Lionel Messi’s Argentina better for Carlos Tevez absence

April 16, 2014

“In a last-gasp attempt to get the stocky Juventus striker on the plane to Brazil, an Argentine musician has written a tango for Carlos Tevez. Daniel Ursini is using the medium of music to send a message to national team coach Alejandro Sabella, once an elegant midfielder for Leeds and Sheffield United. Entitled ‘Sabella, you’ve forgotten Carlitos’ the song’s melancholy tones accuse the coach of having taken the wrong path. ‘You can’t be so stupid as to leave out one of Argentina’s most popular players,’ argues Ursini. A year ago, Ursini wrote a song to mark the birthday of Lionel Messi, and separate songs for the two stars may well have been a wise move because it could boil down to a choice between one or the other in the Argentina national team. And that is not a particularly difficult decision to take.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Chile tactics will ask a lot of the Socceroos

April 16, 2014

“In the final of the 2004 Copa America in Peru, Argentina dominated an experimental Brazil side. With three minutes to go La Albiceleste went 2-1 up. Surely the title was won. But with the last kick of the game, Brazil scored the equaliser. Argentina blundered into the penalty shootout with the air of men who had been blinded by the light, and Brazil kept its nerve to lift the trophy.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)

World Cup 2014: Man Utd’s Valencia key to Ecuador in Brazil

April 9, 2014

“With his ability to fill in at right-back as well as his more customary position higher up the flank, Luis Antonio Valencia is an extremely useful member of the Manchester United squad. For Ecuador, though, he is much more than that. A year ago national team coach Reinaldo Rueda referred to him as ‘the main reference point for Ecuadorian football, as a result of everything he has achieved’. A British readership might be unaware how special it is for Ecuador to have one of their own playing at one of the world’s major clubs, and in action in the closing stages of the Champions League. Less than 30 years ago Ecuador was a Latin American Luxembourg in footballing terms.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Domestic league turbulence won’t affect Uruguay at World Cup

April 5, 2014

“The directors of Uruguay’s FA resigned earlier this week, and a scare story was doing the rounds suggesting that this would result in the country’s national team being kicked out of the World Cup. There was never the slightest chance of this happening. The false justification for the fear was FIFA’s hard line against government interference in football administration. But this is not what had transpired in this case. The Uruguayan government had taken measures on a subject 100 percent within its proper jurisdiction — policing policy.” ESPN – Tim Vickery (Video)

Chile transformation is a real coup

March 22, 2014

“There is much wisdom in the old piece of advice that it is a mistake to meet your idols, because you are bound to be disappointed. Great ex-footballers, for example, have sometimes become dangerously accustomed to being listened to, even on subjects on which they have no special authority. It does not always make them the most agreeable company. There is a price to pay for being idolised. A few hours, ago, though, I came away from a meeting with a personal idol who did not disappoint. I am on a quick visit to Santiago, where I dropped in on Joan Jara, English-born widow of the great Victor Jara.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)

World Cup path clear for Brazil v Argentina final

March 12, 2014

“The Rio samba schools steered well clear of the 2014 World Cup when they selected their themes for Carnaval. The winner based its parade on the idea of speed, with pride of place for Ayrton Senna. Another school paid tribute to Zico, and finished fifth. But no one wanted to touch the coming World Cup. One school in the Sao Paulo parade took the plunge – one from the Itaquera district, where the new stadium is being built. They were relegated. Even the weather turned against their parade, which celebrated the fact that the World Cup kicks off in their neighbourhood. They had to strut their stuff in heavy rain and a hailstorm. There are signs of protest fatigue, but it is obvious that the 2014 World Cup has a public relations problem with the Brazilian people, upset at how much it is costing and how little it is giving back.” BBC – Tim Vickery

That Brazilian conveyor belt of talent

March 12, 2014

“Brazil continue to craft talented players week in, week out with Grêmio producing two fine defenders recently but can they find another with important Copa Libertadores matches coming up and how will the latest conveyor belt of youngster cope with expectation. One of the greatest things about covering Brazilian football is the opportunity to get an early glance at the future stars of the global game. The production line of talent never stops working, there are always promising new players appearing. Some will fall by the wayside, others will become household names all over the world, and it is fun to spot them early and follow their progress. Let us take the example of Gremio. Last year. For their Libertadores campaign, they repatriated left back Andre Santos from Arsenal. The team were knocked out of the competition relatively early, he was not a spectacular success and moved on to Flamengo – leaving space for Alex Telles to make the position his own.” Sambafoot – Tim Vickery

