Neymar hands Barcelona fans hope amidst agony

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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.

VIDEO: Hamburg’s Muller out seven months after goal celebration

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Nicolai Mueller has gone full Gramatica, in doing so putting extra pressure on American teammate Bobby Wood.

Muller scored the lone goal in Hamburg’s season-opening win over Augsburg, but his celebration recalled memories of an injury to former Arizona Cardinals kicker Bill Gramatica.

[ MORE: Bundesliga wrap ]

Muller’s “helicopter” goal celebration, a staple for the midfielder, saw him tear his ACL upon landing near the corner flag. He’s set to miss seven months.

That means even more of the scoring burden will fall on Wood, whose nine goals last season led the team in its race to avoid relegation. Muller’s five goals were tied for second with Austrian forward Michael Gregoritsch.

Here’s the Hamburg hierarchy, from Bundesliga.com:

“The diagnosis comes as a huge shock to us, it’s a big blow at the start of the season and obviously is really tough on Nicolai,” said Hamburg sporting director Jens Todt. “We wish him all the best for his recovery and, of course, will support him as best we can.”

“It’s bad news,” added HSV head coach Markus Gisdol. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Muller has thrice scored eight or more Bundesliga goals, and is a huge loss for Hamburg. Though it’s tempting to chasten a player who’s hurt while celebrating a goal, there’s always a part of us that wants to point out that the ligament probably wasn’t in the finest shape if it earned a tear on such a non-explosive landing.

New Zealand star striker Wood to leave Leeds for Burnley

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Chris Wood is undergoing a medical at Burnley ahead of a proposed $19.2 million move from Leeds United.

Wood, 25, has played briefly for two Premier League clubs, West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City, but saw his stock explode thanks to a 27-goal campaign in the Championship this season.

[ MORE: Premier League Sat. roundup ]

Burnley hopes the 6-foot-3 Wood can help replace Andre Gray, who left for Watford. The Clarets beat Chelsea on Opening Weekend and were unlucky to lose against West Brom on Saturday.

He’s also scored in his lone Championship appearance this season, and has thrice earned promotion; Wood helped West Brom and Leicester to the Premier League, and Brighton and Hove Albion to League One.

Wood has for some time been a star on the New Zealand national team, scoring 20 goals in 52 caps since 2009. He’s a perfect fit for Sean Dyche‘s playing style. The only question is whether he can bring his prowess to the Premier League level.

Stream Live: Huddersfield Town vs. Newcastle United

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Huddersfield Town looks to stay perfect in the Premier League when it hosts Newcastle United at the John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Town handled Crystal Palace 3-0 in its first match since earning promotion from the Championship, powered by a brace from 22-year-old ex-Montpellier striker Steve Mounie.

USMNT midfielder Danny Williams is on the bench for Town, which is managed by ex-USMNT player David Wagner.

[ STREAM: Huddersfield Town vs. Newcastle United ]

Newcastle United, meanwhile, fell 2-0 to Tottenham Hotspur. The clubs were scoreless through 50 minutes when Jonjo Shelvey stamped on Dele Alli and earned a red card.

He sits Sunday, and will be replaced by Borussia Dortmund loanee Mikel Merino.

LINEUPS

Huddersfield Town: Lossl, Smith, Billing, Schindler, Zanka, Lowe, Mooy, Van La Parra, Kachunga, Ince, Mounie. Subs: Coleman, Malone, Lolley, Williams, Quaner, Hefele, Palmer.

Newcastle United: Elliot, Manquillo, Lascelles, Mbemba, Clark; Ritchie, Merino, Hayden, Atsu; Perez, Gayle. Subs: Darlow, Saivet, Aarons, Diame, Murphy, Joselu, Mitrovic.

MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 1-3 Toronto FC (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Greg Vanney and Toronto keep on doing their thing, and the Canadian side is yet another step closer to achieving MLS glory. TFC picked up its 50th point of the season on Saturday night after comfortably handling the Chicago Fire, who have cooled off significantly as of late in the Eastern Conference. The Fire are now nine points behind the East leaders and are losers of four of their last five matches.

Three moments that mattered

54′ — Accam, Fire level it up — Toronto really does manage to get contributions from everybody…

64′ — Hasler nets first MLS goal — Toronto really does manage to get contributions from all of their players…

90′ — Giovinco says goodnight to Chicago — That’s 12 goals on the season for Sebastian Giovinco and the TFC striker continues to help his side push towards the top seed in the East and MLS.

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Man of the match: Sebastian Giovinco

Goalscorers: Marco Delgado (14′), David Accam (54′), Nick Hasler (63′), Sebastian Giovinco (90′)