Rodriguez most searched player after Portugal’s surprise exit


Mumbai (IANS): As the 2014 FIFA World Cup approaches its business end, Colombian star James Rodriguez became the most searched player on the planet.

Rodriguez is now the top scorer with five goals and further enhanced his status as perhaps the World Cup’s biggest revelation, search trends by Google revealed Wednesday.

Robin Van Persie’s ‘flying goal’ has also ruled the search charts during the group stage as fans flocked to the internet to relive his incredible piece of skill near the start of the tournament.
Messi’s first goal was the second most popular search term after the Argentine scored a superb solo goal as his team beat Bosnia 2-1.
Football fans were also keen to see ‘Dempsey’s fastest goal’ after the American player scored in the first 30 seconds against Ghana.
In the biggest sporting battle, every goal demands an incredible celebration and that’s what was seen on the ground during the matches.
England’s Daniel Sturridge’s celebration after his goal against Italy during their Group D match stood beyond others gaining huge interest from fans online. England’s physio Gary Lewin injured himself during the course of the celebration.
Christiano Ronaldo topped traditional Google search results despite his team getting knocked out in the early stages. There was a lot of interest in the Portuguese 2013 Ballon d’Or winner due to injury woes and his hairstyle changing on a daily basis.
As England and Italy both exit from the World Cup, England’s opening encounter with Italy remained the most searched battle in the group stages. The USA vs. Ghana match in Group G and the Group A battle between Brazil and Mexico was also quite popular among fans online.
Managing to impress with his team’s performance as they move to the knockout stage, Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari remained the favourite among the online audience drawing the most number of searches for any team manager.
Searches around players “hair style” to their “girlfriends / wives” was also one of the major highlights of the group stage. Neymar’s hair remained most popular followed by Ronaldo and David Luiz.
Spanish defender Gerard Pique’s partner and popular pop star Shakira remained the most searched ‘life partner” followed closely by Portuguese star Ronaldo’s supermodel girlfriend Irina Shayk.
Controversy has never been far away with headbutts, dives, last minute penalties and even biting generating talking points during the tournament.
Match referee Yuichi Nishimura remained the most searched referee in the group stages grabbing lots of headlines for his controversial decisions in the opening match of the tournament.
Interestingly the most searched teams during the World Cup group stage including England, Portugal, Mexico and Italy are already out of the contest with Brazil as the only exception leading from the top.


 Taiwanese textiles make a mark at World Cup


Taipei (IANS/EFE): Although their national team has never played in a FIFA World Cup, Taiwan was present at the mega-event in another form: textiles sales.
Most of the teams’ jerseys are made of yarn having recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is used in liquid containers and plastic bottles, which keeps the body dry and enables better ventilation, reports EFE.
The material was developed by recycling 4.5 billion bottles annually used in Taiwan.
The football jerseys made of Taiwanese yarn were used for the first time in the 2010 World Cup and the demand has been high since.
FIFA estimates that profits generated in the 2014 World Cup from textiles will be over $40 billion.


 Ronaldo holidays in Greece post World Cup exit


Athens (IANS/EFE): Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo has decided to spend his summer vacation on the Greek island of Mykonos after his team’s early exit from the FIFA World Cup.
The Real Madrid player and Ballon d’Or winner Saturday arrived at Mykonos Island, part of the islands group — the Cyclades — with some his friends but without girlfriend Irina Shayk, reports EFE.
Ronaldo also visited other islands of the Cyclades archipelago in the Aegean Sea on board a luxurious yacht.


Bolivian president considers Suarez ban a ‘revenge’


Potosi (Bolivia) (IANS/EFE): Bolivian president Evo Morales said that the sanctions imposed by FIFA on Uruguay’s Luis Suarez is a revenge attempt, after several European teams were eliminated by South American teams from the World Cup.
“I feel that some FIFA leaders are retaliating on some South American players in order to not to continue eliminating the Europeans,” Morales said here, reports EFE.
The leader expressed his solidarity with Suarez and the Uruguayan team, hoping for South American teams to continue their quest in Brazil.


 Colombia bans liquor ahead of Brazil quarter-final


Bogota (Colombia) (IANS/EFE): Colombian authorities imposed a ban on liquor during their side’s FIFA World Cup quarter-final against Brazil on Friday.
Alcohol was also banned during Colombia’s last three matches, each time lasting for 24 hours.
The ban hours were reduced after people, who belong to the entertainment workers union, protested against the huge losses they suffered.
The government started imposing the ban after the death of nine people due to clashes amid the celebrations of the 3-0 win over Greece in the opening game of Group C June 14.
Another eight people died after Colombia grabbed a 2-0 victory over Uruguay and advanced to the last eight.



Costa Rica to honour national football team 

San José (Costa Rica) (IANS/EFE): The Costa Rican national congress unanimously agreed to honour the national football team for its impressive campaign in the 2014 World Cup.
Costa Rica scripted history by entering the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time. They face the Netherlands in the last eight.
The national congress is also mulling declaring June 20 an annual national day for football in Costa Rica, commemorating the 1-0 win over Italy in the second round of the group stage, reports EFE.
It was also the day Costa Rica defeated Sweden 2-1 to advance to the round of 16 in the 1990 World Cup.
The congress approved the decision to honour the national team and the coach, Jorge Luis Pinto, after they returned from Brazil.


 Brazil accuse Chilean delegation of ‘reprehensible’ conduct

Rio de Janeiro (IANS/EFE): Brazil communications director Rodrigo Paiva, who was suspended for a match after allegedly punching Chilean player Mauricio Pinilla during the halftime break of the game between the two sides, has accused the Chilean delegation of “reprehensible” behaviour.
Paiva said in an official statement that FIFA Disciplinary Committee has available “evidence of reprehensible conduct by members of the Chilean delegation, which would be brought to light by the true facts” which took place at the break, reports EFE.
The Brazilian official stressed, however, that he “has and will always respect the decisions of FIFA”.
Pinilla had said in a statement Monday that the punishment imposed against Paiva, to be suspended for one match, is “shameful”, noting that the assault against him was “more serious” than the one committed by Uruguayan Luiz Suarez in his team’s game against Italy, and led to his suspension for nine international matches and banning him from any football-related activity for four months, besides imposing the fine of 100,000 Swiss francs.
FIFA officials are still investigating the incident, and do not rule out the possibility of imposing further punishments.
The Round of 16 game between Brazil and Chile ended in a 1-1 draw, but the hosts won 3-2 on penalties.


Belgium set up World Cup quarterfinal clash against Argentina

Salvador (Brazil) (IANS): Belgium recorded their fourth consecutive victory to reach the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals after a thrilling 2-1 extra time win over the US at the Arena Fonte Nova here Tuesday.

Kevin De Bruyne scored the crucial opener for Belgium in the 93rd minute after US goalkeeper Tim Howard’s heroics had kept the match goalless in regular time.

Extra time substitute Romelu Lukaku made the difference for Belgium. The Chelsea forward on loan to Everton last season had an instant impact as he assisted for the opener while scored the second in the 105th minute to double his side’s lead.

Substitute Julian Green scored his first goal for the US in the 107th minute with a cracking first time volley to keep his team in the match.

Some desperate defending from Belgium and a match-winning save from Thibault Courtois in the final 10 minutes of an American on
slaught, sealed the European team’s passage to the quarters where they will take on South American giants Argentina.

The match had a cracking start with Belgium almost scoring within two minutes.

Kevin de Bruyne ignited a great move from Belgium with a give-and-go with Dries Mertens on the near side.

Despite coming under pressure he managed to slot a pass into Divock Origi, whose first touch saw him breeze past Besler and into a shooting area. The angle was acute, though, and Tim Howard managed to block his cross-goal shot with his legs.

It was a slow paced half where both sides failed to create to many clear-cut chances.

Belgium looked the more likely of the two to score but like in all their previous games in the group stage they could not find the back of the net in the first 45 minutes.

The game was played almost entirely on the US right flank where Jan Vertonghen and Eden Hazard threatened going forward, but Belgium were vulnerable at the back from American counter attacks.

The game remained goalless at the break, but that could have been very different had Howard not kept out Origi’s dangerous shot in the first minute. Since then, both sides have had their chances but neither managed to truly worry the opposition goalkeeper.

After a slow first half, the pace of the game picked up in the second. Belgium slowly took control of the game and created chances after chances.

American goalie Howard was the difference between the scoreline remaining goalless and Belgium scoring a couple of goals.

And when an Origi header beat Howard, the crossbar came to the rescue of the Americans.Vertonghen, operating as a left-back, was again a massive threat growing forward.

Chelsea star Hazard didn’t see much of the ball but was dangerous everytime he was played in.

As the half wore on, Belgium laid siege on the US goal and the Americans manage to survive with the skin of their teeth thanks to the heroics of Howard.

Everton’s Kevin Mirallas impressed since coming on and Fellaini met his cut back ball from the byline but Manchester United midfielder couldn’t control the ball.

However, it dropped to Hazard on the edge of the box but his shot was batted away by Howard once again.

In an unbelievably open half, the score somehow remained goalless after 90 minutes. US coach Jurgen Klinsmann mostly had Howard to thank for that as the keeper thwarted the Red Devils time and again.

Belgian coach Marc Wilmots brought on Romelu Lukaku for Origi and the Chelsea forward had an immediate impact as it was his assist that found De Bruyne in the box and his excellent low shot from a tight angle finally got the better of Howard.

Lukaku injected great pace and physicality to the Belgian game and it was again his pass to Vertonghen that found the Tottenham defender in acres of space but he took too much time to get a shot away.

