Godin’s header sends Uruguay through, knocks 10-man Italy out of World Cup

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Diego Godin’s late header sealed a 1-0 win for Uruguay that put them in the last 16 of the World Cup, as four-time champions Italy crashed out at the group stage for the second-straight tournament.

For large periods both teams failed to get going, but Godin’s late header grabbed the three points which made sure Uruguay finished second in Group D behind winners Costa Rica who drew with England.

[ RELATED: PHOTO – Suarez bites Chiellini ]

Controversy marred the second half of the match, as Claudio Marchisio was sent off for a lunging tackle and the Italian side were reduced to 10-men. That made all the difference as Uruguay piled on the pressure but more controversy arrived just before Godin’s game-winner, as Luis Suarez inexplicably looked to have bit Giorgio Chiellini in the shoulder. More on that to follow.

Godin’s winner then arrived as the Atletico Madrid defender followed up his La Liga winning and UEFA Champions League final goals by netting another crucial strike to send La Celeste through.

He was the hero as Uruguay is in the knockout stages but we will certainly hear more about Suarez’s incident as the fallout continues.

[ RELATED: Prandelli quits as Italy crash out ]

It was, as expected, a tense start in Natal as both Mario Balotelli and Suarez were the subject of touch tackles early on. The first real effort on target came from a trademark Andrea Pirlo free kick which dipped and swerved just under the bar and troubled Uruguayan ‘keeper Muslera enough to make him palm it over for a corner.

As the first half wore on Suarez and Cavani grew into the match and the Italian defense struggled to keep the combative duo under wraps. The latter went down in the box under a challenge midway through the first half but Uruguay’s penalty appeals were waved away as the tentative opening continued.

Balotelli was then cautioned for a high challenge as the Italian forward showed his frustration and would walk a tight-rope for the rest of the game.

Uruguay started to push for the opening goal they craved and Suarez found some space in the box but Gianluigi Buffon smothered his effort and also blocked Nicolas Lodeiro’s follow up with a fine double-save. For the rest of the first half both sides continued with the tough-tackling and staunch defensive play as Suarez and co. had 45 minutes to save their World Cup aspirations.

[ RESULTS: Rodriguez carries Colombia | Greece shocks Ivory Coast | Costa Rica clinches Group D ]
[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

At half time both teams made changes, as Balotelli was replaced by Marco Parolo as the eccentric frontman looked injured but was also risking a red card after several confrontations with Uruguayan players. Maxi Pereira replaced Lodeiro at the break for Uruguay as both managers tried to shake things up with a last 16 place on the line.

Suarez tried to get things going as he clipped a ball through to Rodriguez but the left winger dragged his effort wide of the far post. Then the entire game turned on its head as Marchisio was sent off for a lunging tackle on Arevalo and Italy were reduced to 10-men. The tackle was right in front of referee Marco Rodriguez and he had no hesitation in dishing out a straight-red.

Uruguay smelt blood in the water.

Italy’s defense dug deep and Buffon used all his experience to make a terrific save from Suarez as the predatory striker ran clean through on goal but the Juventus ‘keeper pushed his effort wide. The Uruguayans kept pushing hard for the goal which would send them into the knockout stages and that finally came as Godin headed home from Gaston Ramriez’s corner in the 82nd minute to break Italian hearts.

LINEUPS

Italy: Buffon, De Sciglio, Chiellini, Darmian, Marchisio, Balotelli (Parolo, 45′), Barzagli, Immobile (Cassano, 70′), Bonucci, Pirlo, Verratti (Motta, 75′)

Red Card: Marchisio (60′)

Uruguay: Muslera, Godin, M. Pereira (Stuani, 62′), Rodriguez (Ramirez, 77′), Suarez, Gimenez, Lodeiro (A. Pereira, 45′), Arevalo, Gonzalez, Cavani, Caceres

Goal: Godin (82′)

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.