By Samindra Kunti – Brooklyn, New York. The Nets sneaked a win against the Dallas Mavericks, 107-106 as they extended their winning streak to four games, improving their over -all record this season to 19-22. Mirza Teletovic starred and personified the steady progress of the Nets in 2014.

M. Prokhorov, perhaps a classic New York character, was absent again on Friday to see his franchise take on the much-praised Mavericks. Mr. Prokhorov is an elusive figure, both for media and fans. In fact, Mr. Prokhorov has only attended two games of the Nets this season, the last one being in London when Brooklyn took the Atlanta Hawks apart. 

Mark Cuban, the ever-present owner of the Dallas Mavericks, snapped at Mr. Prokhorov’s demeanor. Mr. Cuban was very much implying that a NBA franchise needs to be closely monitored and run by the owner in order to get positive results.

But at the end of the forth quarter, it was surely Mr. Prokhorov who was sniggering, be it far away. Andrei Kirilenko bucketed the crucial free-throws with 8.1 seconds left on the clock to secure another key win for Brooklyn.

Mirza Teletovic emerged as an unlikely hero to propel the Nets the victory. The lanky Macedonian was instrumental in Brooklyn’s relatively confortable win. The Nets took the lead early in the first quarter and never gave it up, with the Macedonian scoring imperious three-pointers from downtown.

“Europe thought me a lot. I got better at defense and rotation,” said Teletovic. While his all-round play was impressive, Teletovic excelled offensively.

“With Joe Johnson in one corner and Paul Pierce in another, they’re like, ‘O.K., let’s leave the guy from Europe open,” said Teletovic cheerfully. He came on in the second quarter and showed great form, eventually resulting in a game-high of 34 points.

The ball gravitated towards him and a telepathic understanding with his teammates ensured he got the ball at the right time, and in the right place.  The ball movement of the Nets was swift, very much the way Jason Kidd would want to see it on a more consistent basis in the future. That is, with or without Prokhorov in attendance.

Nicolas Maingot defends FIFA

Nicolas Maingot, the acting head of communications at FIFA, speaks exclusively to World Scorpio and reflects on a turbulent season for FIFA. Find out more by listening to World Scorpio tonight!

Note that as off today Walter de Gregorio, will be the new Director of Communications and Public Affairs at FIFA, as communicated by FIFA in a press release earlier in September: As of 1 October 2011, Walter De Gregorio, 46, will join FIFA as Director of Communications & Public Affairs. Nicolas Maingot, who had been Acting Director, will be his deputy. De Gregorio studied history and political philosophy, and over the last 20 years he has worked as a journalist, a columnist, and in management positions for various national and international newspapers. De Gregorio has dual Swiss-Italian nationality, has two children and lives in the Zurich area.

Tim Vickery interview

In case you missed the interview with TIM VICKERY yesterday, you may find the full interview transcript below – all rights reserved: Tim Vickery is the South American football correspondent for the BBC and works amongst others freelance for World Soccer and Sports Illustrated. He is perhaps best known for his contributions to the World Football Phone-In, which aires weekly on Up All Night on BBC Radio 5 Live. Vickery is known as 'Legendinho' or Vikipedia'  for his vast knowledge of Brazilian and South American football. Tim spoke to World Scorpio in London just before kick-off of Brazil's friendly against  Ghana and offered his in depth opinion on the Selecão.

