Brazil's Neymar, left, and Mexico's Francisco Rodriguez challenge for the ball during the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Mexico at the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Mexico hands Brazil its first 2014 World Cup blemish, draws host nation, 0-0

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The favorites have been handed their first blemish, and in the process, a Mexico side that barely made Brazil 2014 assuaged doubts that their qualifying form were persist at the 2014 World Cup. After 90 minutes in Fortaleza, El Tri had earned a 0-0 draw against Brazil, leaving the North American powers even with the tournament hosts at the top of Group A.

Controlling the first half, Brazil nearly took the lead three times, though Fred, Neymar, and David Luiz each missed opportunities to open the scoring before intermission. After the break, a revitalized Mexico took more control, though the half’s best chance saw Thiago Silva nearly claim full points from Brazil in the 86th minute. A late chance for Raul Jimenez forced a diving punch by Júlio César, but come full-time, a game of two markedly different halves ended as it started. Brazil had dropped its first points of the tournament.

The teams will finish play in Group A on Monday when the hosts face Cameroon in Brasília while Mexico takes on Croatia in Recife. Both teams, sitting on four points after two games, can advance to the final 16 with victories in their final matches.

[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

Any expectations Mexico would settle into its underdog role were dispelled at the opening whistle, with a contentious Tricolor proving more energetic over the opening minutes. Once Brazil settled in, the match swung the way of the favorites, with the middle of the period defined by occasional Mexico possession breaking up Brazilian control.

That control produced the favorites’ first big chance in the 11th minute when a ball played from Oscar saw Fred shoot wide from close range. Two minutes later, a giveaway at the edge of Mexico’s defensive third led to a near-chance in transition, while a header from Neymar in the 26th minute forced a diving stop from Guillermo Ochoa. Come halftime, Brazil had registered four shots on target, with a late chance for David Luiz nearly giving the hosts a lead minutes before intermission.

Despite that advantage, Brazil changed at halftime, introducing Bernard at the expense of Ramires. The Chelsea midfielder had started in place of Hulk but to little effect, with Bernard eclipsing his contributions when a 48th minute cross nearly found Neymar at Ochoa’s right post. Francisco Rodriguez tracked the run and headed the ball out of play, thwarting the home side’s first chance of the half.

source: AP
Brazil’s Thiago Silva prevents Mexico’s Oribe Peralta from getting to the ball during the match between Brazil and Mexico. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

Ten minutes into the half, however, the quality Mexico’s midfield lacked over the first half had begun to emerge, with Hector Herrera and the rest of El Tri’s three-man middle winning more 50-50 balls in the center of the park. As a result, José Juan Vazquez was able to tee-off from distance in the 55th minute, while a deflected shot from Giovani Dos Santos moments later represented Mexico’s second try in minutes. When, in the 57th minute, Herrera put a left-footed blast from 19 yards into the crowd, Mexico’s strong start to the second half had been confirmed.

Through the 69th minute, Mexico’s control continued, but when the Selecao was able to find Dani Alves at Ochoa’s left post, their progress was nearly rendered moot. Bringing a ball from wide down onto his left foot, Alves hit a hard half-volley just inside the upright. Ochoa, however, was there to make one of his six stops. When he claimed an ensuing cross, the out-of-contract keeper had defused another Brazil opportunity.

The chance signaled a turn in the game. Whereas Mexico had asserted itself over the half’s first 20 minutes, Brazil started to find opportunities as the game reached its final chapter. Suddenly an underdog that had opened up to chase an upset was forced to reassess. Forcing Mexico to make  a number of vital stops just outside its penalty area, Brazil was again dictating play.

In the 86th minute, the favorites had their last chance. After Luiz Gustavo drew a foul deep down Mexico’s right, a restart played to the edge of the six-yard box connected with an unmarked Thiago Silva, but the Brazilian captain’s header found Ochoa, who pushed the game’s chance out of goal.

The save not only kept Ochoa’s clean sheet but kept Mexico tied on top of Group A, with the team’s unlikely point from the tournament hosts meaning only goal difference separates two teams that have collected four points. Though one will celebrate while the other laments the result in Fortaleza, both teams will enter Monday’s final group games knowing a win books them a place in the second round.

