Two goals from Neymar give Brazil 4-1 win over Cameroon, first in Group A

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With his third and fourth goals of the 2014 World Cup, Brazilian star Neymar has put his team into the knockout round. Scoring in the 17th and 34th minutes, the 22-year-old helped send his team into halftime with a one-goal lead over Cameron, with second half goals from Fred and Fernandinho delivering a 4-1 win for the hosts in their nation’s capital.

Neymar opened the scoring with a right-footed finish from the middle of the Cameroon penalty area, an opener that was pulled back by a Joel Matip in the 26th minute. Just past the half-hour mark, a shot from the top of the area into the left of goal completed Neymar’s brace, with a close-range finish just after halftime giving Fred his first World Cup goal. With a toe-poke from the left of the area in the 84th minute, Fernandinho closed the scoring, helping the Seleçao hold off Mexico in Group A.

With the win, Brazil moves on to the knockout round, where they will face Chile on Saturday in Belo Horizonte. Cameroon leaves Brazil 2014 without a point, having lost seven straight matches at World Cups.

[ MORE: Mexico surge past Croatia | Dutch down Chile | Spain conquers Socceroos ]
[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

Early Brazil attacks down the team’s right flank provided hints the favorites would control the match, but as Cameroon came into the game, the opening moments found a surprising equilibrium.

That changed in the 17th minute when Luiz Gustavo forced a turnover at the edge of Brazil’s attacking third. Moving down the left side, the Seleçao midfielder played a ball toward the penalty spot. There, Neymar had cut across central defender Joel Matip to create room to finish inside Charles Itanjde’s left post.

Cameroon responded quickly when the second ball in from a 26th minute corner found Matip in front of goal. His one-timed finish of Nyom’s cross gave Júlio César no chance to prevent the shock equalizer.

Neymar, however, made sure Brazil’s response was just as swift. Given room to cut onto his right foot at the top of Cameroon’s penalty area, the Barcelona star pulled his shot into the left of goal, giving Brazil the 2-1 lead they’d take into halftime.

Just after intermission, a chipped cross from Neymar was cleared out of the Cameroon area, where midfielder Fernandinho was able to maintain Brazil’s possession. After the ball went wide to David Luiz, the Brazilian defender found Fred in front of goal, where the striker headed home his team’s third goal.

Six minutes from time, just as Mexico’s scoreline against Croatia was threatening to vault El Tri first in Group A, Brazil found added insurance. Running onto an Oscar pass in the left of Cameroon’s penalty area, Fernandinho finished far post to give Brazil their fourth goal, ensuring the hosts would finish first in their group.

The win guaranteed Brazil, who came into the day tied at the top of their group, would avoid the Netherlands to open the next round. Unfortunately, the alternative doesn’t provide much relief. Chile, seen by many as one of the tournament’s dark horses, await the World Cup favorites.

Lineups

Cameroon: Itanjde; Mbia, N’koulou, Nyom, Bedimo; Matip, Enoh, N’Guémo; Moukandjo (Salli 58′), Aboubakar (Webó 72′), Choupo-Moting

Goals: Matip 26′

Brazil: César; Alves, Silva, Luiz, Marcelo; Gustavo, Paulinho (Fernandinho 46′); Oscar, Neymar (Willian 71′), Hulk (Ramires 63′); Fred

Goals: Neymar 17′, 34′, Fred 49′, Fernandinho 84′

Celtic’s Griffiths tears into Rangers chairman after “gulf” comments

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Celtic star Leigh Griffiths took the Old Firm bait and promptly swallowed the fisherman.

If you missed it, Rangers chairman Dave King said Celtic should’ve been even further ahead of their rivals given the setbacks handed to Rangers, who finally climbed back to the Scottish Premiership this season.

Celtic went unbeaten, drawing just four of 38 matches and finished 39 points ahead of Rangers on the table.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

If Celtic won all 38, they could’ve finished 47 points clear of Rangers. So, we guess the gulf could be bigger.

Here’s what Griffiths had to say:

“What was the gulf? 30-odd points. How does he expect that to be bigger? They were touting at the start of last season that they were going to win the league and this and that.

Joey Barton was coming up and saying he was going to be the best player in Scotland – he lasted a few months. In the first [Old Firm] game, they got hammered 5-1 and they got hammered 5-1 at the end of the season. So, the gulf couldn’t be any bigger. This season, they’ll be trying to bridge the gap.

