Early Dutch goals prolong hosts’ nightmare, claim third place at 2014 World Cup

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A tournament that started with expectations of a sixth World Cup has ended in embarrassment for Brazil, whose defensive failings early in today’s third place match produced the team’s second straight loss. With a late goal from Georginio Wijnaldum build on early scores from Robin van Persie and Daley Blind, the Netherlands claimed a 3-0 win in today’s playoff, leaving the host nation on the wrong end of lopsided defeats to close its tournament.

Brazil came into today’s match in Brasília having suffered its most-lopsided defeat in tournament history, a 7-1, semifinal loss to Germany on Tuesday. Given an opportunity to save some face in the nation’s capital, the Seleçao conceded twice in the first 16 minutes, paving the way to a disappointing fourth place finish.

The Netherlands were on the board in the third minute when van Persie converted a penalty conceded by Thiago Silva. Just past the quarter-hour mark, a failed clearance from David Luiz left Daley Blind with an open shot from 12 yards out, with the defender’s finish high into Júlio César’s goal giving the Dutch early, unneeded insurance.

One minute into stoppage time, a cross from the right by Daryl Janmaat found Wijnaldum just outside the six-yard box, setting up the midfielder for a one-timed finish inside César’s left post.

With the victory, the Netherlands finish its World Cup undefeated, having done 5-0-2 (W-L-D) over the course of seven games. Brazil, on the other hand, went 3-2-2, losing the final two games of its competition.

The Netherlands opened the scoring almost immediately, with van Persie, at the edge of Brazil’s defensive third, releasing Robben behind the defense through the right channel. Silva, attempting to cover from his right-center back position, was late getting to the Dutch attacker and intentionally pulled him down from behind, just outside the penalty box. Committing a pair of apparent mistakes, referee Djamel Haïmoudi pointed to the penalty spot while only producing a yellow card for Silva. Van Persie’s ensuing conversion had the Netherlands up in the third minute.

source: AP
Daley Blind, center, celebrates with Bruno Martins Indi, right, after scoring his side’s second goal. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Thirteen minutes later, the Dutch doubled its lead, with Blind given too much time from near the penalty spot to beat César high and into the right of goal. Despite replays showing the Netherlands may have been offside in the buildup to the goal, Blind took advantage of a weak clearance from Luiz, whose header of a cross from the right found Blind open in front of goal.

On the brink of a second calamity, Brazil recovered, proving the more dangerous team over the half’s final half-hour, but only able to register one, long-range shot on Jasper Cillessen, the host nation went into intermission own two goals.

As play resumed in the second half, so did Brazil’s control, but shots on Cillessen were still hard to come by. Near the 70-minute mark, as Brazil started to push 60 percent possession for the match, the hosts had only managed two shots on target, with the Dutch’s five-man defense able to stop the Seleçao’s attacks as they reached the edge of the penalty area.

Brazil finally appeared to have generated a chance in the 70th minute when Oscar was taken down in the right of the area by Blind, who was stretchered off the field moments later with an apparent left knee injury. Haïmoudi, however, produced a yellow card on Oscar for dividing, leaving Brazil without a chance from the spot.

Over final, merciful 20 minutes, Brazil continued pushing toward the Dutch goal, maintaining hopes the Selecao could get on the scoresheet, if not salvage a result. Those hopes, however, couldn’t generates chances for the home side, who proved no more successful in the match’s last moments than they had since conceding the first two goals. Once Oscar saw yellow, the remainder of the match become it denouement, with Wijnaldum’s 91st minute finish completing the Dutch’s 3-0 romp.

With the final whistle, Brazil’s chance at redemption had gone, and if anything, the performance in Brasília only validated what had happened against the Germans. Whereas four weeks ago Brazil were picked to redeem 1950, the last five days have added another nightmare.

For the Dutch, however, the win caps once of the tournament’s surprise performances. Picked by many to exit the competition at the group stage, Louis van Gaal’s team claimed five wins in seven games, derailing Spain, Chile, Mexico, and Brazil along the way.

Though van Gaal will now moves back into the club world, he leaves his national team with new momentum. When Guus Hiddink takes over, he’ll inherit a squad of young but experienced players – players who’ll be able to leverage their surprise success at Euro 2016.

LINEUPS

Brazil: César; Maicon, Silva, Luiz, Maxwell; Gustavo (Fernandinho 46′), Paulinho (Hernanes 57′); Ramires (Hulk 73′), Oscar, Willian; Jô

Goals: None

Netherlands: Cillessen (Vorm 92′); Kuyt; de Vrij, Vlaar, Martins Indi, Blind (Janmaat 70′); Clasie (Veltman 90′), Wijnaldum, de Guzman; Robben, van Persie

Goals: van Persie 3′, Blind 16′, Wijnaldum 91′

LIVE, UCL: Liverpool, Man City in action; Dortmund-Tottenham

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Three Premier League teams are in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday with Liverpool knowing a win at Sevilla will see them qualify for the knockout stage for the first time since 2009.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Jurgen Klopp‘s side head to Spain in good form after three consecutive wins in the Premier League and are in a very healthy position in Group E.

