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Germany 1-0 Argentina

July 13, 2014

Mario Götze scores Germany's winning goal in the World Cup final against Argentina.

Germany was crowned world champion at the Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro thanks to a goal deep into extra time of the World Cup final by the substitute Mario Götze. It was Germany’s fourth world title and they became the first European team to win the trophy in the Americas.

Defeat was a bitter blow for Argentina, for whom Javier Mascherano had another immense game, and particularly for Lionel Messi who was unable to emulate Diego Maradona in leading his team to World Cup victory. The Argentines were left to rue the chances squandered by Gonzalo Higuaín and Messi.

Both teams, as initially announced, were unchanged from the semi-final line-ups. However, Sami Khedira injured himself in the warm-up and was replaced by Christoph Kramer, who was not even in Jogi Löw’s original squad of 30, for his first start of the tournament.

Like the Spain team who won the World Cup four years ago, Germany started with six players who play their club football under Pep Guardiola. (Barcelona then and Bayern Munich now had both employed Louis van Gaal in the recent past.) It was also notable that in this first South American World Cup final in 36 years, all 22 starters plied their trade in Europe. (In 1978 only Mario Kempes of Argentina played abroad.)

Germany dominated the opening exchanges, but it was Messi who set alarm bells ringing on eight minutes when he left Mats Hummels for dead on the right wing. He made it to the byline but his pullback was cut out by Bastian Schweinsteiger. Two minutes later Pablo Zabaleta found himself in a similar position and the Germans had to scramble to clear.

It heralded a first half much more open than many predictions.

Within four minutes a dreadful attempted header back to his goalkeeper from Toni Kroos fell directly to Higuaín. But with only Manuel Neuer to beat the striker dragged his shot yards wide.

Higuaín nearly opened the scoring in the 30th minute when Messi played a beautiful pass to the left wing with the outside of his left foot. Lavezzi curled the ball into the path of Higuaín who sidefooted past Neuer. The striker, though, was a clear yard or two offside.

Immediately afterwards, Kramer, who had taken an accidental blow to the head from Ezequiel Garay some 13 minutes earlier, collapsed and was taken off – something that will inevitably raise further questions about the treatment of head injuries in soccer. André Schürrle replaced him, demonstrating the strength of the German bench.

Germany’s composure looked shaken. Shortly afterwards Benedikt Höwedes was lucky to receive only a yellow card for a wild lunge that caught Zabaleta in the most sensitive area.

Then on 35 minutes a fine break Lavezzi and Messi combined well but the latter’s ball to Higuaín was cut out by Schweinsteiger. Germany hit back, with Romero saving sharply from Schürrle. With five minutes to the break Messi again outpaced Hummels on the right, but the Germans managed to scramble away his cut back.

In stoppage time Germany had the best chance of the half when Höwedes thudded a close-range header against the post from a Kroos corner.

For the second half Alejandro Sabella replaced Lavezzi with Sergio Agüero. Within two minutes of the restart Messi found himself clean through on goal. It looked like the sort of chance he had seized in the group stage to win matches, but he pulled his shot just wide.

In the 57th minute Higuaín was poleaxed by Neuer’s knee as the keeper raced off his line to punch. Amazingly, the referee gave a foul against the Argentine. At the other end Martín Demichelis was caught in possession, Schürrle was sent scurrying down the left but Özil could not turn in his cross.

Messi had drifted to the right wing to find space and fashioned a couple of half-chances for himself. But it was Germany who came closest on 82 minutes when Lahm pulled the ball back from the right. Kroos had time to pick his shot but his sidefooted effort was well wide.

When Götze replaced Klose with the clock ticking towards 90 minutes, the World Cup record goalscorer received a warm ovation from the crowd.

Germany had had an extra day’s recovery and their semi-final was all but over after the first half-hour. Argentina by contrast had to play extra time and penalties in Brasilia.

Extra time, though, began explosively with Schürrle, set up by Götze, demanding a sharp reaction save from Romero. Then Agüero broke free on the left but his ball across the face of the goal was too far ahead of the waiting Messi.

In the 97th minute Rodrigo Palacio, a late substitute for Higuaín, was picked out by a long cross from Marcos Rojo. The striker rushed his flick over Neuer but Jérôme Boateng shepherded the ball wide.

Schweinsteiger, on the receiving end of a number of rough challenges, was left bleeding from the cheek after being caught by Agüero’s hand in an aerial challenge. Agüero was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch.

The Germans were furious but they were soon celebrating. Schürrle’s pace down the left for once was too much for Mascherano. His pinpoint cross picked out Götze who controlled with his chest before volleying home left-footed.

There was one final act of this drama. In stoppage time Schweinsteiger pulled down Messi in a dangerous area. The four-times world player of the year took the free kick but it sailed over the bar along with his last opportunity to stamp his name on this World Cup.

In a tournament that equalled France 98's goal tally, James Rodríguez's five goals secured him the Golden Boot, even though Colombia were eliminated at the quarter-final stage.

The best team in the tournament had won and have the potential to dominate world football for years.

Brazil 0-3 Holland

July 12, 2014

Arjen Robben is pulled back in the second minute by the Brazil captain Thiago Silva.
Celso Junior / Getty Images

Brazil's World Cup ended in another dispiriting defeat as the Netherlands won 3-0 in the third-place playoff in Brasilia, with goals from Robin van Persie, Daley Blind and Georginio Wijnaldum. Although the match was marked by some highly questionable refereeing decisions, the Dutch looked the superior team throughout.

Luiz Felipe Scolari brought in Jô for the much-criticized Fred, with an all-Chelsea midfield line of Ramires, Óscar and Willian behind him. The captain Thiago Silva returned in the center of defense, with Maxwell at left-back. Neymar was on the bench but only to provide moral support.

For the Dutch, Wesley Sneijder took a knock to his calf in the warm-up and was replaced by Jonathan De Guzmán.

For Brazil the match represented an opportunity, albeit unwanted, to restore a little pride after their humiliation four days earlier in the semi-final against Germany. Instead, they got off to a disastrous start.

With less than two minutes on the clock, Van Persie received a flick-on from Arjen Robben then cleverly headed past the Brazilian back line for Robben to burst through. Silva tugged him back and the Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi point to the spot. It should have been an automatic red card – and on any other occasion probably would have been – but the referee only produced a yellow. The former World Cup favorites were now reduced to sheltering behind the official’s pity.

Van Persie swept in the spot-kick with aplomb. The crowd, which contained hardly any Dutch fans, fell eerily silent. Silva’s offense had almost certainly occurred outside the area but there were few complaints, only numbed shock. Brazil had now conceded more goals in this tournament than in any of the 19 previous World Cups.

On 16 minutes Brazil failed to deal with a cross from the right after Robben put through De Guzmán, who may have been fractionally offside. David Luiz’s header fell to Blind who had time to control the ball and drive it past Júlio Cesar.

Brazil responded gamely and several times Óscar made penetrating runs that the Dutch could only stop illegally. However, none of the resulting free kicks forced the Dutch keeper Jasper Cillessen, although a whipped dead ball from Óscar in the 38th minute across the face of goal but somehow eluded all the yellow shirts in the box. Brazil, though, always looked vulnerable to the counter-attack.

No team had ever trailed 2-0 at half-time in any World Cup game and gone on to win the match.

In the second half Brazil continued to seek a way back into the match. Ramires did well to create space for himself on the edge of the penalty area but though he eluded Ron Vlaar, he dragged his shot just wide.

If Brazil needed confirmation that the fates were against them, it came on 68 minutes when Óscar, their best player by a distance, pushed the ball past Blind and was brought down. Instead of giving the penalty, the referee booked the Brazil number 11 for diving. It was the first such yellow card of the tournament and a manifestly unjust decision. Blind even injured himself in making the foul and had to be carried off.

On 82 minutes Robben, chasing a long ball, was bundled over in the area but the referee had clearly decided he had given enough penalties for one day.

The game limped on to its conclusion. The Dutch looked comfortable, the Brazilians disjointed. But Brazil’s indignity was not complete. In stoppage time Wijnaldum found himself unmarked in the penalty area to sweep home a third goal, prompting many in the crowd to head for the exits.

Van Gaal even had time to send on the one player in his squad who had not seen action in the World Cup, the reserve goalkeeper Michel Vorm.

For the Netherlands it was an unwanted third place; for Brazil a period of reflection and rebuilding lies ahead.

Holland 0-0 (2-4) Argentina

July 9, 2014

Argentina's Sergio Romero saves from Ron Vlaar of the Netherlands in the penalty shootout.
Dominic Ebenbichler / Reuters

Argentina will face Germany in the World Cup final on Sunday after they defeated the Netherlands in a penalty shootout in São Paulo, their semi-final having finished goalless after 120 minutes. The match will be a repeat of the finals in 1986 and 1990.

Ron Vlaar and and Wesley Sneijder saw their spot-kicks saved by Sergio Romero, a goalkeeper who barely played for Monaco this season where he was on loan from Sampdoria, before Jasper Cillessen could only palm Maxi Rodríguez’s decisive penalty into the roof of the net. It was a dramatic end to a match that rarely hit such heights of excitement. The fact that the outstanding performers were defensive players such as Vlaar and Javier Mascherano said everything that needed to be.

The Dutch had brought in Nigel de Jong, who had made a rapid recovery from a groin injury sustained against Mexico in the second round, with a brief to stop Messi. Robin van Persie also started despite rumors of stomach trouble. For the Argentines, Enzo Pérez replaced the crocked Ángel Di María and Marcos Rojo returned from suspension at left-back.

Before kick-off a minute’s silence was observed under gray São Paulo skies for the Argentine great Alfredo Di Stéfano, who was buried in Madrid today.

With a quarter of an hour gone, Pérez raced onto a delightful chipped ball from Gonzalo Higuaín and Ron Vlaar brought the Benfica midfielder down on the edge of the penalty area. It looked the perfect position for the left-footed Messi. His low drive beat the end of the wall but Jasper Cillessen in the Dutch goal made the save.

Ezequiel Lavezzi several times exploited the space outside the Dutch three-man defense to put in dangerous balls from the right, although Vlaar was usually on hand to intercept.

Mascherano had to go off following a clash of heads. He returned to the fray even though it appeared that he had momentarily lost consciousness, raising questions about FIFA’s approach to concussion injuries.

The most promising move of the first period came at the end of stoppage time when Messi shrugged off a couple of challenges to find Rojo on the left wing but, with Higuaín free in the middle, his cross was overhit.

Overall a half that had begun intriguingly had congealed into dreariness. Messi’s was operating done too far from goal and usually with De Jong in close attendance, while for the Dutch Robben and Van Persie were almost completely anonymous.

On 55 minutes Vlaar’s tackle on the edge of his own area was perfectly timed as Messi for once found space in a dangerous area. Three minutes later Lavezzi again caused trouble down the right flank but the substitute Daryl Janmaat beat Higuaín to the header.

De Jong departed after an hour to be replaced by Jordy Clasie but the tenor of the game did not change.

There was excitement on 75 minutes when Pérez sent in a great ball from the right and half the stadium thought that Higuaín had converted but his shot in fact hit the side netting.

Alejandro Sabella sent on Rodrigo Palacio and Sergio Agüero on 81 minutes, replacing Pérez and Higuaín, to try to force an outcome inside 90 minutes. It nearly worked as Messi ran at the defense, stumbled under a challenge, got back on his feet and threaded a ball into the box. Unfortunately Agüero could not capitalize.

As the clock ticked into stoppage time, the Dutch tried to snatch victory. Robben burst into the area for the first time only to be denied by a dramatic last-ditch lunge from Mascherano. And so the teams went to an extra half an hour.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar replaced Van Persie six minutes into extra time, meaning that there would be no penalty heroics from Tim Krul. The Dutch were continuing in the more threatening form they had shown in the final minutes of normal time. Robben cut in on his left foot and tested Romero with a long-range shot.

In the dying seconds of the first period of extra time, Palacio rolled his marker and put in an excellent ball across the six-yard area but Agüero could not reach it.

With five minutes remaining in the clearest, perhaps the only clear chance of the match, Palacio ran through onto a high bouncing ball but could only head into the hands of Cillessen. Then Messi got to the byline on the Dutch left and lifted a ball to the far post but the substitute Rodríguez sidefooted his volley tamely into the ground.

The match went to penalties and it was the Argentines who held their nerve.

Brazil 1-7 Germany

July 8, 2014

Thomas Müller celebrates, Brazil are shellshocked as another German goal goes in.
Patrik Stollarz / AFP / Getty Images

The Minerão stadium in Belo Horizonte witnessed one of the most astonishing shocks in the history of the World Cup when Germany hammered seven goals past the hosts Brazil in their semi-final encounter. Brazil had gone into the match with high hopes of continuing their progress to a sixth world title but their aspirations were reduced to tatters by goals from Thomas Müller, Miroslav Klose, Sami Khedira and two each from Toni Kroos and the substitute André Schürrle.

It was the biggest margin of victory ever in a World Cup semi-final and a result no one had predicted.

The buildup for Brazil had been dominated by the story of Neymar and his cracked vertebra. Even in his absence he was present: the entire squad, including the coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, arrived sporting “Força Neymar” baseball caps, as the hosts sought to use the injured forward as inspiration.