Being bold is the best form of defence

March 10, 2014

“When Australia’s goals were flying in at the New Den against Ecuador a thought was going through my head; I’ve seen this film before. At the end of last May Ecuador took on Germany in an international played in the United States. It was just a couple of days after the all-German final of the UEFA Champions League between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Players from those clubs, who make up a considerable part of the first-choice Germany side, were not available. It was very much an experimental team that Germany coach Joachim Low fielded. Ecuador was near full strength.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Futebol = life

March 5, 2014

“‘Life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” wrote Oscar Wilde, who might not have spent much time in Brazil. For here, it is not art that life imitates, but football. There is arguably nowhere in the world where the game is so gloriously and tragically tied to the feats and failures of the society that surrounds it, and it is hard to think of another country whose history is so symbiotically linked to the sport or that looks so pleadingly to the success of its national team for self-validation.” ESPN (Video)

2014 World Cup: Pressure starting to rise for hosts Brazil
“‘We’re working in conditions where the cement is not yet dry,’ said Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke as preparations for the 2014 World Cup move towards the final straight. The strain is showing on Valcke. Fifa wanted all 12 stadiums ready by December, to give plenty of time for test events. Sao Paulo, scene of the opening game, may not be handed over until May. Curitiba got itself so far behind that there was a real danger of the city being cut from the schedule.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Battling the elements in Brazil
“‘President Blatter,’ asked a Fortaleza-born journalist during the World Cup draw last December, ‘in Fortaleza we never play soccer until early evening to avoid the heat. Why,’ the journalist continued, referencing the local times, ‘have you scheduled matches at 1 p.m. or 4 p.m.?’ FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s predictable answer mentioned Brazil’s time difference with the body’s biggest market, European TVs. Given that those kickoff times won’t change, some squads will have to prepare for a grueling mixture of heat and muggy weather, tiring factors to be added to the huge distances between certain venues.” ESPN

Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life
“The Brazilian football team is one of the modern wonders of the world. At its best it exudes a skill, flamboyance and romantic pull like nothing else on earth. Football is how the world sees Brazil and how Brazilians see themselves. The game symbolises racial harmony, flamboyance, youth, innovation and skill, and yet football is also a microcosm of Latin America’s largest country and contains all of its contradictions. Travelling extensively from the Uruguayan border to the northeastern backlands, from the coastal cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to the Amazon jungle-Bellos shows how Brazil changed football and how football shaped Brazil. He tells the stories behind the great players, like Pele and Garrincha, between the great teams, like Corinthians and Vasco de Gama, and the great matches, as well as extraordinary stories from people and pitches all over this vast country.” amazon

Socceroos a crucial test for Ecuador

February 21, 2014

“Millwall’s stadium in South London might seem a strange spot for the 2014 FIFA World Cup to begin, but that is the way that Ecuador sees it when it takes the pitch there against Australia on 5 March (Thursday morning AEDT). Ecuador coach Reynaldo Rueda is well aware that the World Cup comes with a level of mental pressure which can stew the mind and freeze the legs. Four years ago the Colombian coach took Honduras to its first World Cup since 1982. His players, then, belonged to a generation which had never experienced anything like it. The first two games passed them by. Only in the third match, by which time it was already too late, did Honduras display its true colours. The same thing happened to Ecuador on its World Cup debut in 2002. And the fear is, after missing out on South Africa 2010, a similar problem might strike Ecuador’s latest generation.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Can 2014 finally be Paulo Henrique Ganso’s year?

February 4, 2014

“On a radio show last week I was hit with a surprise question; who did I think would win this year’s Brazilian Championship? It is, of course, very early for predictions. The competition is not set to start until the end of April, and at this moment we don’t even know how many teams will be taking part. The controversy over the Portuguesa relegation rumbles on. But there was an instant answer that popped into my head. A big club without the distraction of the Copa Libertadores. A team that has recently made some very interesting foreign acquisitions. And a squad that already looks to have considerable depth, in some positions at least. That club is Sao Paulo. And leading their creative charge, with a coach who knows him and believes in him, is Paulo Henrique Ganso.” Sambafoot – Tim Vickery

The juggling act faced by all coaches

January 31, 2014

“On a phone in show recently a caller asked if players who had not featured in qualification should be taken to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He did not mean it in a sense that governing body should prevent them from playing; rather, he suggested, that it might be in the best interests of the coach to stick with the group that earned a place in the party. I cannot agree. The example that instantly came to mind was that of Italy in 1978. During the qualification process the sweeper was the veteran Giacinto Facchetti. Come the World Cup, however, he had been replaced – elegantly and successfully – by Gaetano Scirea. And a jack in the box striker called Paolo Rossi had also emerged as a domestic star, and went straight into the first team in Argentina ’78, with impressive results.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero can shine in Brazil

