Tag Archives: Brazil

Real Madrid sign an unproven 16-year-old Brazilian for €46 million.

Spanish giants Real Madrid have made headlines this week for forking out a staggering €46 million for 16-year-old promising player Vinícius Júnior. The Brazilian has just one senior appearance for Flamengo, making his professional debut a mere 11 days ago.

“The player will remain at his current club until July 2019,” the La Liga champions said in a statement. “Although he will be able to play for Real Madrid before then if both clubs agree to it.”

It raises eyebrows, I must say. It seems clubs like Real Madrid are keen to find the next teenage superstar or a phenomenon like Leo Messi, and they are willing to part with massive sums of money on promising players.

That said, it could go either way. He could go on to be a giant of the game, or he could go on to be a flop. But there will be considerable pressure on Vinicius. Vasts amount of money on a 16-year-old kid won’t go unnoticed by the fans, media and even team-mates. And when the time comes, and he pulls on the Madrid jersey, he will be expected to deliver the goods.

Other Brazilian players arrived in Europe amid huge hype and ultimately failed to live up to expectation. Alexandre Pato and Robinho are just two players in recent years who, after moving to Europe, were under pressure to deliver constant performances that a Balon d’Or winning player would. Ultimately neither came close.

But football is a funny game. Anything can happen and this kid could be a superstar.

 

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Football around the world mourns with Chapecoense.

When the news broke on Tuesday morning of the plane crash that carried the Brazilian side Chapecoense to Colombia to play what was arguably their biggest game in their history – the final of the Copa Sudamericana (the South American equivalent of the Europa League) – I, like everyone else, was in utter shock.

The Santa Catarina-based side were enjoying their biggest season in their history. In 2009, they were playing in Serie D, before being promoted to Serie C, where they played for three years. They were promoted to Serie B in 2012 and, after only one season, the club who only formed in 1973 as a result of a merger of two amateur clubs, were playing in Brazil’s top tier of football.

But this season was arguably the club’s biggest. They drew inspiration and similarities from the current Premier League champions.

“Our team really reminds me of Leicester, a team from an unfancied city that was able to win an important title,” the late manager Caio Júnior said after a league win over giants Fluminense. “I want to make a mark this season with this club, this group of players.”

Indeed it was on the continental scale where Chape really made headlines. In the Copa Sudamericana, they surpassed even their own fans’ expectations and made it to the final, beating teams like Argentine giants Independiente and San Lorenzo on the way.

But then unimaginable tragedy struck.

Seventy one people died on that flight as it approached Medellin, including 21 journalists and almost the entire first team and managerial staff. The surviving players were defenders Alan Ruschel and Neto. Goalkeeper Jakson Follmann also survived but had to have one of his legs amputated, according to reports.  Goalkeeper Danilo initially survived the crash, but later died in hospital from his injuries.

It’s an enormous loss. But I’m sure friends, families and supporters can take some comfort with the support the club has been receiving from the footballing community around the globe.

Força Chapecoense!

https://twitter.com/neymarjr/status/803538371222138880

https://twitter.com/AGuardado18/status/803614078899867648

https://twitter.com/DavidMeyler7/status/803744957903159296

 

 

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Carlos Alberto R.I.P.

The blog is very saddened to learn of the passing of Brazilian legend Carlos Alberto. The 72-year-old died today after suffering a heart attack in Rio de Janiero.

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Alberto was captain of the Brazil side in the 1970 World Cup and led them to victory. He scored the forth goal in the final in the 4-1 victory over Italy in the final in the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. The goal is often considered one of the greatest goals in the history of the tournament.

He enjoyed a twenty year playing career. In Brazil, he had two spells for Fluminense, but it was at Santos where the defender made his name as a world-class player. He spent a number of years playing in the United States playing most notably for the New York Cosmos.

He will be remembered as an incredibly gifted right back, and a leader of arguably one of the greatest teams of all time.

 

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What next for Ronaldinho?

Living legend Ronaldinho and Atlético Mineiro have parted company this week after agreeing to terminate the Brazilian playmaker’s contract with immediate effect.

A decade ago, Ronaldinho was one of the most talked about players on the planet, in the same way the football-loving public rave about Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronnie won the Libertadores Cup with Alético Mineiro – the first time he or the club lifted the continent’s most biggest club prize.

The Brazilian international wowed audiences for his magical displays for PSG, Barcelona and Milan, the three clubs he turned out for when widely considered to be at his peak. Ronaldinho done things with the ball most of us could only dream of.

