Argentina will face Germany in the Finals after beating Holland 4-2 in Penalties!

Lionel Messi, the best player of his generation, now faces the best team of this World Cup, Germany, in Sunday’s mouth-watering final in Rio. Messi was one of Argentina’s four successful penalty-takers as they deservedly overcame the ultra-defensive Dutch after two stultifying hours of football.

The Germans must have been looking on from afar, smiling at the sight of their next opponents straining their sinews in the rain. They will have looked at Argentina and know they are superior, particularly if they can ensnare Messi as the Dutch did.

Messi is a special player, a talent who deserves this final chance, but he was unable to impose himself until the shoot-out. But he now has the stage to parade his undeniable gifts. The world will be watching. Those who chronicle the first draft of history will judge on events at Maracana whether Messi can be hailed as a legend of the game along with his compatriot Diego Maradona, with Pele, the man who so graced Maracana, and with Alfredo di Stefano, whose memory was saluted emotionally before kick-off here.

Victory for Messi and company ensures the re-establishment of one of the great historic World Cup fixtures, a match that has been decided down the years by shoot-outs, by German routs, even a post-match ruck and most famously in two finals.

Sunday represents a repeat of the 1986 World Cup final whenArgentina prevailed in the Azteca in Mexico City. It will give Messi the opportunity to match the Maradona, who was tightly marked by the West Germans but still managed to sweep that pass through for Jorge Burruchaga to beat Harald Schumacher and win the trophy. Messi was closely shadowed by the Dutch and he faces a huge task to unravel Germany’s defence.

It is also a repeat of the climax of Italia 90 when this time the Germans won with a late penalty kick from Andreas Brehme in Rome. Pope Francis will have been watching on with interest, supporting his native Argentina as they held their nerve in penalties.

Holland had to look to Jasper Cillessen as their keeper for the shoot-out as Louis van Gaal had used up all his subs so was unable to bring on Tim Krul, who had thwarted Costa Rica in the quarter-finals. But this was all about Argentina’s keeper, about Sergio Romero, who had played under Van Gaal at AZ Alkmaar.

It was surprising seeing a defender, Ron Vlaar, walking up to take Holland’s first penalty. Vlaar had been terrific all game, making key interceptions, but it was still a shock with more technical players available. Romero promptly saved from the Aston Villa centre-half and the pressure was heaped on Holland.

Cillessen tried to put Messi off but the little genius stayed calm, and swept his penalty home. Arjen Robben stepped forward, and coolly slotted his kick low to Romero’s left. Ezequiel Garay took a long run-up and slammed his penalty in, keeping the pressure on the Dutch.

Next up was Wesley Sneijder, whose right-footed shot was saved by Romero as the Argentina fans went crazy with delight. Their joy was unconfined when Sergio Aguero stroked his kick in. Dirk Kuyt had to score and he did, sending Romero the wrong way. But then came Maxi Rodriguez, formerly of Liverpool, converting the decisive kick. A broad smile spread across Messi’s face.

When Messi’s name was read out almost three hours earlier, Argentinian cheers drowned out mock Dutch boos. Yet one of Messi’s first acts was to foul Nigel De Jong, slightly against the natural order. With the Dutch defensive and organised, Messi was faced with a difficult task to escape the orange maze.

Few of the stars got going before the break. Robin Van Persie and Robben were disappointing, failing to elude Argentinian defenders who had shown real signs of improvement as the World Cup has progressed and have now not been breached for 373 minutes.

Far from the highs of the other semi-final Belo Horizonte, this was low key. The game shifted listlessly from end to end. Argentina were marginally the brighter. “Messi, Messi” chorused the fans in blue and white as their idol addressed a free-kick. Messi struck the ball low and hard, sending it curling round the wall but it was superbly caught by Cillessen, diving to his right.

Both sets of supporters sought to lift their players. The Argentinians leapt up and down, waving scarves, flags and banners. The Dutch formed splashes of orange all around Arena Corinthians. There were some Brazilians in attendance, but still subdued after Belo Horizonte.

The neatest touch of the half came from a keeper, Cillessen, who dummied Gonzalo Higuain with a body swerve that Johan Cruyff would have been proud of. After a couple of seconds, and with the ball safely transferred forward, Cillessen glanced back at Higuain, who stared back, unimpressed.

Messi was finding little pockets of space but was also finding Dutch in close company. De Jong was never further than a few yards away. Sneijder tracked him. So did Daley Blind, and most painfully Bruno Martins Indi, who deliberately baulked the No 10 twice and was booked.

The game was meandering. Robben and Van Persie were failing to link up.

Argentina kept trying to break through the Dutch defence but found Vlaar indomitable. Rather unrecognisable from his Aston Villa self, Vlaar dispossessed Higuain but then conceded a free-kick with a challenge on the Argentinian No 9 which had something of the line-backer about it.

Messi continued to be stopped through fair means and foul, such as a body-check from Clasie. As Messi recovered, Perez flew down the right, drilling a cross towards the near-post but Higuain could find only the side-netting.

Higuain and Enzo Perez were then taken off for Sergio Aguero and Rodrigo Palacio. Cillessen was almost caught out by a Marcos Rojo long-ranger. Robben almost prevented extra time with a driving run down the inside-left channel. He could have shot earlier but took the extra touch, allowing Javier Mascherano to stretch out a leg and divert his shot.