January 21, 2014

“Federico Insua is one of those number 10 playmakers that Argentine football produces in such quantity. With a nice left foot and a good range of passing he is an interesting player, although at 34 his best days are now behind him. He was not quite good enough to impose himself on the European game – he had disappointing seasons in Spain, Germany and Turkey – but he has been a strong club player in Argentina, where he currently turns out for Velez Sarsfield.” BBC – Tim Vickery

2014 Fifa World Cup: A huge year in the history of Brazil

January 8, 2014

“Going back home from a game on the underground can be a fascinating experience. At first nearly everyone in the carriage has been to the match, which seems like the only thing that counts. This is soon diluted as fans get out and new people get on, at which point the mix can be interesting. A couple of months ago I was taking the tube back from a midweek game at Rio’s Maracana stadium. The local side in action had been Fluminense, the traditional club of the Rio elite, and a group of young, self-proclaimed playboys were drawing attention to themselves, banging a rhythm on the side of the carriage as they belted out their songs.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Losing the battle of the mind

January 2, 2014

“I was recently doing a spot on a London-based radio where the presenters were asking listeners to send in examples of activity they considered more important than the FIFA Club World Cup. Amongst the answers; turning out the lights after the monthly meeting of the church authorities. Or picking up the washing after a gust of wind had blown it off the line. Amusing? Perhaps. Infuriating? No doubt about it!” The World Gage – Tim Vickery

What’s next for Ronaldinho?

December 22, 2013

“Another magisterial free kick goal from Ronaldinho, this time against Guangzhou Everglade in the Club World Cup third place-off, serves as further testimony to the extraordinary depth of his talent. The way that he flitted around on the game’s periphery, even against a team from China, was an all too eloquent statement of how much of this talent has been wasted. What a puzzling enigma he is! The question is not easy to answer; should we be grateful for the fabulous moments Ronaldinho has given us, or frustrated that he could have delivered so many more of them?” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Super Sunday in South America, with five titles up for grabs

December 17, 2013

“South America staged its Super Sunday at the weekend – five domestic titles were up for grabs. In Argentina the fixture computer had played its part. Four teams still had a chance of glory, and they faced each other in a dramatic double header. Two draws meant that San Lorenzo, with the Pope’s blessing and an interesting crop of youngsters, came out on top. There was even more drama in Uruguay, where three teams went into the last day with a chance. Favourites were traditional giants Nacional, with a relatively straightforward home game against little Fenix. They took the lead, and with rivals River Plate losing they seemed well on course.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Heat is on for all but Argentina

December 15, 2013

“And so after the trip way out west to Cuiaba to take on Chile, it’s the frozen wastes of the south for Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos. Winter can bite a little bit in the cities of Porto Alegre and Curitiba, where Australia will face Netherlands and Spain respectively. Whoever wins Group B is then in for something of a shock – up to Fortaleza in the north east for a second round match, which is due to kick off at 1pm local time. It will probably be hot enough to fry. A Brazilian first division game would never get going at such a time. A few days ago I was on a TV show with Tite, who has just stepped down from a hugely successful spell in charge of Corinthians – and who could well be the next Brazil coach, once the 2014 circus has packed up and left town.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

El Fantasma helps bitter rivals unite

December 1, 2013

“The ghost of 1950 is back to haunt Brazil. With Uruguay snapping up the last place in the 2014 World Cup, the possibility opens up of history repeating itself – of Brazil organising the party only for its tiny southern neighbour to walk off with the prize. In the final game of the 1950 tournament host Brazil needed just a draw to become world champion for the first time. It seemed to have a hand and a half on the trophy when it took the lead early in the second half but Uruguay hit back, silencing a huge crowd in the newly-built Maracana stadium to win 2-1.” The World Game -Tim Vickery (Video)

Stadium tragedy shows peril of World Cup rush

November 28, 2013

“RIO DE JANEIRO — There are times when it seems that Brazil’s World Cup was born under a bad sign. On Wednesday, the cascade of bad news just got worse, with the accident at the new Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo killing at least two workers and possibly more. It appears that a crane collapsed onto the structure of the stadium that’s due to host the opening game of the World Cup in less than 200 days’ time. The soil reportedly gave way beneath the crane, perhaps a consequence of the heavy rain that has fallen on the city over the past few days. A key question now needs to be answered.” ESPN – Tim Vickery (Video)

