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  1. #1

    BBC Reports...

    By David Ornstein
    BBC Sport at Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador

    Story of the match:
    • Costa wins Spain a penalty
    • Silva misses chance for 2-0
    • Van Persie levels to start rout
    • Casillas at fault for fourth goal

    Netherlands produced a sensational second-half performance to annihilate reigning champions Spain in a stunned Arena Fonte Nova.
    Spain lived up to their favourites tag by opening the scoring through a Xabi Alonso penalty, but Robin van Persie equalised with an incredible diving header just before half-time and Arjen Robben put Netherlands in front with a cool finish.

    Stefan de Vrij forced in a third from Wesley Sneijder's free-kick, Van Persie dispossessed goalkeeper Iker Casillas to make it four and Robben's brilliant solo effort sealed the win.

    Spain, looking to win a fourth consecutive major international trophy, were humbled and humiliated in the repeat of the 2010 World Cup final. The last time they conceded five goals in an international match was in 1963.

    Three-time runners-up Netherlands will suddenly find themselves talked about among the leading contenders to lift the title and it is not unrealistic if they maintain this level of display.

    It was their first meeting with Spain since the showpiece four years ago in South Africa and the first time the previous finalists had met in the opening round of matches at the next World Cup.

    Ear-splitting noise reverberated around one of Brazil's most impressive stadiums as the teams emerged before kick-off.

    Van Persie has 10 goals in his last nine Netherlands outings

    The Dutch fans have travelled in far smaller numbers than usual - a reflection of their pre-competition hopes - but there were still pockets of orange mixed in with the red of Spain, yellow of Brazil and the colours of various other teams, fitting in this melting pot of a city.
    It made for a mighty atmosphere, including boos for pantomime villain Diego Costa - the striker born in Brazil and capped by them before switching allegiances to Spain.

    Costa was clattered early on by Ron Vlaar, and there were more heavy challenges as the first half progressed, but any idea that the Netherlands would turn this into an encounter as brutal as their defeat in Johannesburg four year's ago were soon dismissed.

    Indeed, it was Louis van Gaal's Dutch side who created the first clear chance when Robben slipped Wesley Sneijder clean through but captain Casillas's one-handed save kept the ball out.

    That miss appeared costly when Xavi released Costa into the penalty area and he fell under the challenge of De Vrij. Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli pointed to the spot, although replays showed Costa had stood on the Feyenoord defender's leg.

    Alonso slotted the resulting penalty past Dutch keeper Jasper Cillessen but rather than leading to a period of dominance, Vincent del Bosque's men sat back and tried to defend their lead and Netherlands accepted the invitation to get forward and finally enjoyed some possession.

    However, it was Spain who came closest to scoring a second when Andres Iniesta played in David Silva with a glorious inch-perfect pass but the Manchester City midfielder's tame chipped effort was turned away by Cillessen.

    It was a missed opportunity that would come back to haunt Spain as within five minutes, Van Persie had scored the goal that proved the turning point of the match.

    The Manchester United striker escaped the attentions of Sergio Ramos and met Daley Blind's crossfield pass with an astonishing 15-yard header that looped over a despairing Casillas.

    Netherlands left the field at the break embracing each other with wide smiles and they carried that momentum into the second half.
    Van Gaal's men deservedly took the lead when Xavi - the heartbeat of Spain's midfield for so long - lost possession and Blind supplied another pinpoint aerial pass from the left, which Robben expertly controlled before eluding Gerard Pique and finishing confidently.

    Spain were now rocking and Van Persie smashed a half volley against the bar before De Vrij bundled a third goal over the line after Casillas missed Sneijder's inswinging free-kick from the left.

    The goalkeeper protested that he had been impeded by Van Persie - and he had a point - but referee Rizzoli was unmoved and the Netherlands were suddenly in control at 3-1 up.

    Silva thought he had given the world champions hope when he scored from close-range but his effort was correctly ruled offside.

