Day 12 in 100 words or less The group stages turned the corner and entered the final stretch on Monday. Josh McRoberts Jersey
. Suddenly there was a different vibe in the air in Brazil. A wind of caution and a realization that one moment could be the difference in staying or flying home. The games were more timid but there were still plenty of enormous talking points. Mexico 3-1 Croatia Nine months is a long time. Just ask a pregnant lady. Yet, apparently, we were told, it wasnt enough to change the fortunes of Mexican soccer. It was the late summer of 2013 and in a crucial World Cup qualifier, Mexico travelled to Columbus to take on their despised rivals, USA. The Mexicans needed it more but they were pathetic. Two goals in the second half didnt tell the entire story, the visitors were battered. The next act has been a story already told many times. Mexico didnt back into Brazil, they lay down on the ground and USA, Graham Zusi in particularly, dragged them there. They were supposed to still be a shambles, given little chance to progress. Suddenly two games in, they were excellent but the goal had not been accomplished. It was time for Croatia. It was time for the Herrera and Herrera show. Mexico had at least been as good as Brazil over the first two games and on Monday, after all three teams had played each other, it was clear that El Tri were indeed the most in-form team during group play. The standings didnt reflect that, after all Mexico were denied two goals against Cameroon which cost them the goal difference tie-breaker, but this team defended better than Brazil, countered better and, Cameroon aside, finished better than them, too. The latter was cemented with three precise finishes on Monday, killing off Niko Kovacs side with an arrogance that had been lacking for too long in Mexican football. The scenes to follow were in complete contrast to nine months earlier. A disjointed bunch had become a united force. Strike rivals Oribe Peralta and Javier Hernandez embraced, the newly formed brilliant back three high-fived and Paul Aguilar sprinted towards his coach and dived into his arms. Herrera fell immediately on to the floor but he didnt care how it looked. Mexico had turned it around, led by a true midfield maestro in Hector Herrera who did it all. The World Cup has unearthed some truly wonderful young stars and on a day when captain marvellous Rafa Marquez made history, Herreras heroics shouldnt go unnoticed. In a group with Paulinho, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, he was, without question, the best midfielder during group A play in Brazil. Brazil 4-1 Cameroon Some of it was all too easy to predict. Neymar got his goals, Cameroons defence was suspect and the scoreline reflected a rout in Brasilia. And then there was the bit that few saw coming. Three weeks today, this team plans on showing the World Cup to the people of Brazil. In the tournaments first two weeks, they have done nothing to show why they deserve it. The key sixth man in a formation (in front of a back four and holder) has been important in this tournament and in Paulinho, Brazil have an out-of-sorts player. Luiz Felipe Scolari told anyone willing to listen that he cared little for club form but his loyalty will be tested now with the Spurs man. Fernandinho, who replaced him and scored, is likely to come in for the game against Chile. There will be no replacing Marcelo and David Luiz, however. The defensive pair may send Thiago Silva to the hospital soon. The PSG defender is a wonderful player but how much longer can he continue to do three jobs? Fred got his goal, which shouldnt have counted, but remains a problem up front, Oscar and Hulk disappear out of games, too. World Cup winners have started slower before but the hosts have no more time for mistakes. Netherlands 2-0 Chile It is fitting that the finest player, to date, at the counter attacking World Cup, is one of the worlds best in transition. Arjen Robben skippered his side to glory on Monday, in a game that just may have huge consequences later in the tournament. It was a game that requires few words but which leads to many significant storylines heading into the knockout stage. Chile, who look like potential World Champions for parts of two games, never replicated their tempo and pressing that left opponents stunned. It was a pedestrian performance that now hands them Brazil in the last 16. Brazil. The same opponent who got in their way the last two times they have made it past the group stages. It is a matchup that terrifies Chile and it should based on how they played on Monday without Arturo Vidal. Brazil, too, however, will be terrified. They wanted no part of Chile this early. The Dutch, meanwhile, march on. Mexico will be tough but is very winnable as is a likely quarterfinal tie against one of Ivory Coast, Greece or Costa Rica. Dont look now but Louis van Gaals men have suddenly become real contenders. Spain 3-0 Australia It had a feeling like a testimonial match. David Villa scored and later left the game in tears as his international career closed. The strikers position in the squad should have been questioned but no one will question his position amongst the greats on this special team. Without him, they would not have been World Champions. The majestic Andres Iniesta got his 100th cap and gave us another glimpse at greatness with a sublime pass for Fernando Torres to score. There were hugs all around at the final whistle and they will continue into Tuesday when Spain fly home to Madrid. They leave Brazil a broken team, full of superstars of yesterday but the next time they fly to a World Cup you can guarantee they will be one of the favourites once again. Man of the day Nominees Andres Iniesta - what a pass, what a player. Please give us one more World Cup. Arjen Robben - amazing to think the once petulant winger is now a mature, all-around star leading his nation. Rafa Marquez - the captain always finds a way to get in the headlines and his header sent Mexico on their way. Hector Herrera - he can pass, tackle, run, take set pieces and shoot. Future captain and star for Mexico. Neymar - the Golden boot could be on for Mr Box Office after a brilliant brace against Cameroon. The winner Rafa Marquez - has now scored in three World Cups for Mexico and led their defence brilliantly against Croatia. Maza Rodriguez and Hector Moreno are far better having the captain beside them. Whats next? Italy vs Uruguay and Costa Rica vs England (Noon/9am). Japan vs Colombia and Greece vs Ivory Coast (4pm/1pm) Burning question for tomorrow Can Mario Balotelli produce a consistent performance and be as clinical as his Uruguayan strike opponents? Stat of Day 12 Neymar scored the tournaments 100th goal when he opened the scoring against Cameroon. Shaquille ONeal Jersey