His agent, who is also his brother, Roberto de Assis has stated that the former Ballon d’Or winner wishes to play until he is 42 (similar to compatriot and fellow genius Rivaldo) and that his new club will be revealed this week. 

It was suggested that Ronnie would be the ideal replacement for Juan Roman Riquelme, who left Boca Juniors for city rivals Argentinos Juniors. Though there is much speculation that some MLS teams are also interested with all eyes on New York City FC for any potential news.

Either way, Ronaldinho may be 34, but the man is a sheer genius. Yes, his partying lifestyle may have led to the decline of his brilliance, but he can still do things with a ball that you and I dream of. Lucky will be the club that lands ‘Dinho’s signature. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9W7BAvpJqY

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What a World Cup: And then there were two

Now we are down to the very last of it – the final of the 2014 World Cup. And what a competition it has been: the sheer quality of football from certain players, the bravery from certain teams, the glory of mind-blowing goals, the controversy, the glory, the unpredictability. Good heavens, can we get rid of league football and just have nine World Cups instead?

Last Tuesday witnessed the unpredictable: Brazil were beaten – no, completely outplayed and destroyed – by Germany by 7-1. Yes, seven!

Brazil-Germany-records

The ridiculously brilliant Thomas Müller opened the scoring after eleven minutes, followed by another four before I had even blinked. Five-nil at half-time was followed up by André Schürrle’s two second-half goals making it seven before Oscar’s last minute consolation pulled one back for Brazil. Far too little, way too late. Brazil haven’t been this humiliated since, well, ever!

Wednesday was the other semi-final between The Netherlands and Argentina which wasn’t the most exciting of games to watch, but for me the Argentines looked like the only team truly keen to win it. And they just about did.

After 120 minutes, the Dutch had to look to Jasper Cillessen as their keeper for the shoot-out as LVG had used up all his substitutes so was unable to bring on Tim Krul, who was the hero Costa Rica in the quarter-finals.

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But it wasn’t to be as Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved Ron Vlaar’s and Wesley Sneijder’s penalties, and it was former-Liverpool winger Maxi Rodriguez who scored the penalty to put Argentina into the final.

The final in Rio on Sunday will be Lionel Messi’s greatest test at international level, and the opportunity to silence critics who forever compare him to the great Diego Maradona by lifting the World Cup as captain of Argentina – just as El Diego did in the peak of his career in 1986.

But Messi & co. will be facing an extremely organised and tough Germany side and, if I’m honest, a Germany side who could cause Argentina severe problems. Maybe not beating them 7-1 as they did against Brazil, but certainly enough problems to score early, outplay and dishearten the Argentine defence. The South Americans will have to play better than they did all tournament in my opinion.

The Argentine press have been giving FIFA stick about how Germany have had an extra day’s rest and to prepare, but are still heavily relying on Messi to deliver the goods. Germany, who are the bookies’ favourites, are already planning their homecoming by announcing a parade at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Argentina could spoil the party. Literally. 

The third place play-off is on Saturday at 9pm as Brazil face The Netherlands at the Estádio Nacional de Brasilia. The final between Germany and Argentina kicks off 24 hours later in the Maracanã.

P.S. – If you fancy watching the match with the blog, Whelans of Wexford Street in Dublin are throwing a little shindig in their main room with the match being shown on a large screen, some cheap drinks on offer and even a short DJ set from yours truly. Check out the poster below and do come down from 8pm – it’s free in.

worldcupwhelans

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

 

World Cup semi-finals: Then there were four…

Football fans’ mouths are watering worldwide as two very tasty World Cup semi-final fixtures are set to be played. The last four will see Brazil take on Germany tomorrow night at the Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte, while on Wednesday The Netherlands face Argentina in the Arena Corinthians in São Paulo.

Brazil overcame Colombia in Fortaleza in the quarter-finals. Many, myself included, were doubtful if they would. Colombia have been playing some excellent football led by 22-year old superstar James Rodríguez. Two goals from defenders Thiago Silva and David Luiz put the hosts ahead before Rodríguez’s 80th minute goal pulled one back for Colombia but it wasn’t enough.

Brazil Soccer WCup Brazil Colombia

Germany squeezed into the semis after their 1-0 victory against France. The goal came within the opening quarter of an hour as Mats Hummels’ header shot past Hugo Lloris from (future Real Madrid player according to the Spanish press) Tony Kroos’ free kick. Didier Deschamps’ men failure to produce an equaliser meant that they were eliminated disappointingly early, while Germany reach a record fourth straight World Cup semi-final. 

