Memory lane: Looking back at best World Cup semifinals in history

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Two World Cup semifinals are coming your way this week, as Brazil face Germany on Tuesday, then Argentina and the Netherlands clash on Wednesday.

With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to take a nice little trip down memory lane and reminisce about some of the best World Cup semifinals of past tournaments.

[ RELATED: How will Brazil-Germany line up? ]

There are plenty of thrillers to chose from, as there’s nothing quite like the tension of being one game away from getting the chance to win it all, or blowing it at the penultimate hurdle.

Here’s a look back at five World Cup semifinals that have lived long in the memory.

1958: France 2-5 Brazil 

With France and Just Fontaine ripping teams apart at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, many fancied Brazil’s young team to come unstuck in Stockholm in the semis. This game turned into an instant classic as Fontaine and Vava both scored within the opening 10 minutes. However it was a 17-year-old from Santos by the name of Pele who would then turn the game on its head, as his second half hat trick sealed the lopsided win as Brazil went on to beat hosts Sweden by the same score in the final. Attacking soccer at its best as two talented teams slugged it out in Sweden.

1982: France 3-3 Germany (Germany win 5-4 on penalties)

A pulsating clash from start to finish in Seville, as a Michel Platini inspired France took the game to Germany. Tied at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes, the match then exploded into life as four more goals were scored in extra time. The game ended 3-3 and went to the dreaded penalty shootout. Germany (of course) won on PKs as this exhausting  match saw a clash of styles from two European superpowers.

1990: Italy 1-1 Argentina (Argentina win 4-3 on penalties)

The hosts were going up against Argentina and Diego Maradona, who was leading the reigning World Champions through a tumultuous tournament. At the time Maradona played for Napoli and his hero status was through the roof. This semifinal played out in his home stadium in Naples, as the locals were torn between cheering for their country and their idol, Maradona. Early on Italy went ahead through Toto Schillachi, but Argentina equalized in the second half through Claudio Caniggia. The game ebbed and flowed as tension gripped the air inside the Stadio Sao Paulo. Argentina were reduced to 10-men but hung on for penalties, as they knocked out the hosts in the most agonizing fashion.

2006: Germany 0-2 Italy (After Extra Time)

Once again the host nation came unstuck in the semifinals, as Germany were hit by two late sucker-punches. Locked at 0-0 for the entire match, entering the last two minutes of extra time Fabio Grosso scored a stunning curling effort with his left foot to break German hearts. The goal had been coming as Italy abandoned their defensive style in extra time and Jens Lehman and his woodwork somehow kept them at bay. Then as Germany pushed for a late, late equalizer, the Italians broke again and Alessandro Del Piero put the game to bed. Wonderful drama.

2010: Uruguay 2-3 Netherlands 

Oscar Tabarez’s Uruguay shocked everyone by making it to the World Cup semifinals but eventually came unstuck against a stacked Dutch side. Giovanni van Bronckhorst hammered home one of the best goals ever seen in World Cup history from 40-yards out early on, but Diego Forlan’s swerving effort made it 1-1 at the break. In the second half both teams battled to go ahead but Holland broke through twice in the space of three minutes to go 3-1 up. Uruguay then hit back late on through Maxi Pereira’s free kick but the Netherlands held on to reach their first final since 1978.

STREAM: CONCACAF tripleheader concludes with USMNT

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CONCACAF’s bottom three sides in the Hex standings look to make the table incredibly tight as World Cup qualifying finds three-straight matches on the docket beginning at 5 p.m. EDT.

Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Los Catrachos were creamed 6-0 by the U.S. on Friday, and return home hoping a wounded Costa Rica remains vulnerable. Honduras is dead last on goal differential, but three points would be huge and put them level with Los Ticos. Costa Rica won its first two matches before falling to Mexico on Friday.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico

El Tri has two wins and a draw from their first three Hex matches, and will be without Rafa Marquez on Tuesday. A win guarantees Mexico the top spot heading into the next round of matches in June. The Soca Warriors surprised some with their 1-0 win over visiting Panama on Tuesday. Mexico is a different class.

Panama vs. USMNT

Despite its miserable start, the U.S. can find itself as high as second with a win and help from Honduras. The injuries remain plenty for the Yanks, who are without Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, and John Brooks. Panama has allowed just a single goal through three Hex matches, but also has only managed one.

