Brazil v Spain: Final - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013

Neymar hands Barcelona fans hope amidst agony


Before the Confederations Cup many questioned the ability of Neymar. Today, one day removed from Brazil’s spectacular 3-0 hammering of Spain, no one is uttering the word ‘over-rated’ when it comes to the 21 year old forward.

From start to finish of the quadrennial World Cup warm-up tournament, Neymar dazzled audiences with an impressive array of speed, skill and superhuman finishing ability. While he did not rip enough net to win the Golden Boot – that feat went to Fernando Torres, who scored five in the tournament (four of which came against minnows Tahiti) – Neymar’s four goals were tallied in stunning fashion.

From his 25 yard top-corner volley against Japan, to his 16 yard volley against Mexico, to his expertly placed 20 yard free-kick against Italy, to his roof-crashing thump against Spain in the final, Neymar was the hands-down winner of the Golden Ball as the top player of the tournament.

Four goals. Two with the right foot. Two with the left foot. All absolute firecrackers.

It was the kind of complete performance that turned non-believers into disciples, haters into lovers. Although the good people of Barcelona must have woke up an awkward bunch today.

On one hand they will be disturbed by Spain’s performance.

The ruling class of world football may simply try to chalk the loss up to their side’s exhaustion from a never ending stream of top-level club and international football, but the truth is they legitimately should be worried as to how exposed tiki-taka has become over the last eight months (remember, the unraveling began in Celtic’s 2-1 victory over Barcelona last November, Bayern Munich’s 4-0 pumping this past April merely magnified it for everyone). Such a rationalization would be dismissive although given La Furia Roja‘s track record, acceptable.

On the other hand, fans in Barcelona will be reassured by their club’s decision to shell out a €57 million ($74.4m) transfer fee to bring Neymar to Camp Nou. They knew of his lightning pace, artistry on the ball and sniper-like finishing, but they worried, ad nauseam, that the Brazilian was too much of an individual and may not play well with others. Namely, Lionel Messi.

Those fears have been, for the meantime, put to bed as Neymar displayed an intricate understanding with the Seleção players around him, namely Fred and Oscar. If he can establish a similar kind of relationship with guys like Xavi, Messi and Andres Iniesta – and avoid the gormandizing tendencies that undid Zlatan Ibrahimovic while in Cataluña – the Blaugrana might just find themselves back atop the throne of Europe.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

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Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

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Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

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Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)