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-Final: Holders Go Out to Spain

A first-half brace from Fernando Llorente helped extend Spain extend their unbeaten run to fifteen matches and gained revenge for their quarter-final exit four years ago to Brazil, as the holders were beaten in St. Petersburg with two defensive mishaps contributing to their downfall.

Brazil restored Dedé back to the starting XI in place of Diego Munhoz in their only change from the 2-0 win over Colombia, while Spain made four changes from their extra-time win over England: César Azpilicueta, Rúben Pardo, Andréas Iniesta and Fernando Llorente came in to replace Victor Ruíz, Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata, and Rodrigo.

Spain were ahead with just 130 seconds on the clock at the Gazprom Arena, when Azpilicueta launched a long throw in towards Pardo on the edge of the six-yard box. Brazil ‘keeper Rafael didn’t come to claim, and amidst the confusion it was Marcelo who got the fateful final touch and diverted it into his own goal – just the third of the tournament.

It was a lead that didn’t last long, as less than two minutes from the restart, a neat ball from Lucas Leiva was played in towards Leandro Damião who had his back to goal on the edge of the ‘D’. He turned, held off Álvaro Domínguez, and slammed into the top corner from just inside the box for an instant leveller.

Quarter of an hour later, Marcelo once again was involved in Spain taking the lead. He shadowed Jesús Navas down the right before the Spaniard crossed from the goal line. The delivery was cleared but only as far as Iniesta whose shot from 20 yards was parried. Fernando Llorente slotted home the rebound as arms went up in unison towards the assistant referee, but it was Marcelo’s ambling back who played everyone onside.

Things went from bad to worse for Brazil just 90 seconds later. Kicking-off and comfortably passing the ball between them, and starting to push forwards, under no pressure at all Sandro’s ball to Tolói was under-hit and Fernando Llorente stole the ball inside the centre-circle. He had just Dedé to beat for pace before he rounded Rafael and slotted home a third.

With three-quarters of the game still to play, Brazil were done. They briefly rallied in the final 25 minutes but Ramos and Pique were equal to everything thrown at them, and Casillas was largely untroubled.

Spain head to Moscow on Sunday to play the winners between Italy and Argentina. Curiously, Brazil’s first match after the World Cup will be a friendly against Spain in Seville on 15 August.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: SEMI-FINAL
                        SPAIN 3-1 BRAZIL
                 Marcelo og 3     Damião 5
              Llorente 20, 22

Holders Into Final Four on South America Day!

In the first of two all-South American quarter-finals today at the World Cup, holders Brazil saw off neighbours Colombia with a goal in either half in Sochi. Oscar scored his first of the tournament with ten minutes played, before São Paulo centre-back added a second shortly after the break.

Rafael Tolói replacing Dedé was the only change for Brazil after their second round win over France, with manager Tite reverting back to the XI that beat Costa Rica 6-1 in the group stage. Colombia also went with the line-up that started in their final group game, with Anderson Camacho and Manuel Schmiedebach back in the XI.

Oscar stunned the crowd in the Olympic Stadium with little over ten minutes played with an audacious lob from 50 yards after a moment of madness from Colombian ‘keeper David Ospina. Under no pressure, the Schalke man came 40 yards upfield with the ball before launching it long. Diego Munhoz won the ball uncontested in the air, finding Oscar in front of the benches. The 26-year old looked-up, took a touch, then sent it sailing over the retreating Ospina.

Brazil’s second-goal was a lot less dramatic but still Ospina will feel at fault. Oscar was involved once again as his free-kick was drilled into the wall, with the ball falling at the feet of Rafael Tolói who hit it on the turn, through the crowd from twelve yards out and it slipped through Ospina.

Brazil will play Spain in St Petersburg on Tuesday in the first semi-final. They met in the quarters four years ago, with Brazil winning 2-1 in Forteleza en route to lifting the trophy.

                       BRAZIL 2-0 COLOMBIA
                     Oscar 11
              Rafael Tolói 52


World Cup Last 16: France 0-1 Brazil

Samara’s Cosmos Arena was served a true stinker of a Second Round tie this afternoon, with France and Brazil labouring through ninety minutes. In the 18th meeting between the two nations (Brazil eight wins to Frances’s six), a goal from Ramires 20 minutes from full-time spared everyone involved an extra half-hour.

