Real Madrid’s Navas Sets La Liga Clean Sheet Record

Keylor Navas is a perfect No. 10 in the La Liga record books…

The 28-year-old Costa Rican soccer player has broken a club record for clean sheets at the start of a season, after racking up a fourth consecutive clean sheet in La Liga and fifth in a row in all competitions with his clean sheet in Real Madrid’s 1-0 win over Granada on Saturday.

Keylor Navas

Navas is the tenth goalkeeper in La Liga’s 86-year history to record such a streak at the beginning of the campaign.

The fifth straight shutout since the start of 2015-16 betters former Real Madrid keeper Miguel Angel‘s sequence of four on the spin at the beginning of the 1975-76 campaign.

“It was a difficult night for me at the end of the transfer market but that is now in the past,” Navas told reporters.

“Now I am thinking of the present and the coach [Rafa Benitez] believes in me. I have had the chance to stay and I will give my best. I am very grateful to the Real fans for their support which is not easy to earn.”

Marca reports that Navas is now just 10 minutes away from bettering Iker Casillas‘ personal best without conceding a goal, after the Spaniard went 460 minutes without being beaten in 2008-09.

Before Navas, Claudio Bravo was the last man to join the exclusive club of keepers to have remained unbeaten four weeks into the La Liga season, with the Chilean settling quickly into life at Barça last term. Real Madrid’s only other member of this hall of fame is Miguel Ángel, who didn’t concede in any of his first four league appearances in 1975-76.

Navas’ streak has put him in the esteemed company of Barça legends Salvador Sadurní (1968-69), the first to achieve the feat, and Pello Artola (1977-78); Atlético Madrid great Abel Resino (1991-92); Deportivo‘s Paco Liaño (1993-94); Real Sociedad‘s José Ramón Esnaola (1970-71); Celta Vigo‘s Pablo Cavallero (2001-02), Zaragoza‘s Manolo Villanova (1972-73) and Compostela‘s Javier Falagán (1995-96).

Sanchez Helps Propel Chile to Copa America Title Win Over Argentina

Alexis Sanchez is kicking his way into the history books…

The 26-year-old Chilean soccer player, who plays for English club Arsenal and the Chilean national team, helped lead his country to its first Copa America title on Saturday.

Alexis Sanchez

Chile defeated Argentina 4-1 in the penalty shootout, which followed two hours of scoreless action on the field.

Sanchez gave his country the win after Argentines Gonzalo Higuain and Ever Banega failed to convert from 11 meters (36 feet), ending a drought of nearly 100 years for La Roja in the oldest international continental soccer competition.

The final at Santiago’s National Stadium was a clash of titans, an intense battle that was characterized more by the teams’ effort and hustle than artful play.

Chile won the possession battle from the outset, imposing its ball-control style against a side that also typically dominates in that facet of the game.

That led to a golden opportunity in the 11th minute for Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal, who received a ball that had been lobbed in the air on a deflection by an Argentine defender and nearly booted it past goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who was forced to make a diving save.

Fourteen-time Copa America champion Argentina also had some chances in the first half, including a header at point-blank range by Sergio “Kun” Agüero that Chilean Claudio Bravo was able to deflect out of play.

In the second half, Argentine midfielders Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano struggled to impose any order in their team’s attack, rendering super-striker Lionel Messi unable to work any playmaking magic.

With the Chilean crowd urging them on, Jorge Sampaoli’s squad aggressively sought out the winning goal and was nearly rewarded for their efforts when a shot by Sanchez barely missed the mark in the 82nd minute.

Then on the final play of regulation, Argentina had its best scoring opportunity of the match when Ezequiel Lavezzi received the ball on the left side from Messi and sent a pass that scooted past Bravo and found Higuain, but the Argentine forward received the ball too close to the goal line and could only slam a shot into the side of the net.

The extra period was mostly uneventful, with both teams wary of making a costly error, although a miscue by Mascherano nearly ended in a goal for Sanchez in the 15th minute.

Argentine’s offensive ineptness continued in the penalty shootout, with Higuain sending his shot far over the crossbar and Bravo denying Banega’s attempt, leaving Messi as the only member of the Albiceleste to score.

Sanchez put the finishing touch on the historic victory with a soft strike that slowly bounded into the left half of the goal after Romero had dived to the other side.

Chile finally won the Copa America title match in its fifth appearance to end nearly a century of frustration at this event, which was known as the South American Championship between 1916 and 1967.

La Roja finished runner-up in 1955 (when it was also the host nation), 1956, 1979 and 1987.

César Stops Two Penalty Shootout Kicks to Help Brazil Defeat Chile

World Cup 2014

Júlio César is being heralded as Brazil’s saving grace…

The 34-year-old Brazilian footballer, the national team’s goalkeeper, emerged as Brazil’s hero on Saturday after Brazil squeaked past Chile 3-2 in a penalty shootout to advance to the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals.

Julio Cesarorld

After the teams played to a 1-1 draw over 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of extra time at Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, César – a goalkeeper for Major League Soccer (MLS) club Toronto FC – stopped penalty kicks by Mauricio Pinilla and Alexis Sanchez. The match then ended when Gonzalo Jara’s blast clanked off the post.

Brazil’s shootout goals came from David Luiz, Marcelo and finally Neymar, who calmly fired a strike into the left part of the goal after first trying to gauge where Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo would be moving.

The match was played on even terms until the 18th minute, when David Luiz scored from just a few feet away from the goal line after Thiago Silva headed the ball his way following a corner kick.

It initially appeared that the ball had gone in the net off Jara’s foot.

Chile got the equalizer in the 32nd minute when Eduardo Vargas took advantage of a Brazilian defensive blunder and centered the ball to Alexis Sanchez, who fired a perfectly placed strike past a diving César.

Brazil then had a couple of chances before halftime, but a header by Neymar was deflected away by Jara and then a blast off the foot of Fred sailed over the crossbar.

In the 54th minute, Hulk appeared to score the go-ahead goal when he received a cross and fired a shot past Bravo. But English referee Howard Webb waived it off and gave the forward a yellow card, ruling that he had lowered the ball with his arm.

Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari then sent on Jo and Ramires to replace Fred and Fernandinho, respectively, but they were unable to provide the creative spark needed to break down Chile’s resistance.

Bravo’s heroics also were key to keeping the match tied, as he stopped a header from Neymar and a powerful strike from Hulk before the end of the second half.

In extra time, Brazil dominated ball possession but had no answer for Chile’s all-out defensive tactics.

La Roja also proved dangerous with the few chances it had, with Pinilla blasting a shot off the crossbar shortly before the end of extra time.

With the win, the Brazilians, who are seeking their sixth World Cup title, advance to a quarterfinal match on July 4 against Colombia, which defeated Uruguay 2-0.