2014 WC semifinals

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.”

Wow: Nigeria Football Federation suspended by FIFA

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That’s not a typo: FIFA has suspended the Nigeria Football Federation from inclusion in international activity.

Specifically, the suspension comes from the FIFA Emergency Committee and says that NFF is guilty of breaking FIFA statutes that demand federations work without third-party interference.

The NFF has been in trouble since the nation’s government stepped in and fired the NFF’s entire administration, ignoring several edicts from FIFA.

What’s the punishment? Harsh.

— No teams, including clubs, can compete internationally during the suspension. No sporting contact, tournaments, training, friendlies, nothing.

— No members or officials can take part in any training courses.

— If the suspension isn’t lifted by July 15, Nigeria will see its first ban: from August’s U-20 Women’s World Cup.

From FIFA:

The decision follows a letter sent by FIFA to the NFF on 4 July 2014, in which it expressed its great concern after the NFF was served with court proceedings and consequently an order preventing the president of the NFF, the NFF Executive Committee members and the NFF Congress from running the affairs of Nigerian football was granted by a High Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The said court order compelled the Nigerian Minister of Sports to appoint a senior member of the civil service to manage the NFF until the matter was heard in court, without giving any date for such a hearing. The authorities then appointed a person who decided to convene an extraordinary general assembly on 5 July 2014. This extraordinary general assembly was convened in violation of the NFF statutes.

Originally, an elective congress had been planned by the NFF to take place on 26 August 2014.

The suspension will be lifted once the court actions have been withdrawn and the properly elected NFF Executive Committee, the NFF general assembly and the NFF administration are able to work without any interference in their affairs.

 

If FIFA’s throwing down a suspension gauntlet, you know there’s some really nefarious antics behind the scenes.

Report: Robin van Persie will play for Netherlands vs. Argentina

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A report from Jeremy Schaap of ESPN says Dutch star Robin van Persie will play for the Netherlands in its World Cup semifinal against Argentina on Wednesday afternoon.

Van Persie has been struggling with stomach problems ahead of the clash, and missed parts of Tuesday’s training. The ailment, and manager Louis van Gaal, triggered doubts for fans.

Yet RVP has come through the sickness and is ready to try and make it back-to-back World Cup finals for Holland.

From ESPN:

Coach Louis van Gaal said “he expects Robin van Persie to play,” Schaap said on Wednesday.

The Manchester United striker and defender Daryl Janmaat — who also has stomach problems — trained separately from the team on Tuesday.

Van Persie scored three times in the first two Dutch matches of the World Cup, including a spectacular diving header against defending champions Spain that was instantly hailed as one of the goals of the tournament.

I’m not sure there were ever legit doubts that RVP wouldn’t go in this massive match, and I doubt this is a smokescreen. Be prepared for fireworks later today.

Crazy odds pay off for Brazil blowout, mega goals bettors

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At least 112 South Korean bettors are super pleased with the outcome of Germany’s 7-1 takedown of Brazil in Tuesday’s World Cup semifinal.

According to Bryan Armen Graham of MicNews, that’s the number of people who bet on Germany scoring 5-plus goals and Brazil netting just one.

That’s a lot of Won won. How about this betting slip from Singapore? Something tells me people were more thinking 5-3 or 4-4…

The crazy thing is how foolish those bets would appear, and how folks who made reasonable bets got skunked. Guess that’s why I don’t wager often.

Scolari’s right: Drastic change unneeded as Brazil attempts to regroup

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Humiliating loss? Yes. Need for drastic change? Not really.

There won’t be a lot of positivity coming out of Brazil camp after “The Machine” stomped on “The Little Canary” to the tune of a 7-1 throttling in the first semifinal of the 2014 World Cup, especially considering the prospects of neighbors Argentina hoisting the trophy in Brazil’s tournament remain in tact for at least a few more hours.

But Brazil should listen to Luis Felipe Scolari’s big picture comments after the brutal beatdown.

[ MORE: Brazil’s loss hits the papers | Where does 7-1 rank all-time? ]

Yes, it’s the “worse day of his life” but it doesn’t call for a complete overhaul of Brazil’s system or mentality (the actual players’ mentality? Probably).

From SkySports:

“I don’t agree that we’re behind from a strategic standpoint. This was my third loss. But this was the worst loss,” he said.

“Should we have to reinvent our team after one game? Half this team will play at WC 2018. At least 13, 14, 15 of them will be in 2018.

“What happened today had little to do with how we had been playing. We lost control… that’s not normal but it happens.”

Fact 1: Big absences

Let’s start with the obvious: Brazil was missing two of perhaps the Top 10 players in the world. While that doesn’t excuse a six-goal drubbing, the absence of Thiago Silva and Neymar clearly sapped the strength of a mentally-weak side that was far from in form.

Phrased differently: when you’re holding your injured superstar’s jersey in the Starting XI photo and wearing hats lamenting his absence, things aren’t off to a positive start. This was a tough injury to a soccer play, not the imprisonment of a political hero on unjust grounds.

Strategically, Brazil had to contend with factors that would’ve made it difficult to top any strong team, let alone a humming machine like Germany. Neymar was their only elite finisher, and was on form, while Thiago allows David Luiz a lot of freedom (something we’ll see shine this year at PSG). Without them, Scolari was already swimming upstream.

Fact 2: Still really good

Anyone remember the 2013 Confederations Cup last summer in Brazil? The host nation thumped the competition with a 5-0 record and 14-3 in goals. They beat Japan 3-0, Mexico 2-0, Italy 4-2, Uruguay 2-1 and Spain 3-0. That’s not so bad.

Their U-23 team finished second at the 2012 Olympics, losing only the final to Mexico in claiming silver. They’ve lost once since August, a 1-0 friendly loss at Swizerland, and are fine.

Except for that whole 7-1 thing.

Fact 3: Scolari chose… poorly (or had choices limited)

Bizarre in a match without Thiago and Neymar that Scolari would omit veterans Ramires and Dani Alves from the Starting XI, and opt against Willian and Paulinho.

But the bigger point is that in a tournament where intensity and form mattered, here is a list of players the manager did not choose for the roster (whether via inability or simply selection). Some weren’t coming off banner years, while others certainly were:

Rafinha (Bayern Munich)

Miranda (Atletico Madrid)

Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)

Lucas Moura (PSG)

Sandro (Tottenham Hotspur)

Alexandre Pato (Sao Paolo)

Rafael da Silva (Manchester United)

Fact 4: Weird run-up

Every host nation deals with the hassle of preparing for a major tournament without any intense qualifying bouts, and Brazil’s schedule was a bizarre one.

Brazil tried to schedule some intensity between the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, but you can’t replicate desperation. The style Brazil played allowed them to crush Australia 6-0 and Portugal 3-1. They topped Chile 2-1 in a November friendly and beat Panama and Serbia easily in two run-up matches to the World Cup.

But when the ball kicked for the tournament, they never found their stride outside of Neymar. The Croatia win was controversial, the Mexico draw showed no finish, Cameroon may have been throwing the dang thing and both Chile and Colombia can argue that they deserved wins.

This tournament was in Brazil, but it was not their property.

Finally…

Brazil got destroyed by Germany on Tuesday. They also hadn’t lost at home in the better part of four decades. Don’t send them to the scrap heap just yet.