Are Brazil starting to find their identity under Menezes?

Brazil’s performance against Scotland on Sunday was not a watershed, but was a solid and encouraging result from a young team which seems to be finding its own identity. Mano Menezes has been searching to find balance in his system and his selections since taking charge of the national team in July last year. Menezes’ succession from Dunga was not a simple one. Firstly Muricy Ramalho, manager of Fluminense, was generally considered to be the first choice for the job but was unable to take the job due to his…

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Quiet debut for Matt Jarvis, but first cap marks a meteoric rise

Amid the surprising drama of Tuesday night’s friendly between England and Ghana, Matt Jarvis quietly became the first Wolves player to be capped by England in 20 years. While not really standing out in a difficult 22 minute cameo, the wide man can be confident that this will not be his only taste of international football. This season, the ‘old-fashioned winger’ has enjoyed something of a renaissance in the Midlands, thanks to the likes of Stewart Downing, Matthew Etherington, Jermaine Pennant, Chris Brunt and Jerome Thomas. Jarvis has been the…

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Ghana making a noise in world football

‘Preparation is key.’ That is what they say. How a team approaches a game is almost as important as how it functions once the first whistle is blown. So much emphasis is placed on preparation in the modern game, but for Ghana, the hours prior to kick-off are crucial. Had it not been for Asamoah Gyan’s vibrant entrance to Wembley, many would have quite easily forgotten there was a match to be played. Everything focused around the cost of attending the friendly, the absence of England’s players that are involved…

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England 1-1 Ghana: England’s understudies give Capello food for thought

Goals from England’s Andy Carroll and Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan rounded off an absorbing night of international football at Wembley. Only four players remained from England’s victory over Wales on Saturday, and those who doubted Fabio Capello’s decision to send the more experienced players home, watched on in reflective mood as both teams contributed to a wonderful spectacle. Despite the overhaul in English personnel, the shape of the side remained the same as Carroll was deployed as the central striker, with Aston Villa duo Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, in the…

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Club Focus – Barcelona – Barca to tour the US

With just two first team players available for training this week due to the international break, Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola has had to call on ten B-team players to make up the numbers. Only left-back Adriano and goalkeeper Jose Pinto were available from the first team, with Jeffren choosing to train alone and Seydou Keita joining in later on in the session. The Malian had made an impressive dash straight from the airport after missing an earlier flight from Paris on his way back from international duty. Meanwhile, Barca’s representatives…

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Club Focus – Manchester City – Mancini facing defensive injury crisis

The international break thus far has not been kind to Manchester City as the club enters what is the most crucial phase of a season since the heady days of the early seventies. With the Blues facing a scrap with Tottenham Hotspur for fourth place in the Premier League and still harbouring hopes of FA Cup success, the news that both Micah Richards and Jerome Boateng have suffered injuries whilst on international duty has given them a defensive headache they could do without. Despite Roberto Mancini possessing possibly the greatest…

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Northern Ireland 0 – 0 Slovenia – Disciplined defensive work helps Northern Ireland to a vital point

Northern Ireland had to dig deep at times as they produced an excellent defensive performance to earn a 0-0 draw against Slovenia in their 2012 European Championship qualifier. Missing Kyle Lafferty, Steven Davies, Maik Taylor and Aaron Hughes through injury, as well as the suspended David Healy, the task of earning three points always looked like a tough one for the weakened side that Nigel Worthington was forced to field. Warren Feeney was deployed as the lone striker with Chris Brunt his midfield link. Chris Baird and Sammy Clingan anchored…

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Life begins at 30 for Scott Parker

Scott Parker has been a Premiership player for over 10 years, the subject of three multi-million pound transfers and made his international debut seven years ago, yet one day he may look back on his career and realise that it all really began on February 12, 2011. On this day, West Ham overturned a 3-0 half-time deficit to draw 3-3 with West Ham and, post-match, Carlton Cole revealed Parker to be the motivation behind their comeback. “We were diabolical, but at half-time Scott was inspirational, if you were there you…

