World Cup Today: Can Sunday actually be better than Saturday?

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WORLD CUP TODAY: SUNDAY, JUNE 29

Today, we must not be afraid to ask the question: is there any way Sunday’s matches can match the thrill of those played on Saturday? In the first match of the knockout rounds, Brazil and Chile played out a 1-1 draw, ultimately taking the game to penalties. Brazil scored three, Chile two, and the hosts advanced amidst Chile’s tears.

It looked as though there was no possible way Colombia and Uruguay could top that game. And perhaps in terms of drama, they couldn’t. But the beautiful goals scored were enough to compensate: James Rodríguez turning, volleying in off the crossbar, then scoring the second through a sidefooted shot after a wonderfully worked team move. Que bonita!

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MATCH 51: NETHERLANDS VS. MEXICO
Location: Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s Guide
Netherlands announced their intent to dominate at this tournament with a 5-1 thumping of Spain, followed by a fun back and forth with Australia, which eventually resulted in a 3-2 win for Holland. Knowing that they could top the group with just a draw, the Dutch sat back in their final game, but still managed to run out 2-0 winners over Chile.

Mexico struggled in their first match, sort of: they had two goals (incorrectly) ruled out as offside in the first half. But eventually the flag stayed down, and they came away with a 1-0 win over Cameroon. El Tri were then able to hold Brazil to a goalless draw, before ending the group stages with a convincing 3-1 victory over Croatia.

What they’re saying
Andres Guardado explains why Mexico have conceded just one goal thus far: “To be honest, the key to our defending has been the fact we’re all doing our bit – it’s not just down to the keeper and the defender. [Forwards] Oribe [Peralta] and Giovani [dos Santos] really help out and if the ball gets past them, us midfielders are ready to step in and, after that, there’s our back five. And finally you haveMemo Ochoa, who’s playing really well, as the last line of defence.”

History
The two sides have met six times, with Holland taking the slight edge: three wins to Mexico’s two. Both sides have scored eleven goals, though, so there’s that.

Premier League Players
Netherlands:
Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa); Robin van Persie (Manchester United); Tim Krul (Newcastle); Jonathan de Guzmán, Michel Vorm (Swansea)
Mexico: Javier Hernández (Manchester United)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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MATCH 52: COSTA RICA VS. GREECE

Location: Arena Pernambuco, Recife
Time: 4pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
Costa Rica have been quite the surprise this World Cup, absolutely thrilling CONCACAF supporters. First they beat Uruguay, and not just by one goal: la celeste fell 3-1. Next up, a 1-0 win over Italy, then a goalless draw with England. Costa Rica may not be the most thrilling team to watch in the tournament, but they’re certainly much more solid than most had been willing to give them credit for.

Speaking of the inability to thrill, the ticos’ opponents are Greece, who managed to defy the odds and advance, despite not scoring until the 42nd minute of their third game. The Pirate Ship first lost 3-0 to Colombia, putting to shame the idea of their fantastic defensive abilities. Greece then sat back to earn a goalless draw against Japan, before coming from behind to beat Ivory Coast 2-1, with the help of a last-minute penalty.

What they’re saying
Los Ticos technical assistant Luis Marin says it’s vital Costa Rica score first: “It’s crucial for us to score early in the game, especially as Greece are known to tighten up at the back once they score. But we know it’s going to be a tough game all round. Although they lost to Colombia 3-0, the goals they conceded were down to simple mistakes. Greece are also potent on the counter-attack.”

History
They’re about to write it.

Premier League players
Costa Rica:
Joel Cambell (Arsenal)
Fulham fans will be paying attention to Greece for Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Mitroglou, and Costa Rica for Bryan Ruiz, but alas, Fulham are not really in the Premier League anymore, are they? Sorry guys.

MLS players
Costa Rica:
 Giancarlo González, Waylon Francis (Columbus Crew); Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls)

MLS: Techera’s hat trick; Gordon the hero (again) for Chicago

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) Cristian Techera scored three second-half goals and the Vancouver Whitecaps overcame several defensive errors to tie the New England Revolution 3-3 on Saturday.

Techera completed the hat trick in the 74th minute off a pass from striker Yordy Reyna.

The Whitecaps (4-5-5) are winless in five games and have just one victory in their past nine matches (1-4-4). New England is 5-4-3.

Vancouver trailed 2-0 early in the second half.

Whitecaps defender Aly Ghazal had an own goal and made a poor pass that helped set up a goal by New England’s Teal Bunbury. Another Revolution goal came after defender Sean Franklin mishandled a ball.

Techera made it 2-1 in the 49th minute off a cross from Marcel de Jong. Russell Teibert set up Techera again two minutes later, with Techera scoring on a header after goalkeeper Matt Turner stopped the first shot.

Bunbury gave New England a 3-2 lead in the 59th minute after Ghazal’s weak pass was picked off.

Cristian Penilla also scored for New England.


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Alan Gordon broke a tie in the 82nd minute and the Chicago Fire beat Orlando City 2-1 on Saturday night.

Gordon settled Bastian Schweinsteiger’s cross with a couple of touches at 25 yards from goal and fired a rocket into the upper right corner past goalkeeper Joe Bendik’s outstretched hand.

Chicago’s Mohammed Adams was sent off in the 89th minute for violent conduct, but the Fire (4-6-2) held on from there, including six minutes of stoppage time, to end a two-game losing streak.

Orlando City (6-5-1) has lost three straight after winning six in a row.

Aleksandar Katai gave Chicago the lead on a free kick in the 13th minute.

Cristian Higuita tied it for Orlando City in the 28th minute, slotting a right-footed shot inside the far post after getting sprung free by Chris Mueller’s short pass to the right side of the penalty area.

