Cristiano Ronaldo hints at conspiracy in El Clásico

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Following Barcelona’s 4-3 triumph in last night’s El Clásico, Cristiano Ronaldo hinted that unnamed influencers wanted Real Madrid to lose.

“Real Madrid is the greatest club and there is a lot of envy around it,” Ronaldo said.

“It’s tough because a lot of people did not want us to win and Barcelona to be out of the title race. They probably do not want Real to win this league. It makes me think that you don’t only win matches on the pitch but also with a little bit of help from outside.”

The 29-year-old did not elaborate as to who outside the game was at the root of the systematic bias towards rivals Barcelona. He did, however, hit out at the performance of referee Undiano Mallenco.

“The referee made some incredible decisions but we have to carry on,” said the Portuguese international. “In a Real Madrid-Barcelona game you have to have a referee who is up to the task. I don’t want to use the referee as an excuse but if you analyze the 90 minutes there were a lot of mistakes.”

Mallenco made questionable decisions on both sides of the ball, namely awarding Madrid with a 55th minute penalty when replays showed Dani Alves’ foul on Ronaldo was outside the box, handing Barcelona the same gift ten minutes later when Neymar tumbled hard on Sergio Ramos’ minimal contact (for which the Madrid defender was sent off), and giving the Blaugrana an 83rd minute penalty when Andres Iniesta went down easy after wedging himself between Xabi Alonso and Daniel Carvajal.

While the location of Alves’ foul on Ronaldo was relatively clear cut, the other three decisions remain debatable. What isn’t at issue is the CV of Mallenco, who has refereed at the 2010 World Cup, has vast Champions League and El Clásico experience, and was awarded Spain’s top referee in 2005 and 2007.

“In my opinion he was not up to a match of this stature,” Ronaldo stated. “I looked at him and he was pale, that’s because he was so nervous and he was unable to make the right decisions.”

With the latest installment of El Clásico in the books along and Atletico Madrid’s 2-0 win over Real Betis, the La Liga table has Atletico in 1st place on 70 points, Madrid 2nd with 70 points and Barcelona 3rd on 69 points with nine matches left to play.

Petkovic: Time to “take Switzerland seriously” after Brazil draw

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While much of the talk about Sunday’s 1-1 draw between Brazil and Switzerland will focus on the former, the Swiss would like their share of credit for frustrating — and matching — one of a handful of favorites to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

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Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic is chief among those who believe it’s time those on the outside “start taking notice of us and taking us seriously.” As for the insinuations that his side roughed up Neymar, who suffered 10 of the 19 fouls committed by Switzerland, most of them were “very clean” — quotes from the BBC:

“Sometimes if there is a lack of recognition that is a pity because we have played very well. We showed and demonstrated that this team always believes in itself and can achieve results.

“Most of the duels (with Neymar) were won in a very clean way. It was one of the key ingredients to neutralize Neymar.”

“I’m very proud and pleased with the discipline with the way we played. We worked collectively and cohesively.”

“When we are able to play forward and press higher up we were able to do it well and it is an excellent starting position for the rest of our group matches.

“We had real difficulties in the first 40 minutes, I said ‘let’s remain calm, focused and believe in ourselves, push up higher up the pitch and create opportunities to score.'”

Having secured a point in far and away their toughest group game, Switzerland now have eminently winnable games against Serbia (Friday) and Costa Rica (Wednesday, June 27) remaining. Four points from those two games would just about guarantee progression to the knockout rounds.

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 2

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Layla Anna-Lee has a new show and, well, it’s unbiased. At least occasionally…

In the second episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, Layla Anna-Lee looks at the best moments from the first set of matches in the 2018 World Cup.

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There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.

Brazil waste Coutinho’s stunner, draw Switzerland in opener

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Brazil started brilliantly and raced out to an early lead, but the five-time World Cup winners — and one of a handful of favorites in 2018 — disappointed in the end as they settled for a 1-1 draw with Switzerland in the two sides’ Group E opener.

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Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring after 20 minutes, turning home a stunning strike from distance, off the inside of the post, to settle any early nerves and give Tite’s Selecao a 1-0 lead (WATCH HERE).

It wasn’t Brazil’s first golden scoring chance of the game, though, as Coutinho and Neymar combined down the left wing to send the latter into space inside the penalty area. Neymar played a first-time cross into the six-yard box, but Paulinho‘s scuffed effort from close range was tipped around the post by Yann Sommer.

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A bit of complacency and real lack of urgency washed over Brazil as soon as they went ahead, affording Switzerland every opportunity to get back in the game.

Vladimir Petkovic’s side needed just five second-half minutes to draw level, thanks to some shoddy set-piece defending by Brazil. Steven Zuber took up a spot at the near post, virtually unmarked inside the six-yard box, and headed past Alisson.

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The game’s most controversial moment came just after the 70-minute mark, when Gabriel Jesus was bear-hugged inside the penalty area. Wrapped up from behind, the Manchester City forward was blatantly prevented from getting to the ball after a quick passage of smooth build-up, but referee Cesar Arturo Ramos Palazuelos was unmoved and no video review was enacted.

By the full-time whistle, Brazil had piled up 21 shots (just four on target) compared to just six from Switzerland (two). Despite on-target efforts from Neymar and Renato Augusto inside the game’s final five minutes, a winner wasn’t on the cards and the sides were forced to split the points.

Up next for Brazil is a clash with Costa Rica on Friday, while Switzerland will face Serbia the same day. The Serbs topped the Costa Ricans in Sunday’s first game, putting them top of the group after after the first of three rounds in Group E.

Video: Coutinho’s curler has Brazil flying early

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It took 20 minutes for the Selecao to get on the board, but Brazil looks every bit as good as advertised.

Tite’s side struck nearly halfway through the opening stanza when Barcelona star Philippe Coutinho curled his shot from distance off the inside of the post against Switzerland.

The Brazilians came close on several occasions prior to Coutinho’s opener, but the 26-year-old made good on the misses with his first career World Cup tally.