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

  1. beachbum says:

    good for Blanco to get that respect from his federation. Used to hate that guy, then he came to Chicago and became one of my all time favorites in MLS to watch. He was a must see for any MLS fan back then

    • Tony in Quakeland says:

      I remember reading how anytime he went to a resturant in the States, he always went into the kicthen to talk to the Mexicans who worked there. He had so much respect for what they were doing trying to build a life for their families, he thought the least he could do was take a few minutes.

      Years of hating the guy evaporated that second and was replaced by respect.

      • timmytwoshoezzz says:

        Thanks for sharing the story. I’ll look at him differently now too.

      • beachbum says:

        great share, thanks Tony

      • Andy in Atlanta says:

        thanks for sharing. had no idea

      • JoeW says:

        Yep–same here. I was loud and bellicose about why Chicago was screwing up by signing him. Instead, he was exactly what you want a DP signing (in the early days of the program) to be….a marque player who showed up to play, provided big moments, didn’t embarrass the league, busted his butt, and did good things off the field while not badmouthing the league. I was wrong.

    • wood chip zip says:

      Must be nice for a player to get respect from their federation. The US, lately, prefers to eschew their captains aside and humiliate their all time greatest contributor rather than let them chose to retire from the national team. And to all of you who plan to say stop whining because your favorite player didn’t chosen, Donovan is not even close to my favorite player. He has however done more for US Soccer than any player and deserves to be treated with respect.

      • bphs says:

        Right on point. Last night, Blanco got the sendoff that he deserved. It was respectful and dignified. Landon, at the least, should have had a send off game. Let’s be honest, he may play in the Gold Cup or COPA but this WC is truly his last “real” competition.

        • EspinDOHla says:

          Don’t forget Bocanegra! The captain that was also unceremoniously cast aside. No recognition at all from US Soccer after serving as our captain.

      • Nico C. says:

        +1

      • Gary Busey says:

        Wood Chip,

        Quit your whining. You sound like a Soccer mom.

      • Mason says:

        Landon hasn’t “retired” from international play. He was just left off the WC squad. When he does so, he should get a tribute match, but I don’t think he’d want that quite yet.

    • White Kix says:

      He was amazing in the 98 World Cup.

    • LeaveAReplyMof@ says:

      Blanco played better then Chich

  2. Ian says:

    If you haven’t watched the Real Sports episode about Brazil ’14, you should. It goes into detail about the costs of hosting the Cup or the Olympics, and how developing countries almost never recoup their investment, stadiums often go unused and fall into disrepair, and, in Greece’s case, the Olympics may have literally catalyzed the crash of the Greek economy. Brazil may be headed down the same path, so unfinished stadiums may be minor compared to the long-term effects of hosting the Cup and Olympics.

    • JayNay says:

      omg secrets finally revealed.

      • Ian says:

        Well, obviously JayNay knows everything, so he has no need to watch expose docs. For everyone else, check it out.

        • CamRahn Bay says:

          I watched this earlier in the week and you are right – great stuff.

          I liked how the one guy was trying to say that they have concerts and stuff scheduled for the Manaus venue… come on man. Just out of curiosity I looked up Manaus on Google maps… Why in the world, or how in the world, would anyone get there or want to go there?

  3. Brain Guy says:

    “Due to illness, Andres Guardado started at holding midfielder for El Tri and actually looked solid.”

    So does Guardado switch to holding mid only when he’s sick? ; )

  4. Frantz Mathieu Fan says:

    Man, I hope my seats aren’t one of the ones they’re still installing.

    First ever World Cup Finals game. Man am I pumped.

    • JayAre says:

      Those are the temporary seats that are still being installed.The main stands have been ready for months so it depends on which section your seats are in.

  5. AMP says:

    These reports are thick with pulp. Super juicy news here.

  6. Brad C says:

    The Israeli GK should have stopped both of Layun’s goals. Both of them bounced off his hands before going into the goal.

    • dan says:

      Yeah, Israel played like a team that was playing for nothing…

    • beto says:

      They were both howlers! The Israli team played pretty well but id like to think a keeper of Howards ability could have kept that game scoreless even though they were impressive strikes

      • Brain Guy says:

        Those were nothing compared to the Nigerian ‘keeper’s (disallowed) own goal when he threw the ball into the net against Scotland.

  7. MiamiAl says:

    Sorry for Jozy that Gus Poyet was re-signed.

    • Nate Dollars says:

      as long as jozy doesn’t stay there, i’m happy.

      • whoop-whoop says:

        Lot of managers who would have been much less patient with someone else’s signing. Sign a few midfielders and that situation could be completely different…. a much better situation than the one he signed up for and the alternatives likely to come calling. Course… he goes on a goal-scoring terror in Brazil….

      • Mark from LA says:

        Poyet was not perfect for Jozy but was not to blame for Altidore’s year. Poyet gave him plenty of chances throughout the year (even the DiCanio trainwreck had Altidore in the team) and consistently used Altidore as the first attacking option off of the bench despite Wickham being red hot during their Great Escape. Poyet spoke positively of Altidore just a couple weeks ago, he’s willing to continue to consider him for the team if Sunderland keep him, and I get the sense they will.

        Wickham didn’t work out for the longest time either, and Poyet’s willingness to give Wickham another chance proved to be the decisive move that kept Sunderland up.

        I do think weak midfield play, particularly in the first half of the year, was the biggest culprit for all of the strikers’ meager production. Jozy’s ability to find the hot spot in space that compels the ball to be played to him is average (but improving). English football can still actually be egregiously selfish around goal, and Poyet never did completely address that.

