Messi to the Rescue
Messi to the Rescue avatar

Iran kept Argentina off of the scoreboard today at Belo Horizonte for more than 90 minutes, but it wasn’t enough as Lionel Messi produced a beautiful, heartbreaker at the death to kill Iran’s dream.

It was the only time in the game that Iran allowed Messi onto his left foot and they were punished. (Getty Images)

It was the only time in the game that Iran allowed Messi onto his left foot and they were punished. (Getty Images)

Argentina won this match 1-0 and have secured passage to the Round of 16, but let us spare a moment to talk Iran.

Manager Carlos Quieroz was hamstrung financially, and even had difficulty finding teams for Iran to play in the countries World Cup build up. So Queiroz did what he could, turning to the Iranian diaspora to supplement his squad.

He also instilled a defensive mindset into his roster, which he knew would be outmatched talent wise by all of their World Cup opponents. That approach produced a 0-0 tie against Nigeria, a result that was celebrated in the streets of Iran.

So, expectations were low heading into Saturday’s match with Argentina. But Iran frustrated Argentina, a team fancied by many to win this World Cup being played in their neighboring nation of Brazil.

But after 45 minutes the score was 0-0. Argentina missed a couple of chances, but the team, said to have been influenced by Lionel Messi’s preference to play in a 4-3-3, had produced little of real threat. Iran had some chances of their own in the opening stanza, especially from corner kicks where Ashkan Dejagah was providing immaculate service.

Expectations that the second half would see Iran wilt under a wave of Argentine pressure would be quickly disabused on the re-start. Iran’s defense maintained their form and as Team Melli grew in confidence they began to attack from play.

Fulham’s Dejagah, one of Queiroz’s hyphenate recruits led the charge in an outstanding performance of both industry and quality. He had help from Reza Ghoochannjhad and goalkeeper Alireza Hahighi, but really all of the Iran team performed above and beyond the call.

And Argentina? A team that is/was expected to challenge for the World Cup title were unable to find a way through the packed Iran defense and may have been a goal down if Dejagah had been awarded a penalty when taken down by Pablo Zabaleta in the box.

Dejagah (L) was outstanding for Iran and constantly caused Argentina problems. (Getty Images)

Dejagah (L) was outstanding for Iran and constantly caused Argentina problems. (Getty Images)

Manchester City star Zabaleta couldn’t handle Dejagah, and the Argentine attack was impotent, but for that one moment of magic by the great Lionel Messi.

Argentina may yet grow into this World Cup, but they had better get to it quickly.

Germany and Ghana played in the Saturday’s middle game, and a comfortable German victory was expected. Maybe it is time we learn to expect anything but the expected at this World Cup.

Ghana were still smarting from their opening 2-1 loss to the U.S., a match the Ghanians felt that they should have won. But the German’s had come in flying high off of a first game 4-0 demo job of Portugal.

Naturally then Ghana gave Germany the fright of their lives. Neither team managed a goal in the first half, Ghana giving as good as they got. Germany finally got the scoring started in the 51 minute via Mario Gotze.

Conventional wisdom would see Ghana capitulate at this point, and Germany go on to win handily. Not at Brazil 2014.

Asamoah Gyan's team were outstanding an put on one of the best performances thus far in this world cup. (Getty Images)

Asamoah Gyan’s team were outstanding an put on one of the best performances thus far in this world cup. (Getty Images)

Andre Ayew struck back just four minutes later with a peach of a header, and the Black Stars were on level terms.

Nine minutes later Ghana had the lead and Group B was in an uproar of confusion. Germany were expected to beat Ghana, a favorable result for the U.S. Now what?

First off, German coach Jorgi Loew went to his bench for Miroslav Klose and Bastian Schweinsteiger in place of Gotze and Sami Khedira. Klose checked in at the 69 minute mark, two minutes later the score was 2-2 and Klose had joined the original, Brazilian Ronaldo as the all-time leader in World Cup goals with 15, passing the legendary German poacher Gerd Muller.

Both teams had chances down the stretch, but in the end a 2-2 draw was the result. That keeps Ghana alive, and pressures the U.S. to come to play on Sunday versus Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in tropical Manaus.

Nigeria picked up a 1-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in the nightcap from Brazil, with Edin Dzeko slamming an added time shot off of the Nigerian goalpost.

Dzeko’s shot actually first caromed of the legs of keeper Vincent Enyeama before bouncing harmlessly off the Nigerian post. Just a minute before, Dzeko had headed a shot straight at Enyeama, and Bosnia-Herzegovina could not overcome those two late misses, ending their first World Cup after two games.

Bosnia-Herzegovina also were unable to overcome another blown offside call by World Cup officials. Dzeko hit the target in the games 20th minute, only to see his moment of glory quashed by an offside flag. Replays showed that the goal should have stood.

Odemwingie got on the scoresheet for Nigeria and it was enough to win them the game. (Getty Images)

Odemwingie got on the scoresheet for Nigeria and it was enough to win them the game. (Getty Images)

Peter Odemwingie scored the winner for Nigeria in the 28th minute, putting Nigeria in good position to advance to the knockout rounds.

Group F

 
Position Team Played GoalDifference Points
1 Argentina 2 2 6
2 Nigeria 2 1 4
3 Iran 2 -1 1
4 Bos-Herce 2 -2 0

Group G

 
Position Team Played GoalDifference Points
1 Germany 2 4 4
2 USA 1 1 3
3 Ghana 2 -1 1
4 Portugal 1 -4 0
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Captain America’s Grit and Swagger
Captain America’s Grit and Swagger avatar

If America could invent a soccer hero, Clint Dempsey would be it. For a sport that has long battled in the U.S.A. to escape its reputation as a game for foreigners, who better to embody America’s take on the world’s game than a steely eyed Texan named Clint?

Klinsmann got criticized for his comments prior to the tournament.  (ISI Photos)

Klinsmann got criticized for his comments prior to the tournament. (ISI Photos)

The soccer haters have quieted down in recent years as younger Americans who have grown up with the sport tuned them out, but they have not vanished completely. We have only to look to the recent flare up between U.S. MNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann and ESPN host Michael Wilbon, to see there remains some distrust between the old guard and the still growing sport of soccer in this country.

So incensed was Wilbon when Klinsmann was critical of Los Angeles Laker basketball star Kobe Bryant’s contract, that the pundit said the German born coach should, “get the hell out, get out of America.”

So the sway of the “Big 4” sports still holds. For some the suburban, minivan, orange slice soccer mom cliches have not been entirely cast off, never mind that such imagery is as American as apple pie.

So now with Landon Donovan out of the national team picture, and with the team coached by the aforementioned charismatic German and liberally sprinkled with hyphenated-Americans, we have Clint. Dempsey has everything we Yanks look for in our sports heroes. An ideal mix of grit and swagger, Dempsey speaks softly and carries a big stick. A soft spoken rapper from Nacogdoches, Texas, Dempsey is a Horatio Alger story in soccer cleats.

We know that he spent some of his youth living in a trailer, and that he learned his daring style of play in pickup games with the local Mexican kids. Yeah, he played organized soccer too, but unlike too many American youth players, Dempsey never lost his individualism.

Dempsey fired home the fastest goal in this World Cup. (Getty Images)

Dempsey fired home the fastest goal in this World Cup. (Getty Images)

But Dempsey is not just flash, his game is underpinned with true grit. With his perpetual five o’clock shadow and a scowl that says step back, Dempsey has never been accused of being soft. In fact his intimidating glare has been immortalized in classic oversized “Deuce face” posters that dot the stands at his games.

