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10 World Cup stars Barcelona should buy

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Barcelona have provided some wonderful entertainment when it comes to transfers over the past few seasons and that is likely to continue in January and the summer.

The Qatar 2022 World Cup provides Barcelona with a chance to look at a host of stars all at once and start to plot moves for the next two transfer windows. There are a lot of moving parts in the Barcelona squad with a lot of players who could leave the club in the near future.

For that reason, there are not very clearly defined positions for the Blaugrana to address, hence why the list may seem slightly scatter-gun.

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Dani Olmo

Dani Olmo scored Spain’s opener against Costa Rica / Richard Sellers/GettyImages

Dani Olmo has often come close to leaving RB Leipzig as any good run of form is met with links to multiple bigger clubs.

Barcelona are one of those clubs and they could offer the attacking midfielder a great route back to Spain having left La Masia back in 2014 for Dinamo Zagreb.

A lot of teams are going to be fighting over Jurrien Timber in the summer and Barcelona would be daft to not be in that fight.

They may have to battle Manchester United but after Gerard Pique’s retirement, Barcelona need a new long-term option at the back and the Ajax man could be the answer.

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Bernardo Silva, Ademola Lookman

Bernardo Silva will be a creative spark for Portugal / Gualter Fatia/GettyImages

This is a move that has almost happened on more than one occasion and it could be time to get it done. The Manchester City man has occasionally been the spare part with their abundance of attacking midfielders.

If he joined Barcelona, he would have a much more prominent role and he could impress them with Portugal at the World Cup.

Much like Bernardo Silva, this is a long-touted move and one that Barcelona should get done in January.

They have a problem at right back and Azpilicueta, while a short-term fix, would bring a wealth of experience and desire to that area for Xavi’s side.

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Ilkay Guendogan

Ilkay Gundogan netted for Germany in the defeat against Japan / Markus Gilliar – GES Sportfoto/GettyImages

Barcelona may be well-stocked in midfield but that hasn’t stopped them before. Gundogan is not always a starter at Manchester City and he may feel that Barcelona would be a good final big move for him.

The German certainly brings a lot of quality and he is already off the mark in this World Cup after scoring a penalty.

It seems that Benjamin Pavard’s time at Bayern Munich is coming to an end after a drink-driving charge and some below-par performances.

The Frenchman is a good and versatile defender who could be available for beneath his market value. There is also more scope for a January move to boost the defence ahead of the Europa League tie against Manchester United.

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Youssoufa Moukoko

Moukoko is a rising star in Germany / Alexander Hassenstein/GettyImages

The Borussia Dortmund youngster still seems to be flying under the radar slightly but he could be a very smart replacement for Robert Lewandowski if Barcelona can get him through the door sharpish to learn from the Pole.

Moukoko has just turned 18 and cannot be expected to lead the line for Barcelona any time soon, but he could be a great investment.

Barcelona have been linked with Lautaro Martinez before and the financial difficulties that the Inter owners are in means there is a deal to be done.

It would not be cheap but it would be an immediate source of goals coming into the team to replace Lewandowski when the time comes.

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Rafael Leao, Brahim Diaz, Rade Krunic

Rafael Leao is the most valuable player at AC Milan / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

This is another player who is going to be chased by multiple clubs in the summer. He is out of contract in 2024 so AC Milan are currently trying to do something about that.

Leao would immediately improve any attack and if signed alongside a quality striker, he could form part of a frightening attack. Expect a deal to cost around €120 million though.

Young American midfielder Yunus Musah could garner a lot of attention in this World Cup after he impressed against Wales in their opening game.

The 19-year-old plays for Valencia and moved there when he was 16, meaning it would not be too much of a cultural shock to join Barcelona. It could be a smart move if Barcelona act fast.

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Who could England face in the World Cup knockout stages?

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Four points from their opening two games have England in the driving seat in Group B at the World Cup.

One final game against Wales will decide whether they reach the knockout stages as group winners or runners up, though there remains the outside chance of an early elimination.

Gareth Southgate will be planning for the knockout stage, however, with a myriad of different nations standing between his squad and the World Cup final.

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Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders and Toby Cudworth to look back on South Korea/Japan ’02 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

England currently top Group B and a win would take them through in first place. A draw is also good enough to progress, though that would open the door for Iran to take first place with a win over the USA.

Only a thrashing of three or more goals from Wales will result in an early elimination for the Three Lions.

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England will have designs on going through the group stage as winners, which would result in a favourable last 16 clash against the runners up of Group A, where the Netherlands, Ecuador and Senegal reside. Finishing second in Group B would see England face the winners of Group A.

As group winners, a win in the round of 16 would see Southgate’s side book a quarter-final clash with either the Group D winners – likely to be France – or the runners up from Group C, where Poland, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Mexico are all still in contention.

