De Futebol 1986 World Cup

Let’s take another trip in the way back machine. This time the 1986 World Cup in Mexico City.

The Guardians Rob Smyth:” The right-back was unknown, uncapped and unemployed before scoring twIn the summer of 1964, England took part in the Little World Cup in Brazil. It was a simple four-team league involving Portugal, Argentina and the hosts. England finished joint-bottom with Portugal. In their first match they were plugged 5-1 by Brazil in Rio. They commiserated with a night on the town, and were staggering around Copacabana beach the following morning when they were challenged to a game by some local kids.

It was an embarrassing mismatch: the England team, two years away from winning the Big World Cup, got absolutely slaughtered for the third time in 18 hours. Admittedly it was 12 v seven, and the seven had quaffed a few performance-diminishing substances the night before. But the story, told in Jimmy Greaves’s Don’t Shoot the Manager, reflects an eternal truth about Brazilian football: that there are brilliant, natural talents on every beach corner.

The ultimate symbol of that is Josimar, the two-hit wonder of Mexico 86. No World Cup has ever produced a better collection of goals – if you do only one thing with your lunch break today – and Josimar scored two monsters against Northern Ireland and Poland. He might as well have come straight out of the thin Mexican air. Nobody outside Brazil had heard of him; he wasn’t even in the Panini album.

He wasn’t just unknown – he was also uncapped and unemployed when he was called up to the Brazil squad at the last minute after the first-choice right-back Leandro pulled out. Four players missed a curfew but only one, the playboy winger Renato Gaúcho, was thrown out of the squad by the manager Telê Santana. Leandro, whose head was a mess at the time, pulled out in a kind of guilty solidarity.

Josimar had not played a game since mid-March, when his Botafogo contract expired. He was cooking and looking after his pregnant wife when he received a call telling him he was going to Mexico. In the best traditions, he thought it was a joke, politely said thank you and got on with his day. An hour later he received another call telling him where and when to report.

Édson Boaro, the back-up for Leandro who was now first choice, got injured after 10 minutes of the second match against Algeria. Josimar was not on the bench but he did replace Edson in the starting line-up against Northern Ireland six days later. He was strikingly tall for a full-back and formidably built, with a sinewy frame and thighs made of oak.

Brazil were 1-0 up with four minutes to go to half-time, keeping the ball with some lazy passing in Northern Ireland’s half. “Josimar … Júnior … Elzo … Alemao,” said BBC commentator John Motson, capturing the rhythmic groove of Brazil’s possession as Alemão played the ball square to Josimar. “Well, Careca and Casagrande are waiting for a cross.”

They’re still waiting. Josimar pushed the ball in front of him, sprinted on the spot in excitement at what he was about to attempt, and put his whole being into a shot. It was a ridiculous distance from which to shoot – 30 yards out and a long way to the right of centre – but the ball swooshed wickedly and arrowed past Pat Jennings into the far top corner.

The celebration was almost as iconic as the goal. Josimar went off on a mini lap of honour, both arms raised in the air, his face a picture of giddy disbelief. Years later, Jennings was asked by a small boy at a Q&A what it was like to be chipped by Josimar from 35 yards. “Son,” he said. “Your idea of a chip and my idea of a chip are two different things!”

For a full-back, a goal like that is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. So Josimar did it again four days later, rampaging through the Poland defence to batter the ball home from an absurd angle. It was the second goal in a 4-0 win that took Brazil into the quarter-finals, where they lost to France on penalties after a classic 1-1 draw.

Even though he only played three games, Josimar was included in Fifa’s team of the tournament, the only Brazilian apart from the centre-back Júlio César to make the XI. Botafogo re-signed him, and the media adopted him. “UM HERÓI DESEMPREGADO” (THE UNEMPLOYED HERO) was the headline of a feature in Placar. He also won an informal award as the most beautiful player of the tournament. “I’m just like coffee,” he said. “The ‘blackie’ that satisfies everyone.”

The fairytale soon became a cautionary tale. Josimar, like so many Brazilian footballers from poor backgrounds, was allergic to overnight fame. His life was tipped downside up and he surrendered to a hat-trick of vices: booze (especially whisky), cocaine and womanising.

Soon after Mexico, he started to make different kinds of headlines. He ended up in prison after hitting a prostitute who racially abused him when he tried to negotiate a cheaper price for an orgy that had already happened. A few years later, he threw his wallet out of the window when being chased by police; it was later found with three grams of coke in it. His brother, a cocaine addict, was also shot dead in a favela.

Josimar was one of the first bad boys of Brazilian football, a status that rankled. “Maradona and Edmundo were given second chances,” he said in a 1995 interview. “Why not me? Nobody ever proved anything against me. I only liked a bit of whisky.”

Many sportsmen never recover from their lowest point; Josimar never really got over the high of Mexico and his career drifted to nothing. In 1988 he almost went to Dundee United (the mind boggles at the thought of the relationship between Josimar and Jim McLean) and he was offered to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United (the mind boggles, etc) before having a shambolic spell at Sevilla. He did play a significant part in Botafogo’s legendary Campeonato Carioca victory in 1989, and was a bit-part player in Brazil’s victorious Copa América squad a month later. He won the last of his 16 caps in November 1989. Those two goals in Mexico were the only ones he scored for Brazil.

Josimar eventually found his way back on the rails with the help of the great right-back Jorginho. He embraced Christianity and now lives in the north of Brazil. He is still bitter about all the racism, the fake friends and his treatment in the press. His recent interviews suggest the internal tug-of-war between denial and regret is unresolved.

He is more fondly remembered abroad than in Brazil, where he is a curiosity in the national team’s lavish history. The rest of the world only really saw Josimar at Mexico 86 and then in the greatest theatre of all, the imagination. We assumed he was roofing 30-yarders every week. If the World Cup is our dream holiday, once every four years, then Josimar was a helluva of a holiday romance.

Globalisation, the internet and Football Manager have long since stripped football of its mystery. Josimar is a joyful lament for the past. His name – and what a name, by the way – evokes the innocence of ignorance, before the internet bred know-it-alls in more ways than one.

There was a mythical quality to Josimar’s goals. You would see them once in a blue moon – on a grainy home-made VHS that you had lovingly labelled ‘DON’T TAPE OVER’, perhaps, or if Grandstand had a feature on great long-range goals. YouTube has changed our memories of our memories, and probably softened some of the Proustian magic of his goals. But his association is as powerful as ever.

Norway’s best football magazine is called Josimar; there’s even a Scottish graphic designer who named his business after his Brazilian muse. Along with Salvatore Schillaci at Italia 90, Josimar is surely football’s greatest one-tournament wonder.

He is also often included in the list of lost talents. If anything he was the opposite, a good but not great player whose brief career peak was perfectly in sync with the apex of football’s four-year cycle. Brazil has millions of talented unknowns, sure – but few left a mark on the football world like Josimar.

De Futebol World Cup Stunning Moments France beats Brasil !

