Brazil's Neymar kicks the ball past Cameroon's Joel Matip to score his side's first goal during the group A World Cup soccer match between Cameroon and Brazil at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, June 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

At halftime: Neymar brace pacing Brazil; Croatia-Mexico still deadlocked — FOLLOW LIVE

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source: AP
Mexico’s Oribe Peralta reacts after missing a chance during the first half. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

A first half brace from the hosts’ biggest star has Brazil on track to win Group A, while the two teams that hope to join the Seleçao in the knockout round remain deadlocked in Recife. Here’s how Group A’s final games look after 45 minutes:

[ MORE Soccerly: Follow Cameroon-Brazil | Croatia-Mexico ]

Croatia 0-0 Mexico

Goals: None.

Other moments:

16′ – Croatia’s had a couple of near-chances on Guillermo Ochoa, but just past the quarter-hour mark, Mexico nearly takes the lead. After a back-heel from Oribe Peralta have him an opening 24 yards out, Hector Herrera puts a left-footed shot off Stipe Pletikosa’s upper-left hand corner

19′ – Oribe Peralta gets behind defender Dejan Lovren and runs onto a ball rolled into the right of the penalty area. As he turns to put his shot on goal, Peralta’s foot gives way, and the scoring chance ends with the Mexican forward sliding toward the byline.

39′ – A break after a Mexico corner leaves Croatia with a two-on-two counter, but hesitation from Ivan Perisic allows Rafa Marquez to catch up. The veteran defender commits the foul, stopping the attack in exchange for a yellow card. He joins Ivan Rakitic in the book.

Question for the second half:

  • When does Croatia shift gears? – If this score holds, Mexico goes through. At some point, Niko Kovac will have to start pushing for a winner.

source: AP
Brazil’s Neymar puts his team up, 1-0, in the first half against Cameroon. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Cameroon 1-2 Brazil


17′ – A surprisingly even start is rendered irrelevant when Luiz Gustavo generates a turnover at the edge of the Lions’ defensive third. Moments later, a ball rolled toward the spot finds Neymar pulling away from center back Joel Matip. The right-footed, first-timed finish gives the favorites a 1-0 lead.

26′ – Cameroon nearly has their equalizer when a ball goes off Júlio César’s woodwork, creating a heartbreak that lasts only a matter of seconds. After the ensuing corner, Nyom finds Matip in front of goal, giving the 22-year-old an easy finish for his team’s first goal of the competition.

35′ – Neymar’s done it again. Cutting across the penalty area onto his right foot, Neymar rolls his shot under Nicolas N’Koulou and into the left side of goal, restoring Brazil’s lead.

Other moments:

20′ – Neymar nearly doubles Brazil’s lead, volleying a popped up just beyond the penalty area toward Charles Itanjde’s goal. The Cameroon keepers block keeps his team within one, while near-chance moments later ends as Fred’s prevented from one-timing home Brazil’s second goal.

Question for the second half:

  • Where are the tournament favorites? – Brazil responded quickly, but Cameroon’s still looked better than they have all tournament. Where’s the Seleçao team that won the Confederations Cup?

Alexis Sanchez leaves Arsenal match with apparent right hamstring injury

NORWICH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  An injured Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (17) is given assistance during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on November 29, 2015 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
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Alexis Sanchez has joined Arsenal’s long list of walking wounded.

The Chilean subbed off after 60 minutes at Carrow Road after suffering what appeared to be a right hamstring injury.

[ WATCH: Petulant Costa tosses bib at Mourinho ]

Arsene Wenger has been critical of the use of his players on international duty when not at 100 percent, but that didn’t stop him from using Alexis on a hamstring injury.

Alexis was headed for a loose ball when he tried to leap over a defender and instead pulled up with the injury.

Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup: Vardy to Chelsea, Man City; Real wants Neymar

BARCELONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 24:  Neymar of FC Barcelona controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between FC Barcelona and AS Roma at Camp Nou stadium on November 24, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Neymar is playing as well as any player in the world, so it makes sense that anyone would be interested in signing the player were it a possibility, but would the Barcelona star considering swapping shirts with his current club’s biggest rival? Florentino Perez wants to woo the Brazilian to the Bernabeu, according to AS, though it’s an absolute head-scratcher as to why — aside from Perez’s wild ego — this move could go down.

Jamie Vardy could leave Leicester City, says the Independent. The thought here is that the Foxes couldn’t refuse a $45 million offer from a giant like Chelsea or Manchester City. Straight swap for Diego Costa (We kid, we kid; How would the mercurial striker possibly live with Tony Pulis?).

