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SPORTS: June 2013

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Azteca misery for Mexico as USA soar

( Wednesday 12 June 2013
Azteca misery for Mexico as USA soar
© Getty Images
THE DAY REPLAYED - Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA shot to the top of the CONCACAF qualifying Hexagonal for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ with a spirited win over Panama in Seattle. Mexico failed to find similar home comforts as they slumped to a goalless draw against Costa Rica that leaves the two sides two points off the leading Americans. Honduras climbed into fourth with a win over Jamaica, whose Brazil 2014 dream is fading into the realm of fantasy.

The big game
Mexico 0-0 Costa Rica
Regional giants Mexico continue to misfire in Brazil 2014 qualifying, drawing once again at their spiritual home that is the Azteca. Despite boasting some of the best attacking talent in CONCACAF, like Javier Chicharito Hernandez and Andres Guardado, the Mexicans lacked a spark. Visiting Costa Rica, led by captain-playmaker Brian Ruiz and a spine of steely defenders, created the better chances, and once again Mexican goalkeeper Jesus Corona was El Tri’s only real standout. His acrobatic save on Joel Campbell in the 37th minute, and then again early in the second half, kept the hosts from suffering an even bigger humiliation on home soil. That said, the 70,000-plus fans in attendance were not pleased. The boos and jeers that greeted the final whistle will ring in the Mexican players’ ears as they board their late-night flight for Rio, where they fly the standard for CONCACAF at the upcoming FIFA Confederations Cup.

In other action
Honduras got their campaign back on track with a simple 2-0 win against bottom side JamaicaUSA-based Oscar Boniek Garcia struck from close range for the home side in Tegucigalpa after ten minutes, before being stretchered off with an injury later in the half. The Jamaicans, who have scored twice in their six games, were never really in the contest, and it was no surprise when Roger Espinoza, an FA Cup winner with Wigan Athletic, made it 2-0 seconds before the end.

USA catapulted to top of the Hexagonal with a 2-0 win over Panama in Seattle. Jozy Altidore, in a rich vein of form, opened the scoring after a flowing move mid-way through the first half.  Eddie Johnson, who plays for local MLS side Seattle Sounders, then doubled the dose after the break, getting on the end of a through-ball from midfield deputy Geoff Cameron to slot home to a roar from a familiar crowd. The result sees Panama, who topped the table only a few weeks ago, slump to second-bottom.

Player of the day – Joel Campbell (CRC)
While Costa Rica’s draw at Azteca was down to a stifling collective effort in defence, the lone Ticostriker was a revelation at the other end. His pace and eager running kept the Mexican defence off balance, and he brought about the best chances of the game, hitting the woodwork early and being denied on several occasions only by the heroics of net-minder Corona. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger may well call the 20-year-old sensation back to London from his loan stint at Betis if he keeps up this kind of impressive form.

Goal of the day – Jozy Altidore (USA)
The days when Jozy Altidore had trouble finding the back of the net for USA are officially over. His strike in the 36th minute against Panama was his third goal in as many matches for the national team – and what a goal it was. AS Roma’s Michael Bradley stormed through midfield, laying the ball out wide for Fabian Johnson, who crossed low and hard through the box. Clint Dempsey drew his man to the near post and up popped the man of the hour, AZ Alkmaar top-scorer Altidore, to tap home with a flourish at the back post.

The number
0 –
 the number of goals and wins Mexico have earned in their three home qualifiers. The much-feared Estadio Azteca, with its noisy, steep terraces and high altitude, seems to have lost its mystical ability to propel El Tri to victory. They have only ever lost one qualifier at the ground, in 2001 to Costa Rica, but their goalless draw with those same Ticos means the Mexicans, 14-time FIFA World Cup participants, have now gone over 250 minutes without a goal at home. They have only two more games at the Azteca in the Brazil 2014 Hexagonal, and the pressure is firmly on coach José ManuelChepo de la Torre and his men in a region where wins at home are crucial.

