Brazil advances out of the Group of Death

Brazil advances out of the Group of Death

By Adam Vaccaro

What happened Friday: Playing without Kaka (suspension) and Elano (minor shin injury) in its first World Cup match against Portugal since 1966, Brazil won the Group of Death with a scoreless draw. A win would have clinched the top spot for the Portuguese, but they seemed fairly content with the result that sends the squad to the second round as runners-up. Coach Dunga of Brazil was far less pleased, and he showed his ire with the lack of offense on the sideline throughout the match. Still, Brazil wins its group for the eighth straight World Cup and remains a strong favorite as knockout play begins.

Also Friday: Winning the group was significant for Brazil, as it means that Selecao will avoid Spain in the second round. La Furia Roja beat Chile 2-1 to win Group G. David Villa sent a 50 yard bid home to start the scoring and picked up another goal from Andres Iniesta in the 37th minute. Down a man, Chile pulled the score within one just out of halftime on a deflected bid from Rodrigo Millar and showed good spirit in trying to level the score, but the task was just too tall. Even in losing, Chile earns a trip to the Round of 16 thanks in large part to a surprising scoreless draw between Honduras and Switzerland. They won't have much time to celebrate, however; Brazil awaits on Monday.

Ivory Coast needed a Portuguese loss and to score at will in the process of beating North Korea to wipe out a wide goal difference and advance. The Elephants showed the required attacking urgency early on, scoring twice in the first twenty minutes, but they only got one more and Portugal's draw kept them from possibly advancing regardless. We knew all along that only two of three very strong teams were going to survive the Group of Death. Ivory Coast ended up the unfortunate exclusion despite playing on its own continent's soil. The 3-0 win at least made for a solid send-off result.

What it all means: Spain and Portugal will partake in a great neighborly dispute on Tuesday morning. That one of these two powers will be eliminated so early is good news for the rest of the tournament. Brazil draws the easier assignment in Chile, but La Roja has shown itself very capable not to mention entertaining in group play. It'll be an uphill battle for the Group H runner-up, but they do at least belong on the same field with their fellow South Americans. In Chile, a nation still recovering from a devastating February earthquake, the team's success is a welcome distraction and a beacon of hope.

Switzerland heads home with four points but will be a team to watch over the next few years and are likely to be quite strong in 2014. The draw against Honduras is a disappointment, however, as the Swiss entered the day looking very likely to advance. Honduras was clearly happy just to have qualified and proudly takes a point away from its first World Cup in 28 years.

The talented Ivory Coast had an opportunity to go deep in the tournament, but they knew elimination was a distinct possibility from the moment groups were drawn. Brazil and Portugal are just too good. Overall, the country will be proud of its scoreless draw against Portugal and Didier Drogba, who at 32 has likely played in his last Cup, will go down in history as one of Africa's all-time greats.

With North Korea departing, we bid farewell to the source of some of the tournament's best off-field stories. We'll likely never hear from much of the team again, but for all we know they'll be celebrated as the tournament's champions in their country. What are tangible results to tell Kim Jong-Il otherwise, after all?

What to watch on Saturday: They've done what was expected of them and have captured the attention of America in the process. Now the United States has an opportunity to match its best ever World Cup finish and really shift the country's insatiable sporting attention to its soccer team. The Yanks face off tomorrow afternoon with Ghana, the team that eliminated them during the 2006 group play finales. The Black Stars are a physical, defensive group that play five in the midfield. Asamoah Gyan is a very legitimate offensive threat, however, and it will be on the sometimes questionable American defense to keep tabs on the young striker. Landon Donovan and (assuming he starts in the midfield) Clint Dempsey, usually known for their prowess in the attack, will also need to be at their defensive best against the quick Ghanaian wings.

But we can talk tactics and strengths and weaknesses all weekend. Let's say this: if America shows that same urgency it did against Algeria and against England and in the second half against Slovenia, the same urgency that stunned Spain in the Confederation's Cup last summer, the same urgency that Bob Bradley demands and his players understand they need in order to win, then the Yanks stand a great shot of making it to the tournament quarterfinals for the second time in history. If they got there, they'd see a match-up with either South Korea or Uruguay, neither of whom would be easy but both of whom would be beatable. Then our dreams would start getting really wild, and rightfully so.

Also Saturday: Traditionally a strong soccer nation, Uruguay is undergoing a revival after watching its team post three straight clean sheets en route to easily winning Group A. They'll see Group B runner-up South Korea in the first match of the second round. With respect to Japan, the Taeguk Warriors represent Asia's best chance to go far in the tournament. With Uruguay very strong on the back line and perhaps even more talented up top, South Korea will look to control the midfield in pursuit of the upset.

Question of the Day: How will the United States respond to what is likely to be a very pro-Ghana crowd? Their usual role as underdogs usually nets the US at least even crowd support. While there are high numbers of American in South Africa, this time around the vast majority of the crowd will be supporting the host continent's lone second round representation. The Yanks may relish being villains, or the scenario may stall them. Or maybe the buzz of the vuvuzelas will just negate any support either way.

Full schedule (all times EDT): Uruguay v South Korea Port Elizabeth Stadium, Port Elizabeth 10:00 a.m.; The United States of America v Ghana Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg 2:30 p.m.

Quote of Note: We have received incredible support from all our fans at home and from the many, many fans who have made the trip here. Whenever you have a team, one of the things you try to achieve, you want to have a team that the people who care about that team and follow that team and root for that team can feel part of, a team that people can believe in. That's part of our responsibility and we are excited in the moment that there is that kind of feeling. - United States coach Bob Bradley on the eve of his team's second round match against Ghana.

Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team


Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina's national team.

