Uruguay accuse Neymar of diving ahead of Confederations Cup semi

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We all know about the protests and antics taking place off the field in Brazil during the 2013 Confederations Cup. But on the pitch, the Brazilian national team have been in fine form.

After winning all three of their group games and registering a +7 goal differential, Brazil face South American rivals Uruguay this afternoon in a semifinal clash. With Brazil wary of Uruguay’s strikers and Uruguay singling out one individual.

Both teams know each other extremely well, and despite a planned protest by over 100,000 Brazilians before the game, expect plenty of violence on the field as the two CONMEBOL giants go head-to-head.

And Uruguayan captain Diego Lugano has added fuel to the fire, after accusing Brazilian superstar Neymar of fooling referees into awarding free kicks… Diving to you and I.

“At this Confederations Cup it’s not just a case of someone being very apt at pretending to be fouled – Neymar is very lightweight. He can drop to the ground and fool the referees, and the rivals.”

Lugano certainly doesn’t take any prisoners with his tough-tackling displays and Neymar should expect a few of those this afternoon. Tempers will flare in this clash to make the Confederations Cup final and with Luis Suárez involved… anything can happen.

Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazil side seem to have finally found their identity and with a tough exterior, the likes of Neymar can influence the game and assert their attacking impetus on proceedings.

(MORE: Confederations Cup semifinal preview; Brazil vs. Uruguay, Spain vs. Italy)

However that is exactly why Brazil are wary of Uruguay, with Suárez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan highlighted as the dangermen.

“Those three are very powerful forwards. Individually, they can decide a game,” goalkeeper Julio Cesar said. “I know all of them very well and we must pay attention because any lapse in concentration could see them decide the game.”

However Uruguay have flattered to deceive during this tournament. They hammered Tahiti 8-0 and narrowly defeated Nigeria after a 2-1 defeat to Spain in the opening game. Óscar Tabarez will probably switch to a formation that can adapt to a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3 at the drop of a hat.

But despite the Brazilians being wary of Uruguay’s attacking panache, Scolari’s side will get the main share of possession and must do something with it. If they don’t then Uruguay will make them pay, they are solid, won’t give up many chances and Brazil will find it tough going to make the final.

(MORE: More protests planned around Confederations Cup semifinal on Wednesday)

La Celeste will look to hit Brazil on the break with Cavani and Suarez lethal finishers when given the chance. Throw Forlan into the mix and there will be plenty of Uruguayans lining up to land the hammer blow if Brazil slip up. Everything is set up for a wonderful game in Belo Horizonte this afternoon. You can watch the game live on ESPN at 2:30pm ET in the US.

Juventus president Agnelli’s 1-year ban lifted on appeal

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ROME (AP) Juventus president Andrea Agnelli had his one-year ban for selling tickets to ultras lifted on Monday, but the Serie A club’s fine was doubled and it will have to play a match with one of its main sections closed.

[ MORE: Making sense of PL table in Man City’s world ]

Agnelli was banned for one year by the Italian soccer federation in September for his role in selling tickets to hardcore “ultra” fans that encouraged scalping. He was also fined 20,000 euros ($24,000).

The FIGC’s appeals court said it has changed Agnelli’s sanction “into a fine of 100,000 euros ($118,000) and a ban until today’s date.”

Juventus, however, was fined 600,000 euros ($708,000) and will have its Curva Sud closed for the home match against Genoa on Jan. 22.

The federation’s prosecutor, Giuseppe Pecoraro, had requested a 2 1/2-year suspension for Agnelli and also appealed the original decision.

Agnelli allegedly authorized the sale of season passes and other tickets. He acknowledged meeting with Rocco Dominello, an ultra fan linked to the Calabrian `ndrangheta crime mob who has since been sentenced to nearly eight years in prison for scalping.

But Agnelli said the meetings came only with large numbers of other fans at celebratory occasions, and that the club never intended to engage in illegal activity.

The 42-year-old Agnelli has led Juventus, the club his family has owned for nearly a century, since 2010.