Dante of Bayern Munich, as expected, replaced the suspended Thiago Silva in defense, but Luiz Felipe Scolari sprang something of a surprise by opting for only two defensive midfielders in Luiz Gustavo and Fernandinho, with Paulinho missing out. Óscar moved to a central position to replace Neymar and Scolari brought in the 5ft 5in Bernard, who is from Belo Horizonte, on the right wing, just as he had in the Confederations Cup semi-final against Uruguay.

Germany, playing in a change strip that echoed Flamengo’s red and black hoops, were unchanged from the team that started against France, with Per Mertesacker again left out in favor of Mats Hummels, and Khedira and Schweinsteiger again paired in midfield.

Both sides started brightly but Germany had the first chance when Khedira’s shot was inadvertently blocked by Kroos.

Then, on 11 minutes, a totally unmarked Müller calmly sidefooted a Kroos corner into the net from eight yards. It was his fifth goal of the tournament, the same as he managed four years earlier in South Africa.

A minor kerfuffle ensued when Philipp Lahm expertly tackled Marcelo and the German defense took the Brazilian to task for appealing for a penalty. But it was just a short interruption to the German steamroller.

On 22 minutes the Germans cut through the Brazilian defense once again. Miroslav Klose’s initial slot was parried but he tucked away the rebound to go clear of Ronaldo as the all-time top scorer in World Cups with 16 goals.

Two minutes later the Minerão was shocked to its core when a cross from the right came all the way to Kroos on the edge of the area who drilled his left-foot shot unerringly past Júlio Cesar.

If the Brazilian supporters thought they had made the worst possible start, they were wrong. The Germans had barely stopped celebrating when Fernandinho was caught in possession, the ball was prodded forward and, after an exchange of passes, Kroos scored his second.

And before half an hour was up Brazil found themselves 5-0 behind. David Luiz came charging out of defense leaving a huge gap that Germany exploited ruthlessly. This time it was Khedira who provided the finish. Brazil had conceded four goals in six minutes.

Scolari sent his chastened team out for the second half with Ramires and Paulinho replacing Hulk and Fernandinho. It is tempting to imagine that Felipão will have reminded his troops that Germany had squandered a 4-0 half-time lead at home to Sweden when a World Cup qualification ended 4-4 last October but more likely the ambition for the second half was to avoid further humiliation.

The new arrivals injected some energy into the Brazil team. On 51 minutes Ramires got round the back but his low cross was intercepted by Manuel Neuer in the German goal.

A minute later Óscar should have scored when his shot with the outside of his right foot was saved by Neuer. At least the Brazil team were giving the crowd something to cheer at last. Within a minute Paulinho found himself clear in front of goal but Neuer saved his shot and the follow-up.

But despite these positive signs the Brazilians were no tighter at the back, where Marcelo and David Luiz had been particularly remiss. On 59 minutes Müller tried to round the goalkeeper but Júlio Cesar nicked the ball away with his foot. A minute later Júlio Cesar had to be at full stretch to turn away a shot from the same player.

After one particularly unimpressive finish, the crowd took to booing the striker Fred, perhaps a strange choice of scapegoat for a defensive capitulation such as this. He was replaced shortly afterwards by Willian, but by that time Brazil was 6-0 down.

On 69 minutes the Germans again cut through the vestiges of the Brazilian defense, Lahm cutting the ball back for Schürrle, who had replaced Klose, to score.

Brazil’s pain was not over. From a throw-in Schürrle collected a pass from the left and lashed a shot in off the underside of the crossbar. Seven.

As the Germans passed the ball around the overwhelmingly Brazilian crowd began chanting “Olé” for each German touch. It must have felt very uncomfortable to be a Brazil player on the Minerão pitch.

In the 90th minute Óscar saved a little face when he rounded Jérôme Boateng and fired his shot past a hesitant Neuer.

Such strikes are normally described as consolation goals but there can have been little consolation for a team so dramatically taken apart in front of their own fans.

Germany are in the final on Sunday and whoever emerges from the semi-final between Argentina and the Netherlands in São Paulo will know they have a game ahead of them.

Holland 0-0 (4-3) Costa Rica

July 5, 2014

Tim Krul of the Netherlands saves a penalty kick by Michael Umana of Costa Rica to win in a shootout during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Quarter Final match between the Netherlands and Costa Rica.
Jamie McDonald / Getty Images

Tim Krul was the hero for the Netherlands as he saved two penalties in the shootout against Costa Rica to send the Dutch into a World Cup semi-final against Argentina in São Paulo. Jasper Cillessen had played almost the full 120 minutes that had finished goalless but Krul, who is two inches taller, was brought on specifically for the shootout. The Dutch had lost four of their five previous tournament shootouts but on this occasion converted all their spot-kicks.

It meant the end of Costa Rica’s extraordinary run after Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umaña saw their spot-kicks saved. They had been flawless in the shootout against Greece in the previous round and left having conceded only one goal from open play in 510 minutes of football at this tournament.

The first half soon settled into a pattern of Dutch possession and Costa Rican defense.

There was little in the way of clearcut chances until a Dutch counter-attack in the 22nd minute. Kuyt cut the ball back to the edge of the area, where Memphis Depay passed the ball on to Robin van Persie clean through on goal but Keylor Navas parried his close-range shot and then collected Wesley Sneijder’s follow-up.

Seven minutes later Bryan Ruiz gave away the ball in midfield, Van Persie slipped Depay through but Navas was again equal to the task, saving with his right foot.

The Costa Ricans were disciplined in defence and in Joel Campbell always posed a threat on the break. The Ticos caused alarm in the Dutch defense when a free kick led to Celso Borges attempting an overhead kick but the chance came to nothing.

As predicted, Arjen Robben was always the most likely to manufacture the breakthrough. Junior Díaz was booked for pulling the winger down as the Dutch counter-attacked. From the resulting free kick the impressive Navas had to dive full-length to turn away Sneijder’s shot. And on 42 minutes Navas raced off his line to beat Van Persie to Robben’s through ball.

An hour into the contest Díaz broke strongly down the left and cut the ball back to Joel Campbell who crashed to the turf under the challenge of the Dutch defender. The referee waved away his appeal for a penalty but was happy to award a free kick seconds later for a similar challenge on Campbell outside the penalty area.

Set plays appeared to be Costa Rica’s best hope and on 65 minutes Giancarlo González got on the end of a Christian Bolaños free kick but could not steer his header on target.

The more time passed by, the more comfortable the Costa Ricans looked, repeatedly catching the Dutch offside. The Netherlands, though, completely dominated possession and with less than 10 minutes of normal time remaining Robben was pulled back on the corner of the Costa Rican penalty area, earning González a booking. Sneijder’s curling free kick beat Navas but rebounded out off the post.

A minute later Navas saved at his near post after Van Persie had worked space for himself in a crowded penalty area.

On 88 minutes Van Persie had the chance to claim victory but arriving onto Sneijder’s delightful curling cross on the six-yard line he completely missed his kick.

In stoppage time Navas punched away a Van Persie free kick, Daley Blind played the ball across the six-yard line where it eluded everyone except Van Persie. He seemed certain to score but somehow Yeltsin Tejada turned his shot onto the bar.

That meant an extra 30 minutes. Almost immediately Navas had to claw away a header from Ron Vlaar. At the ensuing corner, the goalkeeper fell awkwardly and briefly it appeared the he might be unable to continue.

Costa Rica could still pose an attacking threat through Bolaños, Ruiz and the substitute Marco Ureña. In the 117th minute it was Ureña who came close to pulling off a memorable upset when he beat several defenders only to see Jasper Cillessen save with his feet.

Two minutes later Sneijder was denied by the woodwork for a second time when his curling shot bounced back off the crossbar.

After that there was nothing left but the penalty shootout and Krul’s starring role. 

Argentina 1-0 Belgium

July 5, 2014

Argentina's goalscorer Gonzalo Higuaín holds off the Belgium captain Vincent Kompany.
Thanassis Stavrakis / AP

Argentina advanced to the semi-final of the World Cup with an accomplished performance in Salvador as Alejandro Sabella’s rejigged side scored early then kept a talented Belgium team at bay.

Much of the discussion ahead of this match had concerned whether the Lionel Messi-led Argentina were a one-man team. After eight minutes Gonzalo Higuaín, a non-scoring center-forward up to this point in the tournament, swung a boot and put the Albiceleste ahead.

Messi had been involved in the buildup, shrugging off two Belgians in midfield, before picking out Ángel Di María. His pass was deflected into the path of Higuaín who instinctively shot first time into the bottom left corner from the edge of the area, with Thibaut Courtois powerless to intervene.

Belgium responded well and Kevin De Bruyne tested Sergio Romero with a long-range shot on 26 minutes. But almost immediately the action switched to the other end as Kompany had to speed across as the last man to dispossess Messi. Two minutes the Belgium captain stood strong to block Di María’s shot when released by a fine 40-yard pass from Messi.

Di María appeared to injure his thigh in the act of shooting and a few minutes later had to be replaced by Enzo Pérez.

The Belgian midfield were having trouble getting anywhere near Messi and on 39 minutes the Argentina captain was felled by posse of Belgians a yard outside the area. Messi picked himself up to fire narrowly over the bar.

Belgium’s best opportunity came shortly before the break when Mirallas headed wide from a Vertonghen cross.

Argentina continued to look dangerous after the break. First Courtois palmed Messi free kick behind, then, after Hazard lost the ball, Higuaín burst forward, beat four defenders, nutmegged Kompany but then saw his shot fly off the top of the crossbar. It would have been a spectacular goal from a player who looked revitalized after his earlier pallid performances.

Belgium made a double attacking substitution, bringing on Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens. The team immediately looked sharper, with Fellaini heading over from 10 yards on a Vertonghen cross. Then Romero had to save as Ezequiel Garay diverted De Bruyne cross

For all the Red Devils’ energy and effort, Argentina held Belgium at bay. Tellingly, Romero had only one save to make through the entire match. The withdrawal of the deeply disappointing Hazard on 75 minutes seemed symbolic of the failure of Belgium’s young team to realize their potential when it counted.

In the final minutes Belgium resorted to long balls into the box towards the big lads: Lukaku, Fellaini and the center-back Daniel van Buyten. But it was Argentina who came closest to scoring. In the fourth minute of stoppage time an Argentine break put Messi himself one on one with Courtois but the goalkeeper who had shut Messi out in seven consecutive matches for Atlético Madrid, spread himself well to block the shot.

On the day that Alfredi Di Stéfano, one of the all-time greats of Argentine – and world – football was rushed to hospital in Madrid in critical condition after suffering a heart attack, Messi’s display showed that Argentina still lead the world in producing football talent. But perhaps more importantly for Argentina’s chances of lifting a third World Cup, there were signs that Sabella had found a balance that amounted to a formidable team that did not depend solely on its captain and talisman.

Brazil 2-1 Colombia

Eitan Abramovich / AFP

An unconvincing Brazil again scraped home by a single goal in a frenetic quarterfinal clash with a spirited Colombia in Fortaleza, Friday, keeping on track its efficient rather than stylish march to a final on home soil. The match was played at a frenetic clip, with the Brazilians reliant on their defenders to prevail at both ends. 

Brazil was fortunate to draw first blood with a soft goal in the seventh minute from a poorly defended corner, Brazilian captain and center-back Thiago Silva left unmarked at the far post to scramble the ball home off his knee. Unbowed, Colombia tore into the Brazilian defense in search of an equalizer with Juan Cuardado and James Rodriguez proving a handful for an increasingly physical Brazil. Defenders on both sides were dishing out rugged tackles, as the game threatened to rage beyond the referee’s control, but by half time, Brazil had created enough chances to go into the tunnel well worth their 1-0 lead.

The Colombians created more chances in the second half, with fullback Marcelo and centerback David Luiz heavily engaged in shutting out Los Cafeteros. Marcelo also looked to be Brazil’s key attacking outlet other than Neymar, who produced the customary few moments of magic. But forwards Fred and Hulk were woeful, and playmaker Oscar largely anonymous. Moments after Colombia put the ball in the net but were called back on an offside call that Los Cafeteros will likely question, Brazil got a second – again, through a defender, this time David Luiz lashing home the best free kick seen thus far at the tournament.

But Colombia refused to roll over, and when substitute Bacca was brought down by goalkeeper Julio Cesar as he bore down on goal, James Rodriguez made no mistake from the resulting penalty.

Another frenzied rather than assured performance from Brazil, and the Germans – who face the Selecao in the semifinal next week – will have taken plenty of positives from watching Brazil’s defenses repeatedly breached by Los Cafeteros, while struggling to create chances. The yellow card for Thiago Silva keeps the captain and defensive anchor out of that game, while even more worrying may be the spectacle of Neymar being stretchered off in pain after being kicked in the back by defender Juan Zuniga. Reports after the match said Brazil’s key attacking threat had been taken to hospital. Losing him for the next game would be a harsh blow to a decidedly ordinary Brazil team.  

France 0-1 Germany

July 4, 2014

Mats Hummels heads Germany to victory against France
Julian Finney / Getty Images

A Mats Hummels header in the first half was enough to take Germany past France and into the semifinals of the World Cup. The match at Rio's Maracanã stadium failed to live up to the pre-match hype and the French will rue not showing more urgency or fight as their World Cup campaign ended in anticlimax.

The German team sheet contained several surprises. In came Miroslav Klose up front while Mats Hummels replaced Per Mertesacker at center-back and Philipp Lahm was switched back to full-back in place of Shkodran Mustafi. That allowed Sami Khedira to be paired with Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield. It is believed that the outbreak of flu in the German camp did not influence selection decisions, which were tactical.