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Argentina deservedly went though to the semis following the 1-0 victory over Belgium in the Brazilian capital Brasília. It’s the South American nation’s first time to reach a semi-final since finishing runner up at Italia ’90. Belgium didn’t have the wit to overpower Argentina who could have scored more than the one goal. 

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The Netherlands just about made their way into the semis, following a dramatic penalty shoot-out against everybody’s second favourite World Cup team Costa Rica. After a goalless 120 minutes in the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Louis van Gaal made the gamble of bringing on goalkeeper Tim Krul in place of Jasper Cillessen. It was a gamble that paid off as Newcastle ‘keeper Krul saved penalties from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana to put the Dutch through. Cue every newspaper praising both van Gaal and Costa Rica, even if it was a Krul way to be eliminated from the World Cup.

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This festival of football is in my opinion without a doubt the finest World Cup from memory. It has had so much memorable moments from the good, the bad, and the ugly – but we’ll talk about that next week.

Now we are down to the last four. Imagine if we got a Brazil v Argentina or Netherlands v Germany final. Two historic and geographical rivalries. These really are tasty fixtures coming up.

This week it is:

Tuesday
Brazil
21:00
Germany
Wednesday
Netherlands
21:00
Argentina
All times are Irish times.

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And then there were eight…

I must say, and I know I’m not alone in saying this, but the standard of football and the entertainment value in the matches during this World Cup is, from my memory, the best one yet.

I’ll start off with James Rodriguez‘s smashing goal against Uruguay last Saturday is not the firm favourite for goal of the tournament (sorry, RVP). And what a talent the Colombian is. Just don’t expect him to move anywhere after the tournament – Monaco only signed him last summer – for €45 million. Forty-five million!

Speaking of players moving, you can be guaranteed that Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa will easily find a new club having run out his contract with French side Ajaccio. His performances in the tournament have been frankly unbelievable. (You remember Guillermo from this blog back in 2010, right?)

Another player on the move is the most talked about player in it – and not for the right reasons. Yes, Luis Suarez seems to be likely on his way to Catalonia to join giants Barcelona from Liverpool. The Uruguayan was, as you know, banned for four months for biting into Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini‘s shoulder last week but Suarez apologised publicly 24 hours after dismissing the incident as malicious.

The apology is widely reported as being at Barça’s insistence for the transfer to go ahead which seems likely as being the case. The deal could mean that Chilean superstar Alexis Sánchez could be on his way to Anfield as part-exchange. Which, believe me, is a serious addition for Liverpool. (In fact, when Alexis was at Udinese, I wrote on this blog: “Lucky the club will be that signs Alexis Sánchez“)

But back to the World Cup itself…now there are just eight teams left:

Brazil, who haven’t been amazing this tournament except Neymar, will face Colombia in Fortaleza on Friday. It will be one tasty fixture. As will be the day’s other fixture – France v Germany. Can the French upset the mighty German team who many pick as favourites to make it to the final? Don’t write off Les Bleus just yet.

Salvador will play host to an interesting fixture in The Netherlands versus everyone’s new second favourite team, Costa Rica. The Dutch are still a powerhouse in international football, but aren’t without their flaws as the Mexicans exposed last Sunday. In fact, the Dutch were lucky to get through. What Costa Rica lack in technical skill, make up for in heart. And that can win games this far into a tournament. The pressure is on The Netherlands, not Costa Rica. And both managers will know that.

Finally the other quarter final is Argentina v Belgium. It’ll be an interesting tie, and Argentina will be favourites. But I’m not so sure. They seemed weak at the back at times and their superstar player Leo Messi made a few mistakes that had previously been unseen at club level. But they’ve got some ridiculous amount of talent. Even their bench is made up of superstars. Belgium, on the other hand, are hungry for success. They can be pushed in a corner and put under pressure, as the USA showed last night against them. This one, I predict, might go to extra time and possibly beyond.

So to recap:

Quarter-finals
(Friday)
France
17:00
Germany
Brazil
21:00
Colombia
(Saturday)
Argentina
17:00
Belgium
Netherlands
21:00
Costa Rica
All times are in Ireland Time
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Could hosts Brazil fall at the next hurdle?

That’s a good question. They played fantastic tonight and Neymar, the superstar youngster and poster-boy of the Seleção, was in fine form with a double against Cameroon. 

They have an advantage with the home support no question. But Brazil, who started the tournament as the bookies’ favourites, haven’t impressed me enough to believe that they are a World Cup winning team.