Swiss coach announces retirement after World Cup ouster

Sao Paulo (IANS): After Switzerland were eliminated from the 2014 FIFA World Cup by Argentina in the round of 16, coach Ottmar Hitzfeld announced his retirement here Tuesday.

“I’d like to congratulate my players for the way they reacted at the end. Today Switzerland earned the recognition of many people around the world and we can walk away with our heads held high,” said the 65-year-old German in the post match conference, reports Xinhua.

“As for my future, I’m retiring from coaching so I can lead a quieter life.”

Hitzfeld’s side held Argentina 0-0 in 90 minutes but failed to prolong the match to penalty shootout as Angel Di Maria’s winner in the 117th minute sealed the hard-fought victory.

Hitzfeld admitted their game plan was to strangle Messi with three or four players but it was a mistake to just concentrate on one player.

“It took a great finish to beat (Diego) Benaglio,” said Hitzfeld, hailing the outstanding performance of their goalkeeper from Bundesliga club Wolfsburg.

Hitzfeld took over as coach of the Swiss national team in summer 2008. Switzerland finished top of their qualifying group to reach the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, where they were eliminated after the group stage.

It was the first time for Hitzfeld to guide a team into the knockout round in World Cup.

Starting his coaching career in 1983, Hitzfeld has accumulated a total of 18 major club titles, mostly in his tenures with Grasshopper Club Zurich, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

And he is also one of only five managers to win the UEFA Champions League (European Cup) with two different clubs, as he guided Dortmund to lift the trophy in 1997 and led Bayern Munich to cruise to the top podium in 2001.

Suarez apologizes, vows to never bite again

Brasilia (IANS): Controversial Uruguay striker Luis Suarez Monday publicly apologised to Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini and vowed to never again bite an opponent.

The Liverpool forward was banned from all football-related activities for four months after being found guilty of biting Chiellini during Uruguay’s 1-0 victory over Italy in their World Cup Group D match June 24, reports Xinhua.

The sentence followed bans of seven and 10 matches issued to Suarez for the same offence in 2010 and 2013.

Having shied away from an international media frenzy over the past week, Suarez broke his silence on Twitter Monday.

“After several days of being home with my family, I have had the opportunity to regain my calm and reflect about the reality of what occurred,” the statement said.

“Independent from the fallout and the contradicting declarations that have surfaced during these past days, all of which have been without the intention of interfering with the good performance of my national team, the truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me.

“For this I deeply regret what occurred. I apologise to Giorgio Chiellini and the entire football family. I vow to the public that there will never again be another incident like this.”

Chiellini replied to the 27-year-old by urging FIFA to reassess the severity of the penalty, which also includes a nine-match ban from competitive international matches.

“It’s all forgotten. I hope FIFA will reduce your suspension,” he said in a tweet to Suarez.

The Uruguayan Football Federation, which has launched an appeal against the ban, was not immediately available for comment Monday.

While the sentence was widely applauded by the international media, it drew heavy criticism in Uruguay.

The national team’s captain, Diego Lugano, said Suarez’s human rights had been breached while President Jose Mujica also voiced his opposition to the “unjust” punishment

Two extra-time goals put Germany into top eight at World Cup


Porto Alegre (Brazil) (IANS): Germany met unexpected challenges from Algeria before two extra-time goals from Andre Schurrle and Mesut Ozil sent the three-time champions into a ninth successive FIFA World Cup quarterfinals here Monday.

Germany claimed a hard-fought 2-1 victory over a motivated Algerian side at the Estadio Beira-Rio here, reports Xinhua.

The North Africans had Germany rattled for long spells but Germany eventually ensured their progress to the quarters where they will take on France.

After a tense regular time, both sides were tied at 0-0. But the extra time turned out to be a scoring show.

No more than 90 seconds into the extra time, Schurrle beat the defender to the near post using a clever back heel flick to put the ball into the net.

In the injury time of the extra time, Ozil and Schurrle put together a few nice passes in the box, Schurrle’s first shot was blocked by Algerian defender, but the rebound was finished into the top corner by Ozil.

However the Algerian side, playing in their first round of 16 match ever, still didn’t give up.

Substitute Abdelmoumene Djabou received the cross brilliantly in the final minute and found the back of the net, but it was too late for Les Fennecs.

Germany will now face France, who beat Nigeria 2-0 in the round of 16, in Rio de Janeiro at the Maracana July 5 in the quarterfinals.

Though Germany enjoyed 78 percent of ball possession and threatened the Algerian backline from time to time, they still failed to score in the regular time.

Meanwhile, Algeria also used quick and simple counter attacks to threaten Germany.

The Algerians were highly motivated for the encounter as the events at the 1982 World Cup were still very much on their mind.

They still felt aggrieved at being cheated out of a place in the second group phase by Germany and Austria’s “non-aggression pact” in Spain.

Some Algerians were even calling for revenge for what has become known as the “Shame of Gijon”.

In the ninth minute, a long ball sent Islam Slimani behind the German defence. German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer raced out of his area to make up for the defence. Slimani looked to touch past Neuer and shoot but the goalkeeper was able to block his effort.

In the 11th minute, Slimani charged forward again and only had one defender to beat, but Per Mertesacker got a crucial foot in to stop Les Fennecs’ attack.

Six minutes later, it was again Slimani whose header found the back of the net but his goal was ruled offside.

After withstanding Algerian attacks, Germany gradually arranged some fightbacks.

On 24 minutes, Mesut Ozil tried to catch Algerian goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi off his line with a chip but the goalkeeper tipped it over the bar. Nine minutes later Thomas Muller’s header also went wide.

In the 41st minute when Mario Gotze was alone on goal and got a good look but Mbolhi closed down his space and blocked the shot.

Joachim Loew brought on Andre Schurrle to replace Mario Gotze just after the break. The pace was still flying in the second half as Germany kept the momentum with some quick chances, and Algeria came back on their counter-attack.

In the 55th minute, Philipp Lahm hammered a powerful shot from long distance, but Mbolhi got a fingertip to his blast that looked bound for the top corner.

Germany gradually asserted their dominance afterwards and threatened the Algerian defence from time to time, Algeria also had chance to find a winner, but the excellent performance from goalkeepers of both sides kept the clean sheet in the regular time.


France strike late to advance to World Cup quarters

Brasilia (IANS): A Paul Pogba header in the 79th minute and a Joseph Yobo own goal gave France a 2-0 victory over Nigeria and earned the European side a berth in the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals here Monday.

The game looked headed for extra time before Pogba broke the deadlock in the 79th minute at the Mane Garrincha National Stadium, reports Xinhua.

Nigeria’s Norwich City defender Yobo then unwittingly deflected in France’s second goal in injury time.

France will now play either Germany or Algeria at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium July 4, with a place in the semifinals at stake.

The result continues the remarkable record of Les Bleus’ coach Didier Deschamps in football’s premier event.

The former France captain is unbeaten in 10 World Cup matches as both a player and manager.

Despite entering the match as rank underdogs, Nigeria looked vibrant early.

Peter Odemwingie will have rued his missed opportunity in the fifth minute when he failed to connect with an attempted volley after a cross from the right found him free in the penalty area.

Odemwingie was again involved shortly after, providing a sumptuous delivery from a set piece to John Obi Mikel at the far post. But the Chelsea midfielder’s tame header did not trouble France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Les Blues began to find their rhythm after the quarter hour and Olivier Giroud shot over the bar after a smart turn at the top of the penalty box.

France’s best attempt of the first half came from Pogba. The Juventus midfielder laid the ball off for Mathieu Valbuena, whose cross from the right again found the former Manchester United man.

But his fierce first-time shot drew a sharp reflex save from Vincent Enyeama.

Mathieu Debuchy then sprayed his shot wide after Blaise Matuidi’s neat build-up play with Valbuena.

Nigeria almost made France pay for their profligacy on the stroke of halftime when Emmanuel Emenike wandered unmarked to the edge of the area before unleashing a powerful shot that Lloris palmed clear.

Nigeria began the second half as they had the first: with greater possession and menace around the final third.

Efe Ambrose was particularly threatening on the right flank. The Celtic defender repeatedly bombed forward and provided a series of crosses upon which Nigeria’s forwards failed to capitalize.

Deschamps replaced the ineffective Giroud with Antoine Griezmann and the Real Sociedad forward provided an immediate spark.

His neat one-two with Karim Benzema sent the Real Madrid forward clear on goal but his chipped effort was cleared off the line by Victor Moses.

Griezmann again exposed Nigeria’s defence when his cross to the edge of the six-yard box forced a lunging clearance from Enyeama.

The Super Eagles were under siege and France were denied once more as Benzema’s header from a Valbuena free-kick was finger-tipped over the bar by the hitherto impressive Enyeama.

But despite his heroics, the Nigeria goalkeeper was largely to blame for France’s first goal.

His bungled clearance from a Valbuena corner allowed Pogba to head the ball into an unguarded net.

Griezmann nearly doubled France’s lead but his powerful shot after a blazing run into the area was spectacularly parried away by Enyeama.

The result was then put beyond doubt when Yobo deflected Valbuena’s delivery into his own net.

Netherlands sneaks past Mexico to enter World Cup quarters

Fortaleza (Brazil) (IANS): The Netherlands advanced to the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals by the skin of their teeth beating Mexico 2-1 in a dramatic finale at the Estadio Castelao here Sunday.

Two goals in the final eight minutes of the game, including six minutes of added time, broke Mexicans hearts, who had looked the better team for most part of the game.

Giovani dos Santos opened the scoring with a wonderful 48th minute strike.

