Two Seleção friendlies, a farewell to Ronaldo, preparations for Copa América 2011, and the accompanying roster intrigue

June 2, 2011 — by Mark

The Brazilian national team will play two friendlies in Brazil over the next week. First, on Saturday in Goiânia, a rematch of the quarter-final game with Holland that ended Brazil’s campaign in last year’s World Cup. And then on the following Tuessday, Ronaldo’s farewell game, against Romania, held at the Pacaembu stadium in São Paulo.

Ronaldo at World Cup 2002
This man really had quite a career. The Seleção has important business to do, but Ronaldo deserves his send-off

On the 19th of May, Brazil coach Mano Menezes announced the roster for those games and gave us a decent idea of the team he’ll use for the upcoming Copa América in Argentina. The list includes 28 players for the two friendlies, plus Ronaldo, who will only play for some part of the first half of the second friendly. The plan is for Ronaldo not to be a starter in that game, but to come on as a substitute some time before the first half ends. There will be some kind of celebration at halftime, and then Ronaldo’s time with the Seleção will be over. Another player will take his place in the second half of the Romania friendly, and the Seleção’s post-Ronaldo era will officially begin.


Osasuna 1 – 0 Real Madrid

January 30, 2011 — by Sean

Javier Camuñas nets his second of the year.

Javier Camuñas’ toe poke after a mess of a defensive play was just enough to bring victory to the Pamplona side, who saw off Real Madrid from their lowly spot at the edge of the relegation zone. The 30 yr old Spaniard was the bright spot in attack for the team who are a full 30 points behind their opponents, and though he’ll take most of the praise today it was in fact the defensive effort that gave Los Rojillos the chance at the win.

Madrid were stifled at every turn, and when they did manage to work a pass through to the front, it was only to find Benzema in an offside position. Di Maria was lacklustre on the right wing, and Ronaldo tried dipping inside, as he does, but his shots were forced from 30 yards out and mostly went sailing into the stands. The team throughout was uninspired.

After the goal came at the hour mark, Mourinho made three quick substitutions, putting in Kaka, Alonso (who had a fever, and looked like it), and the new signing Adebayor. With three at the back now Benzema and the Togolese man shared space at the top, while Ozil shifted to the right allowing  Kaka to slot in underneath the strikers. They picked up the pace but still couldn’t penetrate Osasuna’s stiff defense. Adebayor was clearly not match ready, and looked sluggish both with and without the ball. Kaka tried a desperation shot from the same area where Ronaldo had been sending them into the stands, and there was absolutely nothing getting through on net.

The home side looked like they might even add to the total, the linesman’s flag the only thing keeping them from running through onto the end of a counterattacking pass. But one goal turned out to be enough to fell the Madrid giants, who now find themselves a full 7 points behind Barcelona – two wins and a draw, surely signaling another championship for the Catalans.


El derbi ibérico: Portugal embarrass Spain 4-0

November 17, 2010 — by Sean2

Spain’s biggest defeat in nearly 50 years came at the hands of Iberian neighbor Portugal. The 4-0 thrashing was Spain’s worst loss since Scotland laid down a 6-2 spanking back in 1963  (odd time that, considering the Spanish Miracle was in full swing). In lieu of commentary, we provide a highlight clip, especially helpful for all of us without ESPN Deportes.


Guardian Football’s World XI

October 25, 2010 — by Suman

Guardian Football has been doing a “World XI” series over the last couple weeks: “To mark Diego Maradona’s 50th and Pelé’s 70th birthdays, Guardian writers and readers set out to choose the greatest football team of all time.”

Here is the side chosen by the Guardian readership:

Guardian Football's readers' World XI

The odd man in is of course Steven Gerrard:

Looking at this World XI one name will immediately jump out at you: Steven Gerrard. He’s good, but is he really that good? The rest of the World XI is probably, give or take a personal favourite or two, the team most people would eventually choose. But how did Gerrard make it into the middle?

Click thru on the image to read all about it.


Real Madrid Find Top Gear Against Easy Foe

October 4, 2010 — by Sean

Squeezing the breasts of god himself — CR7

With both media scrutiny and fan grumblings intensifying, Real Madrid needed to snap out of their early-season daze and start hammering opponents. It’s not that they haven’t been creating chances, they just haven’t been finishing. (They haven’t looked exactly dominate in their matches so far either, and have been lucky that no team has gone up on a quick counter before throwing up a rigid defense.)

That started to turn with the game against Ajax, where Mourinho was heard to remark “One day, some poor team will pay for all these chances that we have missed,” and has culminated with Real’s 6-1 demolition of Deportivo de La Coruña. Ronaldo was responsible for the first goal, joined by the cast you’d want in support: Ozil (his first for the club), Di maria, Higuain, and Ronaldo again. Yes, Ronaldo in fact supports himself. Do you doubt this?

This after a week when Jose Mourinho locked the doors on the practice facility to outsiders, and severely limited press access and interviews. A special touch from the special one, creating a “bunker mentality”, the us-against-the-world connection among his team that he’s instilled at every one of the clubs he’s managed. His only messages out of the stronghold have been in support of his players, serving to boost their confidence while giving them some breathing room away from the Spanish media’s intense eye.

Real Madrid are now sitting in third place, above Barça, with no losses and a +10 in the goals column. An easy opponent seems just what they needed to find their flow. Will they be able to continue the trajectory against mid-table side Malaga?


Today’s Match Previews

June 29, 2010 — by Sean

Today’s matches to determine the last quarterfinal pairings see the surprisingly pithy Japan up against a Paraguayan side who looked bland against New Zealand in their final group tie. Paraguay did set Italy on their way out of the tournament (and won their group, by the way), so they’re no cream-puffs, and though Man City striker Roque Santa Cruz has seen his mediocre club season follow him into the tournament, he’s still their best shot at unlocking the disciplined Japanese defense.

Anchoring the attack for Japan is the clever Keisuke Honda, whose free kick against Denmark is one of the top strikes of the tournament. His creative play and silky touch will be key in breaking down a Paraguayan side who conceded only one goal in group play.