At halftime: Higuain’s miss highlights scoreless first half of World Cup final – FOLLOW LIVE

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Argentina isn’t backing down to the German machine, and they have had the better chances, but a big miss from Gonzalo Higuain means the teams enter halftime scoreless.

Germany has had plenty of possession and showed their passing prowess, but as they have all tournament Argentina defended well to shut down passing lanes late and make some stellar tackles.

The game was wide open early, and despite teams realizing they’d like to shut down a little to minimize risk, there are still chances to come.

Moments are there to be made in the World Cup final!

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GOALS:

None.

Other key moments:

21′ – Higuain will remember this miss for the rest of his life. Toni Kroos mistakenly gifted the Napoli striker a header behind the Germany defense, but Higuain scuffed his shot wide one-on-one with Neuer. It wasn’t even close. Argentina should easily be one-up but it remains scoreless.

29′ – On an Argentinian break, Bastian Schweinsteiger brought down Eziquiel Lavezzi

30′ – Higuain thought he put the Argentinians ahead, but after taking a brilliant ball from Lionel Messi and putting it in the back of the net, the assistant’s flag raised to rule out the goal. Replays showed the striker was clearly offsides, timing his run poorly and unable to give Messi a good opportunity to send him through.

32′ – Christoph Kramer, already on in replace of the late Sami Khedira scratch, is substituted off with a head injury. He took a thumping elbow to the head from Ezequiel Garay in the 18th minute, but continued on despite looking clearly woozy. He looked even worse when he finally came off, replaced by Andre Schurrle.

45+1′ – Now the Germans have a bad miss to think about. On a corner as the first half came to a close, Benedict Howedes made a great run from the back of the pack and got his head to a free header. With the goal gaping, it hit the post and blasted back out to Thomas Muller in an offsides position.

LINEUPS

Germany: Neuer; Lahm, Hummels, Boateng, Höwedes; Schweinsteiger, Kramer (Schurrle 32′); Müller, Kroos, Özil; Klose

Argentina: Romero, Garay, Zabaleta, Biglia, Perez, Higuain, Messi, Mascherano, Demichelis, Rojo, Lavezzi

Numbers to know:

57 – Completed passes by Bastian Schweinsteiger in the midfield, as he looks to quarterback the buildups for the Germans. Argentina only completed 97 as a whole team. He was a supremely important player for Germany in the first half, who struggled to get many dangerous chances.

16 – Passes received for Lionel Messi. As he has been so far in the knockout stages, teams are double-teaming him and triple-teaming him to shut his magic down.  It’s still opened things up for his teammates, as Lavezzi and Higuain have had opportunities.

Questions for the second half:

1. Can Germany break through this Argentinian back line? It would appear Argentina is succeptible on set-pieces, but then again who isn’t. They look brilliant in open play, and Germany has to do much more work to slice it open.

2. Will Argentina recover from the pair of missed chances? Soccer is all about confidence, and while they could be considered the better side int he first half, Higuain’s confidence has to be shattered after blowing a pair of golden opportunities to be deservedly up. That could be a serious factor in the second half.

3. Will Germany’s early yellow cards come back to haunt him? Schweinsteiger and Howedes both picked up first-half cautions, and that could play into the second half narrative if Argentina looks to run at them.

Serie A roundup: Napoli falls to Parma in debut for Gattuso (video)

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Napoli’s last-minute loss to Parma in Gennaro Gattuso’s debut highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Napoli 1-2 Parma

Napoli remains in a dark place as Gennaro Gattuso debut with Gli Azzurri ended in a last-minute 2-1 loss to Parma.

The defeat marks eight consecutive games without a win in Serie A play for Napoli, who dismissed Carlo Ancelotti earlier this week despite punching a ticket in the last 16 of the Champions League after a win over Genk.

After their fifth loss of the season, Napoli are currently eighth on the table with 21 points, seven behind sixth-placed Atalanta and 17 behind league leaders Inter Milan.

 

 

In the third minute of stoppage time, Gervinho – experienced as anyone else in tightly-contested situations – received a simple pass from Dejan Kulusevski, carefully striking it into the back of the net inside the six-yard box. The 32-year-old Ivorian has five goals in Serie A this season, and Saturday’s was his most important yet. 

For Gattuso (and hopeful Napoli supporters), Saturday was the antithesis of dreamy start, but with time and a change of mentality the situation may change.

“I don’t believe in bad luck. Right now we’re not good mentally,” the 41-year-old manager said following the match. “The team is paying for the fact that it has not won (in the league) for 50 or more days.”

“The first 10 minutes also prove it,” he added. “It’s tough as are the whistles of the fans. There’s a lot of work to do.”

