O zagueiro Lúcio, afastado do São Paulo, concedeu uma entrevista exclusiva ao “Esporte Espetacular” que será exibida neste domingo.
Sebastian Hassett looks at the frightening form of our three World Cup group rivals.
Game changers: The star-studded Spain side has won two European titles either side of their breakthrough World Cup victory. Photo: Kathy Willens
(v Australia in Cuiaba, June 13)
Formidable: Robin van Persie is the Netherlands’ all-time leading goalscorer. Photo: AP
Australia’s first World Cup opponent returns to the game’s biggest stage after making it to the final 16 four years ago.
Chile did well to advance considering that Spain was in their group and the Spaniards lost their opening match to Switzerland. But the South Americans were unperturbed, posting tight 1-0 wins over Honduras and then the Swiss, only coming unstuck against Brazil in the knockout phase.
Undoubtedly, this is a better unit four years on. Now ranked 15th in the world and with a World Cup on their home continent, there’s never been a better time for Chile to shine.
On fire: Chile’s Barcelona superstar Alexis Sanchez.Photo: AP
After their qualifying campaign hit the skids, losing four in a row, Chile bounced back with five wins and a draw in their final six games. In recent months they beat England 2-0 at Wembley and drew 2-2 with Spain. In the 2011 Copa America, they topped a tough group featuring Uruguay, Peru and Mexico. However, whether it is good enough to escape from a group containing two tournament contenders, and a potential banana skin thrown in by Ange Postecoglou’s men first up, will be an even greater test. Look for the Chileans to play with attacking flair in the front third but with plenty of mongrel in midfield and defence.
Australia’s best hope: Although clearly no slouch, Chile is the team Australia has the best chance of defeating. If the Socceroos are to have any chance of qualifying, three points here are a necessity. The Socceroos could put some aerial pressure on Chile if fringe defender Marcos Gonzalez – their only potential defender over six foot (1.82m) – isn’t selected.
Chile’s three key players
Alexis Sanchez (striker): Has emerged as the world class player capable of dragging Chile back to the top. If anyone doubted his quality, it was there to see as he scored both goals in Chile’s 2-0 win over England at Wembley. He cost Barcelona €37 million when they bought him from Udinese in 2011 and has complemented the Catalans’ amazing front line, racking up 27 league goals. Could even be a golden boot contender in Brazil.
Arturo Vidal (central midfielder): The news that Vidal has just signed an extension with Juventus has come as a great relief to their fans, because they wouldn’t be in contention for the Serie A title without him. He’s already scored six goals in the league and five in the Champions League.
Upon re-signing him, Juventus issued a statement declaring him one “one of the most complete players in the world” who could “play in any role”. He’s as prolific setting up goals, adding 15 assists to his 11 goal haul (in all club competitions) last season. He scored five times in World Cup qualifying.
Gary Medel (defensive midfielder): Since leaving the domestic scene in 2009, Medel has gone from strength to strength, firstly with Argentina’s biggest club Boca Juniors and then with glamour Spanish side Seville.
However, he should be better known here after making the switch to newly promoted Cardiff City in the off-season for a club record £11 million fee. On his home debut against Manchester City, a match Cardiff surprised all by winning, Medel was granted man of the match honours. At 26, he’s coming into the peak of his powers.
(v Australia in Porto Alegre, June 18)
Of all the nations that haven’t won a World Cup but should have, the Netherlands are now miles in front, having made three World Cup finals since 1970 and lost each time.
Four years ago, the Dutch were only four minutes away from a penalty shootout that could have delivered their first piece of global silverware. A scramble in the box and a quick finish from Andres Iniesta put paid to any dreams of a victory in South Africa.
Though European teams have historically struggled to make an impact at tournaments in South America, the Dutch were arguably the best team at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina and fell to the hosts – who qualified with a dubious 6-0 win over Peru – only at the last hurdle. There would be a great sense of justice if Louis van Gaal can bring the Jules Rimet Trophy home 36 years later.