On Monday night the best of both sides of “Deuce” were on display, as the United States beat Ghana 2-1 in the team’s first game of the 2014 World Cup.

With the din of the referee’s opening whistle still reverberating in the fetid Natal, Brazil air Dempsey struck for the fastest goal in U.S. World Cup history. 29 seconds into the match Dempsey brought his swagger to the worlds biggest stage when he eluded his Ghanaian defender with an audacious move and shot that gave the United States a precious 1-0 lead.

Dempsey has proven at all levels that he is world class. (ISI Photos/MEXSPORT/ XINHUA)

Dempsey has proven at all levels that he is world class. (ISI Photos/MEXSPORT/ XINHUA)

That Dempsey would conjure such a move at so important a moment, brought to mind the words of his first national team coach Bruce Arena, who famously said of Dempsey, “he tries stuff.” Stuff, being an approximation of Arena’s more colorful language.

Before the first half ended we would get a look at the other side of Dempsey’s game, the grit. In the games 33rd minute Dempsey was kicked squarely on his nose, and fell to the ground bleeding steadily. Dempsey’s fellow striker Jozy Altidore had been forced from the game in the 21st minute with a hamstring injury, and with the Americans already struggling to contain Ghana, the captain knew he had to stay in the game.

And of course he did. With a broken nose that made breathing difficult, Dempsey played on. He wasn’t at his best, but his team needed him.

To many Dempsey had been a curious choice when Klinsmann named him to wear the captain’s armband. Dempsey had never been a rah, rah guy, and many thought veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard, or coaches son Michael Bradley were more obvious leaders. For his part Dempsey has always said that he is honored to be captain, but that it didn’t really change how he went about his business.

Perhaps a night like Monday night was what Klinsmann had in mind when he made his choice. So Dempsey struggled on, and when the U.S. coughed up the lead in the 82nd minute it seemed inevitable.

The U.S. came back on a headed goal from John Brooks just four minutes later. Still, the U.S. looked spent, and not too many observers would have been shocked to see the Black Stars come back one more time to snatch a late draw from the U.S.

Dempsey will need to put in a fine performance to lead his to to victory over Portugal. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Dempsey will need to put in a fine performance to lead his to to victory over Portugal. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Dempsey couldn’t have had much left in the tank, but his team needed him one more time. In the 92nd minute of a 90 minute game, a loose ball was there to be won or lost. Dempsey and Sulley Muntari raced to it, Dempsey got there first, but Mutari kept coming. Dempsey accepted the blow, winning the ball and drawing a foul. Muntari picked up a yellow card and the U.S. ran out the clock, escaping with three invaluable points.

It had taken a huge effort from the U.S. and they hadn’t played all that well. Dempsey said as much after the game. But when it mattered Dempsey had stepped up. Both sides of Captain Clint’s game had been needed, the swagger and the grit, and what could be more American than that?

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Costa Rica stuns Italy
Costa Rica stuns Italy avatar

Costa Rica have been the story of this hugely entertaining World Cup, first beating Uruguay 3-1 and following up with a 1-0 win on Friday over Italy, a win that eliminated England from the World Cup.

Costa Rica has taken Group C by storm and have qualified for the round of 16. (Getty Images)

Costa Rica has taken Group C by storm and have qualified for the round of 16. (Getty Images)

The Ticos were meant to be chum for the sharks of this Group of Champions, so called because all of the nations in the group, save Costa Rica, have won at least one World Cup.

Making matters worse for Costa Rica, their three opponents are currently ranked 7, Uruguay, 9, Italy and 10, England in the FIFA World Rankings, while the Ticos are at 28. For now.

Against Italy Costa Rican coach Jorge Luis Pinto had his team perfectly drilled and his entire team played their roles to perfection. Costa Rica’s defensive discipline never broke, although Italy did have a couple of scoring chances early on.

Costa Rica closed Italy's Andrea Pirlo down and thus made it difficult for italy. (Getty Images)

Costa Rica closed Italy’s Andrea Pirlo down and thus made it difficult for italy. (Getty Images)

The always controversial Mario Balotelli had two of the best, the first from a wonderful long range pass from the master Andrea Pirlo. Balotelli was in alone on advancing keeper Keylor Navas, but his put his looping shot wide of the net.

Navas denied Balotelli again soon after, and Mario was rarely heard from again, until he picked up a yellow card in the 69th minute for a typically petulant foul, a classic “Mario being Mario” moment.

Tellingly for Italy, that Pirlo pass to Balotelli was one of only six the bearded maestro completed in the final third. Credit must go to Costa Rica’s frustrating defense for that career worst World Cup stat from Italian string puller.

Costa Rica got the games only goal in the 44th minute, a fine header from Bryan Ruiz. Christian Bolanos and Junior Diaz were the set up men, with Ruiz delivering a perfect cross.

All three of the principals in that goal had very strong overall games, but then what man in a Costa Rica jersey did not?

Costa Rica have advanced to the round of 16 for just the second time in their history, and in doing so have turned the group of Champions upside down.

Benzema scored one and had a pk saved. (Getty Images)

Benzema scored one and had a pk saved. (Getty Images)

While the underdog story of Costa RIca has captivated, France’s redemption after their 2010 meltdown in South Africa, and the way in which they are accomplishing is right there with the Ticos.

Coming off a 4-0 whitewashing of Honduras in its first match France was better today against a superior opponent. France beat Switzerland 5-2 on Friday, but Switzerland trailed 5-0 when it scored two late goals, that were merely cosmetic.

Remember that France were on the verge of being eliminated from qualifying for this World Cup when they trailed Ukraine 2-0 after the first leg of a two game playoff. Les Blues won the second game 3-0 and now they are shaping up as a team that no one will want to play in Brazil.

The late game from Brazil featured two teams looking for their first win in the Mundial, Ecuador, and one, Honduras that was also searching for their first World Cup goal since 1982.

Carlo Costly erased that embarrassing streak for Honduras, and at least as importantly Costly’s
31st minute goal gave Los Catrachos the lead.

It wouldn’t last long. Just four minutes later Enner Valencia beat a group of stationary Honduras defenders to the ball in the Honduran goalmouth and the game was tied.

Enner Valencia has got 3 goals in 2 games for Ecuador. (Getty Images)

Enner Valencia has got 3 goals in 2 games for Ecuador. (Getty Images)

Valencia scored in Ecuador’s heartbreaking opening game loss, when Switzerland scored in the 93rd minute. It turned out that Valencia was not finished just yet. Valencia’s goal against the Swiss came when he outjumped the Swiss defense to head home a perfectly delivered restart from Walter Ayovi.

Honduras had to have seen the film, but as the saying goes, just because you know something is coming, doesn’t mean you can stop it. Honduras couldn’t stop it and Valencia buried Ayovi’s inch perfect free kick, and it was 2-1.

Honduras pressed hard for an equalizer, but Ecuador just about hung on, and now it is on to game three, with all four teams in Group B still alive, if barely in Honduras’s case.

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Brazil 2014 – Suarez sinks England
Brazil 2014 – Suarez sinks England avatar

After Thursday night’s 2-1 loss to Uruguay England finds itself on the brink of elimination from this World Cup, and it is none other than the “Toothy Assassin,” Luis Suarez who has put them there.

Suarez had two chances and he scored both. (Getty Images)

Suarez had two chances and he scored both. (Getty Images)

Who else could it be but England’s favorite soccer villain, Luis Suarez. Uruguay came into this match on the heels of a very poor performance, losing 3-1 to the poor relations of the “Group of Champions,” Costa Rica.

