Monday, June 18, 2018
Sports

Mexico optimistic it can change its Round of 16 history

FORTALEZA, Brazil — Mexico coach Miguel Herrera will make one change to his starting lineup to face the Netherlands in today's World Cup second round and says his team is "ready to make history."

Versatile midfielder Carlos Salcido will replace suspended Jose Juan Vazquez, Herrera said Saturday. Manchester United forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez is keeping his role as a second-half substitute, Herrera said.

Herrera believes Mexico can end its run of five straight Round of 16 losses. "El Tri" has not reached the quarterfinals since hosting the Cup in 1986.

"We have a great atmosphere and a great attitude going into this game, and that is key. But we also have to play very well because we are facing a very difficult opponent," Herrera said. "Do we believe this could be Mexico's World Cup? Yes, more than ever. We are very convinced that this time will be different for us, and we are ready to make history."

Mexico faces the high-scoring Dutch after conceding only one goal during the group stage, beating Cameroon 1-0, holding Brazil to 0-0 with an outstanding performance from goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, then defeating Croatia 3-1.

Mexican fans are making their second trip to Fortaleza, a northeastern city that was the site of the tie against Brazil. They gathered to welcome the players Friday with their familiar chants of "Oribe Peralta," for the team's popular star.

Suarez says he didn't mean it: Uruguay striker Luis Suarez told FIFA's disciplinary panel he did not deliberately bite Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini on Tuesday.

Suarez, who was banned for nine international matches and four months as a result of the bite — his third one during a game in his career — said he lost his balance. "In no way it happened how you have described, as a bite or intent to bite," Suarez wrote in a letter dated June 25.

The seven-man panel of the sport's governing body, which met Wednesday, dismissed the argument. Its ruling called the bite "deliberate, intentional and without provocation."

Meanwhile, a day after former Argentina star Maradona defended Suarez, Brazilian legend Pele backed FIFA, telling Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo: "If this example hadn't been given quickly, (bad behavior on the field) could spread. This example shouldn't be copied by anyone."

American distinction: Mark Geiger will become the first American to referee a knockout-stage match at the World Cup. FIFA selected Geiger, 39, a former math teacher, to handle Monday's France-Nigeria match in Brasilia. Geiger, a Major League Soccer referee from Beachwood, N.J., will work the game with his regular assistants, American Sean Hurd and Canadian Joe Fletcher.

So sorry: Gaffel brewery in Cologne, Germany, incorporated the flags of the 32 participating nations onto the label of its Koelsch beer, which didn't sit well in Iran, a Muslim nation where the consumption of alcohol is prohibited in line with Islam's teachings. The brewery removed the Iran-flagged beer after receiving a letter from Iran's embassy, Gaffel spokesman Michael Busemann said: "We didn't want to offend any religious feelings."

Podolski out: German forward Lukas Podolski (leg) will miss Monday's game against Algeria in Porto Alegre. Coach Joachim Loew gave no details of the injury but said it was not serious and Podolski, who started Thursday's victory over the United States, would have to rest two or three days.

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