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2018 World Cup team preview: Brazil

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Getting to know Brazil: It’s hard to believe, but nearly two years ago, Brazil was on the outside looking in. After getting shelled 7-1 in the embarrassment at home, Brazil’s FA ignored the pleas for modernization and a progressive approach, instead deciding to appoint former player and manager Dunga. Through the first six rounds of qualification, it was sitting outside the World Cup places, with just two wins in that span. A disappointing Copa America Centenario was enough to give Dunga the boot, which gave current Selecao coach Tite the chance to turn things around.

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And that’s exactly what Tite has done. The veteran Brazilian manager, who spent time in Europe studying managers and how they get the best out of their players, led Brazil on an incredible run, winning nine straight and becoming the first team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Unlike Dunga, Tite has gotten the best out of Brazil’s squad, including quality performances from Neymar, Casemiro, Gabriel Jesus, Willian and Paulinho. Now, with the wind at their backs, Brazil is looking to win a record sixth World Cup title, and avenge the shock defeat to Germany.

For more on Brazil’s history, click this link.

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What group are they in? Group E with Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia. It’s a group with three decent opponents but there’s no reason with the talent Brazil has, that it shouldn’t be running away with the group and emerge as winners in all three matches.


Game schedule – Group E – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Sunday, June 17: Brazil v Switzerland, Rostov 2pm, ET
Friday, June 22: Brazil v Costa Rica, Saint Petersburg 8am, ET
Wednesday, June 27: Serbia v Brazil, Moscow (Spartak) 2pm, ET


Projected lineup (4-3-3) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

—– Alisson —–

Danilo — Thiago Silva — Miranda — Marcelo —-

—- Paulinho —- Casemiro —- Fernandinho —–

Willian —— G. Jesus —— Neymar


Star player: Neymar – Who else? The superstar winger missed the final three months of the league season for PSG but still managed an insane 19 goals and 13 assists in 20 league matches, as well as six goals and three assists in the UEFA Champions League. Neymar scored on his return to the Brazilian side last Sunday and scored on a beautiful solo move, but there are questions as to his fitness after missing so long with a serious ankle injury. Brazil goes as Neymar goes.


Manager: Tite (pronounced Chee-Chee) – Unlike some managers in Brazil, Tite was afraid to admit that he didn’t have all the answers and spend time in Europe learning from the world’s best coaches. After taking over a struggling Brazilian side, he led them on a nine-game winning streak as the side breezed through qualifying. He’s figured out all the right buttons to press to get the best out of his side, and Brazil – based on talent and form – are certainly one of the favorites at the World Cup thanks to him.


Secret weapon: Paulinho – It’s hard for the world’s most popular team to have any players considered a “secret,” but let’s go with Paulinho. The central midfielder failed to make an impact at Tottenham and it appeared his career was on a tailspin. Paulinho cashed in on his European adventure at the time for a massive contract in China, but reunited with his former coach – Tite – from Brazilian club Corinthians, Paulinho returned to his best for the Selecao, which ended up helping get him to Barcelona. Paulinho is an energetic box-to-box midfielder, who has a knack for making late runs into the box and scoring goals, but he can also defend deep and provide cover to the backline. With wingbacks that love to bomb forward, Paulinho’s role will be very important at the World Cup, ensuring that the defenders behind him aren’t left stranded.


Prediction: Combined with a manageable group and a decent draw, Brazil has every chance of making the World Cup semifinals again, and this time, winning the whole thing. If Neymar is back to full fitness and can continue scoring goals at a record pace for the national team, there’s no reason why Brazil can’t win. Brazil should make it at least to the semifinals, and we think they’ll go all the way and lift the FIFA World Cup trophy.

10-man Red Bulls hold off Atlanta United at home

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Atlanta United’s five-game winning streak went up in smoke as the New York Red Bulls pulled off an incredible 1-0 victory.

Playing down a man for around 65 minutes, the Red Bulls shutout Atlanta United’s high powered offense in front of 18,495 fans at Red Bull Arena. Tom Barlow, in just his second appearance with the Red Bulls, scored the game-winning goal in the 65th minute off a header at the far post, one that left U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Brad Guzan rooted to his line.

[READ: Pep: Domestic Treble harder than UCL]

Tim Parker was shown a straight red card in controversial fashion, after grabbing Josef Martinez’s left arm with Martinez in front of him just outside the box. Martinez was clearly pulled back but continued running and eventually got a shot off that Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles parried away.

Referee Robert Sbiga then decided to call the play back and award Atlanta United a free kick outside the box. After what seemed to be consultation with his assistants, Sbiga then showed Parker a straight red card, likely for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO) while Martinez was through on goal.

The outcome is a massive one for the Red Bulls. It’s been a rough season, with the loss of both Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams and the poor form of Bradley Wright-Phillips up top. Wright-Phillips was out on Sunday and another attacker Andreas Ivan, went off with an injury in the first half as he was about to be substituted off anyways following the red card.

Alejandro Romero Gamarra, Kaku, has made his feelings known that he wants (or wanted) to leave the club. His form hasn’t been stellar this season either.

