Brazil Take Third Against 10-Man Argentina (WC)

Brazil beat Argentina for the first time at a World Cup since 1982 as the holders won the Third Place Playoff for the third time in their history. Tonight’s feisty encounter in St Petersburg saw Argentina play for over 50 minutes with ten men following Matías Silvestre’s first-half dismissal.

Brazil once again made changes at the heart of their defence, perhaps showing why they were playing in tonight’s match and not in tomorrow’s final in Moscow: Diego Munhoz and Rômulo replaced Dedé and Rafael Tolói from their defeat by Spain.

Three changes for Argentina after their semi-final loss to Italy: Mateo Musacchio, Miguel Ángel Stegman and Javier Mascherano coming in for Julián Velazquez, and injured pair Paulo Gamboa and Franco Zuculini.

After his disastrous display against Spain, Marcelo needed to restore his reputation as a talisman in the Brazilian defence and he was heavily involved in the opening goal. His drive towards the box pulling the Argentine defence out of shape and when his drive from eighteen yards wasn’t held by Sergio Romero, Oscar was on hand to tuck away the loose ball from twelve yards.

108 seconds after the restart, Argentina were level. Mascherano and Stegman played a neat one-two before the ball was played round the outside for Lionel Messi to latch onto and drill across goal past Rafael and in off the far post for his first goal in Russia.

In the 18th minute, Silvestre collected a yellow card when he was caught in possession by Rômulo and then held his man back as the Brazilian started to break on a counter.

Midway through the first-half Brazil retook the lead. Romero’s route to come and claim Marcelo’s in-swinging corner was blocked off by a combination of Munhoz and his own defender Silvestre, and Sandro had a simple finish at the far post to slot home.

Then came an eight minute period that killed the game for Argentina. Mascherano saw yellow for a trip on Lucas Leiva, with the resulting free-kick 25 yards out skimming the bar from Oscar. Straight up the other end, Francisco Fidalgo was also booked after he handled the ball as he went to meet Musacchio’s cross.

Peruzzi was lucky to escape a caution when he brought down Oscar 30 yards out, but was punished when as the free-kick came in, he hauled Munhoz to the ground and the Italian referee pointed to the spot. Leandro Damião put it to Romero’s left and Brazil led 3-1.

Seven minutes before the break, Silvestre and Damião were in a race down the Brazilian right with the 2014 winners looking to breakaway and put the game to bed. Matías Silvestre made a futile attempt to win the ball from behind, brought down his man, and was shown a second yellow: the thirteenth red card of the tournament.

                       BRAZIL 3-1 ARGENTINA
                     Oscar 10     Messi 11
                    Sandro 25     Silvestre s/o 38
                Damião 33 pen

                      Marcelo     Silvestre
                       Rômulo     Mascherano
                       Neymar     Fidalgo
                  Gazprom Arena, St. Petersburg

World Cup Semi: Italy Set-Up All-Euro Final

Italy are in consecutive World Cup Finals for the first time in their history after a 2-0 win in Moscow this evening, the first time that Argentina have ever lost a World Cup semi-final. A goal in each half will see Italy return to the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday to meet Spain in the ninth all-European final.

Both sides lost a man to a second yellow card in their quarter-final wins, and Gary Medel’s suspension forced the only change for Argentina who brought in Julián Velázquez. Two changes for Italy: Gianluca Caprari took Sebastian Giovinco’s spot up-top, while Andrea Poli came in for the suspended Antonio Nocerino.

Argentina had the best chance in the opening exchanges and were unfortunate not to be ahead in the 18th minute when Lucas Ocampos headed wide at the far post from the edge of the six-yard box from a deep cross by Veláquez. His miss was made worse ten minutes later when Italy took the lead.

Poli shadowed Sergio Agüero down the Argentinian left, before showing him outside and winning the ball, quickly getting it up-field to Caprari. He found Alessandro Florenzi who hit the goal line before sending a ball across the six-yard box for Giuseppe Rossi to slot home at the far post to open the scoring.

Italy had a chance to go into the break two-up when they caught Argentina on a counter in the final minute of the first-half. As they broke forwards, Silvestre’s challenge on Florenzi only played the ball into the path of Forestieri who beat Velázquez for pace but hit the post when one-on-one with Sergio Romero.

Within three minutes of the interval, they had the second to seal it. Marco Faraoni got away from Marcos Rojo down the right and whipped a low ball into the near post where Gianluca Caprari flicked it goalwards and past the outstretched arm of Romero. Italy saw the game out and go through to Sunday’s final against Spain, six years after they met in the Euro 2012 Final.