Let us start at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where Brazil totally imploded in that infamous second half against Holland, what was the main reason – simply that Dunga didn’t have a back-up plan?
Maybe, but I think there was a lack of emotional control. I actually thought going into the tournament that the emotional factor was one of Brazil’s main strengths, because in that run of results from 2008 up to 2010 Brazil did wonderfully well, even in the Confederations Cup final when Brazil were 2-0 down against the United States they managed to come back. The emotional strength was supposed to be a plus point for Brazil. But during the course of the World Cup you saw that the pressure is much, much greater.
But emotional control was one their key strengths? Brazil outplayed the Netherlands for an entire 45 minutes, where Dunga’s team could have easily been two or three up.
There was always a vulnerability there with the position of left-back. It was a vulnerability Holland were well set-up to take advantage of with Arjen Robben. Michel Bastos had not played as a full-back for a long time. It was a point that Felipe Melo was looking to cover. One of the key roles of the coach is to set the emotional tone of the team and Dunga lost control gradually during the World Cup. It was very clear in the press conference after the game against Ivory Coast when he looked like a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In the second half against Holland when the team needed calming, he was more and more nervous and angry. A nervous and angry coach produces a nervous, angry team. Once they were behind, then your point is correct, the lack of a back-up was then exposed. But then again, they could have been easily 2-0, 3-0 up and then they wouldn’t have needed a plan B. The key, according to me, was the lack of emotional control: if Brazil had been able to control themselves emotionally, they would have done without the need for a back-up.
In a way you are also implying that Dunga wasn’t experienced enough? He simply couldn’t deal with the situation in the second half?
Yes, absolutely. There is a moment when your lack of experience shows and that was the moment when it became apparent that Dunga was not up to the job. It was unfortunate and I found it very sad that Felipe Melo was treated like a criminal when the team returned home. Melo had to be smuggled out of the airport. If you look at Felipe Melo’s internacional record, there is only one game where he was on the losing side and that was against Holland, and yet he is treated like a failure. His name is seen as ridiculous – how was this player ever selected for the national team? Brazil is a very intolerant society.
Isn’t that typical Brazilian? To the rest of the world Brazil fans are a bunch of festive, colorful and vibrant football lovers. But this view is not correct: for the Brazilian fan only one thing matters and that is winning.
Exactly. Everything about Brazil from the outside world is myth. Brazilian football is a myth wrapped up in another myth, which is the big myth of Brazil.
But Brazil is, and I hope that this will change as the economic situation improves, a society with a low self-esteem, where winning is everything and football, and in particular the world cup, is that moment where Brazil appears for the rest of the world as a success.
Why do Brazilians keep on having such a low self-esteem? Brazil is now one of the big booming countries and is trying to host a successful Olympic Games and the World Cup in three years time.
That boom only comes down so far: the vast majority of the population lives on wages, which would be considered below sub-sustenance  level in Europe. I have two stepdaughters and one of them recently took a bus ride from Natal to Rio, which is about 46hrs. The thing that really struck her was the number of people still living in abject poverty. The economic boom is important and there are millions of people joining  a new, bigger middle class, but you are not changing an entire history of 500 years of one of the most unequal countries in the world in the course of a decade. Progress has been made, but very slowly and still a lot of people are left behind. So the aspect of low self-esteem and let us hope this changes in the future, is still very important in the way that Brazilians respond to football. Brazilians will go and watch their team when it is winning. When it is not winning, they switch off and the line is that it is not my team and that it doesn’t represent me. At the press conference Mano Menezes yesterday talked about this issue. He said that playing at home is much more complicated for Brazil, than playing elsewhere, because the crowd is so demanding. One of his key tasks is to prepare a team to cope with that physiological pressure in three years time.
The economic boom will obviously influence the set-up of the domestic game , which now has the big problem of the state championships, but will it also influence the set-up of the national team?
It is such an interesting question. I think in Brazilian football the – what I call – ‘92 moment  is long overdue. It was that time in England where the big clubs broke away from a structure that didn’t attend their interests, and Brazilian football has that multiplied many times over, because of a situation where they are locked into a calendar that is build around the necessities of clubs that have no supporters. Now this is interesting in terms of trying to attract the best players: this summer saw a landmark moment, when Corinthians were able to offer a transfer fee for Carlos Tevez. Obviously the move didn’t go through and one of the reasons is that the money is only on tab next year. Why were they able to attract Carlos Tevez? Not for professional reasons, but for purely personal reasons he wanted to be close to his wife and children, who were then in Buenos Aires. For professional reasons you will not have professional players wanting to play the state championships, so that is those months entirely wasted. No professional, ambitious that is, wants to play the state championships and players will come to Europe, regardless of financial considerations now because the big names in Brazil can earn huge sums of money, they can earn what they can get in Europe, but what they can’t do is prove themselves the best. In order to prove themselves the best you have to shine in Europe’s champions league. That is the reality. If Brazilian football genuinely wants to attract top players in their peak years, it has to do something about the calendar. Now the English clubs were able to take this step in 92 because they are run on club business lines. Brazilian clubs aren’t. You can only hope, if Brazil wants to be a global player that the logic of the situation will see them break away from a calendar that for example ruins the start of the league system. All of us, who have grown up with the league system know that its strength lies in the start. That is the moment, the big kick-off, the big party. The big kick-off in Brazil doesn’t exist. It’s a damp squib. Thus Brazil have adopted the league system but thrown away its biggest virtue.