What they said
“The crowd was unbelievable tonight, and that made a huge difference. This is the best crowd I’ve ever experienced playing in the USA. Our hat goes off to the fans tonight.” USA midfielder Bradley salutes the spirit in Seattle, Washington, where over 40,000 fans came out to see the first FIFA World Cup qualifier in the city for 37 years.
CONCACAF final round Hexagonal, matchday 5
7 JuneHonduras 2-0 Jamaica
Mexico 0-0 Costa Rica
USA 2-0 Panama

Patience, pain and record breakers

( Wednesday 12 June 2013
Patience, pain and record breakers
© Getty Images
The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifiers dominate’s latest stats review, with achievements to remember for Robbie KeaneAsamoah Gyan and Lucas Neill, and matches to forget for Denmark and France.
 international appearances is the impressive tally which has enabled Robbie Keane to become Republic of Ireland’s most-capped player. That record was claimed on Friday when the Los Angeles Galaxy striker – 15 years on from his first full cap at the age of 17 – surpassed the mark set by his long-time colleague, Shay Given. Keane marked the occasion in style too, grabbing a hat-trick against the Faroe Islands – the second treble of his international career – to strengthen his grip on the Republic’s all-time scoring record. The 32-year-old now has 59 international goals to his name, more than the likes of Gabriel Batistuta, Thierry Henry and Romario. Keane, in fact, sits fifth on the list of Europe’s all-time leading international marksmen, trailing only the illustrious quartet of Miroslav Klose (67), Gerd Muller (68), Sandor Kocsis (75) andFerenc Puskas (84).
 goals is the tally that has established Asamoah Gyan as Ghana’s all-time record scorer. The 27-year-old struck twice in the Black Stars’ vital 3-1 win over Sudan at the weekend to overtake the legendary Abedi Pele, whose benchmark of 33 had stood for the past decade-and-a-half. Gyan has made a habit of writing history for Ghana from the very start, finding the net on his debut at the age of just 17 years and 353 days in 2003 to become the team’s youngest-ever goalscorer. Next on the forward’s list of targets is likely to the appearances record currently held by goalkeeper Richard Kingson. Gyan has 72 caps to his name and needs just 19 more to surpass his former international team-mate.
 years and 245 days on from his debut on 9 October 1996, Lucas Neill finally ended his long wait for an international goal. The 35-year-old found the net six minutes from time inAustralia’s 4-0 win over Jordan to end a run of 90 successive goalless appearances and edge the Socceroos a step closer to Brazil 2014. It was the Aussies’ biggest competitive victory in over two years, since a 6-0 win over Uzbekistan at the AFC Asian Cup, and was secured in front of a crowd of 43,875 at Melbourne’s Docklands Stadium. The match also saw Neill draw level alongside Paul Wade with 46 appearances as Australian captain, behind only the Socceroos’ Germany 1974 skipper Peter Wilson, who donned the armband on 60 occasions. Yet while Neill’s goalscoring raised eyebrows, the most influential player on show was undoubtedly Robbie Kruse, who emerged from the game with a goal and two assists.
 defeats in 11 matches have given Didier Deschamps the worst start ever recorded by aFrance coach. Sunday’s 3-0 friendly loss to Brazil was the seventh reverse inflicted on Les Bleus in their last 13 matches – equivalent to the number of defeats suffered in their previous 43. Deschamps’ side failed to keep a clean sheet for the ninth successive match and conceded three goals in a single game for the first time in over five years. The French are also struggling at the other end, having scored just 11 times in the current coach’s 11 matches in charge – the lowest tally since Henri Guerin’s side managed just ten in 11 between 1964 and ’66. Losing to Brazil also ended an unbeaten sequence in this fixture stretching back six matches and 21 years, with A Seleção having failed to even score in the sides’ previous three meetings.
 unanswered Armenia goals handed Denmark their heaviest defeat in 26 years last night. The stunning home reverse was the Danes’ worst since being beaten 5-1 by Spain in the Round of 16 at Mexico 1986, although coach Morten Olsen – who played in that loss against La Roja – had no hesitation in describing Armenia’s unlikely triumph as “the worst night of my football life”. For the visitors, it was a record-equalling victory, and one made all the more remarkable as it came just four days after they went down 1-0 against a Malta side that, previously, had only ever won four competitive matches in their entire history. The Armenians’ hero was Yura Movsisyan, who opened the scoring after just 24 seconds and went on to complete a brace. The Spartak Moscow striker used to play his club football in Denmark for Randers, and the home fans generously applauded him off the pitch when he was substituted seven minutes from time.