Let’s take a little trip in the way back machine for some more stunning World Cup moments.

The Guardians Jacob Steinberg:” The French celebrated a historic home victory while the rest of the world wondered what had happened to the previously imperious Ronaldo as he sleepwalked through the final.

As the Brazilian national anthem floated around the Stade de France, the camera kept lingering on one man. His identity was not a surprise. Ronaldo, after all, was the greatest player in the world, O Fenomeno, the star of a Brazil team that was hoping to become the first to retain the World Cup on two separate occasions. Nothing unusual about that, you might think; television prefers to focus on the talent and in 1998, no one was as ferociously talented as Ronaldo, whose supernatural mixture of power, pace and skill had made him the player every child in the playground wanted to be; at the age of 21, the hopes and dreams of a nation rested on his shoulders.

The assumption was that they were broad enough to handle the pressure – but this was not a normal evening, even by the manic standards of a World Cup final. Sixteen years on, the events of that Paris evening remain shrouded in mystery and intrigue, the murky circumstances that led to Ronaldo first being omitted from the Brazil team sheet and then reinstated some of the most bizarre – and, some insist, scandalous – the sport has seen. It is a depressing but still fascinating story of claim and counter-claim, of conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory, of rumours of self-interest and political manoeuvring, of angry denials and scattergun accusations and, above all, a story where pinning down the truth can feel like a troublingly elusive task.

To this day, only a select group of people know what happened in the hours and minutes leading up to the final, what compelled Brazil’s coach, Mário Zagallo, to backtrack and name Ronaldo in his starting lineup. Given that it later transpired Ronaldo had suffered a seizure in his hotel room in the afternoon, was saved by his team-mates and had to be taken to hospital, this was hardly a case of a manager making a decision on tactical grounds. That was too tall a story to sell; the widespread belief was something bigger was at play.

The buildup

What we know is that on 12 July 1998, Brazil were in the World Cup final against the hosts, France, and because they had Ronaldo they were the favourites. At 7.48pm local time, 72 minutes before kick-off, the first team sheet was printed and submitted to Fifa, whose delegate surely did a double take once he had scanned the piece of extremely important paper in his hands. “Yes, everything seems in order here. Taffarel; Cafu, Júnior Baiano, Aldair, Roberto Carlos, Leonardo, Dunga (captain), César Sampaio, Rivaldo, Bebeto, Edmundo. Edmundo? Edmundo?! Wait a minute, where’s Ronaldo? Mr Zagallo, are you sure there’s no mistake?”

There was no mistake. Zagallo was said to have made his decision at about 5pm, telling Edmundo that he was in the team and Ronaldo, Brazil’s top scorer with four goals, was on the bench. He subsequently informed the rest of the team and, in an attempt to motivate them and lift their spirits, he reminded them that he was part of the Brazil side that won the 1962 final without Pelé.

A good try on his part but some of those players had earlier seen one of their team-mates, their talisman and an apparently healthy young man, convulsing on his bed.

The list was the first one given to journalists, just after 8pm, and the unofficial reason given for Ronaldo’s absence was that he was suffering from an ankle injury he had picked up in the semi-final against Holland five days earlier. Cue bedlam. Cue chaos. Cue questions as journalists scrambled around the press box, tripping over each other as they tried to find out what was going on. On the BBC, John Motson was in a magnificent frenzy. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my career,” he whirred. “The scenes in the commentary box have been absolute mayhem and chaos.”

Ronaldo’s omission had come out of the blue. Even though there had been allegations that his weight was higher than usual and there was also a hint of the knee problems that would afflict him later in his career, pain and stiffness caused by tendinitis restricting him throughout the tournament and requiring the use of painkillers to get him through matches, he had still been Brazil’s best player and he was expected both to start and dominate the final, even against a French side that contained some of the most formidable defenders in the world.

It was impossible not to be overcome by a sense of disappointment – no Ronaldo, no party. “He didn’t come to France to compete with the players of his generation but to seek a place amongst the best of the two millennia – this one and the coming,” Jorge Valdano wrote the day before the match. “If Romário, his predecessor, was subtlety, Ronaldo is exuberance. If Romário’s habitat was the penalty area, Ronaldo’s home would need to measure half the size of the pitch. If Romário is the past, Ronaldo’s almost cybernetic play belongs to the future.” To put it into context, imagine the reaction if Argentina reach the final in Brazil this summer and Lionel Messi is not playing. Twitter would crash, Jim White’s head would explode and over on ITV, Roy Keane would be glaring at Adrian Chiles.

Confusion reigned, and Brazil did not emerge for their warm-up, but rumours then started to circulate that a modified team sheet was on the way and Ronaldo was going to start after all. Sure enough, when it arrived at 8.18pm, a furious Edmundo was on the bench and Ronaldo was in the team. He had made quite the recovery in such a short space of time. Eyebrows were raised.

The match

Ronaldo was the last Brazil player out of the tunnel. The camera focused on him and continued to do so during the anthem, its attention diverted away to something less important every so often but always returning to its primary target before long, training its glare on Ronaldo as if it was trying to bore a way into his soul, to reveal to the world what was going on behind that impressively impassive look on his face.

For his part, Ronaldo’s poker face was giving nothing away. Or maybe he was in a daze. There was a hint of a smile, nothing more than that, and Ronaldo stayed still when the anthem finished. “Ronaldo,” ITV’s commentator, Brian Moore, said, “Well he’s come through that dramatic injury crisis.”

With the viewing public and the media still in the dark about what had occurred behind the scenes, there was an assumption that Ronaldo’s presence would swing the final in Brazil’s favour. Yet they had been heavily criticised throughout the tournament, a consequence of Zagallo’s caution, their rickety offence and their reliance on Ronaldo, who was quiet during the group stage but explosive in the knockout rounds, scoring twice and hitting the woodwork twice in the 4-1 win over Chile in the second round, creating a goal for Rivaldo in the 3-2 win over Denmark in the quarter-final and scoring in the semi-final against Holland, who were defeated on penalties.

Pelé felt Brazil were a collection of great individuals rather than a great team, while Johan Cruyff went further. “I said at the start of the tournament that I did not like this Brazilian team and I still say that. It would be really bad for football if Brazil won with such poor play because this team is imitated throughout the world.”

Writing on the morning of the match, Ruud Gullit said he was disappointed with Brazil and felt Holland had been the strongest side in the tournament until their elimination on penalties. But Brazil were mentally stronger than the Dutch and Zagallo was unrepentant about a gameplan that veered towards bus parking. “We couldn’t risk leaving any open spaces,” he said. “Otherwise we would have lost – easily.”

But as stoutly as Brazil defended against Holland, the sorry facade came crumbling down against France. Inside a minute, a long ball from Lilian Thuram caught out Baiano and Stéphane Guivarc’h, he of apostrophe and Newcastle fame, ran through to hook a glorious chance over the bar. Minutes later, Zinedine Zidane nutmegged Aldair, releasing Guivarc’h, who fluffed his lines again. A Zidane free-kick from the left found Youri Djorkaeff unmarked and he headed high and wide. Brazil were all over the place and Zagallo was soon off his seat, arms outstretched, demanding more from his players. Yet they could not raise their tempo, the lack of a warm-up unsettling them, and the sloppiness of their passing was only matched by the paucity of their imagination and the sluggishness of their movement.

