Monday, June 30, 2014

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Show notes:

When I last left you, we were preparing for the United States’ crucial match against Germany. Well things didn’t turn out the way we had hoped, with Ze Germans defeating the United States 1-0 thanks to a Thomas Muller blast off of a corner kick. Although we suffered defeat in this match, we were rescued from our doom by Cristiano Ronaldo, who broke a 1-1 deadlock with Ghana by blasting in a shot in the 83rd minute to give Portugal a 2-1 win. That result meant both Portugal and Ghana would crash out of the World Cup.

They were soon joined in the ranks of the eliminated teams by Russia and South Korea, who were knocked out in Thursday’s 4pm matches. Belgium managed to steal a 1-0 win thanks to a late goal from Jan Vertonghen. Once again, Belgium did not look their best, and never made it out of second gear, but have earned three wins in their World Cup matches. Russia and Algeria drew 1-1, with Algeria getting a goal from Islam Slimani to get them the result that sends them to the knockout stages for the first time in the history of their footballing nation. They also became the second African team to move to the knockout stages in this tournament.

Friday was mercifully an off day, but on Saturday the drama continued with Brazil squeaking by Chile on penalties. David Luiz pounced on a ball in the box in the 18th minute and sent in the game’s opening goal, while Twitter critics around the world clamored for it to be ruled an own goal. Their lead only lasted 14 minutes before Eduardo Vargas pounced on a turnover by Hulk, passed to Alexis Sanchez who made no mistake with the finish. The match then settled into a contentious affair, which lasted through the rest of regulation and extra time, sending the match to penalties. It was then when Julio Cesar showed up with two spectacular saves, making up for some questionable penalty taking from Willian and Hulk. His performance gave Brazil the 3-2 win on penalties and sent them through to the quarterfinals.

Later that afternoon, two spectacular goals from James Rodriguez earned Colombia a 2-0 win over a Luis Suarez-less Uruguay. His first goal was really a thing of beauty, he chested the ball and smashed a left footed volley off the underside of the crossbar and into the goal. It was the goal of the tournament, I’ve watched it hundreds of time and I will probably be trying to replicate that goal for the rest of my life. His second goal was a simpler smash from the center of the penalty area. Colombia really is a team to watch in this tournament and James Rodriguez is becoming one of the most searched men in the world.

Yesterday in the early match, the Netherlands snatched a victory away from Mexico in the final moments of the match. Mexico jumped out to a lead thanks to a beautiful goal from Giovanni Dos Santos, who muscled through Dutch defenders before smashing a left footed finish across his body and into the net. Wesley Sneijder equalized in the 88th minute after El Tri grew increasingly defensive through the second half. He smashed in a shot off a corner kick to level things up, really spoiling another spectacular performance from Guillermo Ochoa, who became a free agent today. The Netherlands then snatched a victory before the end of regular time, thanks to a bit of a flop from Arjen Robben who capitalized on a stupid, stupid foul by Mexico captain Rafa Marquez. Klaas Jan Huntelaar, the Hunter, then smashed in the penalty, karate kicked the corner flag and sent all of Holland into babymaking mode as they advanced to the quarterfinals.

In yesterday’s final match, Costa Rica managed to escape in penalties after falling to 10 men and conceding to the Greeks in the 91st minute. In the 52nd minute, Bryan Ruiz rolled a perfectly placed shot into the right side of the net. The Ticos then dropped to 10 men after Oscar Duarte earned his second yellow card of the match, I must say that both of them were deserved, but the referees were truly awful in this match. Missing a crucial handball in the box among other dubious decisions. Then in second half stoppage time in the 91st minute, Sokratis Papastathopoulos smashed home the crucial tying goal for the Greeks. I kept thinking throughout extra time that the Greeks were going to steal another result, but their offensive efforts in extra time were absolutely awful. They didn’t capitalize on their advantage and the match went to penalties, where Costa Rica were perfect. They smashed in five consecutive penalties and goalkeeper Keylor Navas continued his spectacular performances in this tournament with a crucial save on Theofanis Gekas to earn the Ticos their spot in the quarterfinal. Giorgios Karagounis retired from international football following the match.

Trivia segment:
Before we get to our results from the weekend and upcoming matches for tonight, here’s a new trivia segment sponsored by Ruffneck Scarves and Who Are Ya Designs. They make a tons of great shirts and scarves and sent me their #Murica shirt, so you should check them out at . That brings us to our trivia question for the day which is: Who is the most capped player in USMNT history? If you think you know the answer, Tweet me @IamSchaffer, respond on the Full Time Football Facebook Page, or comment on the blog. We’ll select the winner from the correct responses and send them a gift card so they can pick up some new gear. If you don’t know the answer, still go to or and buy a shirt for yourself or the football fan in your life.

I promise that we will get to the restart of MLS action and NWSL results from the weekend during tomorrow’s episode, but here are our headlines from over the weekend:

Adam Lallana has completed a medical examination and will complete a £25 million move to Liverpool later this week.

Southampton will also have to deal with the departure of Luke Shaw, who completed a £30 million move to 
Manchester United over the weekend. I will be really interested to see how Southampton spend this transfer money after issuing hands off warnings for their young talents. It looks like they really only meant, you better meet our asking prices. In my Southampton Football Manager save, I bought Axel Witsel and Andre Ayew with the proceeds from Lallana, I am curious to see what happens at St. Mary’s.

Kevin Prince Boateng has taken his dismissal from the Ghana squad by calling the FA, shambolic. He claims that he was dismissed from the squad for asking where the money went. They were forced to fly economy, making multiple stops in their preparation for the World Cup. Forced to fly from Miami to Washington DC for 24 hours before returning to Miami, just to shake the hands of “important people.” Their flight to Brazil was 12 hours, with players sitting in economy class. The airport also lost his bags which contained his football boots. Then the squad stayed in a motel in Natal, which flooded.

Chicharito has submitted a transfer request to Manchester United.

Posted on Monday, June 30, 2014 by Lex

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

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Coming to you from Pittsburgh on the biggest day in American football history. The last match signaled our arrival as a footballing nation. We were disappointed with a 2-2 draw against the world’s best player. Now that everybody wants more, there’s no reason we can’t beat Germany. I am certain that Jurgen Klinsmann still has some tricks up his sleeve and he will certainly use them against his former squad and protégé Joachim Low. It’s going to be a huge match, I will be at the Claddagh on Pittsburgh’s Southside if you want to join me. The atmosphere has been incredible there for these matches. I really encourage you all to check it out.
Let’s move onto what happened in yesterday’s matches.

