Offshore drilling, Euro 2012: Czech Republic 2, Greece 1

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Man of the Match: The Czech Republic did its damage wide, with Petr Jiracek making the biggest mark. Against Russia, he played in central midfield, but head coach Michal Jirek decided to sit Jan Rezek and move Jiracek wide  . The move paid off within three minutes, with Jiracek beating Jose Holebas on a run from the right, getting onto a ball from Thomas Hübschman, and putting the Czechs in front. Throughout the match, Jiracek combined with Theodor Gebre Selasse to terrorize Greece’s left flank, and when the Czechs shifted gears and looked to bleed out the match, Jiracek was one of the teams’ hardest workers.

NBC Sports: Czech Republic beats Greece 2-1

Packaged for takeaway:

  • With two goals in six minutes, the Czechs put the match away early. Of course, we didn’t know that at the time, but we should have suspected. Greece eventually came into the game but never threatened Petr Cech, their goal a gift from the Chelsea `keeper. I would call Greece’s performance disappointing, but that would be both a cliché and an understatement.
  • The second goal highlighted the two major problems Greece at the match’s onset.
    • Problem one: Their bad flank. It was another goal build down Greece’s left, a side that’s been terrible all tournament. Theodor Gebre Selasse beat Jose Holebas, got a ball into the six (barely eluding goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias), allowing Vaclav Pilar to direct a ball into the empty net.
    • Problem two: Early disorganization, uncertainty. Kostas Katsouranis played a major part in the second goal. The veteran Greek destroyer was forced into defense, with both of Greece’s first choice central defenders out (suspension and injury). A more experienced defender probably would have cleared the Gebre Selasse ball with his left foot, but Katsouranis looked uncertain. This allowed Pilar to slide in, put the winner home, notching his second goal of the tournament.
  • Soon after, Chalkias had to come off. It was the second match in a row where injury forced Santos into an early substitution. Having played from behind for most of the tournament, the Greece coach has had his hands tied.
  • Greece left back Jose Holebas has probably been the tournament’s worst player. Can you think of another player who has performed worse? I’ll admit I may not have thought about this enough, but between Poland’s success down Greece’s left and the goals the Czech Republic produces, I can’t think of another player who has done worse.
  • A series of interesting lineup changes by Santos probably hurt. Then again, he didn’t know his team was going to give up two goals early. He moved Giorgios Samaras from left forward to number nine, a chance didn’t work. Samaras couldn’t win the nice long balls Kostas Kastsouranis played forward, losing a number of aerial challenges to Tomas Sivok. When Samaras shifted back to his regular left-sided attacking role, he was one of Greece’s few bright spots.
  • In the preview, I talked about Greek youth needed to step up. Santos gave 19-year-old Kostas Fortounis a chance, putting him in the starting XI. He was not only quiet, he failed to help against Gebre Selasse, the right back giving (what on another day would be) a man of the match performance. Fortounis was eventually brought off.
  • Michal Bilek’s changes, however, worked. The left side of defense that was so leaky versus the Russians was fixed by moving Michal Kadlec in to left-center half while David Limbersky, in at left back, was one of the team’s better players. Inserting Thomas Hübschman allowed Jiracek to move outside, with Hübschman providing a nice assist on the first goal.
  • There was only two areas of concern for the Czechs:
    • Petr Cech had another howler, mishandling a soft Samaras ball sent in from 35 yards, gifting Theofanis Gekas a goal.
    • The team’s also getting nothing from Milan Baros, whose effort was discouraging. In the 60th minute, a small bump in the back from Kyriakos Papadopoulos was enough to stop Baros contending for a long ball. Those type of bumps happen on 94.6 percent of long balls (I made that number up). Minutes later, Bilek took Baros off.
  • Going forward, the Czechs are into the quarters with a win over co-hosts Poland. Greece needs a win over Russia to have a chance. Both matches kick off simultaneously on Saturday.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Coutinho saves Brazil from Neymar’s VAR humiliation

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Dominant Brazil needed stoppage time to find a way past Costa Rican backstop Keylor Navas and pick up a 2-0 win in Saint Petersburg on Friday.

Neymar embarrassingly saw an awarded penalty overturned when he flopped instead of shooting following a tug from Giancarlo Gonzalez, but Philippe Coutinho toe-poked a shot through Navas’ legs in the first of six stoppage time minutes.

Neymar would later add a goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time from Douglas Costa.