Three changes for France from their win over the States: Mamadou Sakho, Kurt Zouma, and Corentin Bernard came in to replace Raphaël Verane, Mapou Yanga, Mbiwa, and the injured Loïc Remy. Just one change for the 2014 champions: Dedé in for Rafael Tolói at centre-back.

Neymar had the first effort on goal in Samara, making one of his trademark mazy runs towards goal, beating two French defenders, but pulled his shot inches wide.

France only troubled Rafael twice over the course of the 90 minutes, with Antoine Griezmann and Etienne Capoue having shots from the edge of the box comfortably saved. Brazil had ever so slightly less possession, but made far more of the ball in the final third. However it took until the final quarter of the match for a breakthrough.

With the French defence restricting balls through the middle, Lucas Leiva went long instead, launching one over the top for Ramires to latch on to, beating Lucas Digne before controlling and slotting past Steve Mandanda for the only goal of the game. Brazil will meet the winners between Colombia and Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals.

                       FRANCE 0-1 BRAZIL
                                  Ramires 70

                       M'Vila     Leiva
                                  Rafael (RB)

World Cup: Brazil Hit Six, Austria Make Last 16 (F)

Brazil hit Costa Rica for six in Nizhniy Novgorod tonight in their biggest World Cup win since 1950 to leapfrog to the top of Group F, while Austria scored in the first and last minutes en route to victory over an already eliminated Slovakia this evening in Rostov.

An unchanged line-up for Brazil following their draw with Austria on Sunday, while Costa Rica made two changes. In came Richard Robinson® and Kevin Arrieta in place of César Mena and Daniel Vega®.

The match was only 40 seconds old when French referee Antony Gautier reached into his pocket and show a yellow card to Costa Rican right-back Esteban Armijo after he clattered Neymar into the advertising hoardings on halfway.

VAR was called into action as early as the 5th minute when Diego Munhoz® bundled the ball over the line at a corner after Oscar’s flicked-on header at the near post. Costa Rica ‘keeper Keylor Navas initially appeared to have had the ball kicked out of his grasp, but replays show that he merely parried the ball away and Munhoz’s touch was a fair one.

Oscar provided the assist for a second Brazilian goal on 20 minutes when his low ball into the box from the right flank was collected by Rômulo. His first shot was stopped by the legs of a diving Navas, but the Levante man was unable to keep out the rebound as Rômulo drilled it into the far corner.

Two became three on the half-hour when Marcelo and Neymar combined down Brazil’s left with Neymar eventually playing the ball into the six-yard box for a waiting Leandro Damião to take a touch and place into the back of the net. Ten minutes later he had his second and Brazil’s fourth. With his back to goal 22 yards out, he turned on a sixpence to leave Zarate in no man’s land before drilling a fierce shot through Navas’s grasp for 4-0.

Ten minutes after the break, Costa Rica pulled a goal back with a fantastic goal from Groningen striker Jonny Montoya® for his 30th senior international goal in just 49 caps. The 21-year old met Rodney Wallace’s deep cross at the far post and looped his header past Rafael.

72 seconds later, Brazil has restored their five-goal cushion with the best goal of the match. Neymar collected a Lucas Leiva pass some 40 yards from goal out on the left before driving at goal, turning and beating two defenders before bending a shot home from fifteen yards.

Brazil weren’t done there though as it was the 2014 winning goalscorer Ramires, on as a second-half sub, beat Navas from the edge of the box after Marcelo and Oscar combined down the left to play the Chelsea striker in on goal.

The margin of victory put Brazil top of Group F and they’ll now play France in Samara on Monday in their first World Cup meeting since the 2006 quarter-finals.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP F (3)
                       BRAZIL 6-1 COSTA RICA
                     Munhoz 5     Montoya 54
                    Rômulo 20
                 Damião 30,41
                    Neymar 56
                   Ramires 83

                       Sandro     Armijo

One change for a Slovakia side already out, with Kornel Salata coming in to the starting XI in place of the suspended Filip Kriss who was sent-off in the defeat to Costa Rica. Three changes for Austria who knew a draw would suffice: Patrick Farkas, Christoph Leitgeb and Ashley Barnes all started.

