Daily Archives: November 11, 2016

Brazil dominates Argentina in Mineirao return

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Brazil were dominant as they defeated Argentina by 3-0 in their first game back at the Mineirao Stadium since falling 7-1 to Germany in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup.

Given their recent history in the stadium, the hosts started tentatively in their CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying match against their greatest South American rival, with Fernandinho shown an early yellow card for a foul on Lionel Messi.

Argentina dominated the early exchanges, with Lucas Biglia forcing a fine stretching save from Alisson off a half-volley from outside of the box on 23 minutes.

However, Brazil soon got on the scoreboard through Philippe Coutinho, who had the Mineirao crowd out of their seats with a stunning strike from outside of the box in the 25th minute. The in-form Liverpool midfielder received a ball on the left flank, cut inside onto his right foot and blasted his shot past a helpless Sergio Romero to give Brazil a 1-0 lead.

It would take another 20 minutes, but the hosts added their second just before the half to earn themselves a comfortable position against the 2014 World Cup runners-up.

This time, it was Neymar Jr who inflicted the damage. The Barcelona star received a slide-rule pass behind the defence from Gabriel Jesus and calmly slotted into Romero’s far corner. The goal was Neymar’s 50th for his country in just 74 appearances for his country in young career.

Paulinho should have made it 3-0 after the break, but he was off target despite rounding Romero, and was easily saved off the line by a back-tracking Javier Mascherano.

But the former Tottenham midfielder would grab Brazil’s third just moments later, pouncing onto Renato Augusto’s sliding pull back and firing hard into the net from the middle of the box.

The victory keeps Brazil – energized since new boss Tite’s arrival – on top of the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying table with 24 points from 11 matches. Meanwhile, Argentina languishes in sixth place – one = out of a qualifying spot – with 16.

Barca struggling to keep stars amidst budget issues

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FC Barcelona is hoping to put an end to any notion of Lionel Messi finishing his career anywhere other than Camp Nou, but maintaining the happiness of the world’s best player and ensuring the team remains competitive at the highest level requires hugh reserves of financial resources.

Messi, a winner of eight La Liga titles, four Champions League crowns and three Club World Cups with Barca, is contracted to the club until 2018, by which time he will be 31.

However, every person at Camp Nou is determined to ensure he ends his career as a one-club player. The Argentine has been with the Catalunya since 2001 and it’s a partnership that Luis Enrique and his side ensure continues for the foreseeable future.

In that respect, Barca would have to also ensure they renew the contracts of the most important players around the 29-year-old.

Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano are the latest crucial first-team members to have committed their futures to the Blaugrana; next on the list are stars such as Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Andres Iniesta.

Those contract renewals are a pivotal phase of the process as Barca looks to ensure Messi is surrounded by a team that can compete for domestic and continental titles every year until he calls time on his career.

However, it would naturally mean an increase in budget. While FC Barcelona ended the last financial year with record revenues of £593 million, the club spent around £380m on wages – 64 per cent of their total budget – and the extra income saw them increase their wage budget by £35m.

The renewals of Neymar, Mascherano and Busquets have set them back a great deal and the pending extensions with the other star players will only increase the costs.

The light at the end of the tunnel could be further than anticipated, since Messi will be the last to sign a new contract.

His current is already incredibly astronomical. He currently makes £36m per season, though his payment is spread out with him making £19m over the last two seasons, while he will be paid £8m extra in the last two years of his deal.

The club understand that they must raise revenues to around the £900m mark by 2021 in order to hold onto the Argentinian, and so must raise their budget by a huge margin before they will be ready to move on to talks with Messi.

Trump victory could ‘add layer’ to US-Mexico qualifier

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Donald Trump’s victory in the United States presidential election has given an “added layer” to Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Mexico, says USA captain Michael Bradley.

The match will be played in Ohio, a key ‘swing’ state won by Trump.

In his ultimately successful presidential campaign, Trump has described Mexicans as “criminals” and said he wants to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. He also said Mexico would foot the bill for his planned wall along the southern border of the US – a claim denied by the Mexican government.

On the other hand, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has previously accused Trump of damaging US-Mexico relations, after the president-elect labelled undocumented Mexican migrants to the US “criminals” and “rapists”.

Bradley said fans at the game must be respected, be they “American, Mexican, neutral, men, women, children”.

“Given the way everything has gone the last few months, I think there is an added layer to this game,” said Bradley.

“I would hope that our fans do what they always do, which is support our team in the best, most passionate way possible.”

US goalkeeper Tim Howard said he hoped the game in Ohio’s capital, Columbus, did not become overshadowed.

“That’s politics, and this is football,” said the former Manchester United and Everton player.

“Mexico is going to try to kick our asses and we’re going to try to kick theirs. It’s got nothing to do with politics.”

Friday marks the start of the final stage of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, with six teams – the US, Mexico, Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago, Honduras and Panama – vying for three automatic spots at Russia 2018.