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Mexico leads Group F after victory; Germany wins on late goal

Updated June 23, 2018 - 5:55 pm

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez scored a goal each to move Mexico closer to a spot in the round of 16 by beating South Korea 2-1 Saturday at the World Cup.

Mexico, which upset defending champion Germany in its opening match, took the lead when Vela converted from the penalty spot in the 26th minute. The Mexicans were awarded the penalty after Jang Hyun-soo handled the ball while trying to stop a cross from Andres Guardado.

Hernandez added the second in the 66th, scoring his 50th goal for Mexico. He hit the ball low past goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo after collecting a pass from Hirving Lozano.

Son Heung-min scored a consolation goal for South Korea in injury time, sending a powerful shot past goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

The South Koreans, who have lost their opening two matches, kept Ochoa under pressure throughout the match with Son often out-sprinting the Mexican defense.

Mexico relied on keeping possession and long-range shots, with a powerful attempt from Andreas Guardado forcing an athletic save from Jo in the second half. A volley from Vela skimmed the bar minutes later.

Mexican fans avoided using a chant, which is considered to be homophobic by FIFA, against the opposing goalkeeper. The chant earned the country’s soccer federation a fine after the previous match.

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Kroos scores late to give Germany 2-1 win over Sweden

SOCHI, Russia — The desperate world champions from Germany were seconds from losing control of their World Cup fate when Toni Kroos whispered to Marco Reus just outside Sweden’s penalty area.

With the score tied in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Kroos seemed to remind Reus of a tricky set play from training that will live in World Cup lore.

Down to 10 men after Jerome Boateng was given a second yellow card, Germany rallied for a 2-1 victory over Sweden on Saturday to suddenly revive its title defense thanks to a strike from Kroos that caught the Swedes by surprise and won’t soon be forgotten in Germany.

“The fact Toni Kroos put it away is just incredible,” Reus said. “He’s shown that talent on previous occasions but really in this case it was practically the very last opportunity to win this match.”

Kroos lined up for a free kick as if he was going for goal but just tapped the ball to Reus, who held it with his toe as the defenders paused. Kroos swung his right foot, curling the ball past a spinning Sebastian Larsson and over the outstretched hand of diving goalkeeper Robin Olsen.

The Swedes watched the ball go in, mouths open in disbelief.

The Germans ran to Kroos and erupted in emotional relief.

“Happy of course. It was a tough game again today for us,” Kroos said. “We suffered. … If you don’t score an early goal and we have the chances then it’s going to be difficult until the end. It was, but now of course we’re happy because I think we also deserved the victory.”

Coming off an opening loss to Mexico, Germany fell behind again when Kroos’ early mistake led to Ola Toivonen’s goal in the 32nd minute. Reus equalized in the 48th. A point for a draw would have been enough to stay alive for the knockout stage, but the Germans would have needed help on the final day.

Now Germany has some control of what happens. Mexico leads Group F with six points, and Germany and Sweden both have three. Mexico faces Sweden and Germany takes on winless South Korea in the final group matches.

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Belgium rests star players as they cruise to 5-2 win over Tunisia

Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard have each scored twice as Belgium beat Tunisia 5-2 in the highest scoring game of the World Cup so far.

The Belgians, who rested both star forwards in the second half for tougher tests ahead, lead Group G with two wins and a for-and-against record of 8-2

Belgium had a two-goal lead within 16 minutes after Hazard scored from the penalty spot and Lukaku angled a low, left-foot shot into the corner of Tunisia’s goal.

The North Africans cut the lead through defender Dylan Bronn’s 18th minute header, but Belgium settled the game with goals either side of half time.

Lukaku clipped a right-foot shot over advancing goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha to match Cristiano Ronaldo on four goals as the tournament’s leading scorer.

Hazard ran on to a long pass in the 51st, flicked the ball around Ben Mustapha and shot into an empty net. Substitute Michy Batshuayi made it a rout in stoppage time, and failed with three other good scoring chances.

Tunisia captain Wahbi Khazri got his team’s second with almost the last kick.

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Serbs angrier at World Cup ref than at nationalist gestures

KALININGRAD, Russia — Serbs appeared angrier Saturday at the referee who officiated their country’s 2-1 World Cup defeat than at two Swiss players who provocatively flashed Albanian nationalist gestures after scoring.

Years of simmering Balkan tensions surfaced at the World Cup on Friday night as Switzerland beat Serbia in Kaliningrad. The two Swiss goals came from ethnic Albanians Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka, both of whom celebrated with a hand signal of the double-headed eagle on the Albanian flag.

“The Swiss Provocation,” wrote Serb nationalist daily newspaper Vecernje Novosti alongside photographs of the gestures and a picture of Shaqiri’s boots, which have the Kosovo flag on one heel and the Swiss flag on the other.

FIFA’s disciplinary committee opened proceedings against the two for the politically charged goal celebrations. FIFA also said Saturday it has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Serbian Football Association for crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans. FIFA also is reviewing statements that Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic made after the match.

The families of both goal scorers hail from Kosovo , the former Serb province whose 2008 declaration of independence is not recognized by Serbia and remains a source of friction between the Balkan neighbors.

Thousands of Kosovo Albanians trekked across Europe in the 1990s, fleeing rising ethnic tensions that culminated in a bloody 1998-99 war of independence between ethnic Albanians and Serb forces that left about 10,000 people dead. Many settled in Switzerland, but still have strong feelings for their homeland — Xhaka’s brother plays for the Albanian national team.

Serbian football officials complained to FIFA, soccer’s governing body, about the gestures, but appeared far angrier about the failure of German referee Felix Brych to use a video review when two Swiss defenders manhandled Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic to the ground in the second half. Brych ignored Serbian players’ penalty appeals.

FIFA had no comment Saturday about the video decision.

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Peru fans land safely after airplane cabin fills with smoke

The cabin of a plane carrying Peruvian soccer fans at the World Cup filled with smoke as the aircraft prepared for landing in a Siberian city.

The Interfax news agency says the incident occurred as the plane was coming in to land in Tyumen. The flight originated in Yekaterinburg and the Peru fans were to transfer in Tyumen to a flight to Moscow, the report said.

The plane, a twin-turboprop ATR-72 flown by the UTAir airline, landed safely, the agency said. Citing national aviation agency Rosaviatsiya, the report said the smoke came from overheated oil in one of the plane’s engines.

There was no fire and no injuries were reported. Peru lost 1-0 to France at Yekaterinburg, ending its chances of progressing to the knockout stage

The Saudi World Cup squad had a similar experience flying between St. Petersburg and Rostov-on-Don earlier in the week.

Russia’s federal agency for air traffic said an engine burst into flames during landing on the Airbus airplane, but no emergency procedures were required.

The aircraft landed with both of its engines working and the passengers disembarked normally, the agency’s statement said.

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