By JUSTIN FERGUSON
In the midst of rioting and nationwide unrest, the Brazilian national team continued to entertain the country and the rest of the world on Saturday with another strong performance in the Confederations Cup.
The hosts completed their group stage matches with a 4-2 win over Italy that clinched the top spot in Group A. Fred bagged the final two goals for Brazil, and Neymar continued his incredible tournament by scoring off a free kick early in the second half.
The two famous nations were in a largely uneventful deadlock until first half stoppage time. Bayern Munich defender Dante, who was subbed on for an injured David Luiz, scored first for Brazil by knocking in a rebound that had some suspicions of offside.
Italy started the second half on the front foot and found an equalizer just minutes after kickoff. Mario Balotelli set up Emanuele Giaccherini with a brilliant flick, and the Juventus man beat Julio Cesar to make it 1-1.
Neymar gave Brazil the lead with his free kick just four minutes after Italy’s equalizer, and Fred doubled the advantage in the 66th with a fine individual effort. Although Giorgio Chiellini pulled one back for Italy in controversial fashion, Fred was able to seal the win with an 88th-minute strike.
Brazil will wait to see if it will face Nigeria or Uruguay in the tournament’s semifinals, and Italy will most likely face Spain in a rematch of the Euro 2012 final.
Here are some more stories from Saturday’s action:
MEXICO REBOUNDS WITH WIN VS. JAPAN
On the verge of dropping three straight matches for the first time in five years, the Mexican national team ended it slide on Saturday with a tight, morale-boosting win.
Mexico avoided the dreaded three and out in Confederations Cup play by defeating Japan 2-1 in a match between already-eliminated sides. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez led the way once again, scoring both goals for a Mexico offense that has struggled in matches when he does not score.
After a scoreless first half, Hernandez scored two goals off of headers in the span of 12 minutes. Hernandez has now scored seven of El Tri’s last eight goals across all competitions.
Japan slowly turned the momentum back in its favor towards the end of the 90 minutes and pulled one back thanks to a Shinji Okazaki goal. Hernandez had a chance to put the match completely out of reach in second half stoppage time, but his penalty try and subsequent rebound were both missed.
GREECE DEFEATS MEXICO IN U-20 WORLD CUP ACTION
Although the senior team was able to end its Confederations Cup woes, Saturday did not start off well for Mexico on the international stage.
The Mexican U-20s fell to Greece 2-1 early Saturday in their opening World Cup match. Dimitrios Kolovos was the hero for the debuting Greeks, finding the back of the net in the 87th minute.
Andreas Bouchalakis put Greece up front early, but Jorge Espericueta equalized for Mexico with a fine 40th-minute free kick. The two sides traded chances until the final minutes, when Kolovos turned and fired his shot past FC Dallas Home Grown Player Richard Sanchez.
In other U-20 World Cup action, highly touted forward Jhon Cordoba scored a second-half equalizer to give Colombia a 1-1 draw with Australia. Host Turkey kicked off its tournament with a 3-0 rout of El Salvador, and Paraguay drew 1-1 with Mali.
ISCO REPORTEDLY CLOSE TO REAL MADRID MOVE
With his former manager Manuel Pellegrini now at Manchester City, highly touted midfielder Isco seemed like a lock to become a Citizen earlier this week.
However, according to reports out of Spain, Real Madrid have swooped into negotiations and agreed to pay Malaga £25 million for the 21-year-old midfielder. Reports in England indicate Isco could make his decision between Real and Man City within the next 24 hours.
Isco, who played a major role in Spain’s recent European U-21 championship run, has spent the last two seasons at Malaga. The Valencia youth product helped lead Malaga to a Champions League berth in his first season and a quarterfinal finish in the competition during his second. But with UEFA upholding Malaga’s ban on European competition and a sixth-place La Liga finish, Isco was widely expected to leave the club this summer.
Atletico Madrid have announced an agreement to renew the loan deal for Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who has spent the last two seasons with the La Liga side. (REPORT)
Liverpool have completed the signing of 20-year-old Spanish forward Luis Alberto from Sevilla. (REPORT)
Speaking at the official unveiling of new manager Rafa Benitez, Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis said Manchester City have refused to meet the £53.6 million buyout clause for talented forward Edinson Cavani. (REPORT)
FIFA is investigating whether New Zealand used an ineligible player during a World Cup Qualifying match against the Solomon Islands in March. (REPORT)
Aston Villa midfielder Brett Holman is the latest player to leave the big leagues for the Middle East as he will leave the Premier League club for Dubai’s Al Nasr. (REPORT)
What did you make of these results? Impressed with Brazil’s performance so far in the Confederations Cup? Surprised that Italy has given up this many goals? What kind of effect do you think Mexico’s win will have on the rest of its summer schedule? Disappointed with Japan’s three straight losses?
Share your thoughts below.