UEFA World Cup qualifying scores: Poland end England’s winning streak; Spain, Germany notch victories

September 8, 2021


Poland 1, England 1
“…In a night of relatively low drama most of the big guns of European football eased to a further three points, not least Germany, who looked impressive in swatting aside Iceland 4-0. An early goal from Serge Gnabry set Hansi Flick’s side on course for a win that takes them four points clear in Group J before Antonio Rudiger, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner found the net, the latter only after wasting a string of presentable opportunities. After two games in which they dropped points the visit of Lithuania came at a good time for Italy with new Juventus striker Moise Kean netting a first-half brace. Their lead in Group C had been looking precarious after a draw against Switzerland but they had Northern Irish goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell to thank as he saved a penalty that meant Northern Ireland held the Swiss to a goalless draw in Belfast. …”
CBS Sports (Video)
BBC – World Cup 2022 qualifying: Who is close to qualifying? Who are the surprise packages?
Guardian: Szymanski denies England as Poland snatch late draw after Kane’s opener
ESPN: England’s draw in Poland keeps Three Lions on track for Qatar 2022, but they’ll need complete performances to vie for World Cup


Spain Loses World Cup Qualifier For The First Time In 66 Matches, 2-1 Against Sweden

September 6, 2021


“The Spanish national team tasted defeat for the first time in 28 years in a World Cup qualifying match after they lost to Sweden 2-1 on Friday in Stockholm. Sweden came back from a goal down to defeat Spain who lost a World Cup qualifying match after 66 games undefeated. The defeat means that Spain have lost a World Cup qualifying game after 66 matches and 28 years. During this undefeated run, they also managed to win 10 in a row before the 2010 World Cup which they ended up winning. A defeat that Luis Enrique would not have excepted as his men had done well in the Euro 2020 having made the semi-finals where they lost eventual Champions Italy on penalties. …”
Republic World
YouTube: Sweden stuns Spain 2-1 in World Cup qualifier | WCQ Highlights | ESPN FC
UEFA: European Qualifiers: England and Belgium rampant, Sweden stun Spain


Pep Lijnders’ Euro 2020 tactical diary: A young genius, why Grealish is dangerous and what went wrong for France

July 17, 2021


“Euro 2020 has been an absolute triumph for the collective. I’ve loved watching it every step of the way. I’ve loved the commitment of so many teams to an attacking style of football. I’ve loved the tactical battles between different systems. I’ve loved the sight of supporters back inside stadiums across Europe and the atmospheres that have been generated. Credit to England and Italy for making it this far. They deserve to be there. I wouldn’t bet on the outcome of Sunday’s final. It’s too close to call. Two evenly matched, well-balanced teams. …”
The Athletic (Audio)


Euro 2020: our writers select their highs and lows from the tournament

July 15, 2021


“Italy’s performances and goals from Patrik Schick and Paul Pogba illuminated a wonderful championships. Sadly, some England supporters let the country down. Match of the tournament. Ed Aarons: It was going to take something to beat Spain’s thrilling 5-3 victory over Croatia after extra-time but the sequel on a crazy Monday evening was even better. Paul Pogba’s elaborate celebration having scored France’s third goal came back to haunt him as Switzerland scored twice in the last 10 minutes to force extra time before Kylian Mbappé missed from the spot to eliminate the star-studded world champions. …”
Guardian


Were these the best games at UEFA EURO 2020?

July 10, 2021


Spain celebrate their fifth goal in the absorbing 5-3 win against Croatia
“From group stage thrillers to knockout phase goal fests, UEFA EURO 2020 has been jam-packed with pulsating contests from start to finish. We decided to pick out our favourites ahead of Sunday’s final at Wembley Stadium – do you agree these were the choice cuts? …”
UEFA (Video)


No Semifinalist Is an Island

July 6, 2021


“Kalvin Phillips came home, for the first time, as a fully fledged England international with four jerseys as souvenirs. He had asked his new teammates to autograph one, destined to be framed and mounted on a wall at home. Two others were reserved for his mother and grandmother, as tokens of gratitude for years of support. The final one he earmarked as a gift for the man who, he felt, deserved the bulk of the credit. A couple of years earlier, Phillips had been a promising but inconsistent midfielder in the Championship, England’s second-tier league. Now, despite having not yet played a minute in the Premier League, he had been called into a gathering of the country’s finest players. Without the intervention of Marcelo Bielsa, the Leeds United manager, Phillips said, none of it ‘would really have been possible.’ …”
NY Times


Will striker shortcomings cost Spain when it matters most?

