The two playmakers of El Clasico, Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi of Barcelona, will be the focus of fans at the Bernabeu. Photograph: Getty Images.

One of the cliches first: a country will come to a standstill tonight. Real Madrid versus Barcelona stops Spain. According to legend, and a fair am(...)

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard (centre) in action against Swansea’s goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski (left)   at Stamford Bridge last wekend. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has called on Eden Hazard to prove he is one of the greatest players of his generation. The Blues boss expects the Belgi(...)

Former soccer star Diego Maradona (L) presents Pope Francis with an Argentina national soccer jersey during a special audience held in the Vatican before a special interreligious “Match for Peace” tonight. Photograph: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters.

For the first time since he slipped out like a thief in the night back in April 1991, former Argentine superstar Diego Armando Maradona takes to the p(...)

Sportsfile photographer Ray McManus won second prize Sports Singles in the World Press Photo Contest 2011 with this action study of a scrumhalf in the AIL First Division match between Old Belvedere and Blackrock played in heavy rain at Anglesea Road in Dublin.

Photographer Bill Frakes, who has been on the masthead of Sports Illustrated since 1993, has taken up some odd positions to “get the picture” for h(...)

France’s  head coach Didier Deschamps kicks a ball during a training session at the Botafogo soccer club’s Santa Cruz stadium. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters

For a man once belittled by Eric Cantona as “a water carrier,” Didier Deschamps has certainly made a habit of carrying lots of trophies. French repor(...)

Brazil’s Neymar practising his free-kick technique at the Arena de Sao Paulo ahead of the hosts’ World Cup opener against Croatia. Photo: Christopher Lee/Getty Images

It may be hard to imagine Brazil kicking off this World Cup against Croatia without a certain amount of swagger.But don’t be entirely surprised if thi(...)

 Vicente del Bosque  celebrates as he lifts the World Cup with his team during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11th, 2010. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Vicente del Bosque is inscrutable. It’s difficult to know what goes on behind that flowerbox moustache he sports. He never betrays emotion during a ga(...)

Wayne Rooney reflects on England’s defeat at the hands of Germany in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The first international tournament I covered was the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea. I followed the Irish team and I didn’t see any England games. (...)

Andrea Pirlo remains the key man for  Italy. Photograph: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Manager: Cesare Prandelli Best finish: Winners (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006) World Cup record: Played 83, Won 45, Drawn 21, Lost 17 History (...)

West German goalkeeper Toni Schumacher (right) jumps past the ball as he gets ready to collide with French defender Patrick Battiston during the 1982 World Cup semi-final in Stockholm. Battiston was carried off the field on a stretcher while Schumacher, unpunished,  resumed play with a goal-kick. Photograph: AFP

The semi-final stage of the World Cup has, on balance, not been particularly kind to France. In 1958, the free-scoring team of Just Fontaine and Raymo(...)