Tottenham Hotspur head to Borussia Dortmund with Spurs’ place in the last 16 already secured and Dortmund (Christian Pulisic is out of the squad with an injury) needing a win to keep their faint hopes of reaching the knockout stage alive with Real Madrid heading to APOEL Nicosia in Group H.

Manchester City have also secured their spot in the last 16 and host Feyenoord in Group F. The Dutch side have lost all four of their UCL games so far this season but have taken a huge number of traveling fans to Manchester and they can still qualify for the Europa League via finishing in third spot ahead of Shaktar Donetsk.

Elsewhere Monaco host RB Leipzig in a pivotal clash in Group G.

Click on the link above to follow commentary on all the action, while below is the full schedule as we will have reaction and analysis on all the UCL action on Tuesday.

All games kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, unless otherwise stated.


Tuesday’s UCL schedule

Group E
Spartak Moscow 1-1 Maribor – FT
Sevilla vs. Liverpool

Group F
Manchester City vs. Feyenoord
Napoli vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

Group G
Monaco vs. RB Leipzig
Besiktas 1-1 FC Porto – FT

Group H
Borussia Dortmund vs. Tottenham Hotspur
APOEL vs. Real Madrid

FIFA bans 3 soccer officials for life for taking bribes

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GENEVA (AP) Three soccer officials who pleaded guilty in American courts to accepting bribes were banned for life by the FIFA ethics committee on Tuesday.

They include former FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai of Guam, who testified in federal court that the source of his bribe money was Olympic powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait.

“His guilty plea related, amongst others, to schemes in which he received bribes in exchange for his support in relation to the FIFA presidential elections and to gain control and influence within the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and FIFA,” the soccer body said Tuesday in a statement.

Sheikh Ahmad referred his own case to the ethics committees of FIFA and the International Olympic Committee in April after Lai’s guilty plea was revealed. The Kuwaiti royal also withdrew from an election to retain his seat representing Asia on the FIFA Council.

Two former soccer federation presidents, Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Julio Rocha of Nicaragua, were also banned for life Tuesday. They were arrested in Zurich in May 2015 in early morning raids on luxury hotels and later extradited to the United States.

FIFA said its ethics judges imposed “appropriate fines in relation to the amounts of the bribes that they have admitted having taken.”

Lai has agreed to pay “more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in April.

In court, the American citizen pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking about $1 million in bribes, including at least $850,000 from Kuwaiti officials.

Esquivel agreed to forfeit $16 million a year ago when he pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy linked to the awarding of contracts for the media and marketing rights.

Esquivel’s name was cited Monday in Brooklyn during testimony in the trial of three other South American soccer officials who deny corruption charges.

One witness who formerly worked for a marketing agency in Argentina said he kept a ledger of payments to officials, including a $750,000 payment to Esquivel for “Q2022.” Prosecutors did not specify if the payment was linked to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Rocha was a FIFA staffer and was working for its development department when he was arrested in 2015. He agreed to forfeit nearly $300,000 after admitting to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges last December.

PL Playback: Pogba the key for Man United

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POGBACK

Paul Pogba‘s snake hips goal celebration had been dearly missed by Manchester United’s fans.

So too had his marauding runs from midfield since he injured his hamstring in early September. Jose Mourinho had previously said United were a totally different team without Pogba and his display in the 4-1 win against Newcastle on Saturday proved it.

Speaking to MUTV after the game, Pogba shared his belief that if all of United’s players stay fit they can challenge Manchester City for the title.

“The season is really long so we have to be fit – not only me but all the players,” Pogba said. “To win the league we need all our players. When you have one injured here, one injured there, it doesn’t help. It’s always better to have a full team. Zlatan’s back and Marcos after a long injury. It was hard for them but they kept believing and worked hard to come back. We need them to win the league and we’re really glad they’re here.”

Even if he didn’t jinx past Newcastle’s defense to clip in a wonderful cross for Anthony Martial to head home United’s first, or then make a 60-yard sprint to get on the end of Marcus Rashford‘s knockdown to make it 3-1, Pogba’s presence was felt.

His return gave United’s entire squad, and fanbase, a lift and everything is set up rather nicely for him to battle it out with Kevin De Bruyne in the Manchester derby on Dec. 10 at Old Trafford.

With Pogba this season United have played five games, winning four and drawing one.

Without Pogba United have played seven, won four, lost twice and drawn once in the Premier League.

