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.

Premier League preview: Man United vs. Newcastle United

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  • Red Devils unbeaten in 31 of last 32 home fixtures vs. Newcastle
  • Newcastle winless in its last six PL matches
  • Lukaku hasn’t scored in United’s last seven games

Manchester United hosts Newcastle United on Saturday from Old Trafford (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com) as the Red Devils could potentially welcome back several of it biggest stars for the match.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Marcos Rojo could return for Jose Mourinho’s side this weekend, as Man United looks to bounce back from its 1-0 defeat to Chelsea on Nov. 5.

The ex-Sweden international Ibrahimovic hasn’t appeared in a match since April 2017, after being United’s top goalscorer a season ago.

The Red Devils will have to deal with the absence of Phil Jones at the back, though, as the England international misses out on the match with a thigh injury.

Newcastle will be without Christian Atsu and Jamaal Lascelles, which certainly hurts the squad’s attack, while Mikel Merino and Paul Dummett remain sidelined with respective injuries.

What they’re saying

Jose Mourinho, on Paul Pogba’s status:  “I can say now because he’s back – I don’t like to speak while he’s injured – you can clearly see there is a Manchester United this season before Paul’s injury and after Paul’s injury. There are qualities in our football, qualities that influence our approach in matches, with Pogba and without Pogba. Simple as that.”

Rafa Benitez, on growing pains of being a young side“We are a newly-promoted club that has to settle down in the Premier League. We have a young squad, so it’s a learning process for everyone and losing some games is part of the process. Hopefully we can stop that this weekend, but we know it has to be like this. We have to think that the target is to stay in the Premier League, then after try to go as high as we can in the table.”

Prediction

Newcastle has had its share of struggles this season, and running into a Man United side that is gaining full fitness is a dangerous task. The Red Devils are a tough squad to beat at home, so Rafa Benitez and Co. have their hands full. Man United 2-0 Newcastle

Luiz back in Chelsea squad after being dropped by Conte

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David Luiz‘s pair of stints at Chelsea have been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride of emotions — joyous highs and painful lows.

[ MORE: Pogba, Zlatan back form injuries; available this weekend ]

After returning to the club for a second time in the summer of 2016, Luiz instantly slotted into Antonio Conte‘s three-man backline and was a pivotal part of the Blues’ title-winning team last season.

Much like the second half of his first four seasons at Chelsea, Luiz’s second season (the second time around) has started so hotly. After playing eight of the first 10 games during Chelsea’s ongoing title defense, Luiz was unexpectedly dropped from the squad for the victory over Manchester United.

Now, two weeks later, Conte has announced that Luiz has rejoined the squad and is available for selection when his side visits West Brom on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold) — quotes from the Guardian:

“David Luiz is in the squad, yes. [His exclusion] was a technical decision. When it’s a technical decision every player has to react well and accept my decision. It’s normal, this.

“I like to speak about the team and the next game that we have to pay attention to. This is the most important thing, not speaking about a single player. I repeat: I don’t like to speak about a single player.”

Pogba, Zlatan, Rojo return from injuries for Man Utd-Newcastle

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The only saving grace when it comes to injuries is that, eventually (usually), players recover from them and return to the team.

[ MORE: 2018 World Cup Power Rankings — who comes out on top? ]

It’s been a long seven months for the soccer world to be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic (torn ACL on April 20), just as it’s been a painfully long 10 weeks for Manchester United fans following Paul Pogba‘s hamstring injury on Sept. 12. Man United have dropped eight points during the latter’s absence and now coincidentally sit eight points behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

A bit of good news on this Friday: United manager Jose Mourinho announced today that the dynamic duo, along with defender Marcos Rojo (knee ligament damage on April 20) have returned to full fitness and will be available for selection during Saturday’s home clash with Newcastle United (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com) — quotes from ManUtd.com:

“The players that stayed here and [were] recovering from injuries, even the ones that are recovering from big injuries, they are ready to play — Pogba, Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo.”

“[Ibrahimovic] made a full recovery. Now you cannot expect him to be ready to play 90 minutes or to be ready to play consecutive matches like he did all his career.

“Now he needs time to be back to his level, his fitness, his confidence, his sharpness, his everything. But, from the clinical point of view, to be good and ready is fantastic.”

2018 World Cup Power Rankings — 7 months B.W.C.

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209 days — that’s how long the world is still being made to wait for the opening game of the 2018 World Cup. It’s close, in that all 32 berths have been secured, but still so far, in that the draw is still two weeks away.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s 2018 World Cup coverage | USMNT | Premier League ]

Perhaps then, and only then, will it begin to feel really real.

According to our esteemed panelists — Joe Prince-Wright, Nicholas Mendola, Kyle Bonn, Matt Reed, Dan Karell and yours truly — four clear-cut favorites for the semifinals have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, followed by another six or eight sides with one half of their squad firing on all cylinders but some serious kinks to work out elsewhere.

[ MORE: Round 1 of the WC power rankings | Round 2 ]

Finally, the latest edition of PST’s 2018 World Cup Power Rankings, now featuring all 32 teams qualified for Russia…

Team Points Best Worst
1 (1) Germany 189 1 2
2 (2) Brazil 188 1 3
3 (4) Spain 177 3 5
4 (3) France 176 3 5
5 (8) Argentina 158 4 10
6 (5) Belgium 156 4 10
7 (7) Portugal 153 6 10
8 (11) England 150 5 12
9 (6) Uruguay 141 6 14
10 (9) Colombia 140 7 12
11 (10) Mexico 129 8 14
12 (12) Poland 125 10 14
13 (20) Croatia 118 7 20
14 (17) Switzerland 115 12 16
15 (NR) Sweden 92 16 19
16 (NR) Denmark 86 13 23
17 (NR) Serbia 83 9 28
18 (NR) Peru 80 15 25
19 (15) Iceland 79 15 24
20 (16) Japan 71 16 27
21 (NR) Egypt 66 18 27
22 (NR) South Korea 64 13 32
23 (NR) Senegal 63 17 26
24 (18) Nigeria 58 15 27
25 (19) Costa Rica 57 14 29
26 (NR) Morocco 48 18 29
27 (NR) Australia 45 22 30
28 (NR) Russia 36 20 32
29 (NR) Iran 34 22 31
30 (NR) Tunisia 30 23 31
31 (NR) Panama 19 28 32
32 (NR) Saudi Arabia 9 31 32