And then there was the sleepwalking figure of Ronaldo, who barely touched the ball in the first half, was tracked and hassled everywhere by the persistent Frank Leboeuf, playing instead of the suspended Laurent Blanc, even when he dropped deep. On the few occasions that Ronaldo saw the ball, he was on the halfway line, had his back to goal and was slow to react, constantly allowing Leboeuf to step in front of him to win back possession for France.

Barely 20 minutes had been played and it was already clear that all was not well for Ronaldo, although the ITV commentators were not yet aware of the full extent of the situation; like the rest of us, they did not know about the fit. “If it was anyone else, he wouldn’t play but he is so vital and inspiring,” Kevin Keegan observed. “At the moment, it’s a gamble that hasn’t quite come off. My feeling on ankles is they don’t get better, they get worse the more you play. Look, again, on his heels there.” Moore agreed with his co-commentator. “The one thing he has is electric pace and you need strong ankles for that,” he said. Ronaldo lost another battle with Leboeuf and Keegan said: “He doesn’t look in any way up for it.”

There were only fleeting glimpses of Ronaldo’s coruscating speed. Midway through the first half he burst past Thuram on the left and although he sliced his cross, France’s goalkeeper, Fabien Barthez, almost flapped it over the line. Then, shortly after Zidane had headed France into the lead from Emmanuel Petit’s 27th-minute corner, Dunga knocked a straight ball over the France defence for Ronaldo to chase but out came Barthez, taking out ball and striker in one go. Ronaldo lying prone on the ground was the last thing Brazil wanted to see but he got up after a while.

France, meanwhile, were enjoying themselves and after Petit, Djorkaeff and Guivarc’h wasted further opportunities, Zidane headed in his second just before half-time. Again Brazil had been found wanting at a corner, this time from Djorkaeff’s delivery. Zidane, who had been in disgrace after his foolish red card against Saudi Arabia in the group stage, had finally arrived on the big stage after disappointing in successive Champions League final defeats for Juventus against Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid. “I’m not very good with my head,” he Trevor Brooking-ed.

That much was evident when he lost his cool against the Saudis and France laboured without him against Paraguay in the second round, but he returned against Italy in the quarter-finals and then played in the Thuram-inspired victory over Croatia in the semi-finals. “Zidane, Zidane, Zidane … France was in the grip of ‘zizoumania’,” Marcel Desailly wrote in his autobiography. “I never imagined it could grow to such proportions. Sometimes I asked myself if one human could withstand such passion. And did he, in any case, quite resist it? At the start of the tournament we found him a little febrile, more stretched, more demanding than usual, at least on the pitch. That febrility culminated in his expulsion against Saudi Arabia. And after a moment of depression, he reacted like a champion and started to prepare himself for the quarter-final.”

Desailly’s comments offer an insight into the suffocating pressure placed on the most gifted players during major tournaments and even after that torrid first half, Zagallo did not remove Ronaldo, whose one sight of goal resulted in him firing straight at Barthez after 55 minutes. Roberto Carlos, his closest friend in the squad, wondered whether it was too much for him and said that Ronaldo had been “in tears in the night and in the afternoon he went yellower than our shirts”.

Although Desailly was sent off for a second booking and, belatedly, Brazil stirred into life as the match wore on – with Ronaldo lasting the 90 minutes and Edmundo introduced with 15 minutes to go – they were caught on the break towards the end, Patrick Vieira setting up Petit for France’s third. Brazil had been comprehensively beaten. France were the world champions.

The fallout

While France celebrated their first World Cup, an inquest into Brazil’s non-performance was beginning to rumble. The spotlight was thrust upon Zagallo and he admitted the fears over Ronaldo affected his team psychologically. “For the whole of the first half I was wondering whether to take him off,” he said. But Zagallo became angry when probed further about Ronaldo’s condition and eventually stormed out of the room, shouting “I have my dignity.” All was not well.

So why didn’t Zagallo remove Ronaldo? First, he said, he did not fancy dealing with the outcry if he had substituted him. Yet conspiracy theories also abounded, the most prominent of which was that Nike had pressurised Brazil into playing Ronaldo. Two and two were added together and it was alleged that Nike used its £105m sponsorship deal with the CBF, the Brazilian football federation, to push for the inclusion of the most marketable player. “Here was a 21-year-old player, the best player in the world, surrounded by contracts and pressure,” Roberto Carlos said. “It was as if this was always going to happen to him. Something had to give. And when it did, it happened to be the day of the World Cup final.”

For many in Brazil, pointing the finger of blame at a major corporation made sense and gave a voice to fears that money was ruining the people’s game. As the protests in Brazil against Fifa and this year’s World Cup have demonstrated, that feeling has not gone away. However, Nike swiftly and strongly denied allegations that it had exerted any influence over Ronaldo and was never proven to have done anything untoward.

Slowly but surely, though, details began to seep out and it became clear that the supposed ankle injury was a cover story. “It was as if a malaise had come over him,” Roberto Carlos said. “Not even he knew what was going on.”

The team doctor, Lídio Toledo, spoke to the media and said: “He was not feeling well this afternoon and now he’s better. What happened to him? Quite simply, he felt faint and after that he went to rest. I stress that he is feeling better now.”

Perhaps he was but soon the Brazilian newspaper O Globo was reporting that the decision had been taken out of the hands of Zagallo and Toledo by Ricardo Teixeira, the head of the CBF and the son-in-law of João Havelange, the outgoing president of Fifa.

The paper claimed Teixeira was told that Ronaldo had to play and also that the player had said he was ready. The only statement Ronaldo made was to tell Globo television a few weeks later that he was not a coward. He has since maintained that he was fit. At a low-key reception to welcome home the squad, he recalled the moment his world fell apart. “I don’t remember properly but I went to sleep and then, like the doctor said, it seems I had a seizure for 30 or 40 seconds,” Ronaldo said. “I woke up and then my whole body was in pain. But with time the pain got less and I relaxed a bit.”

Brazilians were unsatisfied. Zagallo lost his job. Coaches followed him out the door, doctors too, and an inquest was launched in Brazil’s national congress. There it emerged that the squad had lunch before the final, before returning to their rooms at the Château de Grande Romaine hotel at about 2pm, whereupon Ronaldo, who was with Roberto Carlos, began to have a fit, his body convulsing and his mouth frothing. When Roberto Carlos began screaming for help, Edmundo, who was in the next room, came in to find the shocking scene.