. Sterling was banned for life and fined US$2.5 million by the NBA on Tuesday for racist comments the league says he made in a recorded conversation. Nash, who plays for the rival L.A. Lakers, spoke as a representative of current NBA players at a press conference assembled by Sacramento mayor and National Basketball Players Association adviser Kevin Johnson. Swingman Alonzo Mourning Jersey
. At times during a solid but not spectacular season, they looked all three. Still the defending AFC champions persevered, riding their top-ranked defence and key contributions from younger players to a 12-4 record and their eighth playoff appearance since 2000, remarkable consistency in a league where change is the only constant.Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at [email protected]
. Its an "Ace" of a day here in South New Jersey and Im in a very happy mood. I recorded my first ever hole-in–one this morning on the par 3, 135 yard fourth hole at the Atlantic City Country Club with an eight iron into a stiff wind and drizzle off the Bay. As they say, even a blind squirrel (or ref) can find a nut once in a while! Enjoy the games tonight. - Kerry Hi Kerry, In seemingly all of his games since the playoffs have started, Brad Marchand has had a talking to by the referee for stick work after the whistle. The commentators keep referring to Marchand getting "a warning." But if this is happening every game, shouldnt these warnings turn into penalties at some point? Does the league allow or encourage officials to pass this type of information on from one game to the next? Thanks,JonathanToronto, ON Jonathan: NHL officials do share information with one another. The fastest lines of communication are the telephone, telegraph and tell a ref! The series supervisor updates each new crew at a game-day noon meeting as to what has taken place in previous games. There are no surprises; especially when it comes to certain hotspots the officials need to be aware of involving players from both teams. The referees want to do their very best to allow the players to play on the edge while maintaining an element of control; especially in a game seven. With regard to game control, the intelligent official will communicate with players and coaches when he deems it necessary to bring their negative emotions down a notch. I often noticed that player aggression could escalate during a shift or subsequent shifts. It was almost like a snowball rolling down a hill that gathered momentum. It was almost predictable as a player became less disciplined and likely to commit an infraction resulting in a penalty call. Im not referring to some spontaneous retaliation or foul but a tendency that players demonstrated to lose their discipline through a series of ragged play. Scrums and confrontations after the whistle are the most opportune time for player hostilities and paybacks to escalate. Scrums take the focus away from playing the game to instead administering punishment or getting even. When that occurs the refs have to take measures to get players refocused; usually with the fear that a penalty will be called to re-establish acceptable guidelines. The most successful refs are the one that get the players to play on their terms without having to continually lay the hhammer down! The entertainment value of the game is maximized whenever that takes place. Tim Hardaway Heat Jersey
. There comes a point though when the communication efforts have no effect and the refs arm must go up to call a penalty. I just dont want to single out Brad Marchand of the Bruins. Brendan Gallagher of the Habs is another pesky little guy that can really stir things up. Both are emotional players that bring plenty of energy to their game and can draw a crowd. Whether it is going hard to the net and making contact with the goalkeeper or initiating contact after the whistle in an effort to draw a foul, both players have earned the right to be on the refs radar screen. Officials develop a working relationship with all players. Throughout that relationship building process a player has to clearly know when a referee means business; when he has had enough and the hammer is about to fall! Speaking from personal experience, players didnt often mistake my piercing look and terse body language or tone for knowing when it was time to back off and take their foot off the gas pedal. When I issued a "warning" to a player I often told him I could be his best advocate or his worst friggin nightmare - the choice was his? A referee can also solicit the assistance of a respected team leader or captain that he has a good relationship with to get his teammate under control before the ref is forced to take action. I often used the coach in this capacity to instill some discipline in one of his players. When I had enough of the scrums (which was very quickly) I went to each coach and told them I had enough and was going to penalize one player only in a scrum. Since it might just be their player I asked them to take control before I was forced to put his team down a man! They usually cooperated; if not it only took one such penalty for them to understand I meant business. What the referees are attempting to do with a player like Brad Marchand is to establish some self-discipline through an element of reason. Reminding the player that taking a penalty will put his team in the hole can be one way to do that as I have described above. It is important for the ref to choose his words wisely and not "threaten" the player with, "If you do that one more time" routine. Game 7 is not the time for any player to test the referees resolve; nor is it the time for the referees to lay the hammer down without some fair warning. I think the message has been delivered and the pests will play their typical game but just on the edge. Talk is often cheap but everything is on the line for both teams tonight! Cheap NFL Jerseys
' ' '