Scolari’s right: Drastic change unneeded as Brazil attempts to regroup

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Humiliating loss? Yes. Need for drastic change? Not really.

There won’t be a lot of positivity coming out of Brazil camp after “The Machine” stomped on “The Little Canary” to the tune of a 7-1 throttling in the first semifinal of the 2014 World Cup, especially considering the prospects of neighbors Argentina hoisting the trophy in Brazil’s tournament remain in tact for at least a few more hours.

But Brazil should listen to Luis Felipe Scolari’s big picture comments after the brutal beatdown.

[ MORE: Brazil’s loss hits the papers | Where does 7-1 rank all-time? ]

Yes, it’s the “worse day of his life” but it doesn’t call for a complete overhaul of Brazil’s system or mentality (the actual players’ mentality? Probably).

From SkySports:

“I don’t agree that we’re behind from a strategic standpoint. This was my third loss. But this was the worst loss,” he said.

“Should we have to reinvent our team after one game? Half this team will play at WC 2018. At least 13, 14, 15 of them will be in 2018.

“What happened today had little to do with how we had been playing. We lost control… that’s not normal but it happens.”

Fact 1: Big absences

Let’s start with the obvious: Brazil was missing two of perhaps the Top 10 players in the world. While that doesn’t excuse a six-goal drubbing, the absence of Thiago Silva and Neymar clearly sapped the strength of a mentally-weak side that was far from in form.

Phrased differently: when you’re holding your injured superstar’s jersey in the Starting XI photo and wearing hats lamenting his absence, things aren’t off to a positive start. This was a tough injury to a soccer play, not the imprisonment of a political hero on unjust grounds.

Strategically, Brazil had to contend with factors that would’ve made it difficult to top any strong team, let alone a humming machine like Germany. Neymar was their only elite finisher, and was on form, while Thiago allows David Luiz a lot of freedom (something we’ll see shine this year at PSG). Without them, Scolari was already swimming upstream.

Fact 2: Still really good

Anyone remember the 2013 Confederations Cup last summer in Brazil? The host nation thumped the competition with a 5-0 record and 14-3 in goals. They beat Japan 3-0, Mexico 2-0, Italy 4-2, Uruguay 2-1 and Spain 3-0. That’s not so bad.

Their U-23 team finished second at the 2012 Olympics, losing only the final to Mexico in claiming silver. They’ve lost once since August, a 1-0 friendly loss at Swizerland, and are fine.

Except for that whole 7-1 thing.

Fact 3: Scolari chose… poorly (or had choices limited)

Bizarre in a match without Thiago and Neymar that Scolari would omit veterans Ramires and Dani Alves from the Starting XI, and opt against Willian and Paulinho.

But the bigger point is that in a tournament where intensity and form mattered, here is a list of players the manager did not choose for the roster (whether via inability or simply selection). Some weren’t coming off banner years, while others certainly were:

Rafinha (Bayern Munich)

Miranda (Atletico Madrid)

Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)

Lucas Moura (PSG)

Sandro (Tottenham Hotspur)

Alexandre Pato (Sao Paolo)

Rafael da Silva (Manchester United)

Fact 4: Weird run-up

Every host nation deals with the hassle of preparing for a major tournament without any intense qualifying bouts, and Brazil’s schedule was a bizarre one.

Brazil tried to schedule some intensity between the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, but you can’t replicate desperation. The style Brazil played allowed them to crush Australia 6-0 and Portugal 3-1. They topped Chile 2-1 in a November friendly and beat Panama and Serbia easily in two run-up matches to the World Cup.

But when the ball kicked for the tournament, they never found their stride outside of Neymar. The Croatia win was controversial, the Mexico draw showed no finish, Cameroon may have been throwing the dang thing and both Chile and Colombia can argue that they deserved wins.

This tournament was in Brazil, but it was not their property.

Finally…

Brazil got destroyed by Germany on Tuesday. They also hadn’t lost at home in the better part of four decades. Don’t send them to the scrap heap just yet.

Steven Gerrard didn’t want any part of Coutinho in training

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Steven Gerrard has issued some fairly hilarious comments regarding former Liverpool teammate Philippe Coutinho.

The Premier League legend admits there were days in training that the sight of the Brazilian wizard on the other side of the pitch made him lash out.

[ MORE: Palace fans must be patient ]

It seems Gerrard wanted nothing to do with marking Coutinho in small-sided games, and the idea of “Stevie G” spouting off in frustration when Brendan Rodgers posted Coutinho across from him is a wonderful mental picture.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“He’s impossible to defend against,” Gerrard told BT Sport after Saturday’s game.

“I mean when I used to train against him, I’d hate it if I was on the opposite five-a-side team. I wouldn’t go near him. And sometimes I’d say to him: ‘Keep away from me! He can embarrass you [as a defender]. He can stand you up, he can both ways, he’s got such a low centre of gravity. He’s sharp, he’s quick and he’s two or three steps ahead of defenders. He’s so, so clever.”

