Mane takes Coutinho’s No.10 squad number at Liverpool

Sadio Mane will wear the No.10 shirt at Liverpool this season.

Philippe Coutinho vacated the number when he moved to Barcelona in January of last year, and the Senegal international has now taken over.

Mane previously wore No.19 at Anfield, but has now switched to the new number that has something of a chequered history at the club.

John Barnes, Michael Owen and Luis Garcia were all successful No.10s at Liverpool, but Joe Cole and Andriy Voronin fared less well.

If recent form is to suggest anything, though, Mane should enjoy the responsibility afforded by the number.

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The Senegal international had an excellent campaign in 2017-18, scoring 20 goals in all competitions and providing nine assists. In the Champions League, Mane scored 10 times in just 11 appearances as the club reached the Champions League final against Real Madrid.

Mane captained Senegal at the 2018 World Cup, and scored in his side’s 2-2 draw with Japan.

However, they were eliminated at the group stages, losing 1-0 to Colombia after beating Poland 2-1 in their opening game.

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‘We’ll be beaten from all sides’ – Coutinho ready for World Cup backlash

Brazil star Philippe Coutinho said he was ready for the backlash after the surprise World Cup quarter-final loss to Belgium.

A Fernandinho own goal and Kevin De Bruyne’s fine strike helped Belgium to a 2-1 win in Kazan, where substitute Renato Augusto’s second-half header gave Tite’s men hope.

However, they were unable to find an equaliser despite a frantic finish, the favourites bowing out in the last eight.

“We wanted to go all the way to the final but we’ve given our best shot. Everyone gave everything,” the Barcelona playmaker told SporTV.

“I’m sure will be beaten up by criticism from all sides. Life goes on, that’s football. You win and you lose.

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“We’re sad because we wanted to win badly, like all Brazil. Unfortunately, we couldn’t.”

The 2018 World Cup may have been the last for several Brazil players, with nine of their 23-man squad in their 30s.

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Defender Miranda, 33, was unwilling to confirm his international future, unsure whether it was his last appearance at the showpiece tournament.

“It’s hard to talk about it because all players here are part of a generation,” he said.

“I won’t say goodbye, but I also won’t confirm that I’ll be there for the next World Cup.”

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Willian unfazed by Barcelona rumours

Willian insists he is not letting speculation over a potential move to Barcelona distract him from Brazil’s World Cup campaign.

The 29-year-old will be hoping to make a fifth consecutive start at Russia 2018 on Friday when the Selecao take on Belgium in a mouth-watering quarter-final in Kazan.

The Chelsea man has been linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge in recent weeks, with Manchester United and Barcelona mooted as destinations.

When asked about joining his fellow Brazilians Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho at Camp Nou, Willian said: “Well, they are excellent players with a lot of quality. In addition to great players, they are very good friends.

“People speculate a lot. We see a lot of things on the internet, but this is not the time to talk about this. I’ve not received any information about that. I’m trying to focus on my performance, playing for Brazil.”

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While Neymar has been dominating the headlines throughout the tournament, it is arguably Coutinho who has been Brazil’s star man.

And Willian had praise for the forward, saying: “Coutinho has been playing a wonderful World Cup, and he helps us a lot. I hope that he will continue playing even better.”

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Brazil v Mexico Betting Tips: 14/1 dabble of the day with Coutinho set to shine in Samara

The bookmakers expect Brazil to sweep aside Mexico and secure a spot in the World Cup quarter finals when the pair square off in Samara.

At just 8/15 (1.53) to win in normal time, the Selecao form are unlikely to prove too much of an appealing prospect for punters as a single wager though.

That’s where the dabble of the day market could boost the potential returns for the favourites coming out on top. dabblebet are offering Brazil to win, Coutinho to score anytime, over six Brazil corners and both teams to score in the match at 14/1 (15.0).

dabble of the day Brazil v Mexico

While El Tri have certainly got the attacking weapons to cause Tite’s side some problems and land the both teams to score portion of this wager, their World Cup dreams have ended in defeat the last 16 stage for the past six tournaments.

Hector Moreno will miss the match through suspension and he will be a huge miss for Mexico in defence, adding more weight to the theory that Brazil should enjoy themselves in the final third.

Despite wins over Germany and South Korea, Sweden ruthlessly exposed Mexico’s defence when they were chasing the game and the outright favourites certainly have the attacking options to do likewise.

