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.

Spartak and Zenit fined in latest Russia fan racism cases

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MOSCOW (AP) Spartak Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg have both been fined for racist chants by their fans, the latest such incident in World Cup host nation Russia.

Spartak’s fans were accused of aiming monkey chants at FC Tosno player Nuno Rocha, who is black, while some Zenit supporters allegedly chanted a Nazi slogan during a league game.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

The clubs must each pay a 100,000-ruble ($1,600) fine, and Spartak has been hit with a partial stadium closure for its next cup game, state news agency RIA Novosti quotes Russian Football Union disciplinary committee head Artur Grigoryants as saying.

The verdict comes after FIFA charged Russia with racist abuse of France players during last month’s friendly.

Zenit has also faced two racism charges from UEFA this season.

Europa League: Arsenal, Marseille host semifinal 1st legs

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Arsenal’s Champions League dreams could be in for a rude awakening against tournament-tested Atletico Madrid.

The Premier League vs. La Liga match-up is one of two Europa League semifinal first legs set to be served up Sunday, with Marseille and Red Bull Salzburg meeting in the other.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

There’s something romantic about Arsene Wenger closing out his time at Arsenal against French opposition in Lyon, but Atleti and Salzburg won’t step aside for poetics.

Both matches kickoff ay 3:05 p.m. ET

Arsenal vs. Atletico Madrid

It’s a bit stunning that this tie has no history considering both club’s statures in their leagues and Europe, but that’s what we’ll se when Arsenal welcomes Atleti for the first leg.

Arsenal boasts two of the top 10 performers in the UEL this season — it would be three had the Gunners not sold Theo Walcott — and are paced by Aaron Ramsey, who has four goals and an assist. Mesut Ozil, who’s ready to return to the pitch, has the reverse with a goal and four helpers.

The Gunners have outscored UEL opposition 29-10 this season.

It’s no surprise that Antoine Griezmann has been Atleti’s best attacker since the Madrid side dropped out of the UCL to run rampant through the UEL knockout rounds. Atleti beat Copenhagen 5-1, Lokomotiv Moscow 8-1, and Sporting Lisbon 2-1 for an aggregate score line of 15-3.

Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg

Don’t expect this to be a simple case of Ligue 1 bossing inferior opposition: This pair met in the group stage, with the Austrian side winning at home and drawing 0-0 in France.

Salzburg has shown its mettle in various ways during the UEL. After allowing just one goal in an unbeaten group stage, they’ve won 4-3 over Real Sociedad, 2-1 against Borussia Dortmund, and 6-5 versus Lazio. That’s no easy road, and Marseille represents another big challenge.

Marseille is bidding to make its first European final since 2004, and has been led by Dimitri Payet‘s three goals and four assists, and Lucas Ocampos’ four goals and one assist. Marseille has knocked off RB Leipzig, Athletic Bilbao, and Braga after the group stage.

Names you’ll need to know from Salzburg: defenders Stefan Lainer and Paulo Miranda have been spectacular, and Munas Dabbur and Valon Berisha have each scored five times in the tournament.

Mourinho on longtime nemesis Wenger: ‘We can be friends in future’

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Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have had a poor relationship, but the former thinks he’s soon to get along with the latter.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

Manchester United boss Mourinho, 55, heaped praise on the departing Arsenal manager ahead of the two sides’ Sunday meeting at Old Trafford (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), saying the Frenchman has earned much respect.

Branding Wenger “iconic,” Mourinho says his fiery rivalry with Wenger stemmed from Arsenal’s stature in the Premier League when the Portuguese took over Chelsea.

“If he respects me even 50 percent of what I respect him we can even be friends in the future,” Mourinho told Sky Sports News. “I have lots of respect for him. But the reality is that he was at Arsenal, he was the champion and I came to the country in 2004 and wanted to steal his title. That’s football.”

Mourinho said he’s tried to show his respect for Wenger, 68, over the past few seasons. It may become a passable relationship, but we find it hard to believe the pair will be dining together on a regular basis as the sun sets on their managerial careers (Mou has a while to go, we think).

Real’s Modric on Bayern feeling unlucky: “That’s their problem”

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Bayern Munich produced far more chances than visiting Real Madrid in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg in Germany, but lost 2-1 at the Allianz Arena.

Franck Ribery butchered an open shot at goal, Robert Lewandowski beat Keylor Navas but didn’t score late, and Thomas Mueller missed getting contact on a shot inside the six.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

It was that kind of day, and Mueller is baffled that his team did not finish more than Joshua Kimmich’s opener.

“Everybody is wondering why this game is 1-2 for Madrid,” Mueller reportedly said. “We still cannot believe it.”

The quote comes from BeIN Sport’s Tancredi Palmeri, who has a stinging rebuke from Real Madrid maestro Luka Modric.

Real wasn’t great on Wednesday, but also limited their big mistakes to one: Marcelo’s lapse of judgment which helped Kimmich to open the scoring for Bayern Munich.

The hosts had a huge giveaway from Rafinha on the match-winner, and backup backstop Sven Ulreich didn’t have a phenomenal day on either goal. Throw in Arjen Robben’s injury requiring an 8th minute substitution, and Bayern did not have much good fortune on the day.

This one, though, doesn’t seem over, even with the tie moving to the Bernabeu.