Uruguay, without Suarez and proper defending, stunned 3-1 by Costa Rica

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All the focus pre-match was on Luis Suarez, but it might be that Uruguay need a solid defender before they worry about their talisman up front.

On the bench to start thanks to knee surgery just two weeks ago, Suarez saw his side break down defensively on more than one occasion as Joel Campbell and Oscar Duarte both struck soon after halftime to earn Costa Rica a 3-1 win.

Both teams started brightly but cautiously, as Costa Rica looked to lock down Uruguay’s Suarez-less attack with a very physical style of play.

It came back to bite them early, and while Yeltsin Tejeda got away with a disgusting two-footed challenge on Cristian Rodriguez, the ensuing free kick in the 24th minute saw Diego Lugano tackled football-style by Junior Diaz, and Edinson Cavani buried the penalty for a 1-0 Uruguay lead.

Down early, Los Ticos didn’t seem like they knew how to build a sustained attack, keeping the South Africa semifinalists at bay going forward but not finding many opportunities themselves. Joel Campbell fired just wide of the corner after the Cavani goal, but there wasn’t much else to note in the half.

Halftime saw Uruguay lose their edge, and coming out of the break there was a slight shift in momentum.

Costa Rica knew they were just a goal down despite the seeming Uruguay dominance, and they nearly pulled back level just five minutes after the break. Christian Bolanos took a free kick after a yellow card to Diego Lugano, and it sailed to Oscar Duarte at the post who headed on target, but right at Muslera who saved. Had he gone far post he may have drawn it 1-1.

source: AP
Arsenal’s Joel Campbell scored one and assisted another in Costa Rica’s upset of a semifinalist four years ago.

However, it would come level just three minutes later, as Uruguay held possession but could not prove incisive, and Costa Rica struck on the counter.

Combination play down the right-hand side saw a cross come in which sailed over Celso Borges, but the ball fell to a trailing Joel Campbell completely unmarked at the far post, and he powerfully buried the chance for an even score.

It wouldn’t be level for long, because the Uruguayans again failed miserably to defend set pieces and soaring balls into the box. Walter Gargano earned a questionable yellow card, and it set up another Costa Rican free kick.

Bolanos took the free kick to the far post, and Bolanos beat Cristian Stuani to the ball for a diving header that went across the face and into the net for a 2-1 Costa Rican lead.

Following the goal, the Costa Ricans once again shut up shop, and as they had throughout much of the first half, Uruguay claimed solid possession but couldn’t find anything solid on goal.

Looking for a shocking win, Jorge Pinto’s Costa Rica sealed the deal as the manager picked out a great substitution for an instant and memorable impact. Removing Bryan Ruiz who had been a creative menace much of the match, Pinto brought on Marcos Urena with seven minutes to go in regulation, and just a minute later he would put the game away.

On a lovely thread from Campbell, Urena slotted home a slow-roller from a tight angle past a helpless Muslera off his line for a 3-1 lead and one of Costa Rica’s best-ever wins.

Things were made even worse for Uruguay as Maxi Pereira needlessly hacked down Campbell in extra time just seconds from the final whistle, producing a baffling kick to the Costa Rican’s shins which produced the tournament’s first red card from the referee.

The upset surely makes the incredibly deep Group D much more interesting, as it would seem that two results and only two results will now get Uruguay through, and those points must come against England and Italy.  For Costa Rica, the win is a massive boost, and while there is still work to do to beat out a former World Cup champion to a knockout round berth, there is now serious hope that the previously unthinkable is possible.

[ MORE: Soccerly covers the World Cup ]

LINEUPS:

Uruguay – Muslera; Pereira, Lugano, Godin, Canaceres; Gargano (Gonzalez 60′), Arevalo, Rodriguez (Hernandez 76′), Stuani; Forlan (Lodeiro 60′), Cavani.

Goals: Cavani 24′

Costa Rica – Navas; Duarte, Umana, Gamboa, Gonzalez, Diaz; Borges, Tejada (Cubero 75′); Ruiz (Urena 83′), Campbell, Bolanos (Barrantes 89′).

Goals: Campbell 54′, Duarte 58′, Urena 84′

Matuidi having a medical at Juventus ahead of move from PSG

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi was having a medical at Juventus on Wednesday ahead of a potential move to the Serie A club.

Juventus said that Matuidi arrived at Turin airport in the afternoon and was undergoing tests.

Juventus will reportedly pay PSG 20 million euros ($23 million) plus bonuses for the 30-year-old Matuidi, who had a year left on his contract with the French club.

[ MORE: Wenger issues updates on Alexis, Ox, Wilshere ]

PSG, which is also trying to balance the books after buying Neymar for 222 million euros, could not afford to lose Matuidi on a free transfer.

Matuidi played nearly 300 games for PSG in all competitions after joining from Saint-Etienne in 2011.

After a difficult first season, he quickly became an integral part of the team for successive managers, Carlo Ancelotti and Laurent Blanc.

He flourished from a largely defensive midfielder to a robust, tireless runner with an eye for goal and an enormous work-rate.

Overcoming some technical deficiencies in his game, Matuidi gradually earned himself a place in the France lineup and became a key player at the 2014 World Cup and last year’s European Championship.

At the beginning of last season, after Blanc was fired and replaced by Unai Emery, he expressed a desire to leave PSG and already wanted to join Juventus. But the club blocked his move, considering him too important to leave, and he stayed for another season.