Lots of the pre-tournament focus was on Neymar but it’s Philippe Coutinho who has been the star of the show.

dabblebet new customer offer Harry Kane 4/1

A stunning opening goal against Switzerland plus another against Costa Rica make the 26-year-old a great anytime scorer option. He’s now been on target in three of his previous four outings for the national side.

Finally, Brazil’s corner tallies have been sky high during the World Cup so far and should be again if they dominate the game as expected. They’ve taken 25 in just three matches, covering the line included in this bet on each occasion.

At 14/1 (15.0) this looks a great option for those searching for a longshot selection ahead of Brazil’s clash with Mexico on Monday afternoon in Samara.

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Where is Neymar? Coutinho completely overshadowing Brazil’s star man

Before the World Cup started, Neymar was the focus of all of the interest in the Brazil squad. Now, though, attention has turned to Philippe Coutinho.

Quite simply, Coutinho has outshone Neymar, providing moments of outstanding skill and important goals. It is the Barcelona man who has looked like the Selecao’s talisman – not the world’s most expensive player.

Coutinho was man of the match in Brazil’s opening two games – and rightly so. He announced his arrival in Russia with a wonder goal in the 1-1 draw with Switzerland, while his last-minute strike against Costa Rica kickstarted his country’s campaign.

The former Liverpool star did not net in the 2-0 win over Serbia that sealed top spot in Group E but he was once again one of Brazil’s key men, constantly probing and pressing.

Neymar, by contrast, has been the most frustrating player to watch during the group stage, despite racking up a goal and an assist.

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Indeed, Neymar is rightly being criticised for his performances. Only 18 of his 42 dribbles have been successful. He has had more chances than any other player (18) but he has converted just one. Neymar also gave the ball away a staggering 84 times – more than any other player in the group stage.

As his record of 56 goals from 88 caps underlines, Neymar usually carries the expectations of over 200 million Brazilians with ease and has previously revelled in the limelight.

All eyes were on him when Brazil hosted the World Cup four years ago but he was arguably the only player who made light of the pressure, playing a starring role before his tournament was ended by a vicious knee in the back from Juan Camilo Zuniga in a bruising quarter-final clash with Colombia.

So, it is strange to see the 26-year-old struggling on the game’s grandest stage, particularly as he is arguably at the peak of his powers.

However, it is his conduct that has really upset some commentators. Even when he shed some tears after scoring against Costa Rica, some pundits suggested this was further evidence of his allegedly attention-seeking behaviour.

Neymar’s diving, though, is what really grates with rival players and supporters.

“We all know Neymar, so it’s not on me or on us to judge him, but rather the referees, and FIFA,” Mexico’s Andres Guardado stated on the eve of Monday’s last-16 meeting with the Selecao in Samara.

“Now, with VAR, they have to see his style of play and know how to manage the game because we know he likes to exaggerate fouls, to throw himself around.

“That’s his style of play and the one who has to judge that and put a stop to it is the referee, not us.”

Guardado Neymar PS

Neymar, of course, holds huge sway at Paris Saint-Germain but Brazil isn’t ‘The Neymar Show’ and Coutinho’s classy performances in Russia have made that abundantly clear, perhaps even to the €222 million man.

He needs to find a way to contribute for his team, even when the going gets tough. 

Of course, match fitness could also be a factor, given Neymar’s club season was ended by a fractured metatarsal in February. Of course, he netted both of Brazil’s warm-up games but it’s clear that his match sharpness isn’t quite at his usually high level.

In that regard, the three group games will have done him the power of good, and there’s no reason why the flop of the group stage can’t go on to become the top player in the knockout rounds. 

Indeed, Brazil boss Tite believes the signs were there against Serbia that Neymar is almost back to his brilliant best.

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“He played very well and he played similarly to what he’s been doing before, which is difficult,” he reasoned.

“He played fantastically, he helped mark the wings, transition with the ball. How he’ll play [on Monday], I don’t know but as of now, yes, he’s reclaimed his best form.”

Now would be the perfect time to prove it. If he doesn’t, the burden may once again fall on Coutinho to carry Brazil through to the next round.

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‘All the pressure’s on Neymar’ – Coutinho shining in the shadows, says Roberto Carlos

Philippe Coutinho is flourishing in Neymar’s shadow and could prove instrumental in Brazil claiming a sixth World Cup, according to Roberto Carlos.

The Barcelona star has scored twice in Brazil’s three games so far at Russia 2018, while Neymar has found the net just once – hitting home the second in the 2-0 win over Costa Rica.

