MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on Wednesday at the World Cup (all times local):
Defending champion Germany has made a nervous start against South Korea and it is 0-0 at halftime in its last World Cup group game.
Germany has been playing slower than it usually does to avoid being vulnerable on the break, but the strategy has not brought much success so far.
The Germans have kept peppering the South Korea box with harmless crosses.
South Korea came close from a set piece in the 19th minute after Manuel Neuer failed to control a 25-meter free-kick from Jung Woo-young. The keeper released the ball and needed to palm the rebound away from the attackers after a spectacular dive. Soon after, forward Son Heung-min connected with a cross from Lee Yong, but his powerful strike from inside the box ended wide.
In a wide-open Group F topped by Mexico with six points, all teams still have chances to progress to the knockout stage.
Mexico and Germany are on track to qualify for the World Cup’s knockout stage at halftime of their simultaneous matches.
Mexico is playing Sweden and Germany is playing South Korea, and neither match has seen a goal through 45 minutes.
Three teams could finish tied for first in the tightly contested group, and three teams could tie for second.
Jesus Gallardo has received what FIFA is calling the fastest yellow card in World Cup history.
The Mexico fullback was booked for a hard tackle just 13 seconds into Wednesday’s match against Sweden.
The record for the fastest red card still belongs to Uruguay’s Jose Batista, who was sent off in the first minute against Scotland in 1986.
The booking touched off a lively first few minutes of the match in Yekaterinburg, with both teams needing points to be assured of advancing to the knockout stage. Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa gave up a dangerous free kick when he handled the ball outside the right side of his penalty area, then pushed away the ensuing free kick from Emil Forsberg. Marcus Berg went just wide minutes later when he chipped a shot over himself as he fell backward, and Forsberg later went high on a volley from within a few yards of the goal mouth.
Carlos Vela fired just wide at the other end after a giveaway by Sweden.
German fans are outnumbering their Asian counterparts in the Kazan Arena stands. With the 45,000-spectator stadium gradually filling before kick-off, the Mannschaft supporters are making plenty of noise, waving their country’s flags to the sound of their favorite songs belted over the venue’s loudspeakers.
The defending champions had a tense win over Sweden to get back on track at the World Cup. South Korea has lost its first two games.
The head of Egypt’s soccer federation has defended the decision to select Chechnya as the base for the country’s World Cup squad in Russia, but has not directly addressed complaints that Mohamed Salah was used as a political symbol there.
Speaking at a chaotic news conference in Cairo Wednesday, Hany Abo Rida says Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, was selected on technical grounds. Rida acknowledged the federation had considered moving its base, but decided not to.
“We could not as a football federation be held responsible for tensions or problems between Egypt and Russia,” he said. He also dismissed Salah’s appearance in Chechnya as a political symbol as “outside talk.” He was apparently alluding to criticism in the British press of the Liverpool star posing for photos with and receiving “honorary citizenship” from Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Egypt was eliminated after three successive defeats in the World Cup.
— Associated Press writer Samy Magdy reported from Cairo.
Notorious for tinkering, Mexico coach Juan Carlos Orosio has made no change to his lineup for the final World Cup group stage game against Sweden, relying on the selection that beat South Korea in the previous game. It’s the first time he’s sent out the same squad twice in a row since he took over in 2015.
Likewise, Sweden coach Janne Andersson is sticking with the team that took a 2-1 loss to 10-man Germany in the closing moments.
In a wide open Group F, Mexico leads with six points but isn’t safe yet.
If defending champion Germany defeats South Korea on Wednesday and Sweden simultaneously beats Mexico, three teams would finish with six points. That would send it to tiebreakers that start with the best goal differential. If Mexico and South Korea win, Mexico would top the group and the other three teams would be equal on three points.
Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa, Carlos Salcedo, Miguel Layun, Carlos Vela, Javier Hernandez, Hector Moreno, Hector Herrera, Andres Guadrado, Edson Alvarez, Hirving Lozano, Jesus Gallardo.
Sweden: Robin Olsen, Mikael Lustig, Victor Lindelof, Andreas Granqvist, Ludwig Augustinsson, Sebastian Larsson, Albin Ekdal, Marcus Berg, Emil Forsberg, Viktor Claesson, Ola Toivonen.
Joachim Loew has recalled playmaker Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira to the starting lineup and dropped Thomas Mueller for Germany’s last World Cup group match against South Korea.
Defending champion Germany is without suspended Jerome Boateng and injured midfielder Sebastian Rudy, but central defender Mats Hummels makes his return after recovering from a neck injury.
Attacking midfielder Leon Goretzka has been picked ahead of Mueller.
Ozil and Khedira were dropped against Sweden after a below-par performance in Germany’s 1-0 loss to Mexico in its opening game. Germany got back on track with a stoppage-time winner from Toni Kroos against Sweden.
In a wide-open Group F topped by Mexico with six points, the Germans can qualify for the knockout round if they beat South Korea by at least two goals.
South Korea still has an outside chance of progressing, but needs a big win combined with Mexico beating Sweden in the other group match.
South Korea is without captain Ki Sung-yueng, who has been ruled out with a left calf injury.
Germany: Manuel Neuer, Jonas Hector, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Timo Werner, Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Leon Goretzka, Niklas Suele, Joshua Kimmich
South Korea: Jo Hyeon-woo, Lee Yong, Yun Young-sun, Son Heung-min, Koo Ja-cheol, Hong Chul, Jung Woo-young, Lee Jae-sung, Moon Seon-min, Kim Young-gwon, Jang Hyun-soo
Midfielder Abel Aguilar won’t play for Colombia on Thursday against Senegal because of a left adductor injury.
Aguilar was injured in the first half of Colombia’s 3-0 victory over Poland last Sunday in Kazan and had to be stretchered off the field.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said Aguilar would not be available in the team’s decisive final group match in Samara, but he did not rule the 33-year-old veteran out of the rest of the tournament should Colombia advance.
Aguilar underwent an MRI to determine the extent of the injury. Pekerman said Wednesday the injury was not as serious as feared but it would still keep him out of the group finale.
Aguilar was replaced against Poland by Mateus Uribe.
Injured defender Dani Alves has visited Brazil’s national team ahead of its match against Serbia.
The Paris Saint-Germain player was dropped from the World Cup squad because of a right knee injury but will watch Wednesday’s match in Moscow.
Alves had lunch with his former teammates at the hotel where Brazil is staying.
He says he needed to show his “good vibe” to the players on this important day for the team.
Alves says it will be special for him to watch the Selecao from the stands for the first time.
Brazil needs at least a draw against Serbia to advance to the round of 16.
Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona says he is well after requiring medical treatment at a World Cup game in Russia.
Footage posted on social media showed Maradona apparently disoriented and being helped to climb stairs at Argentina’s 2-1 win over Nigeria on Tuesday.
He had earlier been seen reacting emotionally to the game and showing a middle-finger salute when Argentina scored. TV footage also showed Maradona with his eyes closed for part of the game.
Maradona says he was dizzy and his “neck hurt a lot,” so he was examined at the stadium.
Writing on Instagram underneath a picture of himself with medical staff, Maradona says, “I was checked by a doctor and he recommended me to go home before the second half, but I wanted to stay because we were risking it all. How could I leave?”
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