July 5, 2021


“Spain are into the semi-finals of Euro 2020 – but only just. They needed a penalty shootout to scrape past Switzerland in the quarter-finals, after surviving a scare against Croatia in the last 16. And Spain may be the tournament’s top scorers but could a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal ultimately cost them? Five of their 12 goals came against Slovakia in the group stages and they have played more minutes than any other team left in the competition, after needed extra time twice. In their other three games they have scored only once on each occasion. …”
BBC
YouTube: Tactical Analysis : Spain 1 – 1 Switzerland | How Spain Made It To The Semis


Tactical Analysis: Czech Republic vs. Denmark

July 4, 2021


“First off, it would be appropriate to finally bury the common narrative that this Danish team has made it this far into the Euros as a response to the Eriksen situation. Apart from being almost cynical in nature, that argument does Kasper Hjulmand’s side a huge disservice. Denmark are very, very good. They overcame an extremely difficult group thanks to a valiant, relentless display in a 4-1 win, then they steamrolled a Welsh team that looked solid in defense to set up this quarterfinal game against an odds-defying Czech side. And, with their 2-1 win, they once again proved to be an adventurous unit, with flying wingbacks who create overloads and find pockets of space (as shown by Joakim Maehle’s deep run and exquisite trivela cross to set up Kasper Dolberg for the second goal). …”
Beaking the Lines
Tactical Analysis: Belgium vs. Italy
Tactical Analysis: Switzerland vs. Spain


At Euro 2020, Calculated Risks Reap the Greatest Rewards

July 3, 2021


“Euro 2020 may be the most arrogant and audacious major tournament in soccer history. It is certainly the most counterintuitive. It’s being played amid a global pandemic, brought on by a virus that is particularly spiteful and startlingly contagious. Yet our beloved sport has chosen not to remain within its cities and ride out that storm, but to swagger out of the gates and meet it. The plan for Euro 2020 to be staged in multiple countries at once, effectively a festival of burning fossil fuels, was a concern for environmental activists long before COVID-19 came on the scene. …”
The Ringer


Euro 2020: Spain ride their luck, Switzerland’s runs out after tense, tiring quarterfinal

July 2, 2021


“It was the game that had everything, followed by a penalty shootout that lurched one way and then another. By the end of an energy-sapping and psychologically draining 120 minutes, Spain rode their luck — and Switzerland saw theirs run out — to claim a place in the Euro 2020 semifinals after a 3-1 win on penalties following a 1-1 draw. … While the nerves affected both sets of players, the prize of a semifinal (and maybe yet a place in the final) ended up with Spain thanks to two shootout saves by goalkeeper Unai Simon and a wayward attempt by Swiss substitute Ruben Vargas, who sent his shot over the crossbar. …”
ESPN (Video)
Guardian: Unai Simón and Spain complete redemption tale in shootout
BBC: Switzerland 1 – 1 Spain, Spain win 3-1 on penalties


An appreciation of Paul Pogba’s incredible passing

June 30, 2021


“Watching Paul Pogba pass is a special experience. It feels luxurious. It feels expensive. It feels like those of us on our sofas at home should have to pay to watch him in central midfield, just like the in-stadium crowd did. Few can do what Pogba can do. We were treated to Pogba’s brilliance while watching France at Euro 2020, even if we won’t be anymore. His distribution in their last-16 defeat by Switzerland on Monday was a major highlight of what was otherwise a disastrous night for the world champions. …”
The Athletic
Tactical Analysis: France vs. Switzerland


Switzerland’s Sommer saves Mbappé’s penalty to send France crashing out

June 29, 2021


“Kylian Mbappé was France’s sure thing. That is why he was fifth in their list of penalty takers and is why, when he stepped up to keep them in Euro 2020, the thought he might miss felt like too heady a twist in the narrative. Things like that have simply not happened to Mbappé during a young career of rare accomplishment, but here came the kind of horror that exposes even the preternaturally gifted as flesh-and-blood mortals: Yann Sommer, Switzerland’s exceptional goalkeeper, smelled weakness and read his intentions correctly, diving right and clawing the spot-kick away. France were out; their delirious opponents had made their own slice of history and a tournament of unstinting drama took its least plausible turn yet. …”
Guardian
BBC: Kylian Mbappe and world champions France’s fall from top
BBC: France 3 – 3 Switzerland
Four Four Two: France out of Euro 2020 as Kylian Mbappe misses in shoot-out loss to Switzerland


EURO 2020: tactical trends

June 27, 2021


No team has pressed or had the ball as much as Spain but that did not help them beat Sweden in their opening game
“Thirty-six matches played, with 94 goals scored at an average of 2.61 per game. It is a ratio lower than the 2.93 recorded in last season’s UEFA Champions League, yet this is no surprise for the UEFA technical observers analysing the action at UEFA EURO 2020. Their reflections on the opening fortnight of action point to less risk-taking than in the European club competitions with a tendency towards three centre-backs and low blocks – arguably motivated by the wish to avoid early elimination. …”
UEFA (Video)
Tactical trends from the Euro 2020 group stages: What we’ve learned


