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Duarte: Five good things about 2014


Messi and Ronaldo: The view from home

Argentina vs. Portugal

Firmino ready to take his chance

 By Tim Vickery

Uruguay-Brazil headlines second round of South American U20 championship

Giovanni Simeone and Argentina have run rampant at the South American under-20 championship, but tougher competition awaits the Albiceleste in the second round.
Giovanni Simeone and Argentina have run rampant at the South American under-20 championship, but tougher competition awaits the Albiceleste in the second round.

With all due respect to Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Chile, it is time for the main event of the competition. In the South American under-20 championship, the aforementioned four teams have been knocked out. Six are still standing, and over the next few days, they will play one another in the tournament's decisive second stage.

The stakes now rise. Four of the remaining six will make it through to this year's Under-20 World Cup. One will join host Brazil in next year's Olympics; another will...

 By Tim Vickery

South American U20 Championships defined by exhaustion, tough schedule

Peru and Paraguay may have played out a dubious draw but blame the schedule more than anything.

Worst fears were realised when Group A came to a close in the South American Under-20 Championships.

Argentina had already booked their place in the decisive second stage. Behind them were three teams, Paraguay, Ecuador and Peru, all level on points. Two would join Argentina. One would be eliminated.

Ecuador had completed all their matches and could only watch from the sidelines, hoping for a decisive result in the match between the other two. But a draw between Paraguay and Peru would qualify...

 By Tim Vickery

Argentina, Brazil show their flaws in South American U20 Championship

Angel Correa is Argentina's star, but their defending is a cause for concern.

The South American Under-20 Championship is mainly about individuals. After all, there's little point in a team winning continental and world titles at this level if none of its members go on to become important players for the senior national team. More than anything else, the focus in the tournament currently taking place in Uruguay is therefore on the best youngsters, the ones most likely to become household names all over the world.

But there is an interesting collective dimension too, especially...

Could a more focused, mature Neymar challenge for next year's Ballon d'Or?

After a tough week for FC Barcelona, Luis Enrique's side put on a masterclass performance at the Camp Nou to see off Atletico Madrid in dramatic fashion.
Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique insists that a future without Lionel Messi at Barca is "not something we contemplate."

As the Brazilian saying goes, if someone's grandmother had two wheels she would be a bicycle. But it is interesting to think what could have happened in the 2014 Ballon d'Or voting if Juan Camilo Zuniga had been a bit less reckless in Fortaleza last summer. Sure, it probably wouldn't have meant that Brazil were victorious vs. Germany or perhaps even avoided that 7-1 "cricket score" result in the World Cup semifinal. But it would probably have given Neymar some more weight in the voting process...

 By Tim Vickery

U20 championship offers redemption to Brazil and Cristian Cuevas

Brazil, now coached by Alexandre Gallo, left, and Chile's Cristian Cuevas, right, want to prove in the South American under-20 championship how far they've come since the last tournament, held two years ago in Argentina.

Brazil are back in action Thursday, when they play their first match in the South American under-20 championship -- the Selecao's first truly competitive fixture since last year's World Cup debacle.

And it is not only at senior level that Brazil are looking for redemption. Their last under-20 campaign, two years ago, was an unmitigated disaster.

Brazil went into the 2013 tournament as reigning World Champions at the level. But in 2013 in Argentina they did not even qualify for the World Youth Cup....

Neymar, Dunga, Cruzeiro cause for positivity in Brazil as 2014 ends

Check out the 10 most memorable moments of 2014 in what was an unforgettable year in soccer.
Check out the 10 most memorable moments of 2014 in what was an unforgettable year in football.

At first sight, 2014 was a year to forget for Brazilian football. The Selecao's World Cup dreams were pulverized in Belo Horizonte by Germany. Fred, the same striker who was so ineffective during that tournament, ended up as the top striker in the Brazilian championship. But while those were reasons for Brazilian fans to cry more intensely than Thiago Silva, the year also had some silver linings for those eternal optimists.

1. Neymar has definitely arrived

Before Juan Zuniga's challenge brought...