For the French Antoine Griezmann, who had impressed when coming on as a substitute in the previous game against Nigeria, was given a starting berth, with Olivier Giroud dropping to the bench. Mamadou Sakho replaced Laurent Koscielny in the center of defense.

The Germans dominated the opening stages but it was the French who had the most promising early moments, Karim Benzema sidefooting wide from Mathieu Valbuena’s shot and then Griezmann’s cross being cut out before it reached the waiting Benzema.

But it was the Germans who made the breakthrough on 13 minutes when Schweinsteiger swung in a free kick and Hummels held off Raphaël Varane to steer his header inside the far post. Hummels was one of six members of Germany’s 2009 Under-21 squad in the starting XI.

Germany looked largely comfortable for the rest of the half as the French midfield struggled to assert themselves but it was Neuer who made a vital save from Valbuena, with Benzema unable to turn in rebound.

On the 10 occasions France had trailed at half-time in the World Cup they had never won. The second half was characterized by a series of French forays but the Germans always looked like they were in control as they drained the life out of the game, even when Khedira and Schweinsteiger were both booked for illegally halting French breaks.

Schürrle replaced Klose on 69 minutes but bafflingly Deschamps chose to swap one center-back for another, with Koscielny replacing Sakho. It was only when Loïc Rémy replaced Cabaye on 73 minutes that France offered more of a threat.

However, it was Germany who had the better chances. Twice Schürrle squandered his shot after quick German attacks. At the other end Blaise Matuidi shot at far post was punched away by Neuer.

Deep into stoppage time France had a chance to force an extra 30 minutes but Benzema's shot from eight yards was swatted away almost nonchalantly by the imperious Neuer.

Germany become the first team to reach the semifinals in four consecutive World Cups and will face the winner of today's Brazil-Colombia match in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

Belgium 2-1 USA (aet)

July 1, 2014

Romelu Lukaku scores Belgium's decisive second goal against the USA.
Michael Steele / Getty Images

Belgium was taken to the limit in a thrilling contest by the USA, for whom Tim Howard turned in an outstanding performance in goal, but two extra-time goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku ensured victory despite Julian Green’s late strike for the Americans. The result means that all eight group winners have made it into the quarter-finals.

Salvador had been Brazil’s capital of goals, with 21 scored in the four groups games played in the city. For their second-round match there Belgium dropped Lukaku to the bench and looked to the 19-year-old Divock Origi to find the net.

The game began at an impressive pace, with Origi nearly scoring in the first minute; Howard produced a good save with his right foot. Thereafter the USA largely made the running. Their best chance fell to the captain Clint Dempsey but his shot was easily gathered by Thibaut Courtois. The Belgians, though, always looked dangerous on the counter-attack and De Bruyne should have done better than to drag his shot into the side-netting.

After half an hour Fabian Johnson limped off with a hamstring injury – the third USA player to do so in this tournament – and was replaced by DeAndre Yedlin. The 20-year-old faced the daunting task of containing Eden Hazard but he made an instant impact at the other end, forcing a corner off the Belgian winger. Yedlin provided an attacking threat from full-back for the rest of the game.

The second half started more slowly but Belgium gradually began to exert more pressure. On the hour-mark an intricate Belgian move ended with Mertens backheeling narrowly wide at the near post.

On 71 minutes the substitute Kevin Mirallas dribbled through the US defense before laying the ball off to Origi, whose shot was well saved by Howard.

In what was becoming a motif of the match, Howard again saved well when Mirallas was clean through after a move that began when Hazard, for the first time in the match, tracked back and dispossessed Yedlin.

Increasingly it was Howard who was standing between Belgium and the quarter-finals. On 79 minutes the US goalkeeper made another important save, this time from Hazard’s shot after Mirallas’s cross.

However, it was the USA who nearly snatched victory in stoppage time when the ball fell to the substitute Chris Wondolowski. But he sliced his shot horribly from seven yards with only Courtois to beat.

After an hour and a half without a goal it took only two minutes of extra time for Belgium to break the deadlock. A smart turn on the halfway line by Lukaku, who had just replaced Origi, opened up acres of space. He pulled his cross back to De Bruyne, who sidestepped two defenders before placing the ball in the far corner. Howard had finally been beaten.

The American goalkeeper produced further fine stops from the Chelsea striker and Mirallas but with a minute to go before the break Lukaku burst into the box and beat Howard with a crisp first-time shot at his near post.

But the drama was far from over. At the start of the second period of extra time the substitute Green ran on to a floated Michael Bradley pass to volley home from eight yards.

The Americans looked revitalized and moments later Jermaine Jones steered his shot agonizingly wide at the end of another incisive move. The action was now end to end and Howard again had to save with his legs to deny Lukaku.

Then a cleverly worked US free kick cut through the Belgian defense but Courtois was there to smother Dempsey’s strike at goal. The USA pressed ever more frantically for an equalizer but Belgium hung on for the victory to end the American dream at this World Cup.

Belgium will now face Argentina in Brasilia on Saturday.

Argentina 1-0 Switzerland

July 1, 2014

Di Maria lines up the winner
Matthias Hangst / Getty Images

Two-time champions Argentina were subjected to their toughest test of the World Cup thus far, by a plucky Swiss team that kept the game alive into its 120th minute.

The Swiss prospered by smothering Argentina’s most powerful weapon: The game was more than an hour old before Lionel Messi had a shot on goal, as Swiss defensive midfielders Gokan Inler and Valon Behrami closed the space and choked off the service available to the diminutive forward. Instead, Argentina was forced to rely on Angel Di Maria and Ezequiel Lavezzi as their main attacking outlets – and to prove that the Albiceleste are not, in fact, a one-man team.

Not only were they defensively sound – and kept alive by some excellent goalkeeping by Diego Benaglio – the Swiss had a number of opportunities to win the game, with Xherdan Shaqiri, Admir Mehmedi and Joseph Drmic wreaking havoc with the Argentines’ back line in an energetic first half hour. Drmic should have scored when clean through, but chipped harmlessly into the hands of a grateful Argentine keeper Sergio Romero.

But as the Argentines clawed their way back into the game and camped out in the Swiss half, prompting coach Otmar Hitzfeld made a defensive substitution, bringing on Gelson Fernandes for the more adventurous Granit Xhaka – and the pattern of the game shifted to one of a protracted siege of the Swiss penalty area, with only occasional counter-attacking forays.

In extra time, the Swiss resumed the waves of successive attacks they’d produced in the first half, but failed to convert – and were undone by a moment of Messi magic in the 119th minute driving towards the Swiss area and drawing the defense to create space for Angel Di Maria, who converted Messi’s pass for a last-gasp winner. Even then, Swiss substitute Dzemaili headed against the post in the dying seconds.

And there was still time for one more turn of the dramatic screw, as the Swiss won a free kick at the edge of the box in the dying seconds. But Shaqiri’s strike hit the wall -- and Argentina scraped through to the quarter final, by the proverbial skin of their teeth.

Germany 2-1 Algeria (aet)

June 30, 2014

André Schürrle came on as a substitute and scored in extra time.
Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Germany defeated Algeria 2-1 in a thrilling match that kept the crowd in Porto Alegre enthralled over two hours. All three goals arrived in extra time, with Mesut Özil's proving to be decisive.

The buildup had dwelt on the lingering North African resentment from 1982 when West Germany and Austria had settled for a mutually convenient result in Gijón that consigned Algeria to an early exit from the Spanish World Cup. It was easy to forget that despite Germany’s impressive form in this tournament, Algeria had won their only previous World Cup meeting.

Algeria, initially without their captain Madjid Bougherra who was troubled by an injury, dominated the opening 20 minutes. Sofiane Feghouli had already shot wastefully from an impossible angle after slicing through the German defence, when on 16 minutes Fauzi Ghoulam curled a beautiful cross that Islam Slimani headed past Manuel Neuer in the Germany goal. However, the Algerian forward was rightly flagged offside.

Moments later it was the turn of Ghoulam, leaving Özil in his wake, to fire across the face of the German goal.

On 28 minutes Neuer had to come racing from his goal after Algeria nearly capitalized on confusion in the German defence. It was not the last time Neuer would be called into action as a sweeper, with Germany was playing a high defensive line and central defenders in the full-back positions (full-back Philipp Lahm was playing in midfield).

Despite all the Algerian pressure, Germany came close to ending the first half in front when Raïs M’Bolhi had to make a double save, the first from Toni Kroos, the second at close range from Mario Götze, to keep the game goalless.

At half-time Andre Schürrle replaced Götze and almost had an immediate impact when his deflected shot ballooned away for a corner. And in the 50th minute his pace caused panic when he almost latched on to a long pass from Neuer.

Germany began the second half much the brighter but Algeria remained competitive. It was Bastian Schweinsteiger, though, who on 79 minutes headed wide from the energetic Thomas Müller’s cross. A minute later it was Müller who, from a Sami Khedira cross, headed powerfully from six yards out. He should have scored but M’Bolhi saved and Schürrle’s follow-up was deflected for a corner. Müller, one of the tournament’s top marksmen, had another chance within two minutes that he stabbed wide.

Algeria were dangerous on the break but Germany had the best of the chances, with Schweingsteiger heading into the arms of M’Bolhi in the 90th minute. An additional half-hour would be needed to separate the teams.

A contest that was never less than gripping finally produced a goal less than two minutes into extra time when André Schürrle arrived at the six-yard line to turn in a Müller cross with an improvised finish.

With two minutes remaining Germany put the matter beyond the visibly tired Algerians. Schürrle's shot was blocked by Essaïm Belkalem but the ball broke kinly for Özil who drove it home.

Amazingly, that was not the end of the story as in added time the substitute Abdelmoumene Djabou met a deep cross to fire home a consolation goal on the half-volley.

Germany will face France in Rio de Janeiro on Friday but Algeria, who will rue not having capitalized on their early dominance, can leave Brazil with their heads held high.

France 2-0 Nigeria

June 30, 2014

Paul Pogba scored France's first goal against Nigeria.
Fabrice Coffrini / AFP / Getty Images

France advanced to the quarter-finals of the World Cup with a 2-0 win over Nigeria in Brasilia but what was ultimately a comfortable victory had looked anything but for much of the game.

It was Nigeria who started the brighter. On 19 minutes Ahmed Musa whipped in a dangerous cross that Emmanuel Emenike stabbed first-time past Hugo Lloris in the French goal. However, his celebrations were cut short by the assistant referee’s flag for offside.

Three minutes later Vincent Enyeama had to be alert to palm away a fierce shot from Paul Pogba, France’s most impressive player in the first half.

After the break, France’s Blaise Matuidi was lucky to receive only a yellow card for his over-the-top challenge on Ogenyi Onazi which resulted in the Nigerian being carried off on a stretcher.

Nigeria dominated the first 20 minutes of the second half. On 64 minutes Peter Odemwingie forced Lloris into a smart save with a smart left-foot shot from 20 yards.

But France regained the upper hand following Didier Deschamps’s decision to withdraw the underperforming forward Olivier Giroud. Having reverted to a more central position, Karim Benzema came close to opening the scoring. The Real Madrid striker played a one-two with the lively Antoine Griezmann, who had replaced Giroud, and his left-foot shot was only partially parried by Enyeama. Fortunately, Victor Moses was on hand to clear the ball from the goalline.

Yohan Cabaye rattled the crossbar with a powerful, curling drive after Benzema’s cross-shot had been booted clear by John Obi Mikel, as France began to dominate.

Enyeama, who had kept Nigeria in the game with important saves but had looked uncertain in the air, came for an 80th-minute corner but his touch was indecisive, allowing Pogba to head in at the far post.

In stoppage time Mathieu Valbuena cut in from the right, where France appeared to be content to waste time, and his low cross was inadvertently turned into his own net by Joseph Yobo under pressure from Griezmann.

France will now travel to Rio de Janeiro where they will face the winner of the Germany versus Algeria match on Friday.

Costa Rica 1-1 (5-3) Greece

June 29, 2014

Keylor Navas of Costa Rica saves a penalty kick by Theofanis Gekas of Greece in a penalty shootout.
Alex Grimm/FIFA via Getty Images

Ten-man Costa Rica beat Greece in a penalty shootout Sunday to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time.

Michael Umana scored the decisive penalty as Costa Rica won the shootout 5-3 after the game ended 1-1 following extra time.

Theofanis Gekas saw his penalty saved by Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas for the only miss in the shootout.

Costa Rica had taken the lead early in the second half of regulation time through captain Bryan Ruiz but then had defender Oscar Duarte sent off in the 66th minute.

Greece equalized in injury time of regulation time when Sokratis Papastathopoulos smashed in a rebound and finally made the team's numerical advantage pay.

Costa Rica will play the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.

The Associated Press

Holland 2-1 Mexico

June 29, 2014

Dutch forward Arjen Robben celebrates a last-gasp victory
Laurence Griffiths/ Getty Images

Mexican hopes for an epic triumph over the Netherlands and passage to the World Cup quarterfinals were cruelly dashed in the dying minutes of a match played in 97-degree heat in Fortaleza. First, an 88th minute defensive lapse allowed diminutive Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder to hammer home an equalizer to Giovanni Dos Santos 48th minute strike that had given Mexico a well-deserved lead. Then, with two minutes left on the clock, Dutch winger Arjen Robben went to ground following a challenge in the penalty area by Mexican skipper Rafa Marquez; the referee pointed to the spot; and substitute striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar made no mistake with the penalty to give the Dutch a last-gasp victory.

