Sunday, June 22, 2014

Myungbo: We expect Algeria to attack

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AppId is over the quota

Korea Republic are braced for what coach Hong Myungbo believes Algeria will be a far more potent attacking force when the teams meet in the FIFA World Cup™ on Sunday in Porto Alegre.

TheTaeguk Warriors hold the edge after picking up a point in their 1-1 draw with Russia in the first round of games, while Algeria, beaten 2-1 by group favourites Belgium, will be heading home with another loss.

"Algeria defended well [against Belgium] but I don't think they'll play the same way against us," Myungbo said. "They've got a lot of excellent forwards, they are very quick, these are very dynamic players. "Their three strikers are really rapid, with good individual technique, so when there are duels we have to reduce their opportunities."

Myungbo, a national icon back home after skippering Korea to fourth place in 2002, was also wary of the Algerians' midfield. "They like to press hard, we have to resist this pressure and play in space as one should," he said.

The former Los Angeles Galaxy player, who hasn't yet decided on a starting line-up for Sunday's game, says he will be sending his team out to take three points. 

"I can't predict the result," he said. "But what I can say is that we're going to play to win, because we absolutely have to win to hope to reach the next round. We want to score first...our players are going to try to convert [chances], but we'll have to be patient. We're going to have opportunities - the key to the game will be if we can convert these into goals."

Pre-tournament outsiders have points to prove

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AppId is over the quota

MATCHDAY PREVIEW - Outsiders for the title in the run-up to Brazil 2014, Portugal need to dust themselves down and prove their worth after kicking off with a damaging 4-0 defeat by Germany. That heavy loss had repercussions far beyond the scoreline for Paulo Bento's men. Pepe is now suspended and injured full-back Fabio Coentrao already back home, while doubts surround several other starters. As for Cristiano Ronaldo, he has kept a tight lid on the extent of his recurrent knee pains, though there can be little doubt that the Real Madrid forward is struggling to hit his usual heights. Either way, the Lusitanians have little choice but to overcome USA if they hope to keep their challenge alive.

Belgium, meanwhile, owed a debt of gratitude to their substitutes after downing Algeria 2-1 in their opening game, a result that gave them an ideal start in Group H. The same could also be said of Russia, for whom Aleksandr Kerzhakov came off the bench to bury an equaliser against Korea Republic following Igor Akinfeev's mistake. The two ambitious European sides now meet in Rio de Janeiro, with Fabio Capello sure to have made his opinions clear to the Sbornaya (National team).   

The matches
Belgium-Russia (Group H), Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, 13.00 (local time)
Korea Republic-Algeria (Group H), Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre, 16.00 (local time)
USA-Portugal (Group G), Arena Amazonia, Manaus, 18.00 (local time)

Did you know?
Lucky charm?: USA coach since 2011, Jurgen Klinsmann has finished on the winning team in every single one of his opening games at the World Cup. The first three of those came during his playing days, while he patrolled the sidelines as a coach for the two most recent.

Strength in depth: Belgium clinched victory against Algeria courtesy of a pair of substitutes, Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens notching the all-important goals after being sent into the fray. It was only the second time in 47 World Cup outings that a player had come off the bench to register for Les Diables Rouges (Red Devils).

Old foes: USA have faced European opposition 14 times since their famous 1-0 victory against England at Brazil 1950. The Stars and Stripes have come out on top just once in those games, edging Portugal 3-2 during the group stage at Korea/Japan 2002. That year, they advanced to the Round of 16 after collecting one point more than the Portuguese, who promptly headed for the exit.

Fancy seeing you here: The meeting between Korea Republic and Algeria will reunite Park Chu-Young and Essaid Belkalem, who know each other well from second-tier English outfit Watford. Never before have two Hornets players lined up on opposite sides of the pitch in a World Cup fixture.   

Suspended players
Pepe (POR)

Treading the tightrope
Son Heungmin, Koo Jacheol, Ki Sungyueng (KOR)
Nabil Bentaleb (ALG)
Jan Vertonghen (BEL)
Oleg Shatov (RUS)
Joao Pereira (POR)

Check it out
With Korea Republic in action against Algeria, brush up on your knowledge of the Asian aspirants by watching our video profile. For their part, Algeria came close to pulling off a shock win against Belgium. Relive the highlights of that thrilling encounter – whether you are a fan of Les Fennecs (Desert Foxes) keen to see where lessons can be learned or a Diables Rouges supporter eager for another taste of a hard-fought victory.  

On this day
Who can forget the epic quarter-final meeting between England and Argentina at the Estadio Azteca on 22 June 1986? Diego Armando Maradona made sure that the game went down in World Cup history after showing two sides of his complex personality, starting off with his first iconic contribution on 51 minutes. With the scoreline still level, the ball looped into England's area following an unsuccessful clearance and El Pibe de Oro (the Golden Boy) sensed his chance, launching himself into the air to palm the ball goalwards as Peter Shilton rushed off his line. "The hand of God" as Maradona put it afterwards, but there was no controversy about his second effort four minutes later, the diminutive magician collecting the ball in the centre circle, speeding forward and skipping past almost half the England team before slotting beyond Shilton to seal an eventual 2-1 victory. Of his two strikes, that was the goal that seemed divinely inspired.

Play and win
Whether you are new to the game or a self-confessed expert, the Castrol FIFA World Cup Predictor Challenge is sure to test your football knowledge to the limit. For every match at Brazil 2014, you will need to give your predictions to five different questions – and the most accurate predictors will pick up some superb prizes!    

Top tweet
USA can advance to the Round of 16 with a win against Portugal tomorrow. Perhaps this is an omen of good fortune for the Stars and Strips in Manaus later on today?

Haghighi: Iran excel in tough situations

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AppId is over the quota

Iran have produced a number of excellent goalkeepers down the years, stalwarts between the sticks who left their mark on an era and helped the national team impress on the continental and global stage. Having won the trust of Carlos Queiroz to start against Nigeria, Alireza Haghighi is beginning to look like he could follow in that fine tradition. 

The three-time Asian champions are back at the FIFA World Cup™ after missing out on South Africa 2010, and among the biggest mysteries as they prepared for Brazil 2014 was who would end up wearing the gloves. With Mehdi Rahmati retiring from international football last year, a number of options seemed possible, but it was Haghighi who got the nod for Iran's opening encounter.

The 26-year-old promptly justified his selection with a solid display, which helped Team Melli clinch a 0-0 draw against the champions of Africa. Significantly, it was Iran's first ever clean sheet in a World Cup game.

"It's what I dreamt about," Haghighi told after making his World Cup debut. "I wanted to wear the Iran shirt and I achieved that. Like I said in an earlier interview with, it was also my goal to play in the World Cup and I've been able to do that too, thanks to God. I'm proud to have kept goal for my country and to have not let the ball get past me. Of course, that wouldn't have been possible without the help of my team-mates."

Iran's defence was certainly impressive against Nigeria, to the extent that Mehrdad Pooladi sat second behind Germany star Thomas Muller in the Castrol Index after the first round of matches. "It was a team effort and I'm very pleased about it," added Haghighi. "I did everything to succeed. The work all our players put in allowed us to finish the match without conceding."

Haghighi's own performance was perhaps not surprising given that he was coached by one of the most outstanding Asian keepers of the 1990s in Ahmad Reza Abedzadeh, who guarded the posts for Iran at France 1998. In addition, he received plenty of advice from Nasser Hejazi before the legendary No1 passed away. "Nasser Hejazi gave me a lot of guidance on the work of a goalkeeper, as did my old coach at Perozi, Ahmad Reza Abedzadeh, who told me about the World Cup," explained Haghighi.

I want to thank them for all the positive energy they've transmitted to me and for their unflagging support.

Alireza Haghighi on his Iran team-mates

The Tehran native likewise feels a debt of gratitude to Daniel Davari and Rahman Ahmadi, his goalkeeping colleagues in the Iran squad – and both his senior. Haghighi believes the sense of family within the Team Melli ranks also had an impact on their positive opening result.  

"Even if we're in competition on the pitch, we remain good friends and share the same goal," he said. "People were able to see our great friendship at half-time and the end of the match. Thanks to that harmony, we were able to keep our goal unbreached against Nigeria. I want to thank them for all the positive energy they've transmitted to me and for their unflagging support."

No Messi concerns

Queiroz's charges are now fully focused on their next encounter against Argentina, which is likely to put them under close scrutiny. Not only do their Group F rivals boast an array of fearsome attacking talents, they are desperate to add a third star to their shirts on South American soil. 

Haghighi is not unduly concerned, however. "Argentina are without doubt one of the three best international teams in the world at the moment, with good players who are based at big clubs," he said. "But Iran always excel in tough situations. I can guarantee you that we'll show you a lot of good things on the pitch."

The prospect of facing four-time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi might give many goalkeepers sleepless nights, but Haghighi – who spent last season on loan at Sporting Covilha in Portugal – insists he is ready for the occasion. "Personally, I'm not tense or bothered about that," he said. "Lionel Messi is one of the best players in the world, but I'll surpass myself for my country. Playing in Europe has given me a lot of experience and I'm convinced that'll serve me well in the match against Argentina and the other games."

What is certain is that La Albiceleste will provide Haghighi with a stern examination as he vies to keep a second clean sheet at Brazil 2014.

Zaccheroni fear loss of balance

With a point to their name in Group C, Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni accepts that things didn't go to his side so far on FIFA World Cup 2014 ™ plan Brazil. Two quick goals were their downfall against Côte d' Ivoire, while a wall out of ten Greeks proved impervious, meaning the encounter with an already-qualified Colombia with a decisive tone. Their performances are not well again get on the streets of Tokyo and the Italian tactician admits, he has not directly in Brazil.

"I knew that something could happen, because in such an important competition, it is very difficult to find the right balance, a good performance," said Zaccheroni "I was hoping to find this, but in fact does not succeed, to find that we had our game way to impose the tactical and psychological balance. We went to Brazil with an idea in mind and tried to combine our quality and speed. "I have to acknowledge that we were able to find this balance not yet."