Brazil finishes the group stage with Serbia, while Costa Rica waits on Switzerland.

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Brazil controlled the first 12 minutes of the match, but Costa Rica just missed a bid to make it 1-0 against the run of play.

Deportivo La Coruña midfielder Celso Borges darted into the box to drag a low shot just wide of the far post.

Gabriel Jesus had the ball in the back of the goal in the 26th minute, but was deemed offside. And Keylor Navas stymied another Brazil rush a minute later.

But Costa Rica’s packed-in camp held Brazil at bay into the break.

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Brazil fired out of the gates to start the second half, and Navas was again busy as Neymar clattered into him in search of a loose ball. Well, kinda loose.

When Philippe Coutinho’s hammered shot was blocked out for a corner, it simultaneously felt like Brazil’s goal was either inevitable or destined to not arrive.

Navas then pushed a Neymar point-blank bid over the bar.

Tite opted to bring on Roberto Firmino, but Navas kept up his heroics by collecting a header off another Brazil corner.

The possibility of a scoreless draw felt even more likely when Neymar stole the ball and whipped a 21-yard shot just off the upper 90.

Neymar looked to have a won a penalty kick when Gonzalez tugged him in the six, but VAR overturned the call.

Fabregas praises Vela vs. Germany, not impressed by Ronaldo

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Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas was left off the Spain squad for this summer’s World Cup, and has been working as a pundit for the BBC.

Friday morning found him posting a column — well, we doubt he handled the posting — on the tournament so far, one that talked about how Spain rebounded from a tournament-opening loss to win the World Cup.

[ MORE: Lichaj moves to Hull ]

Fabregas then touched on Cristiano Ronaldo’s World Cup, saying credit due to his four goals but also questioning how impressed anyone should be with three goals from set pieces and a fourth from a David De Gea gaffe.

You cannot say that he and Portugal have shown great combinations or tiki-taka football to score great goals.

You have to give him credit, of course, but his goals have come from set-pieces, penalties or mistakes.

Seems a bit of anti-Real Madrid carryover there, although the sentiment is real (Portugal has not been impressive despite its four points).

Fabregas then went on to highlight one particular performance in the tournament: Mexico and LAFC midfielder Carlos Vela’s work in El Tri‘s upset of Germany.

Vela left Real Sociedad to join Los Angeles FC at the start of the year and people seem to think that when you go to the MLS, or that type of league, your level drops.

That was not the case when he played against Germany, because Kroos could not shake him off. He tried but he could not influence the game.

See, Cesc: You can totally come to our shores and run point for a team. Toronto is really close to me, if you’re asking, but Philly, Columbus, and New York are reasonable enough drives.

USMNT back Lichaj finds new home in Championship

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Eric Lichaj is going to bring his Premier League promotion dreams to a new Championship club.

The 29-year-old USMNT fullback has been a key part of Nottingham Forest to the tune of 188 appearances since moving from Aston Villa in 2013.

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But he’s on the move, joining Nigel Adkins at Hull City on the heels of a three-goal season at Forest. He famously scored a pair of goals in a 4-2 FA Cup win over Arsenal, then naming his new dog Gunner.

“It’s a fresh start for me and I want to repay Hull City for the faith that they have shown in me by bringing me here. I’ll be working my hardest, as I always do, every day in training and on matchdays.”

The versatile American can play left or right back, and has pushed his way back into the national team picture. Lichaj has 15 caps with a goal for the USMNT.

Also, #AStarInStripes? We see you, Hull

Report: Minnesota United chasing Ecuadorian national teamer

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Minnesota United may be hoping another Ibarra can cure what ails its attack.

Romario Ibarra, 23, is on the Loons’ radar according to The Athletic‘s Kristian Dyer and Jeff Rueter, who say Minnesota would like to land the Ecuadorian when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

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Ibarra was limited to eight matches for Universidad Católica this season as he battled through a lingering metatarsal fracture. But he’s scored against Argentina and Chile in each of his appearances for the national team, both World Cup qualifiers.

From The Athletic:

Sources say that Ibarra’s contract is unlikely to make him a designated player, leaving Quintero as the club’s sole DP. (It could depend, in part, on the size of the transfer fee.) Based on league standards, his salary will likely be drawn from Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) contract seems likely.

Ibarra’s older brother Renato plays for Club America, and has 36 caps.

Minnesota is six points outside the West’s final playoff spot, and has scored just 17 goals in 14 matches.