“César Sampaio, the defender, was the first person to administer first aid,” Alex Bellos wrote in the Guardian in 2002. “He got to Ronaldo before the doctors did and, with Edmundo holding him down, put his hand in Ronaldo’s mouth to unravel his tongue and prevent him swallowing it.” Ronaldo then fell asleep. People looked in on him every minutes but he did not wake up until tea, when Leonardo insisted that he should be told about what happened.

Toledo and one of his colleagues, Dr Joaquim da Mata, examined Ronaldo and he was taken to the Lilas clinic in Paris at 5pm. One suggestion, made at a later date, was that Ronaldo had been given a valium to calm him down but the tests showed nothing and he was given the all-clear at 6.30pm, arriving at the stadium at 8.10pm and telling Zagallo that he wanted to play. So he played, apparently neither the manager nor the team doctors wishing to stand in his way. “Imagine if I stopped him playing and Brazil lost,” Toledo told the commission. “At that moment I’d have to go and live on the North Pole.”

Zagallo also angrily denied he had been ordered to pick Ronaldo. “If there had been interference, I would have resigned,” he said. “I have never accepted interference as coach of any club or national team.”

For all Zagallo’s protests, it was highly debatable whether Ronaldo was the best person to decide whether he was ready to play the biggest game of his life seven hours after having a convulsion. Professor Alex Caetano de Barros, employed by Internazionale, Ronaldo’s club, to examine the striker, said letting him play was “an absolute error, since the 24 hours after a convulsion are those when a recurrence is most likely”.

Could the painkillers Ronaldo was taking have been behind his collapse? A month after the final, Da Mata spoke out. “Never, in all these years, have I seen before a player with a convulsion,” he said. “I see young Ronaldo that day and I’m thinking tragedy.” He said that he had prescribed a common painkiller after Ronaldo aggravated a knee injury early in the tournament and said it was taken orally rather than being administered via an injection, which would have been too dangerous. “The medicine we use is not so strong, to cause convulsion,” Da Mata concluded.

Globo would also hear from an anonymous team official that Ronaldo was given an injection of a cortisone with anaesthetic on the morning of the final. It was later claimed in the Brazilian press that the drug had entered a vein accidentally.

Whatever the truth, and there are many shades of grey here, Jogo Bonito has rarely looked so ugly. But there was to be a happy ending when, after four years of being tormented by knee injuries, Ronaldo grabbed his chance of World Cup redemption by scoring the goals that helped Brazil beat Germany in the final in 2002. Older, wiser and a little larger, O Fenomeno was back.

De Futebol World Cup stunning moments!

Let’s take a trip in the way back machine. The Guardians John Ashdown:” In 1934 a revolutionary Austrian side reached the World Cup semi-finals on the back of a storming run. History beckoned. And then turned its back

On the morning of 23 January 1939 Gustav Hartmann burst through the door of a Vienna apartment in search of an old friend. He found him, lying naked alongside his unconscious lover. Matthias Sindelar, Der Papierene, the greatest footballer in Austrian history, shining star of the Wunderteam, the forward fulcrum around whom a ground-breaking new style of play wowed Europe in the early 1930s, was dead. He was 36.

The most prosaic explanation is the most likely – carbon monoxide poisoning due to a blocked chimney flue was the cause of death recorded on the police report both for Sindelar and, a few hours later, his partner Camilla Castagnola. But conspiracy theories still abound. The Gestapo had a file on him and had kept his cafe under surveillance. He had celebrated rather too wildly in front of a batch of furious Nazi top brass after scoring against Germany in a game to celebrate the Anschluss (a fixture that was “supposed” to end in a draw) then refused to play for the unified team. Was it murder? A state killing? Suicide? No one will ever truly know for certain, but Castagnola’s neighbours had complained about the chimney problems earlier in the month.

Sindelar’s passing serves as a tragic epilogue to the golden days of Austrian football, one that begins with old English gents and Scottish tourists and ends with Nazis, conspiracy, misery and death. In between there came something magical: the Wunderteam, pioneers of the flexible, passing style that inspired Hungary in the 1950s and was taken to its apotheosis by Holland in the 1970s and Spain in the past six years. They were, at their peak, probably the best in the world. But as far as the 1934 World Cup was concerned that peak came just too soon. Even if they weren’t quite at the heights they reached in 1932, they still stormed into the semi-finals on the back of a breathtaking run that had seen them score 101 goals in 31 games over three years. Only Italy, who had been dispatched 4-2 in a Gero Cup match prior to the tournament, stood between them and a place in the final. History beckoned. And then cruelly turned its back.

The story of football in Austria goes back to the late 19th century and the European expansion of British trade. As Willy Meisl, whose brother Hugo was the managerial mastermind behind the Wunderteampoints out in his seminal Soccer Revolution, the Austrian public took to the game with gusto and five years after the first match between two Vienna sides in 1894, the first British touring team turned up at the Westbahnhof. It didn’t go particularly well for the hosts – Oxford University beat a combined Vienna XI 15-0 on Easter Sunday 1899. Another game on Easter Monday finished 13-0. A year later the first professional side visited – Southampton again took on a combined team, this time winning only 6-0.

But the key visit came in 1905. Rangers hammered teams just as the Saints and the students had done a few years before, but they did it in such style that Austrian football would be moulded in their image over the next three decades (in turn Rangers were so impressed with the young goalkeeper Karl Pekarna that they gave him a contract and took him back to Glasgow). Pass and move became the Austrian groove.

In 1926 the 23-year-old Sindelar, darling of the intelligentsia, made his debut for the national side under Hugo Meisl, who had taken control of the team in 1919. The centre-forward was the embodiment of the Austrian style – the triumph of mind over muscle, the pen that was mightier than the sword. The bohemian bourgeoise had taken the game to their hearts in Vienna and in Der Papierene, the Paper Man, they saw a player whose artistry matched their own.

And Paper Man is no exaggeration. Footage of Sindelar is limited to a few seconds of scratchy black and white newsreel, but there is no mistaking his startlingly slight, almost gaunt, frame. As builds go he brings no one to mind more than C Montgomery Burns in an era where centre-forwards were supposed to be Rainier Wolfcastles.

Sindelar scored on his debut, a 2-1 win over the Czechs in Prague, bagged two more in a 7-1 demolition of Switzerland, and then a fourth in three games against Sweden. But Meisl then hesitated to go on breaking the mould, and turned back to the more traditional centre-forward strengths of Josef Uridil. Sindelar was The Paper Man, Uridil was The Tank.

Sindelar was restricted to a bit-part role for the rest of the 20s. He played in the 2-0 win over Switzerland in October 1928, had to wait nearly 18 months for his next taste of action in Prague in a 2-2 draw with Czechoslovakia and then spent a year watching from the stands as the national side stuttered over the course of seven matches, only two of which they won.

After that set of indifferent results, Meisl could ignore the clamour for his inclusion no longer and Sindelar was thrown back into the fray when Scotland visited Vienna in May 1931. Der Papierene scored his first international goal since 1926, Scotland were hammered 5-0 and the Wunderteam was born.

