Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Chile gets what it fears most: Brazil

SAO PAULO, Brazil — Fans sporting Chile's red and the Netherlands' orange streamed into Itaquerao Stadium for their match on Monday.

But many had another color on their minds: yellow.

With both teams having already comfortably advanced to the next round going into their game, even the most loyal fans were less interested in the opponent of the day but rather who they would face next.

The consensus? Avoid host Brazil at any cost.

Even though Brazil has not impressed thus far, its vast experience and home field advantage is something to fear, said Jeroen Klink, a 51-year-old Dutch fan wearing the No. 10 jersey of star midfielder Wesley Sneijder.

"Brazil would be really tough. They are still growing into the tournament," he said. "There is lots of pressure to avoid Brazil."

The Netherlands won 2-0 to clinch first place in Group B. Sure enough, as expected, Brazil clinched first place in Group A hours later by routing Cameroon. So while the Dutch prepare to face Mexico, Chile is left to ponder yet another meeting against Brazil, its South American rival and the tournament host.

And, oh yeah, the record five-time World Cup champion.

"We don't want to play Brazil," Enrique Lanzerini, 35, of Santiago, Chile, said before his country's match. "Chile always loses to Brazil. Anyone else Chile can beat, but not Brazil. It's psychological."

Everybody in: Rarely at the World Cup does a coach reveal his team in public the day before a match. With nothing to play for today against Costa Rica, England coach Roy Hodgson did just that Monday.

Hodgson wants to ensure each member of the 23-man squad other than the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain get to play. Frank Lampard comes in as captain as Steven Gerrard drops to the bench.

The full team: Goalkeeper Ben Foster, defenders Phil Jones, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw, midfielders James Milner, Lampard, Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley, and forwards Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge. Only Cahill and Sturridge will have started all three games in Brazil.

Doping questions: Upset after seven of his players were subjected to anti-doping testing after a win over Italy, Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto called on FIFA to devise a more uniform system that won't generate suspicion.

FIFA normally tests two players at random for post-match testing; Costa Rica's federation was furious after five extra players were called in, sending a letter demanding an explanation.

"Many believed FIFA carried out the controls because they saw how the team ran" on the field during the win, Pinto said.

The world governing body said it was simply filling gaps in pre-tournament testing — some Costa Rican players weren't available at the time — and that it wasn't singling out Costa Rica. FIFA said it also tested five extra Spanish players after Spain lost to Chile last week.

No action: FIFA will take no action against the Mexican federation over fans chanting an alleged gay slur at matches. FIFA says its disciplinary panel decided the chant "is not considered insulting in this specific context," and that it dismissed a charge of "improper conduct" during the game against Cameroon on June 13.

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