Will this set-up change any time soon? As long as Ricardo Teixeira remains in charge, it seems unlikely.
At the moment Teixeira is strong, because he controls the 2014 World Cup. Every one wants the golden reign of 2014 to drop on them. There is also the Copa America in 2015. Venues will be used in 2015 which won’t be used during the World Cup.  At the moment this mechanism keeps the clubs in line.  After that, and after Teixeira is gone, there might be a possibility. Brazil can be very frustrating in this respect. It is a country that has often done a bodged compromise rather than a strong stand. But this global reality is beginning to be realised and within 10 years there will be a possibility, when the big clubs break away.
This global reality currently means that Kentaro deals with all Brazil friendlies. What kind of an influence does Kentaro have? They organized the party like pre-2006 world cup training camp in Weggis, Switzerland. Kentaro has also gone to Tanzania and Zimbabwe with Brazil before the 2010 world cup. Financial considerations are most important to Kentaro, but there are limits, no ?
Yes, there are huge limits, because friendlies are all Brazil has. Brazil don’t have to go through the best qualification campaign in the world  – South America.  The last World Cup showed just how well that marathon qualification campaign prepares teams for the World Cup. Now Brazil don’t have that, only friendlies. As is so often the case with Brazil, political considerations then come in. The original line from Mano Menezes was that Brazil were going to take on different schools and top line opponents. Brazil has done that so far, but results haven’t been very good. When results are bad in Brazil, the heat is not only on the coach, but also on the president of the Brazilian FA Ricardo Teixeira. There has been a change now for in November Brazil will play Gabon, whereas they could have been playing Italy or Spain. You wonder whose interests that serves? Brazil don’t need to play an African school. They are playing the top African school now – Ghana. You can’t see of any football necessity to take on a game against Gabon. Perhaps not even a commercial necessity, but maybe it is a political necessity from Ricardo Teixeira to protect himself against criticism if Brazil take on high-standing opponents and lose. Obviously the risk is if Brazil play lesser opponents and lose, the egg in the face is even greater. But there is still a long way to go until 2014 and Mano said yesterday that there will be more friendlies at home and that is important, because preparing the team physiologically for the pressure, the like of which no team has ever experienced, has to be priority. In 1950 there were only 50 million Brazilians to put pressure on, come 2014 there will be 200 million Brazilians. The pressure they will have to cope with in 2014 is immense and you can win your first four, five games 4-0, but if you lose the next game by half a goal to nil you are out and the world cup dream is over. They need to be strongly physiologically prepared and friendlies are all they have to do it with, apart from the Confederations cup in 2013, which is glorified friendlies. 
The pressure will indeed be huge in 2014. The Brazilian public will expect nothing but victory. Mano has now been in charge for just over a year, how do you evaluate his reign so far? He came in at a transitional phase, he has an exciting, young generation to work with, but how can he prepare these youngsters for the massive task that awaits them?
You are in the anti-Mano camp? It is a fascinating time to follow Brazil, because it is a transitional time in two ways: firstly, with the obvious generational change that had to be made after 2010, but also Mano’s analysis, which was I think correct, that the style had to change – away from the dependence on the counterattack of the Dunga team. The Brazil crowd will not get fully behind the team if that is the style of football, which is played in 2014. Secondly Brazil need to learn against opponents who don’t offer them the counterattack. No one will offer them the counterattack in 2014! In the last set of world cup qualifiers under Dunga Brazil won 0-3 away to Chile, which was a great result, but a few days later Brazil drew goalless against Bolivia. That was the only game that Bolivia didn’t lose of all of their away games. It illustrated a problem that Brazil have had in recent years, which is breaking down teams which don’t offer them the counterattack. That is the context in which Mano took charge. Mano wanted Brazil to play more extensively through the midfield and the big change has been the replacement of a Gilberto Silva type-figure by Lucas, who is not a natural in that holding midfielders role, but someone who can generate more football. As Mano said in the press conference yesterday, there has been an imbalance between the objective and the achievements. Brazil try to do things that they haven’t been able to do. Brazil have found it much harder to play their way through the midfield then expected. Many people in Brazil just thought that picking Paulo Henrique Ganso would be in itself enough to resolve this problem. In reality it has proved to be a little harder. The impression I had watching the Germany game last month, was that it the first time that Mano was a bit rattled physiologically. The line that he came out with after the game that he didn’t think it was possible to play Germany at this stage toe to toe, was a little bit worrying. This was Germany in pre-season without some of their best players. The result shouldn’t matter that much. It would have been better for Brazil to play Ganso and give him the expierence of playing the Germans and learn from the expierence, whatever the result was. It was the first time that you wondered is Mano being blown of course? That is the fascinating thing about today’s game. You asked Mano yesterday if he thought this was a must-win game? He batted of the question, but the pressure is beginning to rise. The Brazilian press are speculating that he might not last for much longer. The game tonight is not a meaningless friendly, the stakes are rising for Mano and let us see how he responds to the pressure he is under.
May I say you are pro-Mano?