    Robben has seven goals for the Dutch in his last seven games

    And moments later, Netherlands were 4-1 up.

    Casillas, who produced a stunning save to keep out a Robben volley, turned villain when he miscontrolled a backpass from Sergio Ramos and was tackled by Van Persie, who slid the ball into an empty net.

    Robben then capped a fine individual performance with a fine solo goal. The winger raced from inside his own half to latch on to Sneijder's through ball and outpaced Ramos before taking the ball round Casillas and smashing past two defenders on the line.

    Spain were in pieces and continued to be torn apart, substitute Jeremain Lens and Robben going close.

    And Spain's torrid evening was summed up when substitute Fernando Torres failed to score from three yards. The Chelsea striker looked certain to register a consolation, only for Blind to arrive with a timely last-ditch challenge.

    The full-time whistle was met with scenes of Dutch joy and Spanish woe, on the turf and in the stands. Netherlands embarked upon a lap of honour.

    It was a result that will send shockwaves through world football.

    World Cup 2014: Robin Van Persie scores with superb header

    • 01 Casillas Booked
    • 22 Azpilicueta
    • 18 Alba
    • 14 Alonso (Pedro - 63' )
    • 03 Piqué
    • 15 Ramos
    • 21 Silva (Fábregas - 78' )
    • 16 Busquets
    • 19 Diego Costa (Torres - 62' )
    • 08 Xavi
    • 06 Iniesta
    • 02 Albiol
    • 04 Javi Martínez
    • 05 Juanfran
    • 07 Villa
    • 09 Torres
    • 10 Fábregas
    • 11 Pedro
    • 12 de Gea
    • 13 Mata
    • 17 Koke
    • 20 Cazorla
    • 23 Reina
    • 01 Cillessen
    • 07 Janmaat
    • 05 Blind
    • 04 Martins Indi
    • 02 Vlaar
    • 03 de Vrij Booked (Veltman - 77' )
    • 08 de Guzmán Booked (Wijnaldum - 62' )
    • 06 de Jong
    • 10 Sneijder
    • 09 van Persie Booked (Lens - 79' )
    • 11 Robben
    • 12 Verhaegh
    • 13 Veltman
    • 14 Kongolo
    • 15 Kuyt
    • 16 Clasie
    • 17 Lens
    • 18 Fer
    • 19 Huntelaar
    • 20 Wijnaldum
    • 21 Depay
    • 22 Vorm
    • 23 Krul
    Ref: Nicola Rizzoli
    Att: 48,173

  2. #2

    World Cup 2014: Thomas Muller outshines Cristiano Ronaldo

    By David Ornstein
    BBC Sport in Salvador

    Portugal conceded four goals in a World Cup for the first time in their history

    It seemed this World Cup would see all the biggest stars shine on the grandest stage of all.

    Neymar was the first to take his chance. Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben followed suit. Karim Benzema got in on the act. Then Lionel Messi lived up to his billing.

    There was only one man we were still waiting for and Monday was Cristiano Ronaldo's opportunity to join the party.

    The 29-year-old two-time Ballon D'or winner had declared himself "100%" fit during Sunday's pre-match news conference, adding that he has nothing to prove at this level despite underperforming in his two previous World Cups, with just two goals in 10 matches.

    But the Real Madrid forward fluffed his lines as Portugal were demolished 4-0 by Germany.

    There were, of course, mitigating circumstances. His preparations were disrupted by tendinosis in his left knee and by a thigh injury, while a 37th-minute red card for Portugal defender Pepe diluted the forward's effectiveness.

    Nonetheless, Ronaldo failed to shine as Thomas Muller stole his thunder.

    That might not have been in the script, but the Portugal captain still looked in high spirits as he left the Arena Fonte Nova on Monday. However, his refusal to conduct any media interviews was perhaps more instructive.