The Case for a 32-Team Euros

June 26, 2021


Portugal found a way through to the round of 16.
“Thomas Vermaelen’s header hit the ground first and then rose before colliding with the post near the corner where it meets the crossbar. As the ball spun out, sideways toward the middle of the goal, Lukas Hradecky, the Finland goalkeeper, was still turning around. It was all happening in the blink of an eye. Instinctively, Hradecky reached out a hand to try to swat the ball away. In that instant, on his fingertips, a substantial portion of Euro 2020 hung. Had Hradecky been able to claw the ball away from his goal, away from danger, Finland might have been able to hang on, to keep a vaguely interested Belgium at bay, to qualify for the knockout stages of the first major tournament it has ever reached. Denmark, playing simultaneously in Copenhagen, might have been sent home. …”
NY Times


Euro 2020’s flying full-backs show risk-free football is not the only path to victory

June 25, 2021


Lukaku & De Bruyne
“… Which is perhaps a polite way of saying a little bit boring. But then most successful international sides are, based on the construction of a solid base and a couple of gifted creators who can extemporise upon that – or at least they have been. The sophisticated models that dominate at elite club level take time to instil. To press effectively in the modern game takes weeks of repetitions on the training ground so that players know instinctively when to hunt the ball and when to ease off. And pressing is pointless if it isn’t coherent: it’s just players running about. It works only if conducted in packs: one or two men to the man in possession, a wave of others blocking off his options, either by closing down opponents or the passing lanes. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The tactical trends you’ve not noticed at Euro 2020

June 25, 2021


“After 36 games condensed into less than two weeks, the group stage of Euro 2020 is over. Sadly for us football fanatics, it means there are just 15 more games remaining to get your European international football fix for the summer. There have already been some interesting tactical battles, some records broken, and plenty of drama but we have picked out a few interesting trends that feel worthy of discussion in a little bit more detail. Is this the year of the three-man defence? Just how much do some players have to adapt between club and country? And is everyone just a bit… shattered? …”
The Athletic (Video)


The Euro 2020 Group Stage Is Over: Here’s What We Learned

June 24, 2021


“With a couple of minutes to play in Budapest, the French midfielder Adrien Rabiot looked squarely at Sergio Oliveira, his Portuguese opponent, and advised him to back away. Like everyone else in the stadium, Rabiot had heard the news. The group stage of Euro 2020 was effectively over. Both France and Portugal were through to the knockout rounds. There was no need to run or to chase or to press. Now was the time for watching the clock. It had not, for either team, been a straightforward evening. The game had oscillated — Portugal led, then France, then Portugal struck back — and so had their fates, dependent to some extent on the outcome of the group’s other game, between Germany and Hungary in Munich. At one point or another, each of the four teams had believed they were going through. …”
NY Times


Analysed: Which Euro 2020 country matches which club side’s style?

June 24, 2021


“How are you finding the European Championship so far? Not missing club football at all? Or are you sitting on your couch lamenting the inferior standard of these international games, in between scrolling Twitter and replying to football journalists tweeting about Germany’s defensive system with ‘(insert name of sexy transfer target here) update?!?’ If you are, don’t worry. Major international tournaments are very different creatures from the European club season, for better and worse, and they’re not for everyone. Just ask Maurizio Sarri, who shocked journalists in January 2019 while Chelsea head coach when he admitted he didn’t watch a single minute of the previous summer’s World Cup because ‘there is not anything to learn from them’. …”
The Athletic


Euro 2020 power rankings: Italy lead the way after impressive group stage

June 24, 2021


“France and Belgium have been impressive but Italy are unbeaten in 30 and with a comfortable-looking last-16 tie. 1) Italy. The Roberto Mancini juggernaut rolls on. Three games, three wins, seven goals scored and none conceded in the group stage. Italy are unbeaten in 30 games, have not let in a goal for more than 1,000 minutes and beat Wales in their last group game having made eight changes. The introduction of Marco Verratti in that match added another layer to their game – he had been injured – and they are huge favourites against Austria. 2) France. The main question before the tournament was whether the reintroduction of Karim Benzema would destabilise the squad, but they won the group of death and the Real Madrid striker scored twice in the 2-2 draw with Portugal. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Euro 2020: the standout players from the 16 teams left in the tournament


Euro 2020: Italy Beats Turkey, 3-0, in Opener in Rome

June 12, 2021


“… Italy’s 3-0 win against Turkey in the tournament’s opening game does not guarantee anything; this is still a young team, a work in progress, one that perhaps lacks the star power of France, England and Portugal, among others. Italy came in to Euro 2020 with momentum, but it was always somewhat fragile: an early setback could easily have undone three years of good work. Instead, of course, that momentum will have been redoubled by swatting a decent — if somewhat callow — Turkish team aside. And more broadly, it gave the competition as a whole what it needed: an entertaining, attractive opener, one that will hopefully serve to set the tone for the remainder of the group stage. …” NY Times (Video)


Euro 2020 Power Rankings: France the Clear Favorite—but Then What?