The Dutch come in as something of a wildcard – potentially good enough to go all the way but no certainty to advance beyond the second round, especially if they finish second in this group and are drawn against Brazil. This incarnation of the Dutch is typically stocked with world-class attacking talent, led by Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. However, their defence is not as strong. Though right-back Gregory van der Wiel and centre-half Ron Vlaar are fine players, the other defensive roles remain very much up for grabs. Fulham keeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who starred in the 2010 World Cup between the posts, will need to be at his best.
Australia’s best hope: What stock do you place in history? Hopefully a bit – because the Dutch have never beaten Australia. In three matches since 2006, there’s been two draws and a 2-1 victory for Australia in 2009.
The Netherlands’ three key players
Robin van Persie (striker): The best player in the world’s biggest league, the Dutchman is no slouch for the Oranje, either. He’s scored a record 41 goals for the national team, recently overtaking Patrick Kluivert, Dennis Bergkamp and Ruud van Nistelrooy. What makes van Persie that extra bit special is his uncanny ability to conjure goals from nothing. In a league where the spectacular has become normal, some of van Persie’s efforts still manage to surprise. At 30, this looks like his final chance to win a World Cup and break the Dutch drought.
Arjen Robben (right winger): Why did Chelsea and Real Madrid sell this magician? Robben was a prodigy when he came through with Groningen and PSV, and played just as well in England and Spain. Yet in 2009, he ended up with Bayern Munich – and nobody could quite figure out why. Either way, his career since joining the German champions has exploded. Playing as a left-footed right winger, his partnership with Franck Ribery has helped guide the Bavarians to Europe’s greatest heights. Given the Socceroos’ problems at left-back, Robben is poised to take great advantage.
Wesley Sneijder (attacking midfielder): Like Robben, there’s a bit of a mystery as to how Sneijder – one of the best players in Europe on his day – ended up at his current club. Now at Galatasaray, Sneijder has struck up a partnership with Didier Drogba to help fire the Turkish club to the last 16 of the Champions League. There’s talk that Manchester United are keen to bring him back from the Bosphorus. A big showing at the World Cup would remind the rest of Europe’s big clubs how good Sneijder still is.
(v Australia in Curitiba, June 23)
With the race for supremacy getting fiercer, you’d think it would be impossible for one nation to stay at the summit for long.
That was until this once-in-a-generation team came along. Brazil will be the last time this group comes together for an international tournament – there’s almost no way Xavi, David Villa, Xabi Alonso and Carles Puyol will be there for Euro 2016. Since 2008, they’ve won two European Championships and the World Cup.
The Spanish are responsible for engineering the game’s most recent tactical phenomenon after years of defensive drudgery. Their style sparked a revolution, proving that the team with the highest number of quality possessions in the right areas of the pitch would almost certainly win the match.
Teams tried to counteract the Spaniards but rarely came up with a solution to last the 90 minutes. Curiously, one team did in the last World Cup – Switzerland. It was the only defeat inflicted on La Roja in the whole tournament.
Australia’s best hope: There’s a chance that by the time the two teams meet, Spain will have already qualified and may look to rotate their squad. Who knows – that might lead to a sliver of complacency and an opportunity for the Socceroos to steal a hard-earned point.
Spain’s three key players
Xavi Hernandez (central midfielder): At 33, this is one last chance to see arguably the defining player of modern football’s defining method. For lovers of Barcelona’s tiki-taka, he is the poster boy with his club and national teams built around his inch-perfect mannerisms.
Xavi has the master key for unlocking every defence. His sublime passing combines intelligence and skill, not to mention exquisite ball control. For all the talk of Barca’s brilliant academy, it’s hard to imagine how they will produce another player of his ilk for decades to come.
David Villa (striker): An icon of the past decade, Villa averages a goal every second game in club football and has an even better record at the international level. With 58 goals in 95 games, he can’t ever be discounted as a goal-scoring threat.
Villa’s quality comes from having the rare ability to be a penalty box poacher and a threat from range. His quick instincts and accuracy should ensure he adds a few more in Brazil.