David Alaba scored the 3rd-fastest goal at a World Cup finals with just 20 seconds on the clock when Austria kick-off, Martin Harnik went unchallenged down the right before beating Miroslav Stoch and crossing for the Spurs defender to slot home the opener.

Despite the thundering start to the match, there was little else to report in the opening 45 minutes save for a booking for Slovakian midfielder Roman Prochazka when he bundled into the back of Deni Alar. That was until the board went up showing one additional minute just as Harnik once again crossed from the right. Alar prodded it goalwards, Dusan Kuciak saved, but fumbled it over the line for the first own-goal of the tournament.

Tomas Petras® pulled a goal back for Slovakia with quarter of an hour remaining when he found the back of the net from fifteen yards out when Baumgartlinger challenged Kolmokov in the box and the ball fell perfectly for the the Rangers striker to drill low past Lindner.

Just as the three minutes of stoppage time were up, English referee Dominic Radcliffe pointed to the spot when Kornel Salata handled at a corner. David Alaba took the spotkick and made it 3-1 for his 11th international goal. Austria will now face Argentina in the last sixteen in Nizhniy Novgorod on Sunday.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP F (3)
                     SLOVAKIA 1-3 AUSTRIA
                    Petras 74     Alaba 1, 90+4 pen
                                  Kuciak og 45+1


World Cup, Group F: Matchday Two Review

Brazil and Austria shared the points in an entertaining Group F clash in Volgograd today to stay as the top two in the group, with Costa Rica leaving it late to beat ten-man Slovakia to leave them in with a chance of knockout football, while Slovakia are eliminated after two straight defeats.

Brazil lined-up unchanged from their 3-0 win over Slovakia, while Austria made just the one change from the side who thrashed Costa Rica 5-0 last week with Valentino Lazaro replaing Patrick Fargas in centre-midfield.

We were treated to an entertaining first-half, if one that went into the break goalless. Brazil made all three substitutions around the hour mark in an attempt to find an extra creative spark and the disruption to their rhythm almost proved disastrous.

Baumgartlinger intercepted a sloppy pass from Leiva towards substitute Cláudio Winck, and laid the ball off to Leitgeb who was strong against Ramires – also just on the pitch – and he found David Alaba on the left flank on half-way. Alaba did Leiva for pace before cutting inside, holding off Tolói and drilling low past Rafael.

The lead lasted just 137 seconds though, as Brazil attacked from the restart. Ramires was involved working the ball to Marcelo  on the left of the box who’d escaped the attentions of Austrian right-back Junuzovic. Marcelo nodded the ball towards the penalty spot where Leandro Damião hit it sweetly on the volley into the top corner.

Brazil had a handful of corners late on to try snatch a winner but it finished 1-1. Their last game is against Costa Rica in Novogorad on Thursday, while Austria will face eliminated Slovakia in Rostov.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP F (2)
                       BRAZIL 1-1 AUSTRIA
                    Damião 72     Alaba 70

Joel Campbell’s late goal kept Costa Rica in with a chance of qualification for the last sixteen, inflicting a second World Cup defeat on Slovakia who now have only pride to play for. Two changes for Costa Rica with Mena and Zarate coming in at the back, while Slovakia made three changes.

It looked like being a long day at the office for Slovakia when Filip Kiss was shown a yellow card inside four minutes when he caught Campbell with an arm going up for a goal-kick. Bad went to worse 20 minutes later when Yeltsin Tejeda went to ground in front of the assistant under a challenge and Filip Kiss was shown a harsh second yellow.

Slovakia shut up shop after the dismissal and until the final ten minutes looked like they’d done enough to earn a point while still looking dangerous on the counter, but Joel Campbell had other ideas. His run beat the offside trap and he slotted Robinson’s through-ball past Kuciak to win it for Costa Rica.

Defeat eliminates Slovakia, while Costa Rica face the challenge of beating holders Brazil for a place in the Second Round. Group F concludes next Thursday.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP F (2)
                   COSTA RICA 1-0 SLOVAKIA
                  Campbell 81     Kiss s/o 26
                      Herrera     Kiss