Three things we learned as Germany win World Cup, outlast Argentina

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Following Germany’s 1-0 extra time win over Argentina at the Maracana Stadium on Sunday, there were tense moments galore as two giants of soccer clashed in Rio de Janeiro.

The Germans prevailed and claimed their fourth World Cup title after Mario Gotze’s moment of individual brilliance sealed the trophy for Das Mannschaft.

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[ REALTED: Gotze fact file

In what proved to be an intriguing tactical battle between two nations with contrasting styles, we learned an awful lot about Germany and Argentina as the 2014 World Cup came to a close.

Here are three things we learned from the final, as Germany became the new World Cup champions.

Higuain, Messi, fluff their lines

In the first half, Higuain could have put Argentina 2-0 up as the Albiceleste came racing out of the traps. However, the man who clinically fired Argentina past Belgium in the quarterfinals and has been so clutch for club and country in the past fluffed his lines. Massively. First of all he was let in over the top but shanked an effort wide after five minutes, then in the 22nd minute he put another effort wide after Toni Kroos’ poor header played him in. It just wasn’t Higuain’s day as he was taken out by Manuel Neuer in the second half, and somehow a free kick was given against him. Then he was substituted. Lionel Messi, despite winning the Golden Ball award for the best player of the tournament, failed to score a single goal in the knockout stages of the World Cup and once again vanished in the final for large swathes. Messi’s big chance arrived just after the break as Lucas Biglia played him in, but the Barcelona star dragged his effort wide of the far post. Apart from a few darting runs and curling efforts from distance, Messi wandered around in the middle and looked extremely lethargic in the closing stages. He had a free kick in the dying seconds which he ballooned over the bar, then looked at the turf in disbelief as the Argentine captain winced painfully. When Argentina needed him most, Messi couldn’t come up with the goods.

source: AP
Gotze was the hero as Germany, well, win. Any shock there?

Defense dominates, Mascherano shines

Throughout the entire knockout stages Argentina failed to concede a goal in regulation. Alejandro Sabella’s side went 426 minutes without conceding  before Gotze struck the game-winner in extra time. Much had been made of the “fantastic four” up top for Argentina (Messi, Higuain, Di Maria, Aguero) but central defenders Martin Demichelis and Ezeqieul Garay were outstanding. Especially in the final. At times Argentine’s defensive unit look impenetrable but Gotze’s moment of magic was worthy of winning any game. Biglia and Javier Mascherano sat in front of the back four expertly and stereotypically snapped away at Germany’s midfield. Mascherano was simply wonderful. His timely interceptions stopped Germany’s flow time and time again and the amount of challenges he snapped into was essential in the engine room. He cajoled his side into action and was the lynchpin of Argentina’s defensive display. As for Germany, Manuel Neuer won the Golden Glove award as he kept four clean sheets and only conceded four goals in seven games throughout the entire tournament. The experience of defenders Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels proved the difference as Germany shut the Argentine’s out in the final. It was a tense, tight and gripping 1-0 win that made the world sit up and appreciate top-notch defending. We’ve seen plenty of tough games where two teams fought to the death in this tournament. The best was saved until last.

“Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”

In England a saying has developed about Germany, with former England international and NBC’s Premier League Analyst Gary Lineker famous for these words.

“Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”

Throughout this tournament Germany has found a way to dig deep and get past stubborn outfits like Algeria, France and then Argentina. They also possess the talent to hammer hosts Brazil and were worthy winners of the 2014 World Cup. They were the top scorers, with 18, and the best team. Germany won it with a moment of magic which deserved to win any final. Gotze’s goal was a golden moment.

His strike ensured Germany’s “Golden Generation” struck gold for the first time since 1990. In the end, as it always seems to shake out, the Germans win.

Sweden announces Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not return for World Cup

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s public flirtation and seeming committal to returning to the Swedish national team for the World Cup was a big tease.

Whether it’s his call or not is up for debate.

The Swedish Football Association reports that it’s spoken with Ibrahimovic and the 35-year-old LA Galaxy striker has declined the chance to return to the fold.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Sweden’s sporting director Lars Richt says Ibrahimovic has not changed his mind on international retirement despite his own words.

Sweden’s current team may have a role in that.

We imagine Richt and Sweden may be cushioning the blow for Ibrahimovic, especially if national team goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson is speaking on behalf of a team vibe when he speaks of Zlatan being “an individualist” who could ruin Sweden’s team-first concept.

Report: Fulham, NFL owner Khan agrees $700m price for Wembley

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Fulham owner Shad Khan also owns a National Football League team, and could have two top-flight teams from different nations playing in England soon.

For Fulham, the Cottagers are currently very much in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League and at the least will have a chance at qualifying through the playoffs.

