Chile starts strong, earns nervy 3 points with 3-1 win over Australia

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It appeared to be over early, but Australia made things difficult on Chile, who ultimately earned all three points after a 3-1 win over the Socceroos in Cuiaba.

The first half was all Chile on possession, owning 70% of the ball, and they took advantage early.

The Chileans scored twice in two minutes, with Alexis Sanchez striking first in the 12th minute when the Socceroos failed to clear, bringing goalkeeper Maty Ryan out of the net and with the ball pinballing around, Ryan barely got back before Sanchez snuck it through.

It was Jorge Valdivia for their second just two minutes later as he got acres of space at the top of the box, and slammed the ball into the top corner.

Chile took their foot off the gas pedal though, and things settled down for Australia.  Despite holding very little of possession, they found an opportunity and took it 10 minutes from halftime.

Tim Cahill, one of the world’s best headers, pulled one-back for Australia when Ivan Franjic won the ball with an expert tackle on the right edge before sending a perfect ball into the box. It was more than enough for Cahill to do what he does best, and he nodded home powerfully.

source: AP
Australia’s Tim Cahill, as he has been his whole career, was a threat in the air up front.

In the second half Australia looked the more dangerous of the two, as Cahill looked to have a second but was rightly ruled offsides despite heading into the net.

The Aussies again threatened in the 57th minute as a ball flew into the box from the left, and while Cahill – up for the header again – seemed to be pushed, Mark Bresciano snuck in far post and ripped a close-range shot that was well saved by Claudio Bravo.

Chile removed Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal with a half-hour left as he returns from knee surgery, and Chile nearly grabbed a third just a minute later.

Alexis Sanchez slotted through Eduardo Vargas, who couldn’t put a powerful shot on target but still slid the ball towards the line. But Alex Wilkinson came in to clear, and booted the ball off the line just before it trickled over.

Again Australia threatened, again off the head of Cahill but his effort from Jason Davidson went just over the bar with 20 minutes to go.

Both sides looked to counter each other with substitutes, as both Jean Beausejour for Chile and Ryan McGowan for Australia made a positive for their respective countries.

As things wound down, tired legs marked both sides, and Chile put things away in stoppage time for an assured victory.  Beausejour was the man to finish long distance on the rebound after Pinilla’s effort was saved.

It was a valiant effort by the underdogs, but ultimately Australia end up with nothing to show for it, and Spain and the Netherlands still remaining.

The three points for Chile keep them along with the Netherlands, who stormed to a shocking 5-1 victory over the defending champions Spain. However, the Chileans did not come close to the goal differential of the Dutch, something that could be a factor going forward if the other two teams in Group B beat Australia by a wider margin.

[ MORE: Soccerly covers the World Cup ]

LINEUPS:

Chile – Bravo; Mena, Isla, Medel, Jara; Vidal (Gutierrez 60′), Valdivia (Beausejour 68′), Aranguiz, Diaz; Sanchez, Vargas (Pinilla 88′).

Goals – Sanchez 12′, Valdivia 14′, Beausejour 90+2′

Australia – Ryan; Franjic (McGowan 49′), Spiranovic, Wilkinson, Davidson; Bresciano (Troisi 78′), Milligan, Jedinak, Oar (Halloran 69′), Leckie; Cahill.

Goals – Cahill 35′

Watford signs Will Hughes from Derby County

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Watford has completed the capture of 22-year-old central midfielder Will Hughes, a fantastic transfer for one of England’s younger talents.

Hughes, despite his young age, racked up 189 appearances for Derby County (despite missing significant time in 2015 for an ACL tear) and now gets his first shot at the Premier League, and with it potentially a chance to push his way into the England fold. Hughes has been a staple for the England youth system, making 22 appearances for the country’s U-21 side but is yet to feature for the senior team.

The fee for the transfer was undisclosed but reports have tabbed the amount at around $10 million.

Hughes came close to making the Premier League with Derby County on multiple occasions, reaching the Championship playoffs in both 2014 and 2016. Now, he’ll battle the likes of Valon Behrami, Tom Cleverley, Etienne Capoue, Abdoulaye Doucoure for a spot in Watford’s midfield.

The club release confirmed that Hughes has not yet completed his medical, and will do so when he returns to the U.K. from competing in the U-21 European Championships in Poland.

New Zealand 0-4 Portugal: Ronaldo, Portugal win Group A

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New Zealand gave the 2017 Confederations Cup all they had, but they go home empty-handed as Portugal won the Group A finale 3-0 to advance to the knockout round.

