It’s an incredible achievement by Brazil isn’t it? No, not beating Paraguay; Gary Lineker practically did that on his own (though Peter the Beardless helped, obviously) 31 years ago.
Can that be right? All football dates where England are concerned are suffixed with PM or AM (Post or After Maradona), just like time, really, unless you’re on it 24/7. In that 1986 context, great to see that another Argentinian superstar has been banned for blaming the officials for his team losing to Bolivia.
Brazil’s players look unbeatable on paper, don’t they, and sometimes on the screen too – or even live sometimes? Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho scored one of their three goals last night which means that Brazil have qualified for every single World Cup tournament since the competition began in 1930.
That tournament took place in Uruguay and Brazil duly beat Bolivia, 4.0 (just to show the neighbours how these things are done), but failed to meet the knockout stage despite there being only 13 teams competing (I know!), and most of Europe boycotting it due to foreseen circumstances likely to cause travel disruption – well, it was only 18 years after Titanic sank. Uruguay went on to beat, ahem, Argentina in the Final and repeated the feat 20 years later in … Brazil.
So, given the number of Brazilian players currently taking even more money out of the country than George Osborne, you would think that we would be seeing samba football week in and week out in the top tier of English football.
However, will Coutinho be able to reproduce his international form against what remains of the Everton defence on Saturday or will he be on the beach (sorry, bench)? Will anybody remember Roberto Firmino for anything or, even worse, will people mix him up with someone who once managed Everton and spoke often in Latin? I often think that journalists point out that Coutinho and Firmino fly back from international matches together by private jet, just so that it doesn’t look too grand or un-Klopp-like.
Diego Costa was born in Brazil, to parents José de Jesus and Josileide. Incredibly, his father named him in honour of Argentine footballer, Diego Maradona. Jesus! What was he thinking? It’s a miracle that Costa isn’t at all mixed up by his upbringing and takes out his frustration with a brutish attitude, or decides to play for a different country altogether.
On a related note, did you know that Willian is also Brazilian? Of course, you did; but did you also know that his full name is Willian Borges da Silva? This is why we all call him will.i.an.
da Silva does sound a bit like someone who plays for Manchester City, doesn’t it? Well, I wouldn’t read too much into that because they made absolutely sure that they got a Brazilian by signing Fernandinho and then Fernando, just in case the latter was a nickname or his father had shortened it – a bit like Ronaldinho and Ronaldo?
Definitely not like Fábio and Rafael, the identical twins who, incredibly, are also from Brazil and once played together (or was this all about smoke and mirrors?) for Manchester United in the Premier League. They were so good that one-half of the family now plays for Middlesbrough and the other has given up on football altogether and joined Lyon. No matter, neither of them will be in the top flight next season so I guess there is still a kind of symmetry there.
All of which brings us back (!) to David Luiz. Did you know that his last name is, actually, Marinho? Sounds like a familiar Chelsea connection, eh! Oh, no, he left … but he came back to play in a multinational defensive system with the English ‘whoever you are marking, I’ll mark them too,’ Gary Cahill and Spanish, César Azpilicueta, who could surely have made it as a Hollywood film star had he not frowned so much and had such a complicated name.
David showed in the last World Cup that the manager can leave it up to him to organise the defence and play a commanding, responsible role. This is why Antonio Conte is so anxious – some might say jumpy – on the touchline, remembering that the grass is not always greener …
There is undoubtedly a Brazilian influence in our top flight but that does not mean that the sun is always shining. If you thought that Luiz was bad, let us never, ever forget Roque Júnior who earned 48 caps for Brazil and played in the 2002 World Cup (their 17th). Leeds United fans have their own special name for him and, in his defence, he has nothing to say.