Such is Neymar’s global appeal, the Paris Saint-Germain forward still dominates headlines, despite his team-mate’s more impressive performances.

Former Selecao full-back Roberto Carlos – who won the World Cup in 2002 – hopes that continues, allowing Coutinho to maintain his unheralded performances.

“Philippe is in a very good moment, in Barcelona and in the Brazilian team,” the former Real Madrid man said.

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“He’s a very important player for Brazil because the pressure is all on Neymar, then Coutinho shows up. The Brazilian team have a very strong chance to win this World Cup.

“Neymar is getting better. He’s relaxed. He’s recovered well from his injury. He’s a very important player for Brazil. He is very calm, that is the most important thing. When he is calm I know that he can offer much more.”

Brazil take on Mexico in the last 16 on Monday and Roberto Carlos believes Brazil should not take one of the World Cup’s surprise packages lightly.

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“There is no easy game in this World Cup,” he added.

“It’s very balanced, really equal. In order to be the champion, Brazil will have to overcome all difficulties, but I think we have a great team and we can get the title again.

“Be careful with Mexico. They look like a normal team, but they have lots of quality.”

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Fantasy Football: Kane leads the line for our World Cup Group Stage XI

The World Cup group stages have come to a close and now we can collectively catch our breath. While there were plenty of surprising results throughout, most of the teams that were expected to go through have, with the obvious exception of Germany. Sweden and Russia both performed better than many anticipated and, understandably, both nations are represented in our, for lack of a better phrase, Team of the Group Stage.

In fact, every player that made our list this week represents a nation that advanced. Of course, we should not be shocked that the best individual performances helped their team reach the knockout phase, but the fact that no eliminated players made the cut is a bit surprising. In lieu of a full day of football, we offer you our Goal Fantasy Team of the Round.

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GK: Fernando Muslera – Uruguay – 3 Starts, 7 Saves, 3 Clean Sheets = 23 Points

DEF: Andreas Granqvist – Sweden – 3 Starts, 2 Goals, 2 Goals Conceded, 2 Clean Sheets = 28 Points

DEF: Yerry Mina – Colombia – 2 Starts, 2 Goals, 2 Goals Conceded, 2 Clean Sheets = 28 Points

DEF: Diego Godin – Uruguay – 3 Starts, 1 Assist, 3 Clean Sheets = 24 Points

The Atleti defender is one of the best defenders in the world and he has continued to back that up with his performances in Russia. To that point, Godin captained Uruguay to the tune of three clean sheets in the group stages, a tournament best.

Diego Godin Uruguay

The only downside to his Fantasy value is that his lack of attacking prowess (0 goals in La Liga or the World Cup this year) gives him a hard ceiling. That added to the fact that he will face Ronaldo and Portugal in the next round makes Godin a tough own in the Goal game this week.

DEF: John Stones – England – 3 Starts, 2 Goals, 2 Assists = 24 Points

MID: Denis Cheryshev – Russia – 2 Starts, 3 Goals = 23 Points

Very few expected much from Russia heading into this tournament but they flipped that script from the very start of this World Cup. The fact that Cheryshev is the player that propelled the hosts out of the group stages is made all the more impressive, as he was only given minutes due to an injury to Alan Dzagoev against Saudi Arabia.

While it’s unlikely that Cheryshev can recapture the magic against Spain, his heroics in the group stages will not be forgotten any time soon.

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MID: Philippe Coutinho – Brazil – 3 Games, 2 Goals, 1 Assist = 21 Points

MID: Eden Hazard – Belgium – 2 Starts, 2 Goals, 1 Assist = 19 Points

FOR: Harry Kane – England – 2 Starts, 5 Goals = 29 Points

A lot of Fantasy owners were cautious on Kane heading into the World Cup yet, at the end of the group stage, he is the highest scoring player in the Goal game. Many of his 29 points came from an unconventional hat trick against Panama (two penalties and a deflection), but they all count.

Whether or not he can continue this pace is certainly a question worth asking though as the Tottenham man is outside the top 30 in shots in Russia thus far. That having been said, it’s unlikely that anyone that kept him through the Belgium match would dump him now.

Romelu Lukaku Belgium 2018 World Cup

FOR: Romelu Lukaku – Belgium – 2 Starts, 4 Goals = 24 Points

FOR: Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal – 3 Starts, 4 Goals, 1 Penalty Missed = 23 Points

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The last round was far from kind to Ronaldo due to his missed penalty, but four goals are still good for joint-second best at the World Cup thus far. While he has the ability to score against any opposition, the fact that Portugal sit 22nd in chances created is not exactly inspiring.

