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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.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fred Claims Full Fitness After Months Long Thigh Injury Saga

According to Sambafoot, Fluminense striker Fred has assured Brazil fans that he is fully fit and aspires to score goals soon to clinch his place in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s squad for the 2014 World Cup. The news of Fred’s fitness comes as an unexpected twist in a months-long injury saga that had many Brazil fans doubting whether he would be fit for the World Cup at all. The prospect of Fred’s impending return to the Selecao for the March 5 friendly against South Africa comes in the wake of intensified debate about the quality of Brazil’s strikeforce with World Cup winners Rivelino (1970) and Edmilson (2002) amongst the chorus of commentators that have delivered scathing critiques about the quality of Brazil’s attack. Rivelino, for example, criticized the selection of Hulk by claiming that his inclusion in the squad was intended primarily to distract defenders and thereby create more space for midfielders such as Oscar and Paulinho to come forward. Rivelino was also quick to note the quality of Brazil’s defense as well as the corresponding mediocrity of its attack, with the exception of Neymar. Assuming Fred is fit and selected for the 2014 World Cup as planned, he will bear the weight of the number 9 jersey, which—during Scolari’s previous tenure as coach of the Brazil squad—was worn by none other than Brazil’s Ronaldo in a tournament in which he scored 8 goals, including 2 in the final against Germany in 2002.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Neymar Scores Screamer Against Rayo Vallecano

In the February 15 La Liga match between Barcelona and Rayo Vallecano, Neymar picked up the ball near centre circle, fought off one challenge, sprinted toward the box and dispatched this screamer of a shot into the top left corner of the net. This was Neymar’s first match back from injury and he was quick to show the footballing world that he will be a force to be reckoned with at the 2014 World Cup. This was Neymar’s 12th goal of the season and his 7th league goal for Barcelona. The goal capped a 6-0 demolition of Rayo Vallencano by Barcelona.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Scolari Closes In On 2014 World Cup Roster With Europe-based Player Selections For South Africa Friendly

Today, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari announced the selection of 16, Europe-based players for Brazil's friendly against South Africa on March 5. The squad selection featured few surprises and suggests that Scolari and technical director Carlos Alberto Parreira are closing in on their final roster for World Cup 2014. Robinho and Kaka, for example, were omitted from the squad in the clearest indication to date that neither AC Milan player will feature in World Cup 2014. Bayern Munich right back Rafinha represented the most surprising inclusion in the squad for the South Africa friendly. Meanwhile, Manchester City’s Fernandinho was also included after several stellar performances at the club level led to rumors of his impending recall.

Highlights of the squad selection are as follows:

•Selection of the defensive triumvirate of David Luiz, Thiago Silva and Dante for the two slots in Brazil's central defensive midfield
•Continuation of the defensive midfield partnership of Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho, although we should expect to see Fernandinho at some point in the friendly against South Africa
•Oscar or Ramires will earn the playmaker role behind the attacking triumvirate of Neymar, Willian and Hulk
•Bernard and Ramires may play wide roles to substitute for Neymar and Hulk, depending on fitness and form
•Julio Cesar retains his spot in the squad despite performing in scarcely a handful of games at QPR

Notable exclusions include Lucas Leiva due to injury, and Hernanes. Scolari spoke of the decision to include Fernandinho and Rafinha as follows:
Fernandinho's been playing really well for Manchester [City], he's been attracting attention ... so here's his opportunity…Rafinha's also been playing really well for Bayern. He's had experience of playing for the national team at other levels.
In addition to the players announced today, Scolari plans to pick three or four Brazil-based players in late February or early March because many have yet to achieve full fitness given the late start specific to the Brazilian domestic football calendar. Possible domestic players that may be up for selection include Dede, Leandro Damiao, Paulo Henrique Ganso and goalkeeper Jefferson. Meanwhile, the drama about Fluminense striker Fred continues as he struggles to recover from a lingering thigh injury in time for the World Cup.

Provisional Squad For March 5, Brazi v. South Africa friendly in Soccer City, Johannesburg

Goalkeeper: Julio Cesar (QPR)

Defenders: David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Rafinha (Bayer Munich), Marcelo (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Paulinho (Tottenham), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Ramires (Chelsea), Oscar (Chelsea)

Strikers: Neymar (Barcelona), Willian (Chelsea), Hulk (Zenit), Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk)