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This blog reflects on soccer qua football all over the world. The blog has a specific investment in attractive, attacking football and, as such, focuses on Brazil, the most emphatic historical exponent of the beautiful game.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Neymar Signs For Barcelona In Move That Bodes Well For Brazilian National Team

Santos striker Neymar has signed a five year agreement with Barcelona, ending years of speculation about his future as a football player in the wake of attempts by Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid to sign the Brazilian sensation.

A statement by Barcelona regarding Neymar's signing read:

The player is known for his exquisite technical skills which makes this free-scoring striker a nightmare for any defence

His style is beautiful to watch and he has received recognition and praise from the legendary Pelé himself, of whom many believe he is the modern successor

FC Barcelona and Santos FC have agreed to terms for Neymar da Silva Junior. The Brazilian forward will don the Blaugrana strip for the next five seasons.

Santos faced pressure to accept offers for Neymar given that his contract expired in July 2014 and consequently, Neymar would have been able to enter into pre-contract agreements with other clubs six months from now. A Santos statement noted that they tried everything possible to retain Neymar, but were unable to compete with this week's offers from Barcelona and Real Madrid:

Every effort was made to keep him in Brazil as long as possible, even offering to renew the current contract, which ends in July 2014. At this time, however, it was not possible to compete with the terms offered from abroad, which affected the decision of the player to review his professional life. Due to the confidentiality agreement, and by mutual agreement, the terms of the transfer will not be disclosed by any of the parties.

Neymar is famous for his flamboyant dribbling abilities and love of taking on defenders using a combination of flicks, step over moves and pace. He is also known for his free kicks, penalties marked by long run ups to the penalty spot and corner kicks delivered with exquisite precision. He has been at Santos for nine years and is largely responsible for the greatest success enjoyed by the club since Pele's era in the 1970s. Neymar led Santos to the 2011 Copa Libertadores trophy, the 2010 Brazil Serie A championship and three consecutive Sao Paulo statement tournaments. Both for Santos and Brazil, Neymar typically plays on the far left and then cuts inside toward goal, but has typically been granted carte blanche authority to roam all over the pitch in a sign of coaching respect that recalls the freedom similarly accorded to Brazil's legend Ronaldo.

Neymar's decision to play in Europe will be enthusiastically applauded by coaches and pundits in Brazil, many of whom feel that the spiky haired Santos 21 year old needs more experience playing against European defenses in order to lead Brazil to victory at the 2014 World Cup. Neymar has scored 138 goals for Santos in 229 matches, and 20 goals in 32 appearances for Brazil. Many critics in Brazil, however, have argued that Neymar has yet up to live up to his potential when playing against European-style defenses marked by an additional player that is ready to mark the striker after he beats the primary defender on the dribble. Neymar will join Barcelona after the Confederations Cup on June 30 and play one final game for Santos against Flamengo, in the season's opener, in order to pay tribute to the club that he helped resurrect and lead over the last five years.

Neymar has been singled out by Brazilian luminaries such as the late Socrates, Pele and others as only truly great player of his generation in Brazil. Given the wealth of experience enabled by playing alongside Lionel Messi and some of the best defenders in the world in European competition, Neymar's move to Barcelona now renders him better positioned to lead Brazil to a record sixth World Cup title on home soil in the summer of 2014. The obvious question, now, however, is where Barcelona will position him alongside Messi up front and how well he will adapt to European football.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Scolari Drops Ronaldinho And Kaka As Youth Triumphs In Brazil's Confederations Cup Squad

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari shockingly dropped both Ronaldinho and Kaka from the Brazil squad for the 2013 Confederations Cup tournament after having teased journalists for weeks by noting that there was room for one or the other of the two aging stars, but not both. Corinthians striker Alexandre Pato and Chelsea midfielder Ramires were also dropped from the squad. Held from June 15 to June 30, the Confederations Cup represents Brazil’s last major tournament before the 2014 World Cup, and as such, Brazil’s form will be meticulously studied in preparation for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

Brazil is initially drawn with Japan, Mexico and Italy in a highly competitive berth with stiff competition likely to be delivered both by Mexico and Italy. The other half of the bracket features Spain, Uruguay, Tahiti and Nigeria. Like the 2014 World Cup, the 2013 Confederations Cup is based in Brazil and thereby gives FIFA an opportunity to assess the match-readiness of Brazil’s stadiums and infrastructure and participating coaches and teams the experience of playing competitive football in Brazil.

A summary of key points from Scolari’s squad selection includes the following:

Inclusions
•The selection of Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Dante and Rever as candidates for two positions in central defense
•The selection of Paulinho, Hernanes and Oscar in midfield
•The standard pairing of Marcelo and Dani Alves on the flanks
•A mouthwatering set of options in attack featuring Neymar, Fred, Hulk, Leandro Damiao and Atletico Mineiro’s playmaker Bernard

Omissions
•The omission of Ronaldinho despite his scintillating form for Atletico Mineiro of late in the Copa Libertadores
•The omission of Kaka despite having combined well with Neymar in select friendlies under Mano Menezes
•The omission of Corinthians striker Alexandre Pato, Chelsea midfielder Ramires and Vasco da Gama centreback Dede

But despite the omissions of Ronaldinho and Kaka, Scolari refused to close the door on veteran stars by noting:
History is not over for the veterans. This list is for the Confederations Cup only. We have a project to watch other players who might add more to our group to the World Cup. After the CC [Confederations Cup], we'll be going to Europe, to places like Russia, Ukraine, England, to watch players from there. We'll see how this one goes and who else can add more to us. To everyone who was left out: play, show us your football, prove you can add to the squad. They could be planting a little seed for the future.
Ronaldinho responded to the omission from the 2013 Confederations Cup squad as follows:
Motivated more than ever. I really wanted to have been summoned, did not happen that way, so it motivates me so I have to play even more to be remembered in the future.
Scolari’s omission of both Ronaldinho and Kaka heightened speculation about his probable selections in midfield and attack. In midfield, fans can expect Oscar and Hernanes but the key question is whether Scolari has the courage to push David Luiz deep into midfield, behind Hernanes, and partner Thiago Silva with Dante in central defense. The other obvious option would be to field Fernando and Paulinho behind Oscar and Hernanes. Scolari’s midfield selection will dictate whether he opts for three attackers in the form of Neymar and Hulk flanking Fred, or simply Neymar and Fred with Hulk and Lucas Moura coming off the bench as substitutes.

Brazil Squad For 2013 Confederations Cup

Goalkeepers: Júlio César (QPR), Diego Cavalieri (Fluminense), Jefferson (Botafogo) Central Defenders: Thiago Silva (PSG), Réver (Atlético-MG), David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich)

Fullbacks: Dani Alves (Barcelona), Jean (Fluminense), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: Fernando (Grêmio), Paulinho (Corinthians), Hernanes (Lazio), Luiz Gustavo (Bayern Munich), Oscar (Chelsea), Lucas Moura (PSG), Jadson (São Paulo), Bernard (Atlético-MG)

Strikers: Fred (Fluminense), Leandro Damião (Internacional), Hulk (Zenit), Neymar (Santos)