Fast approaching, the former coach of AC Milan and Inter Milan realized with their game in the arena-Pantanal in Cuiabá against on song Cafeteros (coffee growers), the time is ticking, to get in shape. With qualification from their hands they me a favor from the Greeks against Les Elephants have a chance at the pipping the Africans into second place.

"We're trying to best prepare can we on a technical, tactical and psychological level," said Zaccheroni. "So far we have proved ourselves up to the expectations we all had. So we are trying these days to prepare, so that in the following match we "best wearing our Sunday", so to speak.

Fans who saw the goalless draw with Greece, where up to ten men were Fernando Santos page about 45 minutes of the game, are undoubtedly a feeling that her often elegant wardrobe near was used more dress down Friday as Sunday best. With more than two-thirds of the possession and nearly three times as many cars as their European opponents they weren't yet able to unlock their defence.

As a result, need Zaccheroni that the football to defend that, he 2010 has brought since the departure of Takeshi Okada after South Africa in the course of the game to Asia.

"We are more than 50 games have played, I have been coach of Japan for four years now, and during the time span" he said. "50 games are usually enough to understand who we are and who we are not. Of course, every team has its highs and deep, and we have in the past had.

"My personal experience my work basis, but I took also into account Japanese culture and the special features of the Japanese players. I tried it with the functions provide, with which they can be more competitive on a global scale. Before the World Cup, we were conceding more than we are now. "But that was not what we, were targeted, as we are always on the creation of more and more opportunities to score."

The Italian merit, with 55 percent has no trainer in history leads Japan's better percentage of profits to Japan more than 30 times, while only Ken Naganuma and Zico have accumulated more victories. Nevertheless, he admits that his position with the team will be to the discussion at the end of their time in Brazil.

"I have a current four-year contract with the Japanese Football Association, where this World Cup will end this cycle," Zaccheroni said. "We will speak about my future after the World Cup."

To these talks something longer but delay, which it is hoped native Northern Italy his figures of light can. Shinji Kagawa has been unable to find his best form, while Keisuke Honda has taken not the same height, as four years ago with Zaccheroni they feel and the rest of his side struggling for cohesion in the face of expectations.

"Pressure is something that is placed on players at every World Championships and they need to live," admitted the coach of 30 years. "I don't think that Keisuke is suffering under pressure more than the others." I think she all failed to find the appropriate tactical, mental and spiritual balance. "In Italy, we say there is no spark, what means that we lack in confidence and excitement."

It sparks or balance, they need to find, click on in Brazil there are many travel fans in the sold-out stands of the arena-Pantanal, which they finally discover hope - and they pray not to late to reach their destination, the knockout stage.

Emenike: The pressure has to be there

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AppId is over the quota

“You can't hide from pressure. Football is a game of pressure. Everyone expects big things from you.”

The broad shoulders of Emmanuel Emenike look capable of withstanding their fair share of expectations, but after Nigeria's opening 0-0 draw with Iran – where the reigning African champions largely failed to ignite – he accepts there will be even more than usual when they face Group F rivals Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As a result the team have come in for some criticism from the football-loving streets of Abudja, Lagos and across the rest of their West African homeland on the other side of the Atlantic, but the burly Fenerbahçe striker feels they must take it in their stride. “When things don't go well, everyone speaks, everyone talks the way they like,” he told FIFA.

“But what can you do? You just have to carry on working hard, that's all you can do. The pressure has to be there. The match didn't go the way we wanted, we just have to carry on and win the Bosnia and Herzegovina game and see what happens. The game against Iran was disappointing.”

The passion for the Super Eagles is huge amongst the 170 million people in the continent's most populous country, and when Stephen Keshi's side step out into the Arena Pantanal at 11pm African time, Emenike expects day-to-day life will be put on the back burner. “Nigeria is a football-loving country and even for U17 or U20 matches everyone locks up their shops,” the joint top-scorer at last year's CAF Africa Cup of Nations explained. “Even the people on the street go in to watch Nigeria play, so we always want to try our best to make the country happy, because everyone always wants to watch Nigeria play and always wants us to do well.”

I always try to prove myself and to be there, to play for Nigeria because I play for the badge.

Emmanuel Emenike, Nigeria striker

While they dominated possession and managed more shots on goal than their Asian counterparts, they were frustrated in a game that – in terms of respective FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking positions – offered the greatest chance at exiting the field with maximum points in hand. As a result, Emenike concedes that spirits were hit in Curitiba, but their vigour has returned ahead of the clash with the FIFA World Cup™ first-timers.

“The unity is still there,” the 27-year-old said. “I think the first few seconds after the Iran game, the spirit in the changing room was a little bit low, but now, seeing it yesterday and today, even in training, everyone is fighting.”

This, he feels, is a factor helped by some of veteran figures in the side. Joseph Yobo and Vincent Enyeama are both within a few caps of reaching their centuries, and the perspectives of the seasoned professionals within the dressing rooms have made the difference, Emenike feels. “They always speak to us and try to advise us, especially Yobo as the captain.”

These choice words are what has given them a steely focus heading into this crucial game that will decide whether qualification for the Round of 16 remains in their hands. “[Yobo] is always trying to speak to the players, [letting us know the Iran result] was not the end of the world. Because we could go out there and beat Bosnia and still go through.”

And as those fans back home watch on, willing their boys in green to victory, Emenike proudly declares that he will be running at the Europeans' defence with the supporters in his mind because of the crest on his chest. “I always try to prove myself and to be there, to play for Nigeria because I play for the badge,” he declared with passion. “I play for the people back home, who are watching us on the screen. That is all I can say.”

Injury sends von Bergen home

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AppId is over the quota

Switzerland's Steve von Bergen will miss the rest of the FIFA World Cup™ after fracturing his left eye socket in the 5-2 defeat to France, the Swiss FA confirmed Saturday.

The 31-year-old centre-back was accidentally kicked in the head by France striker Olivier Giroud after seven minutes of their Group E clash in Salvador on Friday and had to be helped off with a deep cut over his left eye. He was taken to hospital where a scan revealed the extent of the injury.

"He will be repatriated as soon as possible to Switzerland, accompanied by Dr Roland Grossen," read a statement from the Swiss Federation. "He will then be cared for by specialists."

Etepe reflects on Zaire in 1974 adventure

Despite winning the 1968 and 1974 CAF Africa Cup occurs of Nations, Zaire as the first sub-Sahara side of the FIFA World Cup in Germany 1974 reminds the most negative reasons: 14 goals without reply and notoriously strange yellow card against Brazil on June 22, 1974-40 years ago today. However it is said their key figures, Etepe Kakoko, , that the leopards confident in the event.

"We were a great team in 1974", Etepe recalls. "The AFCON tournament had won many of the players in the team earlier in the year. A football club had also won Club, the CAF Champions Cup from Zaire, Vita a year earlier, so there was much international experience in the team. We had a very experienced coach."

Blagoje Vidinic, who won the 1956 and 1960 Olympic silver and gold with Yugoslavia, already coached Morocco for the 1970 FIFA World Cup, but four years later the former international goalkeeper could not repeat the respectable results, which he had reached with the Atlas Lions. A 0: 2 defeat in Zaire opening game against Scotland was followed by a 9-0-threshing on the feet of Yugoslavia. And then lost their last group game against Brazil Zaire 3-0, which famously saw Mwepu Ilunga Jairzinho, topple from its defensive wall away before a flummoxed kick the ball the referee and Rivelino.

Ilunga later claimed that the relocation Act of protest was. Etepe said: "I have no idea why he did that. Perhaps he thought that was the ball in the game, but he does not explain it to us and it remains a mystery.

"We have good against Scotland, but against Yugoslavia, we were just exhausted. We were very tired and we lacked the experience was necessary just to compete against such teams. Already play the finale today most African players for clubs in Europe. In 1974, that was not the case with us. We have no single players who were at a club in Europe under contract.

"We had African experience, but that was just not enough to compete at this level. But it was still a huge success for us at the World Championships to be and represent Africa. It is something that I didn't want, Miss."

An irony of fate
But if most sorely disappointed the leopards players signing lucrative contracts with European clubs after the final they were dreamed, there was very little interest after 1974 performance. "For us, football was not a full-time job," explains Etepe. "We played with heart, we had plenty, but we haven't been given wealth. We had to work too."

Etepe continue playing football in Zaire and worked for car-maker Mercedes Benz, they decided to send him for training in 1977 after Germany. "It took my visa through a long time coming, but when it was finally issued, I am to Germany for the second time," he said.

"I was part-time football play and work at Mercedes in Stuttgart." It was that which belongs to VfB Stuttgart, that it a player who had played in the World Cup finals in 1974 and they asked me to come to the training then."

Etepe enjoyed a successful time at the page amateur, winning the German Amateur Championship in 1980. Also, he played a Bundesliga game for the first team and some second division teams before retiring in Germany: "football has given me much and I would not achieved all that I have achieved I had not played at the World Cup."

Etepe, his son, Yannick is also a footballer and was once in the books of Bayern Munich, he says has no bitterness not, made their living from football, but he a sadness to say thereof, if he looks at the fate of many leopards of team-mates from 1974, many have fallen on hard times. "It makes me sad to think that some of them have to show nothing for their success. I many in Belgium life have more contact with a few, like Captain Kidumu Mantantu, Macias Maku, Mafu Kibonge, Ntumba KALALA and Kazadi Muamba, of which."

The 63-year-old is also disappointed that when he looks at the State of football in the country his birth, in the Congo Dr is now called "we have great players and we should be there really, with the likes of Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria. We should qualify for the World Cup and the challenge for the African Championship. "It is sad that this is not the case, and I, that officials do something about it wishes to ensure that we once again become one of the strongest teams in Africa."

Ayew: Germany can reach the Final

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AppId is over the quota

Andre Ayew palm-slapped his own chest in an uninhibited exhibition of euphoria. He had just cancelled out Clint Dempsey’s first-minute opener for USA. Only eight minutes remained. He had seemingly snatched Ghana a valuable point in Natal.