Lionel Messi put on a fantastic display as he scored two goals in Argentina’s 3-2 win over Nigeria. It took him less than three minutes to strike, pouncing on an Angel Di Maria blast that went off Vincent Enyeama and the post before Messi blasted it into the net. Nigeria responded immediately with a goal a minute later, 
Ahmed Musa blasted a right footed shot from the right side of the penalty area on a counter attack. Nigeria refused to shy away from this game and they really made Argentina work for this win. Right before halftime, Messi struck again with an unstoppable free kick, truly a thing of beauty. There was nothing Enyeama could do about it and Argentina went into the break, up 2-1.

Ahmed Musa again answered the call shortly after halftime, playing a 1-2 with Emmanuel Eminike and finishing past Romero with ease. Marcos Rojo responded three minutes later with the match’s final goal which he scored by rising above the defense to head down and into the goal. It was a great performance from both teams, which sees both of them move on to the knockout stages. That happens because…

Bosnia-Herzegovina earned their first World Cup Finals victory in the history of their footballing nation. They ran out 3-1 winners over Iran, who managed to score their first goal of this World Cup as well. They never really gave Iran a chance in this match, they jumped out to a 3-0 lead with goals from Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic, and Avdjia Vrsajevic. Reza Ghoochannejhad scored the Iran’s first and only goal of this World Cup, with a tap in finish on the far post. Both of these teams go crashing out of the World Cup, but both do come away from this match with something to celebrate.

In our 4pm matches from yesterday, France and Ecuador played to a goalless draw. That result sees France go through and Ecuador crash out of the World Cup.

France will be joined by Switzerland in the knockout stages, who were lifted to a 3-0 victory over Honduras thanks to the efforts of Xherdan Shaqiri who scored a hat trick in this match. He started things off with a beautiful left footed curling effort from outside of the penalty area in the 6th minute. He struck again in the 31st minute, running onto a pass from Josip Drmic and finished home with authority. Drmic then had an assists on the third goal in the 71st minute, he skinned a defender on the left side and slotted a perfect pass to Shaqiri, who fired it home. A great Swiss performance, they could be a very dangerous team in the knockout stages of this tournament. First Swiss player with a hat trick at the World Cup since 1954.

Trivia segment:
Before we get to our results from the weekend and upcoming matches for tonight, here’s a new trivia segment sponsored by Ruffneck Scarves and Who Are Ya Designs. They make a tons of great shirts and scarves and sent me their #Murica shirt, so you should check them out at . That brings us to our trivia question for the day which is: Who scored the fastest goal in World Cup history? If you think you know the answer, Tweet me @IamSchaffer, respond on the Full Time Football Facebook Page, or comment on the blog. We’ll select the winner from the correct responses and send them a gift card so they can pick up some new gear. If you don’t know the answer, still go to or and buy a shirt for yourself or the football fan in your life.

Pittsburghers stick together... and so does Pittsburgh's soccer community.
At tomorrow's watch party at Latitude 40 we are going to be running a raffle to collect funds for the memorial fund of Matt Hegeman. He was one of the climbers that was killed in the avalanche on Mount Rainer a few months back. We are doing this because he was a Pittsburgher, and was a fellow soccer player, playing at Baldwin High School in the 90s. So if you’re at Latitude 40 tomorrow watching the USA vs. Germany match please donate whatever you can. A link to their YouCaring page can be found in the show notes for today’s episode.

In yesterday’s NWSL match of the day, Sky Blue FC were 2-1 winners over the Portland Thorns. Katy 
Freels scored a beautiful chipped shot from distance in the 8th minute. Christine Sinclair responded with an equalizer in the 54th minute, but it was not enough for the Thorns. In the 65th minute, Lindsi Cutshall struck by heading home a set piece from Jonelle Filigno.

Manchester City has completed the signing of Brazilian midfielder Fernando from Porto. The 26 year old will wear the #6 shirt for them next season.

According to Sky Sports, Adidas are holding a meeting to consider whether they will continue their relationship with Luis Suarez in the wake of the superstars latest biting incident.

Kevin Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari have been dismissed from the Ghana National Team squad. This likely signals the end of Prince’s Ghana career. He had previously retired from the national team to avoid the travel rigors of the qualifying campaign. Sulley was ineligible for today’s match because of suspension and allegedly chased a member of the Ghana FA around the hotel with a broken bottle. You’ve probably heard stories of Ghanaian president John Dramani Manama arriving in Brazil with a briefcase of $3 million in cash for player bonuses. Defender John Boye has been pictured kissing his share of the $3 million.

Pirlo has changed his mind about international retirement and said if the new Italy manager needs his services, he would meet the call.

Upcoming matches for today:
Of course we have the United States taking on Germany at Noon today. Ghana vs. Portugal will also be taking place simultaneously. The United States will advance with a win or draw. Low scoring in the Ghana vs. Portugal match should be encouraged.

At 4PM, Belgium will be taking on South Korea in a match in which they will be missing their captain Vincent Kompany, who has a groin injury. Belgium have already secured their place in the knockout stages.

Algeria faces off against Russia and would advance with a draw. Russia can go through with a win. 

Posted on Thursday, June 26, 2014 by Lex

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

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Show Notes:
I’m sure you’ve all heard at this point about the Luis Suarez incident and that possibly as a result, Italy has been knocked out of the World Cup. It was a shocking affair at the Estadio Das Dunas in Natal. Mario Balotelli picked up a yellow card in the first half. This meant that Balotelli would miss the next Italy match, but for some reason Cesare Prandelli decided to substitute him following the halftime break in a decision that made absolutely no sense to me. Immobile’s contribution to the Italian attack was almost nonexistent in the first half, and taking off Balotelli signaled that Italy were playing for a scoreless draw. Just before halftime, Gigi Buffon made a spectacular double save that kept the match level.

The game was always a contentious affair, Italy managed 19 fouls, while Uruguay bettered them with 20. The match took a turn in the 59th minute when Claudio Marchisio delivered a studs to knee standing challenge to Arevalo Rios. He did this right in front of the match official and received a straight red card for it. I was a challenge deserving of a red card, especially because of the proximity to the referee. Italy were now down to 10 men, but continued to fight on. The match continued for 20 more minutes, with Uruguay entering the ascendancy.

But then in the 79th minute, Luis Suarez decided that it was feeding time. He bore down on the back of Giorgio Chiellini and dug hit teeth into the shoulder of the Italian defender. It was an absolute moment of madness, Suarez’ Zidane moment. I don’t know what it is with Italian defenders, but they tend to bring out the absolute worst in their opposition. Football is a game of emotion, environmental and oppositional factors fray at the nerves of players, and sometimes these emotions get the best of players. We’ve seen these moments come from enigmatic talents like Zinedine Zidane, Eric Cantona, and now most recently with the third biting incident of Luis Suarez career. Ever the villain, Suarez must have listened to that voice in his head that said if he did this now, he would go down in football lore forever. Which he will. He could also face up to a 24 match ban for this incident.

