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WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – Mano Menezes has Brazil playing dynamic soccer.
Now, the coach just needs to translate that into victories.
The Seleção tried to finally turn around its poor play, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a dominating performance by Germany in a 3-2 loss in Stuttgart on Aug. 10.
Overall, Brazil has won only once in its past five games, including a lackluster, quarterfinal defeat to eventual runner-up Paraguay at last month’s Copa América in Argentina.
“The Germans were clear winners, but games like these against the top teams are what we need," Menezes told reporters. “We were slow to get into the game and we weren’t as sharp as the Germans. I had imagined things would be a bit different over the last year, but that is life with football and you can’t just wait for miracles. We have to work hard to get better and correct the individual mistakes we made in our defense.”
Brazil entered the game ranked fourth by FIFA but was outclassed the majority of the night by the third-ranked Germans. Die Mannschaft hadn’t defeated Brazil since a 2-1 win in 1993 and was 3-12-5 all-time against the five-time World Cup champion.
The lone bright spot for Brazil was a beautiful goal by midfielder Neymar, unleashed a right-footed blast from 20 yards away that found the back of the net.
Neymar has six goals in just 10 career matches with Brazil.
Teams have until the end of the month to secure players before the European transfer window closes.
Neymar, however, wasn’t the only South American star to dazzle during this week’s FIFA international match date.
Midfielder Nicolás Córdova, playing for the national team for the first time in seven years, made the most of a rare appearance for the 11th-ranked Chilean national team when he slotted home a goal in the 77th minute to earn his side a 1-1 draw with 15th-ranked France.
Córdova, 32, hadn’t scored in any of the three games he’s played with La Roja.
Meantime, Venezuela appeared to still be reeling from a semifinal loss to Paraguay in Copa América. La Vinotinto, ranked 40th, dropped the third place match, 4-1, to Peru and followed that defeat up with a 2-0 loss to No. 51 Honduras this week at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The lackluster effort was a far cry from the way the team looked during last month’s run in Argentina.
“We had a very settled team and came so close,” Venezuela coach César Farias told reporters. “We dominated against Paraguay but didn’t quite make it. Perhaps we committed the sin of paying too much respect to our rivals, but that’s a hurdle we’ll be looking to overcome in the upcoming qualifiers.”
And even if Honduras (No. 51) hasn’t yet earned Venezuela’s respect, Carlo Costly should have. The midfielder put on a scoring clinic, first heading home a corner kick in the 58th minute before slamming a centering pass into the back of the net 10 minutes later.
Panama forward Luis Tejada put on an equally impressive display when he helped his team erase a first-half deficit to win, 3-1 against Bolivia. Los Canaleros (No. 65) got an equalizing goal from Tejada in the 68th minute before another score nine minutes later gave his team a win over Bolivia.
Bolivia hasn’t won in its past 13 games.
In Philadelphia, neither 20th-ranked Mexico nor the 30th-ranked United States walked away with a win, either, but both teams were pleased with a 1-1 result. El Tri called in many young players it didn’t get a chance to use during Copa América.
The Yanks gave several veteran players another opportunity with coach Jurgen Klinsmann making his debut.
“We wanted them to express themselves and have fun,” Klinsmann told reporters. “We wanted them to perform with energy and excitement.”
Colombia advances at Under-20 World Cup
James Rodríguez sprinted to the near sideline with a grin on his face and a hand pointed to his ear.
He wanted to make sure the fans knew what he did: Colombia was headed to the quarterfinals of the U-20 World Cup after a 3-2 win over Costa Rica.
The tournament’s hosts survived thanks to Rodríguez converting a penalty kick in the third minute of stoppage time to secure his team a 3-2 victory and a berth in the quarterfinals. Los Cafeteros struck first on the foot of Luis Muriel, but they were trailing 2-1 with less than 15 minutes remaining.
But captain Pedro Franco wasn’t ready to call it quits, deflecting a cross into the back of the net off the left side of his head to knot the score and set the stage for Rodríguez’s heroics.
“We had a very tricky first half, with my midfielders Michael Ortega and James Rodríguez struggling to find each other,” Colombia coach Eduardo Lara told reporters. “I spoke to the lads at half time, just to tell them to play their game, to keep battling, to try and find spaces and spread the play more.”
Now, Colombia has a quarterfinal date against Mexico on Aug. 13, which advanced with a shootout win over Cameroon after the teams played to a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes.
Argentina will face Portugal on Aug. 13. La Albiceleste posted a 2-1 win over Egypt, while Portugal hung on for a dramatic, 1-0 win over upstart Guatemala.
On Aug. 14, perennial power Brazil will face European power Spain. The Seleção reached the quarterfinals with a 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia, and has made the round of eight in 16 of 17 all-time U-20 World Cups.
Spain made the round of eight with a dramatic, 7-6 shootout win over Korea after 120 scoreless minutes.
The last quarterfinal on Aug. 14 features France, a 1-0 winner over Ecuador, against Nigeria, which bested England, 1-0.
It is the first time since 2001 that three South American teams have reached the U-20 World Cup.
“That’s one of the qualities of this team, our ability to get better with every game,” Brazilian defender Danilo told reporters. ”I knew that’s how it would be. We didn’t have much preparation time in Brazil, but we’ve slipped through the gears in these games so far, and the important thing now is to keep it going.”