At the final whistle at the Estadio das Dunas, however, Ayew slunk to the turf, head in hands. A giant Berlin-born defender had ruined the France-born playmaker’s evening.

Ghana now have it all to do in their quest to escape an examining Group G. Germany are next for Kwesi Appiah’s Balck Stars. Then come Portugal.

FIFA caught up with the 24-year-old Marseille man to discuss the defeat to USA, whether Ghana play as individuals rather than as a team, their success of 2010 creating additional expectations and the clash with Germany.

FIFA: You’ve had a little while to reflect on the USA defeat. What are your thoughts?
Andre Ayew:
I think we had a good game. We had the possession of the ball, we managed to create chances, but I think we were not efficient enough. We lacked definition and touch in the offensive part and the defensive part too. If we move the first five minutes and the last five minutes it would be a perfect game. But football is 90 minutes and every minute is important, so we are disappointed because we know we lost versus a team where we could have and should have won. But it is part of football and I think we will learn from our mistakes. Now we are going to prepare for our next game versus Germany.

Do you think tactically there was anything you could have changed?
Every game is different. We knew we were going to have possession of the ball, and we had it and made good use of it. We simply could not end up scoring goals or defending the few chances the USA had. They played really compactly, they played as a team, and we had to go after a goal for the whole game. Because to concede a goal in 30 seconds, it is impossible for a team like us to take a goal in such a short time in such a competition. It is part of the game and you know we had to react. We did well even though we only scored in the 82nd minute. I think even if we didn't win, we at least should have drawn this game, but we were not allowed to lose this game. We need to not only look at the first five and last five minutes, but look at what we did together, the spirit that we showed and the willingness to do something. We need to continue like that. Even though we lost, we lost with our heads high and that is what is important.

You mentioned that the Americans were compact and they played as a team. Do you think Ghana played more as individuals and less as a team?
No, I think that we have the team spirit, the team tactical assignment. We do have it. We just lost concentration in the first few seconds and it was the same with their second goal. It is not something you can make a big case about it. We showed the USA that we are compact, we have the creativity, we have the skill, we have the power but we also have the team spirit. That is why we know that we are a good team. But we need to prove that on the pitch. Not at training and not outside the pitch. We are in a difficult group, in the group of death, but we believe in ourselves and we will try to do something against Germany.

Do you feel that the expectation at the start of the tournament was a little too high just because of 2010, where you exceeded expectations to get to the quarter-finals?
Honestly, no. We had a good game and unfortunately we lost. Football is all about winning, you can't have the best game ever if you don't win. It's true especially in a tournament. When it is a league you have time to catch up, but when it is a tournament like this it is difficult. You can maybe have one game where you slip-up, but you can’t have two.

Ghana have the youngest squad at the tournament. Does that work against you?
No, most of the players are not at their first World Cup. For most of us it is the second for some it is their third. Yes, it is true that there are young players on the team and in such tournaments you need a lot of experience, but you know I think that football and experience is not only about age. It is about how long you have been playing for. If someone started playing when they are 17 and now maybe he is 20 or 23, he has already played for years. My generation – [Emmanuel] Badu, [Samuel] Inkoom, [Dainel] Opare, all of them – we have been playing with the Black Stars for a while now. We had a lot of glory very young. But you have to give yourself new objectives to try to fight to win trophies, because even though we did a lot of good stuff in the past we haven't won the Nations Cup or the World Cup. We need to work hard to win a trophy and I believe that this squad can do it.

Can Ghana get something from the Germany game?
They won the first game convincingly. There was a red card early in the game, but to play versus Portugal is not easy and to win with that kind of margin means that Germany are ready. Germany have a big squad. I think it’s good enough for them to reach the Final. They’re one of the best [sides] in the world. But I believe in ourselves, I believe in the squad. There have been a lot of surprises in this tournament. I don't mean we're going to surprise Germany – maybe, maybe not. But one thing’s for sure: we’re going to give everything we have to finish the game with a positive result.

You mention the ‘group of death’. Getting out of such a tough pool would give you big confidence heading into the knockout phase…
If we pass this group I believe we can go very far. It all depends on us. We should have won the first game. We didn't, we put ourselves in this situation. Now we have to do everything to come out of this situation – it's as simple as that. If we don't go through then it means that we didn't deserve to go through. We need to be honest with ourselves, but I believe that we've trained hard enough. We don’t want to go home early, we want to stay here as long as possible, so we're going to do everything to stay. But if have to go home, we'll go with our heads high and with no regrets.

Bento: Beat USA or we 'pack our bags'

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AppId is over the quota

Portugal coach Paulo Bento said on Saturday that his team can start packing their bags if they don't beat USA on Sunday in Manaus. Portugal were beaten 4-0 by Germany in their Group G opener and anything other than a win on Sunday would take qualification for the Round of 16 out of their hands.

Added to that, their preparation for Sunday's clash has been far from ideal as injuries and a suspension have shorn Bento of four players, with  Bruno Alves a doubt as well. Bento isn't allowing excuses to get in the way of his team's preparation.

"Let's stop talking about the absentees and think about playing," he said. "The situation is very simple: either we win or we start to pack our bags. If it's a draw, it's the same. That's not a scenario the Portuguese are used to.

"When you need to react, I think we're good. I truly believe and the players have to convince themselves too. The merit is all theirs. I only have a little. Now they have to fight to improve their credit. We need a team that is confident in itself and able to control the different aspects of the match."

As ever, a lot of focus has been on Cristiano Ronaldo in Brazil, but Bento says the Real Madrid star is dealing with the pressure of the FIFA World Cup™.

"When I took the job I said I'd never put the responsibility for solving problems on his (Ronaldo's) shoulders or those of any other player," he said. "That's my issue. He's an important player for the team but I don't think he's got any more pressure than before. He's treated normally. We have one of the best players in the world but there are others to support him. If we had only the best players in the world, we wouldn't go very far."

Omeruo a rock for Nigeria

AppId is over the quota
AppId is over the quota

There were precious few fireworks in the hunt for the Hyundai Young Player Award today at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. But Nigeria’s Kenneth Omeruo earned a start in defence and impressed in helping to hold down the fort against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Middlesbrough defender kept a dangerous Bosnian attack, revolving around Edin Dzeko, at bay for a full 90 minutes and got forward whenever possible.  On the other side of the pitch in Cuiaba, Bosnia and Herzegovina defender Sead Kolasinac was sadly banished to the bench after scoring an unfortunate own-goal in the opener.

Alireza Jahan Bakhsh came on late in hopes of helping Iran keep their clean sheet intact against Argentina. The Netherlands-based forward performed admirably but, in the end, world superstar Lionel Messi had the final say. The Barcelona man scored a wonder-goal deep into stoppage time to seal all three points for Argentina, as the Iranians still hunt their first goal of these finals with two games gone.

Next up
USA’s Germany-based defender John Brooks will be keen to keep the momentum going against Portugal. He came on at half-time against Ghana to replace the injured Matt Besler in the Americans’ opening and ended up scoring an unlikely late winner to begin his tournament with a dream come true. On the other side of the pitch in Manaus, Portugal coach Paulo Bento might need to turn to young striker Rafa Ferreira Silva after a succession on injuries hit his camp.

Over at Rio’s Estadio Maracana, Belgium’s youth brigade attempt to keep the momentum going against Russia. Last time out Romelu Lukaku and Divock Origi impressed for the Red Devils in a win over Algeria. Nabil Bentaleb will also likely feature for Algeria as they look for their first points against Korea Republic.

Hodgson has high hopes for Euro 2016

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Roy Hodgson is confident that, despite England's two defeats at the FIFA World Cup™ bringing about an early exit, they have shown enough quality to raise hopes of a decent Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. 

Consecutive 2-1 defeats by Italy and Uruguay have left England facing a meaningless final game against Group D surprise package Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday, after which the squad will fly home. In time, head coach Hodgson will turn his thoughts to the 2016 European Championship qualifiers, starting with an away game against Switzerland on September 8, and he says that he will take heart from what he has seen in Brazil.

"I believe England have a very strong basis for a team," he told newspaper reporters after his side's loss to Uruguay in Sao Paulo on Thursday. "It's very young. These players within the space of two years will play in the Premier league, and they will get better and stronger as an England team.

"I have never doubted (that) this team as it moves forward - not just to 2016, but on from there - will become stronger and better. We will just for the moment have to suck on this very bitter pill that our hopes and dreams have floundered here because we were unable to win the games."

Young players
Among the players who played against Uruguay were 19-year-old Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling and 20-year-old Everton midfielder Ross Barkley, both of whom have been blooded by Hodgson. Young players such as Danny Welbeck and Jordan Henderson have also gained valuable playing experience during the World Cup, while several players have sampled a major tournament for the first time.

Given his side's relative inexperience, particularly when compared to a wily Uruguay team, Hodgson felt that England's display at the Corinthians Arena augured well. "I think that bodes well for the future," he said. "It was a tough team to play against, tough physically. We had a bigger domination than we had against the Italians. For large parts of the game we kept them at bay."

He added: "Results colour everyone's judgement and I am certainly happy with the way the players have prepared for these games. I am certainly happy with the way we have approached the tournament and I am happy with effort they have put in, but we have played two experienced and strong teams and on both occasions we have come second."

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has confirmed that Hodgson will be allowed to see out his contract, which expires in 2016, and the former Liverpool manager received unequivocal backing from senior players Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart on Saturday. Asked if his enthusiasm for the job was still intact, Hodgson replied: "My enthusiasm for football is not likely to wane and my enthusiasm for working with these players is not likely to wane either."

Rooney: 'Hurting' England must restore pride

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England striker Wayne Rooney said on Saturday that his side were "hurting" after their early World Cup elimination and urged his team-mates to "restore pride" against Costa Rica on Tuesday.