During extra time, Robben went on one of those runs but ran down a cul de sac. He then cut in from the right, wrong-footing Rojo and bringing a low save from Romero. Almost 100 minutes and the Dutch had their first shot on target.

Argentina, missing the creativity of the injured Angel Di Maria, formed another huddle, taking more words of inspiration from Alejandro Sabella at the midway point of extra time. Cillessen then turned Aguero as confidently as he had guided the ball past Higuain. Palacio could have won it when clear through but his header was too weak and Cillessen caught the ball easily. Messi then raced away from Vlaar and Kuyt, lifting in a cross that Rodriguez wasted, shooting straight at Cillessen. He made no mistake with his penalty, giving Messi, Argentina and their huge hordes of fans their final dream. In Brazil’s backyard.

Italy and England out of World Cup While Suarez “bites” Chiellini !


Uruguay skipper Diego Godin scored to send Italy crashing out of the World Cup Tuesday but the South Americans’ striker Luis Suarez faced a new biting storm.

Costa Rica’s drab 0-0 draw with England ensured that the Central Americans finished top of Group D.

Uruguay beat Italy 1-0 in the tense match in which the Europeans ended with 10-men and left the World Cup at the group phase for the second time in succession.

But amid the celebrations, immediate attention fell on a clash between Suarez and Italian defender Ciorgio Chiellini, who showed teeth marks in his shoulder after.

Television replays showed Suarez – who has twice been sanctioned for biting players – appearing to attempt to sink his teeth into Chiellini’s shoulder in an off-the-ball incident.

Chiellini was in no doubt Suarez – who was seen sitting on the ground feeling his teeth after the incident – had bitten him.

“He bit me it’s clear I still have the mark,” said an aggrieved Chiellini.

Italy won the 2006 World Cup, then failed to reach the last 16 in South Africa four years ago. They required only a draw against Uruguay at Estadio das Dunas in Natal to go through this time.

However, the Azzurri suffered a critical blow early in the second half when Claudio Marchisio was sent off for a studs-up challenge.

Soon after the Suarez-Chiellini incident, Godin rose in a crowded box and the ball rebounded off his shoulder to beat Buffon in the 81st minute.

Uruguay’s win means they leapfrog Italy to join Costa Rica in the last 16 of the tournament.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli deployed a 3-5-2 designed to tighten the Azzurri defense and give them attacking options on the wings with Matteo Darmian and Mattia De Sciglio.

But despite a solid display in a scoreless first-half, the Azzurri’s hunt for goals – led by Ciro Immobile and Mario Balotelli – reaped no reward.

On the half hour Marco Veratti dispossessed Cavani to launch Balotelli but the striker failed to release as Immobile ran through into an offside position.

Minutes later Andrea Pirlo’s smart short pass found De Sciglio on the left but the wingback’s pinpoint delivery to unmarked Immobile was volleyed off target.

Italy were composed, but minutes before halftime Buffon had to make two critical saves to keep the score sheet clean, first stopping Suarez’s snap-shot down low with his left arm and then denying Nicolas Lodeiro from the follow-up.

Prandelli replaced Balotelli with midfielder Parolo at halftime, a tactical switch that suggested the Azzurri would happily hold on for the scoreless draw.

On 58 minutes Cristian Rodriguez sent a great chance wide of the target after a smart one-two with Suarez on the left flank.

Moments later, Marchisio was given his marching orders for his challenge on Egidio Arevalo.

The decision had the expected impact, and after Suarez burst through confidently on 65 minutes Buffon had to get down low to block with his arm.

Italy were still finding space, though, and a Pirlo through ball found Immobile only for the striker to be charged down as he was about to pull the trigger.

Prandelli replaced Immobile with Cassano, but despite Italy again finding opportunities on the counter Uruguay’s insistence deep in Italian territory finally paid off.

The hosts gave away a corner, which Godin met with conviction to leave Buffon with no chance.

Italy rallied in desperation in the dying minutes, when Buffon ran up the field to leave his net empty, but to no avail.

France beats Switzerland 5-2 and Bryan Ruiz drives Costa Rica past Italy!


