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.

Off to slow start, Morris, Seattle know “things can change quickly”

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Both Jordan Morris and the Seattle Sounders are off to a rough start in defense of their MLS Cup title last Fall, and the USMNT’s star striker admits to recalling last season’s wild turnaround as an inspiration.

“After the game last week we mentioned that we have a lot of the nucleus from last year and we all know that things can change quickly,” Morris said to ProSoccerTalk this week.

Seattle won just seven games before Matchday 22 last season, rebounding with a burst after coach Sigi Schmid was replaced by assistant Brian Schmetzer. The Sounders went 8-2-2 down the stretch en route to an MLS Cup win over Toronto FC.

While he hasn’t scored in five matches and only has two markers in 12 games, he feels success is coming for the 3W-5L-4T Sounders. Morris said the club knows the results aren’t there, but also that they are producing chances.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

“It’s been okay,” Morris said. “Definitely not the start I would’ve wanted. It’s not an excuse but we’ve hit a lot of posts and had other near misses.”

Seattle has a huge opportunity to flip the script on its season when Cascadia Cup rivals Portland visit on Saturday. The free-scoring Timbers are dangerous in attack, but have been opened up 20 times this season. Only two teams have conceded more goals than Portland (which has played the most matches in the league, it must be said).

And it may or may not surprise fans that Morris’ focus has been one of his strengths: the final product.

“I’m working on the final third, whether it’s shooting or finding the open guy,” Morris said. “It’s a big deal for us to finish our chances. Scoring or the final pass in that final third.”

Despite his relatively cold start, it would be surprising if Bruce Arena didn’t tab Morris in his crop for next month’s World Cup qualifiers. The 22-year-old also seems relatively certain to be a part of the Gold Cup plans.

“I’m excited and hopefully I get called up,” he said. “These World Cup qualifiers are obviously a very big deal and Bruce has done a really good job of getting us on the same page.”

Morris is also participating in a unique promotional activity with Delta Air Lines for Sounders fans, as he and Cristian Roldan are among Seattle teams picking fans for “positions” in a Fan XI. Once assembled, they’ll travel to L.A. for a Sounders road match and even sign one-day contracts. Morris was happy to get on board with it.

“It’s for our fans, who are amazing,” he said. “Delta’s idea to make a Fan XI gives the fansa chance to have the behind the scenes experience of being part of a team put together by having different skills. We love rewarding our fans.”

Day Seven: All the action from the U20 World Cup (video)

Kim In-chul/Yonhap via AP
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Mexico has automatically qualified for the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup despite falling to Venezuela.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup latest

Germany dropped below Mexico in goal differential after allowing a 3-0 lead to sink to one, though El Tri still likely would’ve advanced to the next phase despite Germany’s result.

Mexico 0-1 Venezuela

Caracas 19-year-old striker Sergio Cordova scored for the third-straight match in what is sure to make him a hot summer commodity as Venezuela clinched Group B with a perfect 3-0 record.

Germany 3-2 Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s potential name of the tournament Bong Kalo scored twice in the second half to sink Germany below Mexico on goal difference.

Guinea 0-5 Argentina

A brace from Lautaro Martínez gives Argentina hope of the knockout rounds with a third-place finish.

England 1-0 South Korea

Everton’s Kieran Dowell scored the lone goal of the match to give England the Group A crown.

Zabaleta staying in Premier League with West Ham move

@WHUFC
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A week after bidding Manchester City an emotional goodbye, Pablo Zabaleta has announced he’ll be staying in England.

The 32-year-old right back is moving to London, where he’ll join West Ham United on a two-year deal beginning July 1.

[ MORE: Three key battles in FA Cup Final ]

The San Lorenzo youth product went to Espanyol in 2005 to begin his European adventure, joining Man City in 2008. He won two PL titles, two League Cups, and an FA Cup, and was named the club’s player of the season in 2012-13.

From WHUFC.com:

“Manchester City gave me the opportunity to come to this wonderful league, the Premier League, something I’ve been enjoying a lot as a player and of course for me it was probably the right time to move on.

“Also, as a player, I thought I wanted to keep playing in the Premier League. For me, after being in this country for so long, this is a new challenge for me in the Premier League and I’m ready for it and looking forward to it.”

Maybe he just wanted 3G.

Young Sam Byram can learn plenty from Zabaleta, and the signing means that star right-sided man Michail Antonio likely won’t have to be wasted at right back in emergency situations. Good risk by the Hammers.

Valencia extends Man Utd deal to great Mourinho praise

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his Antonio Valencia appreciation, and the Manchester United manager has rewarded his fullback with a new deal.

Valencia is nine appearances away from 300 in a Manchester United kit, with 22 goals and 61 assists as a Red Devil.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

Valencia said United has “been my life” since arriving from Wigan Athletic in 2009, while Mourinho heaped praise on the Ecuadorian captain’s character with glowing praise.

“It is no secret that I had been an admirer of Antonio’s long before I joined the club. I knew what a fantastic player he was and he has not disappointed me on that front. However, what I could never have imagined was what a great person he is. I know I have said this before but I truly believe it is a real privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man. I am delighted he has extended his contract.”

Only Ander Herrera and Eric Bailly recorded better tackle rates at Old Trafford last season, and Valencia was credited with a team-best 1.5 crosses per game.