"Obviously we're hurting," the Manchester United striker told a press conference at England's Rio de Janeiro training base. "It's really disappointing to be out of the tournament, so I'm sure you can imagine it's quite tough. There'll be a long few days for us now and we have to try and pick ourselves up for this game on Tuesday, go out fighting and show our pride."

England lost their first two Group D games 2-1 against Italy and Uruguay and were eliminated on Friday after the Italians lost 1-0 to Costa Rica in Recife. It is the first time England have gone out in the first phase of a World Cup since the 1958 tournament in Sweden.

However, English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has confirmed that England manager Roy Hodgson will stay on until UEFA EURO 2016 and Rooney says the squad were fully behind him.

"Make no doubt about it - Roy is the man to take this team forward. We appreciate what he has done for us," Rooney said. "He has put a great enthusiasm in the team, a great set of young, exciting players in place.

"He has, in my opinion, changed the way we have played over the last couple of years and I know the results have been disappointing in the last two games, but as a team we can feel we are getting better. I feel with the young lads in the squad, this will help them and hopefully in the future this will make us a better team."

Milestones, records and celebrations

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The form book was torn up on the tenth match day at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, as former tournament winners Argentina and Germany laboured to live up to expectations. Both giants had been tipped to record comfortable victories against Iran and Ghana respectively, but the Albiceleste needed a stoppage time moment of magic from Lionel Messi to take all three points and Germany were briefly behind against the Africans before managing to secure a draw. Furthermore, history was made as a tournament record was equalled.

The third game of the day was the only one that did not throw up any surprises, with reigning African champions Nigeria narrowly getting the better of Bosnia and Herzegovina in an evenly-matched encounter. That defeat ended the World Cup debutants’ hopes of progressing to the Round of 16, where Argentina have already booked their place.

Argentina 1-0 Iran, Budweiser Man of the Match: Lionel Messi (ARG)
Germany 2-2 Ghana, Budweiser Man of the Match: Mario Gotze (GER)
Nigeria 1-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina, Budweiser Man of the Match: Peter Odemwingie (NGA)

Memorable moments
Messi makes the difference
“When you have Messi, anything is possible,” said Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella after the match against Iran, echoing the thoughts of countless Albiceleste fans. Despite enjoying over 70 per cent possession over the 90 minutes, the South Americans struggled to find a way through a stubborn Team Melli defence. In the end a sensational stoppage-time effort from four-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Messi, who had been inconspicuous for most of the game, was enough to fire Argentina into the Round of 16. Diego Maradona was in the stands to witness the 26-year-old collect the ball on the right-hand edge of the penalty area, cut inside and curl an unstoppable strike in the net.

Friendship on ice
Bosnia and Herzegovina goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and Nigeria forward Peter Odemwingie are team-mates at Premier League side Stoke City and were seen having a friendly chat in the tunnel prior to their match. The former would undoubtedly have preferred to do without a second close encounter around the half hour mark. The Super Eagles striker slotted the ball through the custodian’s legs to score the decisive goal and earn Nigeria victory after nine previous World Cup fixtures without success.

Tit for tat
Miroslav Klose scored the equaliser for Germany with his first touch of the ball just two minutes after being brought on as a 69th minute substitute, pulling level with Brazil’s Ronaldo as the tournament’s all-time leading scorer. Il Fenomeno offered his congratulations on Twitter afterwards, while a smiling Klose said: “15 goals in 20 World Cup games isn’t too bad.” Moreover, the striker became only the third player to find the target at four finals after Pele and Uwe Seeler. Incidentally, Ronaldo scored his 15th World Cup goal against Ghana in Germany, while Klose notched his 15th against the same opposition in Brazil.

Sibling rivalry
The Boateng brothers - Germany’s Jerome and Ghana’s Kevin-Prince - had not been in contact with each other during the tournament but were brought face to face at the pre-match handshakes, where they chatted and hugged briefly before focusing on the matter at hand. It was the second time the siblings had been on opposite sides in an international fixture, having also met in the group stage at South Africa 2010. The game may have ended in a draw, but there was still one winner: the duo’s father Prince. “It’s the easiest game for me to go to: no matter what the outcome, I win,” he had said prior to the encounter.

Driving force
Not only did Andre Ayew level the scores for Ghana just 180 seconds after they had fallen behind against Germany, he also demonstrated his unique motivational skills. Unable to contain himself after finding the target, a jubilant Ayew ran the length of the pitch and hugged everyone he met before urging on both team-mates and spectators. He could be seen applauding his side's efforts at every opportunity and was constantly pulling the strings in the Black Stars’ midfield from his No10 position. Ayew’s efforts paid off as Asamoah Gyan soon put Ghana 2-1 up, becoming the first African player to score at three World Cups in the process.

The stat
100 -
Germany’s Per Mertesacker and Argentina’s Javier Mascherano each completed a century of international appearances on Saturday. Furthermore, after Germany became the first nation to play in 100 World Cup matches, they played in the 800th tournament game against Ghana.

The social hub

Bem-vindo ao clube #klose imagino a tua felicidade!!!! Que bela copa!!!

— Claro Ronaldo (@ClaroRonaldo) 21 June 2014

Welcome to the club, Klose. I can imagine how happy you must be right now. What a great World Cup!

Next up
Belgium - Russia, 13:00, Rio de Janeiro
Korea Republic - Algeria, 16:00, Porto Alegre
USA - Portugal, 18:00, Manaus
(All times given are local)

Have your say

Klose or Ronaldo - who is the better goalscorer?

Nigeria extinguish Bosnian dreams

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Debutants Bosnia and Herzegovina saw themselves exit the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ after two games, following a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Nigeria. Peter Odemwingie's first-half goal was enough to put the Super Eagles within a point of the Round of 16.

With Argentina having already sewn up qualification from Group F, the race was on to try to wrap up the remaining spot. Both sides were set up to play attacking football, and when Haris Mendunjanin was booked for bringing down Ahmed Musa, Peter Odemwingie – who had impressed as a substitute against Iran – fired the free-kick inches wide.

The Bosnians were looking intent on playing attractive football in pursuit of the result they needed, with their nimble-footed midfield pairing of Miralem Pjanic and Muhamed Besic combining superbly, only for the young Ferencvaros midfielder to fire over. The African champions, for their part, looked keen on making Begovic work, as the shots from distance were raining in from early on. First John Obi Mikel saw his low, zipping shot flash just wide, before the Stoke City goalkeeper had to beat away Ogenyi Onazi's effort.

Edin Dzeko thought he had put the Europeans ahead, but after latching on to Zvejzdan Misimovic's slick through-ball and slotting past Vincent Enyeama, he looked up to see a flag had denied him. It was the Nigerian veteran goalkeeper himself who was next to prevent the Manchester City man opening his World Cup account, pushing his near-post shot away for a corner.

However, after the Super Eagles had spent ten minutes on the back foot they struck against the run of play. Emmanuel Emenike's near-unstoppable momentum saw him bundle past Emir Spahic down the right flank, before he laid the ball on a plate for Odemwingie to slot past his club team-mate Begovic.

While striking on the break was proving lethal for Nigeria, it seemed just a matter of time before the World Cup debutants would find joy with feeding Dzeko. He was a constant worry for Joseph Yobo and Juwon Oshaniwa and had a great chance of the stroke of half-time, but after Pjanic's cut back, he blazed over from 12 yards.

The pattern of play continued after the break, with the eastern Europeans' passing creativity finding gaps in the Nigerians' backline, but they lacked the killer pass or clinical finish to make them count, while the west Africans broke at pace and tested Begovic from range. The goalkeeper had to be on his toes to deny Emenike from much closer in though after the Fenerbahce striker pounced on a ricochet off Odemwingie, only to see Begovic stick out a long Bosnian leg to put it behind at his near post.

Safet Susic had said he wanted to save the semi-fit Sejad Salihovic for their final game if he could, but caved to the ticking clock, bringing on the Hoffenheim midfielder and goal-scorer from the opening match Vedad Ibisevic for an influx of experience. The introduction of the latter almost paid off, but he could only flick Misimovic's corner over the bar.

With 15 minutes remaining and their shirts drenched in sweat, Zmajevi (The Dragons) were getting agitated with their World Cup future looking bleak, but a Pjanic shot from range doingtle to trouble Enyeama. Stephen Keshi's side were still out to make the result safe, and Onazi tested Begovic again with another drilled effort from before Emenike shot just wide.

When Misimovic fluffed his lines on the edge of the box with 90 minutes on the clock it looked destined not to be their night. Edin Dzeko headed straight at Enyeama moments later, before seeing his effort from six yards turned on to the post, and that save ultimately sealed their exit from the tournament.

Klose stays humble as tributes fly in

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Every now and then in football there are matches that appear to follow a script penned by a Hollywood screenwriter with a flair for the dramatic. Germany’s fixture with Ghana was one such occasion. With the former 2-1 down, the Europeans needed to inject greater urgency into their play in order to avoid defeat in their second group match, a fate they had suffered at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Right on cue, on came 36-year-old Miroslav Klose as a 69th-minute substitute to hit the equaliser with his first touch of the ball.

As important as the strike was in securing Germany a point, it also ensured the forward a place in tournament history. Klose has now scored 15 World Cup, level with Ronaldo as the tournament's all-time leading marksmen. As if that were not enough, the fact that he did so in the Brazilian's own country added an extra twist to the tale: after all, Ronaldo had set the record at the 2006 finals in Germany. That both strikers scored their historic efforts against Ghana seems almost too symmetrical to be true.

The spotlight may have inevitably been trained on Klose after the match on a sweltering evening at Fortaleza’s Estadio Castelao, but the Germany No11 remained characteristically down to earth. “Of course it’s something very special for me, there’s no doubt about that,” he told, grinning. “But the most important thing is that I was able to help my team.”

Klose, whose goal also made him only the second German after Uwe Seeler to score at four different World Cups, has never been a man of many words and was happy to allow Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff, himself a former top-class striker, to explain further.

“Inside he’s incredibly happy,” he said in an interview with “You could see that by the way he celebrated the goal. It was also an important one for us, which makes the whole thing that much nicer.”

