Most national teams headed to Brazil have completed or will soon complete their exhibition schedule ahead of the World Cup, and Wednesday's slate featured a number of contenders.
Uruguay handed Slovenia a 2-0 loss, despite the absence of Luis Suarez. Upstart (and potential breakout star) striker Edinson Cavani finished off a wonderful cross (see above) from Diego Forlan with a bouncing header, and Uruguay showed why many feel it's the class of Group D.
Their Group D opponent, Italy, continued to struggle in the build-up to the tournament with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Luxembourg. The tie comes after another underwhelming showing in the form of a 0-0 tally against Ireland on May 31st. The Azzurri netted an early goal but flubbed a number of chances, including a few from Mario Balotelli. They open against England on June 14. Italy tied yesterday despite facing a team that clearly struggles with the game's fundamentals:
Luxembourg's long throw in routine didn't exactly go to plan against Italy last night.. http://t.co/Ils0KTiksx— World Cup 2014 (@Brazil14WC) June 5, 2014
Last World Cup's runner-up Netherlands handled a Gareth-Bale-less Wales squad behind one goal and one assist from veteran Arjen Robben, while expected contender Argentina downed Trinidad and Tobago 3-0.
England drew Ecuador 2-2 but a second-half skirmish marred the entire exhibition.
England's Raheem Sterling and Ecuador's Antonio Valencia both drew red cards after Valencia took exception to his opponent's extremely late tackle. See it here.
Strikes jeopardize Brazil transportation: Train and subway conductors waged a strike on Thursday in Sao Paulo, leaving millions of Brazilians stranded at various bus stations. These are some of the same trains expected to transport millions of soccer fans next week.
Brazil has long touted the World Cup as a fixture of pride, but at this point, a week from the start, it's tough to conceive that the protests won't interfere with the overall legacy of the 2014 World Cup.
Qatar World Cup stealing spotlight from Brazil: FIFA is currently waging a war on two fronts. It's facing scrutiny because a number stadiums are wholly unprepared to host the World Cup, and no one is sure how protests and strikes might impact this month's tournament. It's also battling the widespread perception that it's inherently corrupt.
FIFA VP Michel Platini said on Thursday that if the latest allegations surrounding Qatar's bid to host the 2022 World Cup are proven, the organization must cast a re-vote. It's the first time a FIFA official has publicly suggested that it may switch venues for the event.