Italy, Uruguay, and England have all won World Cup Trophies in their storied pasts, while Costa Rica is a minnow from CONCACAF.

Meanwhile England had acquitted themselves well against old world power Italy, and had reason to feel good taking on a Uruguay side that was making five changing to its starting 11.

England manager Roy Hodgson ran out the same lineup that looked good, but ultimately did not get it done in game one, a 2-1 loss to Italy. Hodgson stayed with Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka in the center of his defense, despite questions in many quarters about the duo’s quality.

Hodgson did make one change, and it proved to be a good one, playing Wayne Rooney centrally, rather than on the wing where Rooney started versus the Azzurri.

Rooney was better, attacking fullback Leighton Baines was better, but England still could not score. In the first half Rooney, still searching for his first ever World Cup goal, narrowly missed on free kick, before somehow managing to head a shot off the crossbar from practically inside the Uruguay goal.

Uruguay had some trouble scoring too, in particular Edinson Cavani. An extremely talented striker, Cavani has missed all around him in Brazil, but for a penalty kick against Costa Rica.

But not everyone was having so much trouble hitting the target. Suarez, the English Premier League’s leading goal scorer remembered where to put the ball, in the back of the net. In the 39th minute Steven Gerrard, one of five of Suarez’s Liverpool teammates playing for England, coughed up the ball at midfield.

Rooney's goal was not enough and England look likely to exit in the group stages. (Getty Images)

Rooney’s goal was not enough and England look likely to exit in the group stages. (Getty Images)

Cavani curled a fine cross over Jagielka’s head and Suarez was there to nod it home. Suarez may have to appropriate Mario Balotelli’s catchphrase, “why always me?”
Why indeed? But England were still alive, and were arguably the better team for most of the night. When Rooney finally broke his World Cup duck, the gloom over England suddenly lifted. A point wouldn’t be bad, but three would be better.

It was not to be. Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera had a big game on the night, and it was his boot up the field that set the winning play in motion. Gerrard was involved again, his reaching header went backwards, and Suarez was onto it in a flash.

Joe Hart never had a chance. Suarez had arthroscopic surgery on his knee a few short weeks ago, and this was his first game back. The worry for Uruguay was that Suarez wouldn’t last. He lasted alright.

But will England? It depends on Costa Rica. If the Tico’s get even one point against the Italians on Friday, England are done for. An Italian win keeps England alive, but no team has ever advanced to the knockout rounds after losing twice in the group stage.

James Rodriguez earned FIFA player of the match for the second game in a row.. (Getty Images)

James Rodriguez earned FIFA player of the match for the second game in a row.. (Getty Images)

Meanwhile Colombia advanced to the Round of 16 on the back of their young superstar in the making James Rodriguez. GotSoccer tipped Rodriguez to make a splash in Brazil and the young attacker has been every bit as good as advertised. After a somewhat tightly played first half, both Colombia and Ivory Coast took the shackles off for the second half, in a game that was suddenly being played at 100 MPH.

Both teams won their openers, Colombia 3-0 over Greece, the Ivory Coast 2-1 against Japan. With first place in Group C on the line caution gave way in a furiously paced, and furiously entertaining second half.

At the center of it all was JRod. All game Rodriguez had taken the free kicks, corner kicks, etc. Then with the game still stuck at 0-0, Rodriguez changed tactics. He let Juan Cuadrado take the kick, which Rodriguez  promptly buried for a 1-0 lead 64 minutes in.

The second goal had Rodriguez’ fingerprints all over it too. Rodriquez stole the ball at midfield, the ball got to Teo Gutierrez and 21 year old substitute Juan Quintero finished like a cool veteran for his first international goal.

The Ivory Coast came back three minutes later on a bit of brilliance from Gervinho. First he split two defenders, then Gervinho faked another to the ground, before banging in a great goal.
Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba tried to will his team back level, but in the end Colombia hung on and advanced.

Greece and Japan wrapped up the day with a tough 0-0 draw, that left 10 man Greece the happier side. The Greeks went a man down in the 38th minute when Kostas Katsouranis picked up a second yellow card for a hard foul.

Greece showed plenty of resolve the rest of the way, and Japan had some glaring misses. The result keeps both teams alive, but the Ivory Coast still retains the best chance of advancing with Colombia to the next round.

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Morgan Leads U.S. to a Draw with France
Morgan Leads U.S. to a Draw with France avatar

Alex Morgan announced tonight that she is indeed back, leading the U.S. WNT with a brace to draw with a determined French side 2-2 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, CT.

American favorite Alex Morgan stepped up tonight after a lengthy absence (Getty Images)

American favorite Alex Morgan stepped up tonight after a lengthy absence (Getty Images)

It was her first goal in a littler over a year- since June 2, 2013 to be exact. And, after sitting out since November 2013 with an ankle injury, Morgan made her return to the U.S. team  just last weekend, in the first of a two game series against France.

France wasn’t cautious this time around, attacking full force from the start and looking perfectly comfortable since the meet up in Tampa, FL where they fell to the U.S. 1-0. The U.S. ladies took them on with just as much vigor per usual, as both teams began to trade possession and create back-to-back chances.

Despite dangerous plays on the U.S. side, the French would be the first to open scoring. In the 27th minute, midfielder Louisa Necib got the ball on the left and played it in, but was taken out and received a penalty kick. She shot well, and the ball flew past goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and into the net to put France up 1-0.

Pressure mounted as the U.S. sought an equalizer and took shots, but with towering captain Wendie Renard leading French defense, no goals were scored and the French kept the lead going into halftime.

French Capt. Wendie Renard was suspended from the last match, but this time made it hard for the U.S. to attack (Getty Images)

Wendie Renard has always caused trouble with her tall height and tough defending (Getty Images)

The U.S. looked mighty determined in the second half, overwhelming France immediately as they rained shots looking for the net. Morgan came off the bench, and that’s when the magic happened. In the 57th minute Allie Long played the ball in to Morgan in the middle, and she quickly shot from the top of the box and into the left post to equalize for the U.S. 1-1.

The aggression picked up and a confident American side began creating more chances, but French defense continued to stand ground. The ball was back and forth and both sides were equal in technical prowess, having to get creative and not rely solely on physical power.

But, it would be France to break the deadlock first, and Amandine Henry led the attack, burying the ball into the low right corner in the 70th minute 2-1.

The U.S. had to get creative in their attack against France (Getty Images)

The U.S. had to get creative in their attack against France (Getty Images)

A win looked daunting for the U.S. as the minutes ticked down. They took possession and in the 84th minute Morgan took an impossible shot on goal, but the ball flew wide. The energetic forward had some last minute dramatics for the crowd though.

She got the ball back in the middle and barely a minute after her first attempt, Morgan blasted it down the middle, stunning French defense with another goal to draw 2-2.

