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Brazil experiments with a new ‘magic quartet’ at World Cup

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) Brazil will be experimenting with a new version of the “magic quartet” in Russia.

More than a decade after the five-time world champions arrived for the World Cup in Germany with its prolific foursome of Ronaldinho, Kaka, Ronaldo and Adriano, Brazil is set to use a “Fab Four” of Neymar, Willian, Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus to try to win its first title since 2002.

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It will be the first time Brazil brings a prominent attacking foursome like the one that attracted all the headlines 12 years ago.

Brazil coach Tite still hasn’t announced his starting lineup for the opener against Switzerland in Rostov-on-Don on Sunday, but all signs show that he will stick to the quartet that helped the team ease past Austria in its final warm-up match last week.

It was the first time the four players started together under Tite, and the lineup earned nothing but praise after the convincing 3-0 win.

“This formation is a very strong one,” Tite said. “It gives us a lot of creativity and aggressiveness.”

Tite had said the performance against Austria would likely determine whether he would keep the foursome for the World Cup opener. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho each scored for Brazil in Vienna.

Tite used the Fab Four formation in parts of the team’s practice session on Tuesday.

The quartet is considered Brazil’s ideal lineup but it hadn’t played much together until now for various reasons, including Neymar’s absence since February because of a foot injury. The game against Austria marked his first start since recovering from the injury. He had come off the bench in the second half of the team’s 2-0 win over Croatia in Liverpool.

The foursome had been together only three other times, and not for many minutes. Douglas Costa had played in Neymar’s position most of the time, and Renato Augusto had been Tite’s preferred option to compose the midfield instead of Willian.

The coach tested the quartet formation in the friendly against Russia in March, but with Costa up front instead of the injured Neymar. Brazil won that match, also 3-0.

The concept of the Brazilian magic quartet first gained prominence at the 2005 Confederations Cup, which Brazil won. It clinched the title with a 4-1 win over Argentina in the final, when Adriano scored twice and Kaka and Ronaldinho added a goal each. Then-coach Carlos Alberto Parreira used Robinho in the attack instead of Ronaldo, who didn’t play because of personal reasons.

Ronaldo was fully available by the time the World Cup arrived, and Brazil was heavily favored to win the title in Germany with the quartet back together. But after cruising past the group stage and easily eliminating Ghana in the round of 16, Brazil’s much-hyped foursome lost to France 1-0 in the quarterfinals.

More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

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Neymar left out of main Brazil team at World Cup camp

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LONDON (AP) After saying last week that he was not 100 percent healthy, Neymar was left out of Brazil’s main team Thursday at its World Cup training camp.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker is still being hampered by a foot injury.

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Before heading to London on Sunday, Neymar said he had not fully recovered after a week of training with the national team in Brazil. But he predicted that he would be better for the tournament in Russia, which begins on June 14.

Brazil will face Croatia in a friendly on Sunday in Liverpool. It is not clear if Neymar will start.

In Thursday’s practice, Brazil coach Tite used Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus up front.

Thiago Silva was also put in the practice team, in the place of Marquinhos.

Earlier, the Brazilian soccer confederation said midfielder Renato Augusto injured his right knee and could miss the game against Croatia at Anfield.

The 30-year-old Augusto is likely to be rested for the rest of the week.

Brazil has been practicing at Tottenham’s training center since Monday and will stay until June 8.

The team’s last pre-World Cup friendly will be against Austria on June 10.

Brazil tests Willian up front with Neymar and Jesus

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TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) Brazil’s second pre-World Cup training featured Willian in the attack with Neymar and Gabriel Jesus on Thursday, a hint that coach Tite might change his starting lineup.

Willian played with the two star strikers for about one hour in the first training with footballs at the Granja Comary ground in Teresopolis, outside Rio de Janeiro.

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Tite did not use his starting midfield to play with the trio. He also used defenders Marquinhos and Miranda during the entire hour, suggesting former captain Thiago Silva will be on the bench for the moment.

If Willian is brought on to the team, Tite could remove midfielder Renato Augusto from the starting lineup, put Philippe Coutinho in his place, and open a gap for Willian.

