International roundup: Spain downs Italy; Germany squeaks by Chile; Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay held

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All 32 team that qualified for the 2014 World Cup are in action on Wednesday – the last official FIFA international match day before the end of the 2013-14 season. Though cakes in North and Central America will kick off later tonight, here are how the day’s European kickoffs unfolded (teams ordered by FIFA world ranking):

1. Spain – Pedro Rodríguez’s early second half score gave the world champions a 1-0 lead on Italy, an advantage la Roja were able to carry through full-time with relative ease after giving up some early opportunities.

2. Germany – An early goal from Bayern Munich’s Mario Götze hinted at an easy day for Joachim Löw’s team, but held off the scoreboard by Chile for the next 74 minutes, Germany were left to settle for a 1-0 victory over Jorge Sampaoli’s team in Stuttgart.

3. Argentina – A lackluster performance from a full strength Albiceleste saw Romania hold earn a 0-0 draw in Bucharest.

4. Portugal – An early goal from Cristiano Ronaldo saw the Seleccao captain pass Pauleta for first place on his country’s all-time scoring list. Vincent Aboubaker’s goal, however, allowed the visiting Cameroonians to equalize minutes before halftime. Second half goals from Raul Meireles, Fabio Coentrao, Edinho, and a second from Ronaldo left Cameroon routed at full-time, Paulo Bento’s team posting a 5-1 win in Leiria.

5. Colombia – An early goal from James Rodríguez gave the Cafeteros an early lead in Barcelona, but Wahbi Kahzri’s response in the 35th minute provided the equalizer for Tunisia, who held on for a 1-1 draw.

6. Switzerland – A duel between Josip Drmic (goals in the 33rd, 41st minutes) and Ivica Olic (39th, 54th) left the two World Cup qualifiers drawn at the final whistle, with Croatia’s visit to the AFG Arena producing a 2-2 result.

7. Uruguay – Marc Janko’s 14th minute opener put Austria up early, but substitute Álvaro Perreira’s equalizer in the 66th minute salvaged a 1-1 draw for la Celeste.

8. Italy  – See Spain.

9. Brazil – Three goals from Neymar were complemented by scores from Chelsea’s Oscar and Manchester City’s Fernandinho as the Seleçao routed South Africa, 5-0.

(MORE: Neymar hat trick runs international goal total to 30 in Brazil’s 5-0 rout of South Africa)

10. Netherlands – With a disappointing performance in Paris, Louis Van Gaal’s team gave up first half goals to Karim Benzema and Blaise Matuidi en route to a 2-0 loss to France.

11. Belgium – Marouane Fellaini’s return to health produced a 17th minute goal for the Manchester United midfielder, with an early second half score from Radja Nainggolan giving Marc Wilmots’ team to a 2-2 lead over visiting Cote d’Ivoire. Thanks to goals from substitutes Didier Drogba and, in stoppage time, Max Gradel, the Ivorian were able to earn a 2-2 result in Brussels

12. Greece – A much stronger South Korea team than the one that lost in Carson, Calif., last month went up early through Park Chu-Young, with a giving 10 minutes into the second half from Son Heung-Min giving the visitors an impressive 2-0 win.

(MORE: Ukraine 2-0 USA: Disjointed U.S. display sees fired up Ukraine prevail)

Elsewhere: Asian champions Japan got two goals from Shinji Okazaki in a 4-2 win over New Zealand; World Cup-qualifiers Iran were upset at home by Guinea, 2-1; Two first half goals saw Russia trot past Armenia, 2-0; Scores from El Arbi Soudani and Saphir Taider gave Algeria a 2-0 win over Slovenia; Ghana conceded a first minute penalty in a 1-0 loss to Montenegro; Gedo and Mohamed Salah led Egypt to a 2-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina; Daniel Sturridge’s 82nd minute goal give England a 1-0 win over visiting Denmark; Two goals from Tim Cahill couldn’t prevent Australia from giving up a three-goal lead to Ecuador following Mitchell Langerak’s 58th minute red card. With goals from Fidel Martínez, Segundo Castillo, Enner Valencia, and Edison Méndez (90+2′), Ecuador claimed the comeback victory.

Later: Mexico hosts Nigeria in Atlanta; Honduras takes on Venezuela in San Pedro Sula; while Costa Rica welcomes Paraguay to San José.

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.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

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.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

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.

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

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.