarter-final win over France on Friday.

"Reward yourselves by doing in this last week exactly what you have been doing so far. You have it in you and we all want to return again to the Maracana in Rio. Let's stick together because then we can land the big coup."

Less exciting and less youthful than 2010 but arguably more efficient and experienced, the Germans did not need to fire on all cylinders against France, scoring an early goal and holding on to their lead with relative ease.

The backline with Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels as central defenders worked like clockwork, eliminating most threats from France forward Karim Benzema, while their quick switch to attack also operated like a well-oiled German machine.

"We will now try to take that next step," coach Joachim Loew said. "The team is strong and stable. In the past five tournaments (World Cups and Euros) we reached the semis. Now it's time at this semi-final to move a step further."

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Djokovic beats Federer to win Wimbledon, regain No. 1 spot!

  Novak Djokovic won his second Wimbledon title and seventh career major with a 6-7 (7/9), 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 6-4 victory over Roger Federer Sunday, shattering the Swiss star's dream of a record eighth triumph in a titanic struggle. Victory allowed the top seeded Serb, also the 2011 winner, to end a run of three successive defeats in Grand Slam finals.   But the 27-year-old struggled to get across the finish line having surrendered a 5-2 lead in the fourth set and then a match point.  Defeat for 32-year-old Federer, who won the most recent of his 17 Grand Slam titles at the All England Club in 2012, ended his bid to become the oldest Wimbledon champion in the Open Era and of breaking the tie of seven titles he shares with Pete Sampras.  

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Krul shootout saves send Dutch into semis!

The Netherlands advanced to a World Cup semi-final with Argentina by beating Costa Rica on penalties after a cagey, tactical last-eight battle finished 0-0 after extra-time on Saturday.
Substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul, introduced just for the shootout, saved from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana as the Netherlands triumphed 4-3.

Costa Rica defended deeply from the start and goalkeeper Keylor Navas, whose performances have played a large part in his country's run to the quarter-finals for the first time, was again in sharp form with a series of saves, while Wesley Sneijder hit a post with an 81st-minute free kick and Robin van Persie had a scrambled shot cleared off the line in stoppage time of normal time.   The game blew wide open in extra time as Marcos Urena had a chance to win it for Costa Rica but had a shot well saved by Jasper Cillessen, while Sneijder hit the bar again two minutes from the end. 

Argentina beat Belgium to reach first semi since 1990!

  Gonzalo Higuain's first goal of this World Cup sent Argentina into the semifinals on Saturday with a 1-0 win over a disappointing Belgium.  Argentina, which hadn't advanced past the World Cup quarterfinals since 1990, put in its best performance so far in the tournament, controlling the match after Higuain's eighth minute goal. The Napoli striker fired home Angel Di Maria's deflected pass just inside the area, beating Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with a low shot to the far corner of the net.  
 Higuain came close to making it 2-0 in the second half when his shot smashed into the crossbar.
Belgium lacked the creativity to find a way past Argentina's defensive line, and created few clear chances apart from a pair of headers by Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini. 

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Federer sets up Djokovic final!

Seven-time champion Roger Federer dismantled the big-serving game of Canadian Milos Raonic to reach his ninth Wimbledon final.

The Swiss, 32, broke Raonic in the first game and went on to win 6-4 6-4 6-4 in one hour and 42 minutes.
He will take on top seed Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final, after the Serb beat Grigor Dimitrov in four sets.

Federer is trying to win his 18th Grand Slam title, and his first since beating Andy Murray at Wimbledon in 2012.

Fifteen years after making his first appearance at the All England Club, Federer has the chance to extend the record he has already set for major victories and break new ground for Wimbledon titles in the men's game.

"That was a big victory," said the Swiss, who lost in the second round last year. "I really had to focus on every point. I know that is always the case at this stage but it was hard.

"I had to be very careful on my service games and I knew there were only going to be a few chances on his serve, but I am very, very happy.

"I played some great tennis under pressure at times because I didn't play well here last year, and I expect a lot of myself. In the second week I have played better as the week has gone on.

"Now I can look forward to another great match with Novak."

Brazil striker Neymar to miss rest of World Cup!

 With tears streaming down his face after being kneed in the back, Neymar was carried off the field on a stretcher.

He won't be coming back. Not to this World Cup, anyway.

The 22-year-old Brazil striker, the one with the hopes of a nation on his shoulders, was ruled out of the rest of the tournament after fracturing his third vertebra during Friday's 2-1 quarterfinal win over Colombia.

"It's a big loss for us," Brazil midfielder Fernandinho said. "We need to find a way to stay together and become stronger after losing our greatest player. We will try to win this World Cup and for sure we will dedicate it to Neymar."

Neymar is the biggest football star in Brazil, and one of the biggest at the tournament along with Argentina forward Lionel Messi. His face has been plastered on billboards and shown on television continuously, leading many of his staunchest supporters to copy his dyed-blonde fauxhawk.