Chiellini attempted to show the referee the bite marks, but Suarez received no punishment in the course of the match, although the incident is now under FIFA investigation. Two minutes later, Diego Godin capped off his incredible, dominant performance by rising above the Italian defense to meet a Gaston Ramirez corner kick to head home the match’s only goal. He had a great performance, he shut down the Italy attack and scored his second massive goal of the last two months. Italy wasn’t able to mount any offensive attack in the late stages of the match and they were doomed to a World Cup exit in the group stages, meaning Uruguay and Costa Rica would go through to the knockout stages.

Costa Rica managed a scoreless draw against England in their final group stage match. The Tico’s sealed the group with that result. In truth, it was a boring 0-0 draw that saw England go out of the World Cup with a whimper. Roy Hodgeson took the opportunity to play Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley in the starting lineup. Frank Lampard took the captain’s armband, but this was an already defeated squad that didn’t really mount much during the match. Both teams had three shots on target, and all three saves were made by Keylor Navas and Ben Foster.

Colombia ran riot over Japan yesterday, signaling the Japanese exit from the World Cup. They won by a final score of 4-1, after the teams went into the halftime break level at 1. Konno was given a yellow card for a bad foul and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Juan Cuadrado slotted the penalty down the middle for the conversion to open the scoring. Japan fought back just before the halftime break in stoppage time, Keisuke Honda sent in a beautiful cross, which Shinji Okazaki then manipulated his body to score a fantastic header to level the match.

In the second half, Jackson Martinez and James Rodriguez took over, he finished off a spectacular bit of interplay from Columbia which ended with a James Rodriguez pass which Martinez dunked home for the finish. Japan managed an impressive number of shots, with 13 on target for the evening, but were never able to find another goal. Jackson Martinez struck again in the 82nd minute, James Rodriuez found Martinez with a through ball and Martinez cut back and finished with ease. Finally in the 90th minute James Rodriguez added a goal to his two assists, he ran onto a ball in space, danced around the defender and finished with a beautiful chip. He has been everything for Colombia and the 22 year olds stock is rising, definitely remember that name. Also in this match, backup keeper Faryd Mondragon became the oldest player ever at the World Cup, earning a CAP at the age of 43.

Finally yesterday, C’ote D’Ivoire crashed out of the World Cup in the absolutely cruelest fashion, losing 2-1 to Greece. Didier Drogba did start the match for Les Elephants, but was substituted in the 78th minute. Greece opened the scoring in the 42nd minute, Cheick Tiote squandered possession in midfield and Georgios Samaras led the counter attack which finished with Andreas Samaris slotting a shot into the back of the net. The Greeks held their lead well for over a half hour before Wilfried Bony struck in the 74th minute. Gervinho received a pass in the left side of the penalty area and passed along the floor to Bony who made no mistake with the finish. The draw would have been enough to see C’ote D’Ivoire through, but it was not meant to be for them. In the 91st minute, Giovanni Sio conceded a penalty by fouling Georgios Samaras in the area. Samaras then placed the penalty inches out of the outstretched hands of Boubacar Barry, giving the Greeks the win and their spot in the knockout stages. As always the Greeks seem to perform for only one match in the group and it was enough.

Trivia segment:
Before we get to our results from the weekend and upcoming matches for tonight, here’s a new trivia segment sponsored by Ruffneck Scarves and Who Are Ya Designs. They make a tons of great shirts and scarves and sent me their #Murica shirt, so you should check them out at . That brings us to our trivia question for the day which is: Who scored the fastest goal in World Cup history? If you think you know the answer, Tweet me @IamSchaffer, respond on the Full Time Football Facebook Page, or comment on the blog. We’ll select the winner from the correct responses and send them a gift card so they can pick up some new gear. If you don’t know the answer, still go to or and buy a shirt for yourself or the football fan in your life.

Pittsburghers stick together... and so does Pittsburgh's soccer community.
At tomorrow's watch party at Latitude 40 we are going to be running a raffle to collect funds for the memorial fund of Matt Hegeman. He was one of the climbers that was killed in the avalanche on Mount Rainer a few months back. We are doing this because he was a Pittsburgher, and was a fellow soccer player, playing at Baldwin High School in the 90s. So if you’re at Latitude 40 tomorrow watching the USA vs. Germany match please donate whatever you can. A link to their YouCaring page can be found in the show notes for today’s episode.

News headlines:
Samuel Eto’o continues to be one of football’s best humans, there’s a Youtube video of him leaving a facility and a child shouting his name. The same kid he gave a Cameroon jersey too previously, Eto’o hugged the kid and it was a really special moment. Both ended up shedding a few tears. Now I really don’t want Eto’o to leave Chelsea.

Barcelona and Real Sociedad have reached an agreement for goalkeeper Claudio Bravo which will see him playing at the Camp Nou next season.

Upcoming matches for tonight:
Sky Blue FC takes on the Portland Thorns tonight at 10PM

World Cup matches kick off today at noon, featuring Bosnia-Herzegovina taking on Iran and Nigeria facing Argentina. As it stands, Nigeria and Argentina are going through. If Iran can manage a win and overcome the goal differential, they can overtake Nigeria and qualify for the knockout stages.

In our second round of World Cup matches at 4PM, Ecuador takes on France and Honduras will face Switzerland. Switzerland can go through with a draw and win from this match and an Ecaudor loss against France. 

Posted on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 by Lex

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

It was one last hurrah for Tiki Taka football and the squad that made it so famous yesterday. Spain ran out 3-0 winners over Australia, with both of those teams departing the tournament early. David Villa played what is likely his final match for La Roja and was in tears when he left the pitch yesterday. It was an emotional scene that came after he scored a brilliant final goal for them. Juanfran was played into space down the right wing and slotted a ball to the wide open David Villa. Villa finished with style on a backheel finish. A really spectacular way to leave your national team. He was substituted in the 56th minute for Juan Mata. One has to wonder what may have been for Spain if both of these guys had featured in their first two matches.

In the 69th minute, Andreas Iniesta dissected the defense with a killer through ball, which led to Fernando Torres slotting home an easy finish. He celebrated diminutively in a scene that was really emblematic of Spain’s entire World Cup. Then in the 82nd minute, Cesc Fabregas found Juan Mata in space on the right side of goal, found him with a perfect pass, which Mata settled before nutmegging Maty Ryan for the finish. A great Spain performance that ultimately came too late.