Ronaldo congratulates
Klose’s goal celebration, a forward flip, used to be his trademark in his earlier career but has become increasingly rare of late. That he failed to make a full 360 degree turn - and also lost his balance somewhat upon landing - did little to take the shine off the moment. “You can tell that I’m getting older,” Klose told with a wink.

Asked as to which of his 15 tournament goals, chalked up at finals in Korea and Japan, Germany, South Africa and now in Brazil, he considers to have been most important, Klose did not hesitate: “I think it’d have to be the equaliser against Argentina in the quarter-finals in 2006 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. It meant we went to penalties, which we then won.”

However, he did not rule out the possibility of topping even that effort at Brazil 2014.
Even in his hour of glory, Klose, who is behind only Lothar Matthaus as Germany’s most-capped player, was keen to pay tribute to the man whose goalscoring record he had just equalled: “For me Ronaldo is one of the best ever”.

En route to Fortaleza airport after the encounter, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that one of Klose’s younger colleagues on the team bus drew his attention to a message from Ronaldo on Twitter: “Welcome to the club, Klose. I can imagine how happy you must be right now. What a great World Cup!”

Referee designations for matches 33-36

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FIFA has announced the referees for the FIFA World Cup™ matches 33 to 36, the final matches in the preliminary round for Groups A and B.

Proceedings in the match Cameroon v. Brazil will be overseen by Jonas Eriksson, the 40-year-old referee from Sweden. He has already refereed the Group G match between Ghana and the USA in this competition. In previous years, Eriksson has overseen two matches at UEFA EURO 2012 and in the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying stages he was selected to referee the second leg of the CONMEBOL/AFC play-off.

The other match in Group A, Croatia v. Mexico, will kick off simultaneously. It will be officiated by Ravshan Irmatov, 36 years old and the first Uzbek national to referee at the finals of a FIFA tournament to date. At the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, he refereed five matches, including the opening match between South Africa and Mexico, Argentina v. Germany in the quarter-finals and the semi-final encounter between Uruguay and the Netherlands. Earlier in the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, Irmatov took charge of the match Switzerland v. Ecuador.

The match Australia v. Spain – the last for both teams in this competition – will be refereed by Nawaf Shukralla who is 37 years old and from Bahrain. For Shukralla it will be the first match of the tournament. He was selected for his first FIFA competition in 2011, the U-17 World Cup. Since then he has handled games at the FIFA Club World Cup 2012 and the U-20 World Cup 2013.

Match 36 will be the decider in Group B. The Netherlands and Chile both won their first two matches and will be vying for first place. The game will be overseen by Bakary Gassama, 35 years old and the first referee from the Gambia to appear in the FIFA World Cup™. It will be the tournament debut for Gassama, who officiated two matches at the Olympic Football Tournament 2012 and can also list games at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013 and the FIFA Club World Cup 2013 on his CV.

Kompany eager to fulfil Maracana 'dream'

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Belgium captain Vincent Kompany hopes to shrug off a groin problem and fulfil "a childhood dream" by leading his team out to face Russia at the Maracana on Sunday. Marc Wilmots's side can secure a place in the last 16 if they overcome Fabio Capello's Russia in the Group H encounter and Kompany is confident he will be fit enough to play at the fabled stadium for the first time.

"I'm doing very well," the Manchester City defender said on Saturday. "I've followed an individual programme these last two days. Today I'm training with the team. If everything goes well, there won't be any problems for tomorrow (Sunday).

"In the worst case, there are valuable players who can replace me. My personal situation is not the most important thing. Playing at the Maracana is an honour, a source of pride. With Wembley, it's the most mythical stadium in the world. I've already achieved lots of my childhood dreams. This is another one.

"I think that all the players, Belgian and Russian, will share the same extraordinary feeling here. And I think it's the case for the journalists as well."

While the knockout phase already beckons for Belgium, some of their European rivals have not fared nearly as well, with Spain and England already out and Italy's chances of qualifying in the balance. Having played his football in England since 2008, when he joined City from German side Hamburg, Kompany said that he felt particularly sorry to see Roy Hodgson's side exit the competition.

"I'm as sad as any other English supporter. I wasn't expecting that," he said. "My wife is English. She thinks that our children are English. In reality, they're Belgian!" he said while laughing. "So it's understandable that we're sad in my family. I have lots of respect and admiration for England and that won't change despite what happened here."

Messi magic takes Argentina through

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AppId is over the quota

A stunning injury-time goal by Lionel Messi has taken Argentina through to the Round of 16 with a 1-0 win over Iran in Belo Horizonte's Estadio Mineirao. The Barcelona star's late, late winner keeps La Albiceleste top of Group F on six points and leaves the Iranians stuck on one, with Nigeria and Bosnia and Herzegovina set to meet in the section's late kick-off.

Prior to Messi's timely intervention, the match had been a tale of domination and frustration for Alejandro Sabella's side, with a goal remaining elusive due to Iran's determined defending. Gonzalo Higuain had been promoted to starting line-up and he started the game well, setting up first Angel Di Maria and then Sergio Aguero for efforts on goal, the second of which forced an acrobatic save from Alireza Haghighi.

Messi again looked subdued during the opening 45, with his only attempt coming on 33 minutes when he curled a free-kick just over the top right-hand corner. The Argentina captain then set up his team's best chance of the half four minutes later, crossing for Ezequiel Garay, who headed wastefully over from inside the six-yard box.

Iran, meanwhile, spent much of the match with all 11 players behind the ball, although they did offer a threat at set-pieces. They could, in fact, have gone into the interval 1-0 up only for Jalal Hosseini to head inches over after rising highest to meet Ashkan Dejagah's outswinging corner.

Carlos Queiroz's side also carved out a golden opportunity at the start of the second half, when Reza Ghoochannejad's header forced an excellent reflex stop from Sergio Romero after tremendous build-up play by Masoud Shojaei. Romero was again called into action midway through the half, pulling off a magnificent one-handed tip-over after Dejagah had beaten Pablo Zabaleta to bullet a header towards goal. Argentina remained the game's dominant force, though, and came close to breaking the deadlock on the hour-mark when Messi surged forward from midfield and curled a left-foot shot just wide of Haghighi's left-hand post.

However, their efforts became increasingly desperate as Iran's defence held firm, with Marcos Rojo's wayward long-range effort typical of their speculative late attempts. Indeed, Iran could have snatched a win at the death, with Ghoochannejad racing through and firing in a left-foot shot that was heading for the corner before Romero got across to tip wide.

Then, however, Messi provided yet another reminder of his genius. Picking up the ball in a seemingly unthreatening position wide on the right, he cut inside and, from 25 yards, curled an unstoppable left-foot shot into the far corner of the net. With 91 minutes showing on the clock, Argentina - thanks again to their incomparable captain - had won.

Germany, Ghana share spoils in Fortaleza thriller

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AppId is over the quota

Germany and Ghana were forced to settle for a share of the points after their back-and-forth thriller in Fortaleza finished 2-2. All the goals came in the second-half of the Group G contest as strikers Miroslav Klose and Asamoah Gyan both equaled FIFA World Cup™ scoring records.

The Africans had the first chance of the game at the Estadio Castelao. Lively winger Christian Atsu raced up the right and crossed low and dangerously through the area, where Asamoah Gyan was only able to slam the ball over the bar with a sliding effort. Not long after, in the 13th minute, Kwadwo Asamoah stretched Manuel Neuer with a swinging shot from the edge of the box.

It soon became clear that Ghana would be a far tougher proposition for the Germans than Portugal were in their first game. The Africans’ speed and agility caused the Europeans problems throughout the first-half. But Thomas Muller, hat-trick hero from their opening game, continued to look dangerous in attack for the Mannschaft. Near the half-hour mark Sulley Muntari tested Neuer again with a pile-driver from well outside the area that had the German No1 scrambling to punch clear.

Mario Gotze had a snap-shot saved ten minutes from the break. Most of the German attacks up to then fizzled out before any serious danger was caused, slid away by a highly elastic Ghanaian central defensive pairing, who stretched and dove to keep the score-sheet clean.

German coach Joachim Low must have figured things out at the half, because it took his side only six second-half minutes to open the scoring. Gotze snuck in between the centre-backs and hit home a Muller cross from the right with his thigh. The early cross was the secret weapon to unlocking the Ghanaians.

Ghana’s response, however, was immediate and similar. An early cross from the right picked out Andre Ayew, who headed home brilliantly to the back post just seconds after seeing his side go behind. Ghana were suddenly in the mood and Gyan made it 2-1 to the Africans, tying the immortal Roger Milla of Cameroon as the top-scoring African in World Cup history. Muntari picked off a slack pass in midfield and laid on a righteous ball for the racing Gyan, who fired inside the back post to send the Ghanaian fans into ecstasy.

But the Germans weren’t done yet and second-half substitute Miroslav Klose slid home a flicked-on corner-kick in the 71st minute to level the score again. It was the striker’s 15th World Cup goal, bringing him level with Ronaldo as the top marksman in World Cup history. There were chances at either end as the clock wound down, but 2-2 it was to stay.

Germany close out their section campaign against USA on the northern coast in Recife on 26 June, the same time Ghana face Portugal.

Varane and Sakho: Young commanders

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AppId is over the quota

With eight goals in the 'for' column and having served up some lovely attacking interplay, France's front line of Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud and Co has earned plaudits aplenty from the outset at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. The last time Les Bleus had been this prolific at this stage of the tournament was way back in 1958. Until Blerim Dzemaili's 81st-minute strike, Didier Deschamps's side even looked on course to surpass the country's biggest win at the World Cup, dating back to the 7-3 thrashing of Paraguay 56 years ago. But what derailed this potential new record? The departure of centre-half Mamadou Sakho through injury undisputedly had a role to play.