[ MORE: Chelsea’s Costa tosses bib at Mourinho | Jose reacts ]

Burnley defender Michael Keane continues to impress as the Clarets aim for a Premier League return, and The Sun says Aston Villa is joining Manchester United and Everton with interest in the 22-year-old back.

The same publication says Everton back John Stones is taking Spanish lessons in preparation for a move to Barcelona (although many people speak Spanish in soccer, of course). The Sunday Mirror says Arsenal could also move for Stones.

Sky Italia says Leicester’s Andrej Kramaric is looking toward, essentially, all the big names in Serie A. AC Milan and Juventus are among the clubs mentioned by the report.

Jack Butland is having a strong season for Stoke, and the young English keeper is wanted by both of the Merseyside’s Premier League clubs, according to The Sun. The price? $30 million.

West Ham United 1-1 West Bromwich Albion: Baggies come back to hold Irons

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  James McClean of West Bromwich Albion is tackled by Carl Jenkinson of West Ham United during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion at Boleyn Ground on November 29, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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A Winston Reid own goal undid a gorgeous Mauro Zarate free kick, as West Ham failed to take all three points from West Brom in a 1-1 draw at the Boleyn Ground on Sunday

The draw moves West Ham into 7th place, while West Brom stays 13th.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

West Brom had a good-looking buildup in the ninth minute, as Manuel Lanzini came close to meandering through a packed West Brom back line before passing to Mauro Zarate, who missed wide of the goal.

At the other end, Salomon Rondon smoked a fine effort just wide of Adrian’s far post.

The Hammers broke through off an 18th-minute set piece, as Zarate curled a free kick over the wall and into the upper 90.

Lanzini then stole the ball from Yacob and darted to the top of the arc, where he unleashed a whirling shot that Boaz Myhill was able to save.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Click here for full lineups, stats, box score ]  

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29: Tony Pulis manager of West Bromwich Albion reacts as Slaven Bilic manager of West Ham United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion at Boleyn Ground on November 29, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Despite dominating the first half, West Ham soon found itself level when West Brom substitute Rickie Lambert struck a ball that changed course off Winston Reid’s arm to beat Myhill. 1-1. Game on.

Lambert later forced Adrian to push a low free kick out for a corner, but the Baggies found the ensuing chance cleared away from danger.

In the 61st minute, Adrian was called upon to make a strong save on Rondon’s powerful close-range header.

A break toward the other end saw Victor Moses cue up Diafra Sakho, but Jonas Olsson slid to block the West Ham chance out for a corner.

Pochettino trolling? “You got the feeling that Chelsea were a small team”

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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur huffed and puffed at White Hart Lane on Sunday but never really got going as they settled for a point at White Hart Lane.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Harry Kane forced Asmir Begovic into two good saves in the first half and Song Hueng-min should’ve scored in the second half with a header but even after after a grueling 5,000-mile round trip to Azerbaijan on Thursday night for Europa League action which saw them arrive back in England at 6 a.m. local time Friday, manager Mauricio Pochettino wasn’t pleased his team didn’t win to move into the top four.

“No, not really happy. We deserved more than we got, so I was disappointed, but it’s true that I’m proud of the players. For me they’re big heroes,” Pochettino told ProSoccerTalk. “The effort was massive. Chelsea played one of their best games of the season, and when you make the effort we showed and the maturity, you have to be happy with your players but disappointed with one point.”

[ MORE: Mourinho calls benched Costa “privileged” ]

With Spurs now stretching their unbeaten run to 13 games this season — their one and only defeat in 2015-16 came on the opening day of the season, 1-0 at Manchester United — Pochettino was asked if his side, who sit five points off the top, should be pleased that a draw against Chelsea felt like two points dropped.

The Argentine coach then released his inner Jose Mourinho — the pair have a close relationship and before Poch came to coach in England he spoke at length to Mourinho — dishing out a backhanded compliment to the master of the backhanded compliment.

“This is a good thing. We play the champions. It’s good. You got the feeling that Chelsea were a small team and Tottenham can win every game we play,” Pochettino said. “It’s very difficult, though. Not easy. We’re the youngest team in the PL and the maturity we showed today we have shown in different games. We have to feel happy. It’s a good thing that, maybe, we are a bigger club than Chelsea or that we deserve more. We showed good performances in the last few games, and I’m happy, but we have to keep working hard. We’ve only had 14 games in the PL and it’s too early to think about the end of the season.”

Whether or not those comments were lost in translation from a man who is still getting used to English as his second language, Pochettino clearly felt Spurs deserved more than the point they got and it’s apparent from the differing predicaments both teams find themselves in that Spurs have more chance of winning the title and finishing in the top four than Chelsea this season.