At halftime: Sloppy first 45 has Ecuador and Honduras at one a-piece – FOLLOW LIVE

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The first half of this Group E match saw an open 45 minutes, with the chippy match seeing Ecuador and Honduras each take advantage of a defensive mistake to pick up a goal before the break.

Carlo Costly struck first for Honduras on a break-away, slotting through after the half-hour mark to end a streak of poor finishing by both sides.

The goal ended Honduras’s 510-minute World Cup goal drought, the second-longest of all-time.  It also put Los Catrachos in line to become the last CONCACAF team to earn a win in this World Cup, in what would be an enormous mark for the federation.

However, just two minutes later, the lead was wasted as a deflected shot by Juan Carlos Parades fell to Enner Valencia on the far post for Ecuador to equalize.

The game was sloppy, with plenty of midfield turnovers and a few scuffed shots.  Both sides also produced defensive mistakes as well as their share of errors in front of goal, but Costly didn’t miss with his chance.

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Goals:

31′ – Out of nothing, a long ball from the back came forward to Costly, defended by Jorge Guagua.  The Ecuadorian defender mistimed his jump, and the ball clipped off him right to Costly’s feet. With just the goalkeeper to beat, the 31-year-old striker rocketed home through the legs of goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez for the opener.

33′ – With an opening at the top edge of the box, Juan Carlos Paredes took aim and blasted on net. The ball clipped Jorge Claros on the way through, causing it to dribble to the far post where Enner Valencia had beaten Brayan Breckeles, and Valencia pounced for the equalizer.

Other key moments:

4′ – The game started incredibly open, and both sides got a half-chance early. A very dangerous cross from Ecuador’s Jefferson Montero was cut out by Victor Bernardez who cleared despite slipping on the ball. It went down the other end, and Carlos Costly found Jerry Bengtson

20′ – Enner Valencia had a gaping opportunity to put Ecuador ahead, but he came oh-so-close.  A ball out of the back found his brilliantly-timed run, and with only the goalkeeper to beat, Valencia took aim for the top-left corner, but missed by inches with his curling effort.

26′ – Ecuador had another break on, but Maynor Figueroa stuck his boot out and blocked the key pass from Enner Valencia who was looking for a streaking Felipe Caicedo.

27′ – A Honduran corner came in to the far post, and Victor Bernardez got a free header with the goal gaping, but it went just wide.

45’+1 – A free kick by Bernardez forced a strong, diving save by Dominguez.

45’+2 – A cross into the box for Honduras caught the head of Costly who clanged it off the corner of the post.  The rebound came out to Jerry Bengtson who put it in the back of the net, but the referee correctly ruled it out for a handball on Bengtson. Even if the ball hadn’t hit his hand, replays showed Bengtson was in an offsides position.

LINEUPS:

Ecuador – Dominguez; Guagua, Erazo, Paredes, Ayovi; Noboa, Minda, Montero, A. Valencia; Caicedo, E. Valencia.

Goals: E. Valencia 33′

Honduras – Valladares; Figueroa, Benardez, Izaguirre, Beckeles; Garcia, Espinoza, Garrido, Claros; Bengston, Costly.

Goals: Costly 31′

Key players:

  • Christian Noboa – The Ecuadorian midfielder was all over the center of the pitch, and although he must clean up his 24/31 passing, those he completed set up a number of chances for his team.
  • Maynor Figueroa – The Hull City defender picked up five ball-recoveries in the defensive half, completed two tackles on two attempts, won three of four aerial duels, and completed all five attempted clearances.  He’s been a massive force in Honduras’s defense.

Numbers to know:

6 – The number of straight games Enner Valencia has scored for Ecuador.

Questions for second half:

  • Can Honduras create enough to go ahead? Ecuador out-passed Honduras in the final third 43-15 and held 62% of possession, proving the much more creative team.  With both teams sloppy finishing chances, Honduras must create more chances in order to produce another goal.  The few minutes before halftime proved promising in that regard.
  • Will Ecuador clean things up? As the more creative side, Ecuador still must clean things up in the midfield and the attacking third. Their passing completion sits at just 78%, and the midfield was clogged compared to their push forward.  If they can’t fix the mistakes in the build-up, Honduras could pip this one off the better side.

