Friday, 18 May 2018

Parental phone calls, bank adverts and one-note chants: The alternative guide to Brazil at the World Cup

Ahead of the greatest show on earth, it makes sense that fans want to get the lowdown on all of the teams.

Key players, tactics, strengths, weaknesses: this is all important stuff. But it's also good, where possible, to dig a little deeper.

The When Saturday Comes World Cup guide does just that, asking vital questions like "Which players have done really crap adverts recently?" and "Why is that guy doing that weird celebration?"

I've provided the responses for the Brazil section of the issue, which you can get at all good newsagents, or online here.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Brazil World Cup preview: Seleção look like serious contenders in Russia – just don't mention 2014

Four years on from the golden, historic, not-at-all-harrowing experience of hosting the 2014 edition, Brazil are back at the tournament they love best.

Now just one loyalty stamp away from receiving a statutory free World Cup - terms and conditions apply - the Seleção are eyeing Russia 2018 with the kind of intent usually reserved for Ronaldinho during Carnaval season.

To say that Brazil are among the pre-tournament favourites is to edge towards tautology; you could pick 11 strangers from your local high street, deck them out in yellow jerseys and people would still look and them and think, "Cor, that lot will take some beating."

I'm profiling – and gently mocking – all of the favourites for Russia 2018 on the Betfair blog over next couple of weeks. Read the Brazil entry here.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Dani Alves' injury heartache is a huge blow to Brazil's World Cup hopes – and to all true football fans

"I don’t want anybody to cry for me," he insisted.

"I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for me. I have lived my dreams. Dani Alves is not going to the World Cup, but he is still one happy motherfucker."

That's as maybe, but Brazil are going to miss him dearly. Not just as a full-back – although massively, massively as a full-back – but as a personality and a leader. As someone who can always raise a smile in the changing room, too.

In my latest World Cup preview for Unibet, I look at Brazil's options for replacing him in the starting XI. Have a read here.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Why Fred could be the joker in Brazil's pack this summer – and Fernandinho's long-term heir at Manchester City

There are unlikely to be many big surprises when Tite names his Brazil squad for the World Cup on Monday.

Grêmio pair Luan and Arthur are the most exciting players operating in Brasileirão but look unlikely to gatecrash the final 23, so the bulk of the group will be familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in the top European leagues.

All of which made it slightly complicated to pick an up-and-coming 'One To Watch' to kick off Unibet's new series of profiles ahead of the World Cup. In the end, I plumped for Fred, who, despite being a Champions League regular over the last few seasons, is still yet to make a major mark at international level.

He will travel to Russia as a back-up player, but with a fine season behind him, it would be no great surprise were the 25-year-old to make an impact from the bench as Brazil seek to make amends for their 2014 nightmare.

Read more here.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Seduction and salvation: why Philippe Coutinho's Vasco years add another layer of intrigue to El Clásico

Eurico Miranda is not one to bite his tongue when something has irked him, and this passed his irritation threshold with plenty to spare.

"Real Madrid sought out the player's family, making offers that were too good to turn down," seethed Vasco da Gama's blowhard president. "But they were illegal. We want to make clear that this is no way to act."

He called it a "crime of seduction" and reported Los Merengues to Uefa and Fifa.  There was an element of theatre to it all – of irony, too, given Miranda's notoriously patchy moral record – but his resolve was true: he would not be selling his prized asset on the cheap. Well, not to Madrid, anyway.

10 years have passed since Vasco's death dance with the Bernabéu juggernaut, and while tales of tapping-up have long since lost their power to shock, this particular tangle does provide a nice alternative backstory to this weekend's Clásico.

Read all about it on the Independent website.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Why Richarlison should think twice before joining Man United if they firm up their interest this summer

Watford forward Richarlison has been linked with a move to Chelsea since pretty much the moment he stepped off the plane from Rio eight months ago.

But it now appears that the Blues have competition, with the Daily Mirror reporting that "José Mourinho is ready to gazump his old club" in the race for his services.

It is easy to understand Manchester United's interest. He may have gone off the boil since that swaggering start to life at Watford, but most of the ingredients for superstardom are there: the pace, the two-footedness, the balance, the steely-eyed desire.

What is less clear is what he would stand to gain from a move to Old Trafford at this moment, as I argue in my latest Unibet piece.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Ronaldinho interview: On retirement, replacing Messi, Coutinho's Barcelona DNA and the beauty of the toe poke

"I can only thank God for the gift that he gave me, and for the opportunity to do the thing that I love the most.

"God put me on this earth to play football and I had a lot of fun with it."

That's Ronaldinho reflecting on his playing career to yours truly, in an interview conducted in Mexico City, of all places.

Read (and indeed watch) what he had to say about his decision to retire, the problem of replacing Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho's Barcelona DNA and plenty more on the Yahoo Sport website.