Over the next two years Sindelar, playing as a kind of 1930s prototype false ninewould score 16 goals in 16 games as the Austrians battered allcomers. Germany were belted 6-0 in Berlin, then taken apart 5-0 in Austria. The Swiss were beaten 8-1 in Basle, the Italians 2-1 in Vienna, the Hungarians 8-2, the Swedes 4-3.

“He was truly symbolical of Austrian soccer at its peak period: no brawn but any amount of brain,” writes Willy Meisl of Sindelar. “Technique bordering on virtuosity, precision work and an inexhaustible repertoire of tricks and ideas. He had a boyish delight in soccer exploits, above all in unexpected twists and moves which were quickly understood and shared by his partners brought up on the same wavelength, but were baffling to an opposition only a fraction of a second slower.”

In December 1932, with the Wunderteam perhaps at their peak, they became the third overseas side to be invited to England. Previous visitors from the continent had gone home with their tails between their legs – Belgium had been beaten 6-1 in 1923 and 4-0 a year later, while Spain had lost 7-1 at Highbury in 1931. With his team slightly off-colour in the matches leading up to the game at Stamford Bridge Meisl invited his old friend Jimmy Hogan, an Englishman and proponent of the passing style who had long been coaching in central Europe and would later be credited as the inspiration behind Hungary’s victory at Wembley in 1953, back into the coaching set-up having first introduced the Scotsman to Viennese football as far back as 1912.

England raced into a 2-0 lead early on and though the visitors dominated after the break they could only pull the score back to 4-3. “It was in that first half-hour that Austria lost her chance of bringing off a sensation compared with which Hungary’s victory at Wembley in 1953 would seem unimportant,” Willy Meisl mourned. For the English the result was seen as a triumph for physicality over finesse and an object lesson in the limitations of the passing game. They would have to wait another 21 years for their wake-up call and the Mighty Magyars.

Austria got that setback out of their collective system four days later with a 6-1 win in Belgium and normal service was resumed, the cream of the continent left mesmerised by the revolutionary – in more ways than one – movement of Sindelar and co. Der Papierene was far from alone – Josef Smistik was hugely influential in the centre-half role in Meisl’s 2-3-5. Josef Bican was only 21 at the time of the 1934 World Cup but would go on to be one of the greatest goalscorers of all time. Johann Horvath was a dervish at inside-left, Rudi Hiden one of the great pre-second world war goalkeepers.

By the time the tournament rolled around the Wunderteam were indeed past their peak but not by much – their four matches prior to the tournament had been that 4-2 win over Italy in Turin, a 3-2 away win against Switzerland, a 5-2 win over Hungary and a 6-1 win over Bulgaria in a qualifier. They began the tournament – then in a straight knockout format – with an unconvincing 3-2 extra-time win over France.

Then came the quarter-final tussle with the old enemy – Hungary. It was a full-blown battle in Bologna but Austria prevailed, with Horvath and Karl Zischek scoring in a 2-1 win.

While Austria had grown increasingly cerebral in their football, Italy, under Vittorio Pozzo, had become more and more combative. “In Luisito Monti, a naturalised Argentinian who had played in the 1930 World Cup final, Pozzo found the perfect man for the [método] role – a hard, ruthless tackler who could also read the game and pass the ball,” wrote Jonathan Wilson in 2012. “Pozzo was an early devotee of man-marking and there was a steeliness and nationalistic fervour about his sides that was not to all tastes, but their effectiveness is beyond doubt.”

Their own quarter-final with Spain was a slugfest to make the battle in Bologna look tame. Ricardo Zamora, the Spanish goalkeeper, was so battered and bruised that he was unable to play in the replay the following day, a replay that Italy won 1-0 thanks to Giuseppe Meazza’s early goal.

That set up a classic clash of styles – Pozzo’s man-marking, bruising, steamroller versus Hugo Meisl’s “Danubian waltz”. The dark arts versus the passing purists. Athletes against aesthetes.

Pozzo’s athletes won out. On a San Siro pitch that was a bobbly bog patched with sand and with rain teaming down Italy took an early lead. Peter Platzer, in goal for the injured Rudi Hiden, collected a low cross, felt the full force of Meazza’s challenge and Enrique Guaita poked home what would prove, with Sindelar marked out of the game by Monti, to be the only goal of the game.

In the final Czechoslovakia, also proponents of the Meisl passing philosophy, took the lead with 19 minutes left but Raimundo Orsi equalised and Angelo Schiavio scored the winner for Italy in extra time. The triumph was not without controversy – the referee who had allowed Italy’s goal to stand in the semi-final, Ivan Eklind of Sweden, was conveniently enough appointed once more for the final. Spain had complained vehemently about a foul in the buildup to the Italy goal in the quarter-final replay. The shadow of Benito Mussolini lies across the tournament.

The Wunderteam’s chance of World Cup glory had gone, they failed to rouse themselves for the third-place play-off, losing to Germany, and though they reached the final of the 1936 Olympic football tournament (where they again lost to Italy), the Anschluss meant there would be no Austrian team at the 1938 World Cup, although several members of the 1934 squad turned out for the German team.

Sindelar was not among them. And less than five years after what could, maybe should, have been a crowning glory for Meisl and Austria’s WunderteamDer Papierene was dead, leaving behind a legacy of football genius and a sense of mystery that had not dissipated when, six months after the events on the Annagasse in Vienna in January 1939, the Nazi regime ordered the public prosecutor to close the as yet unresolved investigation into Sindelar’s death.

“The good Sindelar followed the city, whose child and pride he was, to its death,” wrote the writer Alfred Polgar, who was very much in the conspiracy camp. “He was so inextricably entwined with it that he had to die when it did. All the evidence points to suicide prompted by loyalty to his homeland. For to live and play football in the downtrodden, broken, tormented city meant deceiving Vienna with a repulsive spectre of itself. But how can one play football like that? And live, when a life without football is nothing?”

Romanticism aside, Austria’s Wunderteam deserve to be remembered – along with the Total Footballing Dutch, the Hungarians of 1954 and the Brazil teams of 1950 and 1982 – as one of the greatest sides never to lift the World Cup.

De Futebol Brasil Blows out Austria 3-0

Brasil destroyed Austria 3-0 in the guy’s last match before the World Cup starts this Thursday in Russia.

The Daily Mail:” Brazil concluded their World Cup preparations in style with a convincing victory over Austria in Vienna on Sunday afternoon, with the man everybody is talking about, the returning Neymar, again getting back among the goals.

The world’s most expensive footballer is officially back with a bang, after missing the majority of the year so far through injury. His strike here in Vienna did not just confirm his return to the elite stage, but etched his name in Brazil’s record books.

Now on 55 strikes for his nation, Neymar drew level with Brazilian icon Romario. Only Ronaldo (62) and Pele (77) now have more that the 26-year-old pin-up boy

Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring for the Selecao after captialising on a rebound from a long-distance Marcelo shot.