    In the early stages of the contest, it appeared that he would make a statement on the pitch. One typically surging run set up Hugo Almeida for the game's first opening, before Ronaldo drew a sharp save from Manuel Neuer after busting clear.

    Those actions were redolent of the man who almost single-handedly sealed Portugal's place in Brazil with a sensational hat-trick in the qualifying play-off second leg in Sweden; of the player who finished the season with 50 goals or more in all competitions for the fourth consecutive year as Real Madrid won their 10th European Cup.

    In Europe's top five leagues last season, only Liverpool's Luis Suarez could match his haul of 31 goals, and nobody came close to his minutes-to-goals ratio (81.94), number of shots - both in total and on target - and the number of goals from outside the penalty area. Ronaldo also created more chances in La Liga than any of his previous campaigns at the Bernabeu.

    He's the best player in the world, voted from the best... He's always a threat, even with 10 men he looks dangerous.”
    Per Mertesacker talking about Cristiano Ronaldo

    He looked like Portugal's only threat in those opening stages, but his influence began to wane, Germany scored twice to take control, Pepe went sent off, a third goal arrived and his team were buried.

    Team-mates constantly looked to Ronaldo - just after the half hour, Fabio Coentrao inexplicably attempted to find him in the box when he was in a glorious position to score himself - but it is difficult to remember many individuals shining at a World Cup without a strong side around them.

    On Sunday, Ronaldo told reporters: "I believe one player is not a team. I'm here in the national team to help. I can make a difference in some of the games, but I can't carry the whole team on my back."

    This probably goes some way to show the difference between his form for club and country.

    Before the Germany defeat, Ronaldo averaged 3.8 shots per game in World Cup matches compared to 5.73 in La Liga last term. His other numbers were no more flattering: 1.5 shots on target per game compared to 3.1 for Real, a goal every 422 minutes rather than every 81.94, and an assist every 844 minutes against 282.22.

    When the former Manchester United winger's name was read out before kick-off, the noise was deafening, but his followers would not get what they came to see.

    On the hour mark, he was given a platform. A free-kick, 25 yards out, left of centre. Ronaldo territory.

    He marked out his run-up - a good 10 yards - placed the ball delicately and glared at his target with legs apart, arms rigidly pointed down, chest pushed out. There was a collective holding of breath, cameras lenses were trained. Then he shot straight into the wall.

    There would soon be more frustration as referee Milorad Mazic rejected Portugal's penalty appeal after a challenge on Eder. An irate Ronaldo chased after the Serbian official, gesticulating wildly.

    Thomas Muller World Cup facts

    Muller has scored six goals in his last four World Cup games.
    Thomas Muller is the first player to score a hat-trick against Portugal in a World Cup game.
    Thomas Muller bagged the first World Cup hat-trick for Germany since Miroslav Klose in 2002 (v Saudi-Arabia).

    Source: Opta
    Another free-kick dribbled along the ground before he finally connected brilliantly with one. It was heading in, only for Neuer to position himself well enough to punch it away to safety.

    By then, the game had already gone. But at least Ronaldo proved his fitness ahead of games against Ghana and the United States, games which Portugal must win if they are to advance to the last 16.

    "He's the best player in the world, voted from the best," Germany defender Per Mertesacker told BBC Sport. "He's always a threat; even with 10 men he looks dangerous.

    "We tried to deal with him, not leave him in one-against-one situations. We tried to cope with him with good defensive work and we did it collectively well today."

    At the forefront of a fine Germany team performance was Muller.

    Coming into the finals, there was no shortage of debate about boss Joachim Low's decision to name just one recognised striker in his squad - 36-year-old Miroslav Klose - but Bayern Munich attacker Muller played the lone forward's role to perfection in the oppressive Salvador heat.

    He was a handful from the first minute with his constant harrying, non-stop running, intelligent movement and knack of being in the right place at the right time.

