By DAN KARELL
Brazilian fans should be brimming with confidence about their national team heading into the 2014 World Cup.
Playing at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, the site of the 2010 World Cup final, Brazil routed South Africa, 5-0, in the final friendly match before the World Cup rosters will be announced. Brazilian star Neymar scored a hat-trick in the win, which also saw Brazil switch from their traditional yellow uniforms at halftime to an all-blue kit.
Neymar scored his first in the 41st minute with a low drive from just outside the box, before scoring an incredible chip over the South African goalkeeper just seconds into the second half. The 22-year-old put a bow on the proceedings in stoppage time with a close-range finish.
Here are some more stories to start your Thursday:
ANELKA TO ACCEPT FA RULING
West Bromwich Albion are set to be without forward Nicolas Anelka until April.
The 34-year-old Frenchman has reportedly decided against appealing the FA’s decision to ban him five matches for making the quenelle gesture in a match against West Ham United. Anelka was also fined £80,000 as a punishment. The full details of the FA’s decision will be published on Thursday.
Anelka has played in 12 English Premier League matches this season, scoring just twice. Both goals came in the game against West Ham where the incident happened.
The earliest that Anelka could return, assuming he accepts the five-match ban, would be on April 12 at home against Tottenham.
WILSHERE TO MISS AT LEAST SIX WEEKS
Jack Wilshere’s injury problems have caught up with him again.
Though the English National Team and Arsenal midfielder played just 59 minutes in England’s 1-0 victory against Denmark on Wednesday, he was diagnosed Thursday morning with a small fracture in his left foot.
A press release on Arsenal’s website says that Wilshere will be put on a six-week rehabilitation program, gaining match fitness after that period.
The injury leaves Arsenal without another starting midfielder for a critical stretch of games this week, an FA Cup tie against Everton on Saturday and a UEFA Champions League return match against Bayern Munich on Tuesday.
MEXICO STUTTER IN WITH DRAW AGAINST NIGERIA
Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera still has a lot of work to do before Mexico takes the field against Cameroon in their World Cup opener.
Playing in front of a pro-Mexico crowd of 68,212 fans in Atlanta, El Tri wasn’t able to find the back of the net in a scoreless draw with Nigeria.
Despite starting Javier Hernandez and Oribe Peralta together up front, Nigeria proved to be the more dangerous team in the first half. Emmanuel Emenike nearly scored in the 12th minute and John Obi Mikel fired a shot that was parried away in the 35th minute by Guillermo Ochoa.
Substitutes Raul Jimenez, Alan Pulido, and captain Rafa Marquez each had chances that were saved by Nigerian goalkeepers Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide.
Mario Gotze was on target as Germany defeated Chile, 1-0, but the Germans were not overly impressive. The Germans took the lead in the 16th minute, but struggled to leave their stamp on the game against the technical Chileans. (REPORT)
Cristiano Ronaldo became Portugal’s all-time leading scoring after bagging a brace in a rout against Cameroon. Portugal defeated Cameroon, 5-1. (REPORT)
An early penalty kick doomed Ghana to a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Montenegro in the Black Stars’ latest tune-up ahead of this summer’s World Cup. Ghana fell behind in the first minute of the match and never was able to find an equalizer. (REPORT)
In a battle of two of the top nations in the world, Spain defeated Italy, 1-0, courtesy of a second-half strike from Pedro. Spain dominated the match for large stretches, but were unable to find the back of the net until Pedro netted in the 63rd minute. (REPORT)
Eden Hazard has allayed fears that his ankle injury on international duty with Belgium would keep him off the field for Chelsea. (REPORT)
Despite a 4-3 defeat to Ecuador, Australia and New York Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill scored twice to became his nation’s all-time leading goal scorer with 31 goals. (REPORT)
Edin Dzeko has criticized Bosnia and Herzegovina head coach Safet Susic for leaving him in for the full 90 minutes despite carrying an injury into the match. (REPORT)
In their first ever international friendly, Kosovo played Haiti to a scoreless draw in Mitrovica. (REPORT)
What do you think of these reports? Impressed with Neymar’s performance? Surprised that Anelka won’t appeal the FA sentence? What didn’t go right for Mexico?
Share your thoughts below.