Scoring Summary:   1          2          F
USA                            0          2          2
FRA                             1          1          2

FRA- Louisa Necib (penalty)              27th minute
USA- Alex Morgan (Allie Long)          56
FRA- Amandine Henry                       68
USA- Alex Morgan (Tobin Heath)      85

Lineups:
USA: 24-Ashlyn Harris; 11-Ali Krieger, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 6-Whitney Engen (3-Christie Rampone, 46), 25-Meghan Klingenberg (5-Kelley O’Hara, 79); 15-Allie Long (17-Tobin Heath, 60), 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.), 12-Lauren Holiday; 9-Heather O’Reilly (13-Alex Morgan, 46), 2-Sydney Leroux (8-Amy Rodriguez, 79), 23-Christen Press
Subs Not Used: 7-Morgan Brian, 18-Nicole Barnhart
Head Coach: Jill Ellis

FRA: 16-Sarah Bouhaddi; 8-Jessica Houara, 2-Wendy Renard, 4-Laura Goerges, 24-Julie Soyer; 6-Amandine Henry, 15-Elise Bussaglia, 14-Louisa Necib, 12- Elodie Thomis; 9-Eugenie Le Sommer (10-Camille Abily, 84), 17-Gaetane Thiney (18-Marie Laure Delie, 89)
Subs Not Used: 1-Celine Deville, 3-Laure Boulleau, 5-Sabrina Delannoy,  7-Viviane Asseyi, 11-Laetitia Tonazzi, 13-Pauline Crammer, 19-Marina Makanza, 20-Anaig Butel, 21-Laetitia Phiippe, 22-Amel Hamraoui, 23-Kheria Hamraoui, 25-Ines Jurena
Head Coach: Philippe Bergeroo

Stats Summary: USA / FRA
Shots: 11 / 8
Shots on Goal: 6 / 3
Saves: 1 / 4
Corner Kicks: 4 / 1
Fouls: 5 / 14
Offside: 1 / 5

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Brazil 2014 – Holland Fight Back
Brazil 2014 – Holland Fight Back avatar

Brazil 2014 has evolved into a game of “Can You Top This?” And everyday the answer comes back as yes.

Wednesday’s first game was a 3-2 comeback win for the Netherlands over Australia. The Netherlands, fresh off a dominant performance versus defending World Cup champions Spain figured to roll over the plucky underdogs Australia.

Beforehand the question was, could the Netherlands repeat or even improve upon last week’s 5-1 pasting of Spain? And what about Australia? Would the Socceroos park the proverbial bus, or would Australia come out and have a go at the big favorite?

We found out immediately with Australia bravely challenging Holland all over the pitch, perhaps surprising the Oranje.

Robben once again scored for Netherlands and showed that how individual brilliance can win games. (Getty Images)

Robben once again scored for Netherlands and showed that how individual brilliance can win games. (Getty Images)

The Dutch got on the board first, with a trademark breakaway goal from Arjen Robben. Robben’s goal was good, very good, but in keeping with the can you top this? theme, Tim Cahill answered, yes I can.

It took less than a minute for the New York Red Bulls Cahill to level this match with what may be the goal of the tournament, so far. Australian fullback Ryan McGowan hit a looping 40 yard cross field ball that Cahill struck with his weaker left foot for a perfect volley into the roof of the Netherlands net.

Australia would then take an unlikely lead on a Mile Jedinak penalty kick in the 54th minute. The hand ball call seemed harsh on Holland defender Daryl Janmaat who made no move toward the ball with his hand.

Again, the opposition answered back quickly. This time it took four minutes with Oranje star Robin van Persie scoring from a fine set up from young substitute Memphis Depay.

Can you top this indeed. The match finally turned on an end to end sequence that culminated in a 68th minute goal from Dupay. Tommy Oar sent a cross to Mathew Leckie at the end of a breakaway from Australia. Leckie, in a decision he will long regret, tried to chest the ball past Holland keeper Jasper Cillessen, who gathered easily. Why Leckie, who was so good against in this match, did not head the ball only he can know.

Then the Netherlands took of on a flying counterattack that resulted in the winning goal. Depay’s long range blast was served with a side of swerve, but Maty Ryan had it in his sights the whole way, and should have come up with the save.

It was a dramatic swing, but try as they might, Australia could not turn things back their way. Combined with Spain’s capitulation to Chile, Australia are eliminated from the 2014 World Cup.

The final match of the day couldn’t possibly live up to the two that preceded, could it. For once at this Mundial the answer came back no.

Croatia's win leaves this group wide open and puts pressure on Mexico. (Getty Images)

Croatia’s win leaves this group wide open and puts pressure on Mexico. (Getty Images)

Early it looked like Croatia and Cameroon might approach those lofty standards with Cameroon off to a flyer. Then Croatia scored against the run of play, a good goal from Ivica Olic in the 11th minute.

Cameroon were still in this game until the 40th minute when Alex Song drew a red card for a ludicrous elbow chop on Mario Mandzukic.

That basically finished Cameroon, both in this match and in the World Cup. Croatia added three second half goals, one from Ivan Perisic, and a brace from Mario Mandzukic.

The result eliminates Cameroon and heightens the drama of Croatia’s final group match against Mexico. Croatia can advance with a win, Mexico go through with a win or a tie.

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Spain Crash out of the World Cup
Spain Crash out of the World Cup avatar

Spain’s era of domination came to an end Wednesday night at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. The World and double European Champions became the first team to be eliminated from the 2014 World Cup after losing 2-0 tonight, to a determined and talented Chilean team.

Spain were trying to shake off the effects of the 5-1 drubbing that they suffered at the hands of the Netherlands in their first Group B game five days ago, but it was clear early on that the great Spain team we had all come to know and admire in recent years, was not going to suddenly turn up at Estadio do Maracana.

Spain's defeat by Holland has been the biggest drubbing of this World Cup thus far. (Getty Images)

Spain’s defeat by Holland has been the biggest drubbing of this World Cup thus far. (Getty Images)

Chile were coming off a 3-1 win over scrappy and underrated Australia, and playing in front of a virtual home crowd, Chile were determined to give their supporters something to cheer about.

That they did with an inspired performance, that surely had much to do with Spain’s uncharacteristically inept passing. Xabi Alonso was among Spain’s biggest culprits and it was the Real Madrid man’s wayward effort that sparked Chile’s opening goal in the 19th minute.

Eduardo Vargas goal was a great goal by any standards. (Getty Images)

Eduardo Vargas goal was a great goal by any standards. (Getty Images)

Eduardo Vargas was the scorer after taking a fine feed from Charles Aranguiz, controlling in traffic and calmly slotting his shot past Iker Casillas in Spain’s goal.

Casillas was not at fault on that goal, but after enduring a shocker versus the Netherlands, it was at least somewhat surprising that Vicente Del Bosque elected to stay with his long term number one.

Before the half was over Del Bosque would have cause to regret his loyalty to Casillas, but by then it was probably too late. Following a foul by Alonso, Casillas punched an Alexis Sanchez shot straight up the middle, when catching the ball, or punching it wide seemed relatively simple options. The rebound fell to Aranguiz and Spain were in a 2-0 hole in the 43rd minute.

Del Bosque only made two changes to the side that was so poor against the Netherlands, replacing Gerard Pique and Xavi with Javi Martinez and Pedro at the start.

After his miserable first half Alonso would join his illustrious colleagues on the bench, replaced by Koke. Spain came out of the traps well at the restart and it seemed as though the great champions might have a comeback in them.

With Spain buzzing around the Chile goal it looked as if the South American’s defensive posture might come back to haunt them. It should have in the 53rd minute when Diego Costa bicycle kicked a pass to a wide open Busquets. Just a few yards from goal, Busquets was greeted with an empty net, but somehow he mishit his shot and the chance was gone.

Diego Costa will surely be regretting his decision to commit to Spain. (Getty Images)

Diego Costa will surely be regretting his decision to commit to Spain. (Getty Images)

That bicycle kick had been Costa’s lone positive contribution to the match, and indeed Spain’s World Cup effort, and the Brazilian born and raised Costa must surely be asking himself why he elected to reject his own country to play in Brazil 2014 for Spain.

The Busquets miss effectively ended Spain’s hopes, and with this loss Spain join five previous defending World Cup Champions to be eliminated at the group stage. Most recently 2006 Champs Italy fell at the first hurdle in South Africa and France were similarly unable to mount much of a defence in 2002.

