Saturday, 14 July 2018

World Cup 2018 post-mortem: Five key questions for Brazil after their quarter-final exit in Russia

The dust has settled on Brazil's World Cup exit, and there has been pleasingly little blood-letting in the days since.

Tite looks set to remain in charge until 2022 – an eminently sensible decision given the team's progress over the last couple of years – and while Neymar and Fernandinho have come in for criticism, the recriminations have been fairly tame.

Not that there are not questions that still need answering. Did Tite's stubbornness cost the Seleção against Belgium? Was the midfield up to scratch? And, looking ahead, which players can come in to refresh the side before Qatar?

I offer some answers to those queries in my latest for Unibet.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Fred the Red: Meet the 'diamond of a kid' whose dynamism can renew Manchester United's midfield

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Four more years: Why Brazil are right to break with tradition and stick with Tite despite World Cup exit

Because Brazil has won the World Cup five times, every defeat is a disaster and every elimination begets an inquest. Usually, the manager is sacrificed to sate the bloodlust, an old face appointed to get critics onside, and the cycle begins again. This is the curse of short-term thinking.

“Our error,” wrote O Globo‘s Carlos Eduardo Mansur last week, “is to always be starting again.”

Or at least that is what usually happens. But in a development every bit as surprising as it is encouraging, the CBF has opted for a different approach this year. Tite, whose charges fell at the quarterfinal stage in Russia, has been offered a new contract that would take him to the next World Cup.

Read this piece on The Athletic website here. And remember, you can get 40% off a subscription until the end of the World Cup.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Roberto Carlos: Neymar is not a diver and deserves respect, not criticism

"Much of the attention after Brazil's World Cup elimination will be on Neymar – whether he was fit, whether he was below his best, whether he is a diver.

"That kind of scrutiny is natural when you are Brazil’s best player. But I think some of the criticism of him this summer has been completely unfair.

"The people who slam ­Neymar would love to be in his place. There’s a lot of ­jealousy in football, which makes people exaggerate and say things they shouldn’t."

That's the latest Roberto Carlos column, which you can read on the Mirror website.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

'Another disappointment' – how Brazil's press reacted to the Seleção's World Cup quarter-final defeat to Belgium

"After the victory over Mexico, the cheerleading crowd was euphoric," wrote former Seleção forward Tostão.

"The arrogance had returned: Brazil was the country of football again, all the best players were ours and Tite was the best coach in the world. What we got was another disappointment."

Elsewhere in the Brazilian press this morning, there was opprobrium for Fernandinho after a "disastrous" performance, but also plenty of level-headedness and even the odd note of optimism.

Read my paper review over at The Independent.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Brazil vs Belgium head-to-head: Neymar can inspire Seleção against vulnerable Red Devils

They have yet to put in a real five-star attacking performance, but had you offered Brazil safe passage to the latter stages of the World Cup with a series of 2-0 wins, they would definitely have taken it before the tournament.

It has been a businesslike start for the Seleção, but they are steadily improving – and it helps that the travails of so many other big names have cast their campaign in such generous light.

This, to be sure, is their biggest test to date. Brazilian minds doubtless will go back to 2002, when Belgium gave Luiz Felipe Scolari's their most difficult game en route to the title, and while victory would set up an even tougher game on this occasion (France or Uruguay await), beating the Red Devils would again do wonders for confidence and momentum.

I contributed to Unibet's head-to-head preview of this game. Read it here.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Magic moments: Brazil still looking for rhythm but ruthless in Neymar-inspired victory over Mexico

Unspectacular but solid: if World Cups are won as much in the dog work as the artistic flourishes, this Brazil side are going to take some stopping this summer.

Again, the Seleção took some time to get going. Again, it was a businesslike performance rather than a theatre piece. And again, for the third game in a row, they had the nous to roll with the punches and get over the line. Watch out, world; that famous winning engine is starting to rumble.

It helps, of course, when your side is studded with solid-gold attacking talent, and while questions remain over Brazil's ability to sustain their threat over 90 minutes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. This may currently be a team that comes to life only in moments, but what moments they are.

Read the rest of this reaction piece on the Unibet blog.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Roberto Carlos: I didn't celebrate Germany's failure, but Brazil are stronger World Cup favourites every day

"I know a lot of Brazilians celebrated Germany's elimination, but not me. When one of the great teams is going through a tough moment, I don’t like to punch them when they’re down.

"It happened to Germany this year, but it could be us next time. And we’ve already gone through some difficult times of our own, like the final defeat in 1998 and the 7-1 in 2014.

"Things are looking rosy for Brazil now, though. The performance was good against Costa Rica, even though it took a while to score the goals, and we were even better against Serbia. With every day that passes, we're stronger favourites to win the World Cup."

That's the latest Roberto Carlos column in the Sunday Mirror. Read it online here.