At halftime: Brazil with chances but no goals against Mexico — FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: An energetic start from Mexico gave way to Brazilian control, with a lack of quality in the middle of the park leaving El Tri unable to build anything going forward. Brazil, on the other hand, fully stressed Mexico’s defense, though missed chances from Fred and Neymar led the teams scoreless at halftime. While Mexico started to assert itself before intermission, it still finished the first period without a shot on target.

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Goals (and how they happened): They didn’t.

Other key moments:

11′ – After an energetic start from Mexico, Brazil gets its first chance down the left, where Oscar has been moved the absence of the injured Hulk. Cutting into the penalty box, the Chelsea midfielder plays a ball to the edge of the six with the outside of his right foot, giving Fred a chance from close range. The Brazilian striker fails to convert, leaving the match scoreless.

13′ – El Tri’s worst nightmare? That hamstrung midfield failing to take care of the ball. Early on, that fear almost came to fruition. Giving Neymar possession at the edge of the attacking third, the Mexico defense watched as Brazil’s most dangerous player was given a chance to choose between targets. When the play ultimately broke down, Mexico were spared, but more questions about the team’s midfield had emerged.

26′ – Mexico gets caught on a counter, but after Neymar’s ball from the left is cleared from the penalty area, Guillermo Ochoa looks like he’ll go untested. Dani Alves, however, thought otherwise, getting to the ball first and hitting a cross to the far corner. There, Neymar out-leaps Rafa Marquez to put a shot at Ochoa’s right post, with a lunging stop allowing Ochoa to keep the match scoreless.

41′ – What’s this? Mexico threatening? Just before halftime, it actually happened. After a clearance from an Andres Guardardo cross is worked back to the middle of the field, Jose Juan Vazquez takes a chance from 28 yards out. For a moment, it looks like the shot could curl inside the right post, but going just wide, the try left César without a save over the first 45 minutes.

43 – A restart fired into the Mexico box sees Paulinho deflect a ball behind the Mexican defense. As El Tri’s line pushes up the field, three Seleçao players are left in front of Ochoa. David Luiz gets to the ball but can’t get it past the Mexican keeper, failing to convert the team’s best chance of the half.

Lineups:

Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva (c), David Luiz, Marcelo, Paulinho, Fred, Neymar, Oscar, Ramires, Luiz Gustavo

Mexico: Ochoa, Rodriguez, Marquez (c), Herrera, Layun, Dos Santos, Moreno, Guardado, Peralta, Aguilar, Vazquez

Key players:

  • Neymar, Brazil – Oscar is having a great tournament, thus far, but with Luiz Felipe Scolari putting his star in the middle of the formation, it’s clear everything revolves around Neymar.
  • Oribe Peralta, Mexico – If Brazil maintains control, Mexico’s hopes will hinge on Peralta stealing a goal. The Santos striker won’t need many chances, but against Thiago Silva and David Luiz, the question is whether he’ll have any.

Numbers to know:

55-45: Possession goes in Brazil’s favor. If effective possession was a thing, the numbers would be even more lopsided, but thanks to Mexico coming into the match by the halftime whistle, the real numbers don’t look so lopsided.
4-0: Shots on target, in Brazil’s favor. In fairness, Hector Herrera had a try from distance that should have been recorded as a shot on target, but with the officials failing to see Júlio César’s touch, Brazil was awarded a goal kick.
11-6: Tackles won, in favor of Brazil. Oscar alone has disposed Mexico five times.

Question for the second half:

  • Does Mexico change it up? And if so, how? Miguel Herrera has done a good job of stabilizing this team, but he hasn’t been able to install a Plan B. If El Tri does change it up — and based on the first half, they’ll need to — it will may be more about personnel than approach.
  • Is Brazil waning? After a spirited Mexico stormed out of the gates, Brazil eventually took control, enjoying 20-25 minutes or primacy. But the end of the half, however, Mexico had started to get a grip on the game. Is that a pattern, or a blip?

LAFC selects Urena, 4 others in MLS Expansion Draft

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Los Angeles FC selected five players in the MLS Expansion Draft, including Costa Rican national team star Marco Urena.

Whether they’ll make their way to the City of Angels is another story.

The first pick from general manager John Thorrington was goalkeeper Tyler Miller from Seattle Sounders.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Going next was Latif Blessing from Sporting KC, an electric attacker who netted thrice with an assist last season.

Next was Urena from San Jose and the Costa Rican national team, a huge addition, and then Columbus left back Jukka Raitala before closing up the draft with Raheem Edwards from Toronto FC.

LAFC has already announced the signings or acquisitions of Carlos Vela, Walker Zimmerman, Carlos Alvarez, Monday Etim, and Guillermo Vizcarra.

The club will also loan Omar Gaber from Basel and Rodrigo Pacheco from Lanus.

WATCH LIVE: Three Premier League matches

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Chelsea visits the John Smith’s Stadium to face Huddersfield Town in one of three Premier League fixtures this chilly Tuesday in December (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues are now 14 points back of Manchester City, and three points clear of fifth place.

Meanwhile there are a pair of matches on NBC Sports Gold: Burnley looks to keep pace with its Top Four ambitions when it hosts struggling Stoke City, while in-form Crystal Palace seeks a home win that would move it out of the drop zone. In its way? Dangerous, attack-minded Watford.

Burnley vs. Stoke City — 2:45 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Crystal Palace vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

FIFA bans Colombia midfielder Cardona 5 games for gesture

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has banned Colombia midfielder Edwin Cardona for five matches for making a discriminatory gesture with his eyes toward a South Korean opponent.

FIFA will allow Cardona to serve the ban in friendly games, so he should be available for Colombia’s World Cup opener against Japan on June 19.

[ MORE: Pep on post-derby celebrations ]

Cardona has also been fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150) because of the incident last month in a friendly in Seoul.

Cardona apologized at the time, saying he “didn’t mean to disrespect anyone, a country or a race, but if anyone felt offended, or interpreted it in that way, I am sorry.”

Spurs’ Alderweireld won’t return until February

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Spurs finally got a bit of good news this weekend with a blowout of Stoke City.

That was a followed by a tough draw against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League, and bad news on an old injury.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Center back Toby Alderweireld is going to be gone into February, extending his time on the sidelines with a hamstring injury suffered Nov. 1 against Real Madrid.

Spurs were 6-2-2 in league when Alderweireld went down, and are just 2-2-2 since the injury. The Belgian has missed losses at Arsenal and Leicester, draws against Watford and West Brom, and wins over Crystal Palace and Stoke.

Tottenham did win both of its UCL matches since the injury.