2014 WC quarters

Arsenal charged by FA for actions in signing Calum Chambers from Saints

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Unusual news out of London this morning, where Arsenal has been charged by the Football Association in the transfer of Calum Chambers from Southampton last year.

The charge is breaching the FA’s Football Agents Regulations during the nearly $25 million transfer.

[ MORE: Charlie Austin to join Newcastle? ]

Also charged is Chambers’ agent, Alan Middleton. He has until Wednesday to respond to the charge, while the FA granted Arsenal’s request of a June 26 deadline.

According to the BBC, the standard penalty is a (relatively) small fine:

In May 2014, Sunderland were fined £100,000 and warned over their future conduct after admitting breaching the regulations.

Meanwhile, in February of this year, Championship club Brighton were fined £90,000 for the same offence.

So Chambers’ transfer may now cost nearly $25.1 million. Though certainly the agent’s misdeeds could be more significant, it seems more likely this charge will act more as a “Don’t do it again or we’ll do something serious” warning.

Wenger says “horrible night” vs Monaco was about lack of sharpness: “We paid for it”

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An uninspired start helped doom Arsenal to a 3-1 home loss versus Monaco, and now Arsene Wenger’s Gunners are 90 minutes away from a fifth-straight Round of 16 exit from the UEFA Champions League.

How does this happen, a sloppy and wasteful performance from a team that has everything to play for? How can a club like Arsenal, still searching for its first UEFA Champions League title, sleepwalk into a home match against its manager’s former club?

[ MORE: Arsenal 1-3 Monaco | Berbatov basks in win ]

The Gunners were shocking for much of the night. The passing was largely off, and at least one good pass was dummied for no one in particular. Geoffrey Kondogbia was given loads of space on the first goal, Per Mertesacker was victimized badly on the second and the third, which came moments after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had provided Arsenal a stoppage time lifeline, sunk the ship.

All this without mentioning Olivier Giroud’s awful miss on a second-half sitter, one of several poor plays by the normally-efficient striker.

What happened, Arsene? From Sky Sports:

“The third goal makes our task extremely difficult in the second leg. It looks like we lost our nerve and our rationality on the pitch. The heart took over the head and that doesn’t work. Mentally we were not sharp enough to get into the game, and we paid for it.

“In the first 20 minutes we could have won the game, but Monaco are strong physically. We missed our chances – look at the number we missed tonight. At that level we cannot afford to do that.

“I hope my players were not complacent, but it looks when you are lacking sharpness that anything is possible. Football is not on paper, it’s down to your performance. On the night Monaco produced a performance and we didn’t.

“Giroud had an off night tonight and he missed easy chances. It looked like it was not one of his best days.”

There simply are no excuses for Wednesday’s performance, and the only proper remedy for Arsenal supporters would be a miraculous turnaround next month in Monaco. But can Arsenal really go on the road and put three past a stingy club that has allowed two total goals seven UCL matches? Probably not.

Neymar tears up in first interview since injury; will root for Messi

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Neymar had to wipe tears away as he spoke with reporters for the first time since being removed from the field on a stretcher during last week’s World Cup quarterfinal against Colombia.

It was a tournament that saw his already-bright public star met by strong on-field play, but instead ended with near paralysis after Colombia’s Juan Zuniga intentionally-fouled the 22-year-old Brazilian with a knee to the lower back.

Just like that, Neymar’s dreams of lifting the World Cup Trophy in his home nation turned to dust.

And the superstar seems to still be reeling from the event.

From the AP’s Tales Azzoni:

“If it had been 2 centimeters to the center…,” he said, struggling to stay composed. “I could be in a wheelchair.”

The 22-year-old striker complained about Zuniga’s challenge, although he said the Colombian called to apologize.

“I don’t know if he was trying to hurt me, but if you understand football you know that it was not a normal challenge,” Neymar said. “I can’t protect myself when I’m not facing the play. The only thing that can protect me from someone coming from behind are the rules. I couldn’t protect myself and I ended getting hurt.”