Uruguay’s band of brothers closes in on the World Cup

November 15, 2013

Jordan v Uruguay
“When he took the field for the playoff against Jordan, goalkeeper Martin Silva became the 28th player Uruguay have used in their World Cup qualification campaign. All of the other South American teams used more. Uruguay coach Oscar Washington Tabarez is fiercely loyal to his group of players, many of whom have been together since the 2007 Copa America. But sticking with the same players does not necessarily mean sticking with the same strategy. Uruguay can switch formations — from a back three to a back four, for example — and change approaches, sometimes with the same starting lineup.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Jordan panic after Maxi Pereira goal sets up emphatic Uruguay victory
“Passion, desire and unity, it turns out, can carry you only so far. This was the biggest game in Jordan’s football history, but they were undone by a Uruguay side who remained admirably unfazed by a raucous crowd and had the quality to take the chances that came their way. This was a comfortable victory and next week’s second leg should be no more than a formality at which Uruguay will book their place at the World Cup, where they will be one of the eight seeds.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Uruguay makes South American statement in demolishing Jordan
“It was a good 10 minutes after the final whistle had blown that Uruguay’s players, having celebrated in front of their fans, finally left the pitch. They were applauded off by the few thousand Jordanian fans who had remained, a sporting gesture but one that seemed rather to sum up the gulf between the sides. Before the game, a number of Jordan’s fans had insisted that Kalil Baniateyah and Ahmed Ibrahim would outshine Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, but the sense had been that mainly they were excited to have players of that stature playing in their country.” <a href=”

Why a South American experiment could be a boost to Europe

November 5, 2013

“How can the prestige and profile of the Europa League be raised? A second cup competition always has the problem of being in the shadow of the first, like a consolation prize for those who have missed out on the main event. There is, though, a relatively simple means of improving things; use the prestige of the leading cup competition to help pull along the second. The winners of the 2014-15 Europa League will automatically qualify for the Champions League, giving clubs a powerful incentive to take the competition seriously and field their strongest sides.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Pekerman’s big call on Yepes

October 20, 2013

“Life, and World Cup qualification, played a cruel trick on me. The first World Cups I was old enough to follow were in 1974 and 1978, when I was nine and 13 years of age. And it was precisely these two that my native England missed, losing out in qualification to Poland and Italy respectively. In 1982, though the road was bumpy, England did manage to make it to Spain, and I could at last savour the experience of watching my country in a World Cup. It was intense, but by now I was 17, had discovered music, and there was a lot going on in political terms as well. So I didn’t live and breathe the competition in the same way as a younger version of myself would have done.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)

World Cup 2014: Ecuador and Uruguay’s growing rivalry

October 8, 2013

“England’s bid to reach Brazil next year could be heading towards yet another crunch game with Poland at Wembley next Tuesday, a tie which is rich in World Cup qualifying history. On the other side of the Atlantic, a contest is building up a similar pedigree. Ecuador v Uruguay in Quito, is a story whose latest chapter will be written on Friday. It is a clash with an agreeable contrast; the first kings of the global game visiting a team which, 25 years ago, were merely making up the numbers. Indeed, it was a win over Uruguay in the 1989 Copa America which first hinted that Ecuador might be on their way towards better things. Eight years later I could hardly believe my eyes as Ecuador took Uruguay apart with a 4-0 win in World Cup qualification.” BBC – Tim Vickery

The price of stardom can be a big one

October 6, 2013

“I won a prize! Some days ago Brazilian journalists voted me as foreign correspondent of the year. I had also won in 2011 but that time I was in London at the time of the ceremony. This time I turned up and was somewhat taken aback by how prestigious and sophisticated the whole thing was. I improvised a little acceptance speech, threw in the odd quip – which seemed to go down very well. In the shameless tradition of the British scoundrel (one local compared me to 007). I used the occasion to heap praise on a stunningly gorgeous journalist who had also just won a prize. She loved it, and sought me out to tell me afterwards. Her husband took it well, and didn’t glower at me too badly. I decided I deserved some wine and it turned out to be that good stuff that doesn’t give you a hangover. I had a wonderful time.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)

Ronaldinho’s thigh injury blow to comeback hopes

September 29, 2013

“The torn thigh muscle he sustained in training last week is, amazingly enough, the most serious injury Ronaldinho has had in his long career — and its timing is most unfortunate. There were occasions over the past five years when it would hardly have mattered, times when a once-great player seemed barely interested in his extraordinary gift for the game. But however naturally talented, it is almost unthinkable that someone can become as good at anything as Ronaldinho was at his height without being truly in love with the activity. Skills take countless hours of honing.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Manuel Pellegrini & Mauricio Pochettino buck a coaching trend