June 11, 2021


“Five years removed from Portugal’s coronation just outside Paris, the next European Championship begins on Friday, and with it comes the quest for the 2016 host and runner-up to make amends and follow a World Cup title with another triumph—and for 23 other national sides to do something about it. France is as good if not better than it was when it lifted the World Cup trophy in Russia three summers ago, and after an extra year’s wait due to the pandemic, it’s out to confirm its status as the world and region’s preeminent team—it’s No. 2 FIFA world ranking notwithstanding. Before the competition begins, with Italy facing Turkey in Rome, we examine team form, ability and outlook based on the draw to rank the 24 contenders vying to be crowned European champion (group opponents listed in order of when they’ll play in the opening stage). …” SI – Jonathan Wilson, Guardian: At the Euros, winning teams can start badly. It’s how they respond that matters, ESPN – Euro 2020 preview: Picks, scouting reports, must-see games, biggest ‘upset’ teams and much more (Video)


How Euro 2020 Was Saved

June 8, 2021


“If Aleksander Ceferin has any say on the matter, there will never be another European soccer championship like the one that starts this week. And that decision has nothing to do with the coronavirus. Ceferin, the president of European soccer’s governing body, quickly listed the headaches that came with organizing this summer’s championship. Matches in 11 countries, originally 13, meant finding 11 cities and 11 stadiums capable of hosting them. It meant creating teams to run each site and arranging for dozens of hotels to house everyone who would go. But it also meant navigating legal jurisdictions and linguistic boundaries, tax laws and big politics as well as soccer politics, currency values and visa rules. And that was before the coronavirus made it all exponentially harder. …” NY Times, NY Times – Euro 2020: Schedule, How to Watch and More, UEFA Euro 2020 match schedule


Euro 2020: England and Spain Drop Big Names; France Adds One

June 4, 2021


“Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold was one of four right backs included in England’s final 26-man roster for this summer’s European Championship as Manager Gareth Southgate trimmed his roster hours before the tournament deadline. But after one exhibition game, he was out again. Alexander-Arnold, a late inclusion in England’s team, withdrew on Thursday, a day after sustaining a thigh injury in a friendly match against Austria. England and Liverpool confirmed that the young defender was out. … Instead, all four players made the team — at least initially. England is in a group with Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic. If it reaches the final, it could play as many as six matches at Wembley Stadium in London. …” NY Times, W – UEFA Euro 2020, Euro 2020 squads: Every confirmed team for the 2021 tournament, Guardian – Euro 2020: your complete guide to all 622 players


‘It’s over, Jogi’: German press reacts to historic defeat by North Macedonia

April 1, 2021


“It had felt like a new and happier time. Since Joachim Löw announced he was standing down after the European Championship, his young and vibrant side had beaten Iceland and Romania convincingly to get their World Cup qualifying campaign off to the perfect start. The mood in the squad relaxed, they took on North Macedonia in Löw’s final World Cup qualifier on Wednesday night – and promptly lost 2-1. The feelgood factor that had been building up in the previous seven days was gone in an instant, replaced by questions about team tactics and selections and even a call for the national coach to leave his post immediately. Writing in Bild – in a piece headlined ‘It is over, Jogi’ – Matthias Brügelmann said: ‘This is the third historical debacle that Jogi Löw, after many successful years as national coach, is responsible for. There was the first elimination from the stage at a World Cup ever in Russia. There was the biggest defeat since 1931 with the 6-0 defeat against Spain. And now this 1-2 against North Macedonia, No 65 in the World Cup rankings.’ …”
Guardian, Guardian: Euro 2020 power rankings: Belgium back on top as Germany plummet, Guardian: North Macedonia inflict historic World Cup qualifying defeat on Germany, Guardian: Ronaldo on target in Portugal win


Uefa Nations League – as it stands: Who are the winners and losers following the opening rounds of group games?