I am a bit disappointed with him, to be honest. He hasn’t stuck to his own ideas. I was at the Copa America back in July in Argentina and the best 45 minutes that Brazil offered was in the first group game against Paraguay, which ended up being a 2-2 draw. The half time score was 1-0. Jadson scored the goal. Just in a few flashes you could see a glimpse of a nice partnership being build between Jadson and Ganso. It was interesting. But Jadson was removed during that game at halftime, because he was close to a red card. He had picked up a yellow card and just before he scored, he very nearly got send off. Mano decided to take him off, but he hasn’t reappeared since and I have no idea why. It disappoints me for an interesting partnership was about to be forged. Obviously you never know what happens behind the scenes.  There was the story around the Scotland game in March about Marcelo. He didn’t play that game and didn’t appear in the team anymore. It was only afterwards that the media discovered why. Marcelo had send an e-mail back to Real Madrid saying that he had managed to convince Brazil that he shouldn’t play and he was very happy about this. It was an issue about commitment to the national team, but he made a bad mistake by sending that e-mail, not only to Real Madrid, but also to the Brazilian coaching staff. You can never fully know what happens behind the scenes, but you can’t begin to understand the treatment of Jadson. He was given 45 minutes and then dropped. Robinho, who is injured and not playing today, has been given opportunity after opportunity. You worry that there are a kind of double standards? That is a concern. That is disappointing from Menezes, but it is worrying in general that he clearly has his favourites. That might be difficult to administer in the long term if players feel they are not being selected, because Mano is being too loyal to his favourites. In general though, Mano comes across as a very calm, intelligent and rational figure.
After Dunga’s dismissal Mano was appointed as head coach, but he wasn’t first choice to succeed Dunga. Does that in a way undermine his position in the eyes of the Brazilian public?
No, the whole thing about not being first choice, was over and done with very quickly when Brazil played the USA, played well and won. It was forgotten. If Mano is under pressure, it is only because the results haven’t been good enough. It doesn’t have anything to do with not being first choice.
Imagine Mano gets sacked in one of the next games, who would be a good replacement?
There are shadows emerging and one of those shadows is Vanderlei Luxemburgo. He is responsible both in tactical and physiological terms for the fact that Ronaldinho is back in the squad. A year ago it looked like Luxemburgo’s career was going down the toilet. He has managed to haul himself back into contention with Flamengo. There is another one, which is Luiz Felipe Scolari. If you look at what Scolari did at the start of the decade: he didn’t want the Brazil job, he didn’t want the Brazil job. With a year to go before the World Cup, he wanted it. He took it, won the world cup and then left. Right now he must be thinking if the job is vacant a year before the world cup, he’d like it again. Those are the principal shadows at the moment: Luxemburgo looming and Scolari lurking.
Brazil find it difficult to break down opposition that sit back deep and don’t offer them the counterattack, but it is these days still possible to play the truly beautiful game that we all associate with the Brazilian teams of 1958, 1970 and 1982? Interestingly enough, Daniel Alves was asked by the Brazilian press whether or not Brazil could copy the style of FC Barcelona!
A lot of Brazilian coaches would tend to say no: it is not possible. The direction that Brazilian football has taken, puts a lot of emphasis on height and physical strength and on counterattacks. At conferences of Brazilian coaches the statistics are rolled out that if the move has more then seven passes the possibilities of a goal are reduced. But there you go, then Barcelona come along and prove that all of this isn’t true. It is difficult for  the moment to see Brazil do what Barcelona are doing, because Brazil are not producing the players. Who is the Brazilian equivalent of a Xavi or an Iniesta? There is quality available in lots of positions but is there enough quality in central midfield? And again that is disappointing about Mano: Hernanes is an excellent player. He can play in a deeper role for Brazil then he does for Lazio Roma. A player, who strikes the ball so well with both feet, should be looked at. He was badly selected in the friendly against France when he played wide on the left. He doesn’t have the pace to play there and he couldn’t get into the game. He got frustrated, went in with a high foot, got send off and he hasn’t been back since. He is a player that should be involved in this transitional phase. It is back to thing that Mano seems to have favourites and other are not so much favourites. The treatment he has given Jadson and Hernanes has been bad. These are two players who could improve Brazil in the middle of the field.
Let us focus a little on the game with Ghana. Ronaldinho has been recalled to the squad, where does Kaka fit in?
Kaka has to get fit. The long term of his career is worrying. He has two fairly chronic injuries. Kaka is a player, who needs that explosion. He needs to be at top physical condition. If you take that away from him, he is not a world class player. First Kaka has to prove that he can be physically fit, and also that he can be physically fit in three years time. He will be 32 then. Probably Menezes is thinking – if we get anything from Kaka, that’s a bonus.
One of Brazil’s big problems has been the left-back position. Michel Bastos played at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, then André Santos, who had a disappointing Copa America, was tried out and now Marcelo is given another chance.
It is a great chance for Marcelo. To me, André Santos wasn’t that disappointing in the Copa America. He is better going forward than he is defensively, but he doesn’t score the goals that he should considering the positions he gets into. But one of the highlights of what Brazil did at the Copa America came against Ecuador. Brazil played an absolutely terrible first half. The first goal, that came out of nowhere, was a beautiful cross from André Santos. It curled in behind the defensive line and Alexandre Pato got in front of the defender to score. It was the kind of cross that invited, and you didn’t have to be six foot tall to meet it. Santos didn’t provide enough of those moments. He has been punished now for giving away the goal against Germany, which turned out to be the winner. He has a long history with Mano Menezes and it has to be seen whether his omission from the squad now is a one game punishment or more permanent. I think Alexandro, who has just joined FC Porto, is an interesting prospect. He is a very promising left-back and he could be the long term solution. You can be assured that in most positions, and especially fullbacks, if Brazil don’t have a player now, they will have one soon.
On the right-back Mano has always preferred Dani Alves instead of Maicon. Yet the former is more frail in defence and had a terrible Copa America.