Sergio Ramos (central defender): It’s hard to believe that Ramos is only 27. With 115 caps to his name, the first coming as an 18-year old, he is veteran of the international stage. He’s taken the mantle from Puyol as the main man in defence.
The legendary Paolo Maldini reckons Ramos “has everything to become the best defender in the world, if he is not already. He is very close, together with [Brazil’s] Thiago Silva, but he must perfect some things to be the undisputed No. 1.” Not a bad appraisal.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday, 14 December 2013 10:09 AM
Victory coach Kevin Muscat. Photo: Michael Dodge
Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat says his players are ‘victims of their own success’ after being accused of failing to capitalise on the numerous chances they are creating.
Victory produced a typically dominant performance in a 2-0 win at home to Perth Glory on Friday, and arguably should have received far more reward on the scoreboard, having fired off shot after shot on the besieged visitors’ goal throughout the 90 minutes.
Muscat believes the criticism being directed at his team is unfair, and called for critics to focus on the amount of opportunities they are creating, rather than lambasting the team for their profligacy.
“I think, especially in recent week, the question keeps coming (about) the amount of chances … but the reality is I think sometimes you’re a victim of your own success,” he said.
“Because we are creating a number of chances, it’s easy to highlight that we don’t score them all. I’d rather we create more chances and ending up one or two-nil, rather than not creating the chances and struggle to get the result.”
Attacking midfielder Mitch Nichols produced an another eye-catching performance against Glory, prompting claims he could challenge for a berth in the Socceroos’ Brazil World Cup squad.
“You’d have to ask Ange,” Muscat said when the suggestion was put to him, referring to Australia coach Ange Postecoglou.
“I think Mitch is an outstanding player. The nature of our business suggests we have to highlight individuals. (But) from my perspective Mitch Nichols couldn’t have performed at the level he did tonight if he didn’t have 10 other mates supporting him.”
Victory’s attention now turns to the derby match against Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park next Saturday, with Muscat reluctant to state that the eagerly anticipated contest will provide his players with more motivation than usual in the days ahead.
“The preparations for this week can’t be any different to any other week,” he said.
“If we say the preparations for this week are going to be better than last week or any other week than I wasn’t doing my job last week. Certainly I’m looking forward to it, without doubt.”
Finally, the ex-Wolverhampton Wanderers and Millwall hardman addressed the fact he topped a rundown of the most violent football players of all time on a Spanish website, a story subsequently picked up by some Australian outlets.
“Oh that’s a rort! I can’t believe that got air-time,” he said.
When it was put to him that he beat out players like Roy Keane and Andoni Goikoetxea, the latter nicknamed ‘the Butcher of Bilbao’, to claim the dubious accolade, Muscat shook his head and said: “No, I’m not proud of that.”
The wry smile playing upon his lips as he left the media conference, however, may have suggested otherwise.
Friday, 13 December 2013 11:20 AM
Sydney FC skipper Alessandro Del Piero is adamant there is no truth to rumours he wants out of the A-League club, declaring he is committed to seeing out the season with the Sky Blues.
The 39-year-old has been the subject of growing speculation that he’s unhappy in Sydney and is preparing to jump ship before the end of his second season with the club.
But the Italian maestro, who has scored three goals in seven appearances this season, insists he is happy at the Sky Blues and has no plans to jump ship before the end of the current campaign.
“I don’t know (what to say about the rumours) because I’m happy here,” Del Piero said before training on Friday morning.
“I’m focused about this season with Sydney. I don’t have other thoughts about other teams at the moment and for me the future is here until the end of the season, and this for me is only rumours.
“I know the January window is very big and everyone can move, me too for sure because nothing is forever, but this (Sydney FC) is my intention.
“This is what I think, what I want to do. Everything at the moment is rumours.”
Asked if he has been disappointed or hurt by speculation over his future, the World Cup winner concedes he experienced much worse in his time with Italian giants Juventus.
“I don’t know where the rumours come from, I really don’t know. If I’m sad because I have an injury it’s because I have an injury, not because I’m not happy,” he said.