Argentina and Messi lost a final for the third year in a row, with Chile winning the Copa America 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 0-0 tie Sunday night.

His nation's career scoring leader with 55 international goals, Messi sent Argentina's first penalty kick over the crossbar.

Messi tells the Argentine network TyC Sports "the national team is over for me. It's been four finals, it's not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn't get it, so I think it's over."

Messi and Argentina lost to Brazil in the 2007 Copa final and to Germany in extra time in the 2014 World Cup final. They lost last year's Copa final to host Chile on penalty kicks.

The 29-year-old Messi has led Barcelona to four Champions League titles.

Chile wins 2nd straight Copa America title as Messi misses


Chile wins 2nd straight Copa America title as Messi misses

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Lionel Messi still awaits his first title with Argentina's national team.

Messi put his penalty kick over the crossbar, Francisco Silva converted Chile's shootout finale and La Roja won their second straight Copa America title by beating Argentina 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 0-0 tie Sunday night.

Playing two days after his 29th birthday, Messi lost a final for the third year in a row following an extra-time defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup and a penalty-kicks loss to host Chile in last year's Copa America. The five-time FIFA Player of the Year has won four Champions League titles and eight La Liga crowns with Barcelona, but has never taken a trophy with Argentina's senior team.

For its 100th anniversary, South America's championship was expanded to 16 nations and played in the United States, and Argentina was hoping to win its first major title since 1993.

In an ill-tempered match that included an ejection on each side and eight yellow cards, the match was scoreless through regulation and 30 minutes of extra time, with Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain missing a clear goal-scoring opportunity for the third straight final. Argentina outshot Chile 16-4 and La Roja collapsed three, four and even five defenders around the bearded Messi, then chopped down the diminutive attacker when he tried to accelerate toward the goal.

Messi, who scored five goals in the tournament, had a free kick 28 yards out in the 115th minute after Francisco SIlva fouled him, but the ball deflected off the wall and over the crossbar. Messi's 35-yard free kick was headed on target by Aguero in the 10th minute of extra time, and Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo jumped extended his right hand to tip the ball over the crossbar.

Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved the opening kick by Arturo Vidal, and up stepped Messi, the best player of his generation and considered alongside Brazil's Pele and Argentina's Diego Maradona as the sport's greatest ever. While he won the titles at the under-20 and Olympic (under-23) levels for Argentina, in the minds of many he needs a title with his nation's senior team to solidify his place as one of the greats.

Messi sent his shot over Bravo — his Barcelona teammate — and into the stands. Messi turned, bowed his head and clenched both fists in frustration.

Nicolas Castillo and Charles Aranguiz converted their kicks for Chile, and Javier Mascherano and Sergio Aguero made theirs, leaving the teams tied 2-2 after three rounds.

Jean Beausejour put Chile ahead, and Bravo dived to his right, saving Lucas Biglia's shot and bringing up Silva, a 30-year-old midfielder. Messi briefly pulled his jersey of his face, as if not wanting to watch.

Romero dived to his left and the shot went in to his right, giving Chile another title.

Messi crouched over, as if in pain, then got up, took off his captain's armband and walked to the bench, where he was consoled by Angel Di Maria. After Messi came back on the field, Aguero put a hand on one of Messi's shoulders. And new FIFA President Gianni Infantino gave Messi a pat on the back when Messi came onto the podium with his teammates for his second-place medal. Messi almost immediately took it off.

It was the fourth final loss for Messi, who also played for Argentina in its penalty-kicks loss to Brazil in the 2004 final.

A crowd of 82,076 at MetLife Stadium — the largest to see a soccer game in New Jersey — raised the tournament total to just under 1.48 million. The average of 46,119, nearly double the 25,223 in Chile last year, will be used by the U.S. Soccer Federation as evidence it deserves to host a World Cup again, likely as part of a bid for the 2026 tournament.

Brazilian referee Heber Lopes became the focus in the first half, ejecting a pair of defenders: Chile's Marcelo Diaz in the 28th minute and Argentina's Marcos Rojo in the 43rd. After issuing six yellow cards during a World Cup qualifier between the nations in March, Lopes handed out eight yellows, including one to Messi for diving in the 40th minute, and the two reds.

Diaz got his first yellow for hacking down Messi about 28 yards out in the 16th minute, then got his second for obstructing a charging Messi about 30 yards out. Rojo received a straight red when he slid into Arturo Vidal from behind and poked away the ball, but Vidal's leg bent awkwardly under his body as he fell.

Higuain had the best first-half chance in the 21st minute when he picked up a giveaway from Gary Medel, dribbled in and chipped the ball over Bravo only to have it roll wide of the far post. It was almost the exact time he broke in alone during the World Cup final against Germany and also shot wide. Higuain also missed a tap-in of Ezequiel Lavezzi's cross during the final minute of regulation in last year's final, then sent his penalty kick during the shootout over the crossbar.

Revolution shut out by D.C. United, 2-0

Revolution shut out by D.C. United, 2-0

WASHINGTON -- Lamar Neagle had a goal and an assist to give D.C. United an early lead that stood up in a 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution on Saturday night.

D.C., after being shut out in its two previous games and four of six, opened the scoring in the 20th minute when Luciano Acosta chipped a perfect pass over the defense to the foot of Neagle, who volleyed it in from 10 yards out.

Sean Franklin scored the second goal, his first of the season, when he knocked in Neagle's cross. Albaro Saborio sent a long ball down the right sideline that Neagle ran down and crossed to Franklin for the easy counter.

D.C. (5-6-5) leapfrogged the Revolution (4-5-7) into fifth in the Eastern Conference with its fourth shutout in the last seven games and improved to 2-0-1 in the series this season.