As group runners up, a win in the round of 16 would set up a quarter-final tie against the Group C winners or the runners up from Group D.

There are a number of sides England could face in the semi-finals, but all come from Groups E, F, G and H. That pool includes nations like Spain, Japan, Croatia, Belgium, Brazil and Portugal.

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Gareth Bale responds to question on Wales international future

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Gareth Bale shut down questions on whether the World Cup match against England would be his last for Wales on Tuesday, issuing a flat “no” when asked the question outright.

The Welsh captain is his country’s most capped men’s international player, though speculation has been surrounding the 33-year-old’s future at both club and international level for a number of months.

Bale moved to LAFC in MLS in order to prepare for the World Cup after leaving Real Madrid, and while he scored an equaliser against the United States in game one of Wales’ tournament in Qatar the team have underperformed on the whole, losing 2-0 to Iran last time out.

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They need a win against England to stand any chance of making it through to the knockout stages, and are dependent on other results. Wales’ position in the group and potential fate has naturally produced questions about what happens beyond the England game if Wales go home, but Bale flat out dismissed the question with a no.

Bale did though go into detail on his side’s campaign in Qatar so far, admitting the mood in the camp was low after conceding twice to Iran.

“We’re disappointed in the results and the performances,” he said a day out from the England match. “But that’s football, it’s not easy, we’re at a World Cup against some very good teams and we’ll always give 100%. We’ve been working hard the last few days to make things better and correct things.

“We don’t need to get anyone going, just need to keep working hard and hopefully things will turn around for us.

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“I don’t feel [added] responsibility because we’re a team. We’re a nation and we work hard for each other. We need to deliver as a team, it’s not one person that needs to do anything. Of course we’d have loved to be winning and doing a lot better but the reality is, football is hard. If it was that easy we’d be favourites to win the World Cup. We need to stick together and we’ll give 100% tomorrow like we always do.

“The one thing I always do is give 100%. I was flying into tackles in the 90th minute the other day. I’ll just try and lead by example.”

Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders and Toby Cudworth to look back on South Korea/Japan ’02 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

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The World Cup has seen a number of shock results occur to date, with Argentina losing to Saudi Arabia and Morocco beating Belgium among others. Wales beating England would be a result in a similar bracket, but Bale is confident England have weaknesses to exploit.

“Everyone has weaknesses. We’ve done our homework. We’ve had meetings and I’m sure they’ve done the same with us. We know how difficult it will be. England are a very good team, They’re one of the favourites to win the tournament. We are under no illusions, it will be hard, we’re going to give everything like we always do.

“There’s been a few shocks in the tournament already and there’s no reason why we can’t do the same.”

Wales manager Rob Page hinted during his own press conference that Bale or Aaron Ramsey would not necessarily start the game against England, hinting at a need for fresh blood with Wales struggling for energy at times during their opening matches.

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Bale is one of the leading players in the camp and remains firm that the team remain together and confident of turning things around against England.

“Yeah of course we have our responsibility to help everybody,” he added. “At this current moment we are not in the greatest of positions and we have not had an amazing tournament. But it is football, it is not easy. It is difficult. The main thing for us all is that we have stuck together as a group, like we have always done.

“We will fight again. We will go on the pitch and give everything. You saw our reaction when we conceded against Iran, how devastated we all were, lying on the floor. Heartbroken. After the game everybody was upset. No one can ever question our commitment but we will all stick together through thick and thin, through the ups and downs. We will give everything again tomorrow.”



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Player ratings as Selecao book place in knockout stages

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Brazil made incredibly hard work of their 1-0 victory over Switzerland on Monday evening at Stadium 974.

A thoroughly uninspiring affair came to life five minutes from time as Manchester United midfielder Casemiro popped up with a fizzing half-volley that flew beyond Yann Sommer and sealed Brazil’s place in the knockout stages.

Switzerland made an impressive start, enjoying plenty of possession and pushing numbers forward in an attempt to pin Brazil back.

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Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders and Toby Cudworth to look back on South Korea/Japan ’02 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

The first real sight of goal for either team came shortly before the hour mark. Raphinha’s cross found Vinicius Junior at the back post but he can’t connect properly and sends the ball towards goal with his knee, giving Yann Sommer enough time to get over to make the save.

And that was about as good as it got in the first half.

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A slow start to the second half saw ten minutes pass before the next real sight of goal. Vinicius played an excellent cross in towards Richarlison but, yet again, the ball was inches away from being on target.

The first real moment of quality in the match came in the 65th minute as Vinicius slotted home, but the automated offside system clocked Richarlison had strayed earlier in the move and ultimately ruled it out.