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Club Focus – Everton – Villa visit brings old faces and England teammates back to Goodison

With Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka coming through unscathed from England’s 1-1 draw with Ghana at Wembley on Tuesday night, David Moyes can prepare for Saturday’s visit of Aston Villa safe in the knowledge two of his most important players will be fit and ready for action. Both players started the fiery encounter and completed 90 minutes, the first pair of Everton players to wear the Three Lions since Andy Johnson and Phil Neville in 2007, and come the weekend they will be in competition against a number of England…

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Republic of Ireland 2-3 Uruguay – Experimental Ireland side slide to dignified defeat against South Americans

There were not many there, but those that attended The Aviva Stadium in Dublin last night were treated to that rarest of things – an enthralling international friendly – as an experimental Republic of Ireland team severely tested a Uruguayan side which finished fourth at last summer’s World Cup. Giovanni Trapattoni fielded a side in which his skipper Stephen Kelly, with 20 caps, was the most experienced member of the starting line-up. In fact the 11 players who took their places at kick-off had just 103 caps between them, two…

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Tottenham get green light for German defender

Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels has announced his intention to leave Germany, putting clubs across Europe on alert, with Tottenham Hotspur thought to be lining up a bid for the player. Hummels, 22, came through the Bayern Munich youth set-up, before moving initially on loan to rivals Dortmund, but has now revealed his plan to leave the Bundesliga at the end of the season. Talking to German newspaper Bild, Hummels said: “I’ll only leave for Borussia for a top, top European club. I do not care if it’s in England,…

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Chelsea news – Neymar reveals Blues interest, Aguero bid, David Luiz backs Torres

Neymar reveals Blues interest. Brazilian wonderkid Neymar has started the ball rolling on a move to Chelsea by revealing his desire to play in London, the Guardian report. The 19-year-old, on the back of his scintillating display against Scotland on Sunday, has offered the Stamford Bridge side real hope of signing him following his latest comments. Chelsea have made little secret of their admiration for the Santos striker and had £22m quoted to them when they first enquired and Neymar was flattered when he heard the top clubs in Europe…

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Blog: Capello gets it right over England-Ghana friendly farce

No wonder they say the England manager has the hardest job in the country. In a ninety minute friendly against a side ranked lower than Greece, Norway and Japan in the world, Fabio Capello has to satisfy the demands of players, managers, TV bosses, opponents, Wembley executives and the footballing public. He cannot win. The Italian coach has come in for widespread criticism in making wholesale changes to the England line up for tonight’s meaningless international with Ghana. Five players still involved in Champions League duties have been released back…

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Club Focus – Chelsea – Drogba’s Stamford Bridge tenure perhaps drawing to an end

As the rumours continue to fly around Didier Drogba’s future at Chelsea, it seems like the speculation will not end anytime soon. However, irrespective of what happens at the end of the season, there are a few things both Chelsea and potential Drogba suitors should consider. Drogba arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004 and at many times has been the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons. As a player who has been criticised for diving too much and throwing tantrums on and off the pitch when things are…

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La Liga Daily – G-6 group – Villarreal, Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol, Real Sociedad and Real Zaragoza – oppose strike

All thoughts in Spain this week turn to the big debate over whether there will be any professional football in the country this weekend. A judge in Madrid will decide on Wednesday if the so-called G-6 clubs – Villarreal, Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol, Real Sociedad and Real Zaragoza – have been successful in their appeal against the strike threatening to disrupt La Liga. The central issue to the stoppage is the obligatory transmission of a live free-to-air game on television each weekend, with the majority of clubs wanting to come…

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Club Focus – Tottenham – Rumours circulate about summer ins and outs