  • Switzerland are ending the game the stronger of the two sides, but France won’t mind given their general performance. It’s a case of too little, too late for the Swiss, who have only grown into the game as Les Bleus took their foot off the gas.
  • 90`
    There are three minutes of stoppage time in the second half.
  • 89`
    Switzerland are laying siege to the French box in the late stages, with Xhaka really looking motivated to retain his place in the starting eleven against Honduras. The introduction of Dzemaili at the break has certainly improved Hitzfeld’s side, but they’ll still be disappointed to have seen their shrewd defensive record dashed tonight.
  • 88`
    Yellow Card Yohan Cabaye
  • 87`
    Assist Gökhan Inler
  • AdTech Ad
    Goal Granit Xhaka
  • 87`
    GOOOOOOAL! SWITZERLAND HAVE TWO! Xhaka fires home emphatically at the back post, after being released by a very tidy through ball from Inler. He blasts home on the volley with his left foot, displaying some outrageously good technique!
  • 86`
    Shaqiri forces Lloris into a good save, as the goalkeeper gets down smartly to his right to palm the Bayern man’s effort away. He only needs half a chance to try his luck, Shaqiri has been fairly unlucky not to have found the back of the net this evening.
  • 85`
    Lichtsteiner breaks down the right yet again, but Koscielny puts in a good block to deny the Juve man. France clear their lines, with the Swiss forced back towards their own goal yet again. Dzemaili tries to find Xhaka with a crossfield ball, but the goalscorer’s pass bobbles out of play.
  • 83`
    France don’t have the clean sheet they would have so desperately wanted, but the scoreline is still more than convincing. Griezmann is given a runout in place of Valbuena, who earns an embrace from his coach as he leaves the field of play.
  • AdTech Ad
    SubstitutionMathieu ValbuenaAntoine Griezmann
  • 81`
    Goal Blerim Dzemaili
  • 81`
    GOOOOAL! WHAT AN EFFORT FROM DZEMAILI! The substitute lines up a 30-yard free-kick, which zips through the wall and into the bottom right corner. Benzema is the culprit, with the striker shielding his face rather than concentrating on doing his job. A good strike nevertheless and Switzerland have a consolation goal.
  • 80`
    Senderos releases Mehmedi down the left hand side with a hopeful clearance, but the Freiburg man is closed down effectively by Debuchy. France continue to be professional and efficient in their outlook, with Switzerland unable to find anything in the way of penetration.
  • 78`
    France look extremely comfortable, with this defeat leaving Switzerland with a lot to do if they are to pick themselves up for their fixture against Ecuador. The French supporters are jubilant and so they should be.
  • 76`
    Sissoko exchanges a one-two with Debuchy down the right hand side, before the former squares a cross to Valbuena, who fires straight at Benaglio. France attack again, with Matuidi drawing another save out of the Swiss goalkeeper, before Senderos acrobatically clears his lines.
  • 75`
    A quarter of an hour remains and Switzerland will be hoping for the final whistle to arrive as soon as possible. The crowd are mocking the Swiss, cheering as France hold onto possession comfortably, just to add insult to injury. They’ve been awful this evening.
  • 73`
    Goal Moussa Sissoko
  • 73`
    Assist Karim Benzema
  • 73`
    GOOOOOOAL! SISSOKO NETS THE FIFTH FOR FRANCE! Inler gives away possession needlessly, before a quick French break presents Sissoko with a chance at the back post. The Newcastle midfielder fires a low finish beyond Benaglio and into the far corner!
  • 72`
    Cabaye slots Evra through on goal, before the Man United left-back tries to stab a dinked finish over the advancing Benaglio. It heads high and wide, despite his claims of the ‘keeper making a save.
  • 71`
    XHAKA GOES CLOSE! He’s been a real handful in the air, this time turning Rodriguez’s cross across the face of goal! France look unable to deal with him, but he simply can’t hit the target.
  • 69`
    SubstitutionHaris SeferovicJosip Drmic
  • 69`
    France are looking in fantastic shape, without any suggestion that their form is going to dip any time soon. They’ve been solid throughout, with Lloris looking more than capable on the rare occasions that Switzerland have tested him. The French national anthem rings around the stadium once again.
  • 67`
    Assist Paul Pogba
  • 67`
    Goal Karim Benzema
  • 67`
    GOOOOOOOOAL! BENZEMA SCORES TO MAKE IT FOUR FOR FRANCE! It’s another mistake from Switzerland to allow the Real Madrid man in behind, before a wonderful improvised finish from the Frenchman squeezes in between Benaglio’s legs! Wonderful outside of the boot assist from Pogba!
  • 66`
    SubstitutionMamadou SakhoLaurent Koscielny
  • 66`
    Sakho limps off the field after appearing to feel some tightness in his hamstring, with Koscielny the man to replace him. Not something France will be wanting to see, but the change allows for Deschamps to ensure that his first choice central defender is well rested for their next fixture.
  • 64`
    BIG CHANCE FOR MEHMEDI! Lichtsteiner breaks to the byeline, before clipping a cross to the back post which floats over Debuchy! Mehmedi takes a touch, but Lloris is incredibly quick off his line to pressure the Freiburg man and force him to panic and fire over.
  • 63`
    SubstitutionOlivier GiroudPaul Pogba
  • 63`
    Xhaka is nearly picked out at the back post by an early cross from Rodriguez, but Evra does just enough to put his man off. Deschamps looks to his bench, with Pogba replacing Giroud, which should mean that Benzema will be France’s number nine.
  • 62`
    A lull in both the game and the atmosphere in Salvador, as France look to close space and remain hard to play through. If Switzerland were to find an unlikely goal, things might liven up a little, but otherwise this is going to be a routine second half for Les Bleus.
  • 60`
    Half an hour remains for Switzerland to drag themselves into this game, or at least soften the blow to their goal difference. Benzema sees a shot deflected over the crossbar by Djourou with Benaglio wrong-footed. France are comfortable and the Swiss don’t seem to have any questions to pose to their opponents.
  • 58`
    DZEMAILI GOES CLOSE! The substitute is pressured by Sakho, but the shot evades the French defender and whistles narrowly over the crossbar. It seemed to open up for the Napoli man, but from 30 yards the odds were always against him.
  • 57`
    Switzerland spread play wide to Shaqiri well, with the Bayern man taking a wonderful first touch. Debuchy and Varane double up well on the Swiss midfielder, with the latter sliding in to put the ball into touch. France continue to frustrate their opposition.