Before the first game against Paraguay, the then coach of Paraguay Fernando Martino said that when Dani Alves cuts in, he has the precision of a number 10. He countered by picking Estigebarria – left sided and quick. He set up the two goals for Paraguay and Daniel Alves was dropped. Martino was very happy with his work, because he neutralized what he saw as Brazil’s strong point. Danilo is in the squad now, who can play right back or central midfield. The question mark over Maicon is first of all – can he fight Gareth Bale? Secondly – is he still going to be around in 2014? He will be nearly 33 and that is pushing it for a player, who relies on physical explosion. At Manchester United the rising of Chris Smalling is a disappointment for Rafael. He is not getting the opportunities that he got last year. He was in the Brazil squad last year. He falls back. Overall though, it is a lovely problem to have. Most coaches around the world would love to have Daniel Alves, Maicon, Danilo and Rafael to choose from.
In the centre of the field there is the interesting figure of Paulo Henrique Ganso, who didn’t get a start against Germany.
It would have been a wonderful experience for him – to start a game in Europe against a top European side. Besides he was fitter in August then he was back in July at the Copa America, when he had just returned from a long knee injury. That was a game he could have learned a lot from. It will be interesting to see if he gets a game today – how he gets on against the big, strong and physical Ghanaians. And how about Neymar, how will he deal with such a strong team?
Could we say that Fernandinho of Shakhtar Donetsk is a bit of an oddity in this team?
Ramires has not been included. Fernandinho can play that role, as a midfielder who can force the transition and can bring the ball forward. But playing for Shakhtar, having not played for a big club in one of the big centres of Brazil, makes it very difficult for him to stay in the squad. There simply is no lobby for him back at home. If he is dropped, like Jadson, who is in the same category, no one in Brazil will protest, because he has no lobby in Rio, Sao Paulo or even in Porte Alegre or Belo Horizonte. Under those conditions it is nearly impossible to stay in the squad.
In the final third of the field, there is Neymar – a petulant boy but with huge potential!
Against Germany he failed to get involved, he wasn’t up to the mark. He is still at Santos, despite rumours that he has been sold to FC Barcelona for an estimated 60 million EUR as of 2013. Mano said he has a strong personality. Can Neymar make it in Europe?
It is going to be one of the fascinating narratives over the next few years. How Neymar gets on in Europe? His ability is absolutely phenomenal, astounding. But there are question marks about his lack of physicality, about his tendency to dive all the time  – that he gets away with in Brazil – and question marks about his personality – his petulance. The Germany game was fascinating for a number of reasons. He played badly and was indeed not up to the mark, but he scored a fantastic goal. How many players could have done that? In a low scoring game like football, some one who can play badly and still score a wonderful goal, is useful. Rivaldo used to do this a lot. He would have game where he received the ball hundred times, 98 times he’d give it away and twice he’d score a goal. That is still cost effective. It was astonishing goal that Neymar scored against Germany: given half a metre at the edge of the area – BANG! His precision in front of goal is extraordinary. But can he cope with the weight of expectation? Can he cope with physicality and the fact that he is not going to get a free kick every time? It is going to be an intriguing soap opera to watch.
Neymar has already won the Copa Libertadores, which should be enough prove that he is a real talent, or does the Libertadores get undervalued in Europe?
It probably is. The time difference doesn’t help because the big games kick off at 2 in the morning European time. In general the English media don’t pay enough attention to South American football, be it domestically or the national teams. The English media treated the Copa America more as a backdrop to Carlos Tevez deciding where he was going to play his football than tournament, which is very interesting in itself. That unfortunately is the English mentality, which is all the stronger it seems for the fact that all players from all corners of the world are playing in England. The English seem to not worry about abroad and just think about Carlos Tevez here. Rowing against this tide has proven to be rather difficult.
The English may seem to bother only about the Premier League, but has the Premier League become slightly ridiculous with multimillionaires using it as their back garden to toy around?  
In England a vast majority are thinking that the Germans have got the balance better. Having said that, I spoke with Sandro from Tottenham yesterday about how his first year had gone. He is so happy to be playing here and he says this is where everyone wants to be, because there are so many great players from all over the world, great facilities. Sandro feels he is a much improved player. He has learnt to do things much more quickly and good football is exactly that – precision at pace.
What do you expect about Brazil tonight?
I expect to be intrigued, fascinated and hopefully moved at times. It is such a fascinating time to watch Brazil, specifically because they are trying to find their way and trying to rediscover a footballing identity. It is not easy doing that under pressure.
Is it significant that today’s offensive quartet for Brazil – Damião, Neymar, Ganso and Ronaldinho – all play their football back home in the domestic league?
It is not coincidence. The Brazilian league is paying big money, but if you ask this question in two years time, that Neymar, Ganso and Damião will not be playing their football in Brazil. The terms of trade are changing, but still the best players will play their big years in Europe. That is unavoidable for the foreseeable future.
Is Mano’s mission slowly becoming near mission impossible? The Brazilian public don’t seem to be to please with his experimental approach over the last 13 games, but with the 2012 Olympics coming up, you can expect more of the same, will the CBF and the Brazilian public except that for another year?
It depends on results. Everything does. But it is hard to see Brazil not winning the Olympics. Who will beat Brazil in the Olympics? Who is going to take it more seriously ? It is the same year as the European championships. No one from Europe is going to be full strength. Uruguay are there and will put out a decent team, but they have got only 3.5 million people, Brazil has 200 million. Africa? They will be strong, but Brazil will be stronger. Mano Menezes will see that as his salvation: let us just get through these friendlies, next year we win the Olympics. That will give him some breathing space.
A silly question to conclude: who will win the 2014 FIFA World Cup?
Haha! Always make you predictions after the event! I can tell you with no problem at all that Brazil will win the 1970 World Cup. About 2014, I haven’t got a clue!   