Argentina will play Brazil for 3rd on Saturday in St Petersburg. In qualifying for Russia, Brazil won 2-1 in Buenos Aires back in November 2015 while Argentina won the return fixture 2-0 in São Paulo in January last year.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: SEMI-FINAL
                        ITALY 2-0 ARGENTINA
                     Rossi 28
                   Caprari 48

                       Astori     Zuculini
                    Marchisio     Silvestre
                      Faraoni     Gamboa

World Cup Quarter-Final: Argentina 1-0 Chile

Argentina are through to the semi-finals after a fiery 1-0 win over a Chile side that finished the game with ten men after Gary Medel’s late dismissal. Stegman’s goal put Argentina into the final four, which on the two previous times they’ve been there, they went on to lift the trophy (1978 and ’86).

Seven players had already gone in the book when 21-year old Boca Juniors midfielder Miguel Ángel Stegman, on as a half-time substitute for Lucas Ocampos, got on the end of Fidalgo’s low ball across the six-yard box to put Argentina in front on his 20th appearance for his country.

There was enough time left in the remaining thirteen minutes for the yellow card count to reach ten including a second of the night for Chilean midfielder Gary Medel when he tripped Paulo Gamboa right in front of the Italian referee in the middle of the park. Gamboa and team-mate Franco Zuculini will both be suspended for Argentina’s semi-final against Italy on Wednesday.

                    ARGENTINA 1-0 CHILE
                   Stegman 77     Medel s/off 85

                       Gamboa     Medel
                      Stegman     Vidal
                   Mascherano     Carmona
                         Rojo     Andía

World Cup Last 16: Argentina 2-0 Austria

In a display of total dominance, Argentina booked their place in the last eight with a comfortable 2-0 victory over an Austria side who went unbeaten in their group containing Brazil, Costa Rica and Slovakia. Argentina peppered the goal throughout, and kept Austria at bay with the European side not registering a single shot on target.

Argentina named an unchanged starting XI from their 3-0 win over Egypt, while Austria made two changes: right-back Daniel Bock coming in for Patrick Farkas, and Zlatko Junozovic taking Christoph Leitgeb’s spot in the centre of midfield after the Salzburg man picked up a knock in training.

First chance of the game fell Matías Silvestre’s way in the 11th minute, but Manchester United defender’s header grazed the top of the bar after Lionel Messi floated a free-kick in from the left. Ten minutes later, a great piece of refereeing allowed an advantage after Sergio Agüero was brought-down by David Alaba, but Marcos Rojo absolutely thundered a shot home from 22 yards.

Despite the majority of possession, it took until first-half stoppage time for Argentina to add a deserved second and put the game to bed. Agüero got away down the flank, rode one challenge and beat another man for pace before pulling the ball back for Francisco Fidalgo who slotted home from eight yards.

After the break, Austria tried a pair of long-range efforts but save for taking a goal-kick now and then, it was a quiet day at the office for Argentinian ‘keeper Sergio Romero. Argentina will play the winners between Chile and Scotland in the last eight.

                    ARGENTINA 2-0 AUSTRIA
                      Rojo 21
                 Fidalgo 45+1

                      Peruzzi     Kavlak

World Cup: Argentina and France Progress (E)

Argentina took the Group E top spot on goal difference after a comprehensive win at the Anji Arena, seeing them through to the last sixteen without conceding a goal while Egypt go home without having scored. France are also safely through after triumphing in the winner-takes-all game against the United States.

Wholesale changes for eliminated Egypt as they made five changes to their starting XI from the heavy defeat to France. Two changes for Argentina with Matías Silvestre and Francisco Fidalgo® coming in for Franco Zuculini and the injured Gonzalo Higuaín.

Egypt offered little throughout the 90 minutes in Makhachkala and the only surprise was that it took the Argentine attack until the 26th minute to take the lead. Paulo Gamboa® rocketed a 20-yarder into the top corner after a corner was only half-cleared. First senior international goal for the youngster and it clearly meant the world to him.

Another corner directly provided the second goal when Christian Fernández® beat his man at the near post to head home Lionel Messi’s corner in first-half stoppage time. Messi picked-up a knock during the first-half and despite finishing the match, rumours are that he may not be fully fit for their second round tie.

Lucas Ocampos scored an excellent solo third goal that saw them leapfrog France on goal different to win Group E with quarter of an hour remaining. Picking up Macros Rojo’s ball on halfway on the left flank, he cut inside, leaving Ahmed Ali for dead and drilled a low shot home as the Egyptian defence parted in front of him.

