Sunday Kickoff: Brazil opens Confed Cup with big win over Japan; Spain and Italy reach Euro U-21 Final; and more

BrazilJapan (Getty)

By JUSTIN FERGUSON

In the midst of national protests and growing pressure from their fanbase, the Brazilian national team opened their prelude to the 2014 World Cup in style.

On Saturday, Brazil defeated Japan 3-0 in a Confederations Cup opener between the only two teams already qualified for next year’s global competition.

Neymar, fresh off a $76 million move to La Liga giants FC Barcelona, got the Selecao off to a flying start with a wonderful three-minute strike. After receiving a perfect chested pass from strike partner Fred, the 21-year-old Santos product laced a unstoppable shot into the Japanese goal.

Brazil doubled its lead three minutes into the second half on a goal from Paulinho. Japan attempted to get back into the match via the counter attack, but Brazil was able to slow down the Japanese and seal the win with a stoppage-time goal from Jo.

Both teams return to action on Wednesday as Brazil takes on Mexico and Japan faces Italy in the second round of Group A action.

Here are some more stories to get your Sunday kicked off:

SPAIN AND ITALY REACH EURO U-21 FINAL

The nation that has claimed the last two Euro titles and the most recent World Cup certainly has a bright future in the days ahead.

The Spanish U-21 team cruised to a 3-0 victory over Norway on Saturday to punch its ticket to the European title match in Israel. The defending champions still have not allowed a goal in this competition after conceding only one in qualification.

Norway failed to register a single shot on goal as the Spanish team gave goalkeeper Orjan Haskjold Nyland a workout from the opening whistle. The Norwegian goalkeeper, who made 10 saves in the match, was beaten in first half stoppage time by Benfica man Rodrigo. The highly touted Isco put the match out of reach in the 87th minute with a wonder goal, and Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata extended his scoring streak to four matches with a stoppage time strike.

The talented Spanish youngsters will play Italy, who fought off the Netherlands 1-0 in a tight semifinal clash. In the middle of a back and forth second half, Liverpool forward Fabio Borini slotted in the match-winner for the Italians.

The final will be played on Tuesday in Jersualem’s Teddy Stadium.

BALOTELLI EXPECTED TO PLAY AGAINST MEXICO

After fears that a leg injury would keep him out of his side’s Confederations Cup opener against Mexico on Sunday, Mario Balotelli is expected to be fit in time for the match in Brazil.

Italian manager Cesare Prandelli said on Saturday there was a “good possibility” that Balotelli would be out on the field for the Mexico match.

The AC Milan striker left training early on Friday with an apparent right leg muscle issue. Balotelli has had a previous injury with that muscle, so he was pulled out early for precautionary reasons.

Balotelli was sent off in Italy’s most recent match, a scoreless draw with the Czech Republic, for two quick yellow cards in the second half.

QUICK KICKS

After Sierra Leone’s 1-0 loss to Cape Verde Islands, Tunisia is just a point away from being the first team to qualify for Africa’s final round of World Cup qualifying. (REPORT)

Jose Mourinho said he would have “turned down every job in the world”, including the job at Manchester United, in order to come back to Chelsea. (REPORT)

Real Madrid sporting director Zinedine Zidane has urged Tottenham’s Gareth Bale to speed up a potential move to the Bernabeu by asking his club to let him leave. (REPORT)

Liverpool is reportedly close to signing 24-year-old Belgian goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from Sunderland. (REPORT)

Former England international and Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate has emerged as the favorite to replace Stuart Pearce as the England U-21 manager after the squad’s miserable recent showing at the European Championship. (REPORT)

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What do you make of these reports? Impressed with Brazil’s win over Japan? Think Spain is a lock to win the Euro U-21 title on Tuesday? See Balotelli having an impact in today’s match against Mexico?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in Confederations Cup, European Soccer, Featured, International Soccer. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Sunday Kickoff: Brazil opens Confed Cup with big win over Japan; Spain and Italy reach Euro U-21 Final; and more

  1. PD says:

    Brasil looked impressive yesterday. Made a pretty strong Japanese side look pretty average. Kind of like how the US humbled Panama (but on a whole different skill level). As excited as I am by the progress the USMNT, it really does put our progress in a different perspective. Both sides have players starting for the lines of Bayern, Chelsea, Man U and Barcalona. It’s also interesting that for as many amazing players and for as strong as each domestic league is, the best players in Brasil and Japan still find their way to Europe to find the best club situation.

    The Spanish U20 team is a similar example. So many of those “kids” are already major figures in some of Europes top clubs.

    While the US is climbing the ladder, we as fans would do ourselves a favor to understand where we are in order to encourage the powers that be to keep us moving in the direction we need to be going in. I’m not saying that we can’t fashion a Cinderella run, but to become a perennial top 10, what it takes is pretty obvious: a youth development program and domestic league that create players who are talented enough to be sought out by and start for the best clubs in the world. Dempsey has reached the highest summit so far, and I would bet that Altidore will reach the next height, as will Michael Bradley.

    But that puts us on equal footing with Japan.

  2. GW says:

    PD,

    Perspective on SBI? . Excellent points.

    “But that puts us on equal footing with Japan.”

    Not really. If having players who play at top level clubs is the criteria, Japan outstrips the US starting with Kagawa at Manchester United.