September 12, 2018

“A goalless draw on the opening day of the tournament may not have been the result the suits in Nyon had wanted, but the point earned by France in Munich provided the world champions the foundation to build upon. Goals from Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud in their second game, the 2-1 defeat of Holland, leaves Didier Deschamps’ side top ahead of their return leg against Germany in Paris next month.” Telegraph


The Player Kylian Mbappe Really Plays Like

August 2, 2018


“Breakout performances seemed to be everywhere at the 2018 World Cup — young talents were launched to international fame, and established players had their names crystallized on the world stage. The world’s biggest soccer tournament gives players a chance to shine outside the club-level paradigm of consistency and — apart from the English Premier League — a largely domestic audience. On the back of a few impressive performances, players like CSKA Moscow’s Aleksandr Golovin, one of the key players in Russia’s run to the quarterfinals, can earn themselves the chance to move to one of Europe’s top clubs, even if this recruitment trend is less common than it once was.” FiveThirtyEight


World Cup 2018 Best XI: France’s Champions Lead the Top Players in Russia

July 17, 2018


“After 64 games and more drama than any World Cup in at least 20 years, there’s one piece of business left to do: Pick a team of the tournament. It’s been picked as a team that might function together rather than just the 11 best players, and to avoid the temptation of packing it with France’s champions, a limit of four players per country has been self-imposed. In a 4-3-3 formation fit for the world stage, here is our 2018 World Cup Best XI.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


For all the ills of the world, World Cup 2018 showed that a bit of football done right can make the planet smile

July 17, 2018

“Monday morning dawns with a grim and crushing inevitability. Unless you’re peeling yourself off a Paris pavement, or drowning your sorrows in a Dubrovnik dive bar, the 2018 World Cup is over. As a month of sporting hedonism slips from present tense to past, real life and its hard borders re-sharpen their focus, bringing with them a cruel reckoning. It was only football, after all. It felt like more than that when Kylian Mbappe was burning through opposition defenders, or Lionel Messi was fighting back the tide, or Russia and South Korea were pulling off the unfeasible, or when England’s town squares throbbed with rasping songs and nervous tension and the prickly spines of a faint dream. But no: ultimately, it was only football, no more and no less.” Independent


World Cup 2018 goal celebrations: A statistical analysis of unbridled joy

July 17, 2018


“How would you celebrate if you scored at a World Cup? A jig by the corner flag, an emphatic sprint, jump and punch of the air, an emotional tussle with the goalnet, or just run as fast and far as you can until someone finally, gleefully leaps on you? Whether you’re a Milla, a Josimar or a Tardelli kind of guy, there are plenty of ways with which to physically revel in what, for most players, is the once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime act of scoring on the world’s biggest stage. Goal celebrations – often just as complex, slow-motion-worthy and memorable as the goals themselves – are an art form. But, just like everything else, they’re moulded by cultural trends, context and just pure momentary instinct.” Telegraph


France’s Benchwarmers Are Worth More Than Most Starting Lineups

July 10, 2018

“France enters today’s semifinal match against neighboring Belgium as the favorite to win the 2018 World Cup. At least on paper, though, France has been the least remarkable team of the four that remain: Les Bleus have scored fewer goals than each of the other semifinalists, they’ve possessed less of the ball than two of the other semifinalists, and they’ve taken the fewest shots.” FiveThirtyEight


Germany Out, Brazil Through, Mexico Gets a Hand in Decisive World Cup Group Finales

June 27, 2018

“Day 14 of World Cup 2018 is done, and it will be remembered for defending champion Germany going out in the group stage—the fourth time in the past five World Cups that has happened—in a 2-0 loss to South Korea; for Mexico hanging on to survive with Korean help despite losing 3-0 to Sweden; and for Brazil and Switzerland maintaining their spots atop Group E to advance to the knockout rounds.” SI


Politics on the pitch: Operation double eagle

June 27, 2018

“Try as they might, FIFA can’t keep politics out of the beautiful game. For football fans, players, and even officials, the events of the past few days have been a stark reminder of just how prominent politics are in this summer’s World Cup held in Russia. Last Friday, Egypt’s Mo Salah was photographed at a ceremonial banquet where he was granted ‘honourary citizenship’ by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. This comes just weeks after the publication of a photo featuring Salah and Kadyrov that resulted in criticism against the footballer, as Kadyrov faces accusations of outrageous human rights violations. It’s been rumored that Salah’s frustration with being the centre of political controversy has driven him to think about leaving the Egyptian national team.” Al Jazeera (Audio)