Mexico after dominating play for the first hour of the match pulled down the shutter and inexplicably sat back allowing the Dutch back into the game.

The Dutch pressure finally told as Wesley Sneijder smashed the ball into the net in the 88th minute to bring his team back on level terms.

Mexico suffered their biggest heartbreak four minutes into added time when captain Rafael Marquez gave away a debatable penalty.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar dispatched the penalty to end Mexico’s run in the tournament.

Mexico started the brighter of the two teams and held the possession well.

The Dutch, who probably have been the best European side in the tournament, struggled with the heat from the outset. They failed to retain the ball well giving the possession away cheaply.

Mexico, meanwhile, were full of running and passed the ball superbly.

Besides playing excellent offensive football, the Mexicans were extremely well organised at the back.

They repelled everything that came their way with Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Sneijder having little say in the matter.

Mexico looked the more likely team to score and Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen had to pull out a few fine saves to keep the scores level.

The Netherlands failed to even test Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa even once in the first half.

After the changeover, Mexico took the lead almost immediately with former Barcelona forward dos Santos breaking the deadlock with a brilliant shot from outside the box.

Mexico continued to dominate play with the Dutch feeling the heat, literally.

In the final half hour, the Dutch finally started showing why they are one of the favourites as they set up camp in the Mexico final third.

It was all ‘Oranje’ in the final quarter of the game and it was only the magnificent Ochoa that stood in the way of a Dutch equaliser.

Mexico adopted a defensive strategy, sat back and defended their lead.

That turned out to be the wrong decision as the Dutch put Mexico under tremendous pressure.

With the time winding down, Mexico would have been dreaming of a quarterfinal berth.

But with just three minutes left on the clock, Sneijder finally broke through the Mexican defence to give his side a deserved equaliser.

There was more heartbreak for Mexico as Robben was fouled in the box by Marquez, a foolish foul to give away, with the referee pointing to the penalty spot.

Huntelaar, a substitute for Van Persie, stepped up and slotted in the penalty to give his team the unlikeliest of leads.

Rodriguez’s double fires Colombia into quarterfinal clash with Brazil

Rio de Janeiro (IANS): James Rodriguez’s double strike at the Maracana stadium here Saturday gave Colombia a comprehensive 2-0 win over Uruguay and took them to their first FIFA World Cup quarterfinal appearance, where they will take on hosts Brazil.

Rodriguez, who now leads the Golden Boot race with three goals and also has three assists, starred for a Colombian side that will face Brazil in Fortaleza Friday.

Brazil sneaked past Chile in the first round of 16 match after a 3-2 penalty shootout win. The two teams were tied 1-1 at the end of extra time.

The hosts will need to be very wary of Colombia, who were cohesive and purposeful in attack. Their quick interplay caused the Uruguayan defence huge problems.

Colombia attacking trio of Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado and Jackson Martinez could cause an error-prone Brazilian defence massive headaches.

A wonder strike from Rodriguez in the 28th minute gave Colombia the deserved lead. The Monaco attacker’s second came in the 50th minute from a close range shot that took the stuffing out of the 2010 South Africa semi-finalists.

It was a fine first half performance from Colombia, who had breezed through the group stages with three consecutive wins.

The absence of star striker Luis Suarez was clearly noticeable as the Uruguayan attackers, including the highly-rated Edison Cavani, posed little threat to the opposition in the first half.

The first half initially trudged along in tight fashion and it was unclogged in the most glorious fashion by Rodriguez.

Colombia controlled the pace and the rhythm of the game.

The 22-year-old playmaker lit up the Maracana with a dream volley.

He controlled the ball on his chest before swiveling and in the same motion lashing a fierce 20 metre left-footed volley that went in off the underside of the crossbar.

Uruguay were on the back foot for much of the game up until that goal, But adversity seemed to have brought them out of their shell.

They largely dictated the tempo in the latter stages of the half but couldn’t really make Colombia goalkeeper Ospina work.

Colombia, who were unbeaten in their last 10 games, again took the initiative at the start of the second half and were immediately awarded.

It was a splendidly worked goal from Colombia with Rodriguez finishing a delightful header cutback from Cuadrado.

As Colombia seemed to take the foot of the gas, Uruguay finally began to show a bit of urgency.

Colombia sat back and invited pressure. Christian Rodrigiez almost made them pay, skipping past four players before testing the Colombia keeper.

Uruguay, to their credit, gave it their all in the end, testing Ospina on numerous occasions but they still failed to score.

Brazil reaches World Cup quarters, beat Chile in penalty shootout


Belo Horizonte (Brazil) (IANS): Julio Cesar was the unlikely hero as hosts Brazil sneaked into the quarterfinals after a 3-2 penalty shootout win over Chile in the first FIFA World Cup knockout match at the Estadio Mineirao here Saturday.

The two teams were tied 1-1 after regular time and failed to find the breakthrough even after extra time.

Brazil, who have not lost a home game since 1975, twice gave away the advantage after Chile had missed their spotkicks but Neymar converted the hosts final penalty to put all the onus on Chile’s Gonzalo Jara.

Jara walked up and his spotkick beat Cesar but hit the right post.

In a thrilling first knockout match, Brazil were the better team holding more possession as well as creating more chances.

Chile were dangerous in stages and mostly played on the counter. It was a solid defensive performance and the match went into penalty shootouts after a 1-1 scoreline at the end of extra time.

Former Chelsea centre-back David Luiz opened the scoring in the 18th minute but Barcelona front man Alexis Sanchez equalised in the 32nd minute against the run of play.

Brazil made one change to their side bringing in Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho for Paulinho while Chile started with the same side that beat Spain 2-0.

The hosts quickly settled into the game holding onto the ball well.

Brazil slowly started venturing into the Chilean half and star man Neymar, who is the joint top scorer with four goals, in particular put the opposition defence under tremendous pressure.

Neymar constantly got behind the Chile defence and could have easily scored a couple but for poor shooting from his weaker left foot.

Brazil were clearly the better side and the pressure finally told on Chile as David Luiz got at the end of Thiago Silva head on from a Neymar corner.

Brazil continued to attack and created a few more chances but Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was upto the task.

Barcelona forward silenced the boisterous home crowd with a fortunate equaliser much against the run of play.

The Brazilian defence, which had looked the sturdiest it has in the entire tournament, leaked another cheap goal.

Marcelo’s throw in was met by Hulk but his pass back was too short and was taken away by a Chilean player who passed the ball to Sanchez and Barcelona forward did well to beat Julio Cesar from a difficult angle.

The biggest disappointment for the Brazilian fans in that half was Oscar’s disappearing act.

The Chelsea midfielder, operating on the right wing, rarely saw the ball and played little part in attack.

Striker Fred once again was anonymous and had an extremely poor half.

The second half was a much tighter affair with most of the key battles taking place in the midfield.

Chile had a better a much better half and looked dangerous whenever they attacked with Sanchez again being the key instigator.

Brazil, though, could have so easily taken the lead for the second time and forward Hulk did put the ball in the back of the net but referee controversially deemed that the Zenit St. Petersburg had controlled the ball with his hand.

Both teams went on the attack in the final ten minutes of regular time.

Hulk again was in the middle of things as his brilliant trickery around the box helped him open up enough space to get a ferocious shot off but Bravo was at hand once more.

Neymar couldn’t repeat his first half performance but his place was taken by Hulk, who looked most menacing of the Brazilian attackers.

Substitute Jo could have so easily settled things but missed a complete sitter in front of goal.

Chile threatened to steal the game in death but the Brazilian defence held on after a nervy finish to the 90 minutes.

Brazil took the initiative in the first half of extra time and looked the team more likely to score.

Chile sat back and invited trouble and could have paid for it but for poor finishing from the Brazilians.

It was the same story in the second half of extra time as only Brazil came out to win the match.

Chile look settled for a penalty shootout and packed up the defence.

Chile showed some last minute endeavour and substitute Mauricio Pinilla almost ended the Brazilian dreams when his shot struck the crossbar.



FIFA bites the bullet, bans Suarez for four months


Rio de Janeiro (IANS): World football governing body FIFA has been accused of many things in recent months — that is not paying tax in Brazil to allegations that its representatives accepted bribes to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup.

But its handling of the Luis Suarez biting furore cannot be faulted, reports Xinhua.

The Zurich-based body acted in a swift and decisive manner in handing down a four-month ban to the Liverpool forward Thursday.

The decision sends a clear message that nobody is above the game, even when it concerns one of its brightest stars in its showpiece tournament.

Suarez’s nine-game international ban is the most severe in World Cup history.

The previous longest was an eight-game suspension handed to Italy’s Mauro Tassotti in 1994 for breaking the nose of Spain’s Luis Enrique with an elbow.

There are many that have questioned Suarez’s mental health, some even suggesting he is suffering a pathological condition. But regardless of any medical concerns, FIFA had to act on the facts before it. And they were compelling.

If the teeth marks on Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder were the prime exhibit in the case against the 27-year-old, they were far from the only factor.

Suarez has twice before been banned for biting.

He served a seven-match ban for sinking his teeth into PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal in 2010 and was last year suspended for 10 matches for the same infraction against Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.

Biting, as some commentators have noted, is what children or animals do. Not grown human beings and certainly not footballers playing in the game’s premier event, watched by a global television audience of billions.

While FIFA should be applauded for its response to the incident, the same cannot be said of Uruguay’s football federation.

Oscar Tabarez’s team will be severely weakened by Suarez’s absence for the rest of the tournament.

But the damage to the football federation’s reputation might be even greater.