“At the moment we have a good moment also with the team so for me is only rumours. but I’m not scared because in Italy sometimes the rumours are worse, so that’s why for me it’s OK.”
Coach Frank Farina is so confident Del Piero remains committed to the club that he hasn’t even bothered to raise the issue with his marquee man.
“That’s social media again and as I said a few weeks back it’s a new player in the game which everyone has to deal with, but it’s just rumours and gossip but people read it on social networks or whatever you want to call it, and you guys are obliged to report on it,” Farina said.
“So it’s a new player that’s in the game and everyone has to deal with it, but as I said that’s just rumour and gossip.
“As I said, people go on these sites and mention something and it’s the duty of the media to follow them up, but no I haven’t spoken to him and there hasn’t been any need to.”
Meanwhile, Farina is confident both Del Piero and Brett Emerton (leg) will be available for Sunday’s clash against Melbourne Heart, with a decision on the duo’s availability to be made on Saturday.
Del Piero, who trained with the main squad for the first time this week on Friday, said of his own prospects of playing: “We have two more days and the day of the game for understand with Frank what is the best situation but for sure I’m okay now and I can train with the team and we’ll see what happens after that.”
“I hope everything is fine for me in the next two days and Frank can choose the best team and the best guys for the game.
“I have to train with the team and take the next step for me. Alone everything is okay, now inside the team if everything is okay today and tomorrow I think I’ll be fine.
The veteran says he is not concerned by calf and hamstring injuries that have seen him miss two matches this season and say he doesn’t need to change his training habits in a bid to stay on the field.
Friday, 13 December 2013 12:00 PM
Sunday will be an historic day for the Westfield W-League with two live matches being broadcast by separate networks in a rare achievement for women’s sport in Australia.
Fox Sports will broadcast its first-ever Westfield W-League live match when Sydney FC tackle Melbourne Victory from Allianz Stadium in a replay of last season’s thrilling grand final.
ABC1 will also continue its weekly ongoing commitment to the Westfield W-League with coverage of the match between in-form two-time champions Brisbane Roar and the rejuvenated Adelaide United at 3pm on Sunday.
Fox Sports’ maiden Westfield W-League broadcast will commence at 2pm on Sunday on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 1HD, with Mike Cockerill and Westfield Matildas and Canberra United midfielder Sally Shipard providing the commentary at Allianz Stadium.
It is the first of two live Westfield W-League matches to be shown by Fox Sports this season with the network also covering the Round 10 match between Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers on 24 January from Suncorp Stadium.
Sunday’s game on Fox Sports is a pivotal match-up with Melbourne Victory currently holding down top spot, while Sydney FC can join them with a win.
The last W-League “Big Blue” ended in a stunning 5-1 win for Sydney FC, who also have two matches in hand after their recent participation in the International Women’s Club Championship in Japan, where the Sky Blues finished third.
The match will lead into Fox Sports’ coverage of the Hyundai A-League contest between Sydney FC and a Melbourne Heart side boosted by the return of Harry Kewell.
“This is another major milestone for the Westfield W-League and is a sign of the league’s ever-growing status and impetus,” said Head of Westfield W-League, Damien de Bohun.
“Having two matches separately broadcast by Fox Sports and ABC is a rare, if not unique, event for women’s national league sport in Australia. Football is pleased to be taking a leadership role like this in women’s sport.
“Football is uniquely placed among the codes in Australia, offering an outlet to compete at an elite level for both men and women, which is a strength of our game.
“This is another step forward and more evidence that girls and women can thrive in football from grassroots to the top level.
“Increasing the profile of the league is in keeping with one of the key strategies from our recently released Women’s Football Strategic Plan, which is to develop the Westfield W-League into a world class competition.
“I applaud Fox Sports for their vision in taking this step, and thank both Fox Sports and ABC for their ongoing high-quality support of women’s football.”
Via Globo Marcas, neste domingo, chega às lojas o DVD “Uma Jornada de Esperança”, que traz a cobertura jornalística da Jornada Mundial da Juventude 2013.
Flávio Ricco com colaboração de José Carlos Nery