The Sleepers To Watch In The World Cup Knockout Rounds

June 25, 2018

“The World Cup is not traditionally the tournament for underdogs. The trophy has been lifted by just eight countries — and five of those have won multiple times. But there’s usually enough room for a few Cinderella stories to creep into the knockout phase: Bulgaria (1994), South Korea (2002) and Turkey (2002) were unexpected semifinalists, while Cameroon (1990), Ghana (2010) and Costa Rica (2014) crashed the quarterfinals. At least one country seems to do this every four years. We see three teams that could fit the bill this summer. Before the tournament, each of them had no greater than a 3 percent chance of winning it all, according to FiveThirtyEight’s model, but each has performed well so far and could make a strong run in the knockout rounds.” FiveThirtyEight


World Cup 2018: Serbia chief accuses Fifa of ‘brutal robbery’ after Swiss defeat

June 23, 2018

“The head of the Serbian Football Association has accused governing body Fifa of showing bias against his country at the World Cup in Russia. Slavisa Kokeza says Serbia were victims of a ‘brutal robbery’ during Friday’s loss to Switzerland, accusing Fifa of ‘directing’ officials to work against them. ‘We will send a protest to Fifa today,’ Kokeza told the BBC on Saturday. A Fifa spokesman confirmed a letter of protest had been received but that no further comment would be made.” BBC (Video)

Mexico Fans Stop Homophobic Chant, Excel at Good Chants
“Saturday’s match against South Korea went about as well for Mexico as its fans could have hoped. The 2–1 victory all but guaranteed a trip to the World Cup’s knock-out stages and bolstered El Tri’s chances of winning its tough group outright. The game also didn’t feature any homophobic chants, so it was a very fine day indeed. On Wednesday, FIFA fined the Mexico Football Federation $10,000 for its fans’ use of the ‘discriminatory and insulting’ puto chant during the opening match against Germany.” Slate


Subs Spark Brazil, Musa Inspires Nigeria, Stars Shine for Switzerland at World Cup

June 22, 2018

“Day 9 of World Cup 2018 is done, highlighted by Brazil’s late 2-0 win against Costa Rica and the tears of Neymar, Nigeria’s breathtaking 2-0 victory against Iceland and Switzerland’s 2-1 comeback triumph against Serbia. The results set up what will be an incredible set of final matchdays across both groups. In Group D, only Croatia is through, and Nigeria, Iceland Argentina all remain alive for the second spot in the knockout stage. In Group E, no team has secured its knockout place yet, setting up a tense Brazil-Serbia encounter and an important Switzerland-Costa Rica one, even with Los Ticos being eliminated after their hard-fought loss.” SI


Swiss hold out to neutralise Brazilian firepower and earn share of points

June 17, 2018

“… Lionel Messi endured a misstep in his opening game with Argentina against Iceland and his former Barcelona team-mate, Neymar, experienced similar frustration on a night when Brazil had cause to bemoan a couple of costly decisions that went against them. The highlight of the game was an arresting 25 yard strike from Philippe Coutinho but the main talking points centred around a push on Miranda by Steven Zuber before he equalised for Switzerland early in the second half and the denial of a Brazil penalty late on.” Telegraph

Switzerland’s Zuber heads controversial equaliser to deny Brazil victory
“This was not how Brazil had scripted it. The five-times world champions were in control thanks to a trademark Philippe Coutinho screamer and the first step to avenge the trauma from the previous finals looked set to be sure-footed. Yet one lapse was all it took for Switzerland to crash back into it – Steven Zuber heading the equaliser – and, with a priceless result within their grasp, they were in no mood to relinquish it.” Guardian

In Brazil, Soccer Madness Seems to Be Moving in Reverse

With social and political problems weighing heavily, Brazil’s enthusiasm for the World Cup is not as high as in recent tournaments, even though the team is among those favored to win it. Children are still playing, though.
“RIO DE JANEIRO — There may be no better barometer of Brazil’s enthusiasm — or lack thereof — for the World Cup than Jorge Rudge Street. Every four years, months before the start of the tournament, which Brazil has won more than any other country, residents spend their nights painting murals and hanging green and yellow pennants between light poles along the street, in the working class neighborhood of Vila Isabel. A big screen is set up for watch parties that often include performances by famous musicians. Not this year.” NY Times


Mexico May Need To Beat Germany To Have Hope — Good Luck With That

June 13, 2018

“Germany, the defending World Cup champion, is one of the favorites to win the tournament — FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index ranks Die Mannschaft third behind only Brazil and Spain. Although their personnel may have evolved over the past few years, the Germans still maintain a style of methodical possession football that has been consistently successful on the world stage over the past 15 years. They don’t face any particularly fierce challenges in this relatively soft group; they were rather lucky to catch Mexico in a down year, a tame Swedish side and a South Korean team that is one of the weakest in the field.” FiveThirtyEight