Federation officials accused the world’s media of a campaign against Suarez and even claimed photographers used photoshop to make the bite marks on Chiellini appear worse.

Coach Oscar Tabarez said after his side’s victory over Italy that “this is a World Cup, not cheap morality.” He missed the point.

As did the president of the Uruguay federation, Wilmar Valdez, upon confirming an appeal would be lodged against the decision.

“It feels like Uruguay has been thrown out of the World Cup. We all know what Suarez means to Uruguay and to football around the world,” Wilmar said.

In truth nobody wins from Suarez’s suspension.

His ban robs the World Cup of one of its marquee names. It also casts a dark new shadow over Suarez’s career, both at international and club level.

But at least this time FIFA got it right.



Germany top Group G, US sneak through too despite loss


Recife (Brazil) (IANS) A solitary goal from Thomas Muller helped Germany top FIFA World Cup Group G after a 1-0 win over the US, who also qualified for the last-16 despite the loss at the Arena Pernambuco here Thursday.

Muller’s 50th minute strike was his ninth World Cup goal in nine games. He also moved level with Lionel Messi and Neymar as the top scorers in Brazil with four goals each.

Germany topped Group G with seven points. The US qualified for the knockout stage thanks to their better goal difference to Portugal with both teams finishing on four points.

Ghana with one point ended the tournament without a win.

The US were left sweating when the match between Portugal and Ghana was tied 1-1. If Ghana had scored, they would have leapfrogged the US into second place but luckily for the Americans Portugal scored.

The Portuguese needed to score at least two more goals to better their goal difference after their humiliating 0-4 loss to Germany but failed to score anymore goals.

With both Germany and the US needing just a draw to progress, it was no surprise the attacking intent left a lot to be desired.

They were both content with the slow pace and most of the action being played out in the midfield.

Germany flirted with an opener on occasion but there really wasn’t any conviction and ruthlessness from them in the final reckoning.

Germany, who had scored 12 goals in their four previous meetings with the US, had majority of the possession but at the end of the half had little to show for it.

The US also did nothing from an attacking perspective. They were lazy in possession and gave the ball away too easily.

In the second half, the pace of the game changed a little bit with the Germans adopting a more attacking brand of football.

The US literally didn’t get the ball out of their own half for more than a few seconds for a long period after their changeover.

The breakthrough finally came via the boot of Muller and it was an excellently taken goal.

From Mesut Ozil’s corner, Per Mertesacker’s header drew a fine save off Tim Howard.

The Everton keeper did well to get the ball outside the box, but Muller was there to attack the rebound and the Bayern Munich forward expertly placed the ball to the bottom right corner to give his side the deserved lead.

Germany had a few more golden chances to double the lead but were wasteful in front of goal.

It turned into a real midfield scrap as the game entered its final leg.

The US, who were constantly looking over their shoulders as Portugal took a 2-1 lead against Ghana, found the going tough.




Goalless tie sends France top of Group E, Ecuador out


Rio de Janeiro (IANS): A hard fought goalless draw at the Maracana stadium here ensured France topped FIFA World Cup Group E, but sent their opponents, 10-man Ecuador, home Wednesday.

The straight red card for Ecuador playmaker and Manchester United midfielder Antonio Valencia only five minutes into the second half was the turning point of the close duel, reports Xinhua.

Valencia went in for a challenge with French defender Lucas Digne and the left-back came off worse and the French medical team rushed in. Referee Noumandiez Doue dismissed Valencia without any hesitation.

Before the game, France had crushed Honduras 3-0, Switzerland 5-2, topping the group with six points and six-goal advantage. Ecuador lost 1-2 to Switzerland but beat Honduras 2-1, sharing three points with Switzerland but standing second with goal advantage.

Ecuador had to match Switzerland’s result to survive the group. But bad news came as Switzerland beat Honduras 3-0 in Manaus and advanced to the round of 16.

France made seven changes to their starting line-up after their 5-2 win over Switzerland.

Just Hugo Lloris, Mamadou Sakho, Karim Benzema and Blaise Matuidi remained. Ecuador made just one change from their victory over Honduras: Michael Arroyo replaced Felipe Caicedo.

In the 16th minute, the ball was lofted into the Ecuador box and defender Jorge Guagua sliced the ball away. It dropped to French midfielder Moussa Sissoko, who shot a volley towards goal. Ecuador keeper Alexander Dominguez comfortably collected.

One minute later, Ecuador forward Enner Valencia went down after a coming-together with French defender Mamadou Sakho, and Valencia, who’s scored seven goals in his last six international games, hobbled off the pitch. But he seemed fine to continue.

On 22 minutes, Valencia outpaced Sakho following a long ball from the Ecuador defence but he sliced his shot on the run.

After the red card, France almost laid siege to Ecuadoran box, but keeper Dominguez, who was named man of the match, showed his best form with countless incredible stretches, blocks and saves.

In the 73rd minute, a corner was taken short to Sissoko who chipped a tempting ball to the back post from the right. Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba was completely unmarked, but his header went just past Dominguez’s left-hand post.

The 10-man Ecuador did not give up, staging flash counterattacks with personal skill and quick pace. But their shots were always off target.

France enjoyed 60 percent of the ball possession and 20 shots, 13 on target, but failed to score a single goal.

Shaqiri’s hat-trick sends Switzerland into last 16 of FIFA World Cup


Manaus (Brazil) (IANS): Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri’s stunning hat-trick sent Switzerland into the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup as they beat Honduras 3-0 in the final round of Group E here at the Arena Amazonia here Wednesday.

Switzerland’s 2-5 defeat to France found the team in a rather precarious position before the final round and they needed to beat Honduras at all costs and hope that Ecuador do not beat the possibly indifferent group leaders, reports Xinhua.

Shaqiri eventually led Switzerland into the knockstage with two wins and one loss. France and Ecuador finished 0-0 to secure Les Blues’ spot atop Group E with seven points and Ecuador’s exit with only three points.

Honduras were never able to find a way through the Swiss backline and they go home with three consecutive losses.

In the round of 16, Switzerland will face Argentina while France take on Nigeria.

The Swiss got off to a blistering start as Shaqiri scored six minutes into the game. The attacking midfielder of Bayern Munich showed some great individual skill to beat a defender and then blasted the ball past a helpless goalkeeper Noel Valladares into the top corner.

The 23-year-old Shaqiri scored again in the 31st minute as he was found in space by teammate Josip Drmic before calmly sending it in the lower corner.

In the 71th minute, it was Drmic again who passed Shaqiri the ball in acres of space before he finished past Valladares with little trouble.

Shaqiri’s hat-trick is the first time that a Swiss player has scored multiple goals in a World Cup match since 1954.

Honduras’s best chance came on 52 minutes. Their striker Jerry Bengtson had already beaten the Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, but defender Ricardo Rodriguez kept his team’s clean sheet intact with a last-second goal-line clearance.

Messi stars again as Argentina beat Nigeria to top Group F

Porto Alegre (Brazil) (IANS): Argentina put in their best attacking performance in the 2014 FIFA World Cup as they beat Nigeria 3-2 in Group F courtesy a Lionel Messi brace at the Estadio Beira-Rio here Wednesday.

Messi, who has been regularly criticised for his performance in international matches, scored his fourth goal of the tournament, making him the joint top scorer along with Brazil star Neymar.

Messi opened the scoring in the third minute smashing the ball in from close range. Nigeria shocked their opponents a minute later for the equaliser from Ahmed Musa.

Messi’s 45+1 minute freekick put Argentina ahead for the second time but they were once again pegged back by Musa two minutes into the second half.

Defender Marcos Rojo scored the winner in the 50th minute to make it three wins out of three for Argentina.

Argentina had already qualified for the last-16 and with Iran losing 1-3 to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nigeria too reached the knockout stage.

The South American giants topped Group F with nine points while Nigeria were second with four points.

Bosnia had three points while Iran finished without a win and just a single point.

It was a scintillating performance from Messi and Real Madrid winger Angel di Maria and caused many problems for the Nigerian defence.

It was the first real performance from a team regarded as the favourites by many to lift the trophy after two flat showings in their opening two matches.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Argentina, though, and their defensive performance would be a cause for concern for coach Alejandro Sabella.

It was a lazy performance from the Argentine back four and too many times did they let Nigeria attackers venture into the box.

Argentina will have to shore up their defensive skills if they are to have a chance of winning their third World Cup.

Argentina and Nigeria had met six times before the Wednesday match, and Argentina won four of them, including all three meetings on the World Cup stage.

The Argentine fans, who created a deafening sound in the Estadio Beira-Rio, didn’t have to wait long for the first goal.

In the third minute, Di Maria struck the post after a one-on-one encounter with Nigerian goalkeeper Enyeama.

Messi was there to catch the rebound and the Barcelona star smashed the half volley into the top netting.

Nigeria, however, hit back instantly and tied the score within a minute.

Ahmed Musa got the ball from Babatunde, cut into the Argentina penalty area and curled in the ball into the net.

Only twice before the match there had been two goals in the first four minutes of a World Cup match — Austria-Czechoslovakia (3rd min and 4th min) in 1954 and Soviet Union-Hungary (2nd min and 4th min) in 1986.

The Nigeria goal opened the match even further as both sides attacked with great vigour.

While Argentina held the lion share of the possession and constantly made inroads into the opposition box, Nigeria played on counter.

The South Americans suffered a setback with Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero being subbed in the 37th minute.

The Argentines kept creating chances after chances but couldn’t find the goal.

It took a Messi free kick in the 45+1 minute to breakthrough Nigeria and give Argentina the lead for the second time in the match.