  • 55`
    France transition quickly once again, with Benzema feeding Giroud. The Arsenal man takes a poor touch, which bobbles behind him, but recovers well. He shifts the ball onto his left foot, before arrowing an effort out of play for a goal-kick. He puts up an apologetic hand.
  • 54`
    France haven’t pressed forward too readily in the opening ten minutes of this half and appear happy to absorb some pressure. Their lightning counter attacks will be something that Switzerland will be paranoid about. Shaqiri turns Sissoko, before releasing a long-range effort that he drags terribly wide.
  • 52`
    Shaqiri delivers a dangerous cross into the front post from a free-kick, but Matuidi does just enough to ensure that Xhaka isn’t able to steer a header inside the upright. France concede a corner, but the Gladbach man once again fails to hit the target after meeting Shaqiri’s delivery.
  • 51`
    Seferovic ambitiously tries to sweep a left-footed effort across goal and inside the far post, but Lloris is confident enough to let the ball bobble behind for a goal-kick. Drmic will be confident that he will see some second half action, given the Real Sociedad man’s lacklustre display.
  • 50`
    A fractured start to the second half, with both outfits giving away possession cheaply. Switzerland know that they need the mother of all comebacks if they are to take any points from this game, but have moved the ball fairly sharply in the early minutes since the restart.
  • 48`
    Giroud tries to curl a left-footed effort into the bottom corner, but Senderos slides in well to turn the Frenchman’s shot behind for a corner. Valbuena’s delivery is terrible, however, and fails to clear the first man.
  • 47`
    One change at the break for Switzerland, as Behrami is taken off for Dzemaili. Mehmedi and Seferovic play a clever one-two, but Sakho comes across well to sweep up, slide in and dispossess the left winger as he raced into the box. Inler tries his luck from 30 yards, but Lloris collects easily.
  • 46`
    SubstitutionValon BehramiBlerim Dzemaili
  • 46`
    We’re back underway in the second half! This might be a case of damage limitation now for Switzerland, but France will want to win comfortably and show that they’re a strong force in this World Cup.
  • Xhaka had a goal disallowed for offside for Switzerland, while Benzema missed a penalty for France. This game might well be over already, but the former’s late minute winner against Ecuador suggests that there might be slim hope yet. Hitzfeld needs to make a couple of inspired substitutions once again.
  • HALF TIME! France are almost out of sight, leading 3-0 over Switzerland at half-time in Salvador. Goals from Giroud, Matuidi and Valbuena have gifted Les Bleus’ a sizeable cushion, but Deschamps won’t want his side’s level of performance to dip whatsoever.
  • 45` + 2`
    Benzema weaves in between two defenders and releases yet another shot towards goal, but Benaglio is easily able to get down to his left and smother it. That should be that in a great half for France.
  • 45`
    France are allowing Switzerland to have possession, but only due to their confidence in their ability to break upfield. Rodriguez and Lichtsteiner haven’t been able to press up and support whatsoever for the Swiss. There are two minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half.
  • 43`
    VALBUENA AGAIN! The Marseille man goes close after receiving a good pass from Matuidi, but Benaglio is able to beat the Frenchman’s effort away from the danger zone! Switzerland are really on the ropes.
  • 42`
    Five minutes until the break and France can’t believe what they’ve managed achieve in this first half. Their fans are delirious, while those with an allegiance to Les Bleus on the field continue to press forward.
  • 40`
    Assist Olivier Giroud
  • 40`
    Goal Mathieu Valbuena
  • 40`
    GOOOOOOOOOAL! VALBUENA MAKES IT 3-0! Les Bleus break upfield extremely quickly, leaving Hitzfeld frustrated on the Swiss bench! France break from the corner, with Giroud racing down the left and picking out the Marseille man at the back post! He fires into the roof of the net, sparking wild celebrations!
  • 40`
    Great challenge from Debuchy! The right-back tracks back accidentally to recover and ensure that Shaqiri can’t deliver from the byeline. Switzerland win a corner, but Giroud is once again on hand to make a defensive header.
  • 38`
    Terrible cross from Sissoko! The former Toulouse man breaks down the right and gets to the byeline, but his clipped cross is way beyond Benzema. Giroud rises at the back post, but can only divert the delivery way wide of the target.
  • 36`
    France are continuing to have a very fluid forward line, with Giroud spending more time on the left hand side than Benzema. When Evra pushes upfield, the Arsenal man is able to squeeze infield and challenge for aerial balls, giving Les Bleus additional aerial presence.
  • 34`
    Just over ten minutes until the half-time break and Switzerland will consider themselves lucky to still be in with an opportunity to take some points from this fixture. Benzema’s penalty should have buried Hitzfeld’s men, but a save from Benaglio means that the goalkeeper atoned for earlier questionable errors.
  • 32`
    Missed Penalty Karim Benzema
  • 32`
    Penalty save Diego Benaglio
  • 32`
    SAVED! FRANCE HIT THE WOODWORK! Benaglio denies Benzema’s penalty brilliantly, before Cabaye fires the rebound onto the crossbar! Les Bleus can’t believe their luck, they should be out of sight by now!
  • 31`
    PENALTY TO FRANCE! Djourou is complaining but the referee has pointed to the spot! Benzema turns his man and gets a small amount of contact on the ankle from the Swiss defender, which is deemed worthy of an opportunity for France from 12 yards.
  • 30`
    INCHES WIDE FOR SHAQIRI! The Bayern man drives past Varane and fires a left-footed effort across goal, but Lloris might have just got an important touch! It whistles past the post and the Swiss midfielder has his head in his hands!
  • 29`
    Switzerland can take from heart from having the ball in the back of the net, but France are still in control. Giroud unleashes a dipping left-footed effort from 25 yards, but the ball balloons high and wide.
  • 27`
    OFFSIDE! Xhaka has the ball in the back of the net, but it has been ruled out for offside! A Swiss free-kick is cleared by Giroud, before the loose ball is hooked back into the penalty area. Xhaka fires home with a scuffed half volley, but the linesman’s flag is rightly raised!
  • 25`
    BENZEMA GOES CLOSE! France break upfield incisively once again, with Benzema receiving possession 30 yards from goal. The Real Madrid man turns smartly and drives through the heart of the Swiss defence, but his eventual poked effort isn’t powerful enough to beat an extended Benaglio.