Brazil now face Chile on 28th June in Belo Horizonte and Luiz “Big Phil” Scolari will be more than aware of Chile’s performances. Despite losing 2-0 at the hands of The Netherlands (who I am tipping to win the tournament dare I say it), Jorge Sampaoli’s men have been extremely organized and can be a very dangerous opposition for the Brazilians.

But it’s a tasty fixture for the neutral fan.

Tomorrow’s games are:

Group D
Costa Rica
17:00
England
Group D
Italy
17:00
Uruguay
Group C
Greece
21:00
Côte d’Ivoire
Group C
Japan
21:00
Colombia

 

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So how is everyone enjoying the World Cup so far?

It hasn’t exactly gone to plan has it, this World Cup? It seems like nobody has read the script. But it sure is, at least in my view as a neutral, an incredible tournament. I mean, did Costa Rica really beat Uruguay? It appears that they in fact did. Did the Netherlands put five past current holders Spain? They most definitely did. Did Cristiano Ronaldo, the current World player of the year, really appear almost anonymous in Portugal’s 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Germany? Why, yes he did.

It’s been quite the World Cup so far. Pressure is mounting. Tensions (as a poor ball boy discovered at the hands of Joe Hart) are building. Watching it at home has been nothing but a treat.

The current holders Spain are out. OK, I’ll admit it, I did not see that coming. Don’t pretend you did because you didn’t. La Roja’s back-to-back defeats at the hands of Chile and the Netherlands proved fatal. Tiki-taka RIP.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ha_kcJSsRXw

But what went wrong for the Spanish?

Was it tactics? Team selection? A little bit of both in my view. To begin with, Iker Casillas, who spent much of last season as Real Madrid’s second choice ‘keeper, was starting because of Del Bosque’s loyalty towards his 2010 World Cup-winning captain. And Fernando Torres was there on reputation, but I assume Del Bosque hasn’t been to Stamford Bridge for the past twelve months.

But, for the neutral, this makes compelling viewing.

Hosts Brazil have been incredibly underwhelming, haven’t they? In most bookmakers, they were the favourites, and Neymar was the favourite to become the top goalscorer. But judging by their first two games, they aren’t blowing everyone’s minds. Yes, they may qualify. A draw or a win against Cameroon next Monday will see them through to the next round. But then they face either Chile or the Netherlands – two of the most impressive teams in the competition.

England face Uruguay tonight. It’s a must-win game for both teams as they both tasted defeat in their opening games – England to Italy and Uruguay, amazingly, to Costa Rica. It was Roy Keane who said on ITV that England will “struggle” in the competition (and right beside England captain Steven Gerrard). He’s not wrong. Though Uruguay were a shadow of themselves the other night, but with star player Luis Suarez likely to start, it could be the kick the team needs.

Interesting times on football’s biggest stage.

Tonight’s games are:

Group C
Colombia
17:00
Côte d’Ivoire
Group D
Uruguay
20:00
England
Group C
Japan
23:00
Greece

Let Rob Smith know what you think of the World Cup so far on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

World Cup heroes #8: Pelé

I hope you enjoyed the profiles of World Cup heroes I have been blogging daily for the past week. With the day that’s in it, I finish up with a Brazilian and one of the greatest ever players of the sport, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known to you or me simply as Pelé

He famously burst onto the scene at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden where he was the star of the tournament at the tender age of 17 and scored no less than two of the goals in the final. Injury prevented him from competing in nearly all of the 1962 competition, but with Garrincha leading the troops, Pelé, who was then rated as the best player in the world, earned his second World Cup winners medal.

Injury again kept the striker out for almost all of the 1966 tournament, but it was the 1970 World Cup, where Pelé led what is known was one of the greatest teams of all time, to World Cup triumph. Even his near misses are as glorious as his actual goals and assists. Watch below.

Anyway, the 2014 World Cup is starting. Shall we…?

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World Cup heroes #6: Rossi

The 1982 World Cup will be mostly remembered for two things: that celebration from former Republic of Ireland assistant manager Marco Tardelli, and the brilliance of goalscoring machine Paolo Rossi.

Rossi, whose fitness appeared to be very sub-standard in the opening two games, found his second wind by scoring six goals in Italy’s final three matches – including the final itself against West Germany. He even scored a hat-trick against a Socrates-led Brazil side famously dubbed “the greatest Brazilian team never to win the World Cup”. Paolo Rossi single-handedly left them for dead.