September 25, 2013

“For more than an hour in last Wednesday’s Champions League matches, up and down the continent, every goal had been scored by players from either Argentina or Brazil – an extraordinary example of South America’s contribution to European club football. In comparison to the impressive feats of the players, surprisingly little of that contribution has come from coaches. There have been a few South American success stories on the other side of the Atlantic – Brazil’s Otto Gloria and Chile’s Fernando Riera spring to mind. But opportunities have been limited – hence the general surprise when Argentina’s Gerardo Martino was rushed into the Barcelona job, an appointment which suggests a desire to keep Lionel Messi content.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Five things we learned from South American qualifiers

September 11, 2013

“… 1 — ARGENTINA KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING. The first team from the continent to book their place in Brazil, Argentina’s qualification might seem predictable enough – but it looked anything but in the early stages of the campaign, when coach Alejandro Sabella’s side lost to Venezuela and drew at home to Bolivia. Since then, though, the side have made enormous progress. They are not perfect.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Under-fire Uruguay rising to the challenge

September 8, 2013

“South America’s World Cup qualification campaign has featured 35 wins for the home side — and just 11 for the away. It is a statistic that puts the value of Uruguay’s last two results in stark context. The Sky Blues had a disastrous 2012-13, suffering four consecutive heavy away defeats and making it difficult for them even to finish fifth and claim the playoff slot. But Uruguay are seldom more dangerous than when they have their backs to the wall. They have since won away from home against their two rivals for fifth place — beating Venezuela 1-0 in June, and then winning 2-1 at Peru last Friday.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

The pratfalls of moving abroad

September 1, 2013

“In a couple of weeks, when Australia travels to meet Brazil, Mile Jedinak may well be locked in midfield battle with Paulinho – just as the two were last Sunday at Selhurst Park. I was in the crowd for the opening weekend of the season clash between newly promoted Crystal Palace and a Tottenham team rebuilt in a bid to make into next year’s Champions League. On his competitive debut Paulinho had a solid enough game as Tottenham won by the only goal. But in an outgunned side, Jedinak was a candidate for man of the match. The Socceroos’ central midfielder had an excellent game shielding the Palace centre backs. He was so quick to spot any danger to his side, allowing him to snuff out any number of Tottenham attacks. In possession he did his best to knit the side together with safe, crisp distribution.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Counting the cost of a dream ticket to Brazil

August 22, 2013

“Sales of 2014 World Cup tickets got off to a brisk start Tuesday. According to FIFA, the 1 million applications received in seven hours included plenty from host nation Brazil, from neighbours Chile and Argentina, and also from the USA and England — a testimony to the strength of Anglo-Saxon fan culture, especially as there is no guarantee that Roy Hodgson’s men will even qualify for the competition. For non-Brazilians the cheapest tickets start at $90. A number of tickets are available to locals at knockdown prices — part of a PR offensive to win Brazilian hearts and minds in the run-up to a tournament that may be a focal point for vociferous protests.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Seedorf thriving in Brazil

August 12, 2013

Clarence Seedorf
“When Clarence Seedorf went to play in Brazil last year I was sceptical. So were wiser heads than mine. Oswaldo de Oliveira, his coach at Botafogo, was unsure how he could fit the veteran Dutchman into the wide-open spaces of the Brazilian midfield. Twelve months on our fears look ludicrous. The move has been a triumph. Going into the weekend’s 13th round of the Brazilian Championship, Botafogo is only denied top spot on goal difference, and Seedorf is proving the undoubted star turn.” The World – Tim Vickery (Video)

Radamel Falcao’s move to Monaco will boost Colombia

August 4, 2013

“The French first division, Ligue One, kicks off at the weekend and newly-promoted Monaco will be hoping to recapture former glories after spending big money over the summer. Their two most significant signings have been the Colombian pair, striker Radamel Falcao and left-footed attacking midfielder James Rodriguez. Both are magnificent players – the former a goal machine at the top of his game, the latter rich in strong, creative promise. While it surprised some that both players decided to move to Monaco, there is little doubt the transfers will benefit the Colombian national team.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Brazilian fans paying the price for modernisation

August 2, 2013

“In last week’s second leg of the final of the Copa Libertadores, Atletico Mineiro of Brazil did not only win the trophy – they took the extraordinary sum of nearly $7 million at the box office. A quick, back of the envelope calculation reveals that the average ticket price was over $100. This was a case of exceptional circumstances – the most important match in the history of a big club. But the trend is already out there in Brazilian football.” ESPN -Tim Vickery

Brazil 2014 blame game

July 20, 2013

“‘If the protests happen again,’ said FIFA president Sepp Blatter, ‘we will have to ask ourselves if we took the wrong decision in giving Brazil the right to stage the World Cup. His words would not appear to contain any threat, implied or otherwise, that the venue for the 2014 World Cup might suffer a late alteration. Rather, this would seem to be a public relations exercise, and an attempt to separate two distinct areas of protest. The mass demonstrations that rocked Brazil last month began relatively small and specific – on the issue of public transport in Sao Paulo.” ESPN – Tim Vickery (Video)