  • 24`
    Seferovic is looking extremely isolated at the head of the Swiss attack, as he has both Sakho and Varane free to track himself wherever he goes. France are in control, with Rodriguez and Lichtsteiner pegged back due to Switzerland being simply unable to retain the ball in dangerous areas.
  • 22`
    There’s a party atmosphere in Salvador, as France continue to look extremely confident. A long ball up to Giroud is flicked on by the goalscorer, but Benaglio is quick off his line to claim the loose pass. Perhaps the first example of convincing goalkeeping we’ve seen from him this evening.
  • 20`
    A double salvo for France has left Switzerland reeling! Their usual defensive stability has dissipated entirely, with two goals in 20 seconds for Les Bleus leaving Hitzfeld’s men with plenty to do. France deliver a free-kick effort into Benzema, but the forward is caught offside – his headed effort floats high and wide anyway.
  • 18`
    Assist Karim Benzema
  • 18`
    Goal Blaise Matuidi
  • 18`
    GOOOOOOOOOOOAL! IT’S TWO FOR FRANCE! LES BLEUS SCORE TWO IN TWENTY SECONDS! France break upfield immediately, with Matuidi on hand to steer a Benzema through ball into the path of the PSG midfielder, whose effort zips beyond Benaglio at his near post!
  • 17`
    Goal Olivier Giroud
  • 17`
    Assist Mathieu Valbuena
  • 17`
    GOOOOOOOAL! OLIVIER GIROUD GIVES LES BLEUS THE LEAD! The Arsenal forward rises highest to head home a corner delivery, with his attempt just too hot to handle for Benaglio! The Swiss keeper can only palm Giroud’s header into the top corner, leaving Rodriguez helpless on the goal-line.
  • 16`
    Giroud tries to invite Debuchy down the right flank with a stabbed pass, but puts too much weight on it. The French forward three is very fluid, with the likes of Benzema and Giroud exchanging readily. Djourou make a very important sliding interception to deny Benzema the opportunity to poke home a finish from six yards.
  • 14`
    France work their way down the left hand side, with Giroud picking out Benzema on the edge of the box. The Real Madrid man is tackled by Senderos, before Switzerland launch a counter attack. Mehmedi aims for Seferovic with an early long ball, but the Real Sociedad striker is let down by poor distribution.
  • 12`
    Mehmedi is scythed down by Debuchy, with the Newcastle defender getting none of the ball, but the referee is required to make his own decision as the linesman bizarrely didn’t flag. This game is still to come alive.
  • 10`
    The first ten minutes have passed without any real incident, save for the injury to Von Bergen. France are starting to see more of the ball, with Seferovic very isolated up top for the Swiss.
  • 9`
    SubstitutionSteve von BergenPhilippe Senderos
  • 8`
    Senderos warms up, as it is quickly apparent that Von Bergen won’t be able to continue. He’s got a bloody eye, meaning that there’s no quick fix for this particular ailment. His replacement has had plenty of club football this season for Valencia, so he should be an adequate replacement.
  • 7`
    Von Bergen goes down and requests treatment, after clashing in an aerial battle with Giroud. Hitzfeld complains to the fourth official, but there didn’t appear to be anything untoward from the French striker in that tackle. It’s a case of a high foot from the Arsenal man, but an accidental one.
  • 6`
    BENZEMA TRIES HIS LUCK! The two-goal man versus Honduras nearly strikes again, as the Real Madrid forward cuts onto his right foot and fires at goal from the edge of the box. Benaglio is happy to let the curling effort head high and wide of the top right corner.
  • 5`
    Switzerland enjoy some earlier possession but are unable to make any inroads into the organised French ranks. The supporters inside the stadium aren’t appreciating a rather sluggish start. Debuchy and Cabaye try to deliver crosses early on the right, but Rodriguez and Djourou deny them.
  • 3`
    No chances for either side in the opening minutes, with both looking fairly solid due to numbers in midfield. Sissoko has presumably been deployed in place of Pogba due to Deschamps desiring some extra athleticism and pressing in the middle third, as Les Bleus try not to underestimate their opposition.
  • 1`
    We’re underway in the first half, with excellent weather conditions which are perfect for this clash. Both sides are confident and ended their previous fixtures on highs, meaning that we should be enjoying a tightly contested affair this evening. Switzerland are donning their customary red, while France are in their white away strip.
  • Both teams are out on the field in Salvador, meaning that after the respective national anthems we’ll be able to get down to business. Switzerland are a solid side in their own right, but Hitzfeld’s men might just take some inspiration from Costa Rica’s victory over Italy earlier today. Three points are on the agenda for both, given that it is likely the runner-up shall face Argentina.
  • We have just over a quarter of an hour before kick-off, so be sure to stick around for all of the action as Group E’s favourites clash. Switzerland are renowned for their defensive stability, while France have continued to gain momentum over the past month. Les Bleus will be confident, but the Swiss know that they have more than a chance of enjoying an upset this evening.
  • France substitutes: Cabella, Griezmann, Mavuba, Mangala, Sagna, Ruffier, Digne, Pogba, Remy, Koscielny, Schneiderlin, Landreau.
  • France starting line-up (4-3-3): Lloris; Debuchy, Varane, Sakho, Evra; Sissoko, Cabaye, Matuidi; Valbuena, Giroud, Benzema.
  • Switzerland substitutes: Ziegler, Senderos, Lang, Barnetta, Sommer, Stocker, Dzemaili, Fernandes, Gavranovic, Drmic, Burki, Schar.
  • Switzerland starting line-up (4-3-3): Benaglio; Lichtsteiner, Djourou, Von Bergen, Rodriguez; Behrami, Xhaka, Inler; Shaqiri, Seferovic, Mehmedi.
  • TEAM NEWS: Ottmar Hitzfeld keeps faith in his substitutes, as Haris Seferovic and Admir Mehmedi start after goalscoring performances against Ecuador. Ricardo Rodriguez starts at left-back after his two assists last time out, with the defence and midfield showing continuity. Any Swiss personnel on the bench know that their contributions will be valued.
  • TEAM NEWS: France re-install Olivier Giroud as their number nine, with Antoine Griezmann dropping to the bench, while Moussa Sissoko is preferred to Paul Pogba in central midfield. Otherwise it’s business as usual for Deschamps’ men, with Karim Benzema presumably drifting out to the left hand side and Mathieu Valbuena being given a free role in attacking midfield

