Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Pace, pressing and pig emojis: Palmeiras setting the pace in Série A thanks to Cuca's modern methods

It was the morning after World Emoji Day, so the headline was rather more oblique than usual.

Beneath a photo of a jubilant Erik, sports daily Lance! had printed a number of symbols that told the story of Sunday's Internacional vs Palmeiras match. Some – a Brazilian flag, a thumbs-up, a smiley face – did not require Columbo-level acts of decryption: even those not versed in the local football scene would have been able to work out that the away side had picked up a useful victory.


It was the remaining pictures that really spelt out the significance of the result, however. There was the number 32, representing Palmeiras' points tally after 15 games of the Brasileirão season. That is three more than anyone else in the division; they have now been at the summit at the end of the last seven rounds. Early days these may be, but the trophy emoji could be getting a few more outings in these circles over the next few months.

Then there was the number 19 with a cross through it, which – investigative journalism alert – isn't actually an existing emoji. But we should probably allow some artistic licence here to mark the end of one of Brazilian football's most dogged hoodoos: this was the first time the São Paulo giants had beaten Inter at the Beira-Rio since 1997. No wonder the little pig emoji (an allusion to a once-pejorative nickname that Palmeiras fans have made their own) looked especially pleased with itself.

The rest of this article, about Palmeiras and their excellent campaign so far, is on the WhoScored blog. Have a read here.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Colin Kazim-Richards in Brazil: The Coca-Cola Kid starts latest leg of world tour with a bang at Coritiba

63 minutes on the clock. The scoreline locked at 0-0. Fans getting anxious. Then, a cheer. Movement on the bench. The fourth official's board comes out.

This is Coritiba vs Atletico Paranaense in Brazil. The Couto Pereira stadium is... well, it's not actually full, but you wouldn't know it from the noise. Giant flags swing back and forth in the stands, the home supporters urging their side on.


They need a goal. The season is only 11 games old, but Coritiba are in the relegation zone. On strides the substitute, the hero-in-waiting. 17 minutes later, the moment arrives. A corner comes in from the left and gets flicked on. He cannot miss and he doesn't.

He wheels away to celebrate with his team-mates before kissing the lens of a television camera. They love doing that in Brazil. They also love a number ten and that's the shirt he's wearing.

But this is no home-town favourite and no rising star. He's a new signing. He's not even Brazilian.
The man who has just settled one of the most heated rivalries in South America is Colin Kazim-Richards.

Read more on the MirrorFootball website.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Sonic youth: Five breakthrough Série A stars who could be playing their way into Brazil contention

After Brazil's embarrassing early Copa América elimination and the subsequent sacking of Dunga, there have been calls for a new approach and fresh blood in the Seleção set-up. Tite has taken the reins after an impressive spell with Corinthians and will be charged with dragging Brazil into the modern era after the drudgery of the last decade.


The task starts at the Rio Olympics, where Brazil will be able to test some of the players who, it is hoped, will form the spine of future sides. The likes of Gabriel Barbosa, Walace and Rodrigo Caio were drafted into the squad for the Copa and should play a major role in the campaign, but Tite will be well aware that there is a whole crop of youngsters doing the business in Série A this season.

For WhoScored, I pick out five who have impressed so far this term.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Unwanted, unloved, underwhelming: Brazil sack Dunga for a second time after latest embarrassment

Say what you will about Dunga; he was no quitter.

Even on Wednesday evening, 48 hours after Brazil's latest embarrassment at a major tournament and as speculation about his future swirled, there was a bullish – some would say foolhardy – conviction emanating from his camp.


Gilmar Rinaldi, Dunga's affable right-hand man, insisted that Dunga would be around to guide the Seleção at the Rio Olympics, the second major appointment in what is now already looking like a nightmare summer for this great football nation. He spoke of their plans and insisted they were "on the right path".

It was a masterpiece of delusion and it was hard not to believe that somewhere, holed up in a bunker surrounded by all his advisors and allies, Dunga really did believe that he would be able to turn things around. Now, though, the curtain has closed on his second reign in charge.

Read my Dunga post mortem on the ESPN FC blog.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Philippe Coutinho finds his stride to give Brazil reason for optimism at the Copa América

Two summers ago, while Brazil were busy stinking out their own World Cup, Philippe Coutinho was at home, watching the action on television. Despite a series of eye-catching displays for Liverpool in the 18 months prior, there had been no place for him in Luiz Felipe Scolari's workaday squad. Nor, in truth, had there been any great deal of clamour for his inclusion, an excitable Merseyside lobby notwithstanding.


You would have forgiven him for feeling a little raw about it: a player of such obvious natural talent sat on his sofa while Paulinho, Bernard and Jo were on duty for Brazil. Age was on his side, but still, it must have hurt.

Now, though, the 23-year-old has his chance. After an injury to Douglas Costa, Coutinho has been drafted into the starting XI for the Copa America Centenario and seems intent on grasping his opportunity.

Read the rest of my latest for ESPN FC here.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Copa America preview: 5 questions Brazil need to answer as a summer of reckoning begins

Brazil face a summer of reckoning.

Just a year on from their mediocre showing at the 2015 Copa América in Chile, the Seleção will attempt to redeem themselves at the special centenary edition of the competition. It's an opportunity to restore some much-needed belief at a major tournament after recent disappointments and to build momentum ahead of crucial World Cup qualifiers in September.


Yet circumstances have contrived to complicate things. The Copa is competing for attention with the Olympic football tournament, which kicks off in August, and injuries and other personnel issues are threatening to derail Dunga's plans ahead of his side's opener against Ecuador on June 4.

For ESPN FC, I have picked out five questions that need answering as Brazil head into the gauntlet.

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.