His influence on this team is key to the way it has been assembled by Mourinho and his power, all-action displays and strong character get the best out of those around him. Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku tick because Pogba is linking the midfield and attack effortlessly with his energetic displays. Over the past two months there’s been a main reason why Lukaku had done seven games without scoring for United before last weekend: Pogba.

Pogba’s comments about United pushing City for the title if they stay fit appear misguided but if he stays fit then there’s no doubt United are the best version of themselves.


INFURIATING ARSENAL

When they play like they did on Saturday, the only team Arsenal will finish below this season will be Manchester City.

Seriously.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned from the North London derby ]

The Gunners destroyed Tottenham Hotspur with a ruthless display in the first half as Mesut Ozil unlocked Spurs’ midfield and defense, Alexis Sanchez ran them ragged and Alexandre Lacazette played on the last shoulder of Tottenham’s disheveled defense.

Arsene Wenger was rewarded for a bold, attack-minded team selection and with Shkodran Mustafi back fit he now has his first-choice starting lineup at his disposal. If the Gunners stay fit, they can make real charge up the Premier League table in the coming weeks with a bunch of winnable games.

In four of their next five Premier League games they should beat Huddersfield, Southampton, West Ham and Newcastle, with the big tests at home against Man United (Dec. 2) and Liverpool (Dec. 22) showing just how far they’ve come so far this season.

The Emirates, so often the site of protests and fan unrest in previous seasons, is become a fortress for Arsenal who have now won 11 PL games there on the spin, their best-ever run of consecutive wins at the stadium.

Between now and Dec. 22 we will get a very good idea as to what way this season will go for Arsenal.

If Wenger’s players stay fit and he remains positive in his team selection, the Gunners could be rewarded with not only a place back in the top four but much more.


WEST BROM’S GAMBLE

Tony Pulis is the man you want in a relegation battle. So, why did West Bromwich Albion sack him?

A run of two wins in 21 Premier League games sealed Pulis’ fate but what exactly did West Brom’s owners expect would happen?

Pulis’ short-term bump from taking over in January 1 2015 wore off midway through last season and his methods, although lauded by many for preserving his proud record of never being relegation from the Premier League, wear players down over time. Even the wily old crew he had assembled at West Brom (they had the oldest average starting XI in the PL) couldn’t cope with it anymore.

[ MORE: Baggies sack Tony Pulis. but what next? ]

The old adage “losing the dressing room” is frowned upon by folks in the industry but it is clear that’s what happened here. Players believe they are better than perhaps they are, most of the time, and get sick and tired of being told to just clip the ball long, stay compact and try to score from set pieces. Most of Pulis’ training session focus on team shape and denying the opposition the ball. Having the ball is an afterthought. That’s too much for some to handle day in, day out.

And we all know, despite the Baggies being a solid midtable club for seven years in the PL now, that getting rid of one manager is much easier than a squad of players.

Getting rid of Pulis was the only available option.

Yet, after a summer where they did some great business to bring in Grzegorz Krychowiak, Kieran Gibbs, Ahmed Hegazi and Jay Rodriguez, things seemed to be on the up. Yet that recruitment and losing the likes of Darren Fletcher caused issues in the squad balance and Pulis all of a sudden had too many newbies on board who either took too much time to get used to his methods or didn’t want to adjust their game to do so.

All in all, West Brom are now left with very few options to replace Pulis other than appointing someone extremely similar to him. Sam Allardyce is from the area (a boyhood Wolves fan, West Brom’s bitter rivals) is the bookmakers favorite and he would seem to be the perfect firefighter against a Premier League relegation battle.

But, like many PL clubs who have sacked their managers so far this season (hello, Everton, Crystal Palace, West Ham) or are contemplating it (Swansea, Southampton and maybe Stoke) the alternatives to their current boss aren’t plentiful. Keeping hold of Pulis was no longer an option West Brom had but, over time, it may seem like the correct one.


Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Champions League score picks: Week 5

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Round 5 of the UEFA Champions League group stage is here and plenty of teams will seal their spots in the Round of 16 over the next few days.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Below you will find score predictions for all 16 UCL games across Tuesday and Wednesday.

[ MORE: Group stage predictions ]

Feel free to join in down in the comments section.


Tuesday

Group E
Sevilla 1-3 Liverpool
Spartak Moscow 2-2 Maribor

Group F
Man City 5-2 Feyenoord
Napoli 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk

Group G
Besiktas 2-1 FC Porto
Monaco 2-2 RB Leipzig

Group H
Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
APEOL 0-4 Real Madrid

Wednesday

Group A
Manchester United 2-0 Benfica
Basel 3-0 CSKA Moscow

Group B
Paris Saint-Germain 4-0 Celtic
Anderlecht 1-3 Bayern Munich

Group C
Qarabag 1-4 Chelsea
Atletico Madrid 2-1 Roma

Group D
Juventus 1-2 Barcelona
Sporting Lisbon 2-1 Olympiacos