At halftime: Own goal, Neymar score leave Brazil even with Croatia — FOLLOW LIVE

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source: APStory of the half: A slow start from the tournament favorites gave Croatia two chances within 11 minutes, the second of which ended in a Marcelo own goal. Just after the 20th minute, however, the true Brazil started to shine through, leading to a 29th minute equalizer from Neymar. Through the game reached the break 1-1, Brazil was on the front foot at the first half whistle.

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Goals (and how they happened):

11′ Marcelo (o.g.) – Ivica Olic’s ball rolled in from the left looked innocuous enough, but after Nikica Jelavic tipped the pass beyond a sliding David Luiz, Marcelo was caught off guard. His one-touch finish into his own net gave Croatia a shock lead. The was the first own goal in Brazil’s World Cup history. Croatia, 1-0.

29′ – Neymar – It looked like a speculative shot, especially when the Brazil star scuffed his try from 24 yards, but a slow reaction from Stipe Pletikosa saw Neymar’s shot take advantage of Arena Corinthians’ perfectly manicured pitch. The bouncing equalizer inched inside the lower-left hand corner. Even, 1-1.

Other key moments:

7′ – Even before Marcelo’s generosity, Croatia had a chance to draw first blood. Following a pass intercepted at the edge of Brazil’s attacking third turning, a quick opportunity from the right flank allowed Ivan Perisic to cross far post for Ivica Olic. The snap header went wide of the mark, but Croatia had served notice.

21′-22′- More of a span than a moment, but near the middle of the half, Brazil finally woke up. Bursting through the defense in the right of the box, Paulinho put a shot from 10 yards right at Stipe Pletikosa – Brazil’s first serious chance of the match. A minute later, a ball played from the byline by Neymar was tipped out to Oscar, who forced Pletikosa to punch a ball driven toward the keeper’s right post.

27′ – An arm to the head of Luka Modric showed Neymar’s disapproval of the Croatian’s new haircut. It also drew the tournament’s first yellow card. Neymar’s not a particularly foul-prone player, but he has been known to make the most of contact. Now, he’s one card away from being dismissed (or, in another game, earning a suspension).

Impact players

  • Ivica Olic, Croatia – the workhorse forward, deployed wide left, took advantage of a shaky right side of the Brazilian defense, earning an early chance and “assisting” on Marcelo’s 11th minute misstep.
  • Neymar, Brazil – Even before his equalizer, the Brazilian star had started to assert himself. Brought in from wide to play through the middle, the Selecao’s best player had little trouble finding the ball.

Question(s) for the second half:

  • Will Croatia pull back? – The underdogs started a relatively ambitious lineup, but with their success as the onset having waned, will (or, when) Croatia pull back and play for a point?
  • Can Brazil get Oscar involved? – Luiz Felipe Scolari moving Neymar to the middle pushed the Chelsea midfielder to a wide, somewhat anonymous position. If Oscar is not going to be more involved, Brazil may as well play somebody who can help protect Dani Alves.
  • How worrisome is that Brazilian right? – Dani Alves was poor on the Perisic cross, and the Croatia goal was built down the Croatia left. We can only take so much from a 45-minute stretch, but given what we knew about Alves coming into this tournament, how much problematic is the right side of Brazil’s defense?

EURO 2016: Spain, Switzerland earn qualification

<> on October 9, 2015 in Logrono, Spain.
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Catch up on all of Friday’s EURO qualification action, as two more teams have booked a ticket to France.

Spain 4-0 Luxembourg

Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla hadn’t scored a competitive goal for Spain in more than six years, but he scored twice today to help earn his country a berth in EURO 2016. Cazorla and Paco Alcacer scored all four goals for the Spanish, while Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas became Spain’s all-time leader in assists. However, both David Silva of Manchester City and Alvaro Morata of Juventus were forced off with injuries, with Morata’s looking to be serious.

Switzerland 7-0 San Marino

Switzerland led just 1-0 at halftime, but a six-goal second half which included three penalty kicks means the Swiss have secured qualification from Group E for EURO 2016. As expected, Switzerland dominated every aspect of the match against minnows San Marino, and Vladimir Petkovic’s side had seven different goalscorers.

[ MORE: Thursday’s EURO 2016 roundup — Northern Ireland qualify ]

England 2-0 Estonia

England remained perfect in Group E, taking their ninth win from nine matches today at Wembley. Theo Walcott‘s great scoring form from Arsenal carried over to the national side, opening the scoring just before halftime. In the second half, Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy came on as a substitute and assisted to Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, who made it 2-0. With a few minutes to play, Tottenham teenager Dele Alli got a short run in his England debut.

Elsewhere in EURO qualifying

Group C

Macedonia 0-2 Ukraine
Slovakia 0-1 Belarus

Group E

Slovenia 1-1 Lithuania

Group G

Liechtenstein 0-2 Sweden
Moldova 1-2 Russia
Montenegro 2-3 Austria

Sergio Aguero expects to miss a month with hamstring injury

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After scoring five goals against Newcastle United, Sergio Aguero may have to wait a bit of time to get back to scoring in the Premier League.

The Manchester City striker lasted just 25 minutes in Argentina’s World Cup qualifier on Thursday, as he was stretchered off with a hamstring injury. 

Aguero underwent testing in Argentina, and told the local media “I think I’m going to be out for a month.”

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Manchester City and Argentina teammate Nicolas Otamendi said Aguero was in tears in the dressing room, and some reports have penned the injury as a torn hamstring.

If Aguero were to be ruled out for a month, he would miss City’s Champions League clash vs. Sevilla, as well as the massive Manchester derby away at United on October 25.

To make matters worse for City supporters, David Silva was forced off after just ten minutes while playing for Spain today. Silva took a harsh challenge from behind, and hobbled off with what looked to be an ankle injury. If Silva’s injury ends up being more than just a knock, City could be without their two most important players in the attack.