Musa was again at hand to score the equaliser with a 47th minute strike that silenced the strong Argentine contingent sitting in the stands.

However, they burst into raptures once again just three minutes later as Rojo found space in the box after a corner and kneed the ball in.

The game finally seemed to settle in the final 30 minutes as the pace of the game slowed down.

Bosnia-Herzegovina beat Iran to record first win in World Cup finals

Salvador (Brazil) (IANS): Bosnia and Herzegovina recorded their first victory in the FIFA World Cup finals after goals from Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic and Avdija Vrsaljevic them a 3-1 win over Iran in the third round Group F match here Wednesday.

Although the Iranians were eager to grab a win in order to keep their last 16 hope alive, it was Bosnia and Herzegovina that controlled the rhythm early in the match, reports Xinhua.

Manchester City star forward Dzeko brought down the ball and lashed toward home in the box four minutes into the match, only to see his effort deflected off the target.

But the 1.93-metre striker did not wait too long to open the scoring.

His accurate long shot went beyond the reach of keeper Alireza Haghighi and into the lower corner of the net in the 23rd minute.

The gritty Iranians responded immediately as Masoud Shojaei from Spanish club Las Palmas received a low cross at the edge of the box and rattled the woodwork in the 24th minute.

Bosnia and Herzegovina led 1-0 at the break and Iran tried to enhance their attack to turn over the match in the second half.

But for most of the time the ball was possessed by the European team, leaving the Iranians busy defending.

Bosnia and Herzegovina doubled their advantage in the 60th minute.A

An unguarded Roma midfielder Pjanic received a through ball inside the box in an apparently offside position.

He drove home with his right foot and the referee validated the goal.

Iran managed to narrow the gap to 2-1 in the 82nd minute when Charlton Athletic striker Reza Ghoochannejhad tapped in a cross from the far post, which was Iran’s first goal of the tournament.

However, Bosnia and Herzegovina only need one minute to restore their two-goal lead.

A dashing Avdija Vrsaljevic outraced Iranian defender in a fast break and hit the far post before it bounced into the net.

This was the first victory for Bosnia and Herzegovina in their first trip to the World Cup finals.

And it was also their first win against Iran since they suffered four defeats and one draw in their previous five encounters, which were all friendly matches.

The 1-3 loss left Iran at the bottom of Group F with only one point from three matches.

Bosnia and Herzegovina also failed to qualify for the knockout stage following two previous defeats to Argentina and Nigeria.

Dramatic added time Samaras penalty takes Greece to last-16

Fortaleza (Brazil) (IANS): A dramatic added time penalty from Georgios Samaras sealed Greece’s passage to the last-16 after a 2-1 win over Cote d’Ivoire in a FIFA World Cup Group G encounter at the Estadio Castelao here Tuesday.

With the score tied 1-1, it seemed Cote d’Ivoire had done enough to book their berth in the knockout stage against a Greece side that had failed to score in their opening two matches.

But Samaras won a debatable penalty in the 90+3 minute and then himself slotted the spot kick that broke Ivory Coast hearts.

Greece will join Colombia, who topped the Group after their 4-1 win over Japan.

The European side will take on surprise package Costa Rica while Colombia will lock horns against Uruguay.

Greece started the better of the teams. Cote d’Ivoire, though, settled quickly and started having more possession of the ball.

Both teams were poor in the final third with the African nation, especially, guilty of throwing it all away with the final pass.

Gervinho, Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure posed the greatest threat to the Greek goal.

Drogba worked hard but didn’t get good enough service from his teammates.

After a cagey start, the game started opening up in the second part of the half.

Jose Holebas could so easily have given his side the lead but his effort cannoned of the crossbar in the 33rd minute.

Andreas Samaris gave his side the lead after a disastrous pass from Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tiote that handed Greece the goal.

Ivory Coast attacked the Greece goal looking for the equaliser but again the final play let them down.

In the second half, Cote d’Ivoire continued to pressure the Greek defence and made constant inroads into the box.

With the African side going for equaliser, Greece attackers found ample space and played good counter attack.

Greece could have easily had two as midfielder Lazaros Christodoulopoulos drove at the Ivorian defence, before feigning a shot and opening a brilliant scoring opportunity but sliced his effort narrowly wide.

For all their attacking play Ivory Coast found it hard to break the Greek defence and really test the substitute goalkeeper.

Greece created the better chances of the two and once again beat the Ivory Coast keeper from a Giorgis Karagounis’ thunderbolt but for the second time in the match, struck the crossbar.

Swansea forward, Bony finally scored the goal that his team richly deserved.

Gervinho’s beautiful cut-back found Bony, who first-timed his shot in past a diving Greek goalie.

Italy coach Prandelli quits after World Cup exit

Natal (Brazil) (IANS): Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has resigned following the team’s elimination from the FIFA World Cup Tuesday.

The Azzurri, reduced to 10 men after Claudio Marchisio’s 59th-minute red card, were sent packing after Diego Godin headed in a late winner at the Arena das Dunas stadium, reports Xinhua.

It was the second consecutive time that Italy has failed to advance beyond the group stage after winning the tournament for a fourth time in 2006.

“After the match I spoke with the president of the (Italian) federation and told him that I resign because I am responsible for the team’s elimination,” Prandelli said at the post-match press conference.

“It’s my responsibility and my fault. When the game plan fails the person responsible must go.”

Prandelli assumed the Azzurri’s top job after the 2010 World Cup and guided them to the final of Euro 2012.

His resignation came less than a month after the 56-year-old signed a new deal that extended his contract to July 2016.

Earlier, Prandelli told Sky Sport Italia that he did not blame Marchisio for the high tackle that earned him the red card.

“It didn’t seem like a red card offence,” Prandelli said.

“There were some tough tackles, but not worthy of a red card. It was a very balanced game, Uruguay never really had a shot on goal despite needing to win.

“It’s a great shame that we go out in these circumstances.”



Uruguay knock Italy out to progress to World Cup last-16

Natal (Brazil) (IANS): An 81st minute header from captain Diego Godin took Uruguay into the last-16 after a narrow 1-0 win over Italy in a FIFA World Cup Group D match at the Arena das Dumas here Tuesday.

Italy, who just needed a draw to qualify for the knockout stage, lost Claudio Marchisio due to a red card incident in the 59th minute.

Uruguay still found the going hard except for a Luis Suarez shot that was brilliantly saved by Gianluigi Buffon.

Godin had scored the all important goal at the Nou Camp against Barcelona that handed Atletico Madrid the Spanish La Liga title and the centre-back was at it again, bulleting a header from a corner that knocked Italy out of the tournament.

The ill-tempered affair was not short of controversies as Suarez, who was banned for a few Premier League games for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, was accused of taking another bite out of Italy defender Chiellini.

It was a laboured performance from both teams with clear chances few and far between.

Cesare Prandelli made four changes to the team that lost 0-1 to Costa Rica in Recife.

Thiago Motta, Antonio Candreva, Daniele De Rossi and Ignazio Abate were replaced by Leonardo Bonucci, Marco Verratti, Mattia De Sciglio and Ciro Immobile.

Italy packed up the midfield in attempt to negate the Suarez effect and the Europeans powerhouse did just that starving the Liverpool forward of any space.

Italy controlled the tempo early with Andrea Pirlo, Marco Verratti and Marchisio combining well in midfield.

Pirlo had his side’s first clear chance, forcing a finger-tip save from Fernando Muslera with a dipping free-kick.

Uruguay responded as Alvaro Pereira got behind the defence and crossed for Edinson Cavani, who shot wide.

The mercurial Mario Balotelli had a very poor match and his only contribution of note was a rash challenge on Pereira that got him a yellow card.

Italy looked more fluent as the first-half progressed. Verratti, sitting deep alongside Pirlo, was particularly dangerous with his pace and fancy footwork.

Despite Italy’s early momentum, Uruguay looked ever-threatening on the counterattack.

Suarez broke clear on goal after being played in by Nicolas Lodeiro, but the striker’s shot was blocked by Buffon.

Italy had the lion share of the possession and that continued into the second half, while Uruguay defended deep and didn’t allow Italy to get any major attacking threat going.

But the sending off for Marchisio changed all that. The midfielder made a sort of a stab at the opponent’s knee with studs showing that was deemed as a red card offence by the referee.

Uruguay finally threw men forward but still couldn’t break down the Italian wall.

Suarez, though, did manage to sneak in on one occasion but his shot was brilliantly saved by Buffon.

The goal finally came from a set piece and Godin rose the highest to score with a brilliant header.

Italy threw caution to the wind and attacked the Uruguayan goal to find the equaliser but it was to no avail.

Costa Rica hold England to goalless draw to top Group D

Belo Horizonte (Brazil) (IANS): Costa Rica, who had already qualified for the last-16 held an already eliminated England to a 0-0 draw to top FIFA World Cup Group D at the Estadio Mineirao here Tuesday.

Costa Rica will go into the round of 16 after topping the Group of Death, beating former champions Italy and Uruguay on the way.

Costa Rica collected seven points while Uruguay finished second with six points after their narrow 1-0 win over Italy, reports Xinhua.

Former champions England, one of the favourites, collected a consolation point to sit at the bottom.

In their last match of the group stage, Roy Hodgson made a host of changes to England’s starting line-up, but Costa Rica fielded a strong starting 11, looking to win the group.

Coach Luis Pinto only left key midfielder Christian Bolanos on the bench.

Two minutes into the game, Costa Rican forward Joel Campbell found space on the edge of the English box and shot at goal, but the ball deflected off defender Gary Cahill and went behind.