Football’s answer to the Ashes

July 16, 2013

“Should Stuart Broad have ‘walked’ after wrongly being given not out in the first Ashes test? I have no idea, and not just because I did not actually see the incident (listening via radio in Rio de Janeiro hardly qualifies me as close enough to give an authoritative opinion). It is not an easy issue. On the one hand, there are days when he will be given out in dubious circumstances, and the fielding side will certainly not call him back. So why not leave the decision up the umpires? On the other hand there is the code of ethics which applies in each sport, the unwritten rules of conduct to which the players generally adhere, and which Broad could be accused of breaking.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Brazil’s Confederations outsiders face uphill battle to be included

July 9, 2013

“Brazil was obviously joyous at winning the Confederations Cup in such convincing style — but it would only be natural if there were some places where joy was somewhat confined. Those players outside the squad, for example, now face a much harder time getting back in.” ESPN – Tim Vickery (Video)

Brazil 3-0 Spain: Spain unable to cope with Brazil’s pace and power on the break

July 1, 2013

“Brazil won the Confederations Cup at the Maracana after a convincing demolition of the world champions. Luis Felipe Scolari stuck with his usual side – in five games he only deviated from this XI once, when Paulinho wasn’t 100% fit for the final group game. Vicente Del Bosque brought in Juan Mata on the left of his 4-3-3 system, but otherwise the side was unchanged. Brazil yet again started superbly – but Spain failed to mount a significant fightback.” Zonal Marking

“Brazil produced a breathtaking performance at the Maracana to overwhelm Spain and claim their third consecutive Fifa Confederations Cup. Driven on by the passion of a fiercely partisan crowd, the five-time world champions signalled their intent ahead of next summer’s World Cup by ending Spain’s 29-match competitive unbeaten record with a majestic display. Fred scored twice, but Neymar again stole the show, scoring Brazil’s second goal with a rasping left-foot shot. To compound Spain’s misery, Sergio Ramos missed a second-half penalty before Gerard Pique was sent off for bringing down Neymar as last man, with 22 minutes remaining.” BBC

Dream final a sub-plot to urban uprising (June 28)
“And so the 2013 Confederations Cup has its dream final – Brazil against Spain, the match the world has been waiting years to see. It is a clash of two philosophies. For the Brazilians, the star player (known over here as the ‘craque,’ from the English ‘crack’) tips the balance with a moment of individual inspiration. For the Spaniards the collective idea is all important – the constant passing at pace, the continuous formation of triangles, each one opening up new possibilities for a new combination, until a runner can be slipped through on goal.” The World – Tim Vickery

Brazil on the verge of greatness
“Forget history and superstition. You have to be pretty twisted to believe that because Brazil won the Confederations Cup in 1997 and 2005 and 2009 and then failed to win the big one the following year, beating Spain and lifting the trophy at the Maracana was anything but a good thing. Anyone who witnessed the performance against Spain, who felt the goose bumps from the Torcida, who saw Fred, then Neymar, then Oscar, then just about every member of the Selecao vault the pitch-side barriers and celebrate with the supporters will know just how important this was.” ESPN (Video)


June 27, 2013

“‘Tear gas is a magic potion,’ writes Chris Gaffney from the streets of Rio. ‘Those who launch it are weakened while those forced to inhale it are strengthened.’ For those of you interested in the politics of football in Brazil, his blog – as well as his excellent book on Stadia in Argentina and Brazil – is a key place to go to understand the ways in which preparations for the 2014 World Cup have served as a trigger for what may become a major political and social movement in Brazil. As is often the case, the state’s response to what were initially small protests has energized a movement that is tapping into a powerful vein of dissatisfaction in the country.” Soccer Politics

Can Brazil protests can be traced back to a 2003 Fifa decision?
“Of all the unimportant things in life, as the wise old saying puts it, football is the most important. Which means, wonderful as it is, that the global game comes below education, health and public transport in any rational list of governmental priorities. It is the poor standard of these public services which has brought millions of Brazilian people onto the streets. No-one saw this protest movement coming and no-one knows where it will end. Most agree that the complaints are justified.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Confederations Cup 2013: Spain remain team to beat in Brazil

June 14, 2013

“Despite some resistance from the Republic of Ireland at the Yankee Stadium, they outgunned Giovanni Trapattoni’s men 2-0 in their last game before the Confederations Cup campaign gets under way in Brazil this weekend. On Sunday, the world and European champions play their first group game against Uruguay, as La Roja begin their bid to bring yet another international trophy back to Madrid.” BBC