[ MORE: TFC loses CCL Final in PKs ]

For the Jaguars, who have rarely needed all the seats in their stadium, it could mean a move to London if Khan goes through with what’s being reported as an accepted $700 million bid to buy Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium was also built with the design to host NFL games.

Here’s how ProFootballTalk’s Michael David Smith puts a bow on it (on one of the biggest days of the NFL calendar, nonetheless):

So it’s possible that there could soon be two iconic soccer stadiums in London with strong NFL ties, one which was built with NFL games in mind, and another that is owned by an NFL owner. The league is pouring serious resources into London.

It seems unlikely Khan would move Fulham from Craven Cottage, but there are other repercussions of this move for soccer in England.

There’s the potential for the England national team to no longer utlizie a permanent home, and the FA Cup and League Cup both potentially requiring new or rotating venues for their final rounds.

A lot to monitor here, and we’ll surely have all the details as they emerge from Khan’s crew.

TFC on CCL loss: “Feels the heart has been ripped from the chest”

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Michael Bradley went 90 minutes at center back, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco scored, and Toronto FC nearly, oh-so-nearly, became the first Major League Soccer side to win a continental title in the CONCACAF Champions League era.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

“We wanted to be the first (MLS side) to lift the CONCACAF Champions League trophy,” said goalkeeper Alex Bono, according to MLSSoccer.com. “We failed in that goal; that’s massively disappointing. … This is the way the game goes, it’s unjust; it feels the heart has been ripped from the chest sometimes.”

Bono made some big saves in regulation as TFC flipped its 2-1 first leg loss on its ear over 90 minutes, but Chivas Guadalajara scored all four of their penalty kick attempts as Jonathan Osorio hit the bar and Bradley set his effort on a path to the moon.

That part was possibly academic, as Chivas could’ve sealed it with their fifth penalty, but Marky Delgado’s miss of a perfect Sebastian Giovinco stoppage time cross is what sent the match into kicks.

Here’s how The Toronto Sun’s Kurt Larson framed his post-match interview with Delgado, described as one of the few players not to walk past the media after the loss:

“That’s football sometimes,” Delgado searched for words. “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it goes in. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s heartbreaking.”

It felt cruel to keep him standing there any longer.

“Wherever we are, we want to win,” the soft-spoken American said. “Unfortunately today we didn’t, but we know we dominated the game.”

And Bradley, in the season after Toronto won a trouble but also 18 months removed from missing a PK in the MLS Cup Final — not to mention marshaling the USMNT midfield in its monumental failure to qualify for the World Cup was mostly good in playing out-of-position.

“In the biggest moments, we threw caution to the wind and played with balls, bravery, and pride in ourselves, in each other, in our club and our city,” Bradley said on Canadian television outlet TSN.

They did, and now they must hope to win the Canadian Championship, MLS Supporters’ Shield, or MLS Cup to get another shot at qualifying for the Club World Cup.

Toronto loses CONCACAF Champions League in PKs

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Chivas Guadalajara scored on all of its penalty kicks to clinch a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League Final, breaking the hearts of Toronto FC in Mexico on Wednesday and earning a berth in the 2018 Club World Cup.

Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore scored in regulation as Toronto FC picked up a 2-1 win to reverse their first leg loss and push it to kicks.

Orbelin Pineda scored Chivas’ goal.

Hometown kid Jonathan Osorio hit the cross bar on Toronto’s second PK and Michael Bradley sent the fifth offering into outer space.

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Toronto flew out of the gates, and Rodolfo Cota came flying off his line to deny Altidore a 10th minute chance.

Alex Bono collected a header off a Chivas corner kick earned by a counterattack.

Pineda then made Toronto’s task even harder with a 19th minute goal, cooking Auro’s mark to reach a through ball and dancing around Bono for 1-0.

But Altidore was somehow unmarked for Nic Hasler’s pass despite five Chivas defenders and Cota inside the six-yard box, and TFC leveled the second leg at 1.

And TFC got the next goal through Giovinco, slipped through by Marky Delgado and taking advantage of a yard of space and a second to shoot with his fourth goal of the CCL knockout rounds.

The Reds kept coming in the second half, with Delgado winning a big 50-50 ball deep in Chivas territory and Victor Vasquez ripping a shot that Cota dove to smother.

Chivas found its footing in 58th minute, sending a shot over the bar before Jesus Godinez hit the post in the 61st (though his dive seemingly had the near post covered). Bono the next knocked a free kick over the bar from a similar position as the ball that beat him in the first leg.

Javier Lopez curled a vicious attempt just over the goal in the 72nd. He’d have the next best chances moments after Altidore subbed off with an apparent hamstring injury, but dribbled onto Bono’s lap and fired off the keeper.

Giovinco worked a 1-2 with Osorio and cruised a shot just wide of the far post in the 87th minute. Delgado then mailed a sitter over the bar in the first minute of stoppage time.