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Archives for September 2008

Unknown Possebon hits headlines

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Tim Vickery | 11:05 UK time, Monday, 29 September 2008

Thankfully the injury suffered last week by young Manchester United midfielder Rodrigo Possebon was not as serious as first feared - which makes it easier to look on the bright side.

At the cost of pain and worry, at least the incident has done wonders for his profile back in the land of his birth.

United supporters often ask me how highly Rodrigo is regarded by the Brazilian public. The easy answer is that - until last Wednesday at least - he was not regarded at all.

Very few people over here had even heard of him, for perfectly understandable reasons.

Before his move to Manchester I don't recall him appearing in the first team of Internacional, the Porto Alegre club who produced him.

He has two compatriot team-mates in a similar situation. Full-back twins Fabio and Rafael were whisked away to Old Trafford before making it to the Fluminense starting line up. But at least their progress had been followed playing for Brazil last year in the South American Under-17 Championships, the Pan-American Games and the World Under-17 Cup.

Interestingly, Fabio looked clearly the more impressive of the two, captaining the side and scoring a river of goals from left-back. But so far his brother has had more opportunities with United - a sign that the process of adaptation can follow an unpredictable path.

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European game puts South America in shade

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Tim Vickery | 17:54 UK time, Monday, 22 September 2008

I have the impression I was part of a very small TV audience last Tuesday watching the South American Cup tie between Sport Ancash of Peru and Nublense of Chile.

It was afternoon local time, which meant that it coincided with the opening day of Europe's Champions League. Barcelona were in action, Chelsea were playing - and I suspect that all over South America, and perhaps even in Peru and Chile, more fans were interested in the progress of Messi and Lampard than anything Ancash and Nublense were getting up to.

Since I moved to Rio just over 14 years ago the relationship between South American supporters and European clubs has undergone a big change. In 1994 there were plenty of Deportivo La Coruna shirts around - it was a gesture of support for Bebeto, Brazil's World Cup winning striker, who was playing for the club.

There were lots of Barcelona shirts, paying tribute to his strike partner Romario. And it was common to see the red and black of Milan - because these are also the colours of local heroes Flamengo. Back then, wearing a European shirt was just another way that the fan identified himself with domestic matters, with his own club or national team idol.

That has all changed. Now the streets of Rio are full of Chelsea shirts, Manchester United shirts, Real Madrid shirts, and so on. I was in Armenia, small town Colombia, a few years back when I was astonished to see a huge Arsenal poster for sale in the street.

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Paraguay's remarkable progress

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Tim Vickery | 10:35 UK time, Monday, 15 September 2008

Eight rounds out of 18 have been played in South America's World Cup qualifying campaign, and sitting pretty at the top of the table are Paraguay. Four points clear, they are well on course for a fourth consecutive appearance in the finals.

Their progress is truly remarkable. I have visited Paraguay on several occasions. The place and the people have a certain serene charm, but one of the abiding impressions is of mangy dogs snoozing on shattered paving stones.

Of the 10 countries in the continent only Uruguay has a smaller population, and only Bolivia is poorer. And yet Paraguay are able to outperform a football-crazy country like Colombia, which has a population almost eight times larger.

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What's wrong with Argentina?

Tim Vickery | 07:39 UK time, Monday, 8 September 2008

In the course of one round, the pressure in South America's World Cup qualification campaign has changed hands.

It was on Brazil, but their 3-0 win away to Chile takes them to second in the table, above Argentina on goal difference - an Argentina who have now gone four rounds without a win.

And in this midweek's eighth round, Brazil have much the easier game, the home banker against Bolivia.

Argentina, meanwhile, travel to Peru, who for all their problems have yet to lose in Lima in this campaign, and who will have their tails up after registering their first win on Saturday.

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The right move for Robinho?

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Tim Vickery | 06:32 UK time, Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The big question left by transfer window day is this: Does Robinho now regret working so hard to create an environment where it was not possible for him to continue at Real Madrid?

All summer he has been trying to force his way out of the Bernabeu - but he imagined that Chelsea would be there to catch him, and a compatriot coach in Luiz Felipe Scolari would be there to boost his confidence and bring out the best in him.

Instead of which, it is Mark Hughes and Manchester City - and for all their money and ambitious talk, it is a strange setting for his stated objective of being considered the best player in the world.

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