    Having won the Golden Boot and the award as the best young player in South Africa four years ago, Muller picked up where he left off and - at just 24 years of age - has now scored eight World Cup goals compared to Ronaldo's two.

    Self-christened as 'The Raumdeuter' - the 'interpreter of space' - because of his intelligent play and ability to pick up pockets of space among opposition defences, Muller was unstoppable.

    Muller has now scored eight goals in seven World Cup matches

    "Thomas is a crazy guy and he always has his foot in the right position," Germany's Lukas Podolski explained. "He smells the situation - he's always there, where the ball is."

    Fellow forward Andre Schurrle added: "He's very important because he searches all the time for free space, he's on his legs for 90 minutes and he tries to do everything. He can go on to become an all-time great."

    Thomas Muller facts

    Age: 24

    Club: Bayern Munich

    Position: Forward

    Caps: 48

    Goals: 19
    Former Germany striker and current team manager Oliver Bierhoff highlighted Muller's "will to score, to try every match for 90 minutes to be in the game", adding: "If he doesn't have a good day he's still trying to do something, interacting with his colleagues.

    "It's difficult for the opponents to understand what he's doing. Often he doesn't know it himself. Technically he is very good, he's hungry, he's always aware something can happen and never giving up. He can play the 'false nine' role very well."

    Although Muller will dominate the headlines, Germany were exceptional as a unit.

    Following strong starts by the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Netherlands and France, Low's side have laid down a marker of their own and, after finishing third, third and second at the last three World Cups, will be confident of challenging for a title they have not won since 1990.

    They ensured the first week in Brazil continues to thrill. Ronaldo, though, has some catching up to do.

    For the best of BBC Sport's in-depth content and analysis, go to our features and video page.

  3. #3

    World Cup 2014: Spain's stunning demise signals the end [BBC]

    By David Ornstein
    BBC Sport at the Maracana

    "Disaster", "failure" and "humiliation" were among the words used by the Spanish press after their side's World Cup title defence began with a heavy loss to the Netherlands.

    Yet there is only one way to describe Wednesday's defeat at the hands of Chile, which sees Vicente Del Bosque's team eliminated with a game of the group stage still to play: the end.

    The end of an unprecedented era of dominance that so captivated the global game, the end of a golden generation of players who dared, succeeded, thrilled and inspired.

    Cesc Fabregas had called the Chile match "life or death" and it proved the latter. This night will go down in football history as the night the tiki-taka trailblazers bade farewell.

    The denouement was always going to arrive at some point, but few expected it to come with such alarming speed and in such unceremonious fashion. First-round knockout.

    Reigning champions have, of course, succumbed early before - Italy in 1950 and 2010, Brazil in 1966 and France in 2002 - and losing to the Dutch and Chileans on current form is no disgrace.

    The Netherlands possess attacking weapons to trouble anyone and Chile, for whom all 10 outfield starters were under the age of 30, have been tipped as dark horses for the title.

    However, we are talking about Spain, the first team to lift two European Championships and a World Cup in succession.

    Spain won Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 to become the first side to win all three trophies in a row

    Alarm bells started to ring when they were beaten by Brazil in the Confederations Cup final a year ago, also here in the Maracana. Explanations were given, judgments reserved. Then came a friendly with Chile in September that needed a stoppage-time equaliser to earn a draw.

    Nor did Barcelona's poor season bode well; this is the club from where Spain take their stylistic lead, with seven of Barca's stars included in the 23-man squad and all of them featuring against the Netherlands.

    Another seven came from Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid; both had impressive campaigns, but their involvement in the Champions League final made for weary legs.

    "How many of the Spain players have lived up to who they are and played to their top form?" asked Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis on BBC Radio 5 live.

    "Whether that was because their season has finished later than most I'm not sure. I really wanted them to do well at this World Cup. I feel for Del Bosque - one of the great managers."

    We knew when Spain landed in Brazil that they were nearing the end of a cycle and faced an incredibly difficult task to be become the first Europeans to win a World Cup in South America.

