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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.

Which Premier League players will be at World Cup?

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There are 107 players from the Premier League who are going to the 2018 World Cup.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Manchester City have more players going to the tournament (16) than any other club in the world, while the English national team are the only country in the entire competition to have 100 percent of their players from their domestic league.

Belgium have an incredible 11 of their 23-man squad who play in the Premier League, while Senegal and Brazil have six players each from the PL and Argentina, Denmark and France boast five players each in their final rosters.

Below is a breakdown of the PL players heading to Russia this summer, with players from recently relegated teams in 2017/18 and teams coming up to the PL in 2018/19 included.

Here’s a country-by-country breakdown.


Argentina
Manuel Lanzini (West Ham United)
Marcos Rojo (Manchester United)
Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City)
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Willy Caballero (Chelsea)


Australia
Mat Ryan (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town)


Belgium
Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)
Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)
Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur)
Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur)
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)
Nacer Chadli (West Bromwich Albion)


Brazil
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
Danilo (Manchester City)
Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Willian (Chelsea)
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
Ederson (Manchester City)


Colombia
David Opsina (Arsenal)
Jose Izquierdo (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur)


Croatia
Dejan Lovren (Liverpool)


Denmark
Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City)
Andreas Christensen (Chelsea)
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Mathias Jorgensen (Huddersfield Town)
Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield Town)


England
Jack Butland (Stoke City)
Jordan Pickford (Everton)
Nick Pope (Burnley)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur)
Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Phil Jones (Manchester United)
John Stones (Manchester City)
Harry Maguire (Leicester City)
Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur)
Ashley Young (Manchester United)
Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur)
Fabian Delph (Manchester City)
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea, on loan at Crystal Palace)
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Jesse Lingard (Manchester United)
Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)


Egypt
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal)


France
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur)
Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Olivier Giroud (Chelsea)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City)


Germany
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)
Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)


Iceland
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton)
Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Burnley)


Japan
Maya Yoshida (Southampton)
Shinji Kagawa (Leicester City)


Korea Republic
Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur)
Ki Sung-Yueng (Swansea City)


Mexico
Javier Hernandez (Mexico)


Morocco
Roman Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers)


Nigeria
Wifried Ndidi (Leicester City)
Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City)
Victor Moses (Chelsea)
Alex Iwobi (Arsenal)


Peru
Andre Carrillo (Watford)


Poland
Jan Bednarek (Southampton)
Grzegorz Krychowiak (West Brom, on loan from PSG)
Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City)


Portugal
Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
Joao Mario (West Ham United, on loan from Inter Milan)
Cedric Soares (Southampton)
Adrien Silva (Leicester City)


Serbia
Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace)
Nemanja Matic (Manchester United)
Dusan Tadic (Southampton)
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United, on loan at Fulham)


Senegal
Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Idrissa Gueye (Everton)
Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United)
Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City)
Alfred N'Diaye (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Badou Ndiaye (Stoke City)


Spain
David De Gea (Manchester United)
Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Nacho Monreal (Arsenal)
David Silva (Manchester City)


Sweden
Victor Lindelof (Manchester United)
Martin Olsson (Swansea City)
Kristoffer Nordfeldt (Swansea City)


Switzerland
Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)
Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City)


Tunisia
Yohan Benalouane (Leicester City)


Neymar set to return to action in Brazil-Croatia friendly

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LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Neymar is set to play for Brazil on Sunday for the first time since being injured in February.

But the striker will only come on in the second half of the friendly game against Croatia in Liverpool, Brazil coach Tite said at a news conference on Saturday.

Neymar has been sidelined for more than three months due to surgery on his right foot.

“He will be on the bench because he is in the process of recovery and will play in the second half because this is a match to prepare the whole team,” Tite said. “I don’t know who will leave. He has to have a leading role, but the others have to have leading roles as well.”

Brazil’s team on Sunday was unveiled as Alisson; Danilo, Thiago Silva, Miranda and Marcelo; Casemiro, Paulinho and Fernandinho; Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus and Willian.

Asked whether that would be his starting lineup if the World Cup began now, Tite said “Yes” three times.

“At this moment they are the best and we have to work with the current moment,” Tite said.

That would mean defender Thiago Silva, Brazil’s captain at the 2014 World Cup, getting his place back in the starting lineup alongside Miranda, leaving his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Marquinhos out.

“It was very difficult to choose,” Tite said. “When Marquinhos got injured a few months ago, Thiago stepped in and did great. Sometimes it pains my heart and I have to decide. It would be fair to have any of those three in the team.”

Still, Tite said he could change his mind before the World Cup begins. Brazil’s opener is on June 17 against Switzerland. Costa Rica and Serbia are also in Group E.

Brazil’s coach denied that the midfield formation with Casemiro, Fernandinho and Paulinho would be too cautious.

Midfielder Renato Augusto, who plays more as a pacemaker, was injured earlier in the week during training and replaced by Manchester City’s Fernandinho.