This Spain team will likely see quite a few departures as some of its aging stars step away from the international game, but they leave an enormous legacy behind them for future teams to aspire to.

Spain just looked like they ran out of steam and ideas. (Getty Images)

Spain just looked like they ran out of steam and ideas. (Getty Images)

La Furia Roja extinguished Spain’s reputation as the best team never to win a major trophy by winning the 2008 and 2012 Euro Championship’s and then the 2010 World Cup.

They accomplished this with a precise passing game that came to be called tiki taka, so it was especially surprising to see Spain turn the ball over so often in this loss to Chile.

Now Spain head home to an answer questions on their demise from unhappy nation after a final, meaningless match against Australia. Meanwhile Chile and the Netherlands will play for the top spot in Group B, the spot that was supposed to be Spain’s, before that duo move on to the round of 16.

Group B

 
Position Team Played GoalDifference Points
1 Netherlands 2 5 6
2 Chile 2 4 6
3 Australia 2 -3 0
4 Spain 2 -6 0
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Brazil 2014 – Brazil Denied by Mexico
Brazil 2014 – Brazil Denied by Mexico avatar

Last night United States fans were rejoicing over their team’s hard fought 2-1 win over Ghana, today it was the turn of Mexico, America’s southern neighbor, to celebrate a famous tie with mighty Brazil.

Neymar and Co struggled against Mexico and the tie leaves this group open. (Getty Images)

Neymar and Co struggled against Mexico and the tie leaves this group open. (Getty Images)

Mexico were heavy underdogs to the home team, but El Tri came out confidently in the games opening minutes. It did not take long though for the hosts to wrest control of the match from the visitors, and a Brazil goal began to feel increasingly likely.

But Mexico hung on, for dear life it seemed at times. Mexico played well and were the better team for a good portion of the second half. No, this was no park the bus effort from Mexican coach Miguel Herrera and his troops.

Guillermo Ochoa performance in goal earned him FIFA's player of the match. (Getty Images)

Guillermo Ochoa performance in goal earned him FIFA’s player of the match. (Getty Images)

But El Tri needed something special to stay with Brazil at home, and they got that something from keeper Guillermo Ochoa. Ochoa earned the Man of the Match with a spectacular performance, frustrating Neymar with two great saves and stoning Thiago Silva on an 86th minute header to preserve a massive point for Mexico.

Belgium, everyone’s favorite World Cup dark horse got the fright of their lives from unrated Algeria, falling behind 1-0, before rallying late for a 2-1 win.

Belgium has a lineup loaded with players who earn their living in top leagues across Europe, but today Algeria’s star starved team gave them all they wanted.

From the opening kick Belgium dominated, but they were unable to unduly trouble Algerian netminder Rais M’Bolhi. Then when Algeria sprang a counter attack accomplished Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen was caught out of position and wound up conceding a foolish and obvious penalty when he brought down Sofiane Feghouli.

Algeria deservedly opened the scoring in Belo Horizonte. (Getty Images)

Algeria deservedly opened the scoring in Belo Horizonte. (Getty Images)

Feghouli, the nearest thing Algeria has to a star, calmly took his chance and Belgium were trailing after 24 minutes.

Belgium struggled to generate many real scoring chances, and when they did M’Bolhi was up to the challenge. Their frustrated coach Marc Wilmots brought on creative attacker Dries Mertens for a wasteful Nacer Chadli, a move that paid off with an 80th minute winner from the sub.

Fellaini looked sharp coming off the bench and definitely upped the tempo of the game. (Getty Images)

Fellaini looked sharp coming off the bench and definitely upped the tempo of the game. (Getty Images)

It was another sub that tied it for Belgium, Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian midfielder endured a rough season at Old Trafford, but he gave his country a huge boost this afternoon with his 70th minute equalizer.

It was no surprise that the big man scored with his head, and it was also unsurprising when Belgium completed their comeback via Mertens and defeated game, but outmatched Algeria 2-1.

Russian manager Fabio Capello must have thought that he was having a flashback to 2010 as he watched his goalkeeper let a routine shot slip through his hands and make its way across the goalline.

But no, this was not 2010 in South Africa, that was not Rob Green in the goal, the keeper in question was Igor Akinfeev, and this was Brazil 2014, and Capello was in charge of Russia, not England.

Igor Akinfeev looked stunned after his blunder almost cost his team the game. (Getty Images)

Igor Akinfeev looked stunned after his blunder almost cost his team the game. (Getty Images)

Four years ago Green’s gaffe allowed the United States to draw level with Capello’s English side 1-1. This howler though put Russia in a 1-0 hole in the 68th minute against South Korea, in what had been shaping up as a fairly dull 0-0 encounter.

Korean substitute Lee Keun-Ho scored the goal just 12 minutes after entering the fray and he should be credited putting some power behind his long range shot.

Now with their backs to the wall Russia responded and just six minutes after falling behind Russia were level, and it through a substitute too.

Needing a goal Capello turned to veteran attacker Alexander Kerzhakov. Just three minutes after stepping onto the pitch Kerzhakov made a genius of Capello, scoring in the 74th minute from goalmouth scramble.

That would be all the scoring and if Capello flashes back to 2010, he may take comfort in remembering that his England team did manage to get out of its group.

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Brazil 2014 – U.S. Snatch Late Win over Ghana
Brazil 2014 – U.S. Snatch Late Win over Ghana avatar

Sometimes the logic of tactics and game plans can get pushed aside by emotions and guts. And so it was tonight in Natal, when the United States finally beat Ghana in a World Cup game 2-1.

Dempsey fired home the fastest goal in this World Cup. (Getty Images)

Dempsey fired home the fastest goal in this World Cup. (Getty Images)

The Americans got off to a dream start when Clint Dempsey scored 29 seconds into the game off passes from Jermaine Jones and DaMarcus Beasley. The captain took the pass from Jones, shook free of his marker and skipped a left footed shot into the Ghana goal off of the post for the early, early U.S. lead.

But it would not be easy for the Yanks, who were dealt a big blow when Jozy Altidore fell to the ground clutching his hamstring in the 23rd minute. Jurgen Klinsmann kept the faith with the big striker throughout his struggles with Sunderland, and with his two goals in the World Cup build up the U.S. were counting heavily on Altidore.

Aron Johannsson came on for Altidore as Ghana began to assert control over the match. The physical, aggressive Ghanaians pressured, fouled and generally disrupted the U.S. midfielders into a bad passing night.

Fabian Johnson covered so much ground and it was his persistence that led to the winner. (Getty Images)

Fabian Johnson covered so much ground and it was his persistence that led to the winner. (Getty Images)

Michael Bradley worked hard defensively, but his passing has seldom been worse. Ghana left back Kwadwo Asamoah’s attacking threat kept U.S. fullback Fabian Johnson busy with his defensive duties, and out of the U.S. attack.

Tim Howard came up big when he had to, but the U.S. suffered another blow when Dempsey was kicked in the head, bloodying his nose. Dempsey stayed in the game, although he may have been slowed with breathing problems.

U.S. center back Matt Besler also suffered a hamstring injury late in the half, and he would have to be replaced after the break. That would prove to be key when Klinsmann turned to 21 year old German-American defender John Brooks.

Ghana were all over the U.S. in the second half and the U.S. were hanging on for dear life. Then the inevitable goal came for Ghana in the 82nd minute. Andre Ayew split U.S. defenders Fabian Johnson and Geoff Cameron and gave Howard no chance.

With just eight minutes left to play, it was Ghana, not the U.S. who looked most likely to score. The U.S. were fighting to keep the tie at this point when they won a corner kick.

