Why Brazil’s over-reliance on one player, Neymar, almost cost them

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Brazil beat Chile on penalty kicks in their last 16 clash on Saturday, as the star-studded hosts came incredibly close to being knocked out.

The host nation scrapped through to the quarterfinals but one question is reverberating in my head: where were the other star attackers to help Neymar?

[ RELATED: Brazil make quarters, beat Chile on PKs ]

Brazil’s over-resilience on the 22-year-old Barcelona forward shone through massively against Chile, as their lack of other high-caliber attacking options was clear for all to see. The youngster can’t do it all on his own.

Neymar scored four goals in the group stages and demolished the likes of Cameroon and Croatia. However, Chile locked him down and targeted the speedy winger on Saturday and Brazil’s other forwards failed to step up. Neymar aside, Brazil were sluggish in attack, failed to be dynamic and put Chile on the back foot. If Mauricio Pinilla’s shot wouldn’t have cannoned off the crossbar in the final stages, Brazil would’ve been eliminated. After a less than impressive display, the Selecao got out of jail and they know it.

Looking back at past Brazilian teams, their plethora of top-class attackers often put the fear of God into opposition teams even before kick off. At the 2002 World Cup Brazil had the likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Kaka in attack and they have always seemed to rely on their wondrous attackers to dazzle opposition defenses. However this Brazilian team has no supporting act for Neymar when an opposition defense, like Chile, worked so hard to shut him down. Every time Neymar was on the ball he had two Chile players hot on his heels. He ran clear of his markers on a  handful of occasions and his pace and poise ignited the home crowd, but after one hefty challenge too many he looked to be carrying an injury and is a doubt for the quarterfinal vs. Colombia.

When you look around this current Brazilian side, Neymar is up there as a world class attacker on his own. Fred, Jo, Hulk, Oscar, Willian and others have all failed to step up to the plate so far. Although that aforementioned quintet all have considerable talent, they couldn’t unlock Chile’s defense and only have two goals between them through four games. Hulk had a good go at doing so, as he had one goal chalked off for a handball and tried hard all afternoon, but it just wasn’t happening for the bullish striker.

Going forward, Fred should not start in the last eight encounter and perhaps another midfielder such as Willian should come in to try and bolster their creativity. Bringing on Jo to replace Fred vs. Chile really didn’t make much difference as Luiz Felipe Scolari is running out of options up top.

If Brazil are going to go far in this World Cup, as over 200 million citizens hope so, they cannot solely rely on Neymar.

They got lucky with their penalty kick win over Chile, sooner rather later their luck will run out and that is when a hero is needed.

Neymar can’t do it all on his own.

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

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Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.