"I felt some pain after going in for a tackle, but I'm OK. I'm going to have a good rest and then tomorrow the medical staff will examine me to see exactly what the situation is," the defender tells, the broad grin on his face instantly dispelling any fears that the problem is anything serious. "It's true that we backed off a bit; we dropped our level somewhat and Switzerland really had a go. We went on to concede twice and all credit to them, but we played our game and stayed focused from beginning to end, and that's what we should take away from the match."

The team are looking strong: it's always easier when everyone on the team is fully committed to doing their bit defensively

Mamadou Sakho, France defender

The Liverpool stopper makes a convincing case and Switzerland's two goals should not detract from the quality of France's performance. It would be unfair to dwell on these minor hiccups or to point the finger at Laurent Koscielny, who put in a combative display after coming on. Nevertheless, it is hard not to draw a link between the piercing of the French rearguard and Sakho being taken off, as until that point he and his fellow young commander Raphael Varane had run an impressively tight ship at the back.

Age is just a number

"I don't think composure only comes with age. Personally speaking it's something I've always had; I think it's something natural," reflects Varane, 21, in an interview with "Mamadou and I just try to do our best for the team. It was a fantastic performance, we put them under a lot of pressure and played with a lot of intensity. When I say 'we', I'm talking about the whole team, not just us centre-backs." True as that may be, despite France having racked up a 3-0 lead by half-time – something Les Bleus hadn't managed at the World Cup since 1978 – it was the two men at the heart of defence who took centre stage.

The young pair took no prisoners at the back, as epitomised by the crunching challenge in which Sakho picked up his knock. On top of that, they had an impact going forward, with Varane the architect behind France's third goal, playing a fantastic ball into space for Giroud, who then crossed for Mathieu Valbuena to fire into the empty net. "It's true that our partnership was on song, but it was a great display across the board," Sakho stresses. "The team are looking strong: it's always easier when everyone on the team is fully committed to doing their bit defensively."

Being able to call on such a talented couple of central defenders certainly helps, too. Having tried out various different combinations before giving the pair their first outing together in the second leg of the Brazil 2014 play-off against Ukraine, in Sakho and Varane Didier Deschamps has found a pair who dovetail superbly. While the former is a feisty, rugged left-footer, the latter is a right-footer with a rangy frame and a cool head. Together, they form a wall that is extremely hard to breach: "We get on very well both on and off the pitch, but I don't think the focus should be on our partnership," Varane hammers home. Any team looking to taste victory against France, however, will have to do just that in order to find a way past the pair.

Dempsey: The States have a 12th man in Brazil

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AppId is over the quota

Forget ‘The Miracle of Belo Horizonte’. Forget Pele bumping down in the Big Apple. Forget the USA providing the stage for sport’s grandest spectacle. Forget Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan leaving their country 16 minutes away from bewildering Brazil and conquering the FIFA Confederations Cup.

Nothing has given soccer in the States a bigger popularity hike than this World Cup and the Stars and Stripes’ 2-1 win over Ghana in their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ curtain-raiser. Barack Obama, Lebron James, Justin Timberlake, Jon 'Bones' Jones, Jimmy Fallon, Ryan Seacrest and Robert Kardashian were among the mega-celebrities who helped smash Twitter records. Many of their tweets were tributes to Clint Dempsey, whose impeccably taken goal after just 30 seconds – and refusal to go off after suffering a broken nose – propelled Jurgen Klinsmann’s men to victory.

FIFA caught up with the 31-year-old to discuss that deadlock-breaker in Natal, his injury, Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo, the terrific support USA have received in Brazil and the Americans’ immense interest in this World Cup.

FIFA: Clint, you shocked the entire crowd by scoring in the first minute. How did that feel?
Clint Dempsey:
It’s what you think about all day. You want to try to help your team do well and you want to try to step up in major competitions and for me, I've been able to do that in three World Cups – three consecutive World Cups – and I was happy I was able to get the goal.

What does scoring in three World Cups mean to you?
Every time you score a goal in a World Cup it's always a dream come true. As I little kid it's what I used to pray about when I'd go to bed, that one day I could play in a World Cup and hopefully score, and I've had the opportunity to do it in three!

USA showed great spirit to not let their heads drop and get the winning goal…

Yeah, I think we have a lot of character in our team. If we had got a draw from the game it would have felt like a loss, even though Ghana had more possession and more chances, just because of the fact that we had led for so much of the game. But being able to come back and get the game-winning goal shows our character and our resilience, that we keep going to the end. That's what we're going to have to do if we want to get out of this group.         

You took a nasty kick to the face against Ghana. How’s the injury?
I'll be better [against Portugal] than I was second-half. I couldn't breathe because I had, I guess, q-tips. I don´t even know what it's called! They're plugs I guess. They put them in your nose, so I couldn't breathe out of my nostrils. Now I can breathe out of my nose, so I'll be fine.
It’s going to be hot in Manaus…
I think it will be a difficult thing that both teams will have to deal with, in terms of how you manage the game because of the humidity and the heat. But at the same time we prepared the best that we could in terms of locations. Our last location that we were at was Jacksonville, Florida. There was a lot of humidity as well there. I mean I grew up in Texas. Some of the boys are used to these conditions but at the end of the day, both teams have to deal with it.

How have you been preparing for Portugal?
Every game is difficult. You prepare the best you can, watch tapes, [look at] strengths and weaknesses, figure out ways that you can exploit their weaknesses and try to give you an advantage to get points from the game, but it's still going to be a difficult game. They have a lot of quality players and we'll have to be at our best to get points. We really want a result because last thing you want is going to the last game needing other teams to try and do you a favour.    

Is there extra focus on stopping Cristiano Ronaldo?         
I think that you have to focus on the team as a whole. Yes, there are players who can make a difference and make something out of nothing, but at the same time you have got to focus on the whole team and figure out a way to manage the game and try to put yourself in the best position to get points.

What do USA need to do to qualify for the next round?
We've got to get more points, hopefully we will do that sooner rather than later. In an ideal world, if you get the three points [against Portugal] then we will be able to go through the group, but that is easier said than done, it's going to be a very difficult game, we will have to be at our best to get points.         
This World Cup has really grabbed the attention in the USA. Does this create added expectations?
Our expectations don't change. It’s always to try to get out of the group and take it from there. In terms of more people in the States getting involved and mainstream America watching these games, it's better for the game, to help continue to grow the game in the States. But our expectations don't change: it's to get out of the group and get into the one-off games. Hopefully we’ll get to the [knockout phase].

The support you received from the US supporters in Natal was pretty overwhelming. What did you make of that?

Yes, it's awesome, because that's the 12th man for you. And to be able to have that feeling of feeling that you're at home is pretty special, especially when I remember playing games in the States when I first got in the national side, where you'd be playing and they'd have more fans than you even in your home country. So now things are starting to change and the fact that we are here in Brazil, and playing in these different stadiums, you feel like you have that home-field advantage. It shows how far the game has come in the States.

Hart: We have to say a thank you

AppId is over the quota
AppId is over the quota

The despondency etched across Joe Hart’s face was borne out by the England goalkeeper’s carefully selected sentences as the prospect of a hasty elimination from the FIFA World Cup™ loomed following a painful 2-1 defeat against Uruguay in Sao Paulo.

It could all have been so much different. With a quarter of an hour remaining on the clock of their second Group D encounter – a crucial one in every sense – the travelling Three Lions supporters found full voice. They had just watched Wayne Rooney find the target at this stage for the first time in his career, restoring parity in the match and faith among the fans.

But a late Luis Suarez blast pushed Roy Hodgson’s team towards the precipice, and players and followers alike watched with hands clasped to faces on Friday as another surprise victory for Costa Rica, 1-0 over the Italians, confirmed that Steven Gerrard and Co, plus those who made the long journey across the Atlantic, would be heading home at quick speed.

They do so with a statistic looming over their head; not since Sweden 1958 have England reached a FIFA World Cup and been eliminated before the knockout rounds got underway. If Hart’s reaction is anything to go by, the feeling is a raw one for all concerned. Yet the Manchester City man was focused more on sending a message to the country’s people.

We’ve given everything, there’s nothing more we can give apart from results

Joe Hart, England goalkeeper

The 27-year-old told “To get all the way to Brazil to come and support us, I can’t thank people enough. I’d like to think I’d do the same if I wasn’t in this team.

“I love my country and I love playing for my country – I’m very proud to represent and be on the pitch for those people that have made the trip and the people back home. I understand not everyone can make it out here. We’ve given everything, there’s nothing more we can give apart from results.”

Two instances of technical perfection from the returning Suarez – a well-known foe in the English Premier League – sent the Brazuca ball flying beyond his outstretched palms, simultaneously resurrecting the South Americans’ hopes while destroying those of Hodgson’s charges.

Sent out by their coach with a remit to continue the promising attacking fervour with which they had previously threatened Italy, Hart believed his team held the upper hand over the two-time FIFA World Cup winners. When the dust had settled, however, the ‘keeper was forced to contemplate the challenge of moving on.

“I felt we were in the driving seat the whole game, even being one goal down,” he added. “We scored with plenty of time to go, we had Uruguay’s backs to the wall. They were defending deep and they’ve got their goal from a long boot. They have not prised us open. It’s incredibly frustrating, but we’ve got to move on.

“It’s a quiet dressing room as you can imagine – a frustrated dressing room. We have played two technically good games, but it doesn’t matter about your technique if you don’t win. We’ve lost two games we felt we could have won, and we haven’t.”

Romero, Argentina’s accidental hero

AppId is over the quota
AppId is over the quota

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ is not exactly working out the way Argentina fans had expected. Yes, La Albiceleste have reached the last 16 with a game to spare, but the comfortable wins and thrilling attacking play they had hoped for has so far failed to materialise.

Alejandro Sabella’s side clinched their place in the knockout rounds with a hard-fought 1-0 defeat of Iran at a packed Estadio Mineirao on Saturday, a victory that owed much to a superlative performance by Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

Speaking to afterwards, the AS Monaco custodian was quick to play down his role and deflect praise on to one Lionel Messi: “I’m happy about my contribution but the only reason we won today thanks to El Enano, who rubbed the lamp and settled the match.”