The Group B winner was decided in the match between the Netherlands and Chile that finished 2-0 in favor of the Dutch. It was a pretty testy affair for the first hour of this match, neither team wanted to concede the goal which would mean they would have to face Brazil in the first stage of the knockout round. Leroy Fer provided the difference when he entered in the 75th minute. Two minutes later, Daryl Janmaat sent in a cross that Leroy Fer headed home for the opening goal. It was a great goal for the substitute and gave the Netherlands a breakthrough. Chile dominated possession in this match with 64%, but only manage one shot on target with their possession. The Netherlands struck again in the 92nd minute, with Arjen Robben breaking down the left side before crossing a perfect ball to Memphis Depay who slammed home the insurance goal in stoppage time.

Group B finishes with Chile in second place and the Netherlands on top of the group. Chile will face Brazil in the next round while the Netherlands will face Mexico.

Ten minutes of absolute brilliance gave Mexico three great goals, which was enough to lift them over Croatia by a final score of 3-1. This match began as a nervous encounter, with Rafa Marquez and Ivan Perisic picking up yellow cards in the first half. The match was level at 0 going into the halftime break, with Mexico enjoying a considerable advantage in terms of supporters. They brought on Chicharito Hernandez in the 62nd minute and he really opened things up for Mexico. Hector Herrera sent in a corner kick, which Rafa Marquez rose to and headed home for the match’s opening goal. Three minutes later, Mexico struck again. Chicharito led a counter attack and passed wide to the right to find Oribe Peralta, Peralta slotted a pass across the box to Andres Guardado who pounced on the pass and slammed home the finish for Mexico’s second goal.

Five minutes later, Mexico completed their night with another Hector Herrera corner kick. This one was flicked on by Rafa Marquez header that found Chicharito on the back post and he headed home from very close range, putting the match beyond a doubt. Croatia managed to get on the score sheet thanks to Ivan Perisic capping off a finish to a spectacular Ivan Rakitic run. The comeback effort was short lived because two minutes later, Ante Rebic was sent off for a late, high, dirty challenge on Carlos Pena.

In our final World Cup match from yesterday, Brazil dominated Cameroon by a score of 4-1. Neymar kicked things off with a brace. His first goal came off of a Luiz Gustavo cross, which he expertly finished with his right foot on a first timed shot. Cameroon responded nine minutes later with a goal from Joel Matip. Allan Nyom danced down the left side before he found the defender Matip making a run through the center. Matip finished better than many strikers at the tournament. Neymar then struck again in the 34th minute, he weaved through the Cameroonian defense and blasted a right footed finish into the net. That was his 35th goal for Brazil and he has overtaken Rivaldo and Ronaldinho on the all-time goals scored list for Brazil.

Following the halftime break it only took Brazil four minutes for David Luiz to find the forehead of Fred with a cross. Fred finished with a trademark header for Brazil’s third goal. Fernandinho closed out Brazil’s goalscoring party. Oscar stole possession and played a 1-2 with Fernandinho before unselfishly letting the Man City man finish his run with a goal. A fantastic team performance and Brazil will be flying high going into their match against Chile.

Trivia segment:
Before we get to our results from the weekend and upcoming matches for tonight, here’s a new trivia segment sponsored by Ruffneck Scarves and Who Are Ya Designs. They make a tons of great shirts and scarves and sent me their #Murica shirt, so you should check them out at . That brings us to our trivia question for the day which is: Who scored the fastest goal in World Cup history? If you think you know the answer, Tweet me @IamSchaffer, respond on the Full Time Football Facebook Page, or comment on the blog. We’ll select the winner from the correct responses and send them a gift card so they can pick up some new gear. If you don’t know the answer, still go to or and buy a shirt for yourself or the football fan in your life.

Fulham has officially signed Australia strike Adam Taggart. He joins the club from the Newcastle Jets for an undisclosed fee.

According to the BBC, Manchester United are reportedly close to signing Atletico Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera.

An interview with France Football revealed that Manchester City did not allow Yaya Toure to visit his brother in the hospital, while he was in the final stages of his battle with cancer. Ibrahim Toure passed away over the weekend after a lengthy battle with cancer. He had most recently played with Lebanese club Al Safa SC.

Lionel Messi has been ordered to pay €33 million in taxes, penalties, and guarantees after he has been investigated for tax fraud regarding his image rights. Proceeds from his image rights were allegedly diverted to tax havens. A judge ruled that Messi was not aware of his tax affairs and exempt from criminal responsibility.

Bayern Munich is third, Chelsea is 4th, Benfica is 5th, Man United, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Arsenal and Porto round out the top ten.

Sky Sports and the Daily Mail are both reporting that Rio Ferdinand is on the verge of completing a move to QPR.

In our final bit of news, the USA vs. Portugal game drew a 9.1 rating on the Neilsen scale. The highest rating for any ESPN World Cup game ever.

Upcoming matches for today:
Beginning at noon today, we’ve got a pretty much meaningless game between Costa Rica and England. Costa Rica can take the top spot of that group with a draw or win.

Italy faces off against Uruguay in the match which will decide which of these teams will go through. Both teams sitting on 3 points in this one. Italy would go through with a win or draw. Uruguay need a win,

Then at 4PM today, Greece and C’ote D’Ivoire face off, with Les Elephants needing only a draw to secure their qualification. Greece would go through with a win and a Japan loss.

Meanwhile, Japan is facing Colombia. Colombia has already secured their place in the final 16 and will be group winners with a draw or win. Japan needs to win and hope that C’ote D’Ivoire don’t manage a win. They could also go through if the Ivoirians draw and Japan overtakes them in goal differential.

Posted on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 by Lex

1 comment

Monday, June 23, 2014

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Show notes: 
I know a lot of you out there are probably disappointed this morning, but a 2-2 draw for the United States against Portugal is a good result. Although it did come in brutal fashion. We were tantalizingly close to a 2-1 victory when the world’s greatest player Cristiano Ronaldo had his lone moment of brilliance in the match. His cross was laser guided to the forehead of Silvestre Varela, who sent it past Timmy Howard for the equalizer. The United States dominated for long stretches in the second half, taking advantage of the high heat and humidity levels in the Arena Amazonia.

Scoring in this match began less than 5 minutes in when Nani capitalized on a failed Geoff Cameron clearance, and finish home. Portugal dominated possession in the early stages, enjoying at times as much as 75% of the ball. The first half was a pretty nervous affair for the United States, they allowed Portugal to enjoy their possession, sitting deeply and allowing players to work into space. Beginning of the match was testy, and involved Kyle Beckerman elbowing Raul Meireles in the face. Timmy Howard kept the United States in the game, he made four saves during the match and every one of them was spectacular.