Uruguay’s fighting spirit comes to the fore
“Uruguay turning up for a tournament on Brazilian soil is enough to send a shudder down the local spine. The other day Pele was remembering the World Cup final of 1950, and his father in tears as the sky blues came from behind to shock the host in Rio’s newly built Maracana stadium. Now Uruguay is back once more, this time for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.” The World Gane – Tim Vickery

Confederations Cup 2013: Spain team profile
“… Whether in a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or 4-6-0 formation, the modern-day Spanish side, with a little help from their free-flowing Barcelona contingent, have ripped up the formation book – even winning tournaments with the false number nine/strikerless line-up. Barcelona’s Victor Valdes is expected to start the tournament as Spain’s number one goalkeeper in the major change from Euro 2012, with Iker Casillas missing out.” BBC

Face of World Cup host Brazil? Look no further than Neymar
“When the World Cup hopes and dreams of arguably the world’s most successful footballing country rest on your skinny shoulders, you’re going to need all the help you can get. It is not known what great works of literature Neymar chose when packing his suitcases for Barcelona, but he could have done worse than to seek solace in a little Shakespeare. Dank and drizzly though it can sometimes be, Santos’ Vila Belmiro stadium, our hero’s erstwhile home, is a long way from the gloomy battlements of Hamlet’s Elsinore. Nevertheless, there are more than a few parallels between the life and times of Brazil’s current idol and Shakespeare’s classic paean to troubled young manhood.” SI

Confed Cup Preview: 5 storylines to watch
“The Confederations Cup (June 15-30) is the ritual eight-team dry run designed to give the World Cup hosts the chance to iron out any kinks in their stadia and transport systems a year before the big show begins. The tournament pitches the hosts, reigning World Cup holders and six confederation champions (with Italy qualifying as Euro runners-up to World Cup holders Spain) into battle.” ESPN (Video)

A rare Confederations Cup – all the teams, for once, want to win it
“Tournaments are like birthdays: they are as significant as you want them to be. To many the Confederations Cup is a meaningless intrusion on the football calendar, a rinky-dink competition that proves nothing more than Fifa’s greed. After all, the World Cup already exists to establish the best team on the planet so what, other than money and attention-seeking, is the point of a mini-tournament between the leading teams from each continent?” Guardian

Starting anew: Deeper Spain lacks strong XI
“While club football’s evolution from a ‘team game’ into a ‘squad game’ has been widely acknowledged the past two decades, the situation at the international level remains uncertain. After all, major international tournaments are decided during the course of four weeks, rather than eight months. Whereas the speed and intensity of modern football ensures club managers frequently rotate their squad to prevent burnout in the spring, international managers often squeeze every last drop out of their regular starting XI.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Brazilian football must get real

June 2, 2013

“In professional football, money is, always has been, and always will be a key factor. However, not necessarily a decisive one. If it was then Brazil would have at least three representatives in the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores – South America’s Champions League. Instead, Brazil was only a penalty miss away from losing all interest in the competition at the quarter-final stage. The country’s last standing survivor, free-scoring Atletico Mineiro, was 12 yards and 30 seconds from elimination. All Tijuana striker Duvier Riascos had to do was score the stoppage-time penalty and his club, Tijuana of Mexico, would be through to the last four.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Ronaldinho’s time looks to have passed

May 20, 2013

“Is this the end? Has the door slammed shut on Ronaldinho’s chance of redemption? That must surely be the likely conclusion of Brazil’s Confederations Cup call up. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari read out his 23 names. When he had got to the end and the assembled journalists realised that Ronaldinho had not been included, the room became a hornets’ nest of buzzing voices, as excited radio reporters reached for their microphones to spread the news. They had every right – it is important news. For some nations the Confederations Cup might be a collection of friendlies with a trophy at the end – but not for Brazil. There is too much at stake. As 2014 World Cup host it has suffered from a lack of competitive games, and ever since the last World Cup neither results nor performances have been convincing.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)

Football needs a moral vision

May 6, 2013

“Corruption is an unpleasant crime, and its widespread effects are invariably socially corrosive. Then again, until recently European firms almost had an incentive to pay bribes in order to secure contracts in the developing world; they could write off such payments against tax. Joao Havelange resigned last week as honorary president of FIFA, in the wake of irrefutable evidence that his hand was in the cookie jar, helping itself to bribes from collapsed sports marketing company ISL. The British press have led an aggressive anti-FIFA campaign and hence might be disappointed then to see the low key way the news of Havelange’s resignation was been treated in many parts of the world.” Tim Vickery

