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


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.


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.

Serie A: Napoli go top for first time in 25 years; Inter a close 2nd

Gonzalo Higuain, SSC Napoli
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A quick roundup of Monday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

Napoli 2-1 Inter Milan

For the first time since the final day of the 1989-90 season, Napoli are top of Serie A all by themselves after a top-of-the-table clash with previous leaders Inter Milan.

Gonzalo Higuain bagged both goals for the Azzurri, the first of which came after just 65 seconds. His tally on 62 minutes held up as the game-winner after Adem Ljajic pulled one back for Roberto Mancini’s side in the 67 minute. The opener (below video) was a powerful finish from inside the penalty area which served as a strong reminder as to why a club like Arsenal is consistently linked to the Argentine striker.

Sassuolo 1-1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina, who had a chance to stake their own claim to the top spot, dropped two points away to seventh-place Sassuolo earlier in the day, opening the door for Napoli to go top with their victory. After shooting out of the gates red hot (6 wins in their first 7 games), the Viola have now drawn back to back games — to Empoli and Sassuolo — and find themselves third, two points behind Napoli.

Borja Valero put Fiorentina ahead after five minutes on Monday, but Sassuolo equalized through Sergio Floccari just before halftime to keep their own dreams of European qualification alive.

Serie A table

Matchup by matchup: Picking a favorite for MLS Cup 2015

Portland Timbers FC
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We’re T-minus 137 hours to the kickoff of MLS Cup 2015, between Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

When the two sides meet at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday (4 p.m. ET), the general public will have picked a slight favorite to hoist MLS Cup, just like any other game. Only, this one’s a bit tougher to call — there’s no clear-cut favorite as is usually the case in MLS Cup, so we’ll do our best to explore a few key matchups that might slant Sunday’s title tilt in one direction or the other…

Crew SC width (Waylon Francis, Harrison Afful, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay) vs. Timbers width (Jorge Villafana, Alvas Powell, Rodney Wallace, Dairon Asprilla)

  • Pinning the wingers back — There’s two ways to beat Crew SC: 1) sit with eight or nine men behind the ball and frustrate them through a lack of space to attack; or, 2) pin Finlay and Meram deep inside their own half, defensively, by getting your full backs forward and forcing them to defend. It’s doable, but it’s not easy. On the other side, best of luck to Wallace and Asprilla with the tracking back they’ll be forced into with perhaps the best attacking right back in MLS, Afful, and Francis overlapping on either side. Fanendo Adi could find himself on an island very quickly if the Crew SC full backs get forward as often as they’d like.
  • Where the help comes from — That’s the biggest issue for Portland, who ever since dropping Darlington Nagbe into midfield, play with a lone defensive midfielder, Diego Chara. He’s great at covering the entire field and providing help to blow up an opposing attack, but he can only be on one side of the field at a time. This means Borchers and Ridgewell will be stretched wider and forced to defend Finlay and Meram in space, where they’re oh so deadly.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Crew SC announce MLS Cup sold out 15 hours after qualifying ]

Kei Kamara vs. Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell

  • All it takes is one chance — Neither one of Borchers or Ridgewell can physically compete with Kamara’s rare combination of speed and athleticism — to be fair, few center backs this side of the world can. Therefore, 90 percent of “defending” Kamara will be staying tight to the 22-goalscorer during the regular season and, with any luck, not losing track of him once the ball gets out to the wings. Once Kamara gets that yard of space in any direction and the ball goes up on the cross, the center backs’ chances of winning the next ball are much, much lower. That said, Kamara will find far less space against Borchers and Ridgewell (and Diego Chara) than he enjoyed against Montreal and New York thus far in the playoffs. There’s very few center back duos with the experience and nous of the Timbers’ backbone.
  • Advantage: Timbers

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Timbers midfield three (Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri) vs. Crew SC midfield three (Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain)

  • Nagbe the key to balance — Darlington Nagbe will, one day, be an MLS Best XI central midfielder. Today is not that day, though. He’s still a work in progress, and probably the most exploitable individual on the field in Crew SC’s eyes. Tchani and Trapp are, in my opinion, the best deep-sitting midfield duo in the league, and they’ll press, harry and harass Nagbe for 90 (0r 120) minutes, probably starting a fair few of those deadly counter-attacks in the middle third of the field.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

Gregg Berhalter vs. Caleb Porter

  • Lineups set themselves — Neither coach is likely to throw out a huge surprise before kickoff — dance with one that brought you, or something like that. Up until recently, I was completely convinced that Porter was vastly overrated and didn’t understand the constant adoration that surrounded the man his first two or three years in charge. Everything was a bit stale and rigid, organized, but lacking flair. Then he moved Nagbe into midfield to allow his biggest game-changer more opportunities on the ball to affect the game much more. This leads me to believe Porter is a bit more flexible in seeing his team and system operate in slightly different ways, but only barely.
  • Advantage: Timbers

Crew SC announce MLS Cup 2015 sold out 15 hours after qualifying

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC
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The building formerly known as Crew Stadium has hosted its fair share of famous soccer games since it opened in 1999 — dos a cero, anyone? — and Sunday’s MLS Cup 2015 looks set to rank right up there among them.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Roughly 15 hours after advancing to this year’s MLS Cup, which they will host this Sunday (4 p.m. ET), Columbus Crew SC announced on Monday that MAPFRE Stadium is officially sold out.

Crew SC president of business operations Andy Loughnane addressed the fanbase in a blog post on the club’s official site Monday afternoon and said, “As of late this morning we are sold out of the extra capacity seating that was created for MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. While there is a small chance that additional seats could be released for purchase as a result of MLS holds being returned, we are sold out of all known available seats.”

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Crew SC, making their second MLS Cup appearance in club history (2008 champions), will host first-time MLS Cup contestants, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday.

PL clubs combined to pay out $200 million in agent fees in 2015

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke
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What a time to be an agent in the footballing world, eh? The rich just keep getting richer and richer and richer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The steady increase in transfer fees being paid for players — bad, good, great and amazing alike — has made quite a few “selling” clubs rich reach over the last decade or two, to be sure, but it’s also made another group of people obscenely rich: player agents.

As the soccer world has gone crazy with its “now, now, now” approach — managers must win now, or they’re fired; new signings must become stars now, or they’ll be sold; etc. — agents are the ones making out like bandits — no losses to be sustained on players who turn out to be flops; no future loss of wages due to taking “too long” to settle in and being labeled a flop — at the expense of clubs and, most cruelly, the players.

More than $195 million was paid out agents by Premier League clubs across the January and summer transfer windows, with Liverpool — ever the club in constant change — paying out $21.5 million in agents fees to remain top of the table for a second straight year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were the four other clubs to top $15 million.

[ MORE: Premier League Payback — The Diego Costa era over at Chelsea? ]

Agents not only receive a fee when players change clubs through transfers, but can only be compensated again and again when one of their clients signs a new contract with their current club.

For instance, Wayne Rooney has signed at least four new contracts since joining Manchester United in 2004, the latest of which came barely three years after he was given a new five-year deal in Oct. 2010 upon handing in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move to Manchester City. Rooney’s current weekly wage is reported to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. His agent, Paul Stretford, will have received a sizable payday upon negotiating the deal in Feb. 2014.

At the end of the day, sports are little more than a business, and it’s the ones who play the game — the political game, that is — the best, and most ruthlessly, who are making out like bandits.