Following the halftime break, the United States settled into the game a bit better. They placed Portugal under much more pressure and it paid off in the 64th minute following a corner kick. The ball found it’s way to 
Jermaine Jones who following one touch unleashed what may be the greatest goal in USMNT history. A right footed thunderbastard that Beto never had a chance to stop. That goal occurred in the 64th minute and for the next 15 minutes, the US dominated. Their efforts paid off in the 81st minute, when Yedlin drove to the corner, slotted a pass that was deflected to Bradley. Bradley moved it to Zusi who crossed it to the crotch of Demspey who scored with the most dramatic pelvic thrust since Elvis Presley first appeared on television.

Once again I think Michael Bradley was disappointing as was Graham Zusi, despite both of them having been involved in that go ahead goal. The United States were wasting time well, but Zusi left the pitch too slowly which caused the fourth official to add a 5th minute to stoppage time and that ultimately cost us. Michael Bradley lost possession in midfield. The ball found Ronaldo and the head of Varela for the 2-2 draw. Still a good result for the US, we are through to the round of 16 with a win or draw or a draw in the Portugal Ghana match. So USA fans should be rooting for low scoring all around and if necessary for Portugal.

Algeria defeated South Korea yesterday thanks to 3 first half goals form Islam Slimani, Rafik Halliche, and Abdelmoumene Djabou. South Korea played their hearts out and fought back to make the game interesting, Son Heung-Min scratched back first for the Koreans before Yacine Brahimi earned Algeria their fourth goal of the match. Koo Ja-Cheol the made the match 4-2 where the final scoreline would stay, but Korea fought it out to the end and pressed forward trying to find another goal. Neither of these teams are yet eliminated and this group is wide open with the exception of Belgium.

Belgium clinched their spot in the Round of 16, with a 1-0 win over Russia. This match was in truth boring for long stretches. Both of these teams possess talent but looked content to see out a scoreless draw. That is until Eden Hazard skipped down the left side and slotted a perfect pass to Divock Origi. Origi made no mistake for the finish and that 88th minute goal was enough to give them the clinching win. He is the first teenager to score since Lionel Messi did so in the 2006 World Cup. Romelu Lukaku again was disappointing, I wonder if he’s tired after a long season or if he’s battling an undisclosed injury because he does not look like himself right now.

On Saturday we had brother vs. brother as the Boatengs faced off in the Germany Ghana clash that finished in a 2-2 draw. After a scoreless first half the match opened up in the second half. Mario Gotze opened the scoring with a header from a Thomas Muller cross. It took Ghana only 3 minutes to respond, Harrison Afful sent in a cross which Andre Ayew rose to meet and equalize. Ten minutes later Asamoah Gyan struck after Sulley Muntari stripped the ball in midfield. Gyan blasted it past Neuer who never had a chance to stop it. In the 69th minute Miroslav Klose entered the match and two minutes later he equalized the all time World Cup record for goals scored with a poaching effort on the back corner. He celebrated with his trademark front flip.

Also on Saturday we had 1-0 wins for Argentina over Iran and Nigeria over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Nigeria’s goal came after Emmanuel Eminike bullied his way down the right flank and slotted a pass to Peter Odemwingie who finished home. Argentina’s goal was a spectacular stoppage time effort from Lionel Messi when it looked like Iran would be getting another point from a scoreless draw. The Messiah cut inside and somehow found a path through the parked Iranian bus with a heat seeking missile.

Going back to Friday, Costa Rica shocked Italy with a 1-0 win that officially eliminated England from the tournament. The Ticos looked great in this match, while Italy did not look so great. They struck just before halftime with a cross from Junior Diaz that was dunked home from Bryan Ruiz. Andrea Pirlo nearly struck with a free kick, but that was parried away from Keylor Navas. He made four great saves in the match and he was the difference maker for Costa Rica.

France ran riot 5-2 over Switzerland. It was a true team effort and a fantastic display from France who went up 5-0 before conceding two to the Swiss. French goals came from Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi, Mathieu Valbuena, Karim Benzema, and finally Moussa Sissoko. Switzerland then scored twice including the tournament’s first goal from a direct free kick. Blerim Dzemaili scored by driving a low shot through the wall and past the outstretched hand of Hugo Lloris. Granit Xhaka then scored with a sweet little volley to make things a bit more respectable.

Honduras and Ecuador finished things on Friday with Ecaudor earning the 2-1 win. Carlo Costly opened scoring with a driven left footed shot. Enner Valencia responded 3 minutes later and was easily the man of the match. He tapped in on the far post after a deflected shot bounced into his path. He continued his red hot form in the second half with the winning goal. He posted up the Honduran defense and headed home the Walter Ayovi free kick. It was a great winning goal that puts Ecaudor in position to qualify with a result against France.

Going back to Thursday, we had a boring goalless draw between Greece and Japan. Kostas Katsouranis was sent off in the 38th minute for second yellow card. Japan failed to make them pay for that mistake.

Luis Suarez scored a brace which sealed England’s fate as Uruguay ran out 2-1 winners. Wayne Rooney finally managed to get on the score sheet at the World Cup, but it was not enough to lift them out of their very challenging group. Gerrard was awful. Frank Lampard didn’t play and the ideological shortcomings of Roy Hodgeson came to a head.

Goals from James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero lifted Colombia over C’ote D’Ivoire 2-1. The Ivoirian goal was a spectacular solo effort from Gervinho who dribbled through pretty much the entire defense before slotting home his finish. Once again Didier Drogba did not start the match.  

We’ve got five NWSL Women’s League matches to catch you up with.

Before that a bit of news from the league, Hope Solo was arrested on charges of assault charges after she allegedly beat up her sister and 17 year old cousin at a party. According to police statements, Solo was upset and intoxicated. She will be in court today to face those charges. No statement from her management team or Seattle Reign as of yet.

Going back to Thursday night when the Seattle Reign managed to earn a 2-0 win over Boston Breakers. Beverly Goebel opened scoring the fourth minute and Keelin Winters added the second in that one.

On Saturday the Portland Thorns dominated and ran out 6-1 winners over the Washington Spirit. Christine Sinclair opened scoring for Portland in the 5th minute and Alex Morgan added a second only 6 minutes later. Following the halftime break, Washington pegged one back with a goal from Christine Nairn. Another goal from Alex Morgan, two from Jessica McDonald, and the sixth of the game from Allie Long closed out the scoring in that one.