The Mexicans had dominated the midfield for most of the first hour, the Dutch suffering from their defensive midfield anchor Nigel De Jongh limping off injured in the ninth minute. Salcido, Herrera and Gaurdado stroked the ball around, with their one-touch passing and flicks setting up a number of chances and testing a shaky Dutch defense. Dos Santos’ brilliantly taken goal gave El Tri a well-deserved lead, and the Dutch seemed to be wilting in the blazing heat. But Mexico seemed content to hold onto their slender lead for the last half hour, despite warnings by breaks from Robben that exposed their defense. Twice, Mexico’s goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa saved what looked like certain goals, but he could do nothing in the 88th minute when Sneijder was left unmarked on the edge of the 18-yard box to slam home a rebound from a corner.

The penalty call, though, will remain a source of controversy, with Robben clearly looking for any contact as a pretext to go down. Contact there was, of course, after Marquez failed to touch the ball in his attempted tackle – but whether Robben was actually brought down or simply threw himself to the turf to win the spot-kick will remain one of those eternal refereeing grievances that are an essential part of the international soccer fans’ experience.  

Colombia 2-0 Uruguay

June 28, 2014

Edison Cavani of Uruguay challenges Juan Zuniga of Columbia during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match.
Stanley Chou/Getty Images

James Rodriguez scored one of the best goals of the tournament and then added a second to put Colombia into the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time with a 2-0 win over Uruguay on Saturday.

Rodriguez gave his team the lead with a stunning long-range volley on the turn in the 28th minute and netted the second from close range shortly after the break as Colombia dominated a Uruguay side that sorely missed banned striker Luis Suarez.

Rodriguez now has a tournament-leading five goals in Brazil and further enhanced his status as perhaps the tournament's biggest revelation.

Uruguay, meanwhile, struggled badly in attack without Suarez and his replacement Diego Forlan was substituted in the 53rd after a disappointing performance in what was probably his final World Cup appearance.

Colombia will play Brazil in the quarterfinals on July 4 in Fortaleza after the host beat Chile in a penalty shootout earlier Saturday.

The Associated Press

Brazil 1-1 (3-2) Chile

June 28, 2014

Neymar of Brazil and Mauricio Isla of Chile compete for the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil round of 16 match.
Ian Walton/ Getty Images

Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior scored the winning penalty kick Saturday to give Brazil a 3-2 shootout win over Chile in the second round of the World Cup. The match had ended 1-1.

Neymar scored the third penalty after David Luiz and Marcelo Vieira also scored from the spot.

Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar saved the first two penalties and watched Gonzalo Jara's final attempt hit the post.

Brazil will next face either Colombia or Uruguay in the quarterfinals.

Neither team managed to score after first-half goals from Luiz and Sanchez.

When Jara's final penalty hit the post, some of Brazil's players celebrated wildly while others fell to the ground, exhausted and emotionally drained.

As the crowd at the Mineirao Stadium roared, the Brazilian players joined hands in a human chain as Chile's team stood motionless.

Brazil has reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup every time since 1994. Its last elimination in the second round was against Argentina in 1990.

The Associated Press

Belgium 1-0 Korea Republic

June 26, 2014

Belgium's defender Jan Vertonghen (R) scores during a Group H football match between South Korea and Belgium at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo.
Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Jan Vertonghen's late goal saw 10-man Belgium beat South Korea 1-0 in their final Group H match on Thursday, despite having Steven Defour sent off just before halftime for a nasty two-footed challenge.

The win made it a maximum nine points for the Belgians, who will meet the United States in the last 16 in Salvador on Tuesday while South Korea head for the exit.

The European side had already qualified for the next round, having beaten Algeria and Russia in their first two games, and even a draw would have been enough to claim first place and avoid Germany in the next round.

When Defour was given a straight red for a needless, studs-up challenge on Kim Shin-wook, the game opened up for the Koreans after the break.

But although they had plenty of possession and a series of clear chances, they were caught on the break when Belgim's excellent substitute Divock Origi struck from distance.

Keeper Kim Seung-gyu palmed the ball into the path of the onrushing Vertonghen, who put it away with ease in the 78th minute.

An even first period saw Dries Mertens miss a golden chance for Belgium eight metres from goal when he shot well over while, at the other end, Ki Sung-yueng had a rasping long-range shot well saved by keeper Thibaut Courtois.

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots made seven changes from the team that beat Russia, with captain Vincent Kompany and fellow defender Thomas Vermaelen dropping out due to slight injuries, while playmaker Eden Hazard started on the bench.

The Belgians are considered "dark horses" by many pundits to go all the way in Brazil after their star-studded squad went through World Cup qualifying unbeaten.

But they looked far from fluent in their group games, coming from behind late to edge Algeria 2-1, beating Russia through Origi's 88th-minute goal and only just edging past the Koreans.


Algeria 1-1 Russia

June 26, 2014

Algeria's forward Islam Slimani (2nd R) and Algeria's defender Aissa Mandi (front L) celebrate after Slimani scored his team's first goal past Russia's goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev (R) as Russia's defender Sergey Ignashevich (L) reacts during a Group H football match between Algeria and Russia.
Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Islam Slimani headed an ecstatic Algeria into the last 16 of the World Cup for the first time with a 1-1 draw against Russia on Thursday that dumped Fabio Capello's team out of the tournament.

On a momentous night for the North Africans, who were the last team through to the knockout rounds with Belgium already qualified as Group H leaders, Algeria recovered from an early Alexander Kokorin goal to advance.

The point, in a tense match at the Baixada Arena with everything still at stake and 2018 hosts Russia needing a win to go through at Algeria's expense, was all the 'Desert Foxes' needed to make history.

With Belgium finishing on nine points, Algeria, who face Germany for a place in the quarter-finals, ended with four to Russia's two and South Korea's one.

The draw was all they deserved but it came after an early setback, with Kokorin meeting a beautifully-flighted Dmitry Kombarov cross to nod in a perfectly-executed header in the sixth minute.

Algeria, whose Bosnian-born coach Vahid Halilhodzic had called the match the most important in the country's soccer history, rarely threatened in the first half and looked a shadow of the side who thumped four goals past the Koreans.

Slimani had an effort tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev in the 30th minute but the linesman had already been flagged for offsides, and Algeria's other tame attempts had Halilhodzic gesticulating furiously from the touchline.

It all changed in the second half, though, with Algeria looking far sharper before the goal and then resisting the pressure.

Slimani seized his chance in the 60th minute with a powerful header at the near post from a Yacine Brahimi free kick that Akinfeev failed to reach.

Capello had made just one change to the side who lost 1-0 to Belgium, handing a first start of the tournament to veteran striker Alexander Kerzhakov in place of Maxim Kanunnikov, but the goals failed to flow.

Instead, Algeria once again denied the Italian three points after holding Capello's England to a goalless draw in South Africa four years ago.

That time it was England who went through but Thursday belonged to Algeria, their fans praying for the match to end and erupting at the final whistle.


Germany 1-0 USA

June 26, 2014

Thomas Mueller of Germany shoots and scores his team's first goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil group G match between the United States and Germany at Arena Pernambuco on June 26, 2014 in Recife, Brazil.
Martin Rose/Getty Images)

The United States reached the knockout stage of consecutive World Cups for the first time, just not the way the Americans wanted.

Germany beat the U.S. 1-0 Thursday in soggy Recife on Thomas Mueller's 55th-minute goal to win Group G, but the Americans held onto second place when Portugal defeated Ghana 2-1 in a game played simultaneously in Brasilia.

The Germans, three-time World Cup champions, finished with seven points, while the U.S. had four after allowing a 95th-minute goal against Portugal on Sunday in a 2-2 draw. Portugal also had four, but the Americans advanced from the so-called "Group of Death" because their goal difference was even and the Portuguese were minus three.

The Americans will play the Group H winner, likely Belgium but possibly Algeria, Monday in Salvador.

The Americans sprinted out onto the field at the final whistle, about 30 seconds before the other game ended and made advancement official. Brad Davis raised both hands and led the applauding U.S. team to the side of the stadium where the majority of American supporters sat.

The game marked meetings of several former international teammates facing each other, an unusual occurrence. American right back Fabian Johnson started for Germany in the 2009 European Under-21 Championship alongside three of Germany's starters Thursday: Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann starred for West Germany when it won the 1990 World Cup and coached his homeland to the 2006 World Cup semifinals. His top assistant that year was Joachim Loew, who succeeded him as Germany's coach after the tournament. The two exchange a hug after the final whistle.

There had been fears before the match that the U.S. and Germany would not attack each other too much and be satisfied with a draw, which would advance both nations.

The Americans never came close to scoring until second-half injury time.

The Associated Press

Portugal 2-1 Ghana

June 26, 2014

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (R) falls after a Ghana's John Boye challenge during their 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match at the Brasilia national stadium in Brasilia June 26, 2014.
Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo's first goal of the World Cup earned Portugal a 2-1 win over Ghana but couldn't prevent his team being eliminated from the tournament along with the Africans on Thursday.

Portugal finished level on four points with second-place United States in Group G but with an inferior goal difference. Germany topped the group.

Ronaldo slammed in the winner with his left foot in the 80th minute to break his drought in Brazil and give Portugal its first win.

Ghana captain Asamaoh Gyan's 57th-minute header canceled out an own goal scored by John Boye in the 31st.

The Associated Press

France 0-0 Ecuador

June 25, 2014

Oswaldo Minda of Ecuador is consoled by Bacary Sagna of France after a 0-0 draw during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group E match between Ecuador and France at Maracana on June 25, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Photo by Pool/Getty Images

France's much-vaunted attack missed a series of chances as it drew 0-0 with 10-man Ecuador to reach the knockout stage of the World Cup on Wednesday, while the South Americans bowed out of the tournament.

France, which ended with seven points, had scored eight goals in two games and 39 in its previous 11. But the finishing on Wednesday lacked sharpness against a spirit Ecuador side which proved dangerous all game on the break.

"I'm proud of what the players have achieved," France coach Didier Deschamps said. "We didn't take our chances, but that takes nothing away from our joy. We had to be vigilant against an Ecuador side that was quick and looked dangerous even with 10 men."

Ecuador's chances were hindered at Rio's Maracana stadium after Antonio Valencia was shown a straight red card in the 50th minute for digging his studs into the leg of French defender Lucas Digne.

But Ecuador may feel upset that France center half Mamadou Sakho was not shown a red card in the eighth minute when he appeared to elbow Oswaldo Minda in the face during a France corner. Then, in a late incident off the ball, France forward Olivier Giroud jabbed his elbow in to Gabriel Achilier, who was standing behind him.

"Some of the decisions made by the referee did not favor us," Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda said. "It's quite regrettable what happened. I believe this is now in the hands of the committee that assesses the behavior of referees. This was not the ideal behavior in many split decisions. I don't think it's worth going into that now."

The Associated Press

Switzerland 3-0 Honduras

June 25, 2014

Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland (L) celebrates scoring his team's third goal and completes his hat trick during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group E match between Honduras and Switzerland at Arena Amazonia on June 25, 2014 in Manaus, Brazil. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

Xherdan Shaqiri's hat trick put Switzerland into the second round of the World Cup, and kept coach Ottmar Hitzfeld gainfully employed for at least a few more days.

Shaqiri scored a pair of first-half goals and added another in the second Wednesday to give Switzerland a 3-0 victory over Honduras, a result that put the Swiss in second place in Group E behind France.

"We knew that we were going to show great football today," said Shaqiri, a Bayern Munich winger. "For us, this has been really a dream to be in the World Cup, small Switzerland in the World Cup."

The small Swiss will next face the not-so-small Lionel Messi and Argentina on Tuesday in Sao Paulo in what could be Hitzfeld's final match. The German veteran, a two-time Champions League winner as a coach, has said this tournament will be his last.

"We are really anxious for that. We also know that we are not the favorites for the match, but we are going to try for victory," Shaqiri said. "Getting to the round of 16, everything is possible. You never know."

Shaqiri scored his first goal in the sixth minute, dribbling into a crowd of defenders and curling a shot into the net off the underside of the crossbar. In the 31st, he collected a pass from Josip Drmic after a defensive error and easily beat Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares.

Shaqiri completed his hat trick in the 71st. Drmic did well to beat Honduras defender Victor Bernardez on the left and pass to a charging Shaqiri, who one-timed his shot past a diving Valladares.

The Associated Press

Argentina 3-2 Nigeria

June 25, 2014

Lionel Messi of Argentina controls the ball against Ogenyi Onazi of Nigeria during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Nigeria and Argentina.
Jeff Gross / Getty Images

Argentina beat Nigeria 3-2 in their last World Cup group match on Wednesday, with Lionel Messi and Ahmed Musa scoring two goals each before Marcos Rojo kneed in the winner.

Argentina won Group F while Nigeria also advanced despite the loss, becoming the first African team in the round of 16 in Brazil.

Messi had his best match of the World Cup so far, scoring twice in the first half to boost his tournament total to four goals, and repeatedly cutting up Nigeria's defense with dazzling runs and clever passes.

"We played against a team that wanted to play," Messi said. "I think we saw a good Argentina. We need to continue on this path."

