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Four coaches fired in Brazilian league in 24 hours

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SAO PAULO (AP) Four coaches in Brazil’s top flight have been fired in a 24-hour span due to bad results in recent weeks.

Fluminense’s Oswaldo de Oliveira was fired Friday after insulting his club’s fans after a 1-1 draw with Santos at the Maracana stadium. During that Thursday night game, Fluminense fans chanted the name of coach Cuca, who had left Sao Paulo FC hours earlier, apparently wanting him to replace Oliveira.

Sao Paulo, meanwhile, hired Fernando Diniz as Cuca’s replacement despite the club’s fans having called for Rogerio Ceni, who also lost his job at Cruzeiro on Thursday evening.

Ceni, who recently started a coaching career after spending two decades as Sao Paulo’s goalkeeper, is reportedly returning to Fortaleza, which fired coach Ze Ricardo on Thursday.

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

At halftime: goalless in a tepid match between Netherlands and Mexico

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Looking for a 12th man in Netherlands vs. Mexico? Look no further than the weather, which was edging 100 degrees at kickoff. By the break, both sides looked worse for wear, although it was the Dutch that seemed to be wilting the fastest. Will they manage to make more than one (off-target) shot in the second half?

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Goals

None. Not even any real chances.

Other key moments

7′: Jasper Cillessen makes the interesting decision to charge out of goal in an attempt to stop Paul Aguilar from going through on goal, but his kick only drops the ball even further into danger. Fortunately his oranje defense manages to clear.

9′: We already have our first substitution and no, it does not appear to be due to heat stroke. A limping Nigel de Jong is replaced by Bruno Martins Indi … who did not start as he is still recovering from a “slight” concussion.

17′: The Dutch defense flounders once again, giving Giovani dos Santos and Oribe Peralta plenty of space. Peralta shoots, but it goes just wide.

20′: Mexico likely should’ve been awarded a penalty, what with Ron Vlaar kicking  Héctor Herrera in the face and everything.

32′: We’ve just had our first official water break of the World Cup! And…that was about all the excitement this match could offer.

45+2′: Arjen Robben grabs onto a ball from Robin van Persie, but he’s almost immediately taken out by Rafa Márquez  and Héctor Moreno. The Dutch have a good shout for a penalty, but the referee waves play on. Likely hoping to get into the airconditioning as soon as possible.

LINEUPS

Netherlands: Cillessen; De Vrij, Vlaar, Blind; Kuyt, Verhaegh, De Jong, Wijnaldum, Sneijder; Van Persie, Robben

Mexico: Ochoa; Rodriguez, Salcido, Marquez, Aguilar, Layun; Herrera, Moreno, Guardado, Dos Santos; Peralta

Question for the second half

What are we doing kicking off at 1 p.m. in Fortaleza?
This is the first time we’ve had an early kickoff at Estádio Castelão. It’s understandable that Brazil wanted to spread out this World Cup, of course. But a quick glance at Google shows that highs in June are regularly above 85, but what’s worse is that the humidity hovers around 90%, even reaching up to 100%. While leagues do play in these sorts of conditions, it’s typical that they will schedule kickoff for 7 p.m. or later, hoping to avoid the worst heat of the day.

While it can be argued that teams should have prepared for just these sorts of conditions, it should also be taken into consideration that the players just don’t look well. Is a bout of heat stroke really worth it?

It’s most likely that Mexico will be able to take advantage, looking the fitter side and probably more accustomed to the high temperatures. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come at the expense of a player’s health.

Spain, Uruguay are through to the Confederations Cup semifinals

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Let’s thank Nigeria for giving us one surprise from today’s action, though surprise may be too strong. The Super Eagles came out and tried to go toe-to-toe with the world champions, their speed, athleticism and willingness to fly forward giving early indications Spain were in for their tournament’s most difficult match. Though their eventual 3-0 win may look like Spain’s typical score-and-control approach, there was little typical about the challenge Nigeria posed in Fortaleza.

For their effort — one that saw Spain struggle to impose their typical control on the game — Stephen Keshi’s team were rewarded with a tournament exit, their loss combined with Uruguay’s 8-0 walk over Tahiti allowing the South American champions to clinch second place in Group B. Along with Spain, they join Brazil and Italy from Group A in the semifinals, with La Celeste opening the tournament’s knockout round Wednesday against the host nation.

The Uruguayans started a much-changed side against the Tahitians, though their depth in attack prevailed when Palermo forward Abel Hernández posted a first half hat trick, sending his team into intermission up 4-0. Early in the second, veteran defender Andre Scotti had a chance to add to his team’s lead only to see his penalty kick saved by Gilbert Meriel.

Moments later, the 37-year-old became the first player dismissed at this year’s tournament, earning a second yellow card that left Uruguay with 10 for the last 39 minutes. Undeterred, Uruguay added goals from Nicolas Lodiero, Hernández, and Luis Suárez (twice), leaving Tahiti with 24 goals allowed over their three Confederations Cup matches.