His round of 16 opponent is not ideal either as he comes up against Uruguay’s defenc,e who boasted the fewest goals allowed and most clean sheets in the group stages. He’s obviously worth starting but is no longer a must-own.

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Coutinho steps up for Brazil and out of Neymar’s shadow

Two games into the World Cup campaign that they entered as favourites, Brazil are starting to find their rhythm. And, while it took Neymar until the very last kick to get his own all-singing, all-dancing show on the road, Tite’s men had at least been able to rely on Philippe Coutinho.

Neymar, after weeks/months/years of scrutiny, after two games of rough treatment from his markers, and after flattering to deceive in Russia so far, finally made a positive mark in the 97th minute, with a goal which, just moments later, provoked floods of tears as he sank to his knees on the Saint Petersburg pitch after the 2-0 win over Costa Rica.

It had been a trying afternoon for the Paris Saint-Germain star up until that point, and had it not been for Coutinho the headlines would have been entirely different.

Coutinho, for the second time in two games, came up with the goal Brazil needed. He was their best player in the disappointing draw with Switzerland, the first time Brazil have not won their first game at a World Cup since 1978, and he was there again on Friday, with his side staring down the barrel of another frustrating stalemate.

It was the Barcelona man who charged into the box in the 91st minute to meet Gabriel Jesus’ knock-down, poking the ball through the legs of Keylor Navas, who had hitherto produced yet another World Cup masterclass.

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It was a goal that could be described these days as ‘a bench emptier’. The Brazil substitutes and coaching staff leapt from their seats and charged up the touchline to celebrate with their hero, just like Iran did in this stadium one week ago, when they snatched a last-minute win over Morocco.

Yet Brazil are not Iran, they are the favourites for this tournament, and their celebrations were born more out of relief than the sheer joy of the Iranians.

Indeed, Tite, the highly-regarded coach who has got this team into shape, was so overcome by it all he ended up falling face-first into the ground as he attempted to keep pace with his younger, fitter countrymen.

For Tite the goal provided vindication. The coach had made shrewd changes to spark Brazil into life after an underwhelming first half, but for so long it looked as though they would have had to make do with a goalless draw.

The nature of the World Cup dictates that such a result would not have been seen favourably, but make no mistake: it was clear for much of the second half that Brazil deserved to win this match.

Tite’s decision to replace the poor Willian with Douglas Costa at half-time was wise, and also showed that he knew he could not afford to wait.

Costa immediately looked bright and his side came close to breaking the deadlock when Gabriel Jesus headed against the bar and then, somehow, Coutinho’s shot was narrowly deflected wide.

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The blue shirts sensed that a goal was a matter of time but as they struggled to put the ball in the net they turned to another quality back-up, Roberto Firmino. The Liverpool man, who has been battling with Jesus for a starting berth, was pushed on just behind his Premier League team-mate, with midfielder Paulinho making way. With Costa Rica digging in, this was another clever, and brave, substitution by Tite.

Yet somehow, despite the increased energy in the side and a raft of chances created, it seemed it would not be enough.

Neymar, first and foremost, would have been the villain of the piece. He was criticised for his nomadic, overly flash performance against Switzerland but here he was far more involved – and usually not for the better.

He forced a fine save from Navas, though had he kept his shot down he would have given his side the lead. Later on he found himself with space to burst into but decided to take his shot early, from the edge of the box, and curled a powerful effort just wide. It would have looked spectacular had it gone in, but it didn’t, and that looked set to sum up his performance.

In fact, what had looked to sum up his performance was the penalty he thought he had won. After receiving the ball inside the area, close to Navas’ goal, he checked back onto his right foot, losing the momentum of the attack. The referee initially awarded a penalty, judging that the forward had been pulled, but after consulting with his colleagues in the VAR team he reversed his decision. Rightly, too; after making a mess of another good chance Neymar had gone to ground too easily.

A few minutes later he was booked for petulantly slamming the ball into the ground after committing a foul. Coutinho got a yellow too, for airing his displeasure at his mate’s booking.

Philippe Coutinho Brazil Costa Rica World Cup 2018

But 10 minutes later their fortunes changed. Coutinho, the man brought to Camp Nou with much of the money Barca received for Neymar, proved yet again that he is the ace up Tite’s sleeve.

Tite has only used the former Liverpool man in the midfield three in the past couple of weeks, and on this evidence, and that of his first few months in Catalunya, it is a role that suits him.