The Argentina captain needed less than three minutes to finish Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama's clean sheet in Brazil, slamming in the rebound after Angel Di Maria's shot bounced off the post. Nigeria replied within a minute as Musa cut in from the left and beat Sergio Romero with a curling shot toward the far post.

Nearing halftime Messi tested Enyeama with a 25-meter free kick that the goalkeeper struggled to push to a corner. Having found his aim, Messi was ice cold when Nigeria gave up another free kick just moments later from a slightly shorter distance.

This time Enyeama was stunned as the ball hooked over the wall and slipped in just inside the post.

"Messi is one heck of a player, he's blessed. You can't take it away from him," Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said. "Messi is from Jupiter, he is different."

The second half started at the same furious pace as the first, with two goals within the first five minutes. First Musa took advantage of confusion in the Argentine defense to score his second. Then Rojo made it 3-2 as he got his right knee on a corner kick three minutes later.

The Associated Press

Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-1 Iran

January 25, 2014

Bosnia-Herzegovina's forward Edin Dzeko, left, and Iran's midfielder Andranik Teymourian vie for the ball.
Behrouz Mehri / AFP / Getty Images

Bosnia-Herzegovina ended Iran's hopes of advancing to the knockout stages with a 3-1 victory in Group F on Wednesday, registering its first World Cup win in the process.

The Bosnians, who were already relegated from the tournament, took a commanding 2-0 lead with goals from Edin Dzeko in the 23rd and Miralem Pjanic in the 53rd before Iran hit back in a desperate late bid to qualify for the second round.

Reza Ghoochannejhad gave some hope to the Iranians with a tap-in goal in the 81st, but Avdija Vrsaljevic replied immediately to restore the two-goal lead.

Iran needed a win to have any chance of advancing.

"Sorry to our opponents, but this was also an important win for us so we could hold our heads up high leaving this tournament," Bosnia-Herzegovina coach Safet Susic said. "Throughout the match we were those who wanted to win more."

The Bosnians were already out of contention at their first World Cup following consecutive losses to Argentina and Nigeria.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz brought in strikers Khosro Heydari and Karim Ansari Fard in the second half but the shift in system only netted one goal.

Playing at its fourth World Cup, the Iran squad faced criticism for its dour defensive tactics after a 0-0 draw against Nigeria. The Iranians also spent much of their game against Argentina packing the defense, but created several chances on counterattacks and nearly caused a major upset before conceding a late winner by Lionel Messi.

"I was a bit surprised by Iran, they needed a win and they were calculating," Susic said. "That backfired for them. Maybe they could not change their habits."

The Associated Press

Greece 2-1 Côte d'Ivoire

June 24, 2014

Giorgos Samaras of Greece celebrates scoring a penalty to send his team to the knockout stage
2014 Getty Images

A stoppage time penalty from Giorgos Samaras gave Greece a dramatic 2-1 victory over Côte d'Ivoire in their final Group C match on Tuesday and took the Greeks through to the knock-out stages of the World Cup for the first time.

Samaras stroked home a controversial 93rd minute penalty after he was judged to have been tripped in the box by Giovanni Sio as the Greeks poured forward in search of a winner.

Their last-gasp victory left them second in the group on four points, one ahead of Côte d'Ivoire and three clear of Japan. Colombia topped the group with a perfect nine points.

"It means a lot for the team and I hope we gave a lot of joy to the Greeks back home. We are very happy and gave our answers on the pitch. I  thought we controlled the game they didn't have many chances," Samaras said.

Côte d'Ivoire coach Sabri Lamouchi said it would be his last match in charge of the team as his contract had now expired and would not be renewed.

"I'm deeply disappointed for the players. They deserved much better than what happened tonight. It was very cruel," he said.

The Greeks, who had failed to get past the group stage at their two previous appearances at the World Cup, will face Costa Rica in Recife on Sunday in the last 16.


Colombia 4-1 Japan

June 24, 2014

James Rodriguez of Colombia celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal
2014 Getty Images

Colombia striker Jackson Martinez scored twice as they thrashed Japan 4-1 to maintain their 100 percent record and claim top spot in Group C on Tuesday to set up a second round clash with Uruguay.

Colombia, who are in the last 16 for the first time since 1990, went ahead through an early Juan Cuadrado penalty before Martinez struck twice in the second half and substitute James Rodriguez wrapped up the win with a delightful fourth goal.

Japan equalized just before halftime with Shinji Okazaki's fine diving header but fell apart near the end of the match.

"It was a difficult first half, we had lots of opportunities to score but found that their strong defense did a lot of damage," said Martinez.

"In the second half, we were a lot better and were able to show the kind of play we had in previous games.

"I am really happy," with the two goals."

Asked about facing Uruguay, Martinez said: "It's going to be a really tough game, a fight, and we just have to maintain our focus and continue to work like we have."


Uruguay 1-0 Italy

Suarez holds his teeth, Chiellini holds his shoulder after the alleged bite
Tony Gentile / Reuters

Italy’s World Cup ended in dramatic and controversial fashion in Natal, beaten 1-0 by Uruguay after losing defender Claudio Marchisio to a red card in the 59th minute for a late, high tackle. But the drama likely to be etched into the iconic memory of this World Cup came in the 79th minute when Uruguay striker Luis Suarez appeared to bite Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder.  The incident was not spotted by the referee, who waved away the protesting Italian player displaying what he said was a bite mark. But TV replays appear to show Suarez launching his head at Chiellini’s shoulder, and then spinning away holding his own teeth.

Two minutes later, with the Italians outraged and reeling, Uruguay’s Diego Godin headed home a corner and sealed the fate of the Azzuri, whose ten men could not find an answer. Uruguay, who had created more scoring chances, now progress to the round of 16, along with Costa Rica who played out a dull goalless draw with England.

Having been twice banned in his professional career for biting opponents during a game, Suarez is unlikely to be given the benefit of the doubt over the incident. It remains to be seen whether FIFA would follow the protocols used in European league football, where players can be banned for a period based on video evidence of infractions missed by the referee.

Costra Rica 0-0 England

Costa Rica emerged as unprobable winners of World Cup Group D after playing out a goalless draw against England, who had no chance of progressing into the knockout stage after losing to both Italy and Uruguay.  England sent out a second-string lineup but failed to spark in a dull game in which they failed to trouble Los Ticos.

Costa Rica had entered the tournament as unfancied outsiders, but beat Uruguay and Italy and then comfortably held England at bay. They’ll fancy their chances, too, against either Cote D’Ivoire, Greece or Japan in the next round, making Los Ticos the Cinderella story of the World Cup so far.  

Mexico 3-1 Croatia

June 23, 2014

Mexico’s Javier Hernandez celebrates scoring his team's third goal against Croatia during their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match.
Lars Baron

Mexico surged into the World Cup's knockout stage for a sixth straight time Monday with a 3-1 win over Croatia.

Rafael Marquez, Andres Guardado and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez scored in a 10-minute span in the second half, dooming a talented Croatia side to elimination from the group stage.

The Croats had to win to advance and held the bulk of possession, but had trouble seriously threatening goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who kept out all efforts until an 87th-minute consolation goal from Ivan Perisic.

Mexico entered the game needing only a draw, and looked dangerous in attack, but was kept out until the three-goal burst.

Marquez struck first, beating Croatia defender Vedran Corluka to head home Hector Herrera's corner kick in the 72nd minute. Three minutes later, Guardado found the net with a hard, left-footed, one-time shot after a cross from Oribe Peralta.

Then in the 82nd minute, Hernandez, the popular Manchester United striker who has been a second-half substitute in all three of Mexico's matches, scored with a header after Herrera's corner had glanced off the head of Marquez.

Croatia didn't score until it was too late, with Perisic sliding a shot past Ochoa after being set up by a neat backheel pass from Ivan Rakitic. It was the first goal Mexico has conceded in the World Cup, but "El Tri" hardly seemed to mind when the final whistle sounded and a lively, heavily Mexican crowd in Arena Pernambuco erupted.

The Associated Press

Brazil 4-1 Cameroon

June 23, 2014

Brazil's Neymar celebrates after scoring his team's second goal
Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Neymar scored twice in the first half to lead Brazil to a 4-1 win over Cameroon on Monday, helping the hosts secure a spot in the second round of the World Cup.

Fred and Fernandinho added second-half goals for Brazil, which advanced from Group A.

Neymar opened the scoring off a low cross by midfielder Luiz Gustavo in the 17th minute, deftly side-footing the ball home from close range, then restored the lead with a low right-foot strike from the top of the penalty area in the 35th after a pass by left back Marcelo.

Midfielder Joel Matip had equalized for already eliminated Cameroon with a tap-in from inside the area in the 26th.

Fred found the net in the 49th and the substitute Fernandinho struck in the 84th.

Associated Press

Netherlands 2-0 Chile

June 23, 2014

Arjen Robben of the Netherlands celebrates setting up his team's second goal by Memphis Depay during Group B match against Chile on Monday.
Shaun Botterill - FIFA / FIFA via Getty Images

The flying Dutch booked their place in the round of 16 – and very likely dodged an encounter with Brazil in that knockout game with – with an emphatic 2-0 victory over a spirited Chile. Los Rojos started energetically launching wave after wave of rapid-fire attacks, but the Dutch defense – and its midfield screen, Nigel De Jongh, held their shape and shut out the Chileans. De Jongh winning the ball and supplying Robben appeared to be the most potent weapon of the Dutch, who played without star striker Robin Van Persie -- was suspended for having collected yellow cards in each of the previous two games

The Dutch found the Chilean defense as stubborn as the Chilean forwards found the Dutch, and the game seemed poised on a knife-edge until the 77th minute. That was when diminutive midfield substitute Leroy Fer, having been introduced two minutes earlier, rose to head in from a corner to put the Oranje ahead. That left Chile with a mountain to climb, and despite the heroic efforts of Barcelona striker Alexi Sanchez to drive his men forward, the Dutch defense remained resolute. In the dying minutes, with Chilean players all committed to the siege of the Dutch goal, De Jongh’s pass set free the speedy winger Arjen Robben, who raced into the Chilean penalty area to set up a simple tap in for Memphis Depay to seal the victory.

If Brazil, as expected, wins its group, they’ll face Chile in their first knockout game, while the Dutch arguably have the easier game against either Mexico or Croatia.

The flying Dutch booked their place in the round of 16 – and very likely dodged an encounter with Brazil in that knockout game with – with an emphatic 2-0 victory over a spirited Chile. Los Rojos started energetically launching wave after wave of rapid-fire attacks, but the Dutch defense – and its midfield screen, Nigel De Jongh, held their shape and shut out the Chileans. De Jongh winning the ball and supplying Robben appeared to be the most potent weapon of the Dutch, who played without star striker Robin Van Persie -- was suspended for having collected yellow cards in each of the previous two games

The Dutch found the Chilean defense as stubborn as the Chilean forwards found the Dutch, and the game seemed poised on a knife-edge until the 77th minute. That was when diminutive midfield substitute Leroy Fer, having been introduced two minutes earlier, rose to head in from a corner to put the Oranje ahead. That left Chile with a mountain to climb, and despite the heroic efforts of Barcelona striker Alexi Sanchez to drive his men forward, the Dutch defense remained resolute. In the dying minutes, with Chilean players all committed to the siege of the Dutch goal, De Jongh’s pass set free the speedy winger Arjen Robben, who raced into the Chilean penalty area to set up a simple tap in for Memphis Depay to seal the victory.

If Brazil, as expected, wins its group, they’ll face Chile in their first knockout game, while the Dutch arguably have the easier game against either Mexico or Croatia.

Spain 3-0 Australia

When it no longer mattered, Spain produced the goods, with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Australia. Having lost their previous two games, both teams had no chance of going through to the Round of 16, and Spain used the opportunity to give a run-out to a number of players that hadn’t featured in its earlier starting lineup. All three goals came from those players – New York City FC-bound David Villa, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata.

The win will be slim consolation for the reigning champions who face the ignominy of flying home before the knockout phase of the World Cup even starts. 

United States 2-2 Portugal

June 22, 2014

Cristiano Ronaldo set up Silvestre Varela for a late equalizer on a hot and humid night Sunday to give the Portugal a 2-2 draw with the United States and hope for a spot in the second round of the World Cup.

Ronaldo, who has been playing despite a left knee injury, sent in a cross in the fifth minute of stoppage time and Varela scored with a diving header in the last seconds of the match.

Nani had scored first for Portugal, shooting past a sprawling Tim Howard in the fifth minute, but the Americans responded in the second half as Portugal seemed to wilt in the stifling heat.

Jermaine Jones made it 1-1 with a curling shot in the 64th minute after a cross from Graham Zusi made its way through the Portugal defense.

Clint Dempsey, playing with a broken nose, then put the Americans ahead in the 81st minute. The United States captain used his stomach to direct the ball into the net from a cross by Zusi.

The last-second draw denied the Americans a spot in the second round, but it kept Portugal alive in the tournament.

The United States now has four points in Group G, the same as Germany. Both Portugal and Ghana have one point. The Americans will face Germany on Thursday in Recife, while Portugal takes on Ghana at the same time in Brasilia.

South Korea 2-4 Algeria

June 22, 2014

First-half goals by Islam Slimani and Rafik Halliche helped Algeria to a 4-2 victory over South Korea on Sunday, leaving the African nation second in Group H with one game left to play. The win, Alegeria’s first since the 1982 World Cup in Spain, triggered celebrations across the Arab nation.