Brooks (R) celebrating the game winning goal in his first official game for the U.S. (Getty Images)

Brooks (R) celebrating the game winning goal in his first official game for the U.S. (Getty Images)

Graham Zusi had replaced hard running Alejandro Bedoya, and the Sporting Kansas City man stepped up to take the corner. Zusi whipped in an excellent ball, and fellow substitute Brooks rose to meet it, burying his chance and Ghana into the bargain with an 86th minute goal.

The young Bundesliga defender had been a long shot to make this team, and now he was the hero. The U.S. hung on for the win and now will wait and see on Altidore.

Jurgen Klinsmann sounded certain that Besler would be back soon, but was less sure on his striker. Altidore’s injury is said to be less severe than it could have been, but Sunday versus Portugal may be too soon. Clint Dempsey reportedly broke his nose and had trouble breathing for the rest of the match.

In the end Ghana was vanquished and next comes Portugal. Coming off of a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Germany that saw them lose Pepe, and possibly some other key parts Portugal could be ripe for the taking.

This win was an old fashioned U.S. victory, harking back to the pre-Klinsmann era when words like proactive weren’t part of the team vocabulary. It was a character win secured with a header from a corner, and locked down with heroic defending all over the field. Most importantly it was three points in the first Group G game, where the U.S now sit second behind Germany.

USA 2-1 Ghana

Group G

 
Position Team Played GoalDifference Points
1 Germany 1 4 3
2 USA 1 1 3
3 Ghana 1 -1 0
4 Portugal 1 -4 0
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Brazil 2014 – Muller’s Delight as Pepe sees Red
Brazil 2014 – Muller’s Delight as Pepe sees Red avatar

Germany opened Group G play with a thorough 4-0 dismantling of Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal. With a hattrick Thomas Muller was the German hero, while red card recipient Pepe was Portugal’s villain.

Muller got the first hat trick of the tournament. (Getty Images)

Muller got the first hat trick of the tournament. (Getty Images)

Germany, the second ranked team in the FIFA World Rankings, came into this Cup hoping to become the first European team to win a World Cup in South America.

Pre-World Cup build up centered on the host country and fellow South Americans Argentina as the most likely winners of Brazil 2014 with Germany seemingly geographically disqualified.

Today’s win is just a first step, but it does make it clear, if it wasn’t already, that the rest of Group G is playing for second place.

Germany got a break early when Mario Gotze earned a penalty kick just 12 minutes into the match. Joao Pereira was grabbing and pulling at Gotze, and the referee awarded the penalty, throwing a yellow card into the bargain for the Portuguese defender.

Center back Matts Hummels kept things going for Germany when he outjumped Pepe to head home from a 32 minute corner kick.

Muller's play acting provoked Pepe to respond and he was giving his marching orders. (Getty Images)

Muller’s play acting provoked Pepe to respond and he was giving his marching orders. (Getty Images)

Then Pepe had his moment of madness, although to be fair, the Brazilian born defender has a reputation for this sort of thing. Pepe’s fuse was lit when Muller embellished some contact between the two, but the 31 year old Real Madrid center back’s reaction was unforgivable, as he bent down to Muller and headbutted his antagonist.

The referee had no choice but to produce a red card, and if Portugal fail to advance from group play, they will be able to point to this incident as the beginning of the end.

Pepe will now be suspended for at least the next game, against the U.S., and Portugal also could be without fullback Fabio Coentrao and forward Hugo Almeida, who both left the game with injuries.

This result and how it played out could be a big advantage for the U.S., but only if the Americans defeat World Cup nemesis Ghana this evening in Natal.

It took until day five for this World Cup to finally produce a tie, and when it finally came it was a 0-0 stinker between Nigeria and Iran.

Iran will be happy with this result against the African champions, having followed coach Carlos Queiroz’s instructions to the hilt. His overmatched squad bunkered in, parked the bus, whatever term you choose, and they got a draw.

Nigeria lacked any real creativity and (Getty Images)

Nigeria lacked any real creativity and that cost them in the final third.(Getty Images)

Nigeria had virtually all of the possession, but never really came close to scoring. In fact Iran came closest to winning this game when Reza Ghoochannejhad had a superb header well saved by Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama.

Iran will gladly take this point, but for Nigeria this was a chance wasted. Argentina are still favored to top Group F, but Bosnia-Herzegovina looked good in losing to the Argentines, so Nigeria has a lot of work ahead if they are to advance to the knockout stages.

Germany 4-0 Portugal

Nigeria 0-0 Iran

Group F

 
Position Team Played GoalDifference Points
1 Argentina 1 1 3
2 Iran 1 0 1
3 Nigeria 1 0 1
4 Bos-Herce 1 -1 0

Group G

 
Position Team Played GoalDifference Points
1 Germany 1 4 3
2 USA 1 1 3
3 Ghana 1 -1 0
4 Portugal 1 -4 0
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NWSL Round Up Week 10: A Weekend for First Time Goals
NWSL Round Up Week 10: A Weekend for First Time Goals avatar

Silva Leads FC Kansas City to Victory with a Late Strike

FC Kansas City took on the Houston Dash Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, cutting their win streak with a 2-1 finish.

The game kept fans at the edge of their seats as the teams clashed and battled to a 0-0 score into halftime. Defenders on both sides were determined to keep the ball out and performed their duties with diligence, although the deadlock would be broken eventually.

Frances Silva got the late winner for Kansas. (ISI Photos/Tim Bouwer)

Frances Silva got the late winner for Kansas. (ISI Photos/Tim Bouwer)

In the 66th minute FC Kansas City midfielder Jenna Richmond jumped on a cross from Erika Tymrak and belted a shot from 35 yards out past goalkeeper Bianca Henninger to put the Blues ahead 1-0.

The opportunities started to flow, and Houston was quick to respond with a goal from Becky Edwards in the 79th minute. With 10 minutes left in regulation, the excitement mounted as a tiebreaker was sought. Regulation ended and stoppage time commenced, prolonging the suspense. Then, in the final minutes, Tymrak got the ball and was immediately overwhelmed by a slew of defenders. She it over to the far post where Frances Silva was able to head the ball into the net to clinch the win.

Scoring Summary

  • 66   FC Kansas City   Jenna Richmond (Tymrak)
  • 79   Houston   Becky Edwards (Ochs)
  • 94+   FC Kansas City   Frances Silva (Tymrak)

Sky Blue FC Fight Back for a Draw

The Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC played valiantly on Sunday in Lisle, IL, drawing 2-2 with first time goals from Sky Blue’s Lindsi Cutshall and Maya Hayes.

The game was looking to be in Chicago’s favor after the first half, as they racked up two goals to take the 2-0 lead going into halftime. Forward Alyssa Mautz scored in the 21st minute with midfielder Emily Van Egmond on the assist. Then, 10 minutes later, midfielder Zakiya Bywaters added another for security.

Maya Hayes got the equalizer for Sky Blue. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Maya Hayes got the equalizer for Sky Blue. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Sky Blue turned the tables in the second half, turning on the after burners to produce two goals of their own from Cutshall in the 60th minute and then Hayes three minutes later. With the draw Sky Blue was able to halt a three game losing streak, rendering a point to keep them in 8th place in standings.

Scoring Summary

  • 21   Chicago   Alyssa Mautz (Van Egmond)
  • 31   Chicago   Zakiya Bywaters (Hoy)
  • 60   Sky Blue FC   Lindsi Cutshall (Levin)
  • 63   Sky Blue FC   Maya Hayes (Freels)

Boquete Scores First Season Goal, Helps Lead Thorns to Victory

The Portland Thorns had a great end to the weekend, beating Washington Spirit 2-0 on Sunday at Providence Park in Portland.