Calling it the “worst week of my life”, Neymar talked about not being able to play in Brazil’s 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinals. He said losing would’ve been understandable, but the blowout was unacceptable.

The Barcelona attacked also said he will be rooting for his club teammates Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano to win despite Brazil’s rivalry with Argentina.

“I’m not cheering for Argentina, I’m cheering for my teammates,” he said.

Neymar said that it would be good for football to have Messi winning a world title.

“He deserves to be a world champion,” he said. “I’m Messi Football Club.”

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots seems like a bit of a sore loser

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On Saturday, Gonzalo Higuaín struck early for Argentina. Belgium were left chasing the game, but were reduced to sending in the majority of their shots from distance, stymied by a rejigged Argentina defense. Despite a flurry of shots from the Belgium players to close out the game, Higuaín’s goal proved sufficient, and Argentina advanced with a 1-o victory.

While many were impressed by Argentina’s improved defense, and encouraged by the fact that, for once, they did not seem overly reliant on Lionel Messi, one man remained jaded. That man is Belgium coach Marc Wilmots, who spoke out after the game:

We were not impressed by Argentina, absolutely not. I think that Messi is the star striker, star player, he never loses the ball. But I noticed a couple of fouls and the referee is never against him. I am noticing every time there is a little foul it is always in favor of Argentina.

If we could have equalized in the last few seconds, Argentina is dead. They are finished.

Now, I’m not sure if by “They are finished,” Wilmots is still referencing Saturday’s game, or if he is implying that Argentina will fail to progress to the final. Wilmots does have a point – Argentina would have had to change their entire gameplan had Belgium forced them into extra time. They may not have advanced to the semi-final in that case.

Yet mostly, this feels like the last gasping breaths of a dying man. Most were not impressed by Wilmots’ approach to the World Cup matches. Against Argentina, he chose to save the likes of Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku until the end of the match, perhaps believing the side would have needed fresh legs by that point. The strategy failed, as did replacing the unimpressive Eden Hazard with Nacer Chadli.

On the whole, Belgium – a team from whom so many expected so much – failed to deliver. It was the likes of Mertens and young Divock Origi that impressed, while Wilmots never managed to get the best from Hazard or Lukaku. Belgium’s inability to go further in the tournament was primarily down to coaching rather than talent, and Wilmots likely knows his number is up.

And no amount of lashing out at his opponents will change that fact.

Brazil appealing Thiago Silva yellow card

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FIFA has confirmed that Brazil are appealing Thiago Silva’s automatic suspension, picked up for his second yellow card of the tournament. If successful, the defender will then be available to face Germany in the semi-finals on Tuesday.

Thiago was shown the yellow card in Brazil’s firey clash with Colombia on Friday – though not, perhaps surprisingly, for a harsh challenge on the likes of Juan Cuadrado or James Rodríguez. The referee pulled the card for Thiago’s block on David Ospina, which occurred when the Colombia goalkeeper was attempting to take a kick.

It is unlikely the appeal will be successful, however. Appeals against accumulated yellow cards are typically not permitted; it is only red cards that may be overturned.

Then there’s the question of whether, should Thiago’s suspension be overturned, it will appear as though FIFA is favoring the hosts. The officiating in Brazil’s opening game against Croatia came under heavy scrutiny, particularly when Brazil were awarded what looked to be a rather soft penalty. On Friday, when it looked as though Brazil were targeting specific Colombia players with heavy fouls, yet not being booked for their troubles, the thought of bias crossed many minds once more.

With the start of the semi-final, all existing yellow cards are wiped clean. In other words, players from teams that progress to the final will only miss out on the side’s last game if they manage to get themselves sent off.

This future clean slate provides little comfort to Brazil, however, who will almost certainly be without their captain for the Germany clash.