In the 12th minute, England’s midfielder Jack Wilshere burst through the Costa Rica midfield and played the ball to forward Daniel Sturridge who received the ball on the half-turn.

Sturridge’s powerful shot went wide of the scrambling keeper Keylor Navas’ left-hand post.

On 23 minutes, Costa Rican midfielder Celso Borges whipped a devilish free-kick towards goal, which arced to the opposite side of the English wall. Ben Foster stretched and tipped the ball on to the bar and it went behind for a corner.

Around the 35th minute, after a succession of corner kicks, England midfielder Ross Barkley whipped a deep ball in from the left.

Phil Jones nodded the ball back across goal and Sturridge was there, but the Liverpool man headed just over the bar.

England had another chance with defender Luke Shaw collecting the ball from a cleared set-piece and hammered towards goal from the edge of the Costa Rica penalty area.

It looped up after a Costa Rica defender got in the way and fell to Sturridge, but the Liverpool forward took a poor first touch and Navas was out swiftly to clear away the danger.

Trying for a win, Hodgson sent in Raheem Sterling and Wayne Rooney in the second half, while Bolanos also came off the bench to strengthen Costa Rica’s attacking fire.

Both sides played offensive and quick-pace football.

Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz often showcased his brilliant personal skill, dancing past English players, but the two teams squandered many chances to end the match scoreless.

Brazil to meet Chile, Netherlands face Mexico in World Cup last-16

Sao Paulo (Brazil) (IANS): Brazil set up a last-16 showdown with Chile after beating Cameroon 4-1 to top Group A Monday, while Mexico defeated Croatia 3-1 to finish second and book a clash with Group B leaders the Netherlands.

Neymar scored twice in the first half to take the lead in the Golden Boot award with four goals, reports Xinhua.

He opened the scoring in the 17th minute but Joel Matip equalised in the 26th minute. Neymar put the host ahead again in the 34th before Fred and Fernandinho both scored to seal the victory.

Mexico needed only a draw to go through but Croatia had to win the battle to qualify. Mexico secured their passage after 3-0 quick-fire goals.

Rafael Marquez headed in for Mexico before Andres Guardado drove in a shot and Javier Hernandez nodded home to put them 3-0 ahead.

Ivan Perisic scored a consolation goal in the 87th minute.

The Netherlands topped Group B with a 2-0 win over Chile with two goals from substitutes Leroy Fer and Memphis Depay.

Fer’s first touch of the game was a goal. His header in the box went straight into the back of the net in the 77th minute.

In injury time, Depay sealed the win for the Dutch with a tuck-in on a brilliant pass made by captain Arjen Robben from the left.

Both having advanced to the World Cup knockout stage, the Netherlands and Chile went head-to-head for Group B winners and the Dutchmen had the last laugh.

In the other Group B match, having only pride to play for, defending champions Spain defeated Australia 3-0 to bring to an end their World Cup campaign.

David Villa, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata scored for Spain.

It was a dominating match for Spain, who had 56 percent possession.

Spain finished third with the three points the Netherlands topped the group with nine and Chile finished with six points.

“This Spanish team has a bright future no matter who will become the next coach,” said Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque.

“There are plenty of young talents in the team.”

The Australians finished their first pointless World Cup, but the performance of veteran duo Tim Cahill and Mark Bresciano was impressive enough for TVs and newspapers.



Belgium reaches last 16, Portugal keeps hope alive


Rio de Janeiro (IANS): The 19-year-old forward Divock Origi has scored a late goal to help Belgium sink Russia 1-0 and reach the last 16 from Group H at the World Cup here.

Having beaten Algeria 2-1 in their first match, Belgium qualified from the group with six points, while Algeria came second with a 4-2 victory over South Korea, who tied Russia 1-1 in their first match, reports Xinhua.

Portugal escaped from a second Group G defeat thanks to a last gasp-goal from substitute Silvestre Varela in Manaus.

Group G is still open for all four teams with Germany and the US each having one win and one draw. But Ghana and Portugal, both having one point, are still hopeful for qualifying if Germany and the US team do not draw in the next match.

Portugal took an early lead when Nani took advantage of a horribly sliced clearance by Geoff Cameron to beat US goalie Tim Howard.

Jermaine Jones levelled the score in the 64th minute and Clint Dempsey put the US ahead in the 81st minute.

The US looked sure to go away with a win but five minutes into the injury time Ronaldo’s cross found the head of Varela who powered it past Howard.

Origi became Belgium’s hero in a lackluster game. Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard ran down the left and broke the Russian defence, sliding the ball to Lille forward, who kept his cool and sidefooted into the roof of the net from close range.

Both Belgium and Russia made a few changes from their opening games. Thomas Vermaelen, Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens all started for Belgium, and Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele and Nacer Chadli making way. For Russia, Alexey Kozlov and Maxim Kannunnikov started in place of Yury Zhirkov and Andrey Eschenko, who was dropped to the bench.

Arsenal defender Vermaelen, who appeared to suffer an injury to his knee, was replaced by Tottenham defender Vertonghen in the 31st minute.

Belgium’s first chance came in the 37th minute when De Bruyne played a lofted ball in behind the Russian defence, finding Mertens who cut inside and shot towards goal. However, Russia keeper Igor Akinfeev parried with firm hands away from danger.

Russia’s best chance came on 44 minutes when Denis Glushakov galloped down the left and curled a superb ball into the box. Forward Alexander Kokorin darted between the two Belgian central defenders and was left with a wonderful opportunity to open the scoring. He nodded wide, to the frustration of his teammates.

It’s been a fairly even game, but Belgium is in the ascendancy thanks to some tricky wing play.

In the 57th minute, Origi came off the bench to replace Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku spent last season on loan at Everton from Chelsea, made way for Origi for the second time this World Cup.

This substitution became the turning point of the game.

At their last World Cup encounter in 2002, Belgium won 3-2 in the group phase. Daniel Van Buyten was in the starting line-up for Belgium and Aleksandr Kerzhakov came on as a substitute for Russia. Current Belgium coach Marc Wilmots also played in that match and scored the third goal.

Algeria beat South Korea 4-2 with goals from Islam Slimani, Rafik Halliche, Abdelmoumene Djabou and Yacine Brahimi. South Korea, who finished the first half without any shot, dashed out with a strong second half, but the effort was still not enough to turn the match around.

Algeria, three points in hand, climbed to the second place in Group H ranking behind the six-point Belgium.

South Korea had kept an undefeated record against African team in the previous World Cups, having beaten Togo 2-1 in 2006 and drawn 2-2 with Nigeria four years ago in South Africa. However, the record came to an end Sunday.

Algeria, who were facing an Asian team for the first time in the World Cup, planned a five-defender formation, but their attack was much more threatening than their opponents.

After a long spell of possession, Les Fennecs caused trouble in the South Korean area in the fifth minute. Sofiane Feghouli was taken down in the box, but his teammate Yacine Brahimi’s follow up went beyond the bar.

In the ninth minute, Algeria saw another chance through a corner kick. Islam Slimani found himself wide open but his header turned out wide off the left post.

South Korea started to counter attack after ten minutes, but Algeria still controlled the match. Aissa Mandi sent a great ball into the South Korean box in the 22nd minute. The ball found Slimani but the Sporting Lisbon striker did not have the chance to finish his attempt.

The first goal came in the 26th minute, Slimani caught the long pass between the two South Korean defenders and dashed into the box to tip the ball over Jung Sungryong.

The Algerians did not wait long for their second goal. In two minutes after the first, centre back Rafik Halliche made use of a corner play, heading in the ball to make it 2-0.

South Korea tried hard to fight back, but the counterattack of Algeria resulted in a goal again. In the 38th minute, Slimani caught another long pass, and sent the ball to Abdelmoumene Djabou, who was undefended. Djabou seized the chance, netting the cross to make it 3-0 for Algeria.

South Korea opened the second half with a 50th-minute goal. Striker Son Heungmin picked up a pass, broke the defence and powered a shot through Adi M’Bolhi’s legs to pull one back.

The Asian team was inspired by the goal, making consecutive attacking efforts, and the Algeria defence was under pressure.

After repulsing several high-quality shots from South Korea, Algeria struck yet again in a counter-attack. In the 62nd minute, Brahimi and his teammates completed a break through. Brahimi’s easy shot went past Jung Sungryong, and Algeria extend the lead to 4-1, becoming the first African team to score four or more goals in one match.

South Korea refused to give up. Koo Jacheol made a strong finish after a string of passes and cut the gap to two goals again in the 72nd minute.

South Korea kept the aggressive pressing, but they were unable to score again.



Odemwingie nails Nigeria’s 1-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina


Mato Grosso (Brazil) (IANS): African champions Nigeria eliminated World Cup debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina, thanks to Peter Odemwingie’s goal Saturday.

Nigeria grabbed their first World Cup finals win since 1998, gathering four points from two games and placing second after Argentina who have already advanced to the second round after beating Iran 1-0 for their second straight victory, Xinhua reported.

Nigeria are to play Argentina in their final group game Thursday.

Odemwingie scored the winner in the 29th minute, seven minutes after Bosnia-Herzegovina’s goal by Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko was incorrectly ruled offside.

“This victory can have a huge impact on us as it brings confidence with it and if we get to the last 16 who knows what can happen, maybe a repeat of what happened in last year’s Africa Cup of Nations where we got better and better,” said Odemwingie.

Bosnia-Herzegovina are now unable to advance, regardless of the result against Iran in their final group match Wednesday.