A 76th minute goal from Jen Buczkowski gave FC Kansas City a 1-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars.
On Sunday, Sky Blue FC and the Boston Breakers played to a 1-1 draw. Kelley O’Hara scored in the second minute for Sky Blue, while Jazmine Reeves equalized in the 32nd minute for the Breakers.

In our final match of the weekend, the Seattle Reign ran out 2-1 winners over the Western New York Flash. After a scoreless first half, Samantha Kerr opened scoring for the Flash in the 61st minute. Kate Deines scored in the 82nd minute to even things up for the Reign before Sydney Leroux added the dramatic winner in the 90th minute. With that win Seattle is not 8 points clear at the top of the table, with two matches in hand over second place FC Kansas City.

Coming up today we’ve got four great World Cup matches.

At noon we’ve got Group B finishing with Australia taking on Spain in a battle of eliminated teams. The Netherlands and Chile face off to see who will take the top spot in that group.

At 4pm we’ve got Cameroon minus Alex Song, taking on Brazil and Croatia facing Mexico. It really should be a great day of football. 

Posted on Monday, June 23, 2014 by Lex

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

We’re over one third of the way through the group stages, and I can certainly say that this tournament has had its fair share of surprises. Not sure if you’ve heard, but defending champions, Spain, have been eliminated from this year’s tournament only two matches in. Spain suffered a thorough 2-0 beat down from Chile in a match where they never really could put their best football on display.
Chile has this way to lulling teams into a sense of complacency while placing them under tremendous pressure and that’s exactly what happened yesterday. Twenty minutes into the match Chile turned this match on its head for Spain. Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez, and Charles Aranguiz combined with some beautiful buildup play that allowed Eduardo Vargas to skip around Iker Casillas and slide home the finish. It was a great moment for Chile, another borderline howler for Casillas, and was a sign of things to come.

Then just before halftime, Alexis Sanchez hit a vicious free kick at Casillas who parried the ball away. Unfortunately for Iker, it fell right to Charles Aranguiz who smashed it past Casillas for Chile’s second goal. Following the halftime break, Vicente Del Bosque and Spain grew increasingly desperate. He put on Koke for Xabi Alonso at halftime and I think this was probably not the right decision. They needed somebody creative and instinctive like Cesc or Juan Mata and failed to include either of these with their substitutions. Sergio Busquets missed from point blank range and Spain were just doomed. I think that this match officially signals the death of Tiki Taka. RIP 2008-2014.

Upsets like Chile over Spain is what football is all about, but yesterday Australia expertly displayed why you really should catch all of these matches if you can. I had this one going out as Australia being on the receiving end of 4 or 5 goals, but they turned a lot of heads yesterday, despite bowing out of the tournament. Arjen Robben scored 20 minutes in for the Dutch and at that moment I tweeted that this was about to be a massacre. Australia responded by scoring less than 2 minutes later. Tim Cahill scoring one of the goals of the tournament, with a spectacular volley that rang in off the crossbar. Seriously, go watch that goal. The teams went into the locker rooms level.

After halftime Australia managed to get a handball decision which was converted by Mile Jedinak, and for a wonderful 90 seconds they were in control, doing the impossible. However, it was not meant to be. Robin Van Persie scored another spectacular goal to level things at 2 all. Memphis Depay then hit a ball from distance and hoped. Well it took a deflection and went into the goal, dooming Australia and elimination, but for one shining moment they looked to be on top of the football world. That’s what it’s all about really, these moments of brilliance that you can celebrate forever.

In our third match of the day, a moment of madness from Alex Song led to his dismissal and doom for Cameroon as they were hammered 4-0 by Croatia. Ivica Olic scored only 11 minutes into the match, but Cameroon were really enjoying the majority of the possession and attacking chances in the first half. Then at the 40 minute mark, Ivica Olic was leading a counter attack when behind the play Alex Song delivered a 12-6 elbow to the back of Mario Mandzukic and was sent off with the straight red for violent conduct.
It only took four minutes following the halftime break for Croatia to break through and then Ivan Perisic was the man who broke the deadlock. Mario Mandzukic added two goals later in the match to close things out for Croatia, getting a bit of retribution for that elbow from Song.

Trivia segment:
Before we get to our results from the weekend and upcoming matches for tonight, here’s a new trivia segment sponsored by Ruffneck Scarves and Who Are Ya Designs. They make a tons of great shirts and scarves and sent me their #Murica shirt, so you should check them out at . That brings us to our trivia question for the day which is: Who scored the fastest goal in World Cup history? If you think you know the answer, Tweet me @IamSchaffer, respond on the Full Time Football Facebook Page, or comment on the blog. We’ll select the winner from the correct responses and send them a gift card so they can pick up some new gear. If you don’t know the answer, still go to or and buy a shirt for yourself or the football fan in your life.

Goals 89 minute apart from Brittany Taylor and Samantha Kerr earned a win for the Flash in yesterday’s NWSL clash between the Western NY Flash and the Chicago Red Stars.

FIFA has banned Beats headphones from being worn by players in the stadium.

Ticketless Chileans that stormed the gates at their match yesterday have been given 72 hours to leave Brazil or be subjected to summary deportations. 85 were arrested yesterday.

Upcoming matches for today:
C’ote D’Ivoire will take on Colombia at Noon today.

Uruguay will meet England at 3PM in a very important match for Group D.

Japan will take on Greece.

In our one NWSL match of the day

The Boston Breakers take on the Seattle Reign. 

Posted on Thursday, June 19, 2014 by Lex

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Today’s top stories:
Mexico has become the first team from outside Europe or South America to take a point off of Brazil in the World Cup. They did so yesterday thanks to the heroic performance of Guillermo Ochoa. He was absolutely fantastic in goal for El Tri. If you have a chance you should really watch the compilation of his saves, which can be found in the episode notes for this podcast. Brazil tried everything they could to break him down, but ultimately were unable to find a goal. This was undoubtedly one of the most entertaining 0-0 matches I’ve ever seen. Neymar was denied from close range in the late stages of this match and looks absolutely exasperated. It was an incredible performance by Mexico and throws a wrench into the Group A qualification picture.

Belgium looked to be stuck in second gear for the majority of their match yesterday against Algeria. Algeria managed to get an early penalty decision thanks to an unnecessary foul by Jan Vertongen. He hauled down Sofiane Ferghouli when the ball was nowhere near him. Ferghouli converted the penalty with ease and Belgium looked like they were going to fall short of their expectations. Marc Wilmots picked a poor lineup to start this match in my opinion. Nacer Chadli was in the starting lineup and largely ineffective in his time on the pitch. Mousa Dembele was unimpressive as was Romelu Lukaku. Wilmots got it right after halftime when he replaced Chadli with Dries Mertens. Divock Origi replaced Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini replaced Dembele. Once the three substitutions were made, Belgium really got it together. Kevin De Bruyne sent in a beautiful cross that Fellaini rose to and headed home in the 70th. Ten minutes later they struck again. KDB made a great tackle which led to a counter attack. Eden Hazard sent a lovely slotted pass across the penalty area and Dries Mertens hammered it home for the match winner.

