Stock rising, falling: Which World Cup sides are heading in opposite directions?


After the World Cup ended on Sunday, all 32 teams have now returned home after a sizzling summer of soccer.

Many are experiencing contrasting emotions at the moment.

[ RELATED: Story of the 2014 World Cup ]

Plenty of sides under-performed in Brazil, but plenty of teams overachieved too.

Here we take a look at three teams whose stock is on the rise after their World Cup performances, plus three teams who return with their tails in-between their legs.

Momentum means a lot in soccer. Let’s see who has got it.

Top 10 goals | PST’s best XI | Story of the WC | Top moments  | Grades


USA – With Jurgen Klinsmann’s side getting out of the “Group of Death” they could do no wrong heading into the knockout stages. A brave battle against Belgium resulted in defeat, but there was plenty to be positive about. Key players like Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey came up big when it mattered, while youngsters DeAndre Yedlin and Julian Green showed they are stars of the future. An entire nation is hopeful ahead off Russia 2018, as the U.S. gained plenty of respect from around the globe for their gritty performances. The next two summers provide a good chance for more tournament experience, as the Gold Cup and Copa America Centenario await.

FRANCE – The French lost 1-0 to eventual champions Germany in the quarterfinals and were so close to sending the game into extra time with the final attack. Didier Deschamps’ side stumbled into the World Cup via the UEFA playoffs, but left Brazil with everyone raving about their potential to lift the European Championships on home soil in 2016. Raphael Varane (despite being bullied by Mats Hummels for the deciding goal in the quarters) impressed, Paul Pogba won the Young Player of the Tournament award and the duo of Karim Benzema and Matheiu Valbuena were live-wires up top.

NETHERLANDS – Dutch courage prevailed, as the Oranje produced some superb soccer and went for broke in Brazil. Louis van Gaal’s side smashed Spain 5-1 in the opener and were a breath of fresh air throughout. Now LVG has stepped down to take charge of Manchester United, legendary Dutch coach Gus Huddink will take over this summer. Sure, guys like Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie are getting older, but there are plenty of talented youngsters like Daley Blind, Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum who will shine  bright. The future’s bright. The future’s Oranje….

Honorable mention: Colombia

What next for Spain?


SPAIN – The end of an era? It could well be. After their embarrassing title defense in Brazil, Spain could see several legendary players bowing out. Xavi, Iniesta, Iker Casillas, Xabo Alonso, David Villa… they could all make way. Will Vicente del Bosque still be in charge for the 2016 European Championships? Will Spain qualify? Is this the end of tiki-taka? So many questions have arisen after a truly disastrous World Cup.

ITALY – Another European giant and former World Cup winner is floundering after being knocked out in the group stages of the World Cup. Veterans Andrea Pirlo, Gigi Buffon and others failed to patch up a pragmatic and rather dull Cesare Prandelli side. Mario Balotelli scored in their opening win against England then disappeared for the rest of the tournament, while a lack of true attacking talent must be worrying. Prandelli is no longer in charge, could Antonio Conte be the man to restore the Azzurri’s pride?

BRAZIL – We will see what life after Luis Felipe Scolari will look like for the Selecao but it appears they have plenty of issues to address. Neymar aside, they have no superstar talents and with their monumental collapse during the 2014 World Cup, there is some serious work to be done. First they need a new manager, find out the contenders here. Then the real work can begin. Defensively they need to be more organized, in midfield they need structure and up top they need another top forward to ease the burden on Neymar. Yes, they made the semifinals on home soil this summer… but the home crowd urged them on against Colombia and Chile in tight knockout wins that only papered over the gaping cracks.

Dishonorable mention: England

Serie A: Napoli make good on Juve’s slip-up, now just 2 back

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona still unbeaten after 29 league games; Ronaldo scores 4 ]

Napoli 1-0 Genoa

Juventus slipped up in a big, big way on Saturday, stumbling to a scoreless draw away to tiny SPAL 2013, and opening the door ever so slightly for Napoli. With a win on Sunday, secured by Raul Albiol’s late winner, Napoli now trail Juve by just two points with the two sides level on games played (29) once again.

The victory snapped a two-game winless skid for Napoli, a run which saw them cough up the top spot which they had held for nearly the entire season, and set up perhaps a colossal title decider on April 22, when first hosts second in their quest to claim a seventh straight Serie A title.

Crotone 0-2 Roma

One spot and 14 points further down the table, you’ll find an interesting battle for third, with Roma picking up their third straight win, 2-0 over 18th-place Crotone on Sunday.

Stephan El Shaarawy (38th minute) and Radja Nainggolan (74th) bagged the goals for Roma, who lead Inter Milan by four points with nine games to go (Inter have a game in hand).

Sampdoria 0-5 Inter Milan

No one was more impressive this weekend than Inter, who put four past Sampdoria in the first half, including a hat trick from Mauro Icardi, who would then go on to add his fourth — Inter’s fifth — in the second half. That’s 22 league goals for the Argentine forward, who now trails Lazio’s Ciro Immobile by two in the Golden Boot race.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Lazio 1-1 Bologna
AC Milan 3-2 Chievo
Hellas Verona 0-5 Atalanta
Torino 1-2 Fiorentina
Benevento 1-2 Cagliari

La Liga: Barcelona unbeaten after 29 games; Ronaldo scores 4

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Man United vs. Spurs in FA Cup semis; Chelsea-Southampton]

Barcelona 2-0 Athletic Bilbao

Updated numbers for Barcelona’s current unbeaten run in La Liga: 29 games this season; 36 dating back to last season. The quest for the unbeaten league season is now just nine games from reality.

