Saturday, 30 November 2013

Video: World Cup throws light on shortcomings of club football in Brazil

I appeared on BT Sport this week to talk about the issues affecting Brazilian club football – from poor attendances and violence to rising prices and fixture congestion.

The short segment, which also features the excellent Portuguese journalist Pedro Pinto, can be viewed below.

Friday, 29 November 2013

São Paulo stadium tragedy not just a football problem, but adds to unease in Brazil over World Cup

Tragedy struck on Wednesday at the construction site of the stadium scheduled to host the opening game of World Cup 2014. The Arena de São Paulo was finally nearing completion when the soil beneath South America’s tallest crane gave way, causing a sizeable metallic truss to tumble into the corner of the east stand.

The structural damage was not as serious as it appeared, experts later claimed. But a human cost had been levied: Fábio Luiz Pereira, 42, and Ronaldo Oliveira dos Santos, 44, were confirmed dead at the scene.

The incident adds to a growing sense of unease ahead of next summer’s tournament. While this football-obsessed country will embrace on-field events wholeheartedly come June, many Brazilians fear the real opportunity of the World Cup has already been squandered. Read the rest of this article over at Yahoo! Eurosport.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Liverpool target Éverton Ribeiro has the skill and guile to become a star

The standout player for new Brazilian champions Cruzeiro, zippy attacking midfielder Éverton Ribeiro is beginning to attract covetous glances from a number of European clubs. Liverpool have been linked with a January move, while the player himself has declared his admiration for Manchester United.

I've written a scouting report on Éverton for The Mirror, detailing his strengths and weaknesses. Click here to read it.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Five players who have caught the eye in the 2013 Campeonato Brasileiro

After just six months of fraught Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday action, the 2013 Campeonato Brasileiro is nearly over. Cruzeiro have already wrapped up the title, but their players are not the only ones deserving of credit this term.

In my latest Yahoo! Eurosport column, I pick out five players who have caught the eye during the season. They include a fleet-footed dribbler, a heavyweight striker and a midfielder who will be very familiar with most football fans. Click here to have a read.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

A bad case of the Flu: Deposed champions Fluminense fighting for their lives

A year ago last week, Fluminense beat Palmeiras to lift their fourth Brazilian title. If the occasion felt a little flat, it was only because the success had long had an air of inevitability about it: spurred on by the relentless goalscoring of Fred and guided by Abel Braga’s steady hand, the Tricolor simply ground down their closest rivals, Atlético Mineiro and Grêmio.

“They're a good team, an organised team,” said former Brazil striker Tostão, now a respected newspaper columnist, at the time. “Flu know how to win. They don't lose focus and they don't try to be better than they are.”

But things have gone pear-shaped this year. As the end of the season approaches Fluminense sit just one point above the relegation zone, a winless October having plunged them from midtable mediocrity into a frantic battle for survival. They have three games to avoid becoming the first club to be demoted a year after winning Série A.

Read the rest of my latest Yahoo! Eurosport column here.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Fantastic Mr Fox: Party starts early as peerless Cruzeiro cruise to Brazilian title

It was just another win, but somehow also not. They celebrated as if they had won the title, jumping, singing, high-fiving. Crowding round the mildly sinister (it’s the blue moustache) cartoon fox for photos. Tipping buckets of iced water over one another.

The crowd, too, went ice-cream-in-winter crazy. It would be their last glimpse of their champions in their natural habitat until the new year. The party, it seemed safe to assume, would last well into the night.

Let when a trophy was lifted, it was only the home-made-souvenir type. For fate had conspired against them, if only gently. Read the rest of this article on Cruzeiro's slightly premature but entirely deserved title celebrations here.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Making sense of the senseless: On the bizarre new-look Campeonato Paulista

A month ago I wrote about Common Sense FC, the informal players’ union set up to agitate for change to the Brazilian football calendar. The movement has gained even more traction in the weeks since, with membership swelling and the head honchos of the game – never ones to neglect the chance to hitch their horses to a popular cause – voicing support.

So far, so positive. But just when lucidity and reason appeared to be storming the gates of the madhouse, someone had to go and do something stupid.

The guilty party on this occasion was the head of the São Paulo state football association (FPF), Marco Polo Del Nero – a man whose appetite for discovery is rather more modest than that of his more famous Venetian namesake, fixated, as it is, only upon the limits of his own idiocy.

Read my latest Yahoo! Eurosport article, on the new São Paulo state championship format, here.