Newish Look Brazil Meet Scotland on Sunday

March 23, 2011 — by Mark1

International qualifiers and friendlies upon us, we look to the wit and wisdom of our Brazilian correspondent Mark Gannon to sort through the samba boys selection vs Scotland for this Sunday, and answer the question, why no Robinho?

Yet another chance to display gratuitous bare torso/boobage.

FWIW, Mano says he’s letting Robinho rest now, but that he’ll be counting on Robinho for Copa América. And he made a point of reminding everyone that Robinho has been on every one of Mano’s previous lists.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Mano go wild testing players for a few games, but I also wouldn’t mind if he started to settle on a group of starters. Either way. I don’t see what he sees in André Santos, but finally Marcelo is getting some love, even if in Mano’s mind he’s just André’s backup. If I were Marcelo, I probably would have gone postal early last year when people were talking about Roberto Carlos (ferchrissakes) on the squad for the World Cup, and they weren’t joking.

I was just saying yesterday that Maicon is somebody who could still help the team. It’s really too bad there’s no way to have two right wingbacks. Call it the US journalism formation or something. I don’t care. It would put Dani Alves and Maicon on the field at the same time for the same team. Dani is versatile enough to play either wingback position or a midfield position, but his natural and best position is the same as Maicon’s. This is a good kind of problem to have.

It’s kind of entertaining that there are two players called Lucas on this list. There’s the young attacking middie from São Paulo (DAMN HIM) who played really well in the U20 South American championship and there’s the volante Lucas y’all prob’ly know from Liverpool. I don’t know much about the Liverpool Lucas. I’ve seen him play for the seleção a few times, and I caught part of a Tottenham game once. I was never overwhelmed, but I assumed there was a reason he was getting paid well to play in England and why he was on the seleção several times.


International Friendlies Today – France v Brazil, Argentina v Portugal, Denmark v England

February 9, 2011 — by Suman

A More Meaningful France-Brazil Match Than Today's (12 Juin 1998, Paris)

There is a full slate of meaningless international friendlies today, with the European and South American powers in action in some attractive matchups (Guardian blogger Paolo Bandini, in a bit of hyperbole: “Is this the best night of friendlies ever?“).   Moreover, most of those matches available for viewing here in the US (at least on ESPN3).

We may peek in on France-Brazil, Argentina-Portugal, or even Denmark-England.   Especially since the storyline for that latter one, at least from the English point of view, seems to be young Jack Wilshere’s first start.  Fabio Capello did nothing to manage expectations of a nation looking for yet another savior by mentioning “Baresi, Maldini, Raúl” when asked about Wilshere.

Such expectations which have been building his performances in the early stages of the Premier and Champions Leagues last fall. For example, here is another Guardian columnist back in October, writing that he’s “nervous about Jack Wilshere, teenage midfield scamp and current bearer of the title of most promising young footballer in England. Watching Wilshere set up Arsenal’s first goal against Partizan Belgrade [in September] with a brilliant backheel, two thoughts sprang to mind. First: Wilshere is really good. And second: how are we going to ruin him?”

(We’ve indulged this tangent about Wilshere since its further fuel for our ongoing internal debate about his role in the Arsenal lineup; see here.)

Here’s a list of some of the matches of interest:

2:15pm Denmark vs England
2:30pm Netherlands vs Austria
2:45pm France vs Brazil USAESPND
2:45pm Germany vs Italy
3:00pm Argentina vs Portugal FIFA.comGolTV,
3:30pm Spain vs Colombia

A France-Brazil matchup is a good reason to look back at the famous Final Coupe du Monde 1998, which took place on the 12 Juin 1998 in the Stade de France (Paris):

Update: For reference, here are the squad lists for a few of the matches, which are now in progress.


France: Lloris; Sagna, Rami, Mexes, Abidal – A Diarra, M’vila – Menez, Gourcuff, Malouda – Benzema.
Subs: Mandanda, Carrasso, Réveillère, Koscielny, Sakho, Clichy, Cabaye, Matuidi, Diaby, Gameiro, Hoarau, Rémy
Brazil: Julio Cesar; Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Andre Santos; Elias, Lucas, Hernanes; Renato Augusto, Pato, Robinho
Subs: Gomes, Neto, Breno, Luisao, Marcelo, Rafael, Anderson, Sandro, Jadson, André, Hulk


Denmark: Sorensen, Christian Poulsen, Jorgensen, Agger, Simon Poulsen, Jacobsen, Kvist, Eriksen, Krohn-Delhi, Rommedahl, Bendtner.
Subs: Lindegaard, Wass, Kjaer, Silberbauer, Schone, Vingaard, Junker, Lorentzen, Enevoldsen, Pedersen.
England:Hart, Johnson, Dawson, Terry, Ashley Cole, Lampard, Wilshere, Walcott, Rooney, Milner, Bent.
Subs: Green, Walker, Cahill, Lescott, Baines, Downing, Parker, Barry, Young, Defoe,
Carlton Cole, Stockdale.


A Shameful Moment for Brazilian Soccer

December 9, 2010 — by Mark

Why the end of this year’s Brazilian Championship was so unsatisfying

The Brazilian Championship ended Sunday. I’d love to be able to write a gushing post about what a great end the tournament had. Unfortunately, people in power in Brazilian soccer (and my stubborn insistence on knowing things and not forgetting them) ruined it for me. So here’s a warning: if you don’t want to see the filthy underbelly of Brazilian soccer, don’t read the rest of this post. I will make another post soon running down some of the good things about the 2010 Brazilian Championship, but this one contains some really ugly truth.

You were warned.


BRA-ARG ×2, rivalries, and the best players in the world

December 8, 2010 — by Mark

The author grudgingly respects this player even when he plays for the author's favorite team's mortal enemy, like in this picture

Rivalries are a really, really important part of the fun of soccer and many other sports.