Lineups

Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva (c), David Luiz, Marcelo, Paulinho, Fred (Jô 68′), Neymar, Oscar (William 84′), Ramires (Bernard 46′), Luiz Gustavo

Goals: None.

Mexico: Ochoa, Rodriguez, Marquez (c), Herrera (Fabian 76′), Layun, Dos Santos (Jimenez 84′), Moreno, Guardado, Peralta (Hernández 74′), Aguilar, Vazquez

Goals: None.

VIDEO: 70-yard volley from Chile is nearly impossible to believe

Alejandro Camargo, Universidad de Concepcion
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His name is Alejandro Camargo, and he scored what might just go down as the best goal of 2016 on Sunday: an impossibly perfect volley from well beyond the halfway line.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

Miguel Pinto is the opposing goalkeeper whose long-range clearance, which covered about 50 yards during the final seconds of Universidad de Concepcion’s clash with O’Higgins in the Chilean first division, was taken off the fly, first-time, by the Argentine midfielder to seal a 3-1 victory for the home side.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

“The coach told us Pinto was always playing in advance of his goal, so I closed my eyes and hit it,” Camargo said after the game.

“Hit it and hope” has never looked so good.

Roma fans stay away from derby to protest new security barriers

A view of a huge section of empty seats as Roma fans desert derby in protest over security barriers, during a Serie A soccer match between Lazio and Roma, at the Rome Olympic stadium Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
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ROME (AP) Roma’s most ardent supporters stayed away from the derby match against Lazio in protest at barriers introduced at the start of last season in their area.

Normally filled with supporters waving huge banners, lighting flares and singing, half of the “curva sud” — southern end — of the Stadio Olimpico was left empty for Sunday’s match.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

Three of Roma’s locally born standouts held a meeting with the “ultra” fans during the week. Captain Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi asked the supporters to return, and the club itself has also tried to resolve the matter.

But the appeals had no effect.

In contrast, Lazio fans filled the northern end of the stadium as usual.

The plexiglass barriers were put in place by city officials for security reasons.

VIDEO: “Behind The Badge: Watford FC” — Episode 2

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In Episode 2 of Behind the Badge: Watford FC, watch the players’ recovery after a win against Leicester, a look at the club’s one-of-a-kind internship program and a flashback to a memorable moment in Watford’s history.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

To watch past episodes of Behind The Badge, including last season’s edition featuring a look inside Crystal Palace, head over to the full archive by clicking here.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Above video
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN

Pardew saves his job, says Palace owners “don’t know a lot about football”

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Alan Pardew, Manager of Crystal Palace thumbs up prior to the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Southampton at Selhurst Park on December 3, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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While some may advise that keeping a low profile would best suit Alan Pardew right now, Crystal Palace’s embattled manager is of a totally different mindset.

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Following Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Southampton, in which Pardew’s side saved his job (for the time being), the 55-year-old Eagles boss and former player chose the first bright moment, Palace’s first Premier League win since Sept. 24, to hit out at the club’s new American owners with a scathing assessment of the footballing prowess, or perhaps lack thereof — quotes from the Guardian:

“The chairman got a bit edgy this week, as you’d expect. We have a lot of serious investors at the club who perhaps don’t know a lot about football so the chairman has been defending me.

“I always think as a manager at any level, particularly in the modern era, expect the sack. Just expect it; it’s coming at some stage, so just do your job as best you can. Every week, that’s what I try to do.

“Sometimes it’s hard to dress up six defeats when you’re the owner of the club and you have investors. Obviously there are things he’s got no control over but he’s tried to offer me all the assistance that he could. He’s been brilliant for me and I just want to say thank you to him really.”

With various reports linking Sam Allardyce and Roberto Mancini to a job which he still holds, it’s understandable that Pardew would be slightly on edge, quick to thump his chest and restake his claim as the right man for the job, but perhaps alienating and borderline embarrassing the new investors, who are now responsible for signing your paychecks, wouldn’t have been my go-to move.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

On the other hand, as Pardew rightly stated in the above quotes, his day of reckoning will eventually arrive, so what’s he really got to lose?