Portland's Spanish starlet Veronica Boquiete ® got her first goal in the NWSL. (Getty Images)

Portland’s Spanish starlet Veronica Boquiete ® got her first goal in the NWSL. (Getty Images)

They got right to it, opening scoring in the 11th minute with a nice build up. Midfielder Angie Kerr played off to midfielder Amber Brooks in the center circle, who one-touched a cross to forward Jessica McDonald. McDonald took care of the rest, striking from close range to put Portland in the lead 1-0.

The second goal came from midfielder Veronica Boquete- her first of the season. She was pretty active in the second half, creating chances that just weren’t going in. Finally, in the 78th minute, her thirst for a goal was quenched. Brooks crossed to the Spanish international at the top of the box and she slotted the ball inside the left post for the 2-0 winner.

Scoring Summary

  • 11   Portland   Jessica McDonald (Brooks)
  • 78   Portland   Veronica Boquete (Brooks)
LEAGUE STANDINGS
# NWSL GP W L T PTS
1. Seattle Reign FC 11 9 0 2 29
2. FC Kansas City 14 7 4 3 24
3. Chicago Red Stars 12 6 4 2 20
4. Washington Spirit 13 6 6 1 19
5. Portland Thorns FC 11 5 4 2 17
6. Western New York Flash 12 4 6 2 14
7. Houston Dash 13 4 8 1 13
8. Sky Blue FC 13 2 6 5 11
9. Boston Breakers 11 3 8 0 9
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Brazil 2014 – USA Face Nemesis Ghana in World Cup Opener
Brazil 2014 – USA Face Nemesis Ghana in World Cup Opener avatar

Game day is finally here for the United States Men’s National Team. The Americans have been looking forward to taking the field in the World Cup since clinching qualification with a 2-0 win over Mexico in Columbus, Ohio on September 10, 2013.

They have been pointing at Ghana almost as long, and now the day is finally at hand. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been honest about the importance of this game, saying that his team must beat the Black Stars if the U.S. is to advance out of the Group Stage.

U.S. Training at the Stadium in Brazil. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

U.S. Training at the Estadio das Dunas  in Brazil. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

With Portugal and Germany on deck, not many have contradicted this Klinsmann statement. Ghana too, will be looking at this match as a must win, and come in with the confidence gained from having eliminated the U.S. from the previous two World Cups.

2-1 was the score in both Germany 2006, in the final group stage game, and again in 2010 in South Africa, when the Black Stars ended U.S. hopes in extra time of their round of 16 match.

Ghana continued bruising American egos by eliminating Egypt from 2014 World Cup Qualification. Egypt, was coached by Bob Bradley who helmed the U.S. in 2010, and is of course the father of U.S. star Michael Bradley.

Asamoah Gyan's team will be no pushover - they still have a very strong and physical midfield. (Getty Images)

Asamoah Gyan’s team will be no pushover – they still have a very strong and physical midfield. (Getty Images)

So what can we expect today. Like the U.S. Ghana topped their WCQ group, and also like their opponents today in Natal, Ghana are facing a battle to outdo either Germany or Portugal in their bid to advance to the elimination rounds.

Asamoah Gyan, who beat the U.S. with that extra time goal in 2010, still leads the line for Ghana. Midfield remains Ghana’s strength, led by veteran Michael Essien. Kevin Prince Boateng plays an attacking midfield, supporting forward role for Ghana. Like several American players, Boateng came up in the German system, historically lining out against Germany, and his brother Jerome, in South Africa.

Kwadwo Asamoah and Andre Ayew should be part of the deep Ghana midfield, although manager Akwasi Appiah has options. Gyan can at times seem isolated up front in Ghana’s usual 4-5-1, but the Black Star’s 6-1 shellacking of Egypt shows that Ghana can be dangerous.

The United States are expected to send out a line up very similar to the team that finished off the Send Off Series in style, beating Ghana stand in Nigeria 2-1 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Klinsmann tweaked his side against Nigeria, playing Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya and Michael Bradley in the midfield, with Bradley, and to some extent Jones free to push into the attack.

The result was a more secure defensive performance, and with Michael Bradley able to link with Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, the American attack still had some bite.

Klinsmann went for youth and, or athleticism wherever possible in his final 23, and that is reflected in the back four. Although they are not especially young, the back line is inexperienced in World Cup play. Only DaMarcus Beasley has ever played in the Mundial and Beasley was a midfielder until his recent conversion to fullback.

But even as he begins his fourth World Cup, Beasley still has his speed. Right fullback Fabian Johnson can also get up and down, and Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler are quick, fast center backs.

Altidore's lack of games this season in the EPL could play to his advantage in this tournament.(ISI Photos/John Todd)

Altidore’s lack of games this season in the EPL could play to his advantage in this tournament.(ISI Photos/John Todd)

Klinsmann is counting on fitness and speed to counter the lack of experience in the back, up top he needs Jozy Altidore to build on that two goal effort against Nigeria. Clint Dempsey also appears to be in good form, and if he and Altidore can continue to link with Bradley the U.S. attack could be a potent one.

Then there is the midfield, where this match could be won or lost. Beckerman is in Brazil to provide defensive cover, so Bradley can fulfill his new role as the fulcrum of the U.S. attack. Beckerman needs to play clean. No giveaways and limit his fouls. Jones and Bedoya, or Graham Zusi, if he gets the nod, have to be disciplined two way players. Jones was outstanding against Nigeria. If he can pick his spots to spring forward, while holding down his defensive responsibilities, the U.S. will be in good shape.

But if Ghana win the midfield battle and Bradley is forced to spend too much time defending, supply to the front runners could be scarce.

Both teams desperately need three points from this game. Both teams are fit and athletic. But there is another factor. The rain. It has been pouring in Natal since Friday. Landslides have resulted. How will the pitch stand up? Will either team have an advantage? Will it ever stop raining?

And who will win? My call is a tie, 2-2. Both teams have questions at the back, and this World Cup has been wide open, with goals galore. There has yet to be a draw, this could be the first.

USA
Tim Howard

Fabian Johnson
Geoff Cameron
Matt Besler
DaMArcus Beasley

Alejandro Bedoya
Kyle Beckerman
Jermaine Jones
Michael Bradley

Clint Dempsey
Jozy Altidore

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Brazil 2014 – Messi’s Magic Leads Argentina to Victory
Brazil 2014 – Messi’s Magic Leads Argentina to Victory avatar

Day four of the 2014 World Cup has come and gone and still no ties. Fans have been treated to goals galore and today was no exception with all the day’s teams, except for Honduras, making their mark on the scoresheet.

Sunday’s first match ended with a stunning turn of events when Haris Seferovic scored a 93rd minute goal to complete Switzerland’s 2-1 comeback victory over Ecuador in Brasilia.

It was a Swiss Delight but cruel for Ecuador who had been chasing the win. (Getty Images)

It was a Swiss Delight but cruel for Ecuador who had been chasing the win. (Getty Images)

Seferovic scored after a full field run from the Swiss following a missed opportunity at the other end for La Tri. Ecuador looked like the team about to snatch a dramatic late winner, as Antonio Valencia bore down on the Swiss goal.

The Manchester United winger drew the Swiss defense before delivering a hard pass to the feet of Michael Arroyo. Arroyo hesitated, trying to tee up the perfect shot. But as the adage says, he who hesitates, etc. Switzerland defender Behrami stole the ball and headed up field, bouncing up after an attempted foul.

