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Like many, Ronaldinho’s World Cup bid may have come too late

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Ronaldinho has been left out of Brazil’s squad for next month’s friendly with Ireland, making it highly unlikely he will make Dunga’s list of 23 for June’s World Cup.

It’s quite a come down for the former world player of the year but he has been having a much better season at AC Milan following three years of problems. 

Ultimately, Ronaldinho may have timed his bid for South Africa too late just like several other players in Serie A.

Outside of Italy, MICHAEL OWEN is probably the best of example of a big name player looking set to miss the first finals in Africa.

Can Ronaldinho really get back to his best?

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Ronaldinho is enjoying his best form in four years but he is still some way off the awesome performances he managed in the middle of the last decade (Noughties? ).

Sunday’s hat-trick in AC Milan’s 4-0 win over Siena featured a penalty and a close range header, but the third goal where he sent a perfect shot into the top corner from distance was a reminder of the Brazilian at his Barcelona best.

Spain have Brazil in their sights

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Spain’s 2-1 friendly victory over Argentina on Saturday was further evidence that the European champions are going to take some stopping if they are to be denied their first ever World Cup triumph.

Vicente del Bosque’s men will have the bruises to show that ‘friendly’ was perhaps not the best word to describe an exciting and competitive match that was lucky to finish with 22 men still on the pitch.

Parreira’s return condemned by South African media

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Carlos Alberto Parreira’s return as South Africa coach has been widely pilloried in the country’s media, a stark contrast to the almost universal approval he received when he took the job the first time round in late 2006.

Parreira has been enticed back in the wake of the firing of compatriot Joel Santana last week, as the World Cup hosts battle to drag their national side out of a spiral of long-term mediocrity.

Is Guardiola the man to tame Robinho?

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“Of course I would like to play for Barca, who wouldn’t? We could have a lot of fun. It would be a pleasure to play with Messi, with my colleague Alves, with Xavi, Iniesta, Ibrahimovic, with all of them. They are a brilliant team.

“I have played against them and I know their quality. But at the moment I can only do it on my Playstation.”

How did Argentine football get in such a state?

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Lionel Messi walks off the pitch in Asuncion his head bowed after Argentina’s 1-0 defeat to Paraguay. A few days later he scores for Barcelona and the dimpled grin is back on his face.

Diego Maradona says that on the compact Rosario central pitch Argentina will pin Brazil against their goal. They do up to a point, with masses of possession, but Dunga’s men demolish them in lethal counter-attacks with Maradona watching in glum silence and Argentina return to River Plate for next month’s key World Cup qualifier against Peru.

Maradona untouchable despite latest defeat

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Those waiting for Diego Maradona to resign or be sacked after yet another dismal Argentina performance in the World Cup qualifiers forget that he is untouchable.

Maradona will press on blindly, brushing off criticism with remarks about having always fought adversity and come out on top.

Brazil look unbeatable but have they peaked too soon?

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Ten wins in a row and unbeaten for eighteen games. The run includes 2-0 and 3-0 wins over Italy, 4-0 wins in Uruguay and Venezuela, 3-0 in Chile and, of course, Saturday’s 3-1 demolition of Argentina, the first time Brazil’s arch-rivals have lost at home for 16 years. Nothing, it seems, can stand in the way of Dunga’s Brazil and and a sixth world title.

There’s only one small problem: everyone was saying the same about Carlos Alberto Parreira’s team four years ago after they won the Confederations Cup with a 4-1 win over Argentina in the final. Like Dunga’s team, they were Copa America champions at the time and their so-called Magic Quarter of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Adriano looked unstoppable.

Rosario prepares for rare sight of Messi

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So often ahead of a great sporting event, there is little evidence of a city’s awareness that it is hosting something special, like last year’s Euro2008 in Austria and Switzerland. Not so Argentina’s big match with arch football enemies Brazil in this riverside city 300 km north of Buenos Aires, home to a bitter rivalry of its own between Rosario Central and Newell’s Old Boys.Saturday’s World Cup qualifier is the talk of the town which was surprisingly offered the match in June after national team coach Diego Maradona criticized River Plate’s Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires.Fans of Rosario’s two big clubs, kept apart to avoid potential fights, have been queuing for tickets since Monday outside their respective stadiums, braving the rain and cold of an Argentine winter in real or makeshift tents.There is a new breed of profiteers called queuers, people who stand in line for a fee and buy your tickets for you, a local journalist said.With so much at stake for Argentina, who need to pick up points to keep their World Cup qualifying hopes alive, there are fears of violence after the match if Maradona’s team lose.Far fewer people will be able to go to the match at Central’s ground, commonly know as the Giant of Arroyito, which holds 41,000, than would have got into River Plate, with a capacity for 65,000.But the move has been a boon for Rosario’s hotels and restaurants, which usually have a quiet time in the winter, and street vendors of football paraphernalia.Light blue and white striped Argentina shirts with Messi and the number 10 on the back are among the biggest selling items.Lionel Messi, a son of Rosario, has never played an official match in his home town, having been whisked away to Barcelona as a mere 13-year-old, forging a career in Europe that has him on the verge of being named the world’s top player.One of the youngsters queuing for tickets, a fan of Messi’s former club Newell’s Old Boys, said: “It’s worth waiting because don’t often see the ‘seleccion’ and even less Leo (Messi), whom we see on TV playing for Barcelona.”Fans hope to see Messi tear Brazil apart and ensure he and Argentina go on to play at the World Cup in South Africa next year.PHOTO: A street vendor sells masks outside Rosario Central stadium ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Brazil, September 4, 2009. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

Argentina without football starts to worry Maradona

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Diego Maradona is a worried man, with no football in Argentina and less than a month to go before their critical World Cup qualifier against a strong Brazilian side.

A debt crisis has put an indefinite hold on the 2009/10 season which was scheduled to start at the end of next week.

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