75 days to go to the AFC Asian Cup, UAE 2019

Lee Wellings: The weight of Neymar’s vital goal

So just how historically significant will it turn out to be?

The moment Neymar’s left-foot shot from 22 metres eluded Pletikosa’s outstretched hand, hit a post and trickled across the line.

‘It’s only a game of football’ is a line we have all heard before. Never could it be less fitting than Brazil’s opening match in the 2014 World Cup.

Defeat against Croatia, or even a draw, could have had nasty consequences on the streets of Brazil,

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Lee Wellings: The relief of kick off in Brazil

Brazil v Croatia. 5pm local time. São Paulo.

What a relief it will be when the first ball is kicked. When the world is reminded what the fuss is about. That there’s historic football to be played. We hope and expect it will bring great joy to hundreds of millions because we’ve become all too familiar with the negatives. Oh those negatives.

The riots, the protests, the huge political and social concerns over the money spent,

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Lee Wellings: Ronaldo cracks open a six-pack for debate

If you want everyone to look at you, you had better be worth it.

Cristiano Ronaldo was adoring himself too much to consider his Champions League final goal from the penalty spot was mere icing on the cake. But while this chapter of club success was complete, his season is not. The World Cup could still bring him down if he’s not careful.

In behaving like that in Lisbon, shirt off,

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Lee Wellings: World wide Webb tackles racism his way

Jeffrey Webb knows it should be harder to find examples of racism in football

While in London to speak at an event marking 20 years of the trailblazing anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, yet another example of racism in football reared its ugly, pointless head.

The morning of our meeting in a London hotel, Mario Balotelli had been abused by a group of Italy fans at the team’s training base in Florence.

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Lee Wellings: England hopes, not expects in 2014

How important is it to you that your country succeeds on the football pitch?

And what would World Cup success mean to you?

The announcement of the England squad for the tournament raised this question for me.

Surrounded by English hype about the Ashley Cole-less 23 I was in a fortunate work position of being able to treat it as simply the latest of 32 squads. Interesting, without it being a major story.

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Lee Wellings: Quiet crisis for Italian club football

When Italy won the 2006 World Cup they did so with their club football in turmoil. A corruption scandal engulfed the club game, grave enough for Juventus to be stripped of two league titles and others hit with relegations and points deductions.

No such obvious crisis in 2014. But severe problems are there. We’ll come to hooliganism in a moment but quality-wise Italian football IS in a bad way.

It mysteriously doesn’t seem to be affecting the national team,

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Lee Wellings:Moyes dis’nae matter to Americans

Imagine the scene on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Shouting and panic, white papers being waved in the air, frantic conversations into cellphones and one lone trader desperately trying to discover the route of the pandemonium.

“What’s the Pwanic?”

“It’s Mwoyes,” says the Wolf of Wall Street, “he’s gahn.”

“Omg get me a cwarfee. Dis is BIG!’

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Lee Wellings: You win some you lose some. Accept it

Football. You win some you lose some.

It was only basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters who didn’t do defeats.

Accepting that sometimes things aren’t quite going to plan on the pitch can sometimes require intelligence and immaturity. It’s not always the sign of a defeatist or someone who is past caring.

But have you noticed that all perspective has now gone from football. Every defeat becomes a crisis. Every bad result a surge of speculation over the manager.

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Lee Wellings: Germans still drawing the line at goal-line technology

Were you as surprised as I was that the top clubs in Germany voted against goal-line technology this week?

I’m trying to settle on why I expected a ‘ja, bitte’, and it’s a combination of factors.

The starting point has to be that German club football has enjoyed such a good reputation in recent years that you might have expected them to be trailblazers off the pitch. Instead, emphatically it’s the Premier League and English FA.

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Lee Wellings: Qatar 2022: Fact, speculation and balanced reporting

Do I think Qatar was awarded the World Cup fairly? I don’t know for sure. But nor do you.

If you happen not to have read any opinion on Qatar 2022 this week let me help you out with an example, from my country.

“It’s a scorchingly hot Islamic desert hellhole which routinely employs slave labour and has the kind of respect for human rights you might expect from, say, Darth Vader.”

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Lee Wellings: CL’s ugly little brother just became more interesting

I haven’t wanted to criticise the Europa League. Honestly I haven’t.

I loved the Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Cup. I have soft sports for many clubs who play at Europa League level. And there is undoubtedly something heartwarming about a club breaking through to play in Europe. The potential for fans to dream, to follow team over land and sea. From my country England it’s been Wigan and Swansea this season and you won’t find their fans complaining about European football,

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Lee Wellings: Never mind World Cup – Zlat’s Entertainment

I have a confession.

Nothing too bad, I haven’t expanded a tournament from 16 to 24 teams or anything like that.

It’s about an autobiography I haven’t read. That of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

As I am a sport correspondent for a world network…as he is one of world’s best players…as he also has employers in Qatar (he earns more)…as he is one of sport’s most interesting characters…and the book has plenty of good reviews…don’t you agree I should have read it?!

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Lee Wellings: UEFA sacrifice quality with 24-carat mistake

UEFA’s week will go from the sublime to the ridiculous

Tuesday and Wednesday are proud days for the organisation. The Champions league returned with slavering anticipation, an open tournament, some fascinating ties, and barely a negative word.

Thursdays and the ghastly Europa League usually raise questions over UEFA formats. But this week it will be shameful Sunday.

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Lee Wellings: Balotelli lies a crying shame

Do you want to find racism from football fans? Do you want to find racism from football fans in Italy specifically? It won’t take you long.

So no need to invent stories on the subject. Claims that Mario Balotelli was reduced to tears after being racially abused in Naples appear dangerous and counter-productive. Misguided and premature. This subject is too important to treat with such a lack of care.

One of the first things I was taught in journalism by the legendary Reg Hayter was ‘fact is sacred,

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