Tim Vickery on the Selecao

Tonight's World Scorpio offers Tim Vickery's opinion on the current Brazilian national team. The correspondent of the BBC in Rio De Janeiro, who works amongst others for World Soccer and Al Jazeera, is an eager observer as Brazil go through what he believes is a challenging and extremely interesting, transitional phase after the 2010 World Cup. To find out more, tune in tonight!

Shocking England saved by Ashley Young

LONDON, Wembley – Ashley Young proved to be the difference between England and Wales with his third goal for the Three Lions. England’s first victory at Wembley in over more than one year came in an entirely unconvincing fashion. Nonetheless Capello’s team are now on the verge of qualifying for the EURO2012 finals.

Englandcan breathe a sigh of relief after a poor performance against the stubborn Welsh. The home side struggled against the tight-marking visitors and a worrying lack of creativity didn’t help to break down the Welsh defense. In the 76th minute England were let off the hook when Robert Earnshaw, who had replaced Morrison earlier on, missed an absolute sitter. Darcy Blake’s nod back fell to Earnshaw with the goalkeeper nowhere near and the goal gaping, but somehow he managed to spoon it over from just a few yards out.

Fabio Capello had promised to give the England fans an encouraging performance, but right from the start England it became apparent that England were in for a though night as Rooney and co struggled to impose their will against a Welsh side that sat back deep and constantly had 8 or 9 players behind the ball. The midfield trio, led by Frank Lampard, failed to dictate the play and, despite trying to open up the game via the wings, England found it hard to create a clear-cut chance and never really threatened Hennessey. England simply did not seem to entertain the thought of two-touch football. It would be a reoccurring pattern throughout the 90 minutes.

After 8 minutes John Terry opened hostilities heading an Ashley Young cross just wide. On the right side Stuart Downing proved to be lively, but he delivered only half-decent crosses. The same Downing tried a scissors kick just before the half-hour mark, but it was not a night for great antics and his attempt flew skywards.

A static England were slowly getting frustrated and nervy, but Ashley Young’s third senior England goal provided relief: Downing danced his way past Welsh right-back Ledley before cutting back to Young who slammed it in at the near post from 10 yards. It was the breakthrough that England needed against a Welsh side, who had until Young’s goal rarely been in trouble.

Walesproduced very little in the final third of the field with Gary Speed surprisingly opting to play his star player Gareth Bale on the right, fitting him against the experienced Ashley Cole rather than the suspect Chris Smalling. Could Wales muster anything in the offensive compartment in the second half?

If the first half was bleak from England’s point of view, the second half turned nearly into a nightmare. The longer the game went on, the worse it got. Not that Wales besieged Joe Hart at any stage. On the contrary, the Dragons hardly got out of their own half and when in possession seemed at a loss to do something with it.

Yet in a game of few chances, Wales were bound to get a decent sight of goal once. A glorious opportunity fell to Robert Earnshaw just inside the last 15 minutes of the game. The Cardiff City player received the ball unmarked inside the box with Joe Hart at his mercy, but he blasted it over to the disbelief of the Wales coaching staff on the sideline and to huge cheers of the Wembley crowd.

The Welsh fans did not lose their sense of humor for it and sang: ‘Fourth in the World, you are having a laugh.’ It poignantly summed up England’s night. England produced one good move during the entire 90 minutes and it was enough to ensure the three points, but apart from the fortuitous victory – Wales deserved a draw – there were precious, little positives to take from the game. England returned to their bad, old habits and the only possible comfort is that both Downing and Young managed to not be dragged down to the level of the players alongside them.

After a desperate evening at Wembley, England have moved closer to EURO2012. With one point needed away to Montenegro to book England’s ticket for next year’s finals, a big improvement will be required from the Three Lions. So once more, it’s back to the drawing board for Fabio Capello.

The ogre Capello rings changes to tackle Bale

LONDON – Grumpy, old Capello led out England yesterday for a closed training session at Wembley, as England take on Wales today, eyeing to close in on qualification for EURO2012 in Poland and Ukraine. He intends to change his winning formation in a bid to stop the threat posed by the explosive Gareth Bale.

An encounter between England and Wales often conjures up images of mythical creatures, which once led an observer to suggest that an abject Welsh performance explained why dragons became extinct.

But on a more serious note, Fabio Capello was not in a very upbeat or talkative mood ahead of what may well be his last competitive match at Wembley. The England manager exploded in anger during the training session when his instructions about not throwing-in the ball down the line were not properly followed by his players.

Capello explained: ‘The game against Bulgaria was good, but yesterday I showed the highlights of the mistakes we made against them and my players made the same mistakes today.’ John Terry confirmed that Capello’s eye for detail is very impressive. He is determined to refine and develop his players to bestow them with the ability to play in different circumstances at the highest level – to tackle the daunting task of playing against the cream of Europe next year in Poland and Ukraine.

Capello’s rage with his players portrays him as a tyrant and a dictator. It is an image that has accompanied the Italian throughout his England tenure. During the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa last summer, the England players were holed up at basecamp, but the rigid regime of Capello backfired when Germany tore England apart in a humbling second-round defeat. A galvanized Germany with Mesut Ozil simply brushed aside a woeful England side, prompting wide-spread calls for Capello to be sacked.

Yet Capello says the situation has changed now. According to him the players are now more relaxed around him: ‘I haven’t changed my style but the players understand me better now.’ Introducing a fictional monster, Capello, seeing the funny side of things, dismissed his reputation of being stiff and inflexible: ‘I am not an ogre.’

The relationship between Capello and his players thus seems to be at an all-time high and therefore the England team knows exactly what the coach expects tonight at Wembley. England will look to get rid of their poor, post-World Cup home record, which has seen them draw on three occasions and lose against France. The idea of ‘fortress Wembley’ may be distant, but England know that a simple victory against Wales will suffice to virtually ensure qualification for the EURO2012 finals.

After the clinical performance against Bulgaria, one may feel Capello would be inclined to adhere to the saying ‘never change a winning team’. Yet Capello feels that the circumstances demand a different approach and has indicated that he will change the shape and the style of the side. ‘We are playing at home and that means it is different game. Visiting teams came here and sit back. It is difficult for us to break the opposing defense down and score goals.’

Aside from the way the visitors respond to being away from home, Capello acknowledges that Gareth Bale is Wales’ biggest threat and much of his planning for tonight’s game centers on countering Wales’ number 11.  The Tottenham winger has 29 caps under his belt for Wales, but didn’t play in Cardiff back in March due to injury. His devastating pace is a worry for Capello: ‘Bale is a fantastic player. It is difficult to stop him. He receives the ball fast, attacks the space and is very fast. He makes a difference and we need to be careful whenever he receives the ball.’

