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Duarte: Five good things about 2014

 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...

World Cup Arena Pantanal stadium in Brazil closed for repairs

Arena Pantanal is undergoing emergency repairs.

RIO DE JANEIRO -- A new stadium in the western Brazilian city of Cuiaba is being closed for "emergency repairs" just seven months after it held four World Cup matches.

The 42,000-seat Arena Pantanal, which cost about $230 million to build, was being shut to "fix many construction problems in order to provide security to users," officials in Brazil's Mato Grosso state said on Thursday.

The statement said among the stadium's...

 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...

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Luiz Adriano 'happy' to leave Shakhtar Donetsk amid Roma rumours

Luiz Adriano parlayed his five-goal Champions League performance into a first ever Brazil call-up.
The Brazil international scored nine goals in the Champions League group stages this season.

Luiz Adriano has told Copa America's official website he would be "happy" to leave Shakhtar Donetsk in order to improve his chances with Brazil, but says no clubs have yet made a bid for him.

The 27-year-old striker has been in superb form for Shakhtar this season, equalling Cristiano Ronaldo's Champions League group stage record of nine goals to send the Ukrainian club through the the last-16 of the competition.

The Brazil international has been at the club since 2007, and while he admits a move...

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...