Brazilian legend Romario questions 2014 World Cup

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As the protests continue across Brazil, one of the countries greatest ever players has spoken of his disdain towards Fifa and the tournament being held in his homeland.

Romario, who is now a congressman for the Brazilian Socialist party (PSB), is on the warpath after World Cup plans have altered drastically since Brazil was awarded the tournament.

In a wonderfully crafted piece published in the Guardian, the former superstar striker has admitted that he initially backed the World Cup bid for Brazil 2014 but now believes the only people to benefit from the showpiece event will be Fifa. He claims soccer’s world governing body is set to make a $4 billion profit, tax-free.

With uproar across Brazil, Romario has sided with the protestors on the street as he calls for the country’s finances to be used elsewhere as the crippling costs of hosting the event has left parts of Brazil’s economy in tatters. The protestors aren’t necessarily against the World Cup, they just see it as yet another distraction standing in the way of Brazil becoming a better nation.

The politicians have neglected many important areas and Romario believes the country must come first instead of hosting the World Cup.

Despite an announcement yesterday that over $23 billion would be spent on public transport, the conditions in hospitals and schools are “deplorable” according to Romario. And he believes no legacy will be left behind after the World Cup is over and because of that, Brazil 2014 will be a failure.

President Dilma Rousseff repeats what former president Lula said, reassuring us that we’ll “host the best World Cup of all time”. I don’t agree, because we have failed on what matters most: a legacy to make us proud. Only Fifa is profiting, and this is one more good reason to go to the streets and protest. I never thought the World Cup would solve all of our problems, but now my fear is that this mega event will only deepen the problems we already have.

For a player that seemed hot-headed and egocentric on the pitch, damn, he talks a good deal of sense off it. Romario is in a unique situation. He was one of the men who made Brazil famous all over the world for their soccer exploits. Yet the former Barcelona star is now rallying against having the World Cup in his country, as he can see up close the harm it is causing to his proud nation.

I don’t know about you, but after this strong statement from one of Brazil’s greatest ever players, on every newscast televising the protests I’ll be looking out for a diminutive figure called Romario leading the people on their charge.

Preach it.

Pep sticking with Bravo for final: “Locker room more important”

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Petr Cech and Ederson will watch from the bench as their clubs start the League Cup Final on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola announced that Manchester City will turn to Claudio Bravo between the sticks against Arsenal, which has already appointed David Ospina as its backstop for the final.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

And if you think Pep, having seen his side lose to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup, should go back to Ederson for the final, he gets it.

“You can have an opinion, I am the manager. We are here for Claudio. He saved two lots of penalties. He deserves to play in the final. The locker room is more important than the final.”

The points aren’t completely independent, of course, but at this point the final is pretty darn important as Man City could see its trophy potential drop from 4-2 in little more than a week’s time.

Bravo has played just 45 minutes in the Premier League, against Liverpool in relief of Ederson, but has been the man for each of eight League and FA Cup matches.

City has just one clean sheet in that group, but won the seven matches apart from the 1-0 Wigan defeat. Two of those, against Wolves and Leicester, came in penalty kicks.

Arsenal gets AC Milan in Europa League Round of 16

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Arsenal’s path to the UEFA Champions League just got a whole lot tougher.

[ MORE: Arsenal loses 2nd leg, advances ]

Already eight points back of the Premier League’s Top Four, the Gunners have drawn Gennaro Gattuso’s AC Milan in the UEFA Europa League’s Round of 16.

The first leg is March 8 at the San Siro before moving to the Emirates a week later.

Milan is currently 7th in Serie A despite its big-spending summer, and faces a similar problem to the Gunners; Gattuso’s men need to make up eight points on Lazio and seven on fifth-place Inter Milan.

Elsewhere, Moscovian sides CSKA and Lokomotiv got no favors with trips to Lyon and Atletico Madrid, respectively.

Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund will be pleased to see Red Bull Salzburg, while the latter’s sister club, RB Leipzig, was held apart from it by a draw with Zenit Saint-Petersbug.

Here’s the draw in full.

UEFA Europa League Round of 16
Lazio vs. Dynamo Kiev
RB Leipzig vs. Zenit St Petersburg
Atletico Madrid vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
CSKA Moscow vs. Lyon
Marseille vs. Athletic Bilbao
Sporting Lisbon vs. Viktoria Plzen
Borussia Dortmund vs. Red Bull Salzburg
AC Milan vs. Arsenal

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.