Costa Rica saved the Queen. But there was no saving England. The end of the World Cup dream has been confirmed. England needed Italy to win here in order to cling to the most slender of lifelines, yet the hope was snuffed out by Costa Rica, the tournament’s most romantic surprise. The only consolation was for Her Majesty. Mario Balotelli had demanded a kiss from her if Italy triumphed.

Costa Rica have qualified from the “group of death” that was supposed to eat them alive, and nobody can say that they do not deserve it. After last Saturday’s 3-1 win over Uruguay, they went toe to toe with the four-times world champions and they were the better team.

They shrugged off the harsh decision not to award them a 43rd-minute penalty for a barge by Giorgio Chiellini on Joel Campbell to strike the decisive blow through the captain Bryan Ruiz. The Fulham forward, who spent the second half of last season on loan at PSV Eindhoven, can cherish one of the goals of his life.

Fulham will begin next season in the Championship after their relegation but Ruiz can look ahead to a World Cup knockout tie. The Costa Rican celebrations at full-time were frenzied. They have laughed in the face of those that have belittled them. Their final group tie against England will be a stress-free occasion. Italy have rather more to fight for. Their fixture against Uruguay in Natal next Tuesday is now winner-takes-all. Italy do have the safety net of the draw. But they will have to play a lot better than this. Apart from a gilt-edged Balotelli miss in the first half, they created little. It was Costa Rica’s cool passing, organisation and commitment that defined the occasion.

There has been a Latin American brotherhood of communal support during these finals, and most of the stadium here wanted Costa Rica to win. But there was a corner of Europe that was draped in blue for 90 minutes. It is an indictment of England’s back-to-back Group D failures that it had come to this – praying for a favour from Italy.

Many England fans would gladly have allowed Balotelli to enjoy a bit of petting with Her Majesty in the event of his team doing the business. It was desperation time. Not that Italy or Costa Rica cared about the consequences for Roy Hodgson, the players, Queen or country. This was their opportunity to stride boldly towards the last 16.

There had been temperatures of 29C at the kick-off, with 70% humidity and there was an extended period of feeling out, of sizing up and acclimatising. It was stodgy fare for most of the first half, with the crowd having to wait until the 27th minute for the first shot and the effort from Thiago Motta was hardly worth the wait. After Balotelli had battled with Giancarlo González – a theme of the afternoon – the ball broke for the midfielder but he dragged harmlessly wide.