    What we did not anticipate was the Dutch handing out a 5-1 drubbing, the heaviest defeat suffered by World Cup winners at the following tournament, or the Chileans dispatching them so clinically.

    How different it might have been had David Silva not wasted a glorious chance to make it 2-0 on Friday and Sergio Busquets managed to prod into an empty net at 0-2 on Wednesday.

    In all, except brief periods of the first half versus the Netherlands, Spain have looked a shadow of their old self - their control, movement and passing unrecognisable from the not too distant past.

    Against Chile, they posted their lowest passing accuracy in a World Cup game (81.7%) since a quarter-final loss to South Korea in 2002 and Andres Iniesta attempted the fewest passes (52) in the eight World Cup matches in which he has played a full 90 minutes.

    Spain lost 152 balls to Chile's 141, making 62 recoveries compared to 71, and despite attempting five more tackles than Jorge Sampaoli's men their success rate was 13% lower.

    To watch Xabi Alonso - someone who has been at the heart of Spain's glory - resort to hacking at opponents in frustration as Los Roja failed to establish any sort of rhythm was sad.

    Pre-match, the midfielder claimed the criticism of his side was "exaggerated", adding: "I don't think you can conclude that this generation is finished, we're still alive."

    Team-mate Sergio Ramos had added: "We're more united than ever. To say that the cycle has come to an end is crazy."

    But those words now carry a hollow ring and as Spain walked off the pitch at full-time there was little sense of shock. They looked disappointed but not distraught, more resigned to the inevitable. There was even restraint about Chile's celebrations; they triumphed with plenty left in the tank.

    "What is painfully obvious watching them live is the lack of pace in the last third," said former England midfielder Danny Murphy on BBC Radio 5 live.

    Del Bosque's charges have nothing to play for against Australia on 23 June and it will be interesting to see whether he makes the sort of changes that will be necessary going forward.

    Iker Casillas, goalkeeper and captain, barely played for Real Madrid last season and endured a forgettable, error-ridden World Cup. Will David De Gea, 23, replace the 33-year-old?

    Will Iker Casillas make way for David De Gea in the final game against Australia?

    Xavi, the symbol of Spain's rise and the heartbeat of their midfield for so long, was dropped for the Chile game and at 34 might never pull on the red shirt again. Koke, 22, waits in the wings as a quicker, more dynamic option with a better engine than the fading legend.

    Iniesta, Xavi's partner in crime, still has a lot to give but is nowhere near top form, defender Gerard Pique was replaced by Martinez in what may be a sign of things to come, and this looks to be the end of the international road for Alonso and Villa at 32, possibly even Fernando Torres at 30.

    Some potential successors await in the current squad and others outside. Spain claimed the 2013 European Under-21 Championship - the likes of Jese, Alvaro Morata, Gerard Deulofeu, Isco and Daniel Carvajal coming to the fore. Two years ago, they took a second consecutive Under-19 title.

    "Villa, Xavi, Torres, you look at the Spain team and you think there are six or seven players who could all step down," said former England defender and 5 live summariser Danny Mills.

    "In players like Isco, Juan Mata and Fabregas there are still a lot of players coming through at the top level, and you also expect De Gea to be around for a long time. So Spain will come strong again but it's a big ask for the youngsters to come in and replace what was maybe an ageing squad with a little bit of complacency and a lack of desire."

    From speaking to Spanish journalists, it is clear they are looking forward to a fresh start, optimistic about the future, but there is also unhappiness that the present team did not show the necessary hunger and application to make Spain's proven philosophy click as it has previously.

    For Spain's approach to bear fruit, they need an impregnable defence, tireless runners and relentless hard work. None of those boxes have been ticked in Brazil.

    They conceded seven goals in two games compared to just two in seven four years ago, which when you do not score many goals - another problem that requires solving - means trouble.