South Korea and Russia, who drew 1-1 in their tournament opener, both have one point. Belgium have already booked one of the group's two slots in the last 16.

Algeria led 3-0 at halftime, but withstood a stronger South Korean second half performance to claim its first World Cup win since 1982.

Slimani scored on 26 minutes and, two minutes after the restart, defender Rafik Halliche headed in a corner. Algeria made it 3-0 in the 38th when Abdelmoumene Djabou side-footed home.

South Korea started positively after the break and pulled a goal back on 48 minutes when Son Heung-min shot through the legs of Rais Mbolhi.

Yacini Brahimi then scored for Algeria before South Korean captain Koo Ja-cheol bundled home his team's second goal.

Belgium 1-0 Russia

June 22, 2014

Teenage forward Divock Origi scored in the 88th minute as Belgium beat Russia 1-0 Sunday to secure a spot in the second round at the World Cup.

Livewire Dries Mertens did his best to spark Belgium into life in the first half, but both defenses were on top in a goalless first half. Mertens was a constant threat down the right flank, firing into the side netting and another effort across the face of goal.

Belgium struggled to find a way through until the dying stages of the Group H match, with Kevin Mirallas hitting the post with a free kick in the 84th and Eden Hazard sending a shot wide before Origi's close-range right-foot winner in front of more than 73,819 people at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro.

Belgium has six points and leads the group after opening with a 2-1 win over Algeria.

Russia had what appeared to be a decent penalty claim turned down when Toby Alderweireld seemed to catch Maksim Kanunnikov just inside the area and missed a great chance just before the interval when Alexander Kokorin miscued a header wide.

Nigeria 1-0 BosniaHerzegovina

June 21, 2014

Nigeria eliminated Bosnia-Herzegovina from World Cup contention with a 1-0 win over the tournament newcomers on Saturday, with Peter Odemwingie's first-half goal getting the African champions closer to the knockout stage.

Odemwingie sealed Nigeria's first victory at a World Cup since 1998 — spanning 10 matches — by finishing from close range in the 29th minute after one of a string of powerful runs by fellow striker Emmanuel Emenike.

Bosnia faded after a bright start, during which star striker Edin Dzeko had a goal contentiously disallowed for offside, and is still without a point in Group F following a 2-1 defeat to Argentina in its opener.

A draw would have given the Bosnians something to play for in its last group match, against Iran, but Dzeko had a shot tipped onto the post by goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama in the final few seconds, ending their hopes.

Nigeria needs a point against Argentina on Wednesday to be guaranteed a spot in the Round of 16 — and a surprise win would secure top spot in the group.

With Africa's five teams starting the World Cup with just one win from their first eight matches, the continent was able to enjoy a rare success in Brazil.

Germany 2-2 Ghana

June 21, 2014

Ghana's Sulley Muntari, left, and Germany's Thomas Mueller battle for the ball during the group G World Cup soccer match at the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza, Brazil, Saturday.
Frank Augstein/AP

Ghana held Germany to a 2-2 draw on Saturday despite veteran striker Miroslav Klose coming on as a substitute to tie the World Cup scoring record with the equalizer in their Group G match.

Klose now has 15 career World Cup goals, equaling the mark set by former Brazil star Ronaldo.

Klose scored the equalizer in the 71st less than two minutes after coming on, when a corner by Toni Kroos was flicked to the far post by Benedikt Hoewedes and the striker slid in to knock the ball into the roof of the net.

Mario Goetze had put Germany ahead in the 51st, but Ghana equalized three minutes later through Andre Ayew.

Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan then put the Africans ahead in the 63rd, only to see Klose cancel out his goal.

Argentina 1-0 Iran

June 21, 2014

Lionel Messi scored a superb goal in stoppage time to give Argentina a 1-0 victory over Iran on Saturday and secure his team's place in the second round of the World Cup.

Iran had defended solidly throughout the game and also took the match to Argentina in the second half, creating several chances to win the Group F match and cause a tournament sensation.

But Iran was punished for those missed chances when Messi picked up the ball about 20 yards out and curled a shot into the left hand corner.

Iran and Nigeria have one point while Bosnia are on zero ahead of their game against the Africans in Cuiaba later on Saturday.

Honduras 1-2 Ecuador

June 20, 2014

Ecuador's Enner Valencia scores during the group E World Cup soccer match between Honduras and Ecuador at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, Friday, June 20, 2014.
(Andrew Medichini/AP Photo)

Honduras scored their first World Cup goal in 32 years on Friday, but Enner Valencia replied with two goals to give Ecuador a 2-1 Group E victory that gives them a chance of advancing to the second round.

Valencia could have notched a hat trick. In the 19th minute he was left alone in front of Honduran keeper Noel Valladares, but his shot sailed wide.

Honduras responded shortly afterward when Carlo Costly drove in a crisp shot to the back of the Ecuadoran net after a glaring defensive error. It was Honduras's first goal at a World Cup since a 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland in the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

Just three minutes later, though, Valencia tapped in an errant shot from Juan Carlos Paredes. In the 65th minute, Valencia appeared again, heading home the game winner after a Felipe Caicedo cross.

France top the group with six points after their 5-2 thrashing of Switzerland. The Swiss, which play Honduras next, will vie with Ecuador, which faces France in their final group stage match, for entry to the knockout stage of the tournament.

Switzerland 2-5 France

June 20, 2014

Blaise Matuidi is congratulated by France teammates after scoring against Switzerland.
Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters

France tore apart their neighbors Switzerland in a 5-2 demolition at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador that all but guaranteed them passage to the next round.

In the opening exchanges an accidental clash with Olivier Giroud left the Swiss defender Steve van Bergen bloodied, dazed and with a suspected broken cheekbone. With his replacement, Philippe Senderos, on the pitch, 10 of Switzerland's XI were immigrants or the children of immigrants.

The game sprang into life on 17 minutes with two goals in the space of 66 seconds. First Olivier Giroud met a corner with a powerful header from 15 yards out that Diego Benaglio got a hand to but could not keep out.

Then almost straight from the kick-off Karim Benzema capitalized on a turnover in midfield to feed Blaise Matuidi on the left, who drilled his shot past Benaglio at the near post.

Granit Xhaka had the ball in the net for Switzerland on 27 minutes but the linesman had flagged for offside.

On 29 minutes the Swiss broke quickly and Xherdan Shakiri sent a dangerous shot across goal. But two minutes later the roof threatened to cave in for the Swiss when Johan Djourou was tempted by Benzema into conceding a penalty. But Benaglio, diving to his right, parried Benzema's spot-kick and Yohan Cabaye struck the rebound against the bar.

But in the 40th minute, France broke quickly from their own defensive corner, Giroud sprinted down the left before crossing for Mathieu Valbuena to tap in at the far post. With less than half the match gone, the game appeared beyond the Swiss.

Switzerland began the second half energetically and created a few chances but on 67 minutes the France substitute Paul Pogba threaded a ball into the penalty area that eluded Senderos and Benzema pounded for his third goal of the tournament through Benaglio's legs.

Then, with France seemingly scoring at will, it was Moussa Sissoko's turn to finish off a slick move to make it 5-0.

Blerim Dzemaili restored some Swiss pride on 81 minutes with a free kick that went straight through the flimsy wall and past the unsighted Hugo Lloris. Then Xhaka added a second by volleying home a lofted through ball from Gokhan Inler.

Benzema had the ball in the net at the very end but the referee had already blown for full-time.

Switzerland must now look to the match against Honduras in Manaus on Wednesday to get their campaign back on track.

Italy 0-1 Costa Rica

June 20, 2014

Bryan Ruiz heads Costa Rica's winner against Italy.
Yuri Kochetkov / EPA

Costa Rica proved their victory over Uruguay was no fluke when they defeated Italy 1-0 at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife. A first-half header from the Ticos' captain Bryan Ruiz was the difference between the two sides in what was a surprisingly comfortable win for the Central American team.

Twenty-four years to the day since Costa Rica defeated Sweden to qualify for the second round at Italia '90, they repeated their feat at the Brazil World Cup – a magnificent achievement for a country of only some 4.8 million people.

Italy got off to a ponderous start in the heat and humidity of Recife but on 31 minutes Andrea Pirlo hit a beautiful first-time ball over the top for Mario Balotelli but the Italy striker's lob over the goalkeeper Keylor Navas drifted tamely wide.

Two minutes later Balotelli was adjudged to be onside when Thiago Motta flicked on but his shot was well saved by Navas.

At the other end Christian Bolaños cut in from the left and forced Gianluigi Buffon to push his shot away to safety.

On 42 minutes Bryan Ruiz chipped into the box and Nicaraguan-born Omar Duarte saw his back header clear the crossbar. A minute later Costa Rica were denied what looked like a clear penalty when Joel Campbell was barged over in the box by Giorgio Chiellini. The Chilean referee, Enrique Osses, waved play on.

A dramatic few minutes were capped just before half-time Ruiz met a deep left-wing cross from Júnior Díaz and his header cannoned across the line off the bar.

Needing a goal, Italy brought on Antonio Cassano at half-time and tested Navas in the first 10 minutes of the half, first through a long-range shot from Matteo Darmian and then through a Pirlo free kick.

However, as the match wore on Costa Rica looked increasingly comfortable defending their lead.

On 84 minutes Chiellini had to be alive to stop Marcos Ureña who had latched onto a ball over the top.

The win put Jorge Luis Pinto's Costa Rica team into the second round, topping Group D after all the teams had played two games – a position few would have predicted in a mini-league containing three world champion countries. It also confirmed England's early exit from the tournament.

Greece 0-0 Japan

June 19, 2014

Japan's Shinji Kagawa, left, and Greece's Giorgos Karagounis challenge for the ball at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Thursday, June 19, 2014.
(Hassan Ammar/AP Photo)

Japan was unable to capitalize against Greece Thursday in their World Cup Group C clash at Estádio das Dunas, Natal, despite countless scoring opportunities and an extra man for much of the match. 

Led by Yuya Osako and Keisuke Honda, the Japanese slowly took control of the first half, forcing Greek goalkeeper to make several diving saves. The offensive domination continued after Greek captain Kostas Katsouranis was ejected from the match after receiving a second yellow card in the 38th minute.

Japan continued to pressure in the second half, setting up a lion's share of the scoring opportunities. Only a Theofanis Gekas header, spectacularly saved by Japanese keeper Eiji Kawashima, broke Japan's offensive continuity in the 60th minute.

But Japan could not break through a physical Greek defense, despite clear scoring chances by Yoshito Ōkubo in the 68th minute and Atsuto Uchida a few minutes later.

Uruguay 2-1 England

June 19, 2014

Luis Suárez fires in Uruguay's winner against England.
Julian Finney / Getty Images

Luis Suárez made a dramatic return to action in São Paulo, firing both goals in a 2-1 victory over England as Uruguay bounced back from defeat in their opening game. The result means that England are almost certainly out of the World Cup.

Both sides started nervously and lost possession cheaply. On 29 minutes the stand-in Uruguay captain, Diego Godín, was lucky not receive a second yellow card for blocking Daniel Sturridge's burst with a stiff arm, having earlier been booked for handball.

Two minutes later England came close to opening the scoring when Wayne Rooney met Steven Gerrard's free kick at the far post but could only head onto the crossbar from a yard out.

That miss proved costly eight minutes later when England captain Gerrard lost the ball cheaply in midfield and the ball was fed out to Edinson Cavani on the left. The Paris Saint-Germain striker floated a pinpoint cross to his strike partner Luis Suárez – the only Uruguayan player among five English defenders in the penalty area – who headed beyond the stranded Joe Hart.

England tried to hit back immediately and Fernando Muslera had to be alert to beat away Sturridge's shot at his near post.

It was Uruguay who started the second half the better. Just as he had in the first half, Suárez – just a month after undergoing knee surgery – whipped in a corner to the near post that had Hart scrambling to push away on the goal line. Then Cavani pulled his shot wide when one-on-one with the keeper.

England nearly profited when Leighton Baines made it to the byline and pulled a cross back for Rooney whose shot was saved by Muslera.

Álvaro Pereira appeared to be knocked out when he was caught in the head by Raheem Sterling's knee while sliding into a challenge, but surprisingly played on.

England brought on Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana, and finally got their reward when Sturridge fed Glen Johnson who cut in from the right and rolled the ball to the far post where Rooney was arriving for a tap-in and his first ever goal at a World Cup.

Buoyed by the goal England press forward and Muslera had to be on his toes to push away a right-foot shot from Sturridge.

But England were undone by a route one goal from Uruguay on 84 minutes. Muslera punted the ball forward, flicked off Gerrard and found Suárez in acres of space who lashed it past Hart.

The man who was player of the year in the English Premier League proved to be the nemesis for the English national side.

Colombia 2-1 Côte d'Ivoire

June 19, 2014

James Rodríguez celebrates his goal for Colombia against Ivory Coast
Eitan Abramovich / AFP / Getty Images

Colombia all but secured their passage into the second round with a 2-1 win over Côte d'Ivoire, although they had to overcome spirited Ivorian resistance in Brasilia.

The first half was an intriguing tactical battle but produced few chances.

As he had done against Japan, Didier Drogba, Côte d'Ivoire's talisman, came on at the hour mark. However, this time he could not make an instant impact. Instead it was the new star of Colombian soccer, James Rodríguez, the Monaco-based playmaker, who rose to send a bullet header past Boubacar Barry from a corner.

