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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Neymar and Ronaldinho Lead Brazil To 4-0 Victory Over Bolivia

Brazil pranced to their first victory under newly appointed coach Luis Felipe Scolari with an impressive 4-0 win over Bolivia in Santa Cruz de la Sierra on Saturday. Scolari opted for a 4-2-2-2 formation with Paulinho and Ralf behind Ronaldinho and Jadson, who in turn were positioned behind Neymar and Leandro Damiao. Scolari gave Ronaldinho both the number 10 jersey and the captain’s armband in a clear signal that team leadership belonged to him in contrast to Neymar, the second most experienced member of a Brazil squad composed entirely of domestically-based players. Ronaldinho commanded the midfield and orchestrated attacks with his trademark vision of the entire run of play by picking out both Damiao and Neymar and delivering threatening curling balls into the box from free-kicks with a tattoo of wolf on his back. Leandro Damiao opened the scoring in the 5th minute by latching onto a pass from the right flank delivered by Jean, who played in an unfamiliar position as a right fullback. Damiao’s goal failed to open the floodgates but it was Ronaldinho’s magic in an attacking midfield position that tilted the match decidedly in Brazil’s favor. First, a Ronaldinho free kick led to a scramble in the box followed by a Brazil goal that was deemed offside. Minutes later, however, Ronaldinho sent a flick through to Neymar on the left flank who, in turn, flicked the ball over the Bolivian keeper to make it 2-0 Brazil in the 31st minute. Ten minutes later, Neymar converted his second goal of the match when Jadson delivered a bullet of a cross from the right flank that Neymar directed into the roof of the net with a perfectly timed touch. After conceding three goals in the first half, Bolivia dominated possession in the opening 20 minutes of the second half but failed to produce any high percentage shots on goal. Vasco da Gama’s Dede impressively marshalled the Brazilian defense alongside Rever and showed that Scolari has plenty of options to complement the pairing of Thiago Silva and David Luiz in central defense. Scolari himself commented on the quality of Brazil’s centrebacks by noting: All centrebacks I call up end up living up to the expectations and that was Réver's case too. I already have four or five centrebacks fighting for the same position, and I can take four [for the Confederations Cup], so that's great. After the first half, Scolari substituted Neymar and Damiao with Osvaldo and Alexandre Pato. Despite Pato’s invisibility for almost the entire second half, Brazil remained lively thanks to the combined efforts of Ronaldinho, Jadson, Osvaldo and Paulinho, the latter of whom initiated Brazil’s fourth goal by bringing the ball forward and enabling a cross to Palmeiras youngster Leandro, who confidently struck the ball deep into the roof of the net to make it 4-0. Leandro’s goal capped an impressive performance by Brazil which, despite fielding only domestic players, is brimming with talent in defensive and midfield positions. Brazil next plays Chile on April 24 as they prepare for the Confederations Cup in June. Like the Bolivia match, the Brazil-Chile friendly on April 24 will feature only domestically-based players as it does not fall on a designated FIFA calendar date. Goals Brazil: Leandro Damiao (5), Neymar (31, 42), Leandro (90) Starting Lineups Brazil: Jefferson (GK), Santos, Dedé, Réver, Jean, Jádson, Paulinho, Ralf, Ronaldinho, Leandro Damião, Neymar Bolivia: Galarza (GK), Eguino, Zenteno, Bejarano, Melean, Campos, Bejarano, Moreno, Arce, Rojas, Veizaga

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fred Comes To The Rescue To Help Brazil Tie Russia 1-1