    Del Bosque was always going to pin his hopes on this crop for one final hurrah - there is an argument that exposing youngsters to a disastrous title defence would have caused more harm than good - but why did he not shuffle the 23 more ambitiously once selected?

    Key facts

    In winning Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012, Spain conceded a total of six goals, one fewer than they have so far at World Cup 2014.

    Spain have conceded two or more goals in more than one game at a single World Cup tournament for the first time since USA 94.
    Spain have already conceded in their two 2014 World games (seven goals) after conceding in only two of their seven 2010 World Cup games (two goals in total).

    Spain join Italy 1950*, Brazil 1966, France 2002 and Italy 2010 as reigning World Cup champions to exit the following tournament in the group stages (*Italy 1950 was 12 years since the previous tournament and format of 1950 competition was unusual).

    Spain posted their lowest passing accuracy in a World Cup game (81.7%) since their quarter-final defeat to South Korea in June 2002 (78.7%).

    "It's difficult when the coach isn't able to perceive that the team is changing and the generation is slowing down," said Ernest Macia of Radio Catalunya. "To many people, Del Bosque was not cunning enough to retire after the last World Cup.

    "He's a good manager but maybe not a good coach. He knows how to deal with egos but when the players doesn't respond you need someone who can make changes to a team that normally plays on memory. It was probably necessary to lose like this to close this beautiful and glorious era."

    Del Bosque has cut a curious figure throughout Spain's short stay - edgy in his news conferences; admitting to falling asleep, exhausted, while watching Chile v Australia and waking up the next morning with the television still on; accidentally walking on to the Chile team bus as he left the Maracana.

    While speculation is sure to rage over which players will retire or be cast aside, Del Bosque's achievements since being appointed in 2008 are said to guarantee his position - so any decision would come down to the 63-year-old, whose contract expires after Euro 2016.

    If he does leave, there is concern over who would be available and appropriate to take over. They would have to embrace a method that is non-negotiable but must evolve because Spain have become predictable. The Dutch and Chile knew how to beat them and La Roja couldn't adapt.

    Spanish newspaper Marca hints at the end of an era

    Former England winger Chris Waddle explained: "They were two hard games for Spain and that is because teams have changed the way they play against them.

    "Before, teams used to sit back and play on the counter-attack but now they play quicker than Spain, they press high up the pitch and nick the ball off them. Because Spain are not used to that, and they leave space behind with their full-backs coming on, teams are having success."

    Rather than a big-name Spaniard such as Rafael Benitez, they could opt for a former player in whom Spain's chosen gameplan is engrained. The likes of Under-21 coach Albert Celades, Recreativo de Huelva boss Sergi Barjuan, Olympiacos manager Michel and Sporting Gijon's Abelardo Fernandez are all highly thought of.

    But for the time being the responsibility still lies with Del Bosque.

    On the morning after losing to the Netherlands, the front cover of Spanish newspaper Marca was a funeral black with the headline: "Fix this". Thursday's simply said: "The End".

  4. #4

    World Cup 2014: Luiz Felipe Scolari hopeful over Neymar injury [BBC]

    29 June 2014
    Last updated at 08:06 GMT

    Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari hopes forward Neymar will be fit to face Colombia on Friday in the quarter-finals of the 2014 Fifa World Cup.

    Neymar, 22, took a knock to his thigh early on in the second-round win over Chile that was decided by penalties.

    World Cup 2014: Brazil 1-1 Chile (3-2 pen) highlights

    "We will do our best to put him on the pitch," said Scolari.

    Neymar scored Brazil's fifth spot-kick in the penalty shootout before Chile defender Gonzalo Jara missed to send Scolari's side into the quarter-finals.

    "Neymar needs to be valued for what he did because it was a big effort," added the Brazil boss, who criticised English referee Howard Webb for not protecting his star player.

    "He played 75 minutes of the match after a strong hit on the thigh and we couldn't understand how somebody hits with that strength and gets no card," added Scolari.

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