Colombia doubled their advantage on 70 minutes when Rodríguez dispossessed Serey Die as he tried to bring the ball out of defence. The Cafeteros sprang into action, Teo Gutiérrez fed the ball to Juan Fernando Quintero who skillfully steered his left-foot shot past Barry.

Côte d'Ivoire needed a response and Gervinho provided it within three minutes. Cutting in from the left flank, he left three Colombian defenders in his wake before clipping his shot in at the near post.

The Colombians struggled to deal with the forward thrusts of Serge Aurier down the Ivorian right but it was Colombia who came closest to scoring in the closing stages with an audacious lob from the halfway line. Colombia held firm to go to the top of Group C and will face Japan on Tuesday at the same time as Côte d'Ivoire meet Greece.

Croatia 4-0 Cameroon

June 18, 2014

Cameroon's midfielder Alexandre Song receives a red card after elbowing Mario Mandzukic.
Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty Images

Mario Mandzukic scored two goals Wednesday to keep Croatia in the mix at the World Cup with a 4-0 win over 10-man Cameroon, which will be going home after the group stage.

Mandzukic, who returned to the team at the Arena da Amazonia after sitting out the opening loss to Brazil through suspension, headed in a corner from Danijel Pranjic in the 61st minute and then knocked in a rebound in the 73rd of the Group A game.

Ivan Perisic also scored one goal and made another for Ivica Olic.

Cameroon was reduced to 10 men after midfielder Alex Song was given a red card for elbowing Mandzukic in the back in an off-the-ball incident in the 40th minute.

Cameroon started without the injured Samuel Eto'o, the team's best player. And the frustration within the team boiled over in injury time when Benoit Assou-Ekotto head-butted teammate Benjamin Moukandjo in front of their goal.

"It's unimaginable. I saw this happen and I need to find out exactly what happened, why exactly these two players exploded," Cameroon coach Volker Finke said. "I really hate to see that. It's not the image of Cameroon I want to project."

Croatia now has its future in its own hands. If the 1998 World Cup semifinalists beat Mexico on Monday, they will guarantee themselves a spot in the second round. The Mexicans will advance with only a draw.

Cameroon is out, however, and can only play spoiler in its final match against five-time champion Brazil, also on Monday. If the 1990 World Cup quarterfinalists beat Brazil, the host country could still advance or be forced out of the tournament on goal difference.

Spain 0-2 Chile

June 18, 2014

Eduardo Vargas celebrates his goal with Chile teammates.
Oliver Weiken / EPA

The defending champions, Spain, were dumped out of the World Cup after only two games when they were overrun by a vibrant Chile side in Rio de Janeiro. Goals from Eduardo Vargas and Charles Aranguiz sent Chile into the knockout rounds with a result that looked like the end of an era for a Spain side that has dominated world football for the past six years.

Chile began, in typical fashion, at 100 mph and came close to opening the scoring in the first minute. Spain weathered the early storm, but after 20 minutes, just as they were beginning to impose their game, the Chileans conjured a goal of pace, accuracy and directness that summed up their style. Xabi Alonso conceded possession in midfield and Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sánchez exhanged crisp passes down the right, then steered into Aranguiz in the box, who in turn found a pass to Vargas. The forward sidestepped Iker Casillas and drove the ball into the back of the net.

Spain's best chance of the first half fell to Diego Costa, but the Brazilian-born striker steered his shot just wide. Just before halftime Spain's world came crashing in on them when a Sánchez free kick was parried by Casillas, and Aranguiz was on hand to collect the rebound and stab past the keeper.

With Koke replacing Alonso at halftime, Spain threatened to pull one back three minutes afer the restart when Andrés Iniesta threaded an exquisite ball into the penalty area. Costa's first touch was poor, however, and the chance went begging.

On 53 minutes Spain had a golden opportunity when Claudio Bravo punched away a Sergio Ramos free kick into the danger zone. Costa's overhead kick fell to Sergio Busquets six yards out, but he merely prodded tamely past the post.

On 68 minutes Chile had the chance to put the game definitively beyond Spain when they turned over possession and broke quickly. One wingback, Eugenio Mena, dragged his shot and the other, Mauricio Isla, sliding in at the far post, fired over the bar.

As Spain pressed forward they left themselves increasingly vulnerable to the counterattack that Chile looked ever ready to spring. Iniesta came closest to scoring for Spain when his long-range shot was acrobatically palmed away by Bravo in the 84th minute, but Chile were never really under siege.

The result and high-energy performance puts down a marker for Jorge Sampaoli's Chile as serious contenders in this competition. Spain, which in the whole of the 2010 World Cup and the European Championships of 2008 and 2012 conceded only six goals, have let in seven in two matches at this tournament. Spain join Italy in 2010 and France in 2002 as recent champions who have gone out in the first round of the subsequent tournament.

The result also confirmed Australia's exit from Brazil 2014.

Australia 2-3 Netherlands

June 18, 2014

Robin van Persie of the Netherlands takes on Australia's Matthew Spiranovic.
Jeff Gross / Getty Images

The Netherlands survived a scare to beat Australia 3-2 in Porto Alegre, a result that almost certainly, given their goal difference, puts the Dutch into the knockout phase. Despite impressive performances in both their matches, the Australians are all but out of Brazil 2004.

Arjen Robben opened the scoring on 20 minutes with his side's first real effort on goal, dropping his should on the halfway line and leaving defenders in his wake before steering a shot past the goalkeeper's left hand.

But straight from the restart the Australia captain Tim Cahill scored a contender for goal of the tournament. He met a deep cross from the right with a left-foot volley that cannoned off the crossbar and into the net in a way that recalled Marco van Basten's famous goal in the final of the 1988 European Championship.

However, a reckless challenge shortly before half-time earned him a yellow card that will keep him out of Australia's final group game against Spain.

The Dutch captain Robin van Persie will also miss their next game, against Chile, after being booked for use of the elbow.

A more pressing blow for the Dutch followed on 53 minutes when they were harshly penalized for handball in the area. Crystal Palace's Mile Jedinak dispatched the penalty confidently.

The Australian lead lasted only five minutes, with Van Persie converting from close range after Jason Davidson had played him onside. And the Netherlands took the lead on 68 minutes when Memphis Depay let fly from distance and Matthew Ryan in the Australian goal let his shot slip inside the post.

Australia pressed for an equaliser but the match ended in a 3-2 defeat. For the Dutch anything but a Spanish victory over Chile will guarantee their place in the second round. A Spanish win would also leave the Australians needing victory over the world champions in their final match – without their talisman Cahill – to stand any chance of avoiding elimination.


Russia 1-1 South Korea

June 17, 2014

Russia's goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, left, lies in the goal as South Korea's Koo Ja-cheol celebrates.
(Thanassis Stavrakis/AP Photo)

Russia and South Korea on Tuesday night completed the opening round of fixtures at the World Cup with a 1-1 draw at Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá.

It’s a game the Russians should have won.

A lackluster first half saw Russia slowly win control of the match, but the Fabio Capello–coached side failed to generate meaningful scoring opportunities.

In the closing half both teams picked up the intensity a notch, albeit without threatening the opposing goalkeeper for long stretches. But in the 68th minute Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev mishandled a routine shot from Keun Ho from outside the penalty area and grasped at the ball desperately as it inched over the line.

The Russians responded with renewed intensity — and a fresh pair of legs. Substitute Alexander Kerzhakov, who had entered the match just minutes earlier, pounced on a rebound in the area and slide home the equalizer in the 74th minute.

Brazil 0-0 Mexico

June 17, 2014

Guillermo Ochoa saves at full stretch from Neymar's header.
Mike Blake / Reuters

Mexico proved to be the rock in Brazil's shoe that their coach, Miguel Herrera, had predicted when they held the hosts to a 0-0 draw in Fortaleza. The result left both teams on four points in Group A but revived doubts about Brazil's ability to go all the way at the World Cup.

The best chance of the first half fell to Neymar, and his powerful header was brilliantly clawed off the line by Guillermo Ochoa. The goalkeeper was forced into another save shortly before halftime when Thiago Silva chested down a free kick in the penalty area and Paulinho stabbed at goal from close range.

The World Cup hosts were becoming increasingly frustrated as Mexico began the second half the stronger, menacing the Brazilian goal with a series of shots from outside the area.

With Mexico justifying their reputation as Brazil's bogey side, Luiz Felipe Scolari's side raised the pace. Jô replaced the lacklustre Fred at the point of the Brazilian attack, and within seconds Ochoa was called on to make another fine save from a fierce left-foot shot by Neymar. Then, released by a through ball from Bernard, Jô could only drag his shot wide on 76 minutes.

Despite their best efforts, Brazil continually found their way to goal blocked by Mexico's three center-backs, superbly marshaled by their veteran captain, Rafael Márquez.

And Mexico carried a threat going forward. Thiago Silva was lucky to receive only a yellow card when he scythed down Hernández as he turned dangerously toward goal. But on 86 minutes the Brazil captain appeared in the other six-yard box to power a close-range header toward goal. But Ochoa once again saved brilliantly, one-handed, on the line.

In the closing minutes, though, it was Mexico who came closest to breaking the deadlock when Júlio Cesar was forced to save low from Hernández's shot.

Belgium 2-1 Algeria

June 17, 2014

Marouane Fellaini, left, celebrates his goal with Dries Mertens, who went on to add a second for Belgium.
Dominic Ebenbichler / Reuters

Belgium came from behind to beat Algeria in Belo Horizonte with goals from Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens.

Algeria went ahead from the penalty spot on 25 minutes after Jan Vertonghen was caught napping and pulled back Sofiane Feghouli inside the area. The Algerian midfielder got up to convert the spot-kick himself.

The Red Devils labored to break down a massed Algerian defense, but it was not until late in the second half after coach Marc Wilmots had thrown all three of his substitutes that the breakthrough came. First substitute Fellaini headed in a Kevin de Bruyne cross off the underside of the bar on 70 minutes. Then, 10 minutes later, Mertens, who had also only just been introduced to the action, finished off a lightning break with a crisp right-footed shot.

United States 2-1 Ghana

June 16, 2014

Clint Dempsey of the United States scores his team's first goal past goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey of Ghana at Estadio das Dunas on June 16 in Natal, Brazil.
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The United States scored the fifth fastest goal in World Cup history on Monday and held on to beat Ghana 2-1 in a thrilling opening round match at Estadio das Dunas in Natal, Brazil.

Clint Dempsey took a pass from Jermaine Jones and fired a shot from the left side of the box at the 34-second mark of the game. It was the fastest U.S. goal in a World Cup.

The goal shook awake the Ghanaians. Led by Sulley Muntari and Asamoah Gyan, the Black Stars set a blistering pace in an entertaining, up-and-down game. Ghana dominated the match for long stretches but lacked a final creative touch in front of the U.S. net, well secured by Tim Howard.

Ghana came close to equalizing on a header from Gyan in the 39th minute, and on a Muntari missile from outside the box in the 56th minute. They finally broke through the U.S. defense when Andre Ayew scored in the 82nd minute after a lovely give-and-go pass with Gyan.

But just four minutes later, John Brooks headed home a Graham Zusi corner kick and the U.S. held on against a final flurry of attacks.

Iran 0-0 Nigeria

June 16, 2014

Iran's Ashkan Dejagah and Jospeh Yobo of Nigeria vie for the ball in their first-round World Cup match in Curitiba.
Matthias Hangst / Getty Images

After the first 12 matches at the World Cup produced 41 goals, it fell to this clash between Iran and Nigeria in Curitiba to deliver the first bore draw.

The Nigerians dominated possession against a dogged and unadventurous Iranian side but could not find a way through.

The match generated few goalscoring opportunities, but both sides will see a point as giving them a foothold in a group containing Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina.


Germany 4-0 Portugal

June 16, 2014

Thomas Müller completes his hat-trick in Germany's 4-0 rout of Portugal
Phil Walter / Getty Images

Thomas Müller scored a hat-trick as Germany destroyed 10-man Portugal 4-0 in Salvador.

Müller's first came from the penalty spot after João Pereira pulled Mario Götze back in the box. Germany doubled their advantage when the centre-back Mats Hummels powered in a header from a Toni Kroos corner.

Things went from bad to worse for the Portuguese when Pepe remonstrated with Müller who he felt was making a meal of a flailing arm that had caught him in the face. The Portugal defender's head made contact with that of Müller, who was sitting on the ground at the time, and Pepe was sent off.

The Germans made it three just before half-time when Bruno Alves failed to deal with a ball into the penalty area and Müller pounced to fire a left-foot shot into the bottom corner.

The game was effectively over but Müller completed his hat-trick on 78 minutes when Patrício in the Portuguese goal fumbled Götze's cross to present the Bayern Munich forward with a tap-in.

His is the 49th hat-trick in World Cup history. The Arena Fonte Nova is a ground Iberians will want to forget; it was here that the world champions Spain let in five goals three days ago.

Argentina 2-1 Bosnia-Herz

Leonel Messi scored the kind of goal beloved of ad-makers, his slaloming run and clever exchange of passes with Sergio Aguero setting up  the shot that proved the difference between a star-studded Argentina and World Cup debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Argentina started out with a cautious five-man defense, but took the lead in the opening minutes through a deflected own goal. Argentina raised its game in the second half, with the introduction of Gonzalo Higuain completing a powerful attacking quartet with Messi, Aguero and Angel di Maria. And as the Argentines raised the tempo, Messi – dropping deep to collect the ball and confuse his markers – began a series of heart-stopping charges on the Bosnian goal, one of which produced his game-winning strike.