Perhaps even more impressive than the W-D-L record is their defensive record: 13 goals conceded in 29 games (they’ve also scored 74 and have a +61 goal differential).

Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Bilbao saw Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Co., go 11 points clear in the title race and all but secure their third title in four seasons, thanks to results elsewhere (see below).

Paco Alcacer opened the scoring after just eight minutes, and Messi made it 2-0 right on the half-hour mark (his league-leading 25th goal of the season; 34 in all competitions).

Real Madrid 6-3 Girona

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged four goals of his own to bring his season total to 22 (32 in all competitions), now second ahead of Suarez and three behind Messi for the Golden Boot, and in the process push Real Madrid (60 points) to within four points of Atletico Madrid in the race for second.

Ronaldo scored goals no. 1, 2, 4 and 6 for Madrid, with tallies from Lucas Vazquez and Gareth Bale sprinkled in between.

Villarreal 2-1 Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid were the last side within touching distance of Barca — “just” eight points back coming into the weekend — but that’s no longer the case following a late collapse and a 2-1 defeat away to fourth-place Valencia.

Antoine Griezmann put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot in the 20th minute, but Enes Unal bagged an equalizer in the 82nd and the game-winner in the 91st. Atleti finished the game with 10 men after Vitolo was sent off in the 92nd minute.

Real host Atleti in the Madrid derby on April 8, a game which will go a long way towards crowning this season’s runners-up.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Valencia 3-1 Alaves (Saturday)
Leganes 2-1 Sevilla
Real Betis 3-0 Espanyol (Saturday)
Celta Vigo 0-0 Malaga
Real Sociedad 1-2 Getafe (Saturday)
Levante 2-1 Eibar (Friday)
Deportivo La Coruña 1-1 Las Palmas (Saturday)

FA Cup: Conte “pleased” by Chelsea’s rebound after CL defeat

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The mark of a truly great team is not only found in the number of trophies won, but how they bounce back from failure.

[ MORE: Chelsea drawn against Southampton in semis; Man United-Spurs ]

After bowing out of the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona on Wednesday, Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea could have gone one of two ways during Sunday’s FA Cup quarterfinal clash with Leicester City — and for the rest of the season, for that matter. When Jamie Vardy pulled Leicester back to 1-1 with fewer than 15 minutes until full-time, the Blues had a choice to make: keep fighting, or fold under (more) pressure.

[ MORE: Spurs advance to FA Cup semifinal | Man United join them ]

To their credit, they were undeterred and booked their place in the semifinals, where they’ll face Southampton, courtesy of Pedro‘s 105th-minute winner. Following the game, Conte was highly complimentary (by his standard) of his players — quotes from the BBC:

“A tough game but we knew this. The last game at home we suffer a lot against Leicester. We must be pleased today. I saw a good performance and great character from my team. After the game in the Champions League when we spent a lot of energy they showed good heart to beat Leicester.”

“When you arrive at this point, every game is difficult. They (Southampton) have just changed coach but now it is important to be happy and to go for another game at Wembley. We will try to do our best to reach the final. We want to give satisfaction to our fans.

“I think that for us our target is to try and do our best. To work hard with the players. I must be pleased with the commitment of the players. If you can win a trophy it is important for a team like Chelsea. But the most important thing is for us to fight until the end in every competition. We will try to reach the final.”

[ MORE: Southampton see off Wigan | Chelsea complete the final four ]

As for Pedro, he believes scoring a goal of Sunday’s import will do wonders for his confidence, which could prove a massive boon in Chelsea’s quest to overcome a five-point deficit and usurp fourth-place Tottenham:

“It was a very difficult game. It was good for me to score for my confidence and to get to the next round.

“It was hard to find the pass in between the lines. Leicester defended very well and pressed high. It is difficult to win against this team.

“The most important thing for us was the teamwork and to make it through to the next round. “We have to fight in the next few games. It is a difficult situation for us in the league but we have to fight.

“We have a good opportunity to go to the final and fight for a place in the top four. But now is the moment to relax and enjoy this win.”

Leicester 1-2 Chelsea: Blues battle to victory

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  • Morata scores first goal of 2018
  • Vardy nets, score 17th of season
  • Pedro scores in extra time

Chelsea beat Leicester City 2-1 after extra time to seal their spot in the FA Cup semifinal.

Alvaro Morata gave Antonio Conte’s men the lead, but Jamie Vardy equalized to take it to extra time.

Pedro then struck to send Chelsea into the semifinal for the second-straight season.

Leicester started well and went close when Marc Albrighton‘s effort from the edge of the box squirmed just wide.

However the longer the first half well, the more dangerous Chelsea looked.

The West London club threatened on the break through Morata with Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses having plenty of space out wide.

Morata then made the breakthrough right on half time as Willian nicked the ball, surged forward and released the Spaniard who finished calmly for his first goal in 2018.

After the break Leicester finally came to life as Wilfred Ndidi picked out Vardy with a wonderful pass but the Leicester forward looped his header over the bar.

Albrighton whipped in plenty of inviting crosses as Leicester pushed hard for an equalizerand eventually broke through.

Vicente Iborra got on the end of Riyad Mahrez‘s cross and he was denied twice by heroic blocks but Vardy was on hand to tap home. Game on.

Substitute Shinji Okazaki almost got on the end of a cross soon after and at the other end Morata hit the post with an acrobatic finish… but he was in an offside position.

Morata was then denied twice by Kasper Schmeichel at the end of normal time as the game went to extra time.

Pedro was the hero for Chelsea as he headed home the winner in extra time to send Chelsea to Wembley.