Rival players are special, not quite in the same way as players for our favorite teams, but still special. We’re likely to remember even relatively forgettable players who participated in one or more important games we remember, or even associate the name of a player with memories of the time when he or she played for a rival team.

“Did he just write ‘or she’?”

Yes, I did. And I will have a lot more to say about women’s soccer in this post and in the future.


A Brazilian I Don’t Like

November 29, 2010 — by Mark1

With a little and very loose tie-in to El Clásico

The author likes this organization and the soccer it represents...

if you’ve read anything I’ve written about soccer, you know I like Brazilian soccer, the Brazilian national soccer teams, and lots of Brazilian players. But there are Brazilians I don’t like, or who I think are overrated, or both. Today I’d like to tell you about a major figure in Brazilian soccer, a coach who is both dishonest and not all that great at coaching, but who continues to be treated and paid as if he were one of the top Brazilian coaches. His name even comes up when the speculation about the seleção’s next coach starts every time one quits, gets fired, or just has a bad game.  I’m talking about Vanderlei Luxemburgo.

Anyone who follows Brazilian soccer knows who Vanderlei Luxemburgo is, and some of the most die-hard Barcelona and especially Real Madrid fans preparing themselves for Monday’s big game might remember him. For the rest of you, here’s a chance to get to know a bit about somebody who, like him or not, has been one one of the most memorable figures, at least among coaches, in Brazilian soccer in recent decades.


Ronaldinho & A Seleção

November 16, 2010 — by Sean1

In preparation for tomorrow’s Brazil-Argentina “friendly”, we in the CultFootball pressroom have been having some exchanges as to whether or not Ronaldinho’s form warranted his call up to the side, especially after having been so unceremoniously dumped for the summer’s big tourney in S. Africa. Mark Gannon, our man in Brazil, lays it out plainly below.

The best player in the world: ~2003-2007

I watched the season of The Simpsons after Conan O’Brien left to take over Late Night, but I didn’t like it, so I stopped watching the show. The next year, friends started telling me about episodes that actually sounded good. It seemed like the show might actually be back on track, so I thought I might try to watch it again. I’d still forget to tune in most of the time, and on the occasions when I did, it sucked. But frequently, when I didn’t watch, my friends would tell me about the episodes, and they sounded really good.

I mention this because I’ve been thinking about it since getting Sean’s e-mail, and it occurred to me that I’ve never actually watched a Milan game in which Ronaldinho played well. I’ve seen Milan games without him, Milan games in which he didn’t play well, and highlights of Milan games in which he did play at least well enough to make the highlights. But I don’t think Ronaldinho has ever had a good game for Milan when I sat down and watched the whole game.

I think Ronaldinho probably should have been on the Seleção for the 2010 World Cup, but I don’t expect him to be a starter in 2014 at age 34.

He is already a very different player from the one he was when he shone at Barça, and a good part of the difference looks to me like bad aging. That said, his peak was so high that he can still be a very useful player.


A Seleção: November 17 vs Argentina

November 1, 2010 — by Sean

From our Senior Correspondent in Brazil, Mark Gannon. Reporting from the trenches deep in the heart of futebol country.

Here is Mano Menezes’s list for the seleção that will face Argentina in Doha on the 17th of November.


Victor (Grêmio)
Jefferson (Botafogo)
Neto (Atlético-PR)

Interesting that all three are playing in Brazil. A lot of people, including me, thought Victor might be the third goalie for the World Cup. Brazil very often takes a young goalie who might become the starter in the next World Cup.


Daniel Alves (Barcelona)
Rafael (Manchester United)
Adriano Corrêa (Barcelona)
André Santos (Fenerbahçe)

André Santos probably owns the left wingback position unless he really screws up. There are other players at his position who would be good choices, but Mano knows and trusts him from their days at Corinthians. Similarly, Daniel Alves seems to be Mano’s guy at right wingback, and deservedly só. He’s very effective and dependable now, and is likely to still be quite good at age 31 in 2014. Rafael is only 20 and already seems to be solidifying his position as Daniel’s backup. His first call-up to the senior team was as part of Mano’s first list, for the friendly against the USA in August.

Central defenders:

David Luiz, capped 24 times for the U20s gets his 2nd call-up to the senior squad under Mano.

Thiago Silva (Milan)
David Luiz (Benfica)
Alex Costa (Chelsea)
Réver (Atlético-MG)

No surprises here. It’s interesting that after a long period of total stability at the center-back position (Juan and Lúcio), Mano already seems to have established who his starters and even preferred backups are at this position. And they seem to be good choices.

When rosters and lineups are listed in Brazil, midfielders are usually separated into “volantes” and “meias.” The basic rule is that meias are offensive midfielders and volantes are more defensive, but there are volantes who can be really important parts of the offense, so I don’t like the term “defensive midfielder” as a translation of “volante.”


Lucas (Liverpool)
Ramires (Chelsea)
Sandro (Tottenham)
Jucilei (Corinthians)

Lucas has been getting more chances with Mano. Ramires was one of Dunga’s best additions to the seleção, and I’m convinced that Brazil lost to Holland in the World Cup quarterfinal basically because Ramires had to sit out that game because of accumulated yellow cards. Brazil had just found what seemed to be the best formula for the team (given that there was no way to sit Kaká, no matter how much he needed it) in the game against Chile. The presence of Jucilei and Elias (see below) is not surprising, not only because Mano remembers the success he had with them at Corinthians, but also because Corinthians is one of the leaders of the Brazilian championship now, in large part because of its excellent midfield (both volantes and meias).

Sandro was an alternate for the World Cup squad and has played for the U-20 and primary national teams.