Messi special takes Argentina into the last 16


Belo Horizonte (Brazil) (IANS): A moment of genius from Lionel Messi in added-time helped Argentina book a berth in the last-16 after a unconvincing 1-0 win over Iran in a FIFA Group F clash at the Estadio Mineirao here Saturday.

All the game Messi had been completely ineffective but the Barcelona forward’s 90+1 minute goal, his second in this year’s finals, from outside the box broke the deadlock after the South Americans had put in an unimpressive performance in the first 90 minutes.

A stout Iran defence kept Argentina at bay till the final minutes and were only beaten after a magical goal from arguably one of the greatest footballers of all time.

Argentina lacked the cutting edge in the final third, a worrying fact for one of the favourites.

Clear cut chances were few and far between for an Argentina side that had 69 percent possession.

Argentina lead Group F with six points.

As expected, Iran sat back and put 10 men behind the ball. There were absolutely no efforts from them to attack the Argentine goal except on set pieces.

Messi had a very quiet half and found it hard to get past the wall of men in Iranian defence.

Gonzalo Higuain had an extremely poor half. Besides having poor touches in and around the box the Napoli striker had a golden chance to put Argentina in the lead but failed to even test the goalkeeper.

Angel Di Maria posed the greatest danger for Iran. His delivery from the left caused all sorts of problems for the opposition.

However, for the 73 percent possession Argentina had in the first half, they failed to pepper the Iran goal.

The big chances came from corners with Ezequiel Garay and Marcos Rojo could have given their team the lead but their headers went just wide from Di Maria’s corner.

Argentina failed to move the ball quickly and looked laboured in attack. For all the possession they had, Iranian goalie Alireza Haghighi was hardly called into action.

The only positive aspect for Iran was that they defended heroically and managed to frustrate Argentina.

The South Americans came out after the change over looking more purposeful but again found it impossible to break down the Iran defence.

Iran, too, did better in attack and even put pressure on the Argentine defencr for a brief period.

Reza Ghoochannejad had Iran’s best chance but his header went straight to the Argentina defence.

Messi saw more of the ball in the second half but the man who has scored 350 goals for Barcelona in the Spanish La Liga failed give his team the breakthrough.

Ezequiel Lavezzi was brought on for an ineffective Sergio Aguero. His enterprise down the right side did create a few problems but that still wasn’t enough.

Reza once again could have given Iran the shock lead but Romero in Argentine goal was upto the task.

Costa Rica shock Italy, knock England out

Recife (Brazil) (IANS): Little known Costa Rica advanced to the last 16, knocking England out, after a memorable 1-0 win over four-time champions Italy in a FIFA World Cup Group D clash at the Arena Pernambuco here Friday.

Bryan Ruiz scored the only goal of the match with a clinical header from close range in the 44th minute.

The former Fulham attacker’s goal put England, who lost their opening two matches, out of the tournament.

Italy and Uruguay take on each other in Natal Tuesday and the winner of the match will decide who joins Costa Rica in the knockout stage.

Costa Rica, who didn’t even win a single match in their previous participation in the World Cup, recorded their second successive win over a nation in the top 10.

They beat 2010 semifinalists Uruguay in their opening match for the first upset in the tournament.

Costa Rica were dogged in defence and put pressure on every single Italian attacker.

Italy, meanwhile, lacked the cutting edge and created very few chances of note.

In a tight first half, Costa Rica found it hard to create space rarely that they had in their 1-0 opening win over Uruguay.

The Italian defence was well organised but for a sloppy last five minutes.

The pace, though, picked up in the last 15 minutes of the half.

Italy themselves found it hard to make clear-cut chances initially.

Veteran playmaker Andrea Pirlo was in the middle of everything good for the Italian attack, while Mario Balotelli had two guilt-edge chances to put the Italians in front but on both occasions he was not upto the task.

The talking point came minutes before the changeover as the very impressive Arsenal forward Joel Campbell had the opposition defence on the ropes and his twisty run saw Chiellini clearly foul him in the box but the referee waved play on much to the discontent of the Costa Rican coach.

Captain Bryan Ruiz, however, set the record straight as his header from a yard out hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced in.

Goal-line technology came into play and deemed the ball had crossed the line.

The second half saw Italian coach Cesare Prandelli ring in attacking changes.

Italy held most of the possession as Costa Rica put men behind the ball and tried to hit on the counter.

Italy threw men forward but poor passing in the final third and a solid Costa Rican defence saw them being repelled everytime.

Star forward Balotelli also failed to do anything magical and was crowded out each time he touched the ball.

Costa Rica did very little in attack with Gianluigi Buffon in the Italian goal having to do very little.

Italy themselves barely troubled the opposition keeper as they failed to find a way past the crowded defence.


Suarez’s brace breaks English hearts, keeps Uruguay in the hunt


Sao Paulo (IANS): Striker Luis Suarez scored a brace as Uruguay handed England their second successive loss with a 2-1 victory in a FIFA World Cup Group D clash at the Arena Corinthians here Friday.

Liverpool striker Suarez, who missed the first match after undergoing surgery on his knee just four weeks ago, struck in the 39th and 85th minute to keep Uruguay’s hopes alive of progressing through to the last 16.

Wayne Rooney scored his first World Cup finals goal in the 39th minute to cancel out Suarez’s opener but couldn’t save England from some very poor defending at the back.

England are still not out and have to beat Costa Rica and hope Italy win both their remaining games so that second position comes down to goal difference.

The game started at a tremendous pace with England putting the early pressure on Uruguay.

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, who scored his World Cup finals, went extremely close with a 10th minute free-kick.

Uruguay, though, slowly started to gain a foothold in the match with Luis Suarez showing some early danger signs.

England struggled to retain the ball as Uruguay put on the pressure. Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling in particular was crowded whenever he got a touch.

There was a good spell of pressure from England that led to a free-kick being awarded on the left hand side.

Captain Steven Gerrard’s deep free-kick was met by Rooney at the far post the striker’s header from a yard out struck the crossbar.

Roy Hodgson’s side were caught on the hop as Edison Cavani floated a teasing ball from the left with Uruguay charging forward, Suarez got behind Phil Jagielka and rose well to head the ball past a helpless Joe Hart.

England equalised almost immediately but Uruguayan goalkeeper saved Daniel Sturridge’s stinging shot from 15 yards out.

Uruguay started the second half better of the two teams as England looked all over the place at the back.

The ball was played through to Cavani who found himself one on one with Hart but he put his shot wide.

England settled after the ropey first seven minutes of the second half and put massive pressure on the Uruguayan defence.

Substitutes Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana gave England attack the much-needed impetus and in the 75th minute the pressure finally paid off as Wayne Rooney netted in his first World Cup goal.

Right-back Glen Johnson in a brilliant run went past two Uruguay defenders in the box and played a low ball across goal for an unmarked Rooney to tap it in to the net.

Momentum seemed to be on England’s side as Sturridge once again broke into the opposition box but his shot was palmed away by the goalie.

Once again much against the run of play, Suarez struck the death knell for the English in the 85th minute thanks to more calamitous defending.

A high ball played forward saw Gerrard jump to meet it but the Liverpool midfielder managed to only flick the ball off the back of his head and into the path of the charging Suarez who blasted it into the net past Hart.

Uruguay held on to record a memorable win an keep their hopes alive in this year’s tournament.



Chile knock out Spain

Rio de Janeiro (IANS): Defending champions Spain’s six-year domination ended as they were knocked out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup courtesy a 0-2 loss to Chile in Group B at the Maracana stadium here Wednesday.

It was an end of an era feeling, as Spain became the first reigning champions to lose their opening two matches in the subsequent World Cup and suffered the same humiliation as Italy, who as holders were knocked out of the group stage in the 2010 edition.

Chile’s win saw them qualify for the knockout phase along with the Netherlands from Group B. Both teams have two wins each.
Eduardo Vargas’ stabbed the ball in to give Chile the surprise lead in the 20th minute while Chales Aranguiz doubled Spain’s anguish in the 43rd minute after a poor effort by Spanish captain Iker Casillas in goal.
In the first half, Spain looked a shadow of the team that won the Euro 2008, 2012 and 2010 World Cup. They probably were still shell shocked from the 1-5 thrashing at the hands of the Netherlands in their opening game.
The tiki-taka was nowhere to be seen as Chile dominated the proceedings. Spain’s fabled passing looked very pedestrian as they gave the ball away too easily.
Vargas made them pay after some brilliant attacking play by Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez.
Chile looked the team more likely to score again and they did just that after a Sanchez free-kick was palmed away by Casillas straight into the path of Aranguiz, who made no mistake just before the halftime.
In the second half, Spanish manager Vicente del Bosque brought on highly rated Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke in place of Xabi Alonso and the move seem to work for his team.
Spain started showing signs of revival and played much more confidently. They looked more threatening and the Chilean defence finally came under pressure.
Sergio Busquets had Spain’s best chance as the ball fell to the Barcelona man following acrobatics from Diego Costa but Busquets scuffed the ball wide when it looked easier to score.
No wonder the midfielder is yet to score after making 86 appearances for his country.
Chelsea striker Fernando Torres came on for Costa but it made no difference as Spain failed to find a breakthrough.
Such has been the dismal performance of the champions that they have scored just one goal and conceded seven.
Chile, meanwhile, will battle it out with the Dutch Monday for the top spot in Group B.



Netherlands survive Australia scare for second straight win


Porto Alegre (Brazil) (IANS): The Netherlands survived a massive scare, coming back from a goal down to beat Australia 3-2 in a FIFA World Cup Groups E encounter at the Estadio Beira-Rio here Wednesday.