Zuculini came on as a 75th minute substitute to replace Sergio Agüero, and within ten minutes picked up a booking which will rule him out of Argentina’s second round tie. That’ll be against the runners-up from Group F in Novgorod on Monday.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP E (3)
                        EGYPT 0-3 ARGENTINA
                                  Gamboa 26
                                  Fernández 45+1
                                  Ocampos 74

                       Gaafar     Rojo

The USA needed a win over France, and made one change from Saturday’s defeat by Argentina as Michael Bradley returned to the side after suspension to replace Sheanon Williams. France remained unchanged with Loïc Remy keeping Corentin Bernard out of the starting XI.

Michael Bradley, back in the side after his dismissal in the opening game, gave away a penalty after eighteen minutes as he was caught-out by Antoine Greizmann’s trickery and he felled the Liverpool man in the box. Up-stepped Loïc Remy to place the spot-kick past the reach of Brad Guzan.

Remy was stretched off shortly after as he collapsed after stretching himself in a challenge. Early reports suggest a groin tear and that’s his world cup over and he’ll face a race for fitness to make the start of the domestic season in about six weeks time.

Within three minutes of the change, later the Turkish referee ensured parity was restored as Mapou Yanga Mbiwa clattered Brek Shea in the box as the two jumped to meet Joshua Gatt’s free-kick delivery in to the area. Brek Shea took it himself and levelled, wrong-footing Steve Mandanda.

Corentin Bernard® – on for Remy – fired the winner six minutes into the second-half when a pass was deflected right to his feet off Jozy Altidore, and he turned on a sixpence and sent a low drive past Guzan from the edge of the box for his third senior international goal. The 20-year old is set to join Schalke, and big things are expected of him.

Shea came close to an equaliser with twelve minutes to play as Mandanda had to be at full-stretch to tip his free-kick over the bar after the FC Dallas midfielder’s delivery bent around the five-man wall from 25 yards. France will face the Group F winners in Samara on Sunday.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP E (3)
                UNITED STATES 1-2 FRANCE
                   Shea 25(p)     Rémy 19(p)
                                  Bernard 51


World Cup, Group E: Matchday Two Review

France and Argentina both know that avoiding defeat in their final group game will guarantee them both progression to the last sixteen after both won their Group E matches today. That leaves USA and Egypt looking for an upset on matchday three next week to snatch a top two spot away.

In Kazan, the USA made just the one change – an enforced one – from the side that beat Egypt, with Cagliari defender Sheanon Williams replacing the suspended Michael Bradley. Argentina became the first side in the tournament to name an unchanged starting XI for their second match after last week’s stalemate with France.

Goals on either side of the half-time won the match for Argentina who restricted their opponents today to just a single shot throughout the match. Lionel Messi had a hat-trick of chances in the opening 20 minutes, before Sergio Agüero tested Brad Guzan in the American goal with a volley that was well held.

A breakthrough finally came a minute before the break with Gonzalo Higuaín finding the back of the net from twelve yards out after being played in by Ocampos. The move started right at the far end when Argentina won a free-kick by their own corner flag, but the US defence kept backing-off and paid the price.

Just two and a half minutes after the interval, Argentina had doubled their lead and sealed the win. Messi stole the ball at a sloppy throw-in by the States and quickly worked the ball upfield. Higuain then turned provider for Lucas Ocampos with a lovely ball over the top, which Ocampos collected and smashed into the top corner.

Argentina finish their group campaign with a match against Egypt on Thursday at the Anji Arena in Makhachkala, while the USA play France at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP E (2)
                UNITED STATES 0-2 ARGENTINA
                                  Higuaín 44
                                  Ocampos 48

Chapeau! Briand… as a brace from 32-year old Lyon midfielder Jimmy Briand helped France eliminate Egypt in St Petersburg today, and put the French in control of Group E. Loïc Remy was the only change for France, in for Corentin Bernard, and he opened the scoring to get them on their way.

Yasser Khalifa® almost shocked the stadium when his 3rd minute effort from the edge of the box clipped the crossbar on its way over the bar, but France then took full control of the game and before the ten minute mark they were ahead. Benzema picked-out Griezmann on the left and his low cross was stabbed home by Loïc Remy.

Egypt lost Mo Salah to injury after 20 minutes after a challenge from Capoue, and with that any Egyptian spark seemed to dissipate. Five minutes before the break, France added a second after a period of pressure. Griezmann was again the provider, with a cross in from the left that Soliman couldn’t clear and Jimmy Briand tapped home from close range.

Ten minutes after the break Briand had his second and the French third when he collected a Capoue ball on the right flank, cut inside, held off his man and beat the Egyptian ‘keeper at his near post. France top the group and a draw with USA on Thursday will seal a spot in the last sixteen.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP E (2)
                       FRANCE 3-0 EGYPT
                       Rémy 9
                Briand 41, 54
                    Griezmann     Abbas