World Cup Today: Can Sunday actually be better than Saturday?

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WORLD CUP TODAY: SUNDAY, JUNE 29

Today, we must not be afraid to ask the question: is there any way Sunday’s matches can match the thrill of those played on Saturday? In the first match of the knockout rounds, Brazil and Chile played out a 1-1 draw, ultimately taking the game to penalties. Brazil scored three, Chile two, and the hosts advanced amidst Chile’s tears.

It looked as though there was no possible way Colombia and Uruguay could top that game. And perhaps in terms of drama, they couldn’t. But the beautiful goals scored were enough to compensate: James Rodríguez turning, volleying in off the crossbar, then scoring the second through a sidefooted shot after a wonderfully worked team move. Que bonita!

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MATCH 51: NETHERLANDS VS. MEXICO
Location: Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza
Time: Noon ET
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Cheater’s Guide
Netherlands announced their intent to dominate at this tournament with a 5-1 thumping of Spain, followed by a fun back and forth with Australia, which eventually resulted in a 3-2 win for Holland. Knowing that they could top the group with just a draw, the Dutch sat back in their final game, but still managed to run out 2-0 winners over Chile.

Mexico struggled in their first match, sort of: they had two goals (incorrectly) ruled out as offside in the first half. But eventually the flag stayed down, and they came away with a 1-0 win over Cameroon. El Tri were then able to hold Brazil to a goalless draw, before ending the group stages with a convincing 3-1 victory over Croatia.

What they’re saying
Andres Guardado explains why Mexico have conceded just one goal thus far: “To be honest, the key to our defending has been the fact we’re all doing our bit – it’s not just down to the keeper and the defender. [Forwards] Oribe [Peralta] and Giovani [dos Santos] really help out and if the ball gets past them, us midfielders are ready to step in and, after that, there’s our back five. And finally you haveMemo Ochoa, who’s playing really well, as the last line of defence.”

History
The two sides have met six times, with Holland taking the slight edge: three wins to Mexico’s two. Both sides have scored eleven goals, though, so there’s that.

Premier League Players
Netherlands:
Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa); Robin van Persie (Manchester United); Tim Krul (Newcastle); Jonathan de Guzmán, Michel Vorm (Swansea)
Mexico: Javier Hernández (Manchester United)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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MATCH 52: COSTA RICA VS. GREECE

Location: Arena Pernambuco, Recife
Time: 4pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
Costa Rica have been quite the surprise this World Cup, absolutely thrilling CONCACAF supporters. First they beat Uruguay, and not just by one goal: la celeste fell 3-1. Next up, a 1-0 win over Italy, then a goalless draw with England. Costa Rica may not be the most thrilling team to watch in the tournament, but they’re certainly much more solid than most had been willing to give them credit for.

Speaking of the inability to thrill, the ticos’ opponents are Greece, who managed to defy the odds and advance, despite not scoring until the 42nd minute of their third game. The Pirate Ship first lost 3-0 to Colombia, putting to shame the idea of their fantastic defensive abilities. Greece then sat back to earn a goalless draw against Japan, before coming from behind to beat Ivory Coast 2-1, with the help of a last-minute penalty.

What they’re saying
Los Ticos technical assistant Luis Marin says it’s vital Costa Rica score first: “It’s crucial for us to score early in the game, especially as Greece are known to tighten up at the back once they score. But we know it’s going to be a tough game all round. Although they lost to Colombia 3-0, the goals they conceded were down to simple mistakes. Greece are also potent on the counter-attack.”

History
They’re about to write it.

Premier League players
Costa Rica:
Joel Cambell (Arsenal)
Fulham fans will be paying attention to Greece for Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Mitroglou, and Costa Rica for Bryan Ruiz, but alas, Fulham are not really in the Premier League anymore, are they? Sorry guys.

MLS players
Costa Rica:
 Giancarlo González, Waylon Francis (Columbus Crew); Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls)

Dempsey propels USMNT past Costa Rica, into Gold Cup final

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It took considerably longer than Bruce Arena would have hoped, but the U.S. national team edged its way past Costa Rica, courtesy of Jozy Altidore‘s 72nd-minute goal, in the two sides’ 2017 Gold Cup semifinal in Arlington, Tex., on Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

It was Arena’s injection of Clint Dempsey just six minutes earlier which would prove to be the game-changing moment. The soon-to-be all-time leading scorer in USMNT history created Altidore’s goal, the 38th tally of his international career, with a silky smooth turn and through ball that unlocked an otherwise formidable, frustrating Ticos defense. The Nacogdoches, Tex., native pulled level with Landon Donovan on the USMNT’s scoring charts 10 minutes later as he sealed the Yanks’ passage into the final.

The clock read 11 seconds when the USMNT’s first scoring chance arrived. Straight from the kickoff, they worked the ball to a streaking Jordan Morris, who in full stride unleashed a hard, right-footed strike from 10 yards out. Post.

For all the early excitement, and the massive possession advantage (61-39), it was the closest the USMNT would come to beating Patrick Pemberton, as the Yanks failed to put a single shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.

Tim Howard was called into heroic action in the 37th minute, when Bryan Ruiz dribbled through the heart of midfield and played Marco Ureña into the penalty area. The San Jose Earthquakes striker went low and far post with his effort from 12 yards out, but Howard was quick to get down and make the one-on-one save.

[ MORE: Mexico beat Honduras, book their place in semifinals ]

The Americans’ first chance of the second half didn’t come until the 70th minute. Clint Dempsey played a simple square ball to Kellyn Acosta, whose first-time shot forced Pemberton into a tough save to push the ball high into the air.

Two minutes later, the breakthrough. Dempsey slipped Jozy Altidore through with a delicate through ball into space, and the Toronto FC man latched onto it quickly and slotted it past Pemberton despite the ‘keeper getting a hand on it.