“Ultimately it’s about what we do and if we are at our best nobody in Scotland can live with us.”

It was absurd talk from King, who doesn’t need to amp up one of the world’s best rivalries and also doesn’t have a leg to stand on considering the dominant season from the Bhoys. Wow.

San Jose adds Designated Player from Legia Warsaw

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Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili is the latest MLS Designated Player, as the Georgian will hit the pitch for San Jose this season provided his visa and ITC go through.

Qazaishvili comes from Legia Warsaw after five seasons with Vitesse in the Eredivisie. The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been capped 24 times, and scored in Georgia’s 2-2 draw with Moldova earlier this month in World Cup qualifying.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Equally adept at right or left wing, Qazaishvili posted a goal and two assists for Legia following his transfer from Vitesse. He scored 28 goals and added 13 assists in 121 matches for the Dutch side.

From SJEarthquakes.com:

“We were looking for a player, a younger, offensive player, that really excites the fans and has the possibility to stay with us for a long period of time. That’s what we found with Vako,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli. “We wanted a player that knows how to take on a defender one-on-one, that sees the goal and that also wants to bring a spark to our game.”

San Jose sits seventh in the Western Conference table, and only two teams — Colorado and DC — have scored fewer goals in MLS. Jahmir Hyka and Cordell Cato have been fine, but San Jose needed a better chance creator.

Qazaishvili, in theory, fits the bill. If he has half the impact of fellow Legia export Nemanja Nikolic, San Jose is cooking with gas.

Transfer rumor roundup: Van Dijk to Chelsea, Ox to Anfield

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More and more players are being linked with Manchester United, but — believe it or not — the Red Devils aren’t the only club seeking talent.

DiMarzio is reporting that Antonio Conte is close to securing the services of Southampton center back Virgil Van Dijk, insisting the Dutch back is Conte’s top choice ahead of Juventus power house Leonardo Bonucci (which isn’t to say there isn’t room for both). The price? An eyebrow-raising $77 million.

[ MORE: Confederations Cup scenarios ]

Meanwhile, Conte is selling talented Bertrand Traore outside the Premier League. A solid season on loan at Ajax upped interest in the 21-year-old striker, and L’Equipe says it’s a $22 million move to Lyon for Traore.

How much do you think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is worth? Liverpool may think his value is as high as $32 million, as The Independent reports that Arsenal is prepared to sell the Southampton Academy product to the attacker-heavy Reds.

Meanwhile, Serge Gnabry‘s wild journey looks to have another stop despite a purchase from Bayern Munich this summer. Gnabry was one of Germany’s heroes at the Olympics and left Arsenal for Werder Bremen last summer. He thrived, and earned a deal to Bayern, but Kicker brings quotes from a Hoffenheim player that are hopeful of a loan for this season.

Messi offers to pay $558,000 to avoid 21-month jail sentence

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi has offered to pay an additional fine of 500,000 euros ($558,000) to ensure he avoids a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud that a judge is expected to suspend, a Spanish state prosecutor said Friday.

State prosecutor Isabel Lopez Riera told The Associated Press the fine-for-time deal was presented by Messi’s lawyers to the judge who will rule on whether to suspend Messi’s sentence – as is widely expected. Lopez Riera said she has told the judge that her office is not opposed to the deal.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Lopez Riera said Messi’s lawyers have made a similar offer for the Barcelona player’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi. He is offering to pay 360,000 euros ($402,000) to avoid his 15-month sentence for helping his son cheat on his taxes.

In Spain, prison sentences under 24 months for first-time offenders can be suspended by a judge.

The government attorney representing Spain’s Tax Office in the case will also be able to weigh in on the proposed deal. As state prosecutor, Lopez Riera is impartial in the case as a defender of the public interest.

Last year, a court in Barcelona found Messi and his father each guilty of three counts of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million) from 2007-09. The unpaid taxes were from money made through endorsement deals, not Messi’s salary paid by Barcelona.

Messi was fined 2 million euros and his father 1.5 million euros. Both were originally sentenced to 21 months, but his father’s sentence was later reduced to 15 months.

In the last two weeks, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and former Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho have been accused by a Madrid-based state prosecutor of having defrauded Spain’s Tax Office of millions of euros (dollars) in unpaid taxes.

Both have denied wrongdoing.