Coutinho regularly struggled to perform consistently at Anfield, his stunning goals often papering over the cracks of patchy performances against England’s bigger clubs – and some of the medium-sized ones, too.

But since joining Barca, and particularly in Russia, he is showing that he is the man for the big moment.

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His goal forced Costa Rica forwards, finally, and liberated Brazil. Neymar certainly seemed unburdened – he produced a textbook rainbow flick over his marker’s head down in the corner, as if all of his troubles had disappeared.

They certainly did moments later, when the impressive Douglas Costa got in behind the defence and provide the perfect cross. Neymar, at last, was there to make the difference.

Or at least  a difference. He will not have to worry about too many negative reviews tonight, as Brazil picked exactly the right moment to kick their World Cup into gear. But it will not be forgotten that it was Coutinho who did it.

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‘Neymar pain normal’ – Coutinho unconcerned by ankle issue for Brazil talisman

Philippe Coutinho is not worried about Neymar after the Brazil star limped out of training with an ankle problem in Sochi on Tuesday.

Neymar, who sat out Monday’s session, suddenly hobbled off the pitch in a worrying sight for Brazil ahead of their crucial World Cup Group E match against Costa Rica on Friday.

Brazil announced Neymar was feeling the effects of a sore ankle after he was fouled 10 times in the surprise 1-1 draw with Switzerland on matchday one.

Coutinho, however, played down any concerns over team-mate Neymar heading into the St Petersburg showdown.

“I saw the same thing you saw. I haven’t talked to him,” Coutinho told reporters when asked about the 26-year-old leaving the open training session. “It happened almost at the end of practice. I think he felt something but that’s normal.”

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Coutinho, who netted a stunning goal to open the scoring against Switzerland, added: “Everybody goes after Neymar. When he’s playing, he gets a lot of fouls. They come strong.

“Of course, our focus is on the collective. One or another player will have a highlight here or there but collective is important. It’s how we think. We will do what we have to do, each and every one of us.”

Pressed to discuss the impact of Neymar possibly missing Brazil’s next match, Coutinho spoke like a player confident the Paris Saint-Germain superstar will be fit to face Costa Rica.

“Neymar is one of the best in the world,” the Barcelona midfielder said. “Playing with him is very important resource. When he plays for us, it’s a huge help. He is a brave man who always faces opponents. Always trying to create. Important for us.”

While Brazil were held in their opener, Serbia edged Costa Rica 1-0 thanks to Alexander Kolarov’s sensational free-kick, setting up a vital game for Tite’s side.

Coutinho anticipates another difficult challenge, though the former Liverpool star is remaining calm.

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“It will be very important. We wanted to win the first game. But we ended with a draw. We have another opportunity,” Coutinho added. “I think it will be a great game. We have to be focused. Mentally strong so we can play a good game.

“We have to play a happy game with responsibility because we’re in Brazil jersey. We have to be happy and daring.”

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Coutinho expects more Neymar punishment at World Cup

Neymar and Brazil will have to get used to World Cup opponents trying to break up their attacking rhythm with tactical fouls, says Philippe Coutinho.

The Barcelona playmaker scored a superb opener but Brazil were pegged back by Switzerland their World Cup opener, as Steven Zuber headed in from a corner to earn a 1-1 draw on Sunday.

Neymar was fouled 10 times during the game – more than any player in a World Cup game since 1998 – with three Switzerland players booked for bringing down the Paris Saint-Germain star.

The world’s most expensive player appeared to be limping on several occasions during the second half, with rips in his socks clearly visible, but Coutinho insists Neymar has shrugged off Switzerland’s aggressive tactics.

“Yes, Switzerland hit us a lot… but all matches will be like this, I guess,” Coutinho told reporters.

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“We’re talking about a World Cup so everybody will try to defend their game.

“Neymar is okay, of course. But, as you can see during the match, sometimes the opponents make turns to foul and in many passes when it’s not necessary to foul, you have it and the match gets paralysed – but that’s how it is.

“All matches will be like this and we have to live with that.”

Serbia’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica leaves Brazil needing positive results in their last two Group E fixtures to progress.

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Coutinho, though, is not worried about the chances of one of the pre-tournament favourites suffering a surprise early exit.

“Every game is important,” the former Liverpool star said.

“When you talk about national squad and the World Cup, it’s obvious that, if we want to get through it, we’ll have to get the points – and we have to get it at the next games.”

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