21
Jun

Mexico’s stars relax by playing beach soccer with Brazilian locals

Fresh from Tuesday’s valiant 0-0 draw with Brazil, the Mexico squad decided to show off their beach soccer skills. Instead of preparing for the crucial clash with Group A rivals Croatia on Monday, the players stripped down to their Speedos and invited some lucky locals to join in the fun:

El Tri forward Marco Fabian looked most at home on the shore — his silky flicks and delicate touches wowed spectators. Mexican teammate Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was given a stint between the sticks. On this showing, the Little Pea should stick to what he does best — goal poaching:

When the sandy spectacle reached its climax, the players mingled with other locals, signing autographs and posing for photos. All the players came away from the beach unscathed, to the delight of Mexican supporters everywhere.

(H/T: NESN)

12
Jun

2014 World Cup Opening Match: A running diary of highs and lows

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The World Cup opener had almost everything you could have expected; golazos from Neymar, bikini-clad females in the stands, lights going out in the stadium, a controversial penalty for the home team, Pitbull in capri pants. You know, no big surprises.

Still, it was an enthralling couple hours for anyone who feverishly awaited this day — so much so that you probably didn’t pick up on a few things. Luckily, we kept a running diary of the events, from the opening ceremony right down to the last kick:

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6
Jun

Croatia’s Eduardo da Silva to sing both national anthems in World Cup opener

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Croatia striker Eduardo da Silva will sing both national anthems ahead of the 2014 World Cup opener against Brazil, according to his mother.

Born in Brazil, the former Arsenal star emigrated to Croatia as a teenager to play football and became a citizen back in 2002. Since then, da Silva has scored 29 times for his adopted country, though he still hangs to his Brazilian roots.

The World Cup draw had thus put da Silva and his family, which still resides in Brazil, in a unique position. With the two countries opening the festivities next Thursday, his mother admitted that there will be divided loyalties.

"I’m rooting for Eduardo da Silva, I understand that it is very important for him, but I’m also rooting for Brazil," she says in a video posted by the Daily Mail.

"Eduardo versus Brazil. He has said he will sing two anthems. He is Croatian for work, in his heart he is Brazilian."

It’s safe to say the best-case scenario for the da Silvas would be a draw next Thursday. Because should Croatia beat the hosts, that would make for one awkward family dinner.

H/T BleacherReport

26
May

Luka Modric cuts his flowing locks after winning Champions League

Aside from starring in Real Madrid’s midfield, Luka Modric is perhaps best known for his bouncing, flowing locks. He’s been rocking the “long hair, don’t care” look for as long as we can remember, and it suits him quite well:

imageModric in 2006, hair still intact. (Image: Getty)

But no one realized just how much his hair ‘made’ his look until he went and chopped it all off!

No. Just, no Luka. This was a mistake. Take it back. Take it back!

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Yes, that is a grown adult next to Arbeloa. (Image: Modric’s Facebook)

What in the world led Modric to undergo this appalling transformation?

Apparently, the Croatia star had promised Real teammate Arvalo Arbeloa that he would get a new hairstyle if they won the Champions League. He didn’t wait long to make good on that promise, chopping his hair off the day after Real won the coveted trophy.

You would think that the man who also cuts Cristiano Ronaldo’s hair could’ve given Modric a better look! Let’s just hope his hair grows quickly.

14
Oct

Four direct berths, playoff spots in balance as UEFA WCQ comes to a close

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Expect plenty of drama and turmoil to unfold as Europe concludes the group phase of its World Cup qualifying efforts on Tuesday.

Most of the heavy hitters have either locked up a place in Brazil or situated themselves properly to claim one ahead of the last round of fixtures. Several prominent sides – including England and Spain – still need a result to guarantee a direct berth, while other countries – ranging from the usual suspects in France and Portugal to potential first-timers Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iceland – must obtain results to either finish in top spot or seal a place in the playoffs next month.

Here is a look at the state of play heading into a decisive day across the continent:

Qualified: Belgium (Group A), Italy (Group B), Germany (Group C), Netherlands (Group D), Switzerland (Group E)

Into the playoffs: Croatia (Group A), Sweden (Group C)

Assured of a direct berth or a playoff spot, depending on results: Bosnia-Herzegovina (Group G), France (Group I), England (Group H), Greece (Group G), Portugal (Group F), Russia (Group F), Spain (Group I)

Group A: Nothing to see here with Belgium (qualified) and Croatia (playoffs) already confirmed as the top two.

Group B: Italy has already booked its place in Brazil. Bulgaria (13 points, +6 GD), Denmark (13 points, -1 GD), Czech Republic (12 points, +3 GD) and Armenia (12 points, -1 GD) remain in contention for second place, but the low point haul and the smattering of the results here and elsewhere means not one of the four sides is likely to qualify for the playoff as one of the top-eight finishers (only the results against the top five teams in the group count in that convoluted table).

Bulgaria hosts the Czechs (already eliminated from playoff contention based on results) in Sofia with a chance to claim second place. If the Bulgarians falter, then Denmark will almost certainly top them given their task at home to bottom side Malta. Armenia must win in Italy and then hope for some help along the way.
 

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8
Sep

Josip Simunic sets Croatia-Serbia relations back 20 years with brutal foul

There are few football rivalries — if any — that are as deep-rooted and ferocious as that between Croatia and Serbia. The feud on the pitch obviously pales in comparison to the bitter wars in the Balkans, yet fighting between soccer hooligans from both countries drew world attention in the early 1990s and became part of the bigger picture.

This past March, Serbia played its first competitive game against Croatia as an independent nation, the first of its two World Cup qualifying duels.  In that match, Serbian fans were banned from traveling to Zagreb as a safety measure, (as were Croatian fans on Friday), reporters at the game overheard a distinct “Let’s kill the Serbs” chant, and Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic was accused of nationalist gestures during a goal celebration.

Needless to say, tempers were frayed on Friday to begin with. But then Croatia’s Josip Simunic, with the score tied 1-1 late in the match, unleashed a horrendous challenge on Serbia’s Miralem Sulejmani. Simunic deliberately took out the Benfica forward in a full speed collision, trying to prevent a clear breakaway and sending Sulejmani a good 4-5 yards in the air.


Simunic was appropriately sent off, and showered with boos and several missiles by the home crowd. The match ended in a draw, knocking Serbia out from the World Cup qualification process.