Portugal held much of the possession as expected, but they found little at the end early on. The first true chance fell to Cristiano Ronaldo in the 24th minute, who latched onto a Ricardo Quaresma cross from wide right and produced a powerful header, but it was poorly directed straight to New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic for the easy save.

[ RECAP: Mexico eliminates Russia with 2-1 comeback ]

Ronaldo had another headed chance minutes later, but he rocketed the attempt back off the post. Portugal would eventually find the opener just past the half-hour mark via the penalty spot. Danilo was clearly shoved by a pair of defenders on a set-piece, and Ronaldo easily dispatched the spot-kick for a 1-0 lead.

The favorites would double their lead just a few minutes later as Eliseu on the overlap came down the left flank and cut horizontally into the box. He fed a charging Bernardo Silva, and the in-demand Monaco attacker jumped to meet it and poked home. Silva was unable to celebrate after turning his ankle heavily on the landing, but he would come back onto the field.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Portugal finished things off with 10 minutes to go in the game as Andre Silva burst through the midfielder, shucked his defender, and fired past Marinovic to seal the game for good. Nani added a fourth The win means Portugal finishes level on points with Mexico at the top of Group A, winning the group on goal differential thanks to Silva’s final goal.

Mexico 2-1 Russia: Comeback seals semifinal place

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Mexico again produced a poor first half, but were saved in the final 45 minutes as Juan Carlos Osorio led the CONCACAF squad to the semifinals of the 2017 Confederations Cup.

Right off the bat, there was a controversial moment. Just five minutes into the game, Yuri Zhirkov burst into the Mexico box and went to ground under a challenge from Hector Moreno. The referee waved play on, but it appeared on replay that Moreno tripped Zhirkov. Nevertheless, no call was made and no word came from the video assistant referee.

[ RECAP: Portugal eases by New Zealand 4-0 ]

The hosts had another huge penalty shout, but the referee again waved play on as Fedor Smolov was sent flying to ground as Nestor Araujo contacted his leg from behind in the 17th minute. After about a minute of play, the VAR called for a review, but even after a look at the monitor, the referee decided there was not obvious reason to reverse the call.

With Russia applying all the pressure, they would find the breakthrough in the 25th minute. A pair of fantastic saves from Memo Ochoa went for naught as Alexandr Erokhin whiffed, but he was able to find Aleksandr Samedov who struck low past Ochoa for the opener.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

The lead wouldn’t last long. Mexico didn’t exactly seem sparked by the deficit, but they would draw back level against the run of play just past the half-hour mark. It appeared that Nestor Araujo’s looping header was meant to set up a teammate at the far post, but it ended up chipping Igor Akinfeev and tucking inside the woodwork for the equalizer.

After halftime, Mexico scored completely out of nowhere. A bombed clearance out of the back by Hector Herrera seemed an easy collect for Akinfeev, but as the ball bounced high up into the air, Hirving Lozano charged it down and headed the ball under feeble pressure from the Russian goalkeeper. The ball bounced unchallenged into the net, and Mexico took a shock 2-1 lead.

Mexico appeared to have a third to pad the lead, but VAR took 34 seconds to correctly reverse the call as replay spotted goalscorer Hector Moreno in an offside position on the delivery. Russia was doomed to defeat when Zhirkov was given a second yellow card for a clear elbow to the face of Miguel Layun. Somehow, the hosts still had one big chance in the 72nd minute despite the disadvantage, but Igor Smolinkov somehow missed the net on what should have been a tap-in.

The win for Mexico sees them into the knockout stage, but they fail to win the group, finishing level with Portugal on 7 points but coming up short on goal differential by one. Mexico will be without Andres Guardado in the semifinals, as he was shown his second yellow card of the tournament in the first half.

Report: Arsenal owner calls Bellerin to state intentions

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According to a report by Spanish radio station Cadena SER, Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke has personally called defender Hector Bellerin to tell the Spaniard he would not be sold.

The 22-year-old experienced a serious regression at the Emirates last season, and with media speculation surrounding his potential departure, Kroenke wanted to make sure his intentions were clear. Reports had linked Bellerin with a return to his home country, most notably to Barcelona.

With Bellerin under contract through 2021 having just signed his extension last summer, it’s clear the club has decided who they believe keeping should be a priority.

The defender lost his place briefly down the stretch run last season, finding himself on the bench in seven of the club’s final 17 Premier League matches. Despite that, Arsenal still clearly values Bellerin’s talent and durability and hope to ward Barcelona’s interest off. Bellerin didn’t help cool speculation when he bought a house in Barcelona just a short time ago.

Reports say that Arsenal would not take any less than $57 million for their right-back.