Transfer rumor roundup: PL duo eyeing Asensio and more

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The ongoing World Cup hasn’t halted the transfer talk across global soccer, and on Wednesday there are a number of potentially intriguing storylines.


Two Premier League sides are chasing Real Madrid attacker Marco Asensio, including Chelsea and Manchester United, while they will have to battle Paris Saint-Germain as well.

Although Asensio is prepared to stay in Spain next season, he wants to be assured of playing time under new manager Julen Lopetegui, who recently joined the club.

The 22-year-old scored 11 goals in all competitions last season for Los Blancos.


Juventus continues to have several players at the center of transfer rumors, and Miralem Pjanic is a name that keeps popping up.

The midfielder won’t come cheap though, with Juve reportedly set to ask for $92.6 million in the event that a club wants to acquire Pjanic.

Barcelona is rumored to be seeking a move for Pjanic with Andres Iniesta now heading to Vissel Kobe in the J-League.


New Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri is reportedly looking to bring several of his former Napoli players to Stamford Bridge, including Belgium star Dries Mertens.

The Blues are seeking more attacking options ahead of the fall, and the veteran Mertens has become a proven commodity in front of goal over the course of his Serie A career.

Uruguay reaches Round of 16 courtesy of Suarez

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The first two nations have advanced to the knockout phase out of Group A.

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Uruguay reached the Round of 16 on Wednesday with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia, who has been eliminated from the 2018 World Cup.

Hosts Russia will also reach the knockout rounds with the Uruguay win, thus eliminating Egypt as well.

The Barcelona striker gave Uruguay the lead in the 23rd minute, after a poor read from Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais.

Suarez was given a wide-open finish at the far post off the corner kick for his first goal at the World Cup. The 31-year-old had scored a combined five goals during his last two World Cup appearances (2010 & 2014).

The Uruguyans dictated the tempo throughout much of the match, but Saudi Arabia’s back line held strong for the majority of the game.

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Uruguay will close out group play against Group A leaders and hosts Russia on June 25, while Saudi Arabia and Egypt will tango that same day.

Video: Goalkeeping error grants Suarez, Uruguay gift

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Luis Suarez was clearly upset with his lack of finishing in Uruguay’s opener last Friday, but the Barcelona man is finally on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup.

[MORE: Ronaldo’s early header gives Portugal win over Morocco ]

The veteran striker gave Uruguay the lead in the 23rd minute after a close-range finish off of a corner kick.

Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais came out to try and collect the cross, however, he was slow in his reaction, allowing the ball to slip through to Suarez for the easy finish.

The Uruguayans will reach the Round of 16 with one match remaining if they hold on to their 1-0 lead.

NZ women’s coach placed on leave after player complaints

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Wellington, New Zealand (AP) The coach of New Zealand’s women’s football team has been placed on leave pending an investigation of complaints about his conduct from members of the national team.

[ MORE: Senegal holds off late Poland charge for Group H win ]

The complaints centered around tactics Andreas Heraf used in a recent home international against Japan and his comments to media after that match. Players reportedly objected to the defensive nature of Heraf’s tactics in the 3-1 loss.

New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin said at a news conference on Wednesday that his organization had received a letter from the New Zealand Professional Footballers Association, containing letters of complaint from 13 national team members.

Defending his approach at a news conference after the match, Heraf said the New Zealand players would never have the “quality” to compete with a team of Japan’s ability and might have lost 8-0 if they had not adopted a defensive style.

Further reports have emerged of player concerns about Heraf’s behavior, including allegations of bullying.

Martin was repeatedly questioned at the news conference about when New Zealand Football first had notice of the players’ concerns about Heraf. He insisted he was not aware of any problems until the letter from the NZPFA containing the players’ complaints was released on Monday.

In a statement, New Zealand Football Chairman Deryck Shaw said player welfare was “of utmost importance.”

“We hold player welfare as a matter of utmost importance and that is why we are conducting a thorough, independent review. We want to ensure we better understand these issues in an objective review. There is no place for inappropriate behavior of any kind with New Zealand Football.”