The home side recorded 33 shots throughout the night, but Parma proved to be more clinical, scoring at death and opening the scoresheet just four minutes in. In the 64th minute, Napoli were able to get one go their way, as Dreis Merten’s lofting cross with force was headed home by Arkadiusz Milik. 

Gattuso and his men will be tested once as they travel to Sassuolo in a weeks time, while Parma look to trim their four-point gap with Atalanta when they host Brescia.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Brescia 3-0 Lecce

Genoa 0-1 Sampdoria

Hertha’s under-16s stop playing after alleged racist abuse

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BERLIN (AP) Hertha Berlin’s under-16 team stopped playing a game at regional rival Auerbach after its players were allegedly subjected to racist abuse from their opponents on Saturday.

The Bundesliga club says in a statement on its website that “several players from our team were racially abused by their opposing players.”

Hertha officials informed the referee of the alleged abuse and decided to stop playing in the 68th minute while leading 2-0 “because we as Hertha BSC condemn racism and discrimination in every form,” the club said.

Hertha executive board member Paul Keuter called it “the only correct decision, not to continue with the game.”

On Twitter, the club said: “There are times when football doesn’t come first. Racism has no place in our society.”

Hertha under-23 player Jessic Ngankam said he was targeted with monkey chants and called an “ape” by an opposing player during his side’s fourth division game against Lokomotive Leipzig on Dec. 6.

“Insults are unfortunately an everyday occurrence in football, and I can put up with them. But racist abuse is a no-go,” the 19-year-old Ngankam told broadcaster MDR.

Both Hertha and Lokomotive condemned the alleged abuse.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

La Liga roundup: Sociedad hold leaders Barcelona to draw (video)

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A stunning draw from top-of-the-table Barcelona highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Real Sociedad 2-2 Barcelona

If Real Madrid manages to walk away from Mestalla with three points, they’ll dethrone nemesis Barcelona and become clear-cut leaders of La Liga.

Just days before El Clasico itself, a rare 2-2 draw from Barcelona against hosts Real Sociedad is the reason behind Los Blancos’ prime opportunity.

 

Former Borussia Dortmund starlet Alexander Isak tapped in his fourth goal of the season in the 62nd minute, leveling the score for Sociedad and sending the home fans into a frenzy.

In true Barcelona fashion, Real Sociedad, ironically hit the ground running first. 

After earning a foul inside the box from a corner kick set piece, Reala captain Mikel Oyarzabal converted from the spot, putting Sociedad, who have exceeded expectations this season under first-year manager Imanol Alguacil, up against the defending champions. 

It wouldn’t take long before the visitors responded, however.

A familiar face and experienced goalscorer at Anoeta, it was the ideal scenario for Antoine Griezmann to shake off some pressure that has been a key talking point surrounding the Frenchman lately. Darting inside the box with only Alex Remiro to beat, No. 17 – like in the old days – carefully chipped the ball over Remiro and into the back of the net the ball wandered. 

If the second half indicated anything early on it was that it was going to be difficult for Barcelona to drop points on Saturday. Unselfish as ever before, Lionel Messi laid off the ball to an unmarked Luis Suarez, who his team up 2-1 four minutes into the second half.

A lack of control of possession and, most notably, an unstable defensive line, would end up costing Barcelona two points.

Next for Barcelona is the game of the season: a league bout against Real Madrid on Wednesday, while Real Sociedad travel to Becerril in the second round of Copa del Rey. 

Elsewhere in La Liga

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Osasuna

Granada 1-2 Levante

Atheltic Bilbao 0-0 Eibar

South Florida officials seeking more international soccer

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) More than two dozen political leaders in South Florida have written letters to the U.S. Soccer Federation’s board of directors, urging them to allow top-tier international matches to take place in the Miami region.

Relevent Sports, the soccer-promoting group owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, filed suit against the USSF earlier this year saying that the sport’s governing body in this country was helping to prevent them from hosting certain matches.

The letters were released Friday to media outlets, including The Associated Press.

The USSF did not respond to a request for comment.

Ross’ group and top Spanish league La Liga have been working for some time to bring a regular-season match to Hard Rock Stadium, the facility Ross owns and is the Dolphins’ home.

The politicians – ranging from city mayors, county mayors, county commissioners and one state Senator – all essentially said the same thing, that bringing major international soccer to South Florida only will help the region’s tourist-dependent economy.

“Doing so will demonstrate a genuine commitment to our communities and the growth of the game, which you, as the United States Soccer Federation, are charged with promoting,” wrote Dean Trantalis, the mayor of Fort Lauderdale. That’s the city where David Beckham’s new MLS team, Inter Miami, will begin play next March.