Things looking up for Peru

April 21, 2013

“Some have cruised through, some had to sweat to the end, but one way or another the big guns of South American football have made it to the knock out stage of the Copa Libertadores, the continent’s equivalent of the UEFA Champions League. Of the 16 remaining teams, half of them are former champions, sharing 20 titles between them. The highlight of the second round is a replay of last year’s final, Corinthians of Brazil against Argentina’s Boca Juniors. There is a fascinating all-Brazilian tie between in-form Atletico Mineiro and Sao Paulo, which may have a psychological advantage after managing to save itself in its last group game. Velez Sarsfield against Newell’s Old Boys is an intriguing all-Argentine clash. Another great Libertadores name is Nacional of Uruguay; three times winner, 39 times competitor, the Montevideo giant has taken part in every version of the tournament since 1997.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)

Room for improvement

April 7, 2013

“Of all the great football rivalries, my favourite is the one between the national teams of Brazil and Argentina. There is nothing to get in the way – no real military history between the two countries, as is the case with the Netherlands and Germany, for example, of England and Germany, and even England and Argentina. When Brazil meets Argentina the rivalry is one of pure football, a battle for supremacy on the pitch between two neighbours vying to be considered the number one nation of the global game.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Brazil milestone evokes memories of Pele and Moore

November 14, 2012

“‘One of the biggest blasts of hot air, which I’ve been hearing ever since I was an adolescent, is the idea that top level sport is a good place to learn and develop ethical and moral values. It never was. Ambition, the desire to be a hero and to make lots of money are usually much stronger.’ So wrote 1970 Brazil great Tostao in Sunday’s version of his always interesting column, a twice weekly space where football is analysed by someone of great knowledge and intelligence who loves the game but is even more fascinated by the subtleties and contradictions of the human being.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Palmeiras appeal could decide club’s destiny

November 9, 2012

“All’s fair in love, war and relegation battles – or Palmeiras seem to think so. The Sao Paulo giants, the team of the city’s Italian community, are in trouble. Back in July they won the Brazilian Cup, guaranteeing a place in next year’s Copa Libertadores, South America’s Champions League. However, results have since suffered in the domestic league and they now need to make up a seven-point gap with just four rounds of the season left. Their hopes could perhaps rest on the outcome of a hearing to be held in the next couple of days. The focus of their appeal is a disallowed goal from Argentine centre-forward Hernan Barcos against Internacional on October 27.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Superclásico passion reignited as Boca Juniors and River Plate meet again

October 30, 2012

“The 2004, Observer Sports Monthly published its list of the “50 sporting things you must do before you die”. At number one was attending a ‘superclásico’, the passionate encounter between Argentina’s bitter rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate. The standard of the Argentinian league was declining even then – it has got a lot worse since – but the superclásico remains special. Sunday’s was ninth against fifth between two teams who, in all honesty, aren’t very good and yet el Monumental was packed, seething with noise and colour and passion.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

River Plate v Boca Juniors – where has the magic gone?
“The biggest occasion in South American domestic club football was back on Sunday when River Plate met Boca Juniors in a league match for the first time in almost 18 months. The big Buenos Aires derby is followed all over the continent for a number of reasons. One is the historic role played by Argentina in the consolidation of South American football. The British introduced the game to the South Cone. More than anyone else, the Argentines helped the spread of the game northwards. In terms of playing styles and fan culture, much of the continent takes its cue from Argentina.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Brazil look on target without a number nine

October 22, 2012

“‘I was too busy scoring goals to learn how to play football,’ says Dario, a legendary figure in Brazilian football from the 1960s and 70s. A charismatic character, Dario invents phrases as easily as he used to put the ball in the net. ‘There’s no such thing as an ugly goal,’ he once said. ‘Ugly is not scoring goals.’ If both remarks sound a little defensive, it is easy enough to explain. Brazilian football has been gifted with so many artists – players capable of snapping their marker in two with a sway of the hips, wrong-footing the keeper and then sliding home – that a little prejudice sometimes persists about the centre forward. The target man number nine whose game is restricted to getting the ball over the line can be seen, at best, as the exponent of a minor art.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Can Kaka still make his mark on a World Cup?

October 16, 2012

“During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the only time Kaka was not seen filming everything around him was when he was on the pitch playing for Brazil. He had expected to record some treasured memories — forming the much-hyped “magic quartet” with Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Adriano. After the tournament, however, those images could not have made for easy viewing. Kaka produced a man-of-the-match performance in the opening game, scoring the only goal against Croatia. Thereafter, it was downhill all the way. In truth, the team was top heavy.” ESPN – Tim Vickery


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