The more defensive minded James Milner will replace Theo Walcott on the right side of the field to provide extra cover for the inexperienced Chris Smalling from Manchester United. There is no doubt that Bale and Wales will try to exploit this potential weakness in England’s rearguard. However with Craig Bellamy missing, Bale may take up a more withdrawn role, which won’t enable him to run at the England defense with his turbo-charges at will.

The inclusion of Milner, lining up next to Barry and Parker, is an indication that Capello will field a 4-3-3 formation, which proved highly effective in Cardiff. In the final third of the field Ashley Young, blossoming as a player under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, will act in a supporting role for England’s main striker Wayne Rooney. If the Manchester United pair can reproduce their antics from last Friday, they are bound to give the Welsh defense serious trouble and may swing the game England’s way.

The banana skin for England, who are the favorites, in trying to dismantle the Wales defense is a lack of patience quickly turning into frustration and nerviness, which in turn endangers England’s composure. A repeat of England’s World Cup qualifier against Greece back in 2001 springs to mind. The stage is set for an intriguing battle between Capello and Gary Speed, between England and Wales, or in some minds, Ogre v Shrek.

S.O.S. Mano Menezes

LONDON, Craven Cottage – SK. The honeymoon period for Mano Menezes has ended for a  while now, but the pressure is steadily building on Brazil’s coach ahead of Monday’s friendly against Ghana at Craven Cottage. The consensus among the players and the media is the same: Brazil is currently going through a transitional period after the 2010 World Cup, the balance between youngsters and the veterans is difficult to strike, but the question is how much longer the biggest football nation on earth will accept the experimental approach of Mano Menezes with results not going Brazil’s way?

After 13 games at the helm of the Selecao Mano’s Brazil have lost 3 games against France, Argentina and Germany, were eliminated from the Copa America by Paraguay and conceded 7 goals. The new whiff, which accompanied Menezes when appointed, is gone. The new coach vowed to do away with Dunga’s counterattacking game and emphasized the need to strengthen the midfield with offensive players. Quality in the axe of the field as a foundation for Brazil’s resurrection.

A poor Ganso struggled and the passing through the midfield was not sufficiently slick at the Copa America. The performance in Argentina pointed to the conclusion that Brazil are very much a work in progress. In August Germany, with Gotze as protagonist, totally dismantled the team of Menezes. Menezes had no other choice but to graciously accept defeat: ‘We are still finding it hard to organize an attacking move. We are depending on individual skills from our strikers. We are not able to put together combinations as mechanically as the Germans are doing.’

The result of a friendly is obviously not the most important aspect, but the lack of belief in his own ideas by Menezes was astounding. His formation was conservative and only when the game was lost, did Ganso appear. Rodrigo Paiva, the flamboyant press officer of Brazil, was quick to inform the gathered media that the CBF would continue putting its faith in the hands of Menezes, but critical voices are growing ever louder. Milton Neves, an outspoken journalist, did not hide his dismay: ‘Mano, you are the pilot of a small plane, but the Selecao is a boeing!'

Menezes had to act and opted to select Ronaldinho for the game against Ghana. The latter has found his 'joie de vivre' at Flamengo, where the shrewd Vanderlei Luxemburgo plays Ronaldinho closer to goal to mask the loss of his burning acceleration. Ronaldinho will be wearing the yellow jersey as he needs to help bridge the gap between the different generations within the team. It is a task he humbly accepts:  'I am happy to return to the team. I have the duty to help the team with all the experience that I have acquired.’

Up front Menezes is ringing another change: Alexandre Pato from AC Milan, who turned 22 last week, has to make way for Leandro Damiao. The former has just scored 6 goals in 17 games and has been given ample time by Menezes to prove his worth. Menezes' patience with Pato has run out and so he turns his attention to Damiao in a bid to give Brazil more physical presence in the box. The tall striker from Internacional can be described as a classic number 9. Damiao made his debut for Brazil in March against Scotland. 

The Brazilian coach has hence made several changes in his team that will face Ghana tonight, but the time to experiment is over. Ronaldinho may offer temporary relief for Menezes, but his selection will not solve Brazil’s structural problems. Mano is a coach under intense pressure. The Olympic Games in London are approaching rapidly and it offers Menezes another chance to further develop his philosophy and build his team. In the squad for the game tonight, Ganso, Neymar, Lucas, Damiao, Danilo and Pato can all be identified as having an Olympic passport. But whether the CBF and the Brazilian public are willing to tolerate Mano’s experimental approach for another year remains to be seen.

Brazil line-up v Ghana: J. Cesar, D. Alves, T. Silva, Lucio, Marcelo; Ganso, Fernandinho, Lucas Leiva; Ronaldinho, Neymar, Damiao

Mano Menezes banks on Ronaldinho renaissance

LONDON, Craven Cottage – SK.  After a disappointing Copa America and defeat in Germany, Mano Menezes has recalled Ronaldinho Gaucho to the Brazil squad ahead of the friendly international against Ghana at Craven Cottage. Menezes believes that a reinvigorated Ronaldinho can help to get his Brazil back on the right track.

Ronaldinho’s recent, excellent performances with Flamengo have caught the eye of Mano Menezes. At moments Ronaldinho has shown glimpses of his former best. The shrewd Vanderlei Luxemburgo positions Ronaldinho closer to goal to mask his ageing legs. It has enabled Ronaldinho with his vast array of tricks and nose for goal to be the driving force behind Flamengo’s title bid. His genius unmistaken, there is no doubt however that Menezes wants to use the experience that Ronaldinho has acquired to help and build the Brazilian team.