His millions of fans had expected Neymar's World Cup to end with him holding the trophy, not being carried off the field in tears.

Neymar was kneed by Colombia defender Juan Camilo Zuniga late in the second half at the Arena Castelao. He was taken to a private clinic and was released a short time later.

He was not expected to need surgery, Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said, but he will also not be able to face Germany on Tuesday in the World Cup semifinals.

"He will not be in condition to play, he will need a few weeks to be fit again," Lasmar said. "He is very, very sad."

About 50 Brazil fans, many still wearing the team's jerseys, crowded outside the clinic where Neymar was taken, while the ambulance that carried him remained parked in front, lights blazing.

Neymar was hurt in the 86th minute, falling to the ground in pain after Zuniga jumped into him from behind.

Brazil teammate Marcelo quickly called for medical assistance when he saw Neymar writhing in pain. Neymar stayed face down until team doctors arrived and put him on a stretcher.

"Everybody knew that Neymar would be hunted," Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "It's been happening in the last three matches and we had been talking about it. But nobody listens to us."

Friday's match ended with 54 fouls in total — 31 by Brazil and 23 by Colombia. Scolari said Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo should have done more to take control of the match.

According to Hulk, another of Brazil's striker, Neymar needs more protection from the officials.
"Every time is like this. Players always come after Neymar," Hulk said. "The referees need to do more to keep this from happening."

P.S. - Associated Press video journalist Renata Brito contributed to this report.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Brazil seals win over Colombia, reach the semis!

  Brazil hung on by its fingernails in the final 10 minutes of the match, but advanced to the World Cup semifinals, edging Colombia 2-1 in Fortaleza on Friday.  Captain Thiago Silva scored early in the match and David Luiz gave Brazil a 2-0 lead with a rocket of a free kick in the 69th minute.   Leading scorer James RodrĂ­guez brought Colombia within one when he scored on a penalty in the 80th minute but the Colombians couldn’t tie it.  Germany stands in the way of Brazil’s return to the Maracana for the World Cup final. The two sides clash in the semifinal on Tuesday.  But the host nation will be holding its collective breath, as Neymar was carried off on a stretcher in the final moments of the match, after he was fouled hard and appeared to injure his back.  

Germany reach record fourth-straight semifinal!

  Germany reached the semifinals for a fourth straight World Cup by beating France 1-0 Friday in a cagey match settled by a first-half header from Mats Hummels.  The center back headed Toni Kroos' free kick in off the underside of the bar in the 13th minute in one of the few chances created in muggy conditions at Maracana stadium.   Germany will play Brazil or Colombia in the semifinals on Tuesday as it seeks a fourth world title. France struggled to impose its attacking game in the face of a robust, experienced Germany side that seemed more comfortable on the big stage.  Mathieu Valbuena and Karim Benzema had France's best chances saved in the first half, with the German lineup holding off late pressure with apparent ease.   

Thursday, 3 July 2014

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Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Belgium defeats US 2-1, books date with Argentina!

  Belgium overcame a world-class goalkeeping performance and a furious American comeback in extra time to book a spot in the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals, edging the U.S. 2-1 on Tuesday.  The Belgians applied nearly constant pressure on the U.S. defence before breaking through in the 93rd minute, when Kevin De Bruyne made a great move in close and finally put a shot past Tim Howard.   Romelu Lukaku added a second Belgian marker in the 105th minute, which seemed to seal the win for Belgium.  But the Americans sparked back to life in the 107th minute, when Julian Green brought the U.S. back within one with a great volley.  That provided a grandstand finish to the match, but the Americans couldn’t find another goal.  Howard had a magnificent game in the American net, as Belgium directed 38 shots on goal, forcing 16 saves out of Howard, the most by any keeper so far in Brazil.  Belgium faces Argentina in the quarter-finals on Saturday.   

Argentina scrape 1-0 extra time win over Swiss!

  Angel Di Maria scored in the 118th minute Tuesday to give Argentina a 1-0 win over Switzerland after extra time and a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals.  With a penalty shootout looming, Lionel Messi made a surging run toward the Swiss area and laid the ball off to Di Maria on the right, and the winger sent a left-foot shot past diving goalkeeper Diego Benaglio. Blerim Dzemaili nearly equalized right before the end but his header hit the post, and the rebound bounced off his knee and wide of the goal. Benaglio had previously kept Switzerland in the game when got a hand on Di Maria’s shot in 109th minute.
Argentina will play the winner of Belgium and the United States.

Germany labour to win against Algeria!

  Substitute Andre Schuerrle and Mesut Ozil scored in extra time to lead Germany over an aggressive Algeria 2-1 and into the World Cup quarterfinals.  Thomas Mueller provided a cross from the left flank that was slightly behind Schuerrle. The Germany forward dragged his leg and backheeled the ball into the far corner in the 92nd minute, leaving goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi with no chance.   Ozil added the second in the 120th, and Abdelmoumene Djabou pulled one back in injury time for Algeria. 
 Germany will next face France on Friday at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

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