Uzbeki referee Ravshan Irmatov rightly allowed advantage to Switzerland, and the Swiss took that advantage, continuing up the pitch. Ricardo Rodriguez then hit a great cross that Seferovic guided home.

The Swiss have been the unloved seed of this World Cup, with many questioning the worthiness of Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side. Seferovic’s goal won’t end that debate, but it does provide a measure of justice to the Swiss ,who had an earlier goal erroneously called back.

The second Group E game of the featured an ejection, two, or maybe three, goals from Karim Benzema and the first ever use of goal line technology in the World Cup.

France completely outclassed Honduras in what was an impressive 3-0 victory. Honduras played 47 minutes a man down after Wilson Palacios picked up a second yellow card for a ridiculous foul on Paul Pogba.

That foul also yielded France a penalty kick that Karim Benzema finished in style to open the scoring. Honduras are a rugged team in most instances, and Palacios seemed intent on stamping his authority on this match from the start.

Needless to say, that strategy backfired on the Catrachos, who never were in this game after that opening goal. For France this was a good start for a team seeking redemption after a disgraceful display in South Africa 2010 that saw a players boycott of practice and resulted in suspensions for several French players.

Benzema lit up the World Cup stage with his performance. (Getty Images)

Benzema lit up the World Cup stage with his performance. (Getty Images)

Just after halftime it was a shot from Benzema that caromed of the upright and into the net off goalkeeper Noel Valladares that prompted the use of goal line technology.

Technology showed that it was a goal for France, although the score was ruled an own goal. Benzema could yet see the goal restored and he could still be credited with a hat trick.

The last match of the day featured Argentina versus Bosnia-Herzegovina, and was billed as Messi at Maracana. The game took an early turn Argentina’s way when a shot pinged off of defender Sead Kolasinac for the fastest own goal in World Cup history.

The underdogs showed heart and poise by refusing to let that bad break get to them, and came back to be the better team in the first half. But Bosnia-Herzegovina were unable to poach a goal in that good spell and trailed 1-0 at the half.

Messi had a poor first half but came alive after the break. (Getty Images)

Messi had a poor first half but came alive after the break. (Getty Images)

Messi had been held in check by a swarming Bosnia-Herzegovina defense in the first half. He finally shook himself free to hit a wonderful goal off of a classic Messi dribbling run, and a one two with Gonzalo Higuain.

Higuain spent the first half of the game on the bench, as La Albiceleste started in a defensive 3-5-2 formation. Coach Alejandro Sabella freshened up the team at the break sending Higuain on for midfielder Maxi Rodriguez and Fernando Gago on for Hugo Campagnaro.

Messi hit the target in the 65th minute, but Bosnia-Herzegovina kept on battling. Former St. Louis resident Vedad Ibesivic brought the game back to life with an 84th minute goal when it looked as if Argentina would run out the clock for the shutout.

In the end Bosnia-Herzegovina will be happy with that late goal, it could be important if goal difference comes into play. For Messi, there was that one transcendent moment in an otherwise quiet performance. It wasn’t everything that so many were hoping for, but it wasn’t bad. And Messi still has plenty of time left to wow his demanding fans.

Switzerland 2-1 Ecuador

France 3-0 Honduras

Argentina 2-1 Bosnia-Herzegovina

Group E

 
Position Team Played GoalDifference Points
1 France 1 3 3
2 Switzerland 1 1 3
3 Ecuador 1 -1 0
4 Honduras 1 -3 0

Group F

Position Team Played GoalDifference Points
1 Argentina 1 1 3
2 Iran 0 0 0
3 Nigeria 0 0 0
4 Bos-Herce 1 -1 0
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Brazil 2014 – Campbell leads Underdogs to Historic Victory
Brazil 2014 – Campbell leads Underdogs to Historic Victory avatar

Soccer minnows Costa Rica looked like cannon fodder in the Group D Champions Group, featuring former World Cup winners Italy, England and Uruguay.

But the Ticos weren’t interested in playing that role, coming back from a 1-0 deficit with two stunning goals three minutes apart.

Costa Rica stunned Uruguay with their performance and have now opened up Group C

Costa Rica stunned Uruguay with their performance and have now opened up Group C

Uruguay looked like they might run away with this game when Edinson Cavani buried a penalty kick in the 24th minute. The 2010 semi finalists were missing Luis Suarez, but they still had Cavani and South Africa’s Golden Ball winner Diego Forlan to lead the line.

Costa Rica are without Alvaro Saborio for the tournament, leaving Joel Campbell without a partner up front. Once Campbell got going against Uruguay he didn’t need one.

Campbell scored the first Tico goal and set up the second in what was a magnificent performance from the 22 year old.

The young Colombians are battling the Belgians as everyone’s favorite dark horse, and while they weren’t perfect today, Colombia were far too much for Greece in a 3-0 win.

James Rodriguez earned FIFA player of the match with his performance. (Getty Images)

James Rodriguez earned FIFA player of the match with his performance. (Getty Images)

Colombia had to feel right at home playing in front of a Belo Horizonte crowd that was a sea of yellow. That crowd saw their heroes get off to the proverbial dream start with a fifth minute goal from Pablo Armero.

That score drew Greece out of their traditional defensive shell, treating the assembled to an open first half. Greece though, were unable to take advantage of their considerable possession, and trailed 1-0 at the half.

Colombia scored twice in the second half, and while Greece huffed and puffed, they were unable to blow down Colombia’s house.

And in a positive development the officials were hardly noticed in the day’s opening match. American referee Mark Geiger handled the game with aplomb, allowing the players to soak up the spotlight.

In a matchup of old European powers Italy came out on top 2-1 against England. Italy jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a spectacular blast from Claudio Marchisio, a shot set up by a moment of brilliance from Italy legend Andrea Pirlo. Pirlo’s dummy left the ball for Marchisio, and his blast left England keeper Joe Hart helpless.

Balotelli got England sleeping at the back and earned the winner for Italy. (Getty Images)

Balotelli got England sleeping at the back and earned the winner for Italy. (Getty Images)

England answered back minutes later on as good as a goal as you are likely to see anywhere. Raheem Sterling set the play in motion with a brilliant pass to Wayne Rooney, Rooney hit a pinpoint cross that Daniel Sturridge finished to level scores.

England’s speedy forward line seemed to have the beating of Italy’s backsmen , but it was the Azzurri that lit the lamp next.

Mario Balotelli slipped his marker and headed home from the doorstep in the 50th minute to give the Blues a lead they would not relinquish. With England pushing for an equalizer the Italian defense held firm, leaving Italy and Costa Rica tied a top of Group D but the latter leading on goal difference, with Uruguay and England bringing up the rear.

21 year old Serge Aurier was another young player to shine on the World Cup stage. (Getty Images)

21 year old Serge Aurier was another young player to shine on the World Cup stage. (Getty Images)

Trailing Japan after a 16th minute goal from Keisuke Honda, the Ivory Coast looked somewhat lacklustre but the introduction of Didier Drogba as a substitute inspired the comeback, with Wilfried Bony equalising from a Serge Aurier’s cross.

Aurier also the provider of the cross for former Arsenal forward Gervinho to head home the winner and snatch all 3 points.

Group C

Position Team Played GoalDifference Points
1 Colombia 1 3 3
2 Ivory Coast 1 1 3
3 Japan 1 -1 0
4 Greece 1 -3 0

Group D

Position Team Played GoalDifference Points
1 Costa Rica 1 2 3
2 Italy 1 1 3
3 England 1 -1 0
4 Uruguay 1 -2 0
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