The fleet-footed forward picked up the ball inside the area, flashing a quick check to ascertain being onside, before expertly opening up his body to curl the ball into the far corner of the goal past the helpless Austria ‘keeper Heinz Lindner.

The Selecao were left to rue further missed opportunities until the moment many inside the stadium had been expected happened, late in the second half.

A driving run from Willian put the Austrians on the back foot before the Chelsea man expertly picked out Neymar, lurking inside the area, with a chipped pass.

Making his first start since breaking a bone in his foot back in February Neymar twisted and turned, jinking around his marker before dropping a shoulder to set the goalkeeper off guard.

A clean sweep of the right foot and the ball was slotted home, with Brazil two goals to the good.

Moments later it was three, Philippe Coutinho getting in on the action after being played through on goal by his former Liverpool team-mate Roberto Firmino.

The playmaker enticed the goalkeeper off his line, before shaping up to dink the ball delicately into the exposed corner of the Austria net.

Firmino embraced his once Merseyside partner in crime as the duo sealed victory for Tite’s side, sending out a solid message to rivals ahead of the showpiece tournament in Russia.

Brazil will take to the competition among the favourites, though must overcome Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia in order to progress from Group E into the latter stages of the tournament.

The Selecao haven’t lifted the famous trophy since their triumph in Japan and South Korea in 2002.

With Neymar back, and in such tantalising early form, the tides could be set to turn in favour of the South Americans once more.

De Futebol Flamengo wins fourth in a Row!

Flamengo defeated Fluminense 2-0 to stay at the head of the class with 23 points.

Globo Esporte:” O Fluminense até tentou se fechar. O Flamengo não chegou perto de sua melhor atuação ofensiva. Ainda assim, diante de 60 mil pessoas no Mané Garrincha, o rubro-negro não teve grande problemas para vencer por 2 a 0, gols dos centroavantes Dourado e Vizeu, e ampliar a liderança do Brasileiro para cinco pontos — 23 contra 18 do Sport. Caso vença o Paraná no domingo, o time de Maurício Barbieri garantirá a liderança isolada durante a pausa da Copa do Mundo. Já o Fluminense, com duas derrotas seguidas e 14 pontos em nono lugar, distancia-se das primeiras posições.

Sem Marcos Júnior e Pedro, lesionados, Abel Braga entrou com um time diferente. A já usual defesa com três zagueiros estava acompanhada por seis homens no meio-campo, só um de criação, Sornoza, em noite apagada. A frentes deles, o centroavante João Carlos, isolado, nada fazia.

A proposta era congestionar o meio e evitar que Lucas Paquetá, Vinícius Júnior e Éverton Ribeiro tivessem liberdade. Marlos Moreno substituiu o suspenso Diego e atuou pelo lado direito.

Embora não fizesse um bom jogo, o tricolor até conseguia impedir que o rubro-negro chegasse com perigo no início.

Aos 26, uma marcação polêmica do juiz Dewson da Silva mudou o jogo. Após cruzamento de Éverton Ribeiro, a bola sobrou para Marlos Moreno, que, sutilmente encostado por Marlon, desabou. Na cobrança do pênalti, Dourado marcou pela primeira vez desde 2 de maio. O 1 a 0 soltou os jogadores rubro-negros. Paquetá e Vinícius Júnior passaram a fazer jogadas de efeito, o que revoltou os tricolores.

Na volta para o segundo tempo, Abel tirou Renato Chaves e Sornoza para a entrada de Matheus Fernandes e Pablo Dyego. Pouco depois, Pablo saiu, com dores, e Robinho entrou.

Pelo Flamengo, Dourado foi substituído por Felipe Vizeu, que, aos 33, ampliou. Após tabela de Éverton com Paquetá, ele driblou Júlio César antes de tocar para o gol vazio. Com o resultado, o rubro-negro já acumula quatro vitórias seguidas.

De Futebol England Defeats Costa Rica 2-0

The guys final tune up before the World Cup begins June 14th England defeats Costa Rica 2-0.

The Daily Mail:” Elland Road no longer has its diamond lights, but fortunately England do.

Marcus Rashford illuminated England’s final public performance before departing for Russia next week, with a display that suggests he could make an impact at his first World Cup, even if he does not win a place in Gareth Southgate’s starting line-up.

England’s manager wasn’t looking for any great breakthroughs against Costa Rica, he almost certainly knows his starting line-up by now, but Rashford provided a reminder of the strength in depth, certainly in England’s forward line.

He scored a lovely goal, played a smart, neat pass in the build-up to England’s second, and delivered an energetic, bold 90 minutes, showing he was a serious contender for any of four forward positions in the event of injury – or certainly could be first off the bench if England seek to unlock a resilient defence.

This was Rashford’s night, one of those games when everyone wanted to play with him, certainly in the first-half when he was quite outstanding, albeit against limited opposition.

He was involved as players are when colleagues spot they have the wind behind them. Team-mates sought him out, even if there were easier options on. They could see he was buzzing, see he was the best player, that he was having a match that might just change the mind of his manager, and the pecking order in this squad.

They wanted to be a part of it, wanted to help him along, as mates do. Jordan Henderson fizzed forward passes his way, Fabian Delph and Danny Rose attempted clever one-twos to set him up.

Even when these did not come off, Rashford somehow made it work. Delph stuck one in to Rose, which he miscontrolled – but Rashford spared his embarrassment, scrambling to the touchline, keeping the ball in. This was his night, and everyone inside Elland Road knew that.

His name drew a smattering of boos when first read out. A Manchester United man, you see. By half-time he might as well have been one of their own. It wouldn’t do to bear a grudge, faced with a young man alight like this.

They don’t see talent like Rashford’s around these parts anymore, sadly. The days when Leeds produced England forwards have, for the moment, gone. So this was a thrill for them, as well as for him. One of the virtues of taking England around the country, particularly to grounds that do not see Premier League football, is the lighting of candles in the darkness. There were a lot of young faces here. They will remember seeing Rashford play – and score.

Usually, we question why players do not perform for England as they do for their clubs. With Rashford last night, it was the other way around. Where has this player been for Manchester United this season? What has Jose Mourinho done with him?

‘Now you see why I always pick Romelu Lukaku,’ Mourinho sneered after one tepid performance from his forward understudies, but can this be all the player’s fault? Rashford didn’t seem to lack confidence in an England shirt, didn’t appear reluctant to take risks, to run at defenders, to try his tricks, to shoot from range. He did everything that Manchester United wanted of him all season. So where has he been; and why so different?

The goal, of course, was his crowning glory. Rashford picked the ball up on the right, looked, saw Costa Rica backing off, saw goalkeeper Keylor Navas slightly off his line, and went for it.

At first it looked as if his shot had gone through Navas’s hands, Loris Karius style, but replays revealed the truth: the goalkeeper was simply caught out. It went over his hands and he was slow to react, it wasn’t his finest moment, but there was no handling error. Rashford simply beat him with power, dip, a lovely strike, his third in an England shirt.