The overture did, at least, spark a brief purple patch for Italy and it contained the big chance, almost inevitably, for Balotelli. Andrea Pirlo’s ball over-the-top in the 32th minute was whipped with his right foot and Balotelli had timed his run to set up the one-on-one with Keylor Navas. His first touch, though, was heavy and the less said about the second, the better. He got his attempted lob all wrong. Moments later, Balotelli did warm Navas’s palms from distance.

Italy’s first-half performance lacked tempo and was pockmarked by errors. Costa Rica came to sense opportunity, and not only from Christian Bolaños’s dangerous set-piece deliveries. Celso Borges had headed one of them over the crossbar in the eighth minute.

Costa Rica brought the game to life in the closing minutes of the first half, with the trigger being Óscar Duarte’s back header that looped just over. Initially, there was the burning sense of injustice. After Chiellini’s miscontrol had allowed Campbell to burst clear, the Italy defender chased back to bundle him over. The Chilean referee, Enrique Osses, was the only person inside the stadium who did not think it was a penalty.

Jorge Luis Pinto raged on the touchline and when the half-time whistle blew, he thought about striding across the pitch to confront Osses, before being ushered away by his staff. But by then, his team had the lead. From Júnior Díaz’s left-wing cross, Bryan Ruiz got in between Chiellini and Matteo Darmian too easily to head home off the underside of the crossbar. Goal-line technology confirmed that the ball had bounced over the line.

Cesare Prandelli made attacking changes in the second half, bringing on Antonio Cassano to work close to Balotelli, Lorenzo Insigne on the left and Alessio Cerci on the right. Pirlo fizzed in a 52nd-minute free-kick that Navas needed to beat away. But it felt as though the game had become tailored for Costa Rica’s counter-attacking style. Italy laboured. They did not work Navas thereafter.

Pinto’s team sought to carry out their gameplan to the letter. They worked to compress the space between the lines and whenever the ball was played up to Balotelli, one of the three central defenders, normally González, was breathing down his neck, snapping into the challenge. Balotelli felt the frustration levels rise – every Italian did – and he was booked when he caught Díaz with his hand. It was not his day.

During the second half, there were Olés from the crowd for passages of Costa Rican possession. Who could have seen this coming before the tournament? For Pinto and his players, these were the memories that will live forever. Campbell was ever alive to possibilities while there were glorious snapshots when Bolaños skipped away from a full-blooded Daniele De Rossi tackle and Ruiz tricked Insigne.

The crowd loved it. England fans watched through their fingers.

World Cup 2014: Messi magic saves Argentina, Benzema shines in French colours

Lionel Messi ended an eight-year wait for a World Cup goal on Sunday as Argentina edged past debutants Bosnia at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, while fellow No 10, France’s Karim Benzema, put two past Honduras in a man-of-the-match display.

The goals continued to rattle in across Brazil. France cruised to a 3-0 victory in Porto Alegre, and in the other Group E match, Switzerland came from behind to beat Ecuador 2-1 with a dramatic, counter-attacking winner in injury time.

The buildup to the fourth day of action at the 2014 World Cup had all been about Messi, the 26-year-old Barcelona forward who has lit up club soccer like few others but has so far failed to repeat those heroics on the biggest stage of all.

His last World Cup goal came on June 16, 2006, the sixth out of six Argentina put past Serbia and Montenegro in Germany.

Messi’s roar of delight after a fine left-foot strike from the edge of the area on Sunday suggested the goal would lift a huge weight from his shoulders.

“It was important to start with a win and to get three points, but we need to improve,” Messi said after also being named man of the match in the 2-1 victory in Group F.

Until that point Messi’s display had been lacklustre, but it proved a crucial goal when Bosnia scored late on to set up a tense end to a game many had expected Argentina to win easily.

There was a touch of fortune in the outcome, after Bosnia’s Sead Kolasinac netted the fastest own goal in World Cup history in the third minute.

His side recovered from the shock and began to look the better team, but a lack of composure in front of goal saw several long-distance efforts fly high and wide.

Messi’s successor as World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, expects to start for Portugal against Germany in the pick of Monday’s matches.

The 29-year-old said he was fit for the Group G encounter in Salvador, despite struggling with tendinosis in his left knee.

Asked whether a great World Cup was all that was missing from a glittering career, he replied: “I don’t think I have to show anyone anything. If you look at my statistics and my resume… I have no words for that question.

“I think I do not have to demonstrate anything, not now, before, not after. What I have to do is just continue my career, which has been great so far.”

In the other Group G clash, Ghana meet the United States in Natal, while Iran and Nigeria play in Curitiba in Group F.

France reunited

In Porto Alegre, France survived a bruising encounter with Honduras, but passed the test with aplomb in a game where Benzema grabbed two and goal-line technology was used to confirm the ball had crossed the line for the first time at a World Cup.

Benzema’s shot hit the upright and the ball rolled across the goal, only for Honduras keeper Noel Valladares to divert it over the line by inches.

France’s forward Karim Benzema takes a penalty during their World Cup match against Honduras at the Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre. (AFP Photo)

Honduras were reduced to 10-men after Wilson Palacios charged into French midfielder Paul Pogba seconds before the break in a challenge that earned him a second yellow card.

