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′)

FIFA worried about government interference in Spain

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Concerned about the independence of the Spanish soccer federation, FIFA said Friday it will send a delegation to the country to investigate government meddling.

FIFA said in a statement written in Spanish that it had recently sent a letter to the federation “expressing our concern for the situation that the federation is going through and reminding (its officials) that, according to the Statutes of FIFA, all member federations must manage their affairs independently and assure that there is no interference by third parties.”

Spanish newspaper El Pais reported earlier Friday that the FIFA letter warned of a possible suspension because of the government’s push to hold elections following the arrest of federation president Angel Maria Villar in July on suspicion of corruption.

[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea vs. Southampton ]

According to El Pais, FIFA is concerned that the government’s interest in federation elections could be considered outside meddling and break its rules. If the national federation were to be suspended, Spain’s team would not be allowed to play at next year’s World Cup.

FIFA’s statement made no mention of a suspension or other punitive measures.

But the scare was big enough for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to say that Spain will not miss soccer’s biggest event.

“I am sure that Spain will go to the World Cup in Russia and that it will win it,” Rajoy said at a news conference in Brussels.

FIFA added in its statement that “in the coming days” it will send a delegation, which will include representatives from UEFA, to Madrid to “observe and analyze the situation” of the Spanish soccer federation.

The federation said in a separate statement that its interim president, Juan Luis Larrea, had spoken with FIFA and UEFA officials at the World Cup draw on Dec. 1 and that he had passed on their “enormous concern” to Spain’s minister of education, culture and sport.

The Spanish federation said it was waiting for the ministry to set a date for a meeting.

Spanish police arrested Villar, his son, and two other soccer officials in July on suspicion of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Villar was replaced by Larrea, the body’s treasurer for three decades. Critics of Villar argue that elections are needed to make a clean start for the institution that has been tarnished by the scandal.

Newcastle linked with targets as Benitez begins transfer quest

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Newcastle United’s players have canceled their Christmas party, as manager Rafa Benitez admits he’s working on January gifts for the St. James’ Park set.

The Magpies have one point from their last eight matches, and face Arsenal, West Ham, and Manchester City in the run-up to the New Year, closing off a run of five matches in 16 days with Brighton and Stoke.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City vs. Spurs ]

Benitez says he’s begun talks with managing director Lee Charnley about the January window. The team is expected to make moves whether Mike Ashley completes a reported sale of the team or not. From Sky Sports:

“At this time it is just to talk about ideas,” he said. “You might say ‘I would like to sign this player’ and someone will say ‘£40m’ – maybe it is not realistic.

“The main thing, we had this conversation, then we have to move forward quickly. I don’t know the details but at least we were talking about that. We have to progress and it is so obvious that we have to improve things.”

Newcastle has been linked with a number of notable names a few weeks from the start of the January market, including Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, prolific Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun, as well as Liverpool’s Danny Ings and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw.

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace

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  • Leicester leads all-time 26W-18D-23L
  • Foxes 3W-1D vs. Eagles since Oct. 2015
  • Palace won at Leicester in Feb. 2015

The Claude Puel revolution at Leicester City has the Foxes surging up the Premier League table, and Saturday’s visitors from Crystal Palace are making moves of their own (Watch live Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Leicester has won four-straight matches, the latest a 4-1 beatdown of Southampton at St. Mary’s, and returns to King Power Stadium with a chance to make a dent on the five-point deficit between the Foxes and the Top Four.

 

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After beginning the season 0-7, Crystal Palace has claimed 14 of 30 points to move from 20th to 18th on the table. Roy Hodgson’s men have two wins and four draws in their last six matches.

What they’re saying

Leicester’s Harry Maguire on the task at hand:

Palace’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek on his high-flying loan spell from Chelsea: “It’s what you aspire to be when you’re younger. Right now it’s a case of trying to improve as much as I can and to keep the performances up. As long as I’m enjoying it I think I’ll do well, so I’m really happy. The experience of playing week in week out and the physical side of things, getting my body used to playing games – sometimes three in a week – has been a massive thing for me, especially when I haven’t played for two years regularly. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to get away from Chelsea, to play regular football, get my body used to it, get more robust and I think once you have that then it’s a platform to play better.”

Prediction

This could be a fun one, with names like Zaha, Townsend, Loftus-Cheek, Vardy, Mahrez, and Gray ready to bless the match with pace and creativity. Goals have come in bunches when Leicester’s on the pitch, and we’ll call it 2-1 to the Foxes.

RBNY’s Grella heads to Columbus (through Colorado)

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Mike Grella didn’t get to pick No. 20 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft, but that didn’t stop Columbus from getting their hands on the New York Red Bulls veteran.

Colorado selected Grella with the third overall pick, then sent him to Columbus for a second round pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.

[ MLS: Ousted “blacklisted” by MLS? ]

The only other pick was made by Minnesota United, who took Tyrone Mears from Atlanta United.

Grella, 30, is a well-traveled Duke product who has played in England and Denmark. He scored 18 times with 13 assists in 89 matches for the Red Bulls, but missed most of the 2017 season with a pair of knee injuries.

It’s a good gamble for the Crew, and an extra draft pick for 2019. Second-round picks have become long odds to make MLS rosters, with Tommy McNamara and Aaron Long the last impact players to come out of the round. That was in 2014, and both needed changes of scenery before hitting their MLS strides.