Anti-mafia prosecutors said the `ndrangheta was involved in scalping among Juventus ultra fans for at least 15 years, guaranteeing order in the stadium in exchange for open ticket access.

Juventus denied any wrongdoing.

Juventus security director Alessandro D’Angelo and ticketing director Stefano Merulla have had their suspensions and fines canceled. D’Angelo was originally banned for 15 months, while Merulla had been handed a one-year suspension.

However, former marketing director Francesco Calvo had his appeal rejected and will be banned for one year and will have to pay a 20,000 euro ($24,000) fine.

WATCH LIVE: Everton vs. Swansea City

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Everton looks to continue its upswing while reversing the hoodoo of Swansea City when it hosts the Welsh side at Goodison Park on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Swans have not lost to Everton in three seasons, but sit bottom of the Premier League table.

Sam Allardyce started Gylfi Sigurdsson and Ashley Williams against the former side, while Paul Clement will hope to get an upset with Wilfried Bony up top.

LINEUPS

Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Martina, Holgate, Williams, Schneiderlin, Gana Gueye, Lennon, Rooney, Sigurdsson, Calvert-Lewin. Subs: Robles, Keane, Jagielka, Ramirez, Davies, Vlasic, Lookman.

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson, Roque Mesa, Fer, Carroll, Dyer, Narsingh, Bony. Subs: Nordfeldt, van der Hoorn, Rangel, Clucas, Sanches, Ayew, Abraham.

Timbers make it official: Savarese is the new boss

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The Portland Timbers have made it official, announcing the hiring of New York Cosmos architect Giovanni Savarese as the successor to Caleb Porter.

Savarese, 46, led the Cosmos to three NASL Championship Games in his first run as a manager, following a playing career that included stops at Millwall, NY/NJ MetroStars, and Swansea City. He attended Long Island University, and was capped 30 times with 10 goals for Venezuela.

[ BLANC: I turned down USMNT talks ]

He’s an intriguing hire for Portland, who won an MLS Cup but suffered from inconsistency under the highly-regarded Porter (twice missing the playoffs but twice earning the West’s No. 1 seed). While the Cosmos regularly spent well, Savarese navigated the uncertain waters of a nascent league with regular success.

From Timbers.com:

“I am both excited and proud to become the head coach of the Portland Timbers, and this is an ideal fit and outstanding opportunity for me as I take the next step in my coaching career,” Savarese said. “The passion, ambition and support surrounding this club is truly inspiring, and I am sincerely honored and grateful for this opportunity to lead it on the pitch and to build on the club’s history of success for the community and the incredible supporters of the Portland Timbers.”

The hiring has been rumored for some time. Though Savarese was loyal to the Cosmos, the NASL’s future has been hung in the hands of the legal system for some time due to a bold lawsuit against U.S. Soccer Federation. The NASL contends that the relationships between the USSF, Soccer United Marketing, United Soccer League, and Major League Soccer have conspired to stop the NASL from competing with MLS as a D-1 league.

LVG would only return to club football to get at Man Utd

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Leave it to The Daily Mirror to find that last bit of juice when it comes to Manchester United and former manager Louis Van Gaal.

Well, probably the last bit.

The Dutch manager said he does not expect to return to club football, unless one of the big boys in the Premier League offered him the chance to take a run at United. The Red Devils, of course, fired him shortly after an FA Cup title in order to hire Jose Mourinho.

[ MORE: WBA 1-2 Man Utd | Bournemouth 0-4 Liverpool ]

From The Mirror, quoting LVG at a Sunday night function in Rotterdam.

“I will probably not manage a club anymore,” Van Gaal said. “I would make one exception: If a big English club comes for me, than I would do it. Because then I can get the chance to get one over on Manchester United.’’

Could you see him getting a run at any of the Top Four contenders, even on a caretaker basis? Could Liverpool come calling if they tired of Jurgen Klopp one season, or might Arsenal or even Everton need a stopgap (should the Toffees spending come good)?