2014 World Cup team preview: Brazil

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Getting to know… Brazil: The Selecao are the most successful nation in the history of the World Cup and have won five titles, more than any other country. With that success comes great expectation and Brazil haven’t won a title since 2002. Hosting the tournament in their soccer mad nation will create an incredible buzz and the players most channel the huge level of support positively. Samba, soccer and sunshine. This World Cup has the potential to be the best tournament in history and Brazil expects their team to win it al.

Record in qualifying: Qualified automatically as hosts.

What group are they in? Brazil are in Group A along with Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon in quite a favorable group for the hosts. If they don’t finish top of the group then serious questions will be asked. If they do make it out of the group they will likely face Spain or the Netherlands in the round of 16. That won’t be easy, even with home advantage.

Game schedule: Group A

12 June, 16:00, Sao Paulo – Brazil vs. Croatia
17 June, 15:00, Fortaleza – Brazil vs. Mexico
23 June, 16:00, Brasilia – Brazil vs. Cameroon

Star player: Neymar

Barcelona’s forward took the Confederations Cup by storm last summer and will be the leading light for Brazil. His incredible wing play bamboozle opposition defenders and his slight frame makes it seem as though the former Santos star glides across the surface. He has had an injury-hit first season at the Nou Camp which has been riddled with accusations of wrong doing surrounding his transfer to Spain. That said, he always seems to turn it on for Selecao after scoring 30 goals in 47 games for his country. Just 22, this guy could be the face of the entire tournament, let alone the Brazilian national team.

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Can Scolari lead the Brazilian national team to glory on home soil?

Manager: Luis Felipe Scolari

Scolari is in his second stint as boss of the Brazilian national team, uring his last spell in charge he led Brazil to win the ’02 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. Stints at the Portuguese national manager and in charge of Chelsea didn’t go quite as he would’ve liked and it seems as though he’s at home as the manager of Brazil. Scolari is a leader, a hero and a legend in Brazil. The players respect ‘Big Phil’ and you get the sense that the national team is one big happy family right now. If things go pear shaped early on, expect that to change drastically. An advocate of attacking soccer, Scolari’s side gave a glimpse of what we can expect by winning the Confederations Cup at a canter last summer.

Secret weapon: The fans

Okay, not so much of a secret… but Brazil will have an incredible advantage over their opponents due to the magnificent support they will have. ‘The 12th man’ will play a huge role if Scolari’s side are to succeed in winning a sixth World Cup and adding another star above the crest on their jerseys.

Prediction: Brazil will make a deep run in this World Cup. Many have them winning it and it’s hard to argue with that assessment. After the group stage their toughest test could come in the last 16 when they may face Holland or Spain. If they make it through that, the confidence of Scolari’s young team which includes Neymar, Oscar and Willian will soar.

Independiente and Flamengo meet for South American trophy

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

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The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund wins in Stoger’s managerial debut

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For the first time since late September, Borussia Dortmund has won a league match, while Leipzig’s slip up opens the door for Bayern Munich to extend its lead in Germany’s top flight.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, level on points with Man United ]

Here’s a brief look at all of Tuesday’s Bundesliga action.

Mainz 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

10 points separates Dortmund from league leaders Bayern Munich, who also have a match in hand, but for the moment, the bleeding his stopped. BVB picked up a crucial win on Tuesday to end its domestic woes upon manager Peter Stoger’s debut. The side’s drought stretched over an eight-match winless period. Second-half goals from Sokratis and Shinji Kagawa moved Dortmund into the top four, while Mainz remains 15th in the league table.

 

Wolfsburg 1-1 Red Bull Leipzig

Meanwhile, RB Leipzig’s form continues to slide downward after the second-place side dropped points in its fourth straight match across all competitions. The road side’s fortunes were dampened early on when Paul Verhaegh converted from the penalty spot, however, Marcel Halstenberg did manage to pull a goal back for Leipzig in the 52nd minute. Leipzig’s misfortunes carried on in stoppage time though when Dayot Upamecano was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the day.


The rest of Tuesday’s scores

Hamburg 1-2 Frankfurt
Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

Inter beats 3rd-division Pordenone 5-4 on penalties in Cup

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan scraped into the Italian Cup quarterfinals after the Serie A leader was taken to penalties by third-division Pordenone on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, moves level on points with Man United ]

Pordenone goalkeeper Simone Perilli pulled off several saves in regulation time to keep the game scoreless, and he almost proved to be the hero during the shootout, stopping two penalties.

But Inter prevailed 5-4, with Yuto Nagatomo tucking away the final spot kick.

Both sides hit the woodwork during the 120 minutes.

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti rang the changes, and only Milan Skriniar and Matias Vecino remained in the starting 11 from Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Juventus.

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However, he was forced by desperation to bring on Marcelo Brozovic at halftime as well as star forwards Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.

Report: Cosmos coach Savarese to be named new Timbers manager

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In a time where NASL’s status moving forward is hanging in the balance, one of the league’s top managers is set to make the jump to Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: LA FC close to acquiring Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan ]

According to ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, New York Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese is set to be named the next Portland Timbers manager.

Savarese will take over for the recently departed Caleb Porter, who stepped down from his head coaching role with the Timbers in November.

The former professional player spent five seasons in MLS during his career, including stints with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the Red Bulls), as well as the New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes.

The 46-year-old has managed the Cosmos from 2013 to present, and guided the NASL side to three Soccer Bowl titles in that span.