There was no ruling out Casemiro’s strike 20 minutes later. The midfielder waltzed into the box and fired home an excellent half-volley which led Brazil through to the next round.

It was nearly two as Rodrygo got a glimpse of goal but an excellent block from Manuel Akanji ensured Brazil had to settle for just the one goal.

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Vinicius Junior

Vinicius thought he had scored / Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

GK: Alisson – 5/10 – Shaky under little pressure but generally didn’t have a lot to do. Has shaved his moustache.

RB: Eder Militao – 7/10 – Did a nice job at right-back but was usually central when Brazil were on the ball. Really composed in possession.

CB: Thiago Silva – 7/10 – Some excellent passes as he looked in control of every situation.

CB: Marquinhos – 7/10 – Had to do a lot of the creating as Brazil’s midfielders struggled to get through.

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LB: Alex Sandro – 6/10 – Some fantastic moments that yielded slow-mo replays, but still needed to do more in attack.

DM: Casemiro – 8/10 – Shielded his defence well and did what he could to try and keep things ticking over in attack. A moment of magic to win the game.

CM: Fred – 5/10 – Not the right skill set for this game. Did a decent enough job defensively but his limited attacking output was a major issue.

CM: Lucas Paqueta – 5/10 – Not on it here. Made a few nice passes but generally couldn’t find the space needed to get through Switzerland’s defence.

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RW: Raphinha – 6/10 – At the centre of nearly everything positive from Brazil, which doesn’t say much.

ST: Richarlison – 5/10 – Starved of service but did manage a few nice passes when he did finaly get the ball.

LW: Vinicius Junior – 6/10 – A few nice runs but sloppy in front of goal. Should have put Brazil ahead in the first half. Came to life after the break.

SUB: Rodrygo (46′ for Paqueta) – 6/10 – Focused on trying to beat Switzerland on the counter. Nice movement.

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SUB: Bruno Guimaraes (59′ for Fred) – 7/10 – Changed the tide of the midfield battle. An impressive showing.

SUB: Antony (73′ for Raphinha) – 6/10 – Had the odd dangerous moment.

SUB: Gabriel Jesus (73′ for Richarlison) – 6/10 – Didn’t have long to strut his stuff but did involve himself in a few nice moves.

SUB: Alex Telles (86′ for Sandro) – N/A

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Manager: Tite – 5/10 – Clearly exploring ways to cope without Neymar but didn’t really find one. A thoroughly uninspiring showing saved by a moment of magic.

Nico Elvedi

Solid from Elvedi / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

GK: Yann Sommer – 6/10 – Made a nice save to deny Vinicius.

RB: Silvan Widmer – 6/10 – Some early fouls on Vinicius set the tone. Made the winger uncomfortable and did a nice job. Saved by the offside flag for the disallowed opener.

CB: Manuel Akanji – 7/10 – Impressive positioning to keep Richarlison at bay.

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CB: Nico Elvedi – 7/10 – Did a very solid job of controlling Brazil’s attackers alongside his mathematician teammate.

LB: Ricardo Rodriguez – 6/10 – Didn’t have a whole lot of defending to do but looked a little too cautious in attack.

DM: Remo Freuler – 6/10 – Good energy and desire to keep closing Brazil’s midfield down. Faded as the game progressed.

DM: Granit Xhaka – 6/10 – Similarly, led by example in midfield as he pressed with real energy and enthusiasm. Unsettled Brazil.

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RM: Fabian Rieder – 6/10 – Handed his first international start in an unfamiliar position and did a solid job, but wasn’t always comfortable. A little too aggressive at times but nothing to really complain about.

AM: Djibril Sow – 5/10 – The odd nice run but couldn’t find any way through Brazil’s experienced defence.

LM: Ruben Vargas – 5/10 – Played a little narrower to try and being Rodriguez into the game but it didn’t always work.

ST: Breel Embolo – 5/10 – Put a shift in but had very little joy against high-level opposition. Can’t fault the effort.

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SUB: Edimilson Fernandes (59′ for Vargas) – 5/10 – Red hot in the minutes after he entered but soon faded away.

SUB: Renato Steffen (59′ for Rieder) – 5/10 – Didn’t offer mich down the right.

SUB: Michel Aebischer (75′ for Sow) – 5/10 – Barely got involved.

SUB: Haris Seferovic (75′ for Embolo) – 5/10 – Chased shadows during his short time on the pitch.

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SUB: Fabian Frei (86′ for Widmer) – N/A

Manager: Murat Yakin – 6/10 – It’s not easy to keep Brazil this quiet but Yakin’s decision to start Rieder over Xherdan Shaqiri helped add more steel. Just a shame about the non-existent attacking threat.

Player of the match – Casemiro



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