In Fortaleza, Jordi Alba’s early goal gave Spain a quick lead, an advantage that proved valuable as a fearless Nigerian side constantly disrupted Spain’s buildup as it approached the attacking third. The resulting counters tested Spain’s central defenders, though that only gave Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué a chance to remind us of qualities they’re rarely able to show amid Spain’s possession-hogging ways.

Mid-way through the second half, Fernando Torres provided Spain with some much-needed insurance, coming off the bench to record his fifth goal of the tournament. Although his club teammate John Obi Mikel tried to push his Nigerian team back into the match, the team’s ambitious forays never paid off, with Mohamed Gambo’s 75th minute chance the closest the Super Eagles came to opening their account.

An 89th minute breakaway converted by Alba gave Spain’s left back an unlikely brace. The goal left Nigeria with a deceptively lopsided 3-0 loss and us to marvel at the type of quality that can put up a three-goal win against such a strong Nigerian effort.

Next up for the Spaniards is a rematch of last year’s European Championships final, with Italy coming out of Group B to meet them in Thursday’s semi. The winner will face Brazil or Uruguay in next Sunday’s final, with the loser relegated to the tournament’s third place match.

Two fans killed before 2014 World Cup test run at stadium in Brazil

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Two fans were shot to death in the city of Fortaleza while on their way to a match that served as a “test event” at a World Cup stadium. The fans were killed about three miles from the Arena Castelao (pictured), raising security questions just two months before the north-eastern city hosts matches in the Confederations Cup and one year before it hosts the World Cup.

An official in charge of Fortaleza’s World Cup preparations said that the deaths were not connected to the test event at the Arena Castelao. “We lament what happened,” said Tiago Paes, a local World Cup organizing committee member who was present at the test event in Fortaleza. “But there is work being done by the police and the army in many areas of security, so we are not concerned with that for the Confederations Cup.”

The test event was a match between local rivals Ceara and Fortaleza, which was being used by local organisers to evaluate the venue. The victims, who were wearing Ceara jerseys, were shot in the head by opposing supporters at a local plaza. The attack appeared to be unprovoked as witnesses told police that the victims had just left a van and were walking from the plaza to the stadium when two Fortaleza fans opened fire on them from a motorcycle.

Authorities have managed to detain one suspect who was found near the plaza on a motorcycle carrying a gun. In addition to the murders, police detained more than 180 people for vandalism and disorderly conduct before the match at the Arena Castelao, which was completed in December and already has hosted nearly 20 test events. Local organizers are planning on holding a further 10 events that will take place before the venue hosts its three Confederations Cup matches this June: Brazil v. Mexico, Nigeria v. Spain and the semi-final match of the World Cup warm-up tournament.

Despite the deaths and arrests, World Cup organizers said they were satisfied with Sunday’s test noting that the stadium’s sound and television system, cleaning services and crowd management were all up to par.

The last notable incident of football-related violence in Brazil occurred five months ago when violent scenes marred the Copa Sudamericana final at the Estadio do Morumbi in Sao Paulo. There, Sao Paulo were crowned champions of South America after Argentinian side Tigre refused to take to the field for the second half of the second leg claiming they were threatened at gunpoint by security officials. In the wake of that incident FIFA insisted there should be no concerns about security at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The world governing body has yet to comment on the events in Fortaleza.

Brazil’s stadium construction far behind schedule

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Two months before Brazil hosts the Confederations Cup, only three of the six stadiums are ready, Reuters reports.

Recife’s venue is set to open on Sunday, joining Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza and Salvador in FIFA’s good books. But the governing body had already extended the construction deadline from last December to April 15.

So it can’t be happy at the sluggish progress – and with 550,000 tickets sold for the June tournament (featuring Spain and, uh, Tahiti) that’s a dress rehearsal for next year’s World Cup finals, spectators are entitled to feel concerned.

FIFA has given up hoping that everything will be spot-on by June. “Not all operational arrangements will be 100 per cent,” general secretary Jerome Valcke said last week, while insisting the competition will be “fantastic”.

If the Confederations Cup is a true test of Brazil’s ability to host the biggest sporting event on the planet, then at the moment the country looks in serious danger of flunking. Of course, things have a habit of coming together at the last minute, and the World Cup is still 14 months away.

But the notion that the construction of buildings holding tens of thousands of spectators may end up being rushed? That’s a little worrying.

FIFA is insistent that all 12 World Cup stadiums are ready by December. Anyone who’s attended a World Cup knows what a vast logistical operation it is, and that FIFA likes the tournament to run with all the precision you’d expect of an organization based in Switzerland.

But even if the venues are all smart and shiny by the big kick-off, that’s only one piece of the pie. There’s got to be adequate infrastructure for fans to arrive, stay in and travel through Brazil. And that’s a very real concern, too. And not something that FIFA can do much about, in truth. Stadiums, yes. Light-rail lines and new airport terminals? That’s a little beyond even FIFA’s ultimate influence.

Here’s a link to a video with a construction update that certainly whets the appetite – if you imagine the giant skeletons teeming with people, color, noise and passion in a little over a year’s time.