Friday, 13 May 2016

2016 Brasileirão preview

Is it really that time again?

It seems like only yesterday that we were ushering the 2015 Brasileirão into the sweet hereafter, yet here we are, plunging headlong towards the watering hole once more.

The 2016 version gets underway this weekend, promising the usual blend of thrills, spills and financial ills. Sure, there are two major international tournaments and the Europan transfer window right in the middle of the season, but we can work around that, right? Right?!

I've previewed the Série A season for WhoScored, roughly separating the likely title contenders, midtable cloggers and relegation scrappers. Remember, you can my read match previews and features on the WhoScored site throughout the campaign.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Dilma and futebol: How Rousseff's impeachment could have consequences for the club game in Brazil

If you've had even half an eye on the political situation in Brazil over the last few months, you'll know that things are messy in the extreme. From a rumbling corruption scandal to members of the country's powerful elite calling for a return to military rule (no, really), barely an hour seems to go by without some reason to sink one's head into one's hands.

When the fog of war clears, history suggests that the fall gal will be Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's first female president, whose approval ratings have tumbled steadily since she was re-elected. Impeachment (at the time of writing at least... the situation seems to change every few minutes) is imminent and the chances of her surviving in the hot seat look ever slimmer.

In the latest issue of When Saturday Comes magazine, I take a look at Dilma's efforts to modernise club football in Brazil. I argue that she has taken reform far more seriously than her predecessors and that the game stands to lose an important ally in the fight for transparency.

Order a copy or get a digital version here.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The great migration: Why Brazilian clubs are losing their best players to China

Football fans in Brazil are used to seeing top players leave the domestic league but at the start of 2016, there's a growing trend to worry about. The country's best players are being snapped up with ever-increasing regularity – and no longer just by the grand old clubs of Europe, but by the rising powerhouses of Asia. For supporters, it is concerning.

Since the end of Brazil's national championship in December, a clutch of the 2015 season's standout performers have joined the exodus to China, with champions Corinthians hit hardest.

Read more about Brazilian football's great migration over at ESPN FC.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Lucas Lima, Malcom and more: 5 young Brazilians who could soon be in the transfer spotlight

With the European transfer window open, many of the world's top sides are looking to strengthen their squads.

This, of course, means there will be plenty of interest in the best Brazil has to offer: from established stars who could be tempted into one last adventure to up-and-coming players.

I have picked out five potential transfer targets from the Brasileirão, from Santos playmaker Lucas Lima to flying forward Malcom of Corinthians.

Have a read on the Mirror website.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Meet Wendell Lira, Brazil's surprise winner of the Puskas Award for best goal of 2015

You know you've made it when Pelé knows your name.

"I was delighted that Wendell Lira won the Puskas Award for goal of the year," said the Brazil icon after Monday night's Ballon d'Or ceremony.

He was not alone: in seeing off competition from some of football's biggest stars – Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Carli Lloyd – the Vila Nova forward struck a blow for the underdog, capturing hearts and minds around the globe.

Indeed, only Wendell stood between Messi and a clean sweep of awards on the night, succeeding where Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, failed. Not bad for a guy who, until a couple of years ago, worked part-time in his mum's cafe to help pay the bills.

To call Wendell an undiscovered star would be to overplay his standing somewhat. In his homeland, as in Europe, few had heard of him at all before his nomination for the award. Fame has arrived swiftly and unexpectedly, like overnight snow.

Read my full profile of Wendell on the Mirror website.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Brasileirão 2015 end-of-season awards

For British football fans, Christmas is a time for joyously abandoning oneself to the vagaries of the fixture list. For our more cultured continental cohorts, it’s time for forty winks, a holiday and – heaven forbid – spending time with one’s family. Such are the rhythms of football life in Europe.

In Brazil, of course, the festive period brings the most miniscule of breaks before preparations for the next year begin in earnest. At least 2016 offers some hope in that respect: the nascent Copa Rio-Sul-Minas may well prove an important step in the overdue realignment of the Brazilian calendar.

Christmas is also time for reflection on the campaign that has just finished. History will show that 2015 was far from a vintage year in the Brasileirão: the overall level felt underwhelming at the best of times, many of the putative big hitters lurched through the season as if working off a few too many Friday-night caipirinhas, and any hopes of a real title battle were quashed months ahead of time.

Still, it falls to your so-called expert to dish out some praise. So stiffen your upper lip and join me on the podium for the WhoScored end-of-year awards, which you can read here.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The joy of six: Dominant Corinthians enjoy their victory lap after sealing sixth Brazilian title

As victory laps go, this will take some beating.

A derby match against your most bitter, most ideological rivals. Two goals in the space of three first-half minutes, then another before the interval. A laughable, playground-kick-about fourth that left opposition defenders slumped inside their own penalty area, dreaming of the bus ride home. An own goal forced, a penalty converted – and then one saved from the other lot. And all that with a reserve team.

This was not a normal game and this no normal Corinthians side, as their fans well know. 45,000 of them crowded into the Itaquerão for the game against hated neighbours São Paulo, but even the most optimistic cannot have expected the massacre that awaited.

It was an afternoon that had begun with chants of "É campeão!" and ended in tears - of emotion, but also of laughter at the sheer state of the São Paulo side tasked with ruining the party. The Timão had sewn their sixth national title up three nights earlier with a shrug of a draw away to Vasco, but that had been a non-event. This was a celebration.

Read my article on the new Brazilian champions on the WhoScored site.