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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.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 


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.

PSG rampant without Neymar; Henry’s miserable debut

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PARIS (AP) Neymar was not missed as runaway French leader Paris Saint-Germain crushed Amiens 5-0 on Saturday for a 10th straight league win.

Neymar was given a few days off by coach Thomas Tuchel after playing for Brazil in the international break. PSG faces Napoli in the Champions League on Wednesday and is then away to bitter rival Marseille on Sunday.

Except for Neymar, PSG’s lineup was near full-strength and the defending champion easily extended the best start to the league. PSG is averaging nearly four goals per game, but should have scored even more at home. Some sloppy finishing will not have impressed Tuchel, who is trying to instill more intensity into the side.

“It wasn’t a great performance,” the demanding Tuchel said. “But we were serious and worked hard for each other.”

Winger Angel Di Maria set up the first two goals with superb delivery from corners, taken from the right and curled with his left foot. It should have been 3-0 moments later, but striker Edinson Cavani somehow shot wide when he had an open goal.

Germany winger Julian Draxler got the third, and a minute later France World Cup star Kylian Mbappe curled a shot through the legs of a defender for his ninth league goal. Moussa Diaby skillfully slotted home the fifth.

Thierry Henry’s coaching debut was miserable as Monaco lost at Strasbourg 2-1, finished with 10 men, lost top scorer Radamel Falcao to injury, and slipped to 19th place.

Henry, the all-time leading scorer for France and Arsenal, got an ovation from the Strasbourg fans when he walked out.

But his ambitions were undermined without his best two goalkeepers who were injured, and two defenders who were suspended. No. 3 goalkeeper Seydou Sy clumsily fumbled a header from midfielder Adrien Thomasson to gift Strasbourg the lead after 17 minutes.

Falcao limped off with what looked like a left-thigh injury in the 36th. Henry took a risk selecting Falcao, considering he played late Wednesday night for Colombia.

Henry then lost another forward, this time to a red card, when Samuel Grandsir was sent off midway through the second half.

Strasbourg made the most of it when South Africa striker Lebo Mothiba was released and confidently dinked the ball over Sy.

Midfielder Youri Tielemans’ injury-time penalty for Monaco was too late.

Second-place Lille remained eight points behind PSG after winning at Dijon 2-1.

Striker Nicolas Pepe scored a penalty and helped set up Brazilian forward Luiz Araujo just before halftime.

Emiliano Sala grabbed a hat trick as Nantes beat Toulouse 4-0 at home to move above Monaco into 18th place.

Last-place Guingamp drew at Caen 0-0, and Reims was held by Angers to 1-1.

Marseille, Montpellier, Saint-Etienne and Bordeaux play on Sunday and all have a chance to overtake Lyon in third place.

Marseille travels to play Nice; Saint-Etienne faces Rennes, and Montpellier hosts Bordeaux.

Serie A: Ronaldo scores but Juve’s perfect start is ruined

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MILAN (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to net 400 goals across Europe’s top five leagues.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 9? ]

It wasn’t enough on Saturday to maintain Juventus’ perfect start to the season.

Ronaldo, who has been accused of rape in a civil lawsuit in the United States, scored in the 1-1 draw against Genoa. It was his fifth Serie A goal in nine matches.

Ronaldo has 311 goals in La Liga for Real Madrid, and 84 in the English Premier League for Manchester United.

Juventus won all of its previous 10 matches across Serie A and the Champions League. Though Juve’s lead in Italy was cut to four points after Napoli won at Udinese 3-0, coach Massimiliano Allegri believed this result would help his side for arguably its toughest test yet, Manchester United on Tuesday in Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford.

“We drifted out of the game after a good start to the second half and, instead of making it 2-0, we let them make it 1-1,” Allegri said. “This isn’t good, because it’s with matches like this that titles are lost. After 10 minutes of the second half we were already thinking about Manchester. We needed to have more focus.

“But it’s a draw that serves us well. It’ll get our feet back to earth and help us understand that, to win matches, you need sacrifice and hard work.”

[ WATCH: Messi scores, assists, breaks arm in first 16 minutes ]

Kathryn Mayorga filed a lawsuit last month in Nevada state claiming Ronaldo raped her in his Las Vegas hotel room in 2009. Police also reopened an investigation into the allegation at her request. Ronaldo had last weekend off while Juventus was idle during the international break. Normally the star of his national team, he was left off Portugal’s squad.