Benzema stroked home the resulting penalty, and 18 minutes from time he struck again from a narrow angle, earning a rendition of “La Marseillaise” from the red, white and blue clad French fans.

The result will have delighted France coach Didier Deschamps, especially after Les Bleus’ 2010 debacle in South Africa when they failed to win a game amid bitter squabbling that blew up into a national scandal.

Swiss smash-and-grab

Switzerland’s Haris Seferovic celebrates after scoring a goal with Ricardo Rodriguez during their World Cup match against Ecuador at the Brasilia National Stadium in Brasilia. (Reuters Photo)

In arguably the most exciting contest of the day, substitute Haris Seferovic finished off a breathtaking box-to-box counter-attack in stoppage time to give Switzerland a 2-1 win over Ecuador in Brasilia.

A brilliant block tackle by Valon Behrami in his own area instigated the break, which was allowed to continue by an excellent decision from Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov after the midfielder was body-checked.

With more than three goals a game on average, and a surprisingly expansive style of soccer for the early stages of a World Cup, action on the field has grabbed people’s imagination in a country considered by many to be the sport’s spiritual home.

The tournament has gone much more smoothly than many had expected, with protests against the $11 billion spend on new stadiums and infrastructure small compared with mass demonstrations that rocked Brazil a year ago.

On Sunday, police blocked a small group of anti-World Cup protesters who were trying to reach the Maracana stadium before the Argentina-Bosnia game.

About 150 bandanna-wearing demonstrators carrying banners that said “Fifa go home” marched towards the stadium, but police on horseback blocked their path, leading to minor scuffles.

A similar-sized march was held ahead of the Switzerland-Ecuador game, but participants simply laid down their banners in front of a police cordon and dispersed when the game started.

How to Watch the 2014 World Cup: TV, Online & Social Media

Hey World Cup fans, kick back and watch the world’s biggest single-sport competition from the comfort of your laptop. Held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the first of 64 matches will kick off on June 12.

This year’s championship is more digitally interactive than ever before. With apps and beefed-up streaming services, here’s how to keep up with the game’s hectic schedule.

beira rio stadium
The Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil will host matches during the 2014 FIFA World Cup.


To watch the games live on TV, here are the channels you should tune into:

  • USA: ESPN, ABC and Univision
  • UK: BBC and ITV
  • Australia: SBS
  • Brazil: Globo
  • Middle East [Lebanon]: beIN Sports

For a full list of countries and their corresponding networks that have licensing rights to broadcast the games, check out this resource provided by FIFA. For a full schedule of all of the games, check out this detailed list on ESPN. Sports Interaction also has a beautiful interactive schedule.

After you’ve familiarized yourself with players’ backstories and learned how to pronounce their difficult names, follow this guide for the worldwide web of the World Cup. It’s important to note that mega TV networks mainly hold all the rights to streaming the games online. (Though there are plenty of other sites that might stream the matches, they’re not always legal.)


USA: ESPN, the all-sports-all-the-time network, is all over the event. The channel will not only present all of the games live on TV via ESPN (43 matches), ESPN2 (11 matches) and ABC (10 matches), it will livestream all 64 games online. Every game will be available via the WatchESPNsite and app, which is available for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Chromecast and more.

The 10 games that air on ABC will be available via WatchABC. However, these online services are only available for those who already have cable and pay for access to the network.

Another site making the games available is Univision. The Spanish language network will air 56 games on Univision Deportes, its sports channel, as well as via its UD app. Like ESPN, the service is only available to subscribed viewers.

The UK: Across the pond, the BBC iPlayer and ITV will also be streaming the games for viewers in the United Kingdom, starting with the first match England plays against Italy on June 14. Both services have apps and sites that will stream the matches live.

Canada: Canadian viewers can check out CBC, which will stream all of the games live on its site, in addition to replays which will be available on demand. Unlike ESPN, it’s a free service.

Australia: The network SBS has secured the rights to stream all 64 games online for Australian viewers, in addition to providing accompanying apps and radio broadcast.

Middle East [Lebanon]: beIN has secured the rights to stream all 64 games! Click Here

Social media

Twitter: If you’re truly addicted to the social site, you can’t watch a major telecast without constantly checking your feed. So keep up with the sport via Twitter by following certain hashtags. The site Fanbrandz has put together a fun, handy guide to tags you should expect, like #GoSocceroos (for Australian fans), #EmBuscaDoHexa (for Brazilian fans) and #Bleus (for French fans).

It’s also worth checking out the official FIFA World Cup account, which keeps up a pretty active flow of tweets.

Plenty of players also use Twitter themselves. Here’s our guide to the most-followed World Cup players currently using the social site.

Follow Elie Chahine’s Twitter account: @ElieChahine

Facebook: Make sure to “like” ESPN FC, the network’s channel dedicated to the beautiful game. The World Cup also has an official page of its own, full of behind-the-scenes photos and interviews with soccer stars.

Follow Elie Chahine’s Facebook Account: Elie M. Chahine

Finally, the FIFA World Cup has an official Instagram page where it posts all kinds of fun photos of players and fans.


Elie Chahine’s Blog got u covered!

Brazil World Cup 2014: Fixtures / Schedules