“Did you see what he did?” said Romero as a winking Messi passed by. “I saw it from the other end of the pitch. It was just one of his typical moves. He cut in from the right and curled it in with his instep. From where I was standing you could see the keeper was nowhere near it. And with these big screens, you get to enjoy it a lot more.”

Answering the doubters
A FIFA U-20 World Cup winner and Olympic champion, the ever-modest Romero has silenced the many critics who questioned his place in Sabella’s side.

“I know I haven’t been playing that much in France but I’ve always set my sights on being ready and in shape whenever I get the call to go to El Predio (Argentina’s training centre).”

The keeper has been true to his word. His outstretched hands helped keep the game goalless when the Iranians threatened time and again on the break in the second half.

“We knew they were going to put everyone behind the ball and that things were going to get tough,” acknowledged Romero, who admitted to experiencing some doubts prior to Messi’s winner. “The hardest save was from the downward header by (Reza) Ghoochannejad because you never know where the ball’s going to go when it bounces. Luckily, I was able to get my hands in the right place.”

Continuing to analyse Argentina’s awkward afternoon, Argentina’s No1 said: “You start to get negative thoughts, don’t you? It looked like we weren’t going to win and that we’d have to start thinking about the Bosnia-Nigeria game and getting the calculator out. But luckily everything worked out and the fans could go away happy.”

Acknowledging the support La Albiceleste have had so far, Romero added: “They’ll be there every time we play. Sometimes they wait outside our training base and sing their songs. We’re working hard to make them happy.”

Before signing off and making his way to the hundreds of cameras and microphones, Romero commented on the yellow shirt he wears on the field of play: “In Brazil of all places. It’s a bit strange, isn’t it?”

Taking his leave, he had a message for Argentina’s army of fans: “Our aim is to be here for 30 days, but we’re not going to talk about the title. The fans should know that we’re going to keep on giving everything we have. We’re not even easing off in the training sessions. Nobody wants to miss them, which is a really good sign.”

Bresciano: The best dream I could have

From Germany to Brazil over South Africa the Mark Brescianos FIFA World Cup ™ has been a history of ample height and precious travel some lows. And now it looks to be over.

Which seems to be things the 34-year-old probably his fellow Socceroos veteran, Tim Cahill, connect and to watch their final against Spain from the sidelines. In Brescianos case, it's injuries, which tells his participation the midfielder to play FIFA, is: "it looks not so good.

"I'm very disappointed," he said. "I struggled with my back up to the World Cup, and we did everything possible to get it right. The medical staff was awesome and got me back on my feet. But if you have injuries, revealed other problems begin and it's hard to carry the games. I felt 100 percent against the Dutch, and things have been steadily progressing. We're going to try to do everything possible, yet but it looks like I might miss."

The realization that he has played in all probability after his last World Cup match, resulted in Bresciano assessment of his experiences. And during the tournament occasionally frustration and disappointment brought him has, the midfielder predominant feeling is one of gratitude.

"It was a great honor," he said. "Growing up, I don't think, I dreamed even in a World Championship to play, because Australia, at least never made the World Championships I was as a child. Only then you can play imagine at a World Cup, how much it meant. Now I had the opportunity to be represented my country in three different world cups. "It's the best dream I've ever had could have had."

Brescianos words there is a touching sincerity, and question as he reflects with pride me Australia's World Cup adventure. And although each edition has had its own unique properties and qualities, the midfielder did not hesitate to discovery be favorite.

"It would 2006", he said. "It was all the first time for us and emotions were flying everywhere. I was very excited to be there, and I didn't really know what to expect. The best moment of all was probably the game against Croatia, as Harry Kewell, that goal to equalize, knowing that we would go through to the next stage. But you know what? I've been watching rear do not always match. I'm pretty sure that I'm the one who crossed the ball into the box for the target. I'm not sure what happened - maybe there was a small scuffle in the field or something - but it landed on Harry's feet and he has it just gone."

That back and forth swinging Kewells right boat will be anchored in the Aussie football folklore has and but has played countless times - clearly not from Bresciano - in the years since. But while the Socceroos midfielder thinking about such magical moments not tired, is he as well it be interested to look at Ange expects Postecoglou, too bright a future.

He said: "appointment of an Aussie coach was a good thing, because personally, I think we lost the Aussie spirit in the team, with so many different coaches from different countries. [Since Postecoglous appointment] I think we found the right spirit and we're running and fighting. He's a very motivated person, and I see a great future for the Socceroos. We see that we develop good players and we have proved that we can compete against some of the best teams in the world in the last two games."

As well as hacks praise Postecoglou, Bresciano acknowledged a longtime colleague, aimed have once again illuminated the Aussies World Cup campaign a warm. By Cahill, he said: "I know very few players with the hunger he has. To you shoot as many goals as he has the desire and hunger before the gate - need, also in training. I think he very determined he does what in all. If he says he wants to do something, he would do it, and in a very special way. "Basically, what you see on the pitch he is off the pitch, the character is."

That future could be the same Bresciano and Australia - bright or not - will no doubt poorer without these two venerable veterans.

Odemwingie siegt gegen bekannte Gesichter

Even before Nigeria to the field had taken over, it was clear that among friends at the Bosnia and Herzegovina forward Peter Odemwingie. With a broad smile and a contagious laugh, the Stoke City striker not only a popular motif in its own ranks, but an important part of Defense seemed opposition is to love him - or at least until his goal-scoring turn in Cuiabá elimination from the tournament sealed the Bosnians.

The figures in white embrace and chat with the soon-to be man of the match were Club team-mate Asmir Begovic and opposing Captain Emir Spahic, informed that the pitch of the Nigerian at Lokomotiv Moscow. The fact that their interaction was warm after the final whistle despite his solitary goal prematurely ends the European World Cup debut, a telling and touching reminder that football is only a game.

But despite his insider knowledge on which you would have prevailed over Begovic between the bars which he would attempt to beat, Odemwingie beckons as asked by, he... "(Laughs) No, I don't think such save one of the stronger sides of his game is shooting from close" after slots under large Bosnian from seven yards in the first half of the year the Super Eagles to any 1: 0 victory.

"He's a great guy. He knows I've got a good shot and I tried to shoot a couple of times today. I'm sure he will scold me if I come to stoke [laughs], back", said the bubbly, born in the present-day Uzbekistan, before taking a more sincere tone. "I had to do it for my country, but I was so happy to see him on the stage and I exchanged shirts with him at the end of the game."

See your friends come in this World Cup, especially with [ENG] as a captain, I can say only his pride, that they are my friends.

Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie on opposite Asmir Begand Emir Spahic by Bosnia and Herzegovina

He reflected the feelings, Spahics name has been raised, most recently to have played in 2009 in the Russian Premier League in addition to the commanding central defender. "I was happy to see him," he said lovingly. "We played together for about two or three good seasons so, see your friends come in this World Cup, especially with him as captain, only his pride I can say that they are my friends."

Understandably jovial Odemwingie laughed wondered whether he his fellow Super Eagles over how it had been passed the upper hand tips about his two friends in the opposing dressing room. "I told only my teammates, that's very dangerous with the head [ENG]," he said, before one friendly look in his eyes as a familiar picture a wandered towards him in the bowels of the arena Panatanl. The Nigerian continued to scream this time with a smile on his face: "he is not so great, but you should take care how he can score with his head."

A loud laughter met this response, which embraced his victorious opponent for the night shortly before the San. Odemwingie enquires, while the Bosnian now located near empty Stadium (a trip for a mandatory doping test the answer) is around and that a quick few chat in Russian, together before Andrew for his team bus left. Farewell request Odemwingie Spahic and co Nigeria against the Iran dropped came a look from the outgoing captain, that this particular friend pushing his luck was.

The Bosnians should avoid defeat it would be a huge boost for Nigeria, but who knows that a point against Argentina ride after worthy of the first victory since 1998 - a stretch of nine matches in the round of 16 would guarantee. "We so long waited for this victory," said Odemwingie. "I am so happy for the country, our fans, the team. It was one of the toughest three points in my career maybe, but."

Not the opening 0-0 draw against the Iran, but as a vibrant figure started after the arrival of the Bank, he hopes he has done enough to start game last in the decisive. "I've earned me a starting position and it was important to work today to keep hard it, especially in a big game like Argentina, which is a dream for every player to play."

With a little help from his friends Odemwingie will be pleased on matching Nigeria's biggest ever performance at the World Cup 1994 thrown back. It is however unlikely that he so hot is accepted by his opposition, as he was in Cuiabá.

Costly: I laid the Honduran curse to rest

AppId is over the quota
AppId is over the quota

After a wait of no fewer than 32 years, Honduras have finally found the net once more at the FIFA World Cup™, Carlo Costly ending what had become something of a curse for Los Catrachos in their 2-1 defeat by Ecuador at Curitiba’s Arena da Baixada. “During the game it made my very happy and we celebrated it to the full, but it was a shame it wasn’t enough for us to get the win,” said the striker, who plays for Real Espana back in his homeland.

The hard-running attacker’s 31st-minute effort not only put La H in front versus Group E rivals La Tri, it also ended his country’s run of 511 goalless World Cup minutes, just six before they would have moved level with Bolivia’s unwanted record of 517. Prior to Costly, the last man to score for Honduras at the global showpiece was Eduardo Laing, who netted against Northern Ireland on 21 June 1982 in Spain.

“I was so happy when I scored that goal, because 32 years is a long time and a difficult barrier to overcome,” said Costly, speaking to after the game. “That myth, that curse which has been hanging over us for so long, has been laid to rest now but, even so, we’ve still got a slightly bitter taste in our mouths because we had a great chance of winning the game. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way, but we played well so we can hold our heads up high.

“It might well be the most important goal I’ve scored in my career, because it’s not every day you play in a World Cup and score. It might be remembered for a while, but I’m not looking for individual recognition, I’m trying to get Honduras through to the next round.”

Defeat against Ecuador was a major blow to that objective, however, with Honduras desperate for a positive result ahead of their final group match versus Switzerland.