Again, the vision of Gerrard throwing his hands up with a “Nope, not having this today” is amazing. Even if exaggerated, we love it. We picture that old meme with the office worked tossing papers through the air.

Patience with Hodgson required by Palace

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Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson is 0-2 in his new gig and the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t exactly within touching distance.

The latest defeat is a 5-0 blowout at Manchester City, and the immediate road ahead is sobering: at Manchester United and home to Chelsea. Following a trip to Newcastle, who is in form, the Eagles have matches vs. West Ham, at Spurs, and versus Everton.

[ MORE: Premier League Sat. roundup ]

Palace is 0-6 overall and the first team in the history of the Premier League to go goalless through its first six matches.

Palace fired Frank De Boer after four league matches and a summer in which the club failed to add much to its squad.

And Hodgson is feeling his way through the dark. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this is the timing of Palace’s change.

From the BBC:

“I am learning about the team all the time and they are learning,” said Hodgson.

“Our focus has to be in May. By the latter part of the season the players must know what we are looking for. They should feel stronger by then.”

To be shooting for May has to be overwhelming for the Selhurst Park faithful but may indicate their most reasonable promise of life in the Premier League.

Palace fans cannot afford to get caught up in how Sam Allardyce saved them a year ago, because his turnaround coincided with the Eagles’ purchases of Luka MilivojevicMamadou Sakho, and Patrick Van Aanholt. An influx of talent does not save a season alone, but we’re fairly sure Alan Pardew would’ve relished the chance to work with two new backs and a stabilizing center midfielder.

Remember that Allardyce then retired, which says something given his willingness to bask in any light in which he can claim a modicum of credit.

So Hodgson, known for his relentless training methods, needs to be given his time. Palace will likely have at-most one point after the next two PL matches, and they may have not scored yet. History can be daunting, but supporters need to exhale and realize the road ahead is long.

Kenya loses hosting rights to 2018 African Nations Championship

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ACCRA, Ghana (AP) Kenya has been stripped of the right to host the 2018 African Nations Championship.

The Confederation of Africa Football cited “accumulated delays” in Kenya’s preparations for the tournament, which is the continental championship for players playing in their home leagues.

[ MORE: Premier League Sat. roundup ]

CAF made the decision to take the tournament away from Kenya at an executive committee meeting in Accra, Ghana, on Saturday and opened the bidding process for a new host on Sunday. CAF says applications must be received by next Sunday and the new host will be announced in just over two weeks.

The African Nations Championship is scheduled to be played from Jan. 12-Feb. 4.

Kenya’s preparations for the 16-team tournament were already troubled before August when its presidential elections were nullified and a re-vote was ordered. That re-vote is scheduled for next month, and the political instability has meant preparations for the soccer tournament have been undermined.

CAF also says it is opening a tender process to recruit an audit firm to examine Cameroon’s preparations for the 2019 African Cup of Nations, Africa’s top soccer event.

Like Kenya, Cameroon’s readiness to host the Cup of Nations has been under scrutiny. CAF says it needs to examine the state of Cameroon’s “infrastructure to host the tournament,” with the 2019 Cup of Nations the first to be expanded from 16 to 24 teams.

MLS Snapshot: Red-hot RSL end Sounders’ unbeaten run at 13

Photo credit: Real Salt Lake / @RealSaltLake
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The game in 100 words (or less): With the Seattle Sounders’ 13-game unbeaten run now a thing of the past (and the final four of those games all draws), Real Salt Lake (two losses in their last two, including wins in four of their last five) might just be the hottest team in MLS not named Atlanta United (just one loss in their last 12, including wins in three of their last four; combined score: 17-3). Furthermore, Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Seattle at Rio Tinto Stadium boosts RSL into fifth place in the Western Conference, two points clear of the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo, as Mike Petke’s side makes this year’s improbable, late charge toward the MLS Cup Playoffs, in much the same fashion Brian Schmetzer’s Sounders did a year ago. Jefferson Savarino, who scored one and assisted one on Saturday, has proven himself a star on the rise in recent weeks, and has RSL playing their best soccer of the year at exactly the right time.

[ MORE: MLS weekend preview — ATL host MTL; RSL desperate vs. SEA ]

Three moments that mattered

52′ — Savarino slams home Rusnak’s pass for 1-0 — RSL have themselves an attacking trio (Savarino, Albert Rusnak and Brooks Lennon) that loves to play together, and that joy really shines brightly in moments like this.

66′ — Mulholland slams home from Savarino’s cross for 2-0 — Savarino turned provider just 15 minutes later, getting in behind Joevin Jones, corralling Joao Plata’s through ball, and picking out Mulholland atop the six-yard box.

92′ — Rimando makes a stunning save to deny Dempsey — Clint Dempsey tried to sneak a quick free kick past Nick Rimando, but the all-time greatest goalkeeper in MLS history was over it.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Jefferson Savarino

Goalscorers: Savarino (52′), Mulholland (66′)