Mexico v Brazil

Brazil v Mexico: Group A - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Heading into their second game in group play, Brazil was feeling strong coming off their victory in the tournament opener against Croatia. Mexico fans had to be less enthusiastic having seen their team barely eek out a 1-0 victory against a weak Cameroon side.

Brazil played confidently against the Mexicans, controlling the pace of play through much of the game. The Brazilians played attacking soccer and had ample opportunities to score in the first half. Mexico was listless in the final third, committing numerous turnovers and being imprecise in their passing.

Luckily for Mexico, Guillermo Ochoa came to play. The goalkeeper was absolutely sensational. The first big tests came in the 26th minute when a Danny Alvez cross found Neymar’s head at the top of the six yard box. Ochoa made a diving save to his right to keep things scoreless.

Just before halftime, a long ball found its way into the box. It was knocked down and appeared on Jo’s foot, but Ochoa came off his line to smother the shot and take Mexico into halftime level.

In the 69th minute, Neymar tested Ochoa again from virtually the same spot, this time collecting a cross to his foot before striking the ball. Ochoa was equal to the task again, leaning to his left to get his body in front of the skipping shot for another spectacular save.

On what would be Brazil’s last great opportunity, Neymar took the free kick near the corner flag and looped the ball into the center of the box. Tiago Silva leapt ahead of his defender and was able to get a firm head on the ball. But as he had been all night, Ochoa was all over it.

In the end, Mexico earned a scoreless draw despite being outplayed in the field much of the game.

The relentless pressure by the Brazilians was handled each and every time by Ochoa and if Mexico is to make it through to the knockout stage, he will be the main reason they are there.

Chile vs Spain

Chile vs Spain June 2014

Having been on the wrong end of a shellacking at the hands Arjen Robben and the Netherlands, Spain limped into their matchup against Chile suddenly desperate for a result. Chile had to feel confident coming off their opening match win against Australia.

The two hooked up at the Maracanã in Rio De Janeiro but the setting looked more like Santiago with the vast majority of the crowd supporting the Chilean squad vociferously.

The Chileans, perhaps sparked by the atmosphere within the stadium, played with energy and vigor from the opening whistle. Spain, on the other hand, looked less than themselves for the second straight match.

Though the Chilean side lacks the star power of the Dutch team, they have enough quality that if Spain were not at their best, they could make them pay. And make them pay they did.

In the 20th minute, Charles Arángiz received a pass at the top of the box and moved toward goal before finding Eduardo Vargas coming in to his left. The pass found Vargas and with a great first touch he pulled it past Casillas before tapping it in.

Spain seemed undaunted and more than that they showed no emotion whatsoever. Was it the mark of a seasoned team that they don’t let an early goal get them down, or was it dispassion and a realization of their fate?

Chile was pressuring the Spanish goal again when they won a free kick just outside the penalty area. The ball was delivered on goal and Casillas, rather than knocking it over the bar or attempting a catch, punched it back out weakly. The ball went straight to Arángiz’s foot just beyond the penalty spot and from there he did not miss.

Just like that, Spain was down two goals in the first half. Though they had a spirited attack in the second half, Spain couldn’t seem to find the deft touch that had marked their play during the last World Cup and 2012’s European championship.

In the end, Spain went down for the second straight game, unceremoniously ending their campaign at the 2014 World Cup.

Uruguay vs England

Uruguay England June 2014

This matchup pitted two World Cup contenders each looking for retribution after losses in their opener.

Uruguay had to be a little more confident having Luis Suarez return to the lineup after sitting out their World Cup opening loss against Costa Rica. Suarez was the best striker in the English Premiere League this season and goal scoring ability is a game changer.

England looked undaunted in attack, countering and building through the midfield. Diego Godin did his worst to slow the English attack early even resorting to foul play when he batted a through ball to the ground with his forearm earning him a yellow card in the ninth minute.

Wayne Rooney nearly put in a header off a free kick near the corner flag, but his effort bounced firmly off the cross bar in the 31st minute.

Uruguay responded to the English threat eight minutes later when Edinson Cavani delivered a fantastic pass to the head of Luis Suarez as he strafed across the six yard box and craned his neck to guide the ball past Joe Hart to break the scoreless draw.