Uruguay rebound, Colombia on the verge

( Wednesday 12 June 2013
Uruguay rebound, Colombia on the verge
THE DAY REPLAYED – Uruguay moved right back into contention for a place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ thanks to a narrow win in Venezuela, one that took them back into fifth and the play-off spot at the expense of La Vinotinto, who drop to sixth. Top-four occupants Colombia and Chile both won to move another step closer to the world finals, which is where Argentina are almost certainly bound after their draw in Ecuador rounds up all the action from Matchday 14 in South America. 
Match of the day
Venezuela 0-1 Uruguay
A hard-working Uruguay side produced a highly disciplined performance to grind out a narrow and much-needed win in Venezuela, secured by Cavani’s exquisite finish. In doing so, Oscar Tabarez’s men ended a six-game winless run and moved past La Vinotinto on goal difference into fifth and the coveted play-off berth. Cavani’s strike was his first in four qualifying games, ending a barren run stretching back over seven months. 
Venezuela’s second home defeat of the campaign proved a costly one and saw them drop out of the top five for the first time since Matchday 9. Uruguay’s win was their first on Venezuelan soil since 1996. 
Leaders Argentina failed in their first attempt to make sure of a place at Brazil 2014, though they achieved something no other side has managed in the current qualifying competition: to escape from Quito with a point. La Albiceleste’s 1-1 draw with Ecuador extended their unbeaten run to 11 matches, five of those games coming away from home. The Argentinians opened the scoring after their first real foray forward, Sergio Aguero slotting home from the penalty spot, with Segundo Castillo nodding in the equaliser from close range just minutes later. Just as he did in Argentina’s previous game, Lionel Messi came on for the final 30 minutes but had little impact. 
Colombia tightened their grip on second place thanks to a convincing 2-0 win over Peru in Barranquilla, their fourth consecutive victory at home, where they have gone 367 minutes without conceding. Los Cafeteros are now a step away from their first world finals since France 1998. “We played a patient game,” said Radamel Falcao, who struck first for the home side and is now the third-highest scorer in the qualifiers. Teofilo Gutierrez added a second to seal Peru’s fifth defeat in their last six away games. Sergio Markarian’s men have dropped back to seventh, though they are just two points behind Uruguay and Venezuela and still in the hunt for the play-off spot. 
Chile are also well on course for Brazil 2014 following a hard-fought 3-1 defeat of Bolivia in Santiago.La Roja’s third straight win under coach Jorge Sampaoli consolidated their position in fourth and took them five points clear of the chasing pack with just four rounds of games remaining in the group. Eduardo Vargas set Chile on the road to victory when he struck for the fourth game running, with Alexis Sanchez scoring his first of the campaign moments later and Arturo Vidal adding a third in stoppage time. The game was also notable for the return of David Pizarro after an eight-year absence from the national side. Marcelo Martins scored the visitors’ only goal, their first in 347 minutes on the road. Defeat ended the Bolivians’ slim hopes of landing one of the direct qualification slots, thought they still have an outside chance of making the play-off. 
Player of the day
Segundo Castillo (ECU) 
A veteran of Germany 2006, the 31-year-old Puebla midfielder has become an important contributor for La Tricolor up front. His strike against Argentina was his third in his last five outings, making himEcuador’s third-highest scorer in the competition.
The stat
14 - A lucky number in South America: in every single qualifying competition since the current format was adopted, the countries occupying the top four positions at the end of Matchday 14 have all progressed directly to the FIFA World Cup. The leading quartet at the moment areArgentinaColombiaEcuador and Chile. Will they keep the sequence intact? 
What they said
“We leave Colombia with our hopes intact because we still have a chance of making the World Cup. We knew that no matter what happened in Barranquilla, we would have two finals coming up in the next two matchdays against Uruguay and Venezuela. Let me say it again: our hopes are intact,” Perucoach Sergio Markarian looks on the bright side after his side’s defeat in Colombia.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Real make Casemiro deal permanent

(AFP) Tuesday 11 June 2013
Real Madrid have taken up their option to turn the loan deal for Brazil international Casemirofrom Sao Paulo into a permanent transfer for a reported fee of €6 million ($7.9 million, £5.1 million)
"Real Madrid have taken up their option to buy Carlos Henrique Casemiro, that will tie him to the club as a first-team player for the next four seasons," a statement on the club's website said on Monday night.
The 21-year-old, who has five caps for his country, spent last season on loan at the Spanish giants, where he played the majority of the season with Real's youth side Real Madrid Castilla in the Segunda Division.
Casemiro, however, impressed on his debut with the senior side against Real Betis in April and is expected to fill the gap left in the squad by the return of Michael Essien to Chelsea after the Ghanaian's season-long loan deal came to end.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Home comforts await Mexico, USA (FIFA)

( Monday 10 June 2013
Home comforts await Mexico, USA
© Getty Images
USAMexico and Costa Rica are in a three-way tangle at the top of the Brazil 2014 qualifying Hexagonal in CONCACAF heading into Tuesday’s all-important matchday. The Mexicans, who have played a game more than their main rivals and still haven’t caught fire, return to their Estadio Azteca to host the Costa Ricans, while Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA also head home for a date with much-improved Panama in Seattle. The third game of the day pits Honduras, at home in Tegucigalpa, against a Jamaican side in desperate need of goals, points and something, generally, to smile about.

