Three things we learned as Germany win World Cup, outlast Argentina

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Following Germany’s 1-0 extra time win over Argentina at the Maracana Stadium on Sunday, there were tense moments galore as two giants of soccer clashed in Rio de Janeiro.

The Germans prevailed and claimed their fourth World Cup title after Mario Gotze’s moment of individual brilliance sealed the trophy for Das Mannschaft.

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[ REALTED: Gotze fact file

In what proved to be an intriguing tactical battle between two nations with contrasting styles, we learned an awful lot about Germany and Argentina as the 2014 World Cup came to a close.

Here are three things we learned from the final, as Germany became the new World Cup champions.

Higuain, Messi, fluff their lines

In the first half, Higuain could have put Argentina 2-0 up as the Albiceleste came racing out of the traps. However, the man who clinically fired Argentina past Belgium in the quarterfinals and has been so clutch for club and country in the past fluffed his lines. Massively. First of all he was let in over the top but shanked an effort wide after five minutes, then in the 22nd minute he put another effort wide after Toni Kroos’ poor header played him in. It just wasn’t Higuain’s day as he was taken out by Manuel Neuer in the second half, and somehow a free kick was given against him. Then he was substituted. Lionel Messi, despite winning the Golden Ball award for the best player of the tournament, failed to score a single goal in the knockout stages of the World Cup and once again vanished in the final for large swathes. Messi’s big chance arrived just after the break as Lucas Biglia played him in, but the Barcelona star dragged his effort wide of the far post. Apart from a few darting runs and curling efforts from distance, Messi wandered around in the middle and looked extremely lethargic in the closing stages. He had a free kick in the dying seconds which he ballooned over the bar, then looked at the turf in disbelief as the Argentine captain winced painfully. When Argentina needed him most, Messi couldn’t come up with the goods.

source: AP
Gotze was the hero as Germany, well, win. Any shock there?

Defense dominates, Mascherano shines

Throughout the entire knockout stages Argentina failed to concede a goal in regulation. Alejandro Sabella’s side went 426 minutes without conceding  before Gotze struck the game-winner in extra time. Much had been made of the “fantastic four” up top for Argentina (Messi, Higuain, Di Maria, Aguero) but central defenders Martin Demichelis and Ezeqieul Garay were outstanding. Especially in the final. At times Argentine’s defensive unit look impenetrable but Gotze’s moment of magic was worthy of winning any game. Biglia and Javier Mascherano sat in front of the back four expertly and stereotypically snapped away at Germany’s midfield. Mascherano was simply wonderful. His timely interceptions stopped Germany’s flow time and time again and the amount of challenges he snapped into was essential in the engine room. He cajoled his side into action and was the lynchpin of Argentina’s defensive display. As for Germany, Manuel Neuer won the Golden Glove award as he kept four clean sheets and only conceded four goals in seven games throughout the entire tournament. The experience of defenders Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels proved the difference as Germany shut the Argentine’s out in the final. It was a tense, tight and gripping 1-0 win that made the world sit up and appreciate top-notch defending. We’ve seen plenty of tough games where two teams fought to the death in this tournament. The best was saved until last.

“Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”

In England a saying has developed about Germany, with former England international and NBC’s Premier League Analyst Gary Lineker famous for these words.

“Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”

Throughout this tournament Germany has found a way to dig deep and get past stubborn outfits like Algeria, France and then Argentina. They also possess the talent to hammer hosts Brazil and were worthy winners of the 2014 World Cup. They were the top scorers, with 18, and the best team. Germany won it with a moment of magic which deserved to win any final. Gotze’s goal was a golden moment.

His strike ensured Germany’s “Golden Generation” struck gold for the first time since 1990. In the end, as it always seems to shake out, the Germans win.

Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

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“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

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Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

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In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho: Spurs don’t have attacking depth, but do have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

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Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.