BRASILIA, BRAZIL - JULY 12: Robin van Persie of the Netherlands celebrates scoring his team's first goal on a penalty kick during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Third Place Playoff match between Brazil and the Netherlands at Estadio Nacional on July 12, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil.

At halftime: Van Persie, Blind goals have Netherlands up two on Brazil — FOLLOW LIVE

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At first, Tuesday didn’t seem like much of a fluke after all. Conceding twice in the first 16 minutes, Brazil’s defense again went AWOL, digging a hole for the host nation after a pair of disappointing breakdowns. With goals from Robin van Persie and Daley Blind, the Netherlands were on the verge of replicating Germany’s semifinal slaughter.

Over the half’s last 20 minutes, however, Brazil were the most dangerous side, reaching the halftime whistle with edges in possession and shotsl.

The edge that mattered, however, remained the Dutch’s. At intermission in Brazil’s capital, it’s 2-0, the Netherlands.

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2′ – Who knows what this referee is doing? Arjen Robben, racing past the Brazilian defense, is pulled down at the shoulder, seemingly from behind, by Thiago Silva just outside the Brazil penalty box. Not only does referee Djamel Haïmoudi erroneously point to the spot, but he only shows Silva yellow. When Robin Van Persie puts the ensuing penalty kick into the upper-right hand corner, the Netherlands have their lead. Too bad it should be 0-0 … and 11-on-10.

16′ – As an open quarter-hour comes to an end, the Dutch extend their lead. After a cross from the right is cleared weakly by David Luiz back to the penalty spot, Daley Blind has time to take two touches before putting the Netherlands’ second under the cross-bar, into the right of goal. It’s the 100th goal Brazil have conceded at in World Cup history, one that leaves them down two.

Other key moments:

21′ – From just above the arc, Oscar lets go of a right-footed shot, one that’s smothered by Jasper Cillesen. It’s the first time the Dutch keeper’s been called into action.

33′ – For the second time tonight, Brazil’s found success going down their right, this time seeing Maicon draw a foul on Georginio Wijnaldum just outside the penalty box. Oscar’s restart bends and drops at the edge of the six-yard box but misses Luiz, with Wijnaldum heading back and clear of goal.

Questions for the second half

Has Brazil’s defense settled in? – Though the Seleçao defense looked terrible over the game’s first 16 minutes, they held the Dutch to one shot on target throughout the remainder of the half. Was that the team coming together? Or was it the Dutch taking their foot off the pedal?

Is this playing in to Dutch’s hands? – The Netherlands have been willing to play without the ball all tournament, relying on their counterattack to create chances. Though Brazil made progress over the half’s final half-hour, is their pursuit playing into the Dutch’s plans? The more isolated Silva and Luiz become, the more likely Robben is to finish this game off.

VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Matchday 9

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There was some eye-popping moments in the Premier League this weekend, yet still very little debate who shone brightest.

Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored a pair of Goal of the Month competitors in the same day in the Potters’ 2-0 win at Hull City on Monday.

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The first was a curling wonder from distance, while the second came from a bit closer as the big-calfed Swiss attacker bamboozled the Hull wall and goalkeeper.

The Potters are up to 16th in the Premier League table with nine points.

Finnish fans celebrate surprise title for IFK Mariehamn

IFK Mariehamm
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HELSINKI (AP) Fans of IFK Mariehamn have gathered in the main square of the remote Finnish town to celebrate their team’s surprise league title.

“I feel very proud,” the club’s managing director, Peter Mattsson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday, adding that “thousands” were expected to turn up for the party.

Watched by more than 4,000, Mariehamn clinched the Finnish title on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Ilves, from the industrial city of Tampere.

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Mariehamn held off 11 other teams, including the traditionally strong Helsinki club, HJK, and defending champion SJK from western Finland. It ended three points clear of second-placed HJK for its first league title.

Local media dubbed the team “Leicester” after the surprise English Premier League champions last season.

Mariehamn, which has a population of 11,500, is the capital of the Aland islands off the southwestern Finnish coast

Kroenke: “Very high” on Wenger who is “very hard” to replace

Jeff Fisher
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LONDON — Arsenal remains “very high” on Arsene Wenger and it will be “very hard” replacing the manager who is in the final year of his contract, owner Stan Kroenke told The Associated Press on Monday.

Wenger this month celebrated 20 years in charge of Arsenal and has offered no indication whether he wants to sign a new deal into next season.

The 67-year-old Frenchman became the Premier League’s longest serving manager when Alex Ferguson retired from Manchester United in 2013. United is now on its third manager in three years and has not competed for the Premier League title since Ferguson’s departure.

In a rare interview about Arsenal, Kroenke noted the tricky post-Ferguson succession at United while discussing the challenge of eventually replacing Wenger.

“You see it (at United), you bring up a comment like that,” Kroenke told the AP after Arsenal’s annual general meeting. “It’s very hard. He’s a great manager.”

Wenger signed his last three-year contract extension in 2014.

“We will sit down and discuss the future at the appropriate time,” Arsenal chairman Chips Keswick told shareholders at a meeting where Wenger didn’t address his contract situation in his speech.

Although Wenger has won the Premier League three times, the last success came in 2004 – a drought which frustrates fans.

“He’s been a wonderful influence on the club,” Kroenke said. “We are all very high on Arsene. We are (joint) top of the table right now.”

Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are only separated on goal difference at the summit. Despite Wenger only winning the FA Cup twice since 2004, the team is in the lucrative Champions League for the 19th successive year thanks to its runner-up finish last season. Wenger is yet to win European football’s top prize.

“I know a number of (sports team) owners that are very successful that say the same thing – the hardest thing to do is be consistently competitive at the top of the league,” said Kroenke, who also owns the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams. “Arsene has always done that and Arsenal has always been in that position. We have always been competitive.

“We may not always win the things we want to win. We are very focused on winning for sure the league. Arsene’s been consistently at the top and I will tell you – it’s very, very hard to do if you look around sports.”


2016 MLS Cup playoffs bracket in full

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Michael Bradley #4 and Jozy Altidore #17 of Toronto FC celebrate a goal by teammate Tsubasa Endoh #9 during the first half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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With Major League Soccer’s Decision Day 2016 in the books, we now know who will battle it out for MLS Cup.

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Up first on Wednesday and Thursday are the four knockout round games, then the Conference semifinal first legs kick off this weekend.

We get into it thick and fast.

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The PST crew already selected their picks for the postseason and filled out their bracket. You can see that by clicking on the link above. FWIW, I have Toronto FC beating the Seattle Sounders in MLS Cup…

[ MORE: Ranking MLS playoff teams ]

Below is the MLS playoff bracket in full so you can make your picks and let us know who you went for in the comments section below.


MLS Playoff bracket, 2016

MLS Playoff bracket, 2016