The big game
Mexico-Costa Rica
CONCACAF champions and consistent FIFA World Cup qualifiers Mexico have been short of convincing in their five qualifiers to date. Four draws and one win is enough for a share of top spot, but it’s not exactly turning on the El Tri fans, who are used to dominance on the regional stage. Coach José Manuel Chepo de la Torre must be considered officially under pressure when he returns to the Azteca to face fellow leaders Costa Rica. Despite the presence of attacking livewires like Andres Guardado, Javier Chicharito Hernandez and Gio dos Santos, Chepo’s men have yet to find consistent form, and the fans in Mexico City will demand an improved showing. “We’ve been working hard to get better results, but we’re still missing something,” was the assessment of veteran midfielder Carlos Salcido after the side were held to another goalless draw in Panama on Friday.

Costa Rica, for their part, will be in confident mood, coming off a hard-earned 1-0 win over Central American neighbours Honduras at home. Roy Miller, of MLS outfit New York Red Bulls, was the unlikely goal hero for the Ticos, who will hope to get more attacking output from the likes of target-man Alvaro Saborio. Bryan Ruiz is wearing the captain’s armband for Jorge Luis Pinto’s men and settling in well to the role of playmaker for his country after a stop-start season with English club Fulham. So far, Costa Rica have only been able to win one of their seven points on the road – from a goalless draw inPanama – so a win at Azteca is decidedly unlikely.  “We have a team with some good qualities, and a strong defence, so we’ll have to see what happens in Mexico,” said Pinto, choosing to remain cagey on the subject.

Other action
, the other member of the leading trio, return home to face Panama in the rainy Pacific Northwest. The Panamanians were top of the Hexagonal before they drew Mexico Friday and are looking a far superior side to recent years. The Americans, however, are rebounding from a slow start in the group and Jozy Altidore’s return to scoring form will have Klinsmann smiling from ear to ear. Partnering well with Clint Dempsey in attack, Altidore wants more goals in Seattle against a Canaleros’ side missing main attacking threat Blas Perez, who has come down with a case of gastroenteritis.

“We can loosen up a little bit when we’re playing at home,” Altidore told “We’ll play with a little more freedom and look to get forward.”

There’s been precious little sunshine in the Jamaica camp since their opening-day draw at the Azteca against Mexico. In five games, they have scored just one goal. They’ve lost twice at home and have amassed only two points for their troubles. They are mired in last place ahead of a trip to Tegucigalpa, a venue where Honduras – in desperate need of points to haul themselves off fifth place – rarely lose. “We just need to focus, stay positive and hope for the best,” said Reggae Boyz coach Theodore Whitmore, a sentiment shared by his USA-based striker Ryan Johnson, who has yet to find the net. “I expect to win games like HondurasPanama and Costa Rica. We win those games, it's suddenly a different story.”

What they’re saying
“Every game is difficult in CONCACAF. Panama will be a very difficult game in Seattle. We'll need big support from the fans and total commitment from the players in every one of these games. I think our team is good enough and has enough quality to qualify for the World Cup but we have to be ready for the battle, ready for different circumstances and places.” USA coach Klinsmann looks ahead to a home clash with Panama after his side left it late to grab all three points in Jamaica.

The number
1 –
 Mexico have lost several times at their Azteca, but only once in World Cup qualifying. In total, they have won nearly 40 times in qualifying at the massive ground that teeters over 7000 feet up in the smog of Mexico City, drawing three and losing only one. That historic defeat, on 16 June 2001, came at the hands of Costa Rica, the very same team that comes calling on Tuesday.

CONCACAF final round Hexagonal, matchday 5
11 JuneHonduras-Jamaica
Mexico-Costa Rica
Up next
18 June
Costa Rica-Panama
Have your say
Can Costa Rica pull off another Aztecaso against Mexico at Estadio Azteca, or will El Tri find their form and assume their usual position of stand-alone regional giants. Click ‘add your comment’ and let us know what you think.