Friday, 6 March 2015

Philippe Coutinho's subtle genius could reinvigorate Brazil – but he may have to bide his time a while longer

Brendan Rodgers has rarely been shy in praising the development of young players under his tutelage, but this felt different. More genuine. Fanboyish, almost.

“He is a joy to work with and a joy to watch,” swooned the Liverpool manager after watching Philippe Coutinho dismantle Manchester City last weekend. “He is a kid who has so much ahead of him in the game. He is a sensational footballer.” Anyone who has watched the Reds over the last couple of years would be hard pressed to disagree.

Coutinho’s talent has largely gone untapped at international level, however. Indeed, it remains a damning indictment of the direction the Brazil team has taken that a player so gifted should only have five caps to his name. That could be about to change, however. Coutinho was brought back into the fold by Dunga in the wake of the 2014 World Cup debacle and has been an ever-present in the squad since.

Yet the midfielder may still have to bide his time before flourishing for his country. Find out why in my new blog for Yahoo! Eurosport. 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Fluminense starlet Kenedy has plenty of potential – but is he ready for Europe?

His name may be an amusing spelling mistake, but don't let that detail define Fluminense starlet Kenedy (catchy full name: Robert Kenedy Nunes do Nascimento) in your mind. For the 19-year-old has plenty to offer besides the potential for cheap JFK jokes.

Kenedy is the latest Brazilian youngster to catch the eye of European clubs, with Manchester United rumoured to be keeping tabs on him.

With interest likely to grow in the months ahead, I have profiled the Flu forward for MirrorFootball. Have a read here.

Friday, 16 January 2015

From the ashes: Breno looking to get career back on track in Brazil after prison sentence for arson

He calls it an accident but that was not how the court in Germany saw it in July of 2012. Nine months earlier, the luxury villa he rented in a suburb of Munich had burnt to the ground. A grave error, surely, but not unintentional, according to judge Rosi Datzman, who handed him a sentence of three years and nine months in prison. Prosecutors had pushed for more.

So it was that Breno, once viewed as one of the most promising young defenders in world football, arrived at his lowest ebb. A career that had promised so much – the Brazilian was snapped up by Bayern Munich while still in his teens and was seen as a future Seleção stalwart – lay in tatters, his name destined to become little more than a bizarre footnote or the answer to a pub quiz question.

Or so it appeared. For against all odds, Breno is working towards a footballing renaissance back in his homeland.

Read the rest of this piece over at ESPN FC.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Continuity the key for Cruzeiro, Brazilian champions for the second year running

The Campeonato Brasileiro, to bastardise that neat Gary Lineker aphorism, is a simple championship. 20 teams slog away for the best part of a year and in the end, Cruzeiro win.

It wasn’t always thus, of course: the Belo Horizonte side’s dominance is a relatively unusual phenomenon for a league that usually prides itself on the fact that pretty much any one of 12 or so teams could take the title in any given year. Yet for the first time since São Paulo’s reign of terror between 2006 and 2008, one side looks to be establishing something of a dynasty.

Key to Cruzeiro’s success this term was that most rare of commodities in Brazilian football: continuity. Forward-thinking coach Marcelo Oliveira stayed put following the 2013 title, as did the vast majority of his key players: Éverton Ribeiro, last season’s player of the year, resisted overtures from Europe, while Lucas Silva and Ricardo Goulart also stuck around.

Read the rest of this article on the WhoScored site.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Golden Boy's final act: Former Fenerbahçe playmaker Alex gets emotional send-off from Coritiba fans

Days before the game, they filled the streets, lighting flares and chanting his name. The words "thank you, captain," rang around the city like a mantra.

The game was always going to be a sellout; there had been queues to reach the ticket booths at the Couto Pereira. Coritiba had done just about enough to avoid relegation from Brazil's top flight, meaning there was nothing much to play for, but that mattered little. He would be there, for the final time. 25,550 people flooded the stands. It was their highest attendance of the season.

This was a party, certainly, but one tinged with sadness. Coritiba, one of Brazil's most historic clubs, were bidding farewell to perhaps their biggest idol of the modern era.

As kick-off approached, he made his big entrance. The reception was huge but there were to be no real histrionics on his part. Not that that surprised anyone familiar with him. For Alexsandro de Souza – better known as Alex – has always been one to shy away from the fanfare when possible.

Read the rest of this piece on the Mirror website.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Absolutely fabulous: Luís Fabiano gatecrashes São Paulo's Fantastic Four to provide reminder of his quality

Bad news for fans of title races going right to the wire: it now seems unlikely that São Paulo will manage to overthrow the heavyweights of Cruzeiro before the Campeonato Brasileirão season ends. Going into the midweek round, the Tricolor trail by four points having played a game more than their rivals. Stranger things have happened, but rarely to a side so battle-hardened as this Cruzeiro outfit.

And yet, as thoughts turn to end-of-year lists and prizes, there is an argument to be made that São Paulo are some kind of people’s champions. Led by the ‘Quartero Fantástico’ – the Fantastic Four of Kaká, Alexandre Pato, Alan Kardec and Paulo Henrique Ganso – São Paulo embarking on a run of 7 victories in 8 games to climb above Internacional, Corinthians and Fluminense.

Yet after the Cruzeiro win came a frustrating stutter: just one point salvaged from four games. The chasing pack closed in; one of the runners in the two-horse race looked to have limped out of contention. One man, though, had other ideas. Luís Fabiano has stepped up to the plate in grand style in recent weeks, netting four times in five starts to put São Paulo back within striking distance once more.

Read the rest of this piece on O Fabuloso's mini-revival on the WhoScored site. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Tears and tantrums: On Thiago Silva's fall from grace

Brazil’s doomed World Cup summer threw up all manner of memorable images. Most of those were of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s players looking utterly bemused during and after their shellacking at the hands of Germany, but there is one other that still stands out.

It is of Thiago Silva, the captain of the side, refusing to watch the penalty shootout against Chile in the second round. Almost 60,000 souls inside the Mineirão – in those hazy, hopeful days before it hosted that 7-1 – are urging Brazil’s players on; yet one of the men whose job that is cannot even bring himself to look. It later emerged that he had point-blank ruled himself out of taking a kick - not exactly leadership of the highest order, as many pointed out.

In the post-tournament scramble, Neymar’s appointment as Brazil’s new captain went almost unnoticed. But evidently not by Thiago. Having missed the first games of the Dunga Redux era due to injury, he jumped at his first chance to sound off about the transition at the weekend.

“[Neymar] didn't come and speak to me,” he told the press. “No one did. That's what's annoying. I can't pretend I'm happy. It's a sad, painful moment... like they took something away from me."

Read this piece on Thiago Silva's fall from grace on the Yahoo! Eurosport site.
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