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World Cup heroes #2: Zidane

Not many expected France to win the 1998 World Cup despite it being on their home turf. But perhaps many didn’t realise the sheer brilliance of their number 10 – Zinedine Zidane.

Zizou was remarkable in the ’98 World Cup. And indeed in the 2006 competition in Germany. Yes, he’ll be remembered for that incident in the final. But I choose to remember Zidane for the way he played in that tournament. Spectacularly.

Check out this footage of Zizou making a show of an extremely strong Brazil side that featured Roberto Carlos, Kaka, Cafu, Ronaldo as well as the then-best player on the planet Ronaldinho.

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World Cup heroes #1: Garrincha

Every single day between now and kick-off at the World Cup next week, I will be paying tribute to seven of the great World Cup players in history with footage that will make your mouth water. The seven wonders of the footballing world.

I’ll start with this genius: Brazil’s Garrincha. Check out this footage from the 1962 World Cup against a strong England side.

 

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Rivaldo finally calls time on an amazing and illustrious career

Brazilian superstar Rivaldo called time on a wonderful career yesterday at the age of 41. Via social media, he told fans that it was “with tears in my eyes I’d like to give thanks to God, my family and for all the support I have received in 24 years as a player. Today I’m announcing to my fans around the world that my history as a player has reached its end.”

A Ballon D’Or winner in 1999 and a World Cup winner in 2002, Rivaldo’s most recent stint was being sparingly used for Brazilian third-tier side  Mogi Mirim (for whom he is also club president). Just last month he played a league game for the side, lining up alongside his son, Rivaldinho.

Rivaldinho

The Brazilian genius enjoyed a lengthy career, making his professional debut in 1991 for Santa Cruz. He then went onto play for Mogi Mirim, Corinthians and Palmeiras before moving to Europe where he joined Deportivo La Coruña in Spain. His performances for the blue and whites earned him multi-million deal with Barcelona and it was at the Catalans where he became a global superstar.

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After the 2002 World Cup, he left Barça for another leading name in world football – AC Milan. A short loan stint back in his homeland with Cruzeiro was to follow before joining Olympiacos and then AEK Athens where he enjoyed considerable success, winning multiple Greek Super League titles.

After four years in Greece and considered well past his prime, Rivaldo signed a two-year contract worth €10.2 million with an ambitious side called Bunyodkor, based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. No, I hadn’t heard of them prior to this deal.

Rivaldo-Bunyodkor--001

After two years in Central Asia, Rivaldo departed for his homeland with stints at Mogi Mirim and then onto Brazilian giants Sao Paulo. But he made yet another unusual move in 2012 by signing for Angolan side Kabuscorp after being rejected by English League One side Charlton Athletic.

The past twelve witnessed him depart one last time for his native Brazil, turning out for São Caetano before finally rejoining Mogi Mirim.

rivaldoronaldo

Rivaldo, multiple league winner, former world player of the year, World Cup winner, scorer of one of the best hat-tricks I have ever seen, and now president of a club where his son plays, will be 42 next month. He can finally put the feet up after one amazing and illustrious career.

And I salute him.

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World Cup finals draw: tough test for England while the Boateng brothers will meet again

Some interesting fixtures await us the draw for next summer’s World Cup sees hosts Brazil take on Croatia in the opening game with Mexico and Cameroon making up the rest of Group A while a repeat of the 2010 final is in store as Spain face the Netherlands for Group B’s opener.

England will face Italy in their opening game in the Amazon city of Manaus on Saturday, 14 June. Also in their group is Uruguay – fronted by the deadly duo of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani – as well as Costa Rica who will feature the most talked about player of the week: Bryan Oviedo.

The Boateng brothers, Kevin-Prince and Jerome, will meet again as Germany will take on Ghana in Fortaleza on 21 June in Group G, having also drawn Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and USA. Speaking of the USA, coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who previously managed Germany, will his former assistant and current-manager Joachim Low.

The groups in full:

Group A
Brazil
Croatia
Mexico
Cameroon

Group B
Spain
Netherlands
Chile
Australia

Group C
Colombia
Greece
Ivory Coast
Japan

Group D
Uruguay
Costa Rica
England
Italy

Group ESwitzerland
Ecuador
France
Honduras

Group F
Argentina
Bosnia-Herzegovina
Iran
Nigeria

Group G
Germany
Portugal
Ghana
U.S.A.

Group H
Belgium
Algeria
Russia
South Korea

 

What did you make of the draw? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)