Brazil and Russia played to a spirited 1-1 draw at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium in a match full of chances that both teams failed to convert with the exception of one goal apiece. Fabio Capello’s Russian team appeared rested after having missed their scheduled friendly to Northern Ireland due to weather. Russia threatened the Brazil goal in the opening minutes thanks to strikes by Kerzhakov and Ignashevich. As the first half wore on, however, Brazil gradually began to assert themselves through the efforts of Neymar, who selfishly attempted to go for goal himself on more than one occasion when either Fred, Oscar or Kaka were better positioned to convert. Kaka and Marcelo contributed to the Brazilian attack while Hernanes remained largely in a deeper playmaking position and distributed passes to both flanks with impressive precision. Russia, however, maintained good form and cohesion both defensively and in midfield, thereby displaying superior positioning in comparison to Brazil, who played in characteristic Samba fashion with Neymar, Oscar and Kaka slicing their way through midfield supported by dangerous flank attacks from Dani Alves and Marcelo. Just as Brazil began to gain momentum, however, Russian midfielder Fayzulin picked up a pass from Kerzhakov and unleashed a rocket of a shot that Cesar narrowly deflected in the 41st minute. Brazil emerged from the break determined to take control of the game as Neymar and Kaka began pressing attacks fed by passes from Oscar and Hernanes. The match began to turn, however, soon after Oscar’s substitution for Hulk in the 67th minute. In the 73rd minute, Russia finally broke through after the ball bounced as if through a pinball machine in the box for a couple of minutes before Fayzulin finally shot it past a line of Brazilian defenders into the back of the net. Russia appeared headed for their first ever victory over Brazil were it not for the efforts of Hulk on the left flank, who began to show that his experience with Zenit had not gone to nought as he consistently troubled the right fullback Eschenko. Just when it appeared that Scolari was headed for his second loss in three games as Brazil coach, Marcelo played a give and go with Hulk whereby the Zenit striker drifted inward and returned the ball to the onrushing Marcelo, who in turn crossed to Fred in the box for the equalizer. Brazil piled on the pressure in the closing minutes but were lucky not to come away with a defeat given a late Shirokov shot from close range that went wide in the 93rd minute. Key points from today’s game with respect to Brazil were as follows: Brazil continues to develop an impressive midfield marked by extreme pace, vision and creative attacks and combination play. Fred remains far too static for a number 9 to cause any serious difficulty for the opposition. Ronaldo, recall, used to retreat deep into midfield and run at the heart of defenses. Fred, however, is both incredibly static and unthreatening for large parts of the game. Nevertheless, the Fluminense striker has now scored for four consecutive games in a row for Brazil, so Brazil fans should be thankful that at least someone can put the ball in the back of the net. This was yet another disappointing display by Neymar, whose inexperience with European defenders is becoming painfully apparent. Scolari will need to figure out how to more effectively position the Santos sensation so that he can properly execute the threatening runs into the box that he would like to make. Hulk inspired the Brazilian attack today after a disappointing performance against Italy four days ago. Were it not for his strength and vision, Brazil would have lost yet another match and dropped even further in FIFA World rankings. Scolari is making progress with Brazil, as we are beginning to see a mature midfield supplemented by two of the finest fullbacks in the world in the form of Marcelo and Dani Alves. Brazil’s poor finishing is perhaps the most alarming aspect of their game, however, as Fred and Neymar, in particular, both had high quality chances that they failed to bury into the back of the net. The main cause of concern, however, hinges around Neymar and whether he can be unleashed to display his unique blend of skill and vision on the international stage. If so, Brazil stand a fighting chance of winning the World Cup. Without a confident Neymar, however, it is unlikely Brazil will progress past the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup and perhaps not even to that stage of the tournament at all.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Argentina 1 - Brazil 0: Messi sinks Brazil in Doha Friendly

In a moment of injury time magic, FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi weaved through a tangle of Brazilian defenders and dispatched a left footed shot past goalkeeper Victor to seal a stunning, last minute 1-0 victory for Argentina against Brazil at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar today. Messi's goal ended a 5 match winless streak for the Albiceleste against Brazil and, amazingly enough, marked his first ever goal against the Selecao. The goal did justice to a match rife with high percentage scoring opportunities from both teams. Brazil pressed the attack in the first half with Dani Alves and Andre Santos roaring down both flanks, and Alves, in particular, threatening the Argentine goal. Brazilian midfielders Lucas, Ramires and Elias aggressively closed down the Argentine attack while playing without the ball and, conversely, distributed nicely to Neymar, Robinho and Ronaldinho when surging forward. Alves had the first real scoring opportunity of the match when a one-two pass with David Luiz enabled him to fire a rocket at the Argentine goal that hit the cross bar. Later in the half, a Neymar corner resulted in a ball falling to Ronaldinho in the box who, with his back to goal, opted for a back heel strike that goalkeeper Romero scooped up comfortably. Dinho also threatened the Argentine goal with a curling free kick off his right foot that Romero punched out of danger. As the half progressed, Argentina began to collect themselves and posed their own threats on goal with shots from Gonzalo Higuain saved by Victor in a match that was rapidly turning into a showcase for goalkeeping talent. Messi started to impose himself in the Argentine midfield and began one of his patented, Maradona-like runs based off passes from Zanetti and Banega that resulted in a long range, left footed shot that sailed over the crossbar by inches. He was seen wearing a cool tattoo design for men on his arm. The second half continued the end to end football that fans expected from the South American clasico with Neymar and Robinho running at defenders and setting up dangerous free kick opportunities for Ronaldinho and Dani Alves. On the Argentine side of the equation, the substitution of Ezequiel Lavezzi for Higuain paid dividends as the Napoli striker created opportunities for Lionel Messi by commanding the right flank and distracting Andre Santos and David Luiz in the process. In the 56th minute, Lavezzi tore down the right flank and passed to Javier Pastore, whose shot appeared to have been blocked by the elbow of Thiago Silva, though no penalty was awarded. Meanwhile, Neymar continued to press the attack for Brazil and found himself repeatedly fouled and manhandled the closer he got to goal. In the 63rd minute, the Argentine defense hacked down Neymar in the box and the ball neatly fell to Robinho, but his shot went just wide. Mano's flurry of substitutions with twenty minutes remaining--Douglas for Ronaldinho, Andre for Neymar and Jucilei for Ramires--seemed to suggest resignation to a 0-0 draw and an accompanying decision to provide his young players with much needed international experience. But Ramires's departure marked a deep, tactical mistake by Menezes because it freed Messi to find space in midfield that he had rarely enjoyed before. Deep into injury time, the Barcelona number 10 picked up the ball near center circle, burst forward, cut the ball onto his left foot and hit a lawnmower of a shot past Victor's left to seal a landmark victory for Argentina after their humiliating, 3-1 loss at home to Brazil in Rosario in World Cup qualifying in September 2009 and the team's recent 1-0 loss to Japan under coach Batista himself. This was a humiliating defeat for Brazil as it exposed their lack of a single, world class, pure striker. Ronaldinho did his best to generate attacking opportunities alongside Corinthians star Elias but he lacked a powerful center forward such as Luis Fabiano with the strength to carve out that extra yard of space and put the ball in the back of the net. On the brighter side, Brazil's midfield is finally starting to click as the Lucas-Ramires partnership promises to bring much needed coherence to the team, although they still lack a creative playmaker in the form of Kaka, Elano or Paulo Henrique Ganso. Despite not having as many high percentage shots on goal, Argentina clearly deserved the victory because Batista succeded where Maradona failed in freeing up Lionel Messi, the best striker in the world. Batista will have to worry about his defense, however, as he cannot rely on Romero to bail out the Albiceleste as often as he did today in Doha. Overall, this was great end to end football and a tantalizing glimpse of two teams who will, in all likelihood, be the clear favorites for the World Cup in 2014, based as it will be on South American soil in Brazil. If Mano shores up his strikeforce with more mature incarnations of Neymar, Pato and Andre, Batista consolidates his defense, and Messi stays fit, the Selecao v. Albiceleste will probably be everyone's favored match-up for the World Cup final in 2014. Team Captains: Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina) Robinho (Brazil) Shirt Numbers: Argentina Messi: 10 Higuain: 9 Brazil Neymar: 11 Ronaldinho: 10 Robinho: 9