Patrick McLain had four saves for his first MLS win.

Walker hopes young England squad proves more “streetwise”

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Kyle Walker, who finds himself one of England’s youthful elder statesman ahead of next month’s World Cup, believes Gareth Southgate‘s 23-man squad has a “different vibe” around it and hopes that vibe will aid in galvanizing the Three Lions when they arrive in Russia.

[ MORE: Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid exit | Bale does the same ]

Iterations past, as Walker sees it, lacked a certain “streetwise” sense about them; not that they weren’t always a hard-working bunch, but that they lacked the understanding to play smarter, not harder, in certain moments.

Walker, who missed out on the 2014 World Cup due to an injury suffered not long before the tournament in Brazil, feels he’s matured a great deal during his first 12 months at Manchester City, under Pep Guardiola, and he’s ready to impart some of that wisdom on the rest of the squad, with the help of a few of his Man City teammates — quotes from the Guardian:

“The whole vibe around England now is completely different. It is a younger set of players and we are taking huge steps in the right direction but we still probably need to get more streetwise.

“English footballers are honest, they will run for 90-odd minutes, but that is not always what you need. Sometimes you need to rein back a bit and try and control the game with your passing.

“When we come up against Belgium, say, it could be a deciding game but we need to realize that we don’t have to score in the first 10 minutes. If you can control the game you can wait until the 80th minute or longer if necessary. I’m trying to bring that calmness from Manchester City, and so is John [Stones].

“I’ve adapted my own game a bit since changing club. I stay back a bit more. When I was at Tottenham the fans wanted attack, attack, attack but, if you send too many bodies forward, you are liable for the counter. With England we are working in training on controlling situations a little better. If we can make it work on the pitch we will hopefully have a good tournament.”

[ UCL FINAL: Player ratings | Three things we learned ]

Whether or not Walker plays right back — where he’s spent the majority of his career — or on the right side of a back-three, he’ll be second-most senior member of a defensive unity which is nearly untested in major tournaments.

Of the nine defenders chosen in the squad, only Gary Cahill (58 – the only player over 40) and Walker have made more than 30 appearances for England. Of the 23 players chosen throughout the entire squad, the average number of caps won is 19.5.

Platini vows to return to soccer after “end of long nightmare”

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PARIS (AP) Banned former UEFA President and FIFA vice president Michel Platini says he is planning to return to soccer after Swiss federal prosecutors confirmed he was not being charged in an investigation into possible financial wrongdoing.

[ MORE: Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool — Los Blancos make it three straight ]

Platini says in a statement it’s “the end of a long nightmare for my family and those close to me.”

Since September 2015, the former France midfielder had the status of “between a witness and an accused person” in criminal proceedings opened against then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter. No criminal case was ever opened against Platini.

The evidence related to Blatter authorizing FIFA to pay Platini $2 million in uncontracted back salary in 2011.

[ MORE: Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid exit | Bale does the same ]

FIFA’s ethics committee also investigated Platini’s request to FIFA for pension contributions he was not entitled to. It was agreed by Blatter and added more than $1 million to Platini’s retirement fund.

Platini was eventually banned for four years, through October 2019. Both he and Blatter denied wrongdoing but Court of Arbitration for Sport judges refused to overturn his ban and that of Blatter’s.

[ UCL FINAL: Player ratings | Three things we learned ]

The case meant Platini was removed from the UEFA presidency and he was barred from trying to succeed Blatter as FIFA president in 2016.

Platini, a former France captain and coach, says “I will come back: where, when, how? It’s too early to say. But I will come back into football.

“Because football is my life and I deny anyone the right to deprive me of my life,” the 62-year-old Platini says.

Neymar appears in good shape after first week with Brazil

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TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) Neymar finished his first full week of training with Brazil on Saturday in apparent good shape ahead of the upcoming World Cup after foot surgery.

The striker continued his recovery, dribbling and passing at high speed in Brazil’s last training session on home soil before the national team sets up camp in London on Monday.

The Brazilian has been recovering from right foot surgery in March.

[ MORE: Neymar “annoyed” by latest (and constant) transfer speculation ]

Earlier in the week, members of Brazil’s coaching staff said Neymar was fit to train but they tried to reduce pressure on him by saying it would take time until he delivered his best performances.

Left back Filipe Luis said Neymar did well in training but still needs to forget the injury.

“I had a serious injury in 2010 and I came back with fear. In the first chance I had in a game, I went with it all so I could lose that fear. I saw it didn’t hurt and I just forgot,” Luis said. “It will be the same with Neymar, the first time an opponent kicks him … he will forget it.”

In the first training session in Teresopolis, outside Rio de Janeiro, Neymar occasionally dragged his right foot onto the pitch. On Thursday he took his right boot off, sat down for a few minutes and looked upset. Once the football was underway, he seemed as fit as his teammates despite accidentally kicking the pitch with his injured foot. He soon afterward got back in action.

[ MORE: Messi: It would be ‘terrible’ to see Neymar at Real Madrid ]

In the first and only Brazil open training session, with fans screaming his name on the sidelines, a playful Neymar nutmegged right-back Danilo and flipped the ball over Luis’ head.

Throughout the week Neymar showed his finishing was sharpening, especially from close range.

After Saturday’s training Neymar welcomed his girlfriend, actress Bruna Marquezine, and family members to the Granja Comary training ground.

With Brazil players off duty for the rest of the day, Neymar is expected to take some teammates back to his mansion in Mangaratiba, near Rio.

The 20-strong squad will meet again Sunday morning at the Brazilian football confederation headquarters in a visit to their museum.

Players then travel to London hours later and will set up camp until June 8 at Tottenham’s training ground.