        And that’s all it took to mess with his confidence. Positives remain that Jozy completely answered the criticisms about his work rate, his hold up play is high quality and creates chances and goals, and no CB ever looks forward to having to deal with his size and strength.

        That being said, I think Germany or Italy are better places for Altidore than England. Bradley is the model for European transfers, and he washed out at Aston Villa before becoming a valuable asset at Roma, one I bet they wish they still had with Strootman now hurt and/or on his way to Man U.

        • Nate Dollars says:

          to whoop and mark,

          i wasn’t saying anything about poyet (although i haven’t been impressed with him). i just can’t imagine sunderland getting much better without a major change in personnel, and then i think they might have the same chemistry problems they had this past season, and with still no guarantee that they know how (or are willing) to play jozy in the right role.

          could jozy eventually be successful at sunderland? sure, anything’s possible. am i eager to spend another goddamn minute watching that goddamn team on the off-chance that it happens? hell no.

  8. Dinho says:

    The Miranda signing is the kind that Moyes should have been looking at one year ago. If it comes to fruition, would be EXACTLY what United need.

    One more signing at CB like that as well as a decent center midfielder to pair with Carrick, then we’re off to a good start.

  9. beto says:

    Nice game for Mexico and classy sendoff for an absolute legend Blanco

    Take note USSF, thats how you pay respect to a long time national team player!

    • Mason says:

      Take note, Beto: Landon Donovan hasn’t retired from international play, yet.

      • Nate Dollars says:

        he didn’t say anything about donovan.

        mcbride should’ve had one, and boca should too.

        • Mason says:

          You’re going to play it like that? Who do you think he’s talking about?

          Hint: It ain’t McBride or Bocanegra.

          • Nate Dollars says:

            i’d rather not “play it” like anything. i don’t know who he’s talking about, because he didn’t say, and i’m not going to put words in his mouth.

            when i heard about the blanco game, the first person i thought of was mcbride, and the next was boca. donovan didn’t even occur to me, because he hasn’t retired. i guess you wouldn’t believe that, though.

            • Nate Dollars says:

              although i guess boca hasn’t “retired” from int’l play, either, officially. not sure if mcbride ever did, either. call him up!

      • soccerhorn says:

        No way Donovan ever agrees to play for Klinsmann ever again. Ever. Only way we ever see LD in the Nats colors is for JK to get fired.

        • Mason says:

          Nuts to that.

          If he’s called, he’ll come. He said as much when he was asked about it a few days ago.

    • Paul says:

      Donovan has not retired!

    • Norn Iron says:

      As long as Klinsmann is coach, Donovan will never suit up for the MNT again…bank on it.

      • Mason says:

        Every time I see some on the Internet say, “Bank on it,” I become certain that the opposite will happen.

  10. NC Jeff says:

    Brazil has known they would have the 2014 WC since April 11, 2007 (when they were left as the sole official applicant). 7 years, 1 month, 18 days later (14 days before the opening kickoff), they still don’t have all their stadiums ready. Just unbelievable.

    With that backdrop, FIFA decided to play it safe with their next 2 WC hosts and award them to Russia and Qatar.

    • solles says:

      sorry for the double post but i mean for this to be a response to this^^

      Its Brazil, its how they roll. Read about the 1950 cup and the maracana.

  11. Good Jeremy says:

    Watching last night, I realized-
    Mexico has a soccer ball on their crest
    They played two players last night who were born and raised in the US
    They have playoffs for their league

    What are the other main criticisms of US soccer?

    • Dinho says:

      Here are some:

      Adu is not on the national team
      Jozy is lazy
      Jurgen is anti-US and pro-Germany
      Bradley only plays because his dad used to be the coach
      Donovan should be on the team until he is 45
      MLS owns all the players, not the teams themselves, preventing growth
      Should be unlimited spending per team
      Should be promotion/relegation

      (Caveat: I don’t buy into any of these….some should be considered down the road)

      • Remy says:

        Correction.
        Donovan should be on the national team until he is 100 years old.
        Bruce Arena should be the coach forever.
        Donovan can teach Jurgen a thing or two about scoring because Jurgen was never as good as Donovan is.
        Bruce can teach Jurgen how to coach because he won the world cup on FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 on PS3 and XBox.

    • Mason says:

      Summer schedule.

      • soccerhorn says:

        Germany and Russia both considering moving to a summer schedule. All the scandinavian leagues do so. Next?

        • Mason says:

          I didn’t say I agree with it. The OP asked about the critisisms. Agree or disagree, that’s one that comes up alot.

          I expect all NH leagues will go to a more summerish schedule in anticipation of a winter 2022 Qatari World Cup.

          • PD says:

            totally frosts me if that would happen. never mind the fact the fact that every domestic league in the world needs to move heaven and earth to accomadte a bad move by FIFA, but PEOPLE ARE BEING KILLED IN QATAR to make it possible. Total stain on the sport. Hillsborough has nothing on this and if those laborers were white and spoke english or another first world language you’d better believe there would be a much bigger stink about it.

            • whoop-whoop says:

              The indentured servitude is nothing new in Qatar. If there can possibly be a bright side to the corrupt awarding of WC, it is that it has shown a light on this.

    • Dozy says:

      Brizuela was raised in Jalisco and Ponce in Tijuana

  12. Mark from LA says:

    Chicharito to Sunderland, you heard it here first.

  13. solles says:

    Its Brazil, its how they roll. Read about the 1950 cup and the maracana.