- Joe Lago at Yahoo Sports14 days ago
RIO DE JANEIRO – After 32 days of competition, Germany was hands down the best of the 32 teams and a fitting World Cup champion, and as the confetti rained down after Sunday's 1-0 extra-time victory over Argentina, coach Joachim Loew finally stood with his national team legacy intact and a decade-long mission complete after returning German football to the top of the sport.
Brazil fans joined the celebration at Maracana Stadium, too. Their national nightmare – rival Argentina raising the trophy on the most sacred of Brazilian soccer grounds – had been averted, and they let their South American adversaries to the southwest know about their satisfaction with full-throated songs of derision.
But when it comes to the World Cup, there is never a bigger winner than FIFA.
- Joe Lago at Yahoo Sports15 days ago
RIO DE JANEIRO – Head coach Alejandro Sabella believed Argentina had to play a perfect game in order to beat a dominant Germany team in the World Cup final Sunday at Maracana Stadium.
The Argentines had to be gritty defensively, and they were, as midfield general Javier Mascherano willed his teammates to a scoreless 90 minutes. They had to expose the German defense, and they did, using a game plan that France employed in the quarterfinals – lofting balls over the top of the defense – and executing it better than the French as Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lionel Messi timed their runs to latch onto the passes.
But Argentina wasn't perfect in front of goal, where Sabella and his players will regretfully say the opportunity at Argentina's third World Cup title was lost.
"To be perfect," Sabella said, "we needed to be more efficient."
The missed chances ranged from unlucky to incomprehensible.
- Joe Lago at Yahoo Sports15 days ago
RIO DE JANEIRO – Before replacing starting striker Miroslav Klose in the 88th minute of a tense and scoreless World Cup final against Argentina, Germany coach Joachim Loew gave instructions to the substitute. But this wasn't your ordinary marching orders of late-game tactics.
"I said to Mario Goetze, 'OK, show to the world that you're better than [Lionel] Messi, show that you can decide the World Cup,' " Loew recalled.
Show you're better than Messi? Is that all?
Loew's words were half-dare, half-inspirational speech. And, luckily for the Germans, Goetze took every syllable to heart.
The forward from Bayern Munich did what Messi couldn't do – score the winning goal – as he showed off his world-class skill to the millions watching around the globe to secure Germany's fourth World Cup title Sunday night at Maracana Stadium.
- Joe Lago at Yahoo Sports17 days ago
RIO DE JANEIRO – Only the magical feet of Lionel Messi stand between Germany and a fourth World Cup title now. The Germans have been so efficient and so dominant over the past four weeks here in Brazil that only the brilliance of Argentina's talisman could shatter their championship dreams.
- Joe Lago at Yahoo Sports23 days ago
RIO DE JANEIRO – Tim Krul was informed of the plan before he stepped on the team bus for the stadium. Jasper Cillessen wished he would've known the plan so he didn't have to wonder what in the world was going on when he saw Krul warming up in the corner of his eye late in extra time.
The plan, both genius and devious, was to replace first-choice goalkeeper Cillessen with penalty-saving specialist Krul if head coach Louis van Gaal had one last substitution seconds before a penalty shootout in Saturday's quarterfinal against Costa Rica. Only Krul, Van Gaal and goalkeeper coach Frans Hoek knew about the switch.
The controversial decision worked beautifully. Krul turned away two shots, including Costa Rica's final kick from the spot, to send the Netherlands to its second straight World Cup semifinal. The shrewd move also could've ripped apart the Dutch team right then and there, inviting jealousy and, in the extreme, creating division among the ranks.
- Joe Lago at Yahoo Sports23 days ago
Substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul saved two shots, including Costa Rica's final attempt, to help the Netherlands prevail 4-3 in a dramatic penalty shootout and advance to the World Cup semifinals.
The quarterfinal victory in the light rain at Salvador's Arena Fonte Nova sends the Dutch to next Wednesday's semifinal in Sao Paulo against Argentina, which defeated Belgium 1-0 earlier in the day in Brasilia.
In the shootout, Celso Borges scored first for Costa Rica and Robin Van Persie just beat goalkeeper Keylor Navas with his rolling shot inside the right post. Krul easily stopped Bryan Ruiz's weak penalty and Arjen Robben gave the Dutch a 2-1 lead by calmly hitting the upper left corner.
Giancarlo Gonzalez evened the shootout at 2-2 for Costa Rica. Wesley Sneijder successfully went right to give Netherlands the lead back at 3-2, and Christian Bolanos also went right to knot things again at 3-3.
- Joe Lago at Yahoo Sports26 days ago
SAO PAULO – Despite Tuesday's disappointing defeat to Belgium and round-of-16 World Cup exit, the United States found itself awash in optimism of better days ahead as it packed up for the long trip home Wednesday.
The reason to believe in a promising future came from the most unexpected source: Two youngsters who weren't expected to play much at all yet performed in the most stunning fashion on the game's biggest stage.
DeAndre Yedlin replaced injured right back Fabian Johnson and used his exceptional speed to neutralize Belgium star Eden Hazard in a memorable head-to-head duel. Julian Green came off the bench in extra time to calmly score a superbly taken side-volley goal (with his first-ever World Cup touch) to ignite a dramatic comeback that fell short in a 2-1 loss to the Belgians.
- Joe Lago at Yahoo Sports28 days ago
SALVADOR, Brazil – Belgium will face the United States with arguably its most important player.
Captain Vincent Kompany has overcome a groin injury in time to return to the Belgians' starting lineup for Tuesday's round-of-16 game at Arena Fonte Nova.
The center back from English Premier League champion Manchester City missed Belgium's final group game, a 1-0 win over South Korea last Thursday. Kompany's battle to be fit was crucial for coach Marc Wilmots, who stood to have just two healthy starters in his first-choice, four-man backline.
Wilmots announced Monday that left back Thomas Vermaelen won't play due to a hamstring strain. Backup right back Anthony Vanden Borre is also out after suffering a tournament-ending fibula fracture against South Korea, but regular starter Tony Alderweireld will return to the lineup.
[Photos: Stars tweet support for Team USA]
- Joe Lago at Yahoo Sports29 days ago
SAO PAULO – Surviving the World Cup's Group of Death didn't teach this United States team anything new about itself. The surprising achievement merely reinforced what it already knew.
"I think we always had faith that we would get out of the group, so we always have had confidence," defender Omar Gonzalez said. "I think it is good that we have always believed and it is just nice to see everyone else starting to rally behind us."
Beating Ghana, drawing with Portugal and qualifying for the round of 16 despite losing to Germany confirmed some pre-tournament theories about Jurgen Klinsmann's squad (for instance, the U.S. wasn't going anywhere without Tim Howard being Tim Howard) and disproved some popular beliefs (such as the U.S. wasn't good enough to go through to the second round).
However, the group phase also revealed previously unknown truths about Klinsmann's men – and Klinsmann. Heretofore, we did not know that:
Jermaine Jones is a force of nature … on offense.
- Joe Lago at Yahoo Sports1 mth ago
SAO PAULO – Jozy Altidore jogged around the Sao Paulo FC training ground while his United Statesteammates participated in their first full-squad practice since returning from Thursday's Group G finale in Recife. Jurgen Klinsmann remains optimistic that Altidore, who injured his left hamstring 12 days ago in the U.S.'s tournament opener, will return for Tuesday's round-of-16 showdown against Belgium.
But even if Altidore misses his third straight World Cup game, the Americans still might catch a break.