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s finally found its way back into the win column and is looking more like the juggernaut from last season, especially with five-straight shutout wins. It’s all back to zero today though, with the defeat at the Red Bulls on a perfect grass pitch up a man.

Mbappe hints he could leave PSG

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Kylian Mbappe accepted his award as the Ligue 1 MVP, dedicated it to Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, and then mentioned he could be off soon to another club.

Wait, what?

Yes, following Mbappe accepting his award, the French star and World Cup winner stated he hoped he could continue his career at PSG but left open the possibility of moving to another club that allows him to take the next steps in his career.

[READ: Kompany to join Anderlecht as player-manager]

“This is a very important moment for me, I arrive at a first or second turn of my career,” Mbappe said, via L’equipe. “I’ve discovered a lot of things here, I feel that maybe it’s time to have more responsibility. I hope it may be at Paris Saint-Germain, it would be with great pleasure, or perhaps elsewhere for a new project.”

Mbappe later clarified his comments, stating he was looking for more responsibility. “If it’s at PSG, that’s good. If it is elsewhere, it will be elsewhere for a new challenge.

“For me, it was time to say it. I am someone whole: when I say something, I think it. For me, it was the right time to say it. That’s it, I said it!”

It’s unclear why exactly Mbappe used this moment to put some pressure on PSG. Perhaps its to remind them that the club needs to be successful in its transfer endeavors this summer, so it can compete deep into the UEFA Champions League. With Neymar injured and a central midfield ravaged by injuries, PSG capitulated and somehow fell to Manchester United in the Champions League Round of 16, grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

There’s no reason why PSG can’t dominate the Champions League like it does Ligue 1, especially with the attacking trident of Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani. But of course, against better competition, the inferiority in mentality and in talent along the backline has started to show.

So, where could Mbappe go? There’s very few places that could effectively match both his salary and his competitive goals. It’s the usual suspects, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and perhaps Manchester City, should they be interested in it. More recently, while Man City has spent big, it’s been on signing multiple players on $50 million transfers, as opposed to one player on a $200 million transfer, for example.

It’s unlikely, but an intriguing option would be Liverpool. If the club somehow came up with the funds, imagine Mbappe playing alongside Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, with Roberto Firmino coming in to spell either of the three over the course of the season. Mbappe would likely make up that one-point difference between Liverpool and Man City, and if that’s what it takes for Liverpool to finally win the title, it could be worth the initial massive investment.

Messi finishes season leading La Liga in goals, assists, and more

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Lionel Messi turns 32 this summer, and after more than a dozen years of first team soccer, playing more than 50 games a season, the old man’s still got it.

The Argentine star, playing his first season in almost a decade without direct competition from Cristiano Ronaldo, scored twice as Barcelona tied Eibar, 2-2. The two goals gave him 34 for the season, by far the most by any player in the league, and his 50th in all competitions.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Messi also led La Liga this season with 13 assists, 136 shots, 85 shots on target and 70 through balls. In terms of successful dribbles, Messi’s 132 fell seven short of Celta Vigo’s Sofiane Boufal.

Messi’s 34 goals gave him his sixth Pichichi, the trophy given to the league’s leading scorer. Messi is now tied with legendary Telmo Zarra for the all-time record of most Pichichi’s, and Messi is now three ahead of Ronaldo.

As if Messi wasn’t already a legendary player, the man seems to be showing no signs of slowing down. It may have helped that he skipped matches with Argentina after the 2018 World Cup this past fall, keeping him fresh for Barcelona. Even so, the man looks as good, if not better, with age.

Messi already holds the record for most goals in league history, and at this rate, he’ll set it to a level that will be almost impossible to reach. While he’s going to be remembered for his incredible control on the ball, it doesn’t hurt that he’s been incredibly productive during his career, including in 2018-2019. Barcelona won the league title with ease and the club made the UEFA Champions League semifinal. If for some better defending, Messi could be contesting for another Champions League title.

Nani scores twice as Orlando City thrashes FC Cincinnati

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Nani may not be the star he once was while he played for Manchester United, but he’s still making a powerful impact in MLS.

The Portuguese international scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season as Orlando City ran circles expansion side FC Cincinnati, winning 5-1. Along with Nani, Tesho Akindele scored a brace and Dom Dwyer came off the bench and scored a header in the win.

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Aside from having a chance to record a big win over a struggling side, Orlando City may have been ultra motivated on Sunday. Orlando City manager James O’Connor has history with FC Cincinnati from his time at Louisville City, with intense rivalry matches taking place as well as arguments between O’Connor and former FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch on the sidelines.

FC Cincinnati actually went up early with a Darren Mattocks finish past Brian Rowe, but it didn’t take long for Orlando City to respond. Akindele fired home from 20-yards out in the 37th minute to make it 1-1. Early in the second half, Nani scored on a penalty kick rebound to make it 2-1 to the hosts, and then he added a second off a cross from the right to blast the game wide open.

With the win, Orlando City moved just one point outside of a playoff place, while Cincinnati remains in the basement of the Eastern Conference. However, Orlando City has a difficult road ahead, with matches against the LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact and D.C. United to come.