Igor Akinfeev’s howler will likely be the only thing that we remember from Russia’s match against South Korea. Lee Keun-Ho sent a rocket on goal from about 25 yards directly at Akinfeev who displayed very poor catching form. The ball clattered off his palms, over his head, and into the net in a moment of absolute embarrassment for the Russian keeper. That broke the deadlock 68 minutes into the match. Six minutes later the hustle and determination of Alexander Kerzhakov paid off when he was able to fire home a rebound off his own chance to even the score at 1, which is where things finished. Two more goals from a substitute in this match, managers earning their money all over the place in this tournament.

In other news:
Yesterday, an explosion was reported at a World Cup watch center in Nigeria. At least 21 people were killed in that explosion in Damaturu. Public screenings have been cancelled in some regions of the nation because of threats from Boko Haram. Witnesses claim this explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber on a tricycle taxi.

Ilkay Gundogan has successfully undergone back surgery after ten months of rest and rehab were unsuccessful. He is expected to return to the pitch in 3 months, which is certainly good news for Dortmund fans.

There are rumors of a player mutiny in the Ghana squad that are circulating the internet. The coup is expected to be led by Sulley Muntari and Kevin Prince Boateng who were unhappy with James Kwesi Appiah’s starting XI.

Fabio Coentrao has officially been ruled out of the World Cup with the groin injury he picked up against Germany. Huge blow for Portugal who will now have to cover for Pepe and Coentrao’s absence.

Clint Dempsey’s broken nose was confirmed by medical staff as was Jozy Altidore’s strained left hamstring. Both will be evaluated later today.

The MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon have been drawn against each other in the first round of the Capital One Cup. 

Posted on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 by Lex

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Hello and welcome to Episode 22 of the Full Time Football Podcast, as always, I am your host Alex Schaffer. I come to you live from a slightly hungover Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, just 14 hours after the United States won the biggest game in the history of our footballing nation. It was an absolutely incredible scene at the Claddagh, I really hope all of you had an atmosphere like that to watch this match in. Let’s just jump right into the match highlights from yesterday.

The United States and Ghana took the pitch in Natal with the 14 American Outlaws left behind in Guyana in attendance at the Estadio Das Dunas. After three days and four countries they final reached their destination just before match time. After the national anthems, it didn’t take long for the action to get started. Just 30 seconds into the match, Clint Dempsey struck after some nice passing with Jermaine Jones, skinned John Boye and found himself 1 on 1 with Adam Kwaresey. He made no mistake with the finish, a beautiful left footed shot that found the inside of the post and nestled into the netting.

The pub exploded with cheers. Beer was sprayed everywhere, it was just incredible. Once the celebrations died down, it was a very nervous affair. Ghana enjoyed a lot of possession and the match had an edge to it. Jozy Altidore went down with a hamstring injury, Clint Dempsey was kicked in the face breaking his nose in the process, and another hamstring injury to Matt Besler certainly made the game more difficult. Jermaine Jones and Sulley Muntari clashed and inexplicably neither received a yellow card. The United States continued undeterred, defending deeply when necessary and managed to go into halftime banged up, but no worse for the wear.

Ghana enjoyed the vast majority of possession with 59% on the day. They had an incredible 21 shots, but only managed to put 8 on target. Asamoah Gyan, Jordan Ayew, and their teammates were wasteful with their chances. The US tried to park the bus, but were broken down in the 82nd minute. Asamoah Gyan played a beautiful back heel pass into the path of Andre Ayew who smashed a shot with the outside of his left foot past Timmy Howard. Howard was fantastic on the day, but was unable to get to this one.

At this point I was thinking that I would be happy with a draw and contemplating ways that the US could still qualify from the group, but Jurgen Klinsmann had other plans. With one of our few corner kicks on the day, the substitutes Graham Zusi and John Brooks combined for the moment that allowed the US to overcome their World Cup nemesis. Zusi sent in the ball, Brooks met it with his head and sent American Outlaws around the world into raptures. John Brooks said he had a dream of scoring in the 80th minute, well this one happened in the 86th in a truth is stranger than fiction finish to an absolutely incredible match.

In other news that is fortunate for the United States, Germany demolished Portugal 4-0. Thomas Muller was the star of the day with a wonderful hat trick that means that at the age of 24, in 7 World Cup matches, Muller has 8 goals. He opened up the scoring in the 12th minute from the penalty spot after Mario Gotze was hauled down in the penalty area. Things never really improved for Portugal, because in the 32nd minute Mats Hummels rose above Portugal’s defense to head home a Toni Kroos corner kick.

Then Portugal’s misery compounded because Pepe lost his mind. After hitting Thomas Muller in the face, he bent over, said something and headbutted Muller while Thomas was sitting on the ground. He was immediately dismissed and will definitely be suspended for the next match against the USA. He could also face a three match suspension for violent conduct. These moments of madness are all part of the game and this certainly cost Portugal in this match.

Cristiano Ronaldo was never able to find a rhythm and looked awful in this match. He hit a one man wall that consisted of Philipp Lahm, a really impressive feat there. Fabio Coentrao and Hugo Almeida were also injured in this match and both are likely to miss the next two matches for them. Germany finished the match with two more Thomas Muller goals, both from close range. Ze Germans looked absolutely fantastic in this match, they are going to be really hard to defeat in this tournament.

In the third match from yesterday Iran and Nigeria played to a scoreless draw. Throughout history there have been a lot of entertaining 0-0 draws at the World Cup, but this was not one of them. Iran gummed up the worlds by playing very narrow defensively and Nigeria were unable to break them down at all. I think both teams will be happy with earning a point from that match, but this match just didn’t have any moments of brilliance.

As promised let’s move onto some of our transfer headlines for the day:

Gianluca Di Marzio is reporting that Chelsea will trigger the release clause for Atletico Madrid’s Felipe Luiz. That would cost the Blues an estimated €25 million.

After being released from Manchester City, Joleon Lescott is reportedly close to joining Hull City. Other 
Premier League clubs including Aston Villa and West Ham have been reportedly in the market for his signature.

Southampton have confirmed Ronald Koeman as their manager. I mentioned their interest in him a week or so ago and they have finally, officially signed their man.

Sunderland have signed former Manchester City goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon.