Will it be enough to earn him a place in the starting line-up? One imagines he will have to maintain this in every training session between now and the eve of the match with Tunisia to change Southgate’s intentions.

The team is as good as picked. Only one player kept his place from Saturday’s win over Nigeria – John Stones at the back – and time is running out for a bolter.

Where would he play? Presuming Harry Kane’s position is secure, including Rashford would mean leaving out one of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard or Raheem Sterling. Southgate would be unlikely to lose faith with any member of that trio on the back of an impressive display in a friendly. But, if it wasn’t working, if England couldn’t get the breakthrough? Southgate will surely recall this night when he is hailing his first cab off the rank.

In the circumstances – that many of the players out there must have known by now that they are squad men, when the tournament begins at least – this was a very decent performance.

What largely constitutes the shadow XI – Stones, Jordan Henderson and, possibly, Harry Maguire aside – looked committed and lively, even if the tempo did drop off after half-time as tends to happen in such encounters. Delph, certainly, did himself a favour with a hard-working stint in forward midfield, full of the vim and energy that might not have been apparent had populist favourites Jonjo Shelvey or Jack Wilshere been selected.

The game was nine minutes old when a Delph corner was met by a header from Phil Jones tipped over by Navas, and another set-piece almost extended England’s lead after 20 minutes.

Jones and Maguire both won headers and Jamie Vardy tried to pounce on the loose ball from close range, Navas doing well to smother. In the second-half, Henderson had a powerful shot saved, Maguire a header cleared off the line by Bryan Oviedo.

Ultimately, Rashford shared the goals with Danny Welbeck, whose second-half intervention showed why it is unfair to cast aspersions on his place in the squad, as so many do. Rashford worked a sweet little ball through to Alli whose cross was met by a diving header from Welbeck at the far post, his 16th England goal.

The margin of victory was no more than England deserved for an accomplished controlled display, that risked little in the way of physical injury, yet was commanding throughout.

At the other end, Jack Butland made one save from Johan Venegas but, frankly, Costa Rica were not up to much. They won’t be the same team as in 2014; thankfully, the same might be said of England.

De Futebol The Story Behind the Man U loss to Chelsea in The FA Cup!

Here is the story behind the Man U loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup.

The Daily Mail:” When Manchester United lost the FA Cup final to Chelsea there was no inquest, no rallying call. Instead, Jose Mourinho had a quiet word with each of his players, one-by-one.

The Portuguese thanked his men for their efforts. Those who are going to the World Cup were told to enjoy it.

Those who were off to the beach and beyond were told to come back fresh for what promises to be an era-defining 2018-19.

The overriding feeling in the camp was of shock at the 1-0 defeat under the arch. It was not meant to be like this. Mourinho is a meticulous man who leaves nothing to chance. This is well known throughout football.

Sportsmail can disclose, however, that even by his standards the planning was raised by a couple of notches in the build-up to the clash with his former employers – and can also reveal what really happened with Romelu Lukaku.

It started early. All players were told that from the Monday before the match, May 14, their diaries had to be clear. That meant there were to be no commercial activities, either personal or club-related.

There was also to be no media. In short, there would be nothing to distract them from the task at hand. From Tuesday, it was all about Chelsea as the squad headed to Watford, for sessions at the Premier League club’s training ground and a morale-building mini-camp at the nearby, five–star Grove Hotel.

Players were given free time but there was one stipulation from Mourinho, who insisted that they broke bread together. They were also told that there was to be an 11pm curfew. It is commonplace, in the build-up to big matches, for players to arrange tickets for friends and family members.

On many occasions, they drop them into the ticket office in the final hours before the game. But not here. Mourinho told his men that any such issues had to be dealt with before they headed down to the Hilton Hotel, on the Friday.

Some players also enlist the services of a hairdresser to come to their rooms so they are looking at their best before they go before the cameras and their adoring public. This was permitted, on the proviso that any such visits had to take place before they arrived at the Hilton.

Nothing was left to chance. Which leads us to team selection, and what appears to have become two different versions of the same story.

Following the match, Mourinho told the press that Lukaku had declared himself unfit to start. However, earlier this week, the Belgium international said that while there was no rift, the decision to put him on the bench was his manager’s.

Lukaku had trained with the rest of the squad. He was in the starting XI which had been announced earlier in the week, and was expected to play.

However, on Thursday he went to see Mourinho to tell him that he could not start as he did not feel ready.

The manager asked him what he thought he could do and was told that the best he could hope for was to come off the bench for some minutes. While Mourinho may have picked the side, the decision over Lukaku’s input appears to have been taken out of his hands.

At half time, with Chelsea leading thanks to Eden Hazard’s penalty, there was no anger. Instead, Mourinho told his players that they would still go out and win the match. That it did not happen was not for want of planning.

A similar approach has been taken to what lies ahead. Mourinho knows that he has a huge year in front of him.

Officials are hopeful that they can conduct some of their transfer business early, with the first addition, Brazil midfielder Fred, likely to sign before the World Cup.

Work on targets, including the 25-year-old, has been ongoing for months. Successful or not as he prepares for another duel with his old rival across town, nothing will be left to chance.

De Futebol Argentina Squad for The World Cup!

Let’s take a look at Argentina and their squad for 2018 World Cup.

The Guardians Javier Saul wrote:” This article is part of the Guardian’s 2018 World Cup Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 32 countries who have qualified for Russia. is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.

There are no solid arguments to suggest Argentina can win this World Cup. They do not have the training levels of Spain, the structure of Germany or the blend of top-class individuals and team ethos harnessed by their bitter rivals Brazil. But they do have Lionel Messi, and that in itself is a reason to believe nothing is impossible.

“If Leo is OK, the team will be more under his control than mine,” confessed the coach, Jorge Sampaoli. The most realistic objective would be progress to the quarter-finals; elimination any earlier would be frustrating and anything beyond the last eight should be seen as a very positive performance. But no one in Argentina forgets the three lost finals in a row – the 2014 World Cup and the Copa Americas in 2015 and 2016 – and a team that suffer a worrying mental brittleness will be under plenty of pressure.

One of Argentina’s weaknesses lies in goal, a position up for grabs after Sergio Romero was ruled out with a knee injury. Willy Caballero rarely featured at Chelsea last season and his deputies lack experience on this stage. In defence there is only one player of international quality, Nicolás Otamendi, and the performance of the entire backline has left a lot to be desired under Sampaoli. The coach has changed personnel and formations frequently, eventually settling on a conventional four-man defence. Gabriel Mercado, on the right, does not feel comfortable in that position and may be another achilles heel.

There are also plenty of questions to answer in midfield, and Lucas Biglia’s injury – a double fracture of his lumbar vertebrae that casts doubt on his fitness going into the tournament – adds to the uncertainty. A lack of leadership and initiative to take hold of the ball and control a game in the middle of the park has posed significant questions; the players’ answers have been hesitant.

