By Tim Stannard
1) Neymar leads another charge for Brazil in Rio 2016 opener
First off, soccer should not be in the Olympics. If the games are not the pinnacle of a particular sport, then it can go take a hike. Looking at you golf, and tennis. And that’s that.
But soccer is in the Games, the contest is taking place in Brazil and Neymar has spent a long, arduous summer hanging with Justin Bieber to prepare for another potential disaster with his country to rival that of World Cup of 2014 and last year’s Copa America.
But Neymar is now back in football business after skipping the Copa America Centenario and his team is facing South Africa as the men’s schedule gets underway a day before the opening ceremony. And the captain needs to deliver the Olympic goods, especially after last week’s comments when probed over his off-the-field lifestyle. “Why can I not go out and enjoy parties? Imagine you’re 24 years old, winning everything that I’ve won, having everything that I have.” Find out what our panelists think of Neymar’s latest mission for Brazilian love on the XTRA at 7PM ET.
2) Nigeria are latecomers to Olympic party as rumbles break out in Rio
At least Neymar and the Brazilian team can accurately claim that they have been present and correct in the country and are ready for the opening game. Nigeria do not have that luxury. The Olympics team was originally stranded in Atlanta over problems with the payment for the charter flight to Brazil. When that issue was cleared up, the players complained that their plane was too small, so are using another one. Unfortunately, the squad will only arrive hours before their first clash against Japan later on Thursday evening.
Rio 2016 unofficially got underway on Wednesday with the women’s soccer program kicking off. And that meant TEAM USA getting into gear with a comfy 2-0 win over New Zealand whilst Canada defeated Australia by the same score-line, managing to score after just 22-seconds.
Despite a general sense of joviality that the stories over dead fish in the city lagoon will soon be a thing of the past, there are still rumblings on the streets of Rio with the Olympic torch finally arriving in the host city after a country-wide tour. Scuffles broke out on Thursday from protestors unhappy at the cost of the Games during tough economic times and an unsteady political background for the country to say the least.
3) Real Madrid face player scramble ahead of Super Cup start
Real Madrid’s start to the season is going to be far from ideal due to injuries and fitness. Cristiano Ronaldo will reportedly miss the club’s first two games in La Liga due to his knee knack picked up in the final of Euro 2016. And Coach Zizou himself has all but ruled out three other footballers for next Wednesday’s European Super Cup clash against Sevilla.
"I don't think [Gareth] Bale, [Toni] Kroos, and Pepe will be fit enough [to play against Sevilla]," revealed the Real Madrid main-man, who was more optimistic with the chances of Karim Benzema playing despite the footballer also struggling with injuries in pre-season. Zidane was talking after 1-0 victory against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night. The players are already back in the Spanish capital after the North American tour.
Spanish daily, AS, are poking that the club are upping their interest in Bayern Munich’s David Alaba. $72 million has reportedly been wafted in front of the noses of the Bundesliga club.
4) AC Milan linked with super-agent as new owner
A curious story from Serie A. Tired of owning just players and small countries, Super-Agent Jorge Mendes is looking to get his hands on an entire club: AC Milan. There may be time to achieve that mission as well with the on-off deal with a Chinese investment group seemingly going nowhere.
Very slow on the transfer news on Thursday, but there is one DONE DEAL! Aston Villa have signed Fulham striker Ross McCormack for $15m. “He’s a player with proven track record,” beamed Villa boss, Roberto di Matteo, on a striker who scored 23 goals for Fulham last season.
5) Bolt calls out Gatlin ahead of Olympic showdown as Manny makes comeback
Back over to Rio and Usain Bolt has blasted Justin Gatlin over comments from the American that the Jamaican athlete had been given “a medical pass” by his Federation after Bolt pulled of the Jamaica trials with a hamstring injury. “I think they have not learned over the years that the more you talk, the more I will want to beat you,” declared the multiple gold-medal winner.
Manny Pacquiao is set to return to the ring according to the boxer’s manager despite announcing a year ago that he was leaving the sport to focus on politics and family. “Retirement doesn’t suit Manny right now,” declared Michael Koncz who says that the Filipino fighter will take on American WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas on 5 November.
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