Since last year, Tite has said he needs a “pacemaker,” and considers Coutinho one of his main options for the role.

Beijing Guoan’s Augusto is under pressure after unconvincing performances in Brazil’s midfield.

Augusto’s spot is also eyed by Fred, one of the surprises of Tite’s squad.

The midfielder said he admired Brazil players who began a World Cup on the bench and later became starters, such as Mazinho (1994) and Kleberson (2002).

“We can get inspiration from them, these players worked very hard to get their spot,” Fred said. “But if I have to be out I will keep working hard.”

Fred also said he was torn between a transfer to Manchester United or Manchester City.

Fred said he had an offer from City in January, and both were now talking to his Shakhtar Donetsk club about a transfer.

“Maybe after the World Cup I will make the choice,” the midfielder said. “Now I am only thinking about the World Cup.”

Fred said he believes his future is outside Ukraine, and doing well in the English Premier League like other Brazilians such as Chelsea’s Willian.

Tite is counting on only 18 of the 23 players in his squad at training in Teresopolis.

Winger Douglas Costa and Fagner are still recovering from injury.

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino and Real Madrid’s Casemiro and Marcelo will only join on Monday after the Champions League final.

Training on Thursday was attended by four-time World Cup winner Mario Zagallo.

Southampton 0-1 Manchester City: Of course they did

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  • Man City sets records for:
  • Goals (106)
  • Goal differential (+79)
  • Wins (32)
  • Points (100)

Manchester City loves itself some final day stoppage time.

Gabriel Jesus scored at the death as City became the first club in English top flight history to earn 100 points in a season with a 1-0 win over Southampton at St. Mary’s on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola celebrated wildly when Jesus bagged the goal, assisted by league leader Kevin De Bruyne.

Saints remain in the top flight with 37 points, four better than relegated Swansea.

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Saints had a few quality  chances against heavily-favored City, as the miracle hopes of Swansea picked up little early momentum.

Jack Stephens worked early danger for Saints, and Wesley Hoedt soon flicked a header off the crossbar.

Southampton stood firm, and continued to offer some options in attack as Man City took control of the match.

City had penalty claims through Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane as the match neared the final quarter hour but Andre Marriner was unmoved by their pleas.

Again all odds — and possession — Dusan Tadic danced around Ederson thrice in the 78th minute, but his shot was cleared off the line by Fernandinho.

Phil Foden subbed into the match for Man City, qualifying him to become the youngest ever Premier League medal winner.

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Man City 5-0 Swans: Royal blowout

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  • Swans give guard of honor
  • Four different goal scorers
  • Fabianski saves PK

Five different players scored as Manchester City hammered Swansea City 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Fans flooded the pitch after the final whistle, many congregating around a surprised Benjamin Mendy in his return from injury.

Kevin De Bruyne scored the highlight reel goal, with David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, and Bernardo Silva also scoring for the Premier League champions in their first match since sealing the title through a Manchester United loss to West Brom.

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Man City put together another brilliant team goal to open the scoring, with Kevin De Bruyne playing Raheem Sterling toward the end line and David Silva burying Sterling’s cutback in the 12th minute.

Sterling made it 2-0 in the 16th minute, capping off a 1-2 between Fabian Delph and David Silva with a back post tap-in.

Lukasz Fabianski caught a curling effort from Bernardo Silva as the match reached the half hour mark. He’d stop De Bruyne two minutes later.

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De Bruyne scored an otherworldly goal from 25 yards in the 54th minute.

Swansea almost had an answer through Ki Sung-yeung’s corner kick, but Alfie Mawson headed over the bar.

Federico Fernandez conceded a penalty kick to Sterling, and Jesus saw his chance saved by Fabianski. That didn’t stop Bernardo Silva from carving a rebound goal for 4-0.

Benjamin Mendy made his long-awaited return from injury with a 75th minute substitution for Delph.

Fellow substitute Phil Foden took a play started by Yaya Toure and nearly found an assist when Fabianski caught Jesus’ header.

Jesus got his goal when he popped Toure’s scooped past over Fabianski in the 88th.