But the Bosnians refused to concede defeat to the two-time former world champions, having more than once exposed panic and disorganization in the Argentine defense, and substitute striker Vehad Ibisevic delivered his team’s first World Cup goal in the 85th minute. It wasn’t enough to change the game, but the debutants left the field with heads held high.

France 3-0 Honduras

Blaise Matuidi of France challenges Roger Espinoza of Honduras during their match on June 15.
Ian Walton / Getty Images

France beat 10-man Honduras 3-0 in a bruising World Cup clash on Sunday where goal-line technology awarded the first international goal in history, causing mayhem in the process.

Three minutes into the second period, the German-manufactured GoalControl system was called into action when a volley from Karim Benzema, who ended the night with two goals, came back off the post.

It bounced back into the area before hitting Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares with the ball then diverted back towards the goal.

The keeper tried to scoop the ball to safety, but Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci awarded the goal — classed as an own-goal — after consulting the instant technology.

France, whose 2010 World Cup appearance was a soccer and public relations disaster, dominated the Group E match.

Stoke City midfielder Winston Palacios was yellow-carded for a brutal stamp on Pogba with the Frenchman also booked for a retaliatory kick.

Palacios was then red-carded in the dying moments of the half for another foul on Pogba inside the box.

Benzema converted the resulting penalty for his seventh goal in his last seven internationals.

The Real Madrid striker then played the crucial role in his team's historic second goal before striking his second of the night from a tight angle in the 72nd minute.

Switzerland 2-1 Ecuador

June 15, 2014

Admir Mehmedi of Switzerland (not pictured) scores his team's first goal on a header.
Stu Forster / Getty Images

Switzerland served notice of its World Cup credentials by coming back from a 1-0 deficit to beat Ecuador in an entertaining encounter whose momentum see-sawed between the two sides.  Ecuador were quickest out of the gate, with Jefferson Montero repeatedly rampaging down their left flank. The Ecuadorian winger drew the foul for the free kick that saw hit-man Enner Valencia nod home unmarked from the six-yard line to give the Latin American side a deserved lead.

But the Swiss team began to create chances as Gokan Inler and Valon Behrami took control of the midfield, and substitute Admir Mehmedi repaid his coach’s confidence within two minutes of coming on, heading home a free-kick to restore parity. The Swiss players poured forward, creating a number of chances — and a goal mistakenly ruled out for offside — although Ecuador once or twice threatened on the break. As the game looked set to end with honors even, a second Swiss substitute, Haris Seferovic, blasted home a 93rd minute winner.

Cote d'Ivoire 2-1 Japan

Gervinho of the Ivory Coast (L) celebrates scoring his team's second goal with teammate Didier Drogba.
Matthias Hangst / Getty Images

Talismanic veteran striker Didier Drogba didn’t get his name on the scoresheet, but his  introduction as a 62nd minute substitute appeared to inspire his Cote d’Ivoire teammates to score twice in quick succession to reverse Kaisuke Honda’s 16th minute opener.

The organized and energetic Japanese side took early control of the midfield, with Honda and fellow attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa a constant menace. Cote d’Ivoire lacked rhythm and only occasionally threatened to breach Japan’s well organized defense. Ivoirian midfielder Yaya Toure was a lone inspiration, driving his team forward with his passing and his runs, but there were few takers for the openings and chances he created.

All of that changed with Drogba’s introduction. Within two minutes, Wilfried Bony – the Swansea striker who had started in the 36-year-old Drogba’s center forward role – headed in an equalizer. And two minutes after that, striker Gervinho glanced in a second header at the near post. Those goals appeared to deflate the Japanese, while the Ivoirians poured forward in search of more.

The win boosts significantly boosts the prospects the West African team qualifying for the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time – and leaves coach Sabri Lemouchi facing a dilemma over whether to start Drogba when Cote d’Ivoire faces Colombia, whose tournament began Saturday with an emphatic 3-0 win over Greece.

Italy 2-1 England

Italy's forward Mario Balotelli heads and scores.
Francois Xavier Marit / AFP / Getty Images

A composed and clinical Italy punished England’s defensive frailties to emerge 2-1 winners in an entertaining World Cup encounter, leaving England facing a tough battle to qualify for the knockout round after Costa Rica thrashed Uruguay in the group’s other game.

England coach Roy Hodgson opted for a young and highly mobile attack, with Liverpool teenager Raheem Sterling given license to roam, combining with his club teammate Daniel Sturridge and Manchester United men Danny Wellbeck and Wayne Rooney to take the fight to Italy in the early stages.

Despite suffering some early scares, though, Italy took the lead on 35 minutes after a Pirlo fake-out from a corner taken short left defender Claudio Marchisio with time to place  his shot past a despairing England goalkeeper Joe Hart. England responded almost immediately, with Sterling’s curling pass setting Rooney free down the England left. The United man’s cross teed up Sturridge for a deftly taken equalizer. Still, Italian midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo was in imperious form, dictating the game from deep in the midfield as Italy took control.

Antonio Candreeva had repeatedly exposed a defensive weakness on England’s left flank throughout the game, and five minutes into the second half, the midfielder’s cross floated teasingly beyond Hart’s reach for Mario Balotelli to nod in Italy’s winner at the far post.

After that, Italy appeared untroubled, as England’s energy seemed to wilt and it seemed to run out of ideas on how to break down the Azzuri’s resolute defense. England now sit third in their group, needing to beat Uruguay for a realistic change to progress. For Italy, an England side sparkling with youthful energy and enterprise may have been the toughest test they’ll face in the group.

Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica

June 14, 2014

Costa Rica striker Joel Campbell pregnant with pride after scoring his team's first goal
Gabriel Bouys / AFP / Getty Images

Costa Rica came from behind to stun Uruguay 3-1 on Saturday, opening the tough World Cup Group D with a major upset.

Uruguay left star striker Luis Suarez on the bench but went ahead when Edinson Cavani scored a penalty in the 24th minute.

But the Central Americans fought back after the break and lone striker Joel Campbell slotted in a ball headed down by Celso Borges in the 54th to beat goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.

Oscar Duarte dived past the outstretched foot of Uruguay's Cristian Stuani to head in the winner for the underdogs, and substitute Marcos Urena added the third with six minutes left, catching out Muslera to slot the ball in from a tight angle.

Suarez is still recovering from knee surgery and never came off the bench.

Associated Press

Colombia 3-0 Greece

June 14, 2014

Teófilo Gutiérrez of Colombia, left, celebrates scoring his team's second goal.
Paul Gilham / Getty Images

Colombia marked their return to the World Cup after a 16-year absence with an attacking display that earned a 3-0 victory over Greece on Saturday, and the early initiative in what looks to be a really tight Group C.

The South Americans went ahead after five minutes when great work by Juan Cuadrado set up Pablo Armero. Teofilo Gutierrez poked in the second after 58 minutes and James Rodriguez drove in a left foot effort in stoppage time at the end of another game full of high-paced action.

Greece struggled to get a foothold in the match and their hopes of a comeback fell away after Theofanis Gekas crashed a header against the bar from point-blank range after 63 minutes.

Colombia will now fancy their chances of topping a group that also contains Japan and Ivory Coast, who meet in Recife later on Saturday


Chile 3-1 Australia

June 13, 2014

Chile's Charles Eugenio Mena (R) fights for the ball with Australia's Mathew Leckie during their 2014 World Cup Group B soccer match at the Pantanal arena in Cuiaba June 13, 2014.
Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

Alexis Sanchez produced a dynamic performance to lead Chile to a 3-1 win over Australia in the World Cup on Friday, scoring one goal and setting up another for one of the dangerous outsiders in the tournament.

Chile threatened to run away with the game in muggy Cuiaba when Sanchez poked home from close range in the 12th minute before setting up Jorge Valdivia barely a minute later for the playmaker to finish from the edge of the area.

But Australia recovered well, responding with a trademark headed goal by star forward Tim Cahill in the 35th and giving the Chileans a string of scares in the second half. However, Jean Beausejour put the game away for Chile in injury time.

Chile is level on three points in Group B with the Netherlands, which thrashed Spain 5-1 earlier Friday.

Spain 1-5 Netherlands

June 13, 2014

Robin van Persie's double delighted the Dutch fans in Salvador.
Guillaume Horcajuelo / EPA

Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben each scored twice as the Netherlands exacted revenge for their defeat in the 2010 World Cup final with an emphatic 5-1 victory over Spain.

In a match filled with drama and controversy, it was Spain who took the lead in Salvador through a Xabi Alonso penalty in the 27th minute after Diego Costa had been brought down in the box.

The Spanish had had the better of the first half but a minute before the interval the Dutch equalized in dramatic style when Van Persie launched himself at a deep Daley Blind cross to send a header looping over Iker Casillas from the edge of the penalty area.

Eight minutes into the second half Arjen Robben plucked the ball from the rain-lashed sky and fired the Dutch into the lead.

Stefan de Vrij doubled the advantage on 64 minutes when he bundled in a free kick at the far post. Casillas complained that he had been fouled but was shown the yellow card for his troubles.

Casillas's misery was compounded on 72 minutes when he mis-controlled a back pass, allowing Van Persie to pounce for his second of the game. The Spain goalkeeper was again left scrambling eight minutes later when Robben latched on to a penetrating through ball, rounded the keeper and blasted past the two Spanish defenders on the line.

The result leaves the Netherlands in a commanding position and the reigning world champions facing a serious challenge to get out of Group B, although Spain also lost their opening match in 2010 before going on to lift the trophy.

Mexico 1-0 Cameroon

June 13, 2014

Oribe Peralta celebrates his goal that gave Mexico victory over Cameroon in Natal.
Julian Finney / Getty Images

An Oribe Peralta goal proved the difference as Mexico defeated Cameroon 1-0 in Natal, but the game was again dogged by a refereeing controversy.

Giovani dos Santos made the most of some lax Cameroonian defending to burst into the penalty area in the 61st minute. His shot was saved by Charles Itandje, but the goalkeeper could only push it into the path of Peralta, who finished coolly with his left foot for his ninth goal in his last seven competitive appearances for Mexico.

In a match played in a tropical downpour, dos Santos twice had the ball in the net in the first half, but both times the efforts were ruled out for offside. Both were controversial, the second doubly so as the Mexican forward was not in an offside position and the decisive ball had in any case been touched on by a Cameroonian defender from a corner.

Brazil 3-1 Croatia

June 12, 2014

Neymar runs with the ball in the World Cup opener against Croatia
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The 2014 World Cup got off to a blistering start as goals from Neymar and Oscar sealed a comeback victory for Brazil over Croatia, but scattered protests on Thursday were a reminder that many locals remain angry over the billions spent to host the tournament.

Millions of fans dressed in Brazil's canary yellow, green and blue home colors cheered throughout Brazil's game, which saw the Balkan side stun the hosts in São Paulo by going ahead in the 11th minute through a Marcelo own goal. Neymar, the Brazil forward on whom so much of the country's hopes are resting, equalized on 29 minutes with a left-foot shot that crept inside the post.

Neymar later converted a penalty controversially awarded after his strike partner Fred took a tumble following minimal contact from Croatia's Dejan Lovren. Croatia pressed for a late equalizer, but seconds later the Chelsea midfielder Oscar burst through at the other end to toe-poke a third and send the passionate crowd home.

Despite worries over traffic and the inaugural stadium, which was completed six months late and wasn't fully tested before the game, there were no initial reports of major logistical snafus. About a quarter of the stadium's floodlights briefly went out during the game, but they soon turned back on.

"Despite all the controversy, this is the World Cup and we are Brazilians. We need to forget about all that now and cheer for Brazil," said Natia Souza, a fan in downtown Sao Paulo.

President Dilma Rousseff, who attended the game and has vocally defended the Cup against criticism ahead of her bid for re-election in October, was repeatedly jeered by many in the stadium crowd and also by fans at outdoor viewings when she appeared on giant screens across the country.

The tournament's run-up was largely overshadowed by construction delays and months of political unrest with many Brazilians furious over $11 billion being spent to host the Cup in a country where hospitals and schools are often poor.

Protests flared on Thursday in many of the 12 Brazilian cities that will host games, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. Some gathered more than 1,000 people, while others saw just a few dozen.

Late in the morning, police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and noise bombs to disperse about 600 demonstrators who gathered in eastern Sao Paulo, about six miles (10 km) away from the Corinthians arena where the game took place.

After protesters tried to cut off a main road to the stadium, six people were injured, including some journalists, a police spokesman said. Three protesters were arrested.

More than 10 were arrested in the southern host city of Porto Alegre, a police spokesman said. Demonstrators there overturned a police car and smashed bank windows.

Roughly 1,000 protesters in Rio de Janeiro marched peacefully, though some burned Brazilian flags and carried signs saying "FIFA go home," in a reference to the world soccer body. A Reuters photographer was hit in the head by a rock in Belo Horizonte. He was in stable condition.

Even some who weren't marching said they were still upset.

"Sadly these protests are too late. The money has already been robbed and there’s nothing we can do now but cry," said Luiz Reis, 47, a lawyer on his way home to watch the game.

Al Jazeera and wire services  

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