Brazil Got A Lot Better Since The Last World Cup

June 12, 2018

“By Brazilian national team standards, the past several years have been rough. The Selecao were blown out by Germany in the semifinals of a home World Cup and failed to make the finals of the Copa America in either 2015 or 2016. But the numbers suggest that brief lull is over: Brazil, the favorite to lift the cup in FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index, is once again the best team in the world.” FiveThirtyEight


World Cup favourites choosing defensive-minded midfielders over deep-lying playmakers

June 11, 2018


“The most fascinating tactical development over the past few World Cups has been the increased popularity of the deep playmaker. Having nearly become extinct around the turn of the century, it’s notable that recent World Cup winners have generally depended upon a great creative influence from deep.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)


World Cup Preview 2018: Messi vs. Ronaldo, Magic Cats, Iceland!!, and the Entire Emotional Context in Which Much of Human Life Transpires

June 10, 2018

“Ladies and gentlemen, start your psychic octopuses. The biggest and strangest sporting event in human history resumes next week in Russia, where thirty-two men’s national soccer teams will begin the monthlong competition for the strangely un-cup-like trophy given to the winners of the FIFA World Cup. For many of the world’s best soccer players, the tournament offers a chance to become legends in their home countries and icons in the history of the game. For billions of soccer fans, the tournament offers a chance to participate in modernity’s most sweeping collective frenzy, a spectacle that will shape the emotional context in which much of human life transpires for the next few weeks. For the United States men’s national team, which did not qualify, the tournament offers a chance to feel gloomy while eating Cheetos on the couch.” New Yorker – Brian Phillips


Who’s the Best No. 10 at the World Cup?

June 9, 2018


“In Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics, Jonathan Wilson describes the symbolism of the no. 10 as “the ‘free-spirited epitome of the artistry of soccer.’ And while free-spirits have become fewer and farther between as more money’s been poured into the game and managers have systematized their tactics, the no. 10 is still typically given to the most creative player on the team. Or, in Poland or Nigeria’s case, it’s given to a defensive midfielder best known for his ability to make tackles and pass the ball sideways. But each team has its reasons, and so with all of the World Cup squad lists now officially released, we each ranked all the nos. 10 set to play in Russia this summer, tallied the results, and came out with the following list. No. 1 is obvious, but that’s about the only spot we came close to agreeing on. Yes, someone, who shall remain nameless out of our sheer fear for his safety, didn’t put Lionel Messi first.” The Ringer


World Cup groups A-D preview – Football Weekly

June 9, 2018

“Max Rushden is joined by voices from around the world to preview World Cup groups A-D, including Danish royalty, Peruvian vigour and the prospect of a tournament without a French meltdown.” Guardian (Audio)


Your complete guide to all 736 players at the 2018 World Cup

June 7, 2018

“Biographies of every player in all 32 squads in Russia, including caps, goals, nicknames, hobbies and, once the tournament starts, ratings for every performance. We strive to give you an unbiased, trustworthy and in-depth view of the world’s most prestigious football tournament. If you think that’s worth something, then you can support The Guardian from as little as £1 – and it only takes a minute.” Guardian


Who Will Win the 2018 World Cup? SI’s Expert Predictions and Knockout Brackets

June 4, 2018


“The World Cup kicks off June 14 in Moscow with a meeting between the two lowest-ranked teams in the field, which, in some ways, is quite appropriate. The competition is meant to be a crescendo, one whose drama and defining moments don’t occur until the very end. With the way the draw and schedule worked out, that’s precisely how Russia 2018 is shaping up to play out. Russia vs. Saudi Arabia will be a massive 90 minutes for the host nation, which can set its tone for the tournament in front of its partisan crowd. But once it’s over, the focus will shift to the traditional powers and the individual superstars who figure to have plenty of say in determining the 2018 world champion. …” SI


World Cup 2018 team previews: what you need to know about all 32 teams (ESPN)

May 25, 2018


“The 2018 World Cup might be missing some big nations, but that’s what makes this tournament the best in sports. Brazil are looking to bounce back from a travesty in 2014, while Spain, Argentina and France are hoping to dethrone defending champions Germany and their typically deep squad. Can Belgium or Portugal make a splash? Do England have what it takes to challenge too? ESPN FC is previewing every team ahead of the opening game on June 14 in English, Spanish and Portuguese to give a truly global feel to our team profiles. Here’s what you need to know about the 32 teams set to do battle in Russia beginning on June 14. …”
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2018 FIFA World Cup

