Thursday Kickoff: Natal stadium still under construction; Mexico trounces Israel; and more

Thursday Kickoff: Natal stadium still under construction; Mexico trounces Israel; and more

South American Soccer

Thursday Kickoff: Natal stadium still under construction; Mexico trounces Israel; and more

ArenaDasDunasBrazil1 (Getty)

By DAN KARELL

With less than two weeks remaining until the start of the World Cup, it’s a race against the clock for Brazil to finish construction on a few remaining unfinished venues.

FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke visited the Arena Das Dunas in Natal on Wednesday and sent out images on his official Twitter account showing that there were still plenty of areas where seats still need to be installed in the stadium.

Just completed visit at Arena das Dunas,” Valcke tweeted. “Race against the clock. Still lots to be done for #WorldCup fans & media.

“We need full commitment from all parties in Natal to ensure all will be in place & tested prior to Mexico vs. Cameroon on June 13,” Valcke also said.

The Arena Das Dunas is set to host four group stage matches at the World Cup, including the U.S. Men’s National Team opener against Ghana on June 16.

Here are some more stories to start your Thursday:

MEXICO BEATS ISRAEL IN BLANCO TRIBUTE

While there are still many questions left unanswered, Mexican fans got the result they wanted while giving a memorable tribute to legendary forward/playmaker Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

The 41-year-old Blanco played the first 39 minutes of the match and actually looked like he could still play at the international level, earning his 120th cap for El Tri. Two goals from Miguel Layun later and a late strike from Marco Fabian gave Mexico a 3-0 victory over Israel at Estadio Azteca.

El Tri forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez came on at halftime but struggled around goal and again showed a lack of confidence in the box. Due to an illness to Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado started at holding midfielder for El Tri and actually looked solid.

For Israel, while the match means nothing to them in the swing of things, veteran midfielder Yossi Benayoun became the nation’s all-time leader in appearances for the Blue and White with 95 career caps.

MIRANDA LINKED WITH MAN UNITED

One of the top players to miss out on the World Cup could be heading north to Manchester this summer.

Following an incredible season with Atletico Madrid, the Spanish club look to be cashing in on the success of centerback Miranda, and are prepared to see the 29-year-old defender leave if a team hits his buyout clause, rumored to be around €30 million. In this case, Diario AS reports that Miranda has been looking at schools in the Manchester area for his children and Man United has reportedly expressed interest in the Brazilian defender.

It’s clear that the two would be a perfect fit, with Miranda bringing a strong and calm influence to the Man United back line and Man United desperately needing to sign at least one or two centerbacks this summer after the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

QUICK KICKS

Atletico Madrid are leading the race to sign Sevilla maestro Ivan Rakitic. (REPORT)

With Diego Costa likely to leave this summer, Atletico are also looking at signing Tottenham’s Roberto Soldado as a replacement. (REPORT)

Liverpool have reportedly made a £16 million bid for Sevilla left back Alberto Moreno. (REPORT)

Gus Poyet has signed a new two-year contract at Sunderland. (REPORT)

Germany National Team goalkeeper Manuel Neuer returned to the training field for the first time since injuring his shoulder, however he only did individual drills. (REPORT)

After leading River Plate to the Argentine title, manager Ramon Diaz decided to resign. (REPORT)

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What do you think of these reports? Do you see Natal’s stadium being finished in time? Think that Mexico learned anything about their World Cup squad? Do you believe that Miranda would be a good signing for Man United?

Share your thoughts below.

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