“We needed a bit more concentration, particularly in dead-ball situations," said Costly. "We weren’t quite clinical enough either, so we’ll need to work on that too.

"Still, I thought we did well. Even when we conceded the second goal, we threw everything forward in attack and had a few chances – we were just lacking a finishing touch.

“You have to try and make as few mistakes as possible. For the free-kick [which led to Ecuador’s winner], we committed a foul we shouldn’t have done, but we need to get our heads up now. We’ve worked very hard to get here and we’re not going to give in so easily.”

Yet the task facing Honduras is certainly sizeable, Costly and Co needing to beat Switzerland by several goals and hope France down Ecuador to have a chance of reaching the Round of 16.

“Hope is the last thing you lose, as they say, but we know it’ll be a very tough match against the Swiss because we know their game well,” said the 31-year-old, who has tasted club football in no fewer than eight countries. “We’re still hopeful and we’ve got faith that everything will turn out well, that’s what we’re clinging on to.”

Costly, whose father Allan played at Spain 1982 and who was born mere days after that year’s competition finished, also found time to explain his unusual shirt number, before taking his leave. “First of all I used No13 because it got given to me, but then I got a feel for it and it’s been really good for me,” he said with a smile. “I’ve always scored goals when wearing that number and now, wherever I go, I make sure I ask for it!”

Afful speed ahead for Ghana

There were only five minutes before an electrifying encounter between Ghana and Germany. Both sides had revealed no inch of turf in the Estadio Castelao and the score was locked to 2-2. However, despite the heat and humidity in Fortaleza - strength juice there conditions for each player - a man who continues to calculate the pitch, dashing back, to win the ball, before the thundering w. Upfield again, to send in a dangerous cross.

This man was Ghana No23 Harrison Afful who were patrolling the Black Stars right flank, seemed to have all game long but even more speed and power than all the other 21 players on the field. A relatively unknown name on a global scale, to stay longer to FIFA World Cup ™ expected value of a random variable, Afful unlikely, as these benefits in 2014 in the shadow.

How could you have stayed, such can phenomenal athlete under the radar for so long, especially almost twenty-eight questions? The answer is simple: Afful has never played in European football. He has not lacked, promotions, but the all action Defender has still preferred with Tunisian Giants Espérance Sportive de Tunis, where he has spent the last four years.

"I had offers, but I do not feel that they were right for me," said a smiling and refreshingly modest Afful, in an interview with after the Germany game. "I am happy in Tunis and they have treated me always very well, I would not leave only to something new try." On the other hand, when an interesting opportunity come my way, of course I it would hold, "he added with a twinkle in his eyes."

Hope still intact
The Primera División of course has more strings to his bow than just speed and endurance. Citing a never-say-die attitude as another strength, Afful is technical quality remarkably well, as shown when he sent in the exact cross, André Ayew Ghana level 1: 1 head enabled.

"It [the spirit] is a part of me." If I didn't, not myself would be,"said the little Dynamo. "Since I was very young, I quickly and I liked ever with the ball when I'm nearby so I have to go looking for it." Moreover, I love my country and my team-mates, so I never will stop, everything I have to help them."

How Afful Ghana's chances of moving from Group G, now, that their fate in their hands, not alone? "It's a shame, that we win today could not. It would be great to get all three points have been. But we ran us into the ground, and against a team of the caliber of Germany played really well", he said before emerging with a vow of all-stars of Black supporters. "We have to go one more game and we will give it to go through everything. If we do not qualify, not from lack of effort it."

Ignashevich is living the dream

AppId is over the quota
AppId is over the quota

The Maracana is a place that has helped create many a legendary figure of the game. Its iconic stands have held millions of fans over the years who have watched their idols shine for club and country, while images from its games have been beamed into homes around the globe, from Australia to Zimbabwe.

It now looks set to be a key venue in deciding where the latest set of would-be heroes for a generation of young Russians sit in history, as they step out on to the hallowed turf facing a tough and testing encounter against Belgium in 2014 FIFA World Cup™ Brazil Group H. Having not featured in the competition since 2002, these 23 domestic-based players have the chance to leave an indelible mark in the memories of youthful football fans who had not seen their countrymen perform on the global stage before their trip to South America.

Discovering the World Cup for the first time is an occasion that Sergey Ignashevich, centre-back for the Eastern Europeans, remembers fondly, back when his love for football was blossoming during Italy 1990. “In childhood we would watch football with friends, we would watch the World Cup. Straight afterwards, we would come out into the yard to try to repeat what we had seen,” the imposing defender recalled in conversation with FIFA.

“We would imagine that we were [Diego] Maradona, [Roberto] Baggio, [Marco] Van Basten and other great players. And straight afterwards, we would come out to show each other how to attack a ball, how to throw it above one's head, imitating and trying to be like them. But we didn't ever have such down-to-earth thoughts like that we would want to play in the World Cup.”

He no doubt hopes that, with the Russian flag flying in Brazil, kids across the country back home will be pretending to be the likes of Alexander Kerzhakov, Victor Fayzulin and perhaps Ignashevich himself. The white, blue and red of Russia will also surely be furiously waved in front of many a television set too, just as the CSKA Moscow man did 24 years ago. “I prepared myself for that championship. I drew flags of all the national teams on a piece of paper," he said, mapping out his fresh-faced enthusiasm.

“I watched all the games in a row. For example, if there was a match between Argentina and Cameroon, I drew the flag of Argentina and the flag of Cameroon. And in front of the TV, would hold a piece of paper with a flag of Argentina, the team I was supporting at that time.”

We would imagine that we were Maradona, Baggio, Van Basten... but we didn't ever have such down-to-earth thoughts like that we would want to play in the World Cup.

Russia's Sergey Ignashevich on his boyhood memories of Italy 1990

But if that boy had been told he would be one day playing in the same arena where the likes of Brazilian and world stars of the game had trodden, Ignashevich doubts the ten-year-old Muscovite would have believed it. “In our childhood we could hardly dream of playing at this stadium... It's world famous. This will be a special event for all of us in our football career.”

While the occasion is huge, the game itself is not lacking in importance. From the Russian perspective, defeat would leave progression from the group stage out of their hands. They have not achieved this since 1986 – when still appearing as the USSR. “The match, of course, will be very difficult and very important for us. And I don't doubt that we will give our all and I am confident will play better than in the match against [Korea Republic],” Ignashevich said. 

That game in Cuiaba did not all go according to plan, as a mistake by Igor Akinfeev saw them go behind, before a late Kerzhakov goal rescued a point, but the 2018 hosts had struggled prior to that as well. “Nervousness prevented us [playing at our best]. I think in the first half we made many unforced mistakes which was unusual for us. And I first of all put it down to nervousness.

“But we showed our character only after [going behind], when we understood that everything was slipping through our fingers. [Fabio] Capello has been saying today that, now we have experienced the level of the World Cup, that nervousness we talked about should disappear.”

While the cacophonous atmosphere provided by the Maracana can invoke nerves in even the biggest stars, there will be a legion of ten-year-olds, 7,000 miles away, who will be full of trepidation as Ignashevich lines up too, hoping he and his team-mates can give the Russian fans a memory to savour.

Feghouli: Little things make all the difference

Algerian supporters would have his FIFA World Cup Brazil ™ approaching their country 2014 opener against Belgium with a certain trepidation, given the fact that their heroes on the edge of the is with a most unwanted from the competition statistical records were saddled.

If Les Fennec is not found before the 36th minute in the network, she would have been through the longest goalless sequence in the history of the World Cup. Algeria had not since Djamel Zidane's strike against Northern Ireland in Mexico 1986 - football - scored a run of 506 consecutive minutes but with Bolivia's apparent 517 minutes finally found a way in the tournament to the target.

The North Africans a penalty was awarded in the 25th minute of the encounter of Group H, after foul on Sofiane Feghouli from Belgian Defender Jan Vertonghen. While the whole country the breath held, the dynamic playmaker, even picked up, his composure and slot held his spot kick right next to the diving Thibaut Courtois.

This was in contrast to two Spanish League matches between Valencia and Atletico Madrid this season in the Algerian footballer no way past the impressive goalkeeper could find. "I'm so proud of it, finally shot a goal for Algeria after these 28 years of waiting. It was one of the biggest moments in my career; the sense of joy was indescribable", Feghouli, 24, told after the game.

"At the world championships a dream I had as a young boy is represented Algeria. I for the first time to kick a ball around on the street, when I was a kid, and today, I a goal in the World Cup in Brazil shot. It is amazing! The Algerian people had waited this moment for a very long time, "he continued.

Korean challenge
Feghouli was the glee short-lived, as the game completely in the second half turned Rouges Les Diables and extend to depriving themselves of the Algerians a valuable World Cup victory their winless on seven.

However, was the former Grenoble player despite the 2-1-defeat pleased with the teamwork. "We held out for 70 minutes against one of the strongest Nations in the World Cup. We have learned a lot from the game. As a young team, we have nothing to lose, "he explained.

"It's always disappointing to lose, but we need the positive aspects, in particular the manner note we played as a unit. We fought to show great teamwork, and that's why I still think we reach the knockout stage, "the skilful African added.

To achieve this goal, Feghouli and his team-mates must have the upper hand over South Korea on Sunday, also have their eyes on the qualification for the knockout stage. "There are no easy matches in this tournament; the level is very high, "he said.

"We are 100 percent against the South Koreans. There is often little things that make all the difference, as we have seen the Belgium match. At this level can tiny mistake will be expensive. We are now very focused and in a different way, these problems caused and want to play in the search after the victory.

"We are backed by 40 million fans back home, as well as the entire Arab world. We have therefore a great responsibility. We always try to give everything that we have in any game, so that they can be proud of us, and we have no intention to change this habit "closed the Algerian No10, who his debut against Gambia in February 2012 made.

As it is against Belgium Feghouli write a new chapter in the history of Algerian football and propelling his teammates to their first World Cup success since a 3-2-be confident victory over Chile in Spain 1982.