AFC and Oceania wrap: Iran, New Zealand take next steps

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With CONMEBOL and CONCACAF serving as the main course later Tuesday, the morning and afternoon saw big World Cup qualifiers on the other side of the world.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Asian qualifying

Iran is on the verge of qualification for Russia 2018 after Persepolis star Mehdi Taremi bagged his ninth international goal in a 1-0 home win over China.

Iran leads Group A by four points, but second-place South Korea and third-place Uzbekistan kept pace with 1-0 home wins of their own. Hong Jeong-ho scored in South Korea’s win over Syria, while Odil Ahmendov’s 65th minute free kick was enough to push Uzbekistan past Qatar.

The goalkeeping was… less than ideal.

Over in Group B, shutouts were the name of the game for high-powered hosts as well.

Japan stayed atop the group with a 4-0 win over Thailand, as a trio of players with Premier League experience — Maya Yoshida, Shinji Kagawa, and Shinji Okazaki — joined Gent’s Yuya Kubo on the scoreboard.

Saudi Arabia is level with Japan on points thanks to Yahya Al-Shehri’s post-halftime goal in a 1-0 win over Iraq, while Australia saw off United Arab Emirates thanks to goals from Burton Albion’s Jackson Irvine and Ingolstadt’s Mathew Leckie.

That leaves Australia three points behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in the race for two of three automatic spots. The Socceroos hosts the Green Falcons in June before an August trip to Saitama in a pair of matches which will decide who goes directly to Russia and who has to win a pair of playoffs: One against the Group A’s third-place team and another against CONCACAF’s fourth place side.

Oceania qualifying

New Zealand took the next step in collecting Oceania’s berth in the intercontinental playoff with a 2-0 win over Fiji in Wellington. PEC Zwolle winger Ryan Thomas bagged a brace for the All Whites.

New Zealand will next face either Tahiti, Solomon Islands, or Papua New Guinea over two legs in late August and early September for the right to battle the fifth place CONMEBOL team for a World Cup berth. That could be Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, or even Colombia.

Tahiti hosts Papua New Guinea at 1 a.m. EDT Wednesday, and will be the odds-on favorite to face New Zealand with a win.

After further tests, Lletget to miss 4-6 months

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So much for initial reports.

Less than 24 hours after the LA Galaxy announced that Sebastian Lletget had come through his injury on USMNT duty with no structural damage, a specialist found something worse.

Lletget has a Lisfranc injury and requires surgery, meaning the Galaxy and the U.S. will be without the midfielder for four to six months.

[ MORE: Spurs eager for U.S. return ]

Lletget, 24, spent a half-decade with West Ham but couldn’t break into the squad before returning to the U.S. last summer. He became a mainstay for the Galaxy, earning a call-up to the national team.

He scored his first USMNT goal on Friday to open the World Cup qualifier against Honduras, but was injured after a hard sliding tackle from Ever Alvarado.

Galaxy has depth beyond Lletget and Jermaine Jones, with Rafael Garcia, Joao Pedro, and Baggio Husidic able to fill a similar role, but this one stings for the Galaxy. Get well, Sebastian.

Scouting report: Everton target Orlando’s Cyle Larin

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Reports have been suggesting the Orlando City’s star striker Cyle Larin is attracting some serious interest from Premier League side Everton.

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Larin, 21, has started the MLS season off in red-hot form and the report suggests the Toffees have bid $4 million for his talents. They’ll likely have to up that offer for the Canadian national team star.

What is Larin all about?

With Romelu Lukaku seeming to be heading towards the exit door this summer as his contract saga rumbles on, it’s not outlandish to state that Larin has a very similar style to the prolific Belgian international. Of course, he has yet to test himself in the PL and Lukaku’s boots would be a big pair to fill if Larin did arrive at Goodison Park as some kind of replacement in the coming months, yet when you watch Larin play there are so many similarities between the pair.

Ronald Koeman is always eager to give youth a chance and with Tom Davies, Ademola Lookman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all getting regular minutes this season, so Larin would get chances to impress if he ended up on Merseyside.

Here are some key stats Toffees fans will want to know too:

  • 17 – Number of goals Larin scored in his debut MLS season, the most-ever by a Rookie
  • Larin has scored all three of Orlando’s goals so far in the 2017 MLS season
  • He has scored 39 goals in 68 appearances for Orlando since arriving in 2015
  • For Canada, he has five goals in 19 appearances after making his debut as a teenager
  • Larin became the first-ever Canadian to be selected as the first overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft when he joined Orlando in 2015

Click play on the video above to see Larin’s best moments so far in MLS, as he continues his impressive development.