Five-time World Cup champion Brazil will not have a single captain for the tournament and 21-year-old striker Gabriel Jesus will lead the team on Sunday.

“We will keep sharing (the captaincy) in the World Cup. But with athletes that are more experienced, they will be used more,” Tite said.

Croatia was deliberately picked by Brazil as a tough opponent, and coaching assistant Cleber Xavier said it was a test similar to the one Brazil will face against Serbia.

“Croatia has many players in Italy, Spain. Their midfielders are great and they play with two lines of four players. Luka Modric here is different from the one of Real Madrid. It will be a great test,” Xavier said.

Modric said Brazil was better than the team which opened the 2014 World Cup against Croatia in Sao Paulo. Brazil won that game 3-1 with two goals from Neymar.

“But we have improved too, so this will be a good game,” Modric said.

Neymar appears in good shape after first week with Brazil

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TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) Neymar finished his first full week of training with Brazil on Saturday in apparent good shape ahead of the upcoming World Cup after foot surgery.

The striker continued his recovery, dribbling and passing at high speed in Brazil’s last training session on home soil before the national team sets up camp in London on Monday.

The Brazilian has been recovering from right foot surgery in March.

[ MORE: Neymar “annoyed” by latest (and constant) transfer speculation ]

Earlier in the week, members of Brazil’s coaching staff said Neymar was fit to train but they tried to reduce pressure on him by saying it would take time until he delivered his best performances.

Left back Filipe Luis said Neymar did well in training but still needs to forget the injury.

“I had a serious injury in 2010 and I came back with fear. In the first chance I had in a game, I went with it all so I could lose that fear. I saw it didn’t hurt and I just forgot,” Luis said. “It will be the same with Neymar, the first time an opponent kicks him … he will forget it.”

In the first training session in Teresopolis, outside Rio de Janeiro, Neymar occasionally dragged his right foot onto the pitch. On Thursday he took his right boot off, sat down for a few minutes and looked upset. Once the football was underway, he seemed as fit as his teammates despite accidentally kicking the pitch with his injured foot. He soon afterward got back in action.

[ MORE: Messi: It would be ‘terrible’ to see Neymar at Real Madrid ]

In the first and only Brazil open training session, with fans screaming his name on the sidelines, a playful Neymar nutmegged right-back Danilo and flipped the ball over Luis’ head.

Throughout the week Neymar showed his finishing was sharpening, especially from close range.

After Saturday’s training Neymar welcomed his girlfriend, actress Bruna Marquezine, and family members to the Granja Comary training ground.

With Brazil players off duty for the rest of the day, Neymar is expected to take some teammates back to his mansion in Mangaratiba, near Rio.

The 20-strong squad will meet again Sunday morning at the Brazilian football confederation headquarters in a visit to their museum.

Players then travel to London hours later and will set up camp until June 8 at Tottenham’s training ground.

Would Real three-peat be most impressive feat in UCL history?

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When Franz Roth’s 57th minute goal gave Bayern Munich a 1-0 win over Saint-Etienne in Glasgow on May 12, 1976, it marked the last time a club won three-consecutive European Cups.

Oddly enough, Ajax turned the trick in the previous three seasons to Bayern’s run, and Real Madrid won the first five from 1955-60 when the tournament required a side of its ilk win only four ties. By 1976, the tournament began with the Round of 32.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

While there were certainly reasons the tournament was more difficult, consider that travel was far more taxing on the body and officiating far less advanced if even impartial, what Real Madrid would do this weekend would be an incredible achievement.

Winning three-straight competitions in any of the elite league is insane, and the UEFA Champions Leagues is especially bonkers.

Yes, an injury to Neymar made the PSG defeat a little less impressive, but consider that Real has advanced to the final while playing a murderer’s row (especially in relation to their opponents). Juventus was next, and then Bayern Munich. Now, Liverpool.

While no one, maybe ever, should cry for Real Madrid, this third run is more impressive than the first two in that the club simply isn’t as strong as previous iterations. That’s evidenced by their relatively poor performance in La Liga play, finishing almost 20 points back of rivals Barcelona and three behind Atleti.

Real sold nearly $100 million worth of players this offseason than it bought, with Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos the biggest names through the door while Alvaro Morata, Danilo, and James Rodriguez skipped town.

Who knows what’s in the water in Real, but its veteran squad continues to produce big results. Cristiano Ronaldo is 33. Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric 32. Marcelo and Benzema 30.

If Real holds off Liverpool, there will be some myopic notes about how it should’ve been expected to win the match, but that ignores that in a competition as deep as ever, Real took on all comers and triumphed for the third-straight year.

In doing so, they are likely achieving the most impressive feat in modern UCL history, certainly at least since Porto won the 2003-04 tournament under Jose Mourinho… and that was a one-off.

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