    If the US meets Japan in the World Cup they could beat them, but I’d rather avoid them.

    • Derrick says:

      Just because you play for a top ten team doesn’t automatically make you better. Is Hernandez and Torres better than falcao because they play for Man U and Chelsea? Was ji sung park better than Landon Donovan in the late 2000s? Probably not. Better club players aren’t always better. Ps the USA would beat Japan.

      • bryan says:

        i think USA/Japan would be a dead even game. they have a good deal. i think, on paper, we probably edge them out, especially on depth, but i doubt anyone on here has a good idea on the quality of the J League meaning you probably don’t know much about their domestic players.

        • GW says:

          14 out of 23 play in Europe in the places like the Bundesliga and the EPL and they have players in Serie A, Belgium and Russia. Most of those guys get significant PT.

          Kagawa plays at Man U. and was a star at Dortmund.

          I think on paper the Japanese have more “quality” but it is close.

          • bryan says:

            There you go. Even more than I knew off the top of my head. Shows people who say the USA would absolutely beat them don’t know what they are talking about.

            • Derrick says:

              Well if you look at Japan’s last five games its less than impressive with one win against Iraq which include losses to giants like Bulgaria and Jordan and a draw to Australia.

      • Benny says:

        I Agree.

      • GW says:

        “Just because you play for a top ten team doesn’t automatically make you better”

        That was my point Derrick.

        There are a lot of US fans who think that just because you are on the roster of an EPL club you are automatically better for the USMNT than a regular MLS player for example.

        As for who beats who it depends on the situation but neutrals will probably tell you it’s toss up.

  3. Mig says:

    Egypt up 1-0 at Mozambique. Salad with a sweet goal, they sort of passed it into the net. 2nd half, maybe about 55th minute

  4. Mig says:

    Ah, moderation. In any case, 70th minute in Mozambique and Egypt is up 1-0 and apparently on their heels a bit. Coach B has used two subs so far. A win locks up the group win. if they don’t win, they may still need to get a draw vs. Guinea in the last game.

  5. Mig says:

    For you WCQ junkies, the African group phase is absolutely compelling right now. After today’s win, Ivory Coast are through to the final phase. Tunisia is through and Egypt are on the very brink. The other 7 groups are not decided! Ghana, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Algeria and a couple other ‘big guns’ are still not through. Good stuff.

    • WK says:

      Zamibia had only to win at home against winless Sudan yesterday to all but knock out Ghana, but could only draw 1-1. Ghana beat Lesotho away today to retake 1st place by two points. Now need only a draw at home va Zamibia in the last match to advance to next stage!

      • Mig says:

        I think we can agree as US fans that it would be better if Ghana didn’t go to Brazil. Yeah, I know the odds are against running into one particular team but hey, why take chances.

  6. ernj says:

    Congrats to Egypt and Coach Bradley on qualifying for Brazil 2014!

    • David M says:

      I watched most of the Egypt game today and it is going to be very difficult for them to make it to Brazil. Because of FIFA rankings, Egypt will be playing one of the top African teams in the next room, and frankly the didn’t didn’t look very good today. I think Bradley’s main problem is the lack of quality players — Egyptian players are not very good.

      • Mig says:

        I dunno about that David. They aren’t the Ivory Coast but they have won all 5 games they played and today poor finishing made that game close. They could have won by 4, I’d say.

        Egypt has been one of the best teams in the African Cup of Nations for the past decade although they have been bad at WCQ.

        In any case, we shall see.

    • Mig says:

      Just FYI, they didn’t qualify yet. They will play a two legged match vs another group winner to get there. 5 teams go to Brazil.

      Cheers!

    • Jason says:

      They still have to win a home-home playoff with another of the group’s winners. WCQing is a quite diffficult for African teams.

  7. span16 says:

    Spain have to be favorites, but the Italy U21′s boast quite a few difference makers who are already experienced professionals and a couple who will most certainly be in Brazil next year. The most notable being Insigne (Napoli) and Verratti (PSG), not to mention Florenzi and Destro (Roma) and Borini (Liverpool). Again, Spain has shown that they are in the class of their own based on the record in the group stage, but I think the two best teams are in the final.

    The rich get richer and the poor….well they have college soccer and a system inherited from the English that values physicality over technique.

    • Don't care says:

      Hahaha keep blaming college soccer. That’s not the problem. College soccer didn’t seem to hurt Subotic or ibesvic careers did it? Its hilarious the first domestic player to play in the Champions league final played college ball and yet people still try to dismiss it. Look at Clint Dempsey. One of our best players and still coming up clutch. Another college alumni, Stuart Holden was dominating the middle in the EPL before his injury.

      How has turning pro early worked out for gyau, renken, dunn, luna, pineda, and the countless others who continue to stay stuck on the bench?

  8. Travis says:

    Interesting that nobody here is mentioning how Neymar acted like he had been badly hurt after a minor collision that was part of the reason he was pulled. The man is soft, he may be fine in La Liga but im just not sure how he’ll do in CL.

    • GW says:

      The league in Brazil has a lot of very physical players. On the other hand I don’t know if they ” protected” him or not.

      In general I find that Barca does a good job with scouting players, so I’m sure they will have taken that into account..