Dempsey’s history-making moment seemed innocuous enough from the start — a free kick from all of 25 yards out, at a difficult angle. Whatever, said Dempsey, who went for goal anyway. His bouncing ball evade Pemberton at the near post and gave him 57 international goals.

The winner of Mexico versus Jamaica, the second semifinal which will take place on Sunday, awaits the USMNT in the final on Wednesday.

Mexico block out drama before Gold Cup semifinal vs. Jamaica

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PASADENA, Calif. (AP) After nearly two years as Mexico’s head coach, Juan Carlos Osorio is used to constant criticism of his tactics and lineups. He isn’t surprised by regular calls for his firing from fans, media and former national team players — and that’s just when Mexico is playing well.

“We do our best so that the players cannot feel the criticism,” Osorio said Saturday. “We try not to translate it to the players. We try to maintain the best spirit in the team.”

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

Yet for all of the drama and distraction around El Tri this summer, Osorio is one win from getting a young roster with an ever-changing lineup into the CONCACAF Gold Cup final while he coaches from the stands, thanks to a FIFA suspension.

Mexico faces Jamaica on Sunday night at the Rose Bowl, El Tri‘s home away from home, for a spot in the championship game.

Osorio is already proud of his experimental roster’s Gold Cup success despite a steady drumbeat of criticism from those who don’t like the Colombian coach’s plans or his players’ execution of them. He chose a youthful group for this tournament to build Mexico’s base of experience for next year’s World Cup and the years ahead.

“Our goal is to build a team that can compete at any level,” Osorio said. “We’ve had some losses that have been very difficult, and the scars are there. But at the same time, they show that we’re strong and moving forward, and this team has won much more than it has lost. We are very motivated, and we want to continue building and growing. We want to have more players competing for a spot that can help us. We want to have a present and a future.”

Mexico has won three of the last four Gold Cups, beating Jamaica 3-1 in the 2015 final. These teams also met at the Rose Bowl 13 months ago during the Copa America, when Javier Hernandez scored an early goal in a 2-0 win.

West Ham-bound Chicharito is among several tested veterans not participating in the Gold Cup. Mexico has struggled to replace his offense, scoring half of its six goals in this tournament back in its opener.

“We are all motivated and ready to give our all for the team,” said midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro, who got the only goal in Mexico’s 1-0 quarterfinal win over Honduras. “We all want to be part of this.”

Osorio will watch from the crowd while serving the fifth game of his six-match suspension for what FIFA deemed aggressive behavior toward officials during a match against Portugal in the Confederations Cup, where Mexico finished a disappointing fourth.

[ MORE: Mexico beat Honduras, book their place in semifinals ]

Mexico and Jamaica played to a 0-0 draw 10 days ago during Gold Cup group play in Denver. El Tri dominated possession, but Mexico’s fans booed their own team after it failed to find the net behind stalwart Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Mexican fans booing their own team is nothing new, but El Tri can also count on wild support from Los Angeles’ vast Latino population.

Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore acknowledges his Reggae Boyz are underdogs, but he believes his players raise their level whenever they get the chance to wreck the plans of the U.S. or Mexico, the pre-tournament favorites.

“I think our confidence is high,” Whitmore said. “We don’t want to be overconfident going into the game. We know the Mexican team has a lot to offer. It is a team that we have to give a lot of respect, based on what they’ve been through over the years.”

Jamaica is also playing without top talent, including Wes Morgan, Giles Barnes and all of its England-based players. Darren Mattocks, the Portland forward who has excelled in the Gold Cup, also could miss the semifinal due to an injury, Whitmore said.

Jamaica showed its offensive potency last Thursday with a pair of beautiful goals in a quarterfinal victory over Canada. Whitmore plans a “totally different approach” from the defensive caution with which Jamaica played El Tri earlier in the month.

“We try to be mean in conceding goals, and that’s been working for us,” Whitmore said. “We want to be still disciplined. We want to be compact in defense, but on the other hand, I think the transition game in defense is important if we want to get past this Mexico team.”

FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT vs. Costa Rica — Gold Cup semifinals

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The last time the U.S. national team faced Costa Rica, the final score was 4-0 in favor of the home side, in San Jose (not the one in California). Six days later, Jurgen Klinsmann was fired and replaced by Bruce Arena.

On Saturday, it’ll be Arena’s USMNT which takes on Los Ticos with a place in the 2017 Gold Cup final on the line. One of Mexico and Jamaica, who’ll face off in the second semifinal on Sunday, comes next.

When: 10 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

[ LIVE: Gold Cup scoreboard ]

Arena has made five changes to the team that beat El Salvador 2-0 in Wednesday’s quarterfinal. Incoming are Graham Zusi (for Eric Lichaj), Matt Besler (Matt Hedges), Jorge Villafaña (Justin Morrow), Kellyn Acosta (Gyasi Zardes) and Jordan Morris (Clint Dempsey).

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

West Ham sign Arnautovic from Stoke for club-record fee

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LONDON (AP) West Ham signed attacking midfielder Marko Arnautovic from Stoke for a club-record fee on Saturday.

The fee wasn’t disclosed, but British media said West Ham paid an initial 20 million pounds ($26 million) that could rise to 25 million pounds ($32.5 million) for the 28-year-old Austria international.

Arnautovic is West Ham’s third signing of the summer, after right back Pablo Zabaleta on a free transfer and goalkeeper Joe Hart on loan.

“We have brought in three players with vast Premier League experience this summer,” West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan said, “and that was one of our key targets.”

Arnautovic, who has 62 caps for his country, joined Stoke from Werder Bremen in 2013. He scored 26 goals in 145 appearances for Stoke.