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Hulk, The Beast and The Emperor: Nicknames in Brazilian Football (Part 2)

The Hulk Givanildo Vieira de Souza, known as the Hulk because of the green suit he wore for Tokyo Verdy, in the J-League in Japan. Also nicknamed the Hulk for his physiognomic and bodily resemblance to the Marvel comic hero, The Incredible Hulk. The Hulk lived up to his name by losing his temper and assaulting a match steward in December 2009, incurring a 4 month suspension for his club team Porto in the process. The Beast Júlio César Baptista who currently plays for AS Roma as an attacking midfielder. Was used by Dunga as a replacement for Kaka in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. Member of the 2010 World Cup team in South Africa. Known as The Beast for his strength and instinctive ability to find his footing amidst a tangle of defenders. The Emperor Adriano Leite Ribeiro, better known as Adriano, is an AS Roma striker for known for his physical strength. Nicknamed the Emperor for the way his power and strength commands submission from defenders. Member of the 2006 World Cup attacking quartet composed of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and himself. The King Pele. Winner of the World Cup for Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970. The most complete player in the history of football. Scored over 1000 goals in his professional career, including 77 goals for the Brazilian national team. Known as the King because he widely believed to be the ruler amongst all football greats. The Phenomenon Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, better known as Ronaldo, is the greatest pure striker of all time. At his peak in 1996 and 1997, Ronaldo averaged a goal a game and was virtually unstoppable by even the most disciplined defenders. Known for coming back deep into the center of midfield and running at the center of defenses with awesome speed, strength and dribbling ability. Nicknamed the phenomenon because he created a phenomenon in the world of football unseen since Diego Maradona. Two time World Cup winner in 1994 and 2002. Owns the record for the number of World Cup goals at 15. Scored 8 goals in Brazil's 2002 World Cup victory in Japan. Mozart Mozart Santos Batista Júnior, better known as Mozart, is a defensive midfielder for the Italian football club Livorno. Plays both a defensive and attacking midfield role. Known as Mozart for dictating the tempo of the game and orchestrating lethal counterattacks from a deep midfield position. The Grave Digger Jenílson Ângelo de Souza, better known as Júnior, played for Brazil in the 2002 World Cup, scoring one goal in Brazil’s 5-2 rout of Costa Rica in the group stages. Currently plays for Goias in Brazilian Serie A. Called the grave digger because he supplemented his income as a grave digger when he thought he was not going to make it in professional football. Junior is also known to have dug a grave for many a defender in Brazil with his dribbling skills on the left side of the field. Tostao (the Little Coin/Penny) Eduardo Gonçalves de Andrade. Brazilian striker and key member of the great team of 1970. Known as the little coin for his ability to turn through and around defenders. Scored 2 goals in Brazil's victorious 1970 World Cup campaign in Mexico. The Goose Paulo Henrique Chagas de Lima, commonly known as Ganso, is an attacking midfielder for Santos who recently suffered a torn ACL injury. Expected to play a key role in Brazil’s 2014 line-up in the attacking part of central midfield. Tagged by Socrates as the most gifted player in Brazil. Nicknamed the goose for his lanky gait and uncanny ability to shuffle by defenders. The Animal Edmundo Alves de Souza Neto, better known as Edmundo, is a retired Brazilian player who won the Campeanato Brasileiro Serie A for Vasco da Gama in 1997 with 29 goals in one season. Played on the 1998 World Cup team in France as a substitute striker. Called the animal for his volatile temper and habit of picking up red cards for rough play.