Klose’s record-tying equalizer salvages Germany draw against Ghana

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In a tournament that’s defied the notion of World Cup favorites, Germany nearly became the latest titan to stumble, but thanks to a late, historic goal from Miroslav Klose, the three-time champions were able to salvage a result against Ghana. After second half goals from André Ayew and Asamoah Gyan put the Black Stars on the verge of the upset, Klose’s 15th World Cup goal pulled Germany even, with the 2-2 final keeping the 2010 semifinalists at the top of Group G.

Germany opened the scoring in the 51st minute when Mario Götze headed home from close range, but goals from Ayew and Gyan in the 54th and 63rd minutes had the West African nation on the brink of a landmark victory. In the 71st minute, however, a corner kick flicked on by Benedikt Höwedes allowed Klose to tie the record for most career goals at the World Cup, his sliding finish salvaging a point for his country.

With the result, Germany moves one point ahead of the United States ahead of the U.S.’s meeting with Portugal on Sunday in Manaus. The two teams will meet in Recife to close group play on Thursday, with the winner potentially claiming first place in Group G.

Kicking off at the same time, Ghana will face Portugal, with today’s draw ensuring the Black Stars will have something to play for at kickoff  in Brasília.

[ MORE: Talking points after Ghana trips up Germany ]
[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

From the opening kickoff, Germany controlled possession, but the game’s first chance went to Ghana in the seventh minute, with a Christian Atsu ball played to Asamoah Gyan at the edge of the six-yard box eventually put into the stands. Throughout the rest of the half, Germany used their 59 percent possession to consistently threaten, often passing behind Ghana’s fullbacks before attempting to find Thomas Müller in front of goal. Strong play from defender John Boye kept Germany off the scoresheet, while chances for Atsu and Sulley Muntari tested Neuer at the other end of the field.

Six minutes into the second half, Germany finally broke through. After Müller, floating wide right, was allowed to stand over a ball 26 yards out, the Bayern Munich attacker picked out club teammate Mario Götze making a run from the left, inside full back Harrison Afful. Meeting the ball six yards from goal, the 22-year-old gave Fatau Dauda little chance to prevent the opener, heading down and in to give Germany a 1-0 lead.

The lead lasted three minutes, with Ghana’s own cross-header combination pulling the Black Stars even. From the right flank, Afful launched a ball toward a defense matched three-on-three with Ghanaian attackers. That left André Ayew isolated with substitute right back Shkodran Mustafi, who couldn’t prevent the Marseille man from heading inside Neuer’s right post. In the 54th minute, the underdogs had evened the score.

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Asamoah Gyan oelebrates with his teammates scoring his team’s second goal n Fortaleza, Brazil. (Source: Getty Images)

Nine minutes later, Ghana had their lead. After intercepting a ball in his opponent’s half, Muntari was able to catch the German defense in transition, played a between Per Mertesacker and Mats Hummels that sent Gyan in on goal. A confident finish into the left side-netting gave the underdogs a 2-1 lead, handing one of the tournament favorites their first deficit of the competition.

In the 71st minute, the game swung back toward the Germans, with a record-tying goal allowing the Nationalmannschaft to pull even. Off a corner from the left side, a Benedikt Höwedes flick toward the right of goal was helped in by Klose, whose sliding finish defused Ghana’s upset hopes. Drawing even with Brazilian legend Ronaldo for the tournament lead in career goals, the veteran striker made it 2-2.

Momentum from the goal kept Germany in control, but it wasn’t until the 84th minute that the chances resumed. Müller had an opportunity  from the middle of the area to put the Germans in front only to see Asamoah come from Ghana’s left to make a stop. Two minutes later, Jonathan Mensah came up big on a ball played across the six by Özil, while Klöse pulled a 90th minute chance wide of the left post. In the 92nd minute, Ghana had its own chance to claim a winner, but a three-on-two counter after a corner kick ended with an offside call.

At match’s end, Ghana had one of its most-famous results, but they also had the reality of an opportunity lost. Up 2-1 with 27 minutes left, the Black Stars had a chance to reclaim their own knockout round destiny. Thanks to Miroslav Klose, they now need help.

For Germany, the match was a reminder of their vulnerability, with a defense that’s been questioned since the emergence of the country’s new talent, the team was left on the verge of an upset.

It was yet another reminder. In a tournament where the holders are already out, where the likes of Brazil and Argentina have proved mortal, Germany can be beaten. There may be no favorites at this year’s World Cup.

Lineups

Germany: Neuer; Howedes, Hummels, Mertesacker, Boateng (Mustafi 45′); Lahm, Khedira (Schweinsteiger 70′), Kroos; Götze (Klose 69′), Müller, Ozil

Goals: Götze 51′, Klöse 71′

Ghana: Dauda; Afful, Mensah, Boye, Asamoah; Rabiu (Badu 78′), Muntari, Atsu (Wakaso 71′), A. Ayew; Boateng (J. Ayew 52′), Gyan

Goals: A. Ayew 54′, Gyan 63′

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.