Two of those midfielders symbolise the mood surrounding Argentina and this World Cup. On the one hand Javier Mascherano, who turns 34 on 8 June and plays in a weak Chinese league, is clearly in decline and seems to mirror the plight of the national team. On the other Giovani Lo Celso, aged 22, who will have to assert more influence if Bielsa’s side are to do well. He is a moderate player, able to create attacks, who proved his worth last season at PSG. He is more engaged with the whole unit than some of his peers; he can initiate attacks and pass between the lines to the forwards.

And therein lies another concern. Messi’s explosive partners – players such as Sergio Agüero and Gonzalo Higuaín – must not let their captain toil alone if they dream of winning the cup. Argentina may lose with Messi, but the sense is that they will never win without him.

Which player is going to surprise everyone at the World Cup?

Giovani Lo Celso. European football has made Lo Celso a versatile, complete and decisive player. He left Rosario Central as a creative midfielder but at Paris Saint-Germain he has developed his range of skills and therefore his influence on his teams has grown. He is now much more able to defend against counterattacks and shadow the opponents’ best players. Not only that, his first touch – and pass – is excellent and he sometimes pops up in the opposition penalty area. From midfield he may be the perfect partner Messi has wanted in the national team for so long.

Which player is likely to disappoint?

Javier Mascherano. It was apparent that he could not continue playing for Barcelona and he went to China, really, so that he could stay in the game and have a chance to play in another World Cup. But playing in the Chinese Super League has not helped him much and, although still an option in defence or midfield, his best days are clearly behind him. When he plays, though, he can have a really positive influence on his team-mates.

What is the realistic aim for Argentina at the World Cup and why?

Despite having Lionel Messi, the best footballer in the world, a realistic aim for Argentina is to sneak into the quarter-finals. Many years of structural mismanagement have left scars. The coach, Jorge Sampaoli, has been in charge for a year and the team still lack a recognisable identity.

Javier Saúl writes for La Nacion.”

De Futebol- Flamengo wins again!

Flamengo defeated Corinthians 1-0. The guys are still in the catbird seat with 20 points.

Globo Esporte:” Nos últimos dias, Diego criou polêmica ao dizer que a seleção brasileira sentiria sua falta na Copa do Mundo. Neste domingo, em uma de suas melhores partidas pelo Flamengo, o camisa 10 foi decisivo na vitória por 1 a 0 sobre o Corinthians, no Maracanã, que mantém a equipe na liderança do Brasileiro.

Por ter levado o terceiro cartão amarelo, Diego desfalca o rubro-negro na quinta-feira, no Fla-Flu, em Brasília.

Com o Corinthians errando a saída de bola, o Flamengo criou as melhores chances até os 30 minutos do primeiro tempo. Especialmente com Vinicius Jr, que levava a melhor no duelo com o lateral-direito Mantuan.

E a equipe de Mauricio Barbieri também chegou com perigo nas bolas paradas. Paquetá, aos oito, e Léo Duarte, aos 19, ambos de cabeça, por muito pouco não abriram o placar.

E a equipe de Mauricio Barbieri também chegou com perigo nas bolas paradas. Paquetá, aos oito, e Léo Duarte, aos 19, ambos de cabeça, por muito pouco não abriram o placar.

Já os corintianos tinham dificuldades de invadir a área rival. E, na melhor chance da equipe na etapa inicial, Jadson bateu da entrada da área, para fora. Logo depois, aos 31, o meia sentiu a coxa direita e deu lugar a Roger. Com o centroavante em campo, o time de Osmar Loss passou a tocar melhor a bola e a dificultar a marcação adversária. Gabriel, da intermediária, aos 39, obrigou Diego Alves a fazer uma defesa.

No segundo tempo, Diego cabeceou rente à trave, após ótimo cruzamento de Renê, aos 14. Foi a senha para incendiar a torcida. O camisa 10 voltou a criar algum perigo ao cobrar falta de longe, aos 19. Quatro minutos depois, um discreto Henrique Dourado recebeu vaias ao ser substituído por Felipe Vizeu.

A estrela de Barbieri brilhou aos 34, quando o substituto de Dourado abriu o placar. Paquetá recebeu de primeira passe de Diego, Walter espalmou, e Vizeu não perdoou. Daí até o final, o que se viu foi uma festa nas arquibancadas, sob batuta do maestro Diego.

De Futebol Brasil wins! A 2-0 win over Croatia!

Neymar is back. He scored to lead Brasil to a 2-0 win over Croatia in a World Cup tune up match.

The Daily Mail:” The routine was just as you will have remembered: head bowed, hands pointing to heaven before blessing himself then breaking into a sprint.

It had been 98 days since Neymar had last gone through that custom before a game but here he was on the side of the pitch, bedecked in that famous, shimmering No 10 shirt of Brazil, ready for action just in time for the World Cup.

Neymar has been prolific on Instagram since breaking his metatarsal on February 25 – there have been 60 posts to his 93million followers, along with a raft of short video stories – but was he physically ready to be prolific in Russia? It was the only question that needed answering at Anfield.

He had eased himself into this friendly with Croatia, with a couple of routine passes and one shot that was comfortably gathered by Danijel Subasic but then, in the 69th minute, the world’s most expensive footballer came to life in the most glorious fashion.

After receiving a pass from Philippe Coutinho, Neymar began to dance into the area. His touch was sure and hypnotic, his intent clear – two Croatia defenders were put on their backsides as he moved his hips, then the ball, one way then another. The finish that followed was just as emphatic.

From the corner of the six-yard box, he hoodwinked another red-and-white shirt before slamming a drive into the roof of the net in front of The Kop. How he enjoyed it, heading off at speed and jumping into the air before being engulfed by his team-mates.

This was a goal that epitomised all that is good about Brazil, the skill and the effortless samba style, in one devastating moment yet, ironically, it didn’t even illicit the biggest cheer of the day – that was reserved for local hero Roberto Firmino’s injury time strike to complete a 2-0 win.

But the significance of this goal – his 54th for Brazil – could not be lost. It was, of course, spectacular but also soothing, reassuring a nation that the man in whom so many dreams are entrusted will be close to peaking for the opening World Cup assignment against Switzerland in Rostov.

To describe Brazil as a one-man team would be nonsense but what the Paris Saint-Germain star does is elevate them to another level entirely.

Before he had been introduced, they had looked tentative and struggled to breakdown Croatia’s defence, but Neymar transformed everything.

The first half, in terms of action, had been instantly forgettable. Brazil – the admirable Willian apart – operated at a speed that was only just above training ground level and Croatia actually had the best opportunity of the opening 45 minutes, when Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren crashed a header wide.

Croatia, whose World Cup group consists of Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland, were disciplined and looked comfortable but the sight of Neymar changed their mind-set and introduced doubt; they barely got forward in the second period, anxious about leaving space for Neymar to exploit.

Staying back, though, did them no good.

The more they retreated, the more it became inevitable that Brazil would score and so it proved.

The gloss was applied to the final score in injury time when Firmino raced onto a ball from Manchester City’s Danilo and lobbed Subasic.