Notebook: Germany happy with Ozil's role

Germany's Mesut Ozil celebrates scoring against Algeria during extra time in their World Cup Round...

Germany's Mesut Ozil celebrates scoring against Algeria during extra time in their World Cup Round of 16 game at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil on June 30, 2014. (Darren Staples/Reuters)

Sun wire services

, Last Updated: 11:54 PM ET

Germany's coaching staff fended off criticism of Mesut Ozil on Sunday and said they are more than satisfied with the way he has adapted to his new role in the team.

The 25-year-old previously played at the heart of Germany's high-scoring 4-2-3-1 system, catching the eye with some brilliant goals and delightful passing.

However, after bitter semifinal defeats at the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, coach Joachim Loew has adopted a more defensive outlook and moved Ozil wide in a 4-3-3 lineup.

Loew's assistant coach Hansi Flick rejected suggestions Ozil had been a flop at the World Cup when asked about his role at a news conference on Sunday.

"We see that differently than you do," he told reporters.

"Mesut is playing a different position now than he used to and he's got a different assignment now. He's got very strong skills with the ball and on top of that he's improved during the course of the tournament."

DI MARIA OUT, AGUERO FIT

Angel Di Maria has been ruled out of Argentina's semi-final against the Netherlands but fellow forward Sergio Aguero has recovered from a muscle strain and is fit to play, the team doctor said on Sunday.

Aguero looked comfortable in training at the Argentine camp, but Di Maria was missing and undergoing intensive treatment after hobbling out of their 1-0 quarter-final win over Belgium.

In their first semi-final since 1990, the South Americans play the Netherlands in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.

"Angel has a Grade 1 injury. Of course he won't play in Argentina's next game. After that, we'll evaluate the situation day-by-day," team doctor Daniel Martinez told reporters.

"Sergio has practiced three times. He's ready to play."

Aguero missed two games due to a muscle strain but on the evidence of Sunday's afternoon training session at their camp in Belo Horizonte, the speedy forward should at least make the substitutes bench.

COSTA RICA ON A HIGH

Costa Rica exit the World Cup proudly unbeaten in open play with a first ever quarterfinal appearance, the scalps of two former champions and some tidy football that mocked their underdog status.

"Costa Rica's heart broken, but soul intact," read one of the Sunday headlines at home as the Central American nation of less than 5 million people hailed its over-achieving heroes who began the tournament as 4,000-1 outsiders.

Many eyes had been on all-conquering Spain and their slick-passing brand of 'tiki-taka' football before the tournament, but within days it was the 'Ticos' who caught attention with stunning and deserved victories over Uruguay and Italy.

'Tico-taka', as some dubbed their style of stalwart defending and nippy counter-attacks, carried them comfortably through a 0-0 draw with another former World Cup winner, England, to top a group they were expected to struggle in.

Losing some attacking verve, Costa Rica edged Greece on penalties in the last 16 before their nerve broke in a quarterfinal penalty shootout with the Netherlands following brave defiance of Arjen Robben and company in a 0-0 draw over 120 minutes.

SOCCER SCHOOL SHUT OUT

Jose Joaquim da Rosa has nurtured seven Brazilian internationals for free at his humble Planaltina youth soccer club and all he wanted in return was a few tickets for his latest protégées to witness their home World Cup live.

But the coach, better known as "Ze Vasco", and his latest batch of scholars at the camp on the outskirts of the Brazilian capital have been left to watch the country's bid for a record sixth World Cup on television.

Just 40 minutes drive away, six World Cup matches have been played at the 1.6 billion Brazilian reals ($723.00 million)Brasilia national stadium, including Brazil's 4-1 Group A win over Cameroon.

Ze Vasco said that most of the 150 children aged between five and 17 that come to his school each week are from families which often struggle to make ends meet and a visit to a World Cup match would have been a nice touch.

"What is the dream of the kids? To be in the stadium, to watch a game, but how will they buy the tickets? They can't buy tickets; tickets are very expensive," he told Reuters.

HEALTHY ATTENDANCE NUMBERS

The average attendance at 2014 World Cup matches is now the second highest of all time with an average gate of 52,762 overtaking the 52,491 at the 2006 tournament in Germany, FIFA said on Sunday.

The record average attendance was set in the United States in 1994 at 68,991.

"We think that record will stay for quite some time due to the huge capacity of the stadiums in the U.S." FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer told the daily briefing.

The total attendance after 60 matches with four still to play stands at 3,165,693, meaning an average of 98.3% capacity across the tournament.

When the World Cup was played in Brazil in 1950, the 22 matches produced a total of 1,045,246 spectators at an average of 47,511 per game, a record that stood until the 32-match World Cup in England in 1966.


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