Altogether, Matuidi has scored 33 goals for PSG in 295 appearances, becoming a well-respected player among fans and teammates alike, often taking a public stance when others would not and when tensions arose within the club.

In all, Matuidi has won four league titles, three French Cups and four League Cups with PSG.

This story has been corrected to show that Neymar’s fee was 222 million euros, not 220 million euros.

Furious Cristiano Ronaldo responds to five-game ban

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Cristiano Ronaldo has hit out at the Spanish soccer federation after his five game ban for pushing a referee in the back was upheld.

Ronaldo, 32, pushed the ref after he was shown a second yellow card in Real Madrid’s 3-1 win in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup at Barcelona on Sunday.

It capped an eventful El Clasico for Ronaldo who arrived in the second half as a sub, then scored a stunner to put Real 2-1 up.

He received his first yellow for taking off his shirt and holding it up to the Nou Camp crowd to mock Lionel Messi for doing the same in a goal celebration in April at the Santiago Bernabeu. Ronaldo then received a second yellow for going down in the box under a challenge.

In an Instagram post the Real Madrid forward had the following to say about the decision which sees him banned for the second leg ag the Bernabeu on Wednesday as well as Real’s next four games.

“It seems to me exaggerated and ridiculous, this is called persecution.”

 

 

LIVE – Champions League playoff: Napoli, Celtic, Sevilla in action

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Five more UEFA Champions League playoff first leg games take place on Wednesday after Liverpool, CSKA Moscow, APOEL and Qarabag all recorded wins on Tuesday to take them one step closer to the UCL group stage.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Brendan Rodgers‘ Celtic host Kazakhstan’s Astana at Celtic Park hoping for a big first leg lead with the Scottish champs aiming to make the UCL group stage for the second-straight season under former Liverpool boss Rodgers.

A tasty clash at the Stadio San Paolo sees Napolo host Nice in what is the best tie in the UCL playoff round. Can Lorenzo Insigne down Mario Balotelli and Co.?

Elsewhere Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir have the likes of Gael Clichy, Gokhan Inler and Emmanuel Adebayor as they try to upset Sevilla, while Greek giants Olympiacos host Croatia’s Rijeka, Israeli champs Hapoel Be’er Sheva do battle with Slovenian champs Maribor.

Below is the full schedule for Wednesday’s games, which kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, while you can click on the link above to follow live commentary on all five matches.


Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff first legs

Napoli vs. Nice
Cetlic vs. Astana
Olympiacos vs. Rijeka
Istanbul Basaksehir vs. Sevilla
Hapoel Be’er Sheva vs. Maribor

SERIE A 2017-18: 5 key players signed in the off season

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ROME (AP) Here’s a look at five offseason signings to watch in the upcoming Serie A season:

LEONARDO BONUCCI

Considered Italy’s top defender – which is saying a lot for a nation that prides itself on its great defenders – Bonucci’s transfer from Juventus to AC Milan could alter the balance of power in Serie A.

While Bonucci clashed often with Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri last season, his decision to leave the six-time defending champion was still surprising.

The 30-year-old Bonucci brings leadership qualities and will allow Milan coach Vincenzo Montella to employ a three-man defense that promotes the center back’s excellent passing skills.

Bonucci’s transfer fee topped 40 million euros ($45 million), and he signed a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Milan won the last of its 18 Serie A titles in 2011 – just before Juventus’ current reign started.

FEDERICO BERNARDESCHI

One of Italy’s top young players, the 23-year-old winger will provide a new attacking dimension for Juventus following a move from Fiorentina.

Also capable as a playmaker, there was pressure for Bernardeschi to take the No. 10 shirt that Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio and Alessandro Del Piero wore at Juventus. Bernardeschi cautiously chose No. 33 instead, saying he needs to show that he “deserves” No. 10 in the future.

Juventus paid a transfer fee of 40 million euros ($45 million) for Bernardeschi and signed him to a five-year contract worth 4 million euros ($4.6 million) per season.

BORJA VALERO

Another Fiorentina export, this Spanish passing wizard could provide Inter Milan with the touch of class that it lacked during a tumultuous campaign last season that included four managerial changes.

At 32, Valero has long been overlooked by Spain’s national team but he was a fan favorite at Fiorentina.

The bald-headed midfielder’s vision on the pitch can be compared to Andrea Pirlo’s skills, although he’s not as precise on free kicks as the former Italy international.

ANDRE SILVA

Cristiano Ronaldo’s wingman with Portugal, the 21-year-old Silva has been compared to a young Fernando Torres, the former Spain striker currently playing for Atletico Madrid.

At AC Milan, the tall forward should be a constant danger on set pieces inside the area.

Silva has already scored eight goals in just 13 matches for his national team.

He also scored 21 times in 44 matches for FC Porto last season, before joining Milan in a transfer that cost 38 million euros ($42.5 million).

MATTIA DE SCIGLIO

Mattia De Sciglio’s transfer from AC Milan was not greeted with too much enthusiasm by Juventus fans.

The fullback was brought in as a replacement for Dani Alves, who departed for Paris Saint-Germain, and supporters believe it’s a downgrade.

But De Sciglio is reliable at either right or left back and is still developing at 24 years old – even though he made his Serie A debut at 18.

It will be interesting to see if De Sciglio can prove the doubters wrong, and if he can fit into Massimiliano Allegri’s preferred three-man defense.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf