Remembering 2002’s Final: World Cup’s only other meeting between Brazil, Germany (highlights, full game video)

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Ahead of each 2014 World Cup semifinal, ProSoccerTalk will look back at the history of each matchup, looking at the teams’ previous finals meetings and why results were (or, weren’t) memorable. The rub, though: Whereas Argentina and the Netherlands have had a number of important World Cup meetings, Brazil and Germany have only met once.

I know, right? What are the odds? Two of the most successful teams in international soccer history, and they’ve only had one (albeit memorable) World Cup meeting. The probability behind that has got to be staggering, given these teams almost always make the final eight. Regardless, here’s a quick look back at that 2002 final:

Japan-South Korea 2002: Germany vs. Brazil

Maybe it’s the timezone. Perhaps it was the soccer, with a bunch of players seemingly exhausted by their’ European seasons struggling with a tournament scheduled earlier than usual.

Whatever the reason, the 2002 World Cup has become the forgotten finals. Whereas 1998 is remembered from the rise of France and 2006’s history was assured by Zinedine Zidane’s head-butt, 2002’s claim to fame is its geography. “That was the Asia one, right?”

Right, but it was also the one that featured two of the most surprising semifinalists the recent history: South Korea and Turkey. Teams from the five major confederations made the quarterfinals. Just like with the United States in 1994, another area of the world showcased itself as a hotbed for the game’s growth.

As if to celebrate that showcase, Japan-South Korea’s final produced a matchup of the game’s two more successful countries. With four World Cup titles, Brazil entered the June 30 championship game looking to distance themselves from Germany, who were tied with the Selecao for the most final appearances. In front of 69,029 in Yokohama, die Nationalmannschaft had a chance to equal Brazil’s record, potentially separating themselves from three-time winners Italy in the process.

The opening was promising, with Germany’s possession helping the team hold most of the ball over the first quarter-hour. But the game soon descended into a staid midfield battle, one that accentuated the absence of Michael Ballack. An eventual captain for this country, the 25-year-old Ballack had scored Germany’s winning goals against the United States (quarterfinals) and South Korea (semifinals). Having picked up a yellow card in the semifinals, though, Ballack was sidelined for the final, left to see Oliver Kahn continuously punt the ball beyond the Brazilian midfield.

The tactic got the Germans to halftime even. Despite two chances for Ronaldo and another for Kléberson, Brazil was kept off the scoresheet, with star attacking midfielder Rivaldo having gone conspicuously absent over the game’s first 45 minutes.

Had his absence persisted, Germany may have been able to lock down the middle, implicitly betting Ronaldinho alone wouldn’t be enough to get the Selecao over the top. But when Rivaldo showed up for the second half, the Germans were sunk.

In the 67th minute, a Rivaldo blast from distance saw Oliver Kahn spill the rebound in front of goal. Cleaning up for 12th career World Cup goal, Ronaldo moves Brazil one step closer to its fifth world title.

Twelve minutes later, Ronaldo had the winner. Off a ball sent across the penalty box by Kléberson, Ronaldo finishes into the bottom-right corner, but only after a dummy from Rivaldo drew attention away from Brazil’s eventual record-setter. Whereas Germany entered the final half-hour on even footing, Brazil was up 2-0 with 11 minutes to go.

The goals:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KyPphE9uu4]

For Ronaldo, it was a performance that helped cemented his legacy, particularly after questions surrounded his health and performance in the 1998 final. For Brazil, the country’s fifth title meant no more comparisons to other nations. There was only one king of the soccer world, and it was the Selecao.

Had the match taken place in Europe or South America, those details may not seem so distant. While the names in Brazil’s squad mean the 2002 team will always be remembered as a classic side, the title game (and the tournament, itself) is a victim of a geographical bias. Because of our fun with timezones, tomorrow’s semifinal will likely become more remembered than the title-decider that came before.

But when the teams take the field in Belo Horizonte, they’ll be building on the legacy of 2002, one which remains the only World Cup meeting between two storied soccer cultures.

Final: Brazil 2, Germany 0

Goals: Ronaldo 67′, 79′

Lineups:

Germany: Kahn; Linke, Ramelow, Metzelder; Frings, Hammann, Jeremies, Bode; Schneider; Klose, Neuville

Brazil: Marcos, Lúcio, Edmílson, Roque Júnior; Cafu, Gilberto Silva, Kléberson; Roberto Carlos; Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Ronaldo

Full Game:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpngdStzhmQ]

 

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.