Arjen Robben opened the scoring for the Dutch in the 20th minute but Everton’s Tim Cahill levelled the score just a minute later.

Australian captain Mile Jedinak gave his team the shock lead with a 54th minute penalty.

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie made it all square four minutes later while substitute Memphis Delay scored the winner in the 68th minute.

The Netherlands were made to work extremely hard but the reward was great as well, the win taking them to six points and all but assuring them of a place in the next round.

While Australia slumped to their second straight defeat but their performance against the 2010 runners up would have only done them good.

The first 20 minutes of the match was a slow affair. The Netherlands failed to repeat the fast, precise build up play that saw them destroy defending champions Spain 5-1 in their opening match.

Robben, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder, all stars of the previous match failed to gel up and too often gave the ball away cheaply.

Australia, meanwhile, were better in possession and did more creative play in the Dutch half.

It took some magic from Robben, who scored his third goal of this year’s finals as he burst through the middle and his stinging shot gave the goal keeper no chance.

Australia, though, struck back immediately with Cahill’s sumptuous first time volley stunning the Dutch.

The goal buoyed the Australian team that continued to pressurise the Dutch defence. Mark Bresciano should have given the Socceroos the lead but his effort flew over the crossbar.

The Netherlands attack found the going hard. Daley Blind, who received rave reviews for his performance against the Spanish had a very poor half as well.

The second half started much in the same vein as the Dutch failed to string passes together with Australia too having a hard time.

In an unfortunate incident for the Dutch, Brozovic’s attempted cross struck Daryl Janmaat on his left hand with the referee pointing to the spot kick.

Jedinak stepped up to score the seventh penalty of this year’s tournament that has already yielded an incredible 54 goals.

The goal seemed to finally wake the Dutch from their slumber as they started attacking the Aussie goal with much more precision.

Robben was again the go to man for the Netherlands as his runs down the right wing started creating havoc in the Australia defence.

Substitute Depay too had a positive effect and in the 68th minute, the 20-year-old’s swerving shot beat the Australian goalie.

With the Australians tiring the Dutch opened the game and could have easily scored a couple more.

In the end, Australia failed to find the equaliser as the Netherlands held on for the second straight victory.



Modric fit for Cameroon clash


Manaus (Brazil) (IANS): Croatia have been given a major boost ahead of Wednesday’s World Cup Group A clash against Cameroon with confirmation Luka Modric has fully recovered from a foot injury.

It was feared the 28-year-old had fractured a bone during Croatia’s 3-1 loss to Brazil in the tournament’s opener last Thursday.

He spent the following day in a Sao Paulo hospital before scans cleared the Real Madrid midfielder of serious damage.

At a press conference here Tuesday, Croatia coach Niko Kovac revealed Modric was certain to play at the Arena Amazonia stadium Wednesday.

“Luka is going to be 100 percent fit. He did well in training. There are no problems and he will be with us in Wednesday’s clash,” Xinhua quoted Kovac as saying.

Having lost their opening matches, both Croatia and Cameroon must avoid defeat to remain alive in the tournament.

But Kovac vowed his side would attack from the outset in the Amazonian city of Manaus in a bid to secure victory.

“They (Cameroon) may play for a draw, but we want to win,” he said. “We want to play our game. They are a strong team that is high in quality, but we want to impose our own style of play.

“If we were to play in the same way we played against Brazil, I do not see why we can’t progress (to the knockout phase). I know there is no such thing as a free lunch, but we will fight and I am confident we can win.”

Croatia have been buoyed by the return of striker Mario Mandzukic from suspension.

The 28-year-old Bayern Munich forward could not hide his eagerness to help his team Wednesday.

“This is maybe one of the most important matches most of us have played in,” Mandzukic said. “We are ready and personally I can’t wait for it to start.”




Eto’o vows to tell all after the World Cup


Manaus (Brazil) (IANS): Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o has vowed to respond to a series of allegations against him after the World Cup, claiming they are part of a plot to destabilise the team.

And the Chelsea striker did not rule himself out of Cameroon’s Group A match against Croatia at the Arena Amazonia stadium Wednesday, despite nursing a knee injury, reports Xinhua.

Eto’o has been the centre of controversy in recent months. In May he called Jose Mourinho a “puppet” after the Chelsea manager suggested the 33-year-old might in fact be older.

Newspaper reports have also accused the former Barcelona star of an extra-marital affair while he drew condemnation from Cameroon’s press for refusing to accept a symbolic flag as the team departed for Brazil.

“I would like to tell you what I really think but it is more important to talk about the next match and the rest of the World Cup,” Eto’o told reporters here Tuesday.

“We don’t want to go home after the group phase, even though a lot of people have wanted to destabilise us. People can say what they want. I don’t care.

“Believe me, after the World Cup I will respond to everything. I will give names of those who have made these accusations so that the national team and the country know who is responsible.”

Cameroon lost their opening World Cup match against Mexico 1-0 and another defeat Wednesday would eliminate them from the tournament.

Eto’o, who Sunday wrote on Twitter that he was unlikely to play against Croatia, gave a cryptic reply when asked about his fitness.

“I will do everything in my power to play Wednesday. I don’t know if I will or how many minutes I can play but the important thing is that the team stays strong,” Eto’o said.

“The team is more important than me. I believe in this team. If I start I will do my best. If I do not I will do my best from the bench. I’m not going to tell people (if I will play). We can’t talk about our strengths and weakness before a match. Even if I knew I would not tell you.”

Cameroon’s coach Volker Finke said his team remained upbeat despite the loss to Mexico.

“I think it’s very clear, very simple. Both teams have lost in the first match and that’s why there is one objective and that is to win,” Finke said.

“It is a do-or-die situation. We need to build on our team spirit. I am very confident in my players. We were obviously disappointed in the first match. We were hurt. We got better in the second half but we missed a few chances.

“We had a good training session this afternoon. It’s going to be a very important test. We are going there to win.”




Fans in Mexico City celebrate the draw with Brazil


Mexico City (IANS): Mexico football fans have celebrated their 0-0 tie with Brazil at the 2014 Brazil World Cup Tuesday.

The outcome of the game, played at the Castelao Stadium in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza, may not help Mexico advance to the second round of the tournament, but it won’t hurt either, reports Xinhua.

Mexico still have to play Croatia on Monday to see if they can qualify for the next round.

“It was fabulous, Mexico deserved to win,” a grocery store manager in Mexico City said.

TV set in the middle of the shop so that the staff at the store and their clients could watch the game.

A clerk in the store described the match as charged with excitement.

“It was a very interesting game, in which the Mexicans played on a par with the Brazilians,” a woman, Matilde, said.

“Thanks to the goalkeeper (Guillermo Ochoa), Mexico fended off several goals. I felt really nervous whenever Brazil neared Mexico’s goalpost and really excited whenever the Mexicans neared Brazil’s,” taxi driver Ernesto said.

“Mexico played an excellent game. I actually believed the national team was going to lose. This tie is in reality a victory, because Brazil continues to be one of the favorites to win this championship,” said Federico, a security guard at a private company.

Sports commentators on major TV stations and news media also praised the team’s goalkeeper, saying Ochoa’s performance “was sensational” and dubbing him “Saint Ochoa.”

Thousands of fans gathered at Mexico City’s main plaza to watch the game on a giant screen broke out in celebration.A




Van Gaal may change winning formula against Australia

Porto Alegre (Brazil) (IANS): After crushing reigning champions Spain 5-1 “never change a winning team” would be a logical choice, but Dutch head coach Louis van Gaal may decide differently for the match against Australia here Wednesday.

“Oranje” blew away Spain in the second half with a 5-3-2 system, a system Van Gaal opted to conquer the reigning World champions, reports Xinhua.

His tactics worked out well with especially forwards Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie flourishing with two goals each. Wesley Sneijder behind them added two assists.

However, during the final training session Tuesday Van Gaal opted for striker Jeremain Lens with the possible starters and defender Ron Vlaar was playing with the reserves. This could mean Holland will play in a 4-3-3 system with Lens, who played in nine out of ten qualification matches, Van Persie and Robben up front.

“Against Australia I can play with both systems,” said Van Gaal. “Therefore I will not be open this time, like before Spain. I will not say which system we play, because that determines the line-up.”

“Against a defensive Australia we can put more pressure on them with 4-3-3, but that doesn’ t always mean the best outcome,” Van Gaal added.

“But to be honest, I expect an offensive Australia, because the coach (Ange Postecoglou), that’s a good one. They pled offensive against Chile as well.”

Earlier this week Sneijder and Robben said they would opt for continuation of the 5-3-2 system. “But they have not said that to me,” said Van Gaal, while Sneijder was sitting next to him at the press conference.

“I will always listen to my players, and after that make a judgment.”

Australia lost their first match 3-1 to Chile, but caused the Chileans a lot of trouble. The result nevertheless means the Socceroos must get a result against the Netherlands to keep their hopes of reaching the second round alive.

History against the Netherlands seems on the side of the Australians so far, because they are unbeaten against the Dutch, winning once and drawing twice. All three previous meetings were friendlies. On June 4, 2006, the match ended in a 1-1 draw, on September 6, 2008 Australia won 2-1 and on October 11, 2009 the match finished goalless (0-0).

Meanwhile the Dutch are fearing a Euro 2008 repetition when they started with a stunning 3-0 win over world champions Italy, followed by a 4-1 victory over France and a 2-0 win over Romania. However, they were ousted in the quarter-finals by Russia.

A win over Australia would see the Netherlands through if Chile avoid defeat against Spain.