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Brazilians split about Neymar breaking Pelé’s goal-scoring record

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Brazil great Neymar received a plaque for becoming the team’s all-time leading goal-scorer in official matches in the early hours of Saturday.

However, the language used to describe his achievement perhaps shows many in the South American nation still consider three-time World Cup winner Pelé top of that chart.

“To Neymar Jr., the all-time top goal-scorer for the Selecao in matches against national teams,” reads the plaque delivered by the president of the Brazilian soccer confederation, Ednaldo Rodrigues, a hardcore Pelé fan. “With your goals you have brought joy to millions of Brazilians and fans all over the world.”

The first goal Neymar scored in Brazil’s 5-1 victory over Bolivia in the opening round of South American World Cup qualifying put him one above Pelé, who died on Dec. 29 aged 82 after a long fight against cancer. The 31-year-old picked up his second goal in injury time, lifting his tally to 79 in 125 appearances.

Neymar’s record-breaking goal came in the 61st minute following a low cross into the penalty box. He celebrated by punching the air, as Pelé usually did.

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“I am very happy, no words for this,” Neymar said after he was handed the plaque by Rodrigues. “I never thought I would reach this record.”

Despite celebrations by Neymar and his teammates, the Brazilian soccer confederation was less effusive, as the plaque hinted.

Unlike FIFA, the confederation considers Pelé’s tally to be 95 goals in 114 matches, including those he scored in friendlies against club sides and team selections from Brazilian states.

Santos, the club where Pelé and Neymar started, also doesn’t accept that the Al-Hilal striker broke the record of the man the club and Brazilians call their king.

“The kingdom of soccer,” the club said on its social media channels, posted with an undated picture of Neymar and Pelé.

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Brazilian media rejected the idea Neymar had replaced Pelé as the Selecao’s all-time top goal- scorer.

“FIFA despises part of history by not counting all goals by Pelé,” said journalist Mauro Cézar Pereira. Another columnist, Renato Mauricio Prado, described the change at the top of the charts as “an aberration.”

Some of the 18 goals that FIFA does not count for Pelé came against tough club rivals.

Pelé scored twice in Brazil’s 2-2 draw with Inter Milan in 1960. Six years later, he grabbed a hat-trick in a 5-3 victory over Atletico Madrid. Also in 1966, the Brazil icon netted another treble in a 3-1 win over Sweden’s Malmo.

Other goals scored by Pelé for Brazil came against rivals that do not exist today. In 1960, he claimed a hat-trick in a 3-1 triumph over against a combination of Egyptian and Syrian national team players. Nine years later, he netted another for Brazil in a 6-1 win against a selection from the Northeastern state of Pernambuco.

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During Pelé’s career, countries often played against clubs. Brazil also used to tour Europe for friendlies, and play against clubs when other national teams were not available.

FIFA’s model to count goals ignores eight goals by Neymar during the Olympics of 2012 in London and 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. Neither tournament is considered a senior competition.

According to official numbers, Pelé has a superior goal average to Neymar’s for Brazil — and it is higher than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who are the all-time top scorers for Argentina and Portugal respectively.

 

Pelé, with 77 goals in 91 official matches, averages 0.84 goal per game. Neymar has an average of 0.62.

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Neymar, who is yet to win a Copa America or a World Cup, took a humbling approach amid all the tributes.

“I want to say this (record) doesn’t mean I am better than him (Pelé) or any national team player,” he said in a short statement. “I always wanted to write my story in the national team and today I did that.”

-AP

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Home grounds of Barcelona, Real Madrid among 11 proposed World Cup 2030 venues

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- Real Madrid celebrate winning the Champions League - Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - June 2, 2024 General view inside the stadium and Real Madrid's Toni Kroos during the Champions League celebration with fans REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo

Spain’s soccer federation (RFEF) has proposed 11 stadiums as candidates to host matches during the 2030 World Cup, including the home arenas of LaLiga clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

Spain, who will co-host the tournament with Portugal and Morocco as well as centenary hosts Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, will also have 45 additional grounds as team bases, the RFEF said on Friday.

Other LaLiga clubs whose home arenas have made the list include Sevilla, Malaga, Real Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao, Las Palmas and promoted Espanyol.

Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium, despite being the fifth-largest stadium in LaLiga with a capacity of 49,430, was not included in the list of potential venues.

“In order to define the venues, all the possibilities have been analysed, including the option of expanding to 13, an option that must be taken unanimously by the three federations,” the RFEF said in a statement.

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The tournament will have a maximum of 20 venues, the RFEF added.

Co-hosts Morocco last year announced plans to build a stadium near Casablanca and upgrade six others before the World Cup.

-Reuters

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It’s 28 years since Super Eagles’ worst competitive defeat

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Denmark unexpectedly beat Nigeria 4-1

BY KUNLE SOLAJA

Denmark face Germany on Saturday hoping to recreate their famous victory at the Euro 92 when they secured their first title, although they were the underdogs.

 This day 28 June, a day before their Round of 16 Euro 2024 clash with Germany also brings the memory of their famous Round of 16 win over Nigeria at the France ‘98 World Cup.

Their 4-1 defeat of the Super Eagles remains the biggest defeat that the Nigerians have gotten in a competitive duel in nearly 30 years.

 It was an unexpected result considering that the Super Eagles contributed to the elimination of one of the tournaments favourites, Spain.

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A goal down under two minutes and two down under 12 minutes presented a huge mountain for the Super Eagles to climb.

 What a twist of an event most had thought the Nigerian team would be the dominant side.

The world was awaiting a match-up of Nigeria and Brazil in the quarter-finals.

It was to rekindle the memorable encounter of both countries’ Olympic teams two years earlier when Nigeria famously defeated Brazil 4-3 in a golden goal decider at the semi-finals.

     A rematch at the quarter finals of France ’98 would have brought up a novel match-up of reigning Olympic gold medallists and reigning World Cup holders. It turned out a mere dream.

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 Nigeria’s manager, Bora Milutinović fielded a starting line-up with seven midfielders and no attacker.

Could that had been a new tactical formation in football in a knockout game Nigeria had to score and win? Call it the 3-7-0. Call it overconfidence.

      Even Nigeria’s manager was reportedly half-kiddingly remarked before the match: “We’ve got a very important match coming up in Nantes” – a reference to a possible quarter-final meeting  with Brazil.

  Member of the team, Mutiu Adepoju told Sports Village Square that poor tactical approach cost Nigeria the match.     “The game was taken as a routine one and hence, no special preparation for it.

  “The coaches did not even border to get insight into the Denmark team”, said Adepoju who was called ‘Headmaster’  for his heading skill. It was with an header that he scored Nigeria’s first goal that put scores at 1-1 in a 3-2 defeat of Spain in the opening match.

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  He dismissed a well publicised claim by teammate, Taribo West that the players had busy nights with women prior to the match.

  He however admitted that there was discontentment in camp and that the coaching crew lost control of the team.

  It came light that the players did not sleep all night as the now very familiar agitations for enhanced match bonuses came up.

As published in the on-line version of Al-Jazeera in 2014, Sunday Oliseh was quoted as saying: “We wasted too much energy on the eve of our game haggling over bonus, something like that should not be the focus at a big tournament like the World Cup. “We lost that game off the pitch and not on the pitch.”           

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FIFA awards win to Niger after Congo no-show in World Cup qualifier

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FIFA has awarded Niger a win and the full three points in a 2026 World Cup soccer qualifier with Congo that was postponed this month, the world governing body said on Wednesday.

Congo had refused to travel to Kinshasa, capital of neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, for their home game after their stadium in Brazzaville was deemed not to have met hosting requirements.

Niger did travel, and were awarded the game 3-0, which leaves them second in Group E on six points, three behind leaders Morocco. Congo are stuck on zero points from their three matches.

Only the top team in each of the nine pools is guaranteed a place at the expanded World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has decided to declare the match lost by forfeit 3-0 by the representative team of Congo,” FIFA said in a statement.

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It said the Alphonse Massemba-Debat Stadium in Brazzaville could not have been used until renovations, including the laying of a new pitch, were completed

Congolese Sports Minister Hughes Nguilondile declared the stadium ready in late May, but it was deemed too late to move the fixture. FIFA ordered it to go ahead in Kinshasa as originally planned, leading to Congo’s withdrawal in protest.

-Reuters

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