Emre Belozoglu has been sentenced to two months, 15 days in jail for racially abusing Didier Zokora during a match between Fenerbahce and Trabzonspor. Emre has a history of racism, dating back to an incident during his days in Newcastle. He was only suspended for 3 matches rather than the required 4. There’s a great compilation showing Fenerbahce players kicking lumps out of him in response as well as the incident in question.

On to our League of Ireland results from Friday:
Athlone Town routed Drogheda United 6-0. Phillip Gorman scored twice and was joined by Derek Prendergast, James O’Brien, Sean Brennan, and Ian Sweeney.

Bohemians demolished Bray Wanderers 5-0. Daniel Corcoran scored a hat trick just 26 minutes into the match, with two strikes from the penalty spot. Robert Maloney scored an own goal just before halftime and Keith Buckley closed out the scoring for Bohemians.

Dundalk and St. Patricks played to a goal less draw in a matchup between the 1st and 3rd place teams respectively. Dundalk keeps the top spot with that result.

Limerick defeated University College Dublin. Thomas McManus scored two minutes in and Shane Duggan got Limerick’s second just 3 minutes after the halftime break. Samir Belhout scored in the 59th to make things interesting, but it was not enough for UCD.

Sligo Rovers and Derry City played to a 2-2 draw. John Russell opened scoring in the 16th minute for Sligo before Ryan McBride struck twice for Derry. Daniel Ledwith evened things up then in the 34th minute. Neither team was able to break the deadlock after the half.

Cork City ran out 2-0 winners over Shamrock Rovers. Mark O’Sullivan scored just after halftime to open scoring and Gearoid Morrissey added the second in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

On to our weekend results from the NWSL Women’s League:
Kansas City walked out 2-1 winners over the Houston Dash. After a scoreless first half, Jenna Richmond opened scoring in the 66th minute off an assist from Erika Tymrak. Becky Edwards then evened things up for the Dash in the 79th. Finally in the 94th minute, Frances Silva broke the deadlock thanks to another Tymrak assist.

Sky Blue FC and the Chicago Red Stars played to a 2-2 draw. Amy Mautz opened scoring for Chicago in the 21st minute and Zakiya Bywaters scored 10 minutes later to give them the 2-0 lead. Chicago had a chance to go up 3, but Vanessa DiBernardo’s penalty attempt was denied by the post. Sky Blue got it together after halftime with Lindsi Cutshall getting on the score sheet in the 60th minute. 3 minutes later they struck again with Maya Hayes scoring the marker on an assist from Katy Freels.

Portland Thorns ran out 2-0 winners over the Washington Spirit. Jessica McDonald opened scoring in the 11th minute off an assist from Amber Brooks. Brooks also had a hand in the second goal, getting the assist on Vero Boquete’s 78th minute strike. Her first goal as a Thorn. Thorns manager Paul Riley was fined an undisclosed amount for criticizing the match officials. 

Posted on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 by Lex

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Monday, June 16, 2014

No match notes today, you're all just going to have to listen and enjoy.

Posted on Monday, June 16, 2014 by Lex

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Friday, June 13, 2014

The opening match of the 2014 World Cup began with a fantastic spectacle, which saw a paraplegic kick the opening match ball with the help of a mind controlled robotic exoskeleton. This melding of mind and machine then gave way to three doves that were released in the name of peace. This came just hours after police clashed with protesters only miles from the Arena Corninthians, firing tear gas canisters and mace into the crowd. Two of those symbolic doves died minutes later, while the third made its way into the press box where it was photographed and Tweeted around the world. 

Brazil then belted out their national anthem, in a beautiful moment of unity. Almost the entire squad sang with their eyes clenched shut. The crowd responded with an almost deafening roar for the second verse, something that brought chills down the spine of any human present or watching from around the world.

Croatia followed the anthems by coming out on the attack. The match went back and forth, but Croatia enjoyed their chances in the early stages. Ivica Olic was everywhere running up and down the flanks, and his results were rewarded in the the 11th minute when he sent in the cross that opened scoring. Brazil did score the opening match of the tournament, unfortunately for them it was an own goal from Marcelo. Ivica Olic broke down the left side and sent in a cross that was deflected, but found the foot of Marcelo whose name will go down in infamy as this tournament’s opening scorer.

Neymar then took over. After making full eye contact with Luka Modric, he struck the Croatian in the head 
with a forearm smash that John Cena would have been proud of. Following that, Brazil began pressing Croatia and started enjoying more attacking chances. Two minutes later they finally broke through when Oscar forced a turnover in the midfield leading to a counter attack. He passed to Neymar who found himself a bit of space and hit a slow, but deadly accurate shot that went under Stipe Pletikosa’s hand, hit the right post, and nestled in the net.

Croatia wilted a bit going into halftime, Ivica Olic particularly looked tired. Following halftime the game featured a lengthy run of disjointed play, where Croatia could not find any possession they dropped to only 8% of possession.

The game was then turned on it's head when Fred received the ball in the box and was backing down defender Dejan Lovren. There was a bit of lower body contact, a bit of upper body contact, a jersey tug, and a flop from Fred. All of that added up to Yuichi Nishimura giving a tremendously controversial penalty that was not received well by fans around the Twittersphere. I understand why Nishimura gave the penalty, but don’t that was never the correct decision to make given the circumstances. Moments later Neymar converted from the penalty spot, despite Pletikosa getting two hands to the shot. Pletikosa really could have done better in the moments that saw Croatia concede.

Croatia did not back down after having the result snatched from them. They mounted several attacks and Ivan Perisic forced a crucial save from Julio Cesar. A whistle for Olic making contact with Julio Cesar negated a goal they scored in the 85th minute. Croatia continued to surge forward, seeking the point that would spoil the day for Brazil, but it was not meant to be.

In the 91st minute, almost completely against the run of play, Brazil struck again. David Luiz’ goal line clearance led to a break. Ramires delivered a devastating challenge on Ivan Rakitic that caused a change in possession. Oscar capped off his fantastic display by scooping up the ball and bounding towards the goal. He finished with a cheeky toe poke that bounced tantalizingly close to the outstretched Pletikosa for Brazil’s third goal. Once again Pletikosa was found wanting in a match that could have been different if he had been quicker with his reaction.

The victory for Brazil was fortunate because the referee certainly was a major factor. Croatia feel like they were cheated out of a result, and frankly there is little I can say to disagree. They faded in the middle stages of the second half, but circumstances and the match official conspired against them on the day. Human error on these controversial decisions are one of the features of the beautiful game. Fred's flop will be remembered for years to come, but so will Neymar's World Cup debut, where he was the man who could not be stopped. 

Posted on Friday, June 13, 2014 by Lex