Less than 20 minutes in on Saturday, he scored. There was a miscommunication between Genoa goalkeeper Ionut Radu and his defender on Joao Cancelo’s cross from the left, allowing Ronaldo a simple tap-in at the far post.

Genoa’s first goal at Juventus since January 2013 came from Daniel Bessa with a header in the 67th minute.

It was a memorable first match back in charge for Ivan Juric, who returned to Genoa for his third spell as coach.


The substitutes made the difference at Udinese.

Fabian Ruiz replaced the injured Simone Verdi in the opening minutes and the midfielder scored his first Napoli goal in the 13th, curling a stunning 20-yard strike into the top right corner.

Dries Mertens doubled Napoli’s lead from the spot eight minutes from time after Udinese substitute Nicholas Opoku handled Jose Callejon’s effort.

There was still time for Marko Rog to score, just 40 seconds after coming off the bench.

Napoli visits Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Roma fell to a surprise 2-0 defeat at home to 10-man Spal, which won at the Stadio Olimpico for the first time in Serie A in 53 years.

Roma went into the international break with four straight wins in all competitions while Spal had lost its last four.

However, the visitors took the lead shortly before halftime when Andrea Petagna converted a penalty after Manuel Lazzari was fouled by Luca Pellegrini.

Spal doubled its advantage 11 minutes after the break as Kevin Bonifazi headed in a corner at the near post.

Spal goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic – the younger brother of Lazio midfielder Sergej – did brilliantly to fingertip Pellegrini’s effort onto the bar but swiftly went from hero to villain.

Milinkovic-Savic was booked for time-wasting and he received a second yellow card seconds later for petulantly throwing the ball away, leaving Spal with 10 men for the final 15 minutes.

However, it clung on for its first win at Roma in the top flight since 1965.

Roma hosts CSKA Moscow in the Champions League on Tuesday.

The 2 Robbies: Mourinho Muscles Up

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle on the 2-2 draw between Chelsea and Manchester United headlined by Jose Mourinho’s touchline altercation with Chelsea assistant, Marco Ianni. After the deep dive on what this result means for Man United (0:20), the gents also discuss Chelsea’s title expectations (19:30), Manchester City’s dominance (24:45) and Liverpool’s ability to be different (26:15) — but is it better? Plus, a rapid recap (30:45) on Tottenham, Cardiff and Newcastle.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

PL Sunday preview: Streaking Everton host slumping Palace

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With only one game on the Premier League docket for Sunday, it’s a battle of mid-table teams who began the season with plans of finishing safely inside the top half of the table.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 9? ]

On one side, there’s 11th-place Everton who have won back-to-back PL games for the first time this season. On the other side, there’s 14th-place Crystal Palace who enter Sunday’s trip to Goodison Park on the back of two straight league defeats.

The Toffees spent big in the summer transfer window, but a bit of patience was required before the return on their investment was realized. Following a comprehensive demolition of Fulham three weeks ago, and a late win away to Leicester City last week, first-year Everton manager Marco Silva is increasingly pleased with the progression his side is making.

“We are looking more like a team – more compact, more solid in some moments, and staying focused during the game. It is up to us to continue in this way, getting better every time, because we have different problems on Sunday with a different opponent, too. We have to be able to find solutions to score and win the match.”

[ WATCH: Messi scores, assists, injuries arm in first 16 minutes ]

The worst part about Palace’s recent slide is the opponents who have resigned them to defeat: Bournemouth and Wolverhampton Wanderers, a pair of sides likely to finish in the bottom half come the end of the season. Even worse, Palace’s do-everything superstar Wilfried Zaha faces a late fitness test in order to be available for selection after injuring his groin while on international duty for Ivory Coast this week. Palace are winless (0W-4D-3L) in their last seven games against Everton.

INJURIES: Everton — QUESTIONABLE: Idrissa Gueye (ankle); RETURNING: Yerry Mina (foot), Andre Gomes (hamstring), James McCarthy (leg) | Crystal Palace — OUT: Christian Benteke (knee), Scott Dann (knee); DOUBTFUL: Wilfried Zaha (groin); QUESTIONABLE: Connor Wickham (calf)