Menezes needs to fil up a vacuum. After the 2010 World Cup Menezes took the pressure seat with the massive task of constructing a Brazil ready to win the World Cup on home soil in 2014. But the transitional phase initiated by the dismissal of Dunga has not been easy. Menezes’ experimental approach came crashing down at the Copa America, where it was proved that his team is very much a work in progress. The new generation of Neymar, Ganso and Pato have been unable to fill the boots of their illustrious predecessors. 

In a squad, where only Julio Cesar and captain Lucio can be considered veterans, Ronaldinho has now been given the task of providing some much needed guidance to the new generation. Yet Menezes’ choice to recall Ronaldinho is an odd move. Succumbing to the increasing pressure in the wake of recent results Mano had to act, but Ronaldinho can hardly be considered part of the plans for the 2014 World Cup. In the long term Ronaldinho won’t solve Brazil’s structural problems. In a bold statement Menezes disagrees with this view: ‘His selection is not a temporary solution. It is important for Brazil to have experience. He is a world champion and alongside with the younger players we try to build the team. I do not exclude the possibility of selecting him for the 2014 World Cup. It is still far away and it is about Ronaldinho playing well. I do believe he has what it takes to play at the World Cup.’

In a sense, Menezes believes that the call up of Ronaldinho was only a matter of time. Repeating that the form of a player is the decisive criterion to select a player, Mano continued by stressing that Ronaldinho is valuable to the Selecao: ‘Ronaldinho contributes a lot to the game. He is a leader with great technical ability. You can rely on him to help the younger players, who are on their way to a permanent spot in the team. When he returned to Brazil from AC Milan he had to adapt again. I waited for the moment that Ronaldinho started to enjoy playing again.’

Ronaldinho himself seems pleased with his return to the elite of Brazilian football. With the spotlight firmly turned on him, the former Ballon D’Or winner and FIFA World Player of the Year hasn’t been very talkative about his second call up by Menezes, but in a scarce comment to the Brazilian press, he expressed his sincere joy: ‘I am very happy to play for Brazil again. Every call up is different and emotional. My task now is to help the team with my experience.’

Whereas player and coach seem to think along the same line, the media and public scrutiny beg the question that this is not the right option to rebuild the Brazilian team. Brazil may have won the U-20 World Cup in Colombia, but another injection of youthful talent may at this stage given the circumstances be fatal for Menezes. Thus, with Kaka totally out of form, Menezes has little choice but to include Ronaldinho in his team. Menezes does confirm that Kaka is not completely out of the picture. Kaka wearing the yellow shirt, boasting five stars, shouldn’t be ruled out in the future: ‘You can’t compare Kaka with Ronaldinho at this moment. The former is not playing very well. You have to give him time. When he gets back to his best, I may include him. I am waiting.’

The overall equation leaves Menezes with a near impossible assignment, keeping in mind the upcoming 2012 Londen Olympics. The current situation Brazil find themselves in is not Menezes’ fault, but at the same time it, as a coach, is his fault. He knows that he can’t afford a slip up against Ghana, whatever support the CBF may be showing.  It is now up to Ronaldinho to answer Mano’s faith with a convincing performance.


Brazil crash out of the Copa America

Defending champions Brazil have been knocked out of the Copa America. Paraguay proved too strong for the powerhouse of South American football after a penalty shout-out.

Thiago Silva featured in the first XI despite worries over a thigh injury. Ganso was once more entrusted with the task of dictating the play at the midfield, with Alexandre Pato operating as the lone striker. 

Brazil started brightly whereas Paraguay tried to pressurise Brazil high up the pitch. Neymar got Brazil's first big chance but squandered it by shooting it across the face of goal. Just before the break Neymar missed another clear-cut opportunity.

The second half saw a change in the game pattern with the eleven of Gerardo Martino sitting back deep,  but again the Brazilian strikers were unable to find the net. Pato, who until then hadn't contribute a lot, missed two excellent goalscoring opportunities.

The ET was marred by a confrontation between both sides after a dispute between Lucio and Estigarribia near the side line. Lucas Leiva and Alcarez were consequently sent off for misconduct. 

Elano, Thiago Silva, André Santos and Fred all missed from the spot to grant Paraguay the most of unlikely victories possible. It is the first time in 28 years that Paraguay reach the semi-finals of the Copa America.

Questions now remain for Brazil: Ganso underachieved throughout the tournament, Neymar and Pato were mixed bags. Full backs Maicon and André Santos hardly threatened going forward and defensively Brazil looked very fragile.

The World’s end

Britain's biggest tabloid newspaper the News of the World will be published one last time this sunday after Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the News Corporation, decided that enough was enough after a series of recent scandals. 

The astonishing news will come as  a big shock to the faithful readers of the News of the World, who over the years had become accustomed to celebrity gossip and spicy sex stories. A source close to dedicated reader David Camberbom said: 'David is f*****g appaled by the news. He loved his newspaper and believes he will now fall into a black hole.'  Another loyal reader Sebacca Rooks couldn't hide her dismay either: 'Where is the freedom of speech? Where is the freedom of press? This country is going downhill.'

The News of the World was first published in 1843 and sold daily about 3 million copies throughout the years. Loved across the UK, many will be left in disbelief and dispair.  Allow us to say: RIP NOTW !