Monday was a transfer rumour filled day for Tottenham, with stories regarding Charlie Adam, Rafael van der Vaart, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Alvaro Negredo all making the headlines. Before the rumours, there was one confirmed story as Harry Redknapp revealed that the club were in talks with William Gallas over extending the Frenchman’s contract. The former Chelsea and Arsenal defender has impressed in his debut season at White Hart Lane after signing a one-year deal in the summer following his release from North London rivals Arsenal. Regarding Gallas’ talks with…

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Club Focus – Manchester City – Transfer spending under review in Abu Dhabi

Weekend reports emanating from the Middle East have indicated that Manchester City´s extravagant spending in a bid to break into the Premier League top four could be coming under scrutiny if success is not forthcoming. According to the Daily Express there is serious unease in Abu Dhabi at the way in which owner Sheikh Mansour´s money has been used in the transfer market in recent months, particularly with regard to the signings of Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli. The £27m purchase of Dzeko from Wolfsburg especially is being seen –…

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Club Focus – Liverpool – Does Aquilani still have a future at Liverpool?

Alberto Aquilani arrived on Merseyside recovering from knee surgery in 2009 but was still expected to fill those graceful boots left void by Xavi Alonso, throw into that the manager who signed him also departing, and you can forgive the Italian looking around for some sympathy. Under two different managers, his Liverpool career entails just 18 games and two goals, and then Roy Hodgson – under the guise of pushing him towards full fitness – shipped him out to Juventus on a season long loan deal. Once again then, the…

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Brazil star Neymar on his way to Europe?

The conveyor belt of Brazilian talent heading over to Europe shows no signs of slowing down this summer, and their new prize asset may well be jumping on board and heading to England. Viewers in Europe may be familiar with Neymar, but only through highlight reels from YouTube and the ubiquitous transfer stories linking him to top clubs. They were finally introduced to him in person on Sunday as the 19-year-old forward added to his burgeoning reputation with two goals in the friendly with Scotland, taking his international goals tally…

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Is more firepower the way forward?

With Manchester City sitting fourth in the Barclays Premier League, weekend reports speculate that City manager Roberto Mancini has requested a £100m summer war chest to bolster his squad for a title charge next season. With City edging into the top four and on a strong run in the FA Cup, the Blues are moving closer to the success they crave. With 30 league games played, they sit fourth and face an FA Cup semi-final showdown with city rivals Manchester United. However, the real goal will be to bridge the…

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Football League Daily – Khumalo Joins Preston Survival Bid

Preston boss Phil Brown capped off an excellent two weeks on Friday by signing Tottenham’s South African defender Bongani Khumalo on a loan deal until the end of the season. Brown has overseen something of a revival in recent weeks; his Preston side – while still rooted to the foot of the league – have recorded back-to-back victories, leaving the Championship’s longest serving club with a genuine chance of survival. A magnanimous Brown was quick to praise Harry Redknapp for allowing the South African star to make the journey north:…

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Man Utd news – Utd Sneijder interest confirmed, Loans stars to return, Brown set for exit

Utd Sneijder interest confirmed. Manchester United have highlighted Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder as the perfect replacement for veteran Paul Scholes, according to the Daily Mail. The 26-year-old enjoyed a fantastic World Cup and was an integral part of the treble winning Inter Milan side of last year. Inter president Massimo Moratti said: “The interest from Manchester United in Sneijder is real, but I didn’t look into it. My only interest is seeing Sneijder play here for many more years to come.” Loans stars to return. Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed…

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Club Focus – Blackburn – Venky’s still keen on Kean as Rovers linked with Van Nistelrooy

Blackburn Rovers have not been in action this week, yet speculation over Steve Kean’s future continues to grow. The Blues boss has been under pressure at Ewood Park for some time now and a poor run of form has not helped his cause. However, Rovers’ Indian owners are still fully behind their man. Kean was the bookmakers’ favourite to be the next Premier League manager to get the chop late last week but Venky’s insist they do not know where the rumours over the manager’s future are coming from. They…

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