Spain v Italy: Semi Final - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013

Spain into the Confederations Cup final on penalties


Italy put up a brave fight against the world number-one team, but Spain is through to the final after Leonardo Bonucci’s penalty miss allowed the favorites an opportunity.

An exciting yet goalless match saw Spain play bend but don’t break for most of the match, and their late charge in extra time wasn’t enough despite hitting the post a number of times.

Bonucci shot high and right after six scores for each side in the shootout, and Jesus Navas finished it off for Spain to book their ticket to the finals, where they will face the much more rested Brazil.

Keepers Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon weren’t even able to get a sniff of the ball during the shootout, with both driven and cheeky chip efforts finding their ways into the back of the net. Only Bonucci’s miss didn’t end up in goal.

Buffon kept Spain out but also looked shaky as he has the whole tournament, and it will leave Italy fans wondering how much the legendary keeper has left in the tank.  He looked especially off-balance on a shot by Jesus Navas late in extra time that he dove awkwardly at and could only palm it into the post and out.

Italy also struggled to find the final touch without Mario Balotelli in the lineup, as the mercurial youngster missed out with a torn quad, having already returned to Italy.

Spain also struggled in front of goal early, finishing the first half with 68% of possession but only firing off two shots to Italy’s nine.

The host nation Brazil will now face their toughest test yet in Spain, with both teams struggling but winning in their semifinals.  Brazil didn’t bring their A+ game to their match with Uruguay, but it was enough to win after Diego Forlan had a key penalty saved.

The final will be on Sunday at 5:00 PM on ESPN.

Italy will play Uruguay in the battle for third place on Sunday at 10 AM on ESPN.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.