England’s first good chance at an equalizer came in the 54th minute. Daniel Sturridge received a ball on the left edge of the box and turned centrally to knock it on to Rooney for the point blank shot, but Fernando Muslera was up to the task maintaining the Uruguayan lead.

In the 75th minute, England got what they were looking for.

Clem Johnson streaked down the left sideline evading the Uruguayan defenders, weaving his way into the penalty area. Johnson found Rooney streaking to the far post and delivered a sensational sliding cross that found his foot. Rooney scored his first World Cup goal for England on the play.

Disaster struck for England in the 84th minute.

Off a deep goal kick by Muslera, Steven Gerrard attempted to head it back into England’s attacking half. Instead Gerrard caught the ball awkwardly and ended up flicking it back beyond his own defense to Luis Suarez who made the Englishman pay for his mistake by burying the ball in the back of the net.

The loss combined with Costa Rica’s win over the Azuri of Italy eliminated England from the World Cup and put the spotlight firmly on the Uruguay vs Italy game, the winner of which will advance to the knockout stage.

Portugal vs USA

Tim Howard USA June 2014

In what was one of the most anticipated U.S. soccer games of the last 20 years, the Americans faced off against Portugal in the unanticipated position of being able to advance to the group stage with a win.

The U.S. had never been in such a position before and to suddenly find themselves in that position in the “Group of Death” was beyond what most had imagined for the team.

Portugal was limping into this matchup having been beset by two injuries and a red card to Pepe, possibly their most able defender, who was forced to sit out this match. Cristiano Ronaldo was also less than 100 percent heading into this match.

It was a prime opportunity for the Americans to make history.

While the players were still feeling the game out, Portugal capitalized on a terrible clearing attempt by Geoff Cameron that fell to the feet of Nani who hesitated before launching the ball to the roof of the net. Just like that, Portugal was up 1-0 in the first five minutes.

Portugal controlled much of the action in the first half forcing some spectacular saves from Tim Howard. On one such play, Nani drove the ball from distance and it swerved as it approached Howard.

The keeper was able to get part of a hand on it, deflecting it to the post where it banged back into play. A Portugal attacker had a chance at a looping shot over Howard and the keeper was able to deflect the second shot over the net while falling away.

The U.S. defense held through halftime when the Americans came out intent to attack. The first great opportunity came in the 55th minute when Graham Zusi sprung a streaking Fabian Johnson with a pass into the space near the front right corner of the box.

Johnson carried the ball to the near post forcing Beto out of the net before passing the ball back to the waiting Michael Bradley. Bradley hit the ball without settling and Ricardo Costa was able to get a knee on it to deflect it over the goal.

Less than 10 minutes later, Graham Zusi delivered a corner kick through the box that Nani had a chance at clearing away, but he was unable.

Instead, the ball found its way to Jermaine Jones who touched it past Nani before firing an absolute firecracker from 20 yards out on the left side that bent around the defense and froze the goalkeeper as it curled inside the post for the equalizer. America roared.

In the 81st minute, Jermaine Jones fed a pass down the right sideline to DeAndre Yedlin whose cross into the box was deflected to Michael Bradley.

Bradley was able to move the ball to Graham Zusi who crossed the ball back in front of the goal to Clint Dempsey. Dempsey was able to stay onside and used his stomach to put the ball in on the goal line. After plenty of second half attempts, the US was finally on top 2-1.

As the clock neared the 90th minute, five minutes of added time were shown. The US continued to send the ball deep and control in an attempt to run out the clock but a Michael Bradley turnover in the offensive half gave possession to the Portuguese with seconds remaining.

In that final rush, Ronaldo brought the ball up the right side and launched a picture perfect cross into the box that found the head of Varela who drove it hard past Tim Howard. Just like that, Portugal was able to stem the celebration of the Americans.

Portugal gained little from the win, having to beat Ghana by more than three and hope for a U.S. loss in order to advance.

The US will play Germany on Thursday with an opportunity to advance with a win, tie or even a loss if the goal differential still favors them.


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