May 25, 2018

“The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be the 21st FIFA World Cup, a quadrennial international football tournament contested by the men’s national teams of the member associations of FIFA. It is scheduled to take place in Russia from 14 June to 15 July 2018, after the country was awarded the hosting rights on 2 December 2010. This will be the first World Cup held in Europe since the 2006 tournament in Germany, and the first ever to be held in Eastern Europe. All of the stadium venues are in European Russia, to keep travel time manageable. The final tournament will involve 32 national teams, which include 31 teams determined through qualifying competitions and the automatically qualified host team. Of the 32 teams, 20 will be making back-to-back appearances following the last tournament in 2014, including defending champions Germany, while Iceland and Panama will both be making their first appearances at a FIFA World Cup. A total of 64 matches will be played in 12 venues located in 11 cities. The final will take place on 15 July at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. …” Wikipedia


World Cup 2018 squad guide: Latest news and updates ahead of Russia (Independent)

May 25, 2018

“The 2018 World Cup is now only weeks away. The 32 countries have until the May 14 deadline to name their provisional squads for Russia with managers all over the globe currently scratching their heads as they bid to whittle down their long list of possibles and probables in time for the final June 4 cut off, just 10 days before the opener in Moscow. However, many teams – England included, – have already pledged to name their lucky few earlier with Gareth Southgate set to pick his 23 before the final pre-tournament friendlies with Nigeria and Costa Rica. …” Independent (Video)


World Cup 2018 groups: Your complete guide to the teams

April 5, 2018

“The World Cup draw is done and dusted with England drawn against Belgium, Panama and Tunisia. Here is your guide to the eight groups for the 2018 World Cup…” Telegraph


Applause at the Draw, but Will Russia Keep Cheering?

December 3, 2017


“MOSCOW — Half a million fans — by current, suspiciously optimistic, estimates — will descend on Russia next year for what Gianni Infantino, the FIFA president, has already decreed will be the ‘best’ World Cup in history. Every single fan, he has decided, will have “an amazing experience.” Billions of dollars have been spent on new, or renovated, stadiums to host the finest players in the world: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, on Friday promised a ‘major sporting festival of friendship and fair play.’ …” NY Times, The Ringer: The Four Must-Watch Games of the 2018 World Cup Group Stages (Video), NY Times – World Cup Draw: Group-by-Group Analysis


How Did a Tiny Swiss Company Quietly Secure Valuable World Cup TV Rights?

October 27, 2017


“LONDON — Investigations over the last few years by United States and Swiss law enforcement officials into corruption in global soccer have exposed dozens of people and companies that, according to prosecutors, conspired to illegally reap profits from broadcasting and sponsorship deals tied to the sport’s biggest events. One company never named in any of the charging documents, but referred to obliquely, is a little-known entity based in the canton of Zug in Switzerland: Mountrigi Management Group, a three-person operation that illustrates how some of the biggest deals at the top of the world’s most-popular sport were put together. …” NY Times


Six things we’ve learned from the Euro 2016 group stages

June 23, 2016

“Fears that lowly ranked sides like Albania and Northern Ireland might dilute the quality of the competition have not materialised. Cynics might say the overall quality was so low that nobody noticed anyway, but the fact is that some of the more fancied teams – the likes of the Czech Republic, Austria, Turkey, Ukraine and Rumania – couldn’t make it past these minnows. The extended format has brought plenty of colour and amazing stories like Iceland’s success to the tournament, and have helped more than make up for the lack of excitement felt elsewhere. But UEFA also got very lucky. Groups E and F were clearly at an advantage, knowing just how many points were needed to advance ahead of other third-placed teams.” red bulletin


Switzerland quell Paul Pogba storm to earn France draw and last-16 spot

June 19, 2016

“France finished top of Group A, not quite at a gallop but convincingly enough after an initially boisterous, ultimately slow-burn draw with Switzerland in Lille. The Swiss are also through and showed some real muscle and craft after Paul Pogba had looked like making this game all his own in an early burst of all-round midfield power-play. Didier Deschamps will welcome another clean sheet for his new-build defence. By the end, though, with the real business of this two-part Euros now booked in, the suspicion remains there is still some clicking into place needed for that talented chop-and-change midfield.” Guardian


Euro 2016: How Teams Can Advance to the Next Round

June 16, 2016

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“The group stage of Euro 2016 is well underway: From Wednesday until Saturday, all 24 teams will complete their second of three games of group play. And the minute those games are over, many serious fans will start to do math – in their heads, on cocktail napkins or even on spreadsheets – to determine what their teams must do to ensure a place in the knockout stage of the competition. It can be complicated, particularly in this expanded 24-team tournament, where four third-place teams will advance, but we’re here to help you sort through it all. This page provides a big-picture overview in real time, and as soon as teams have completed their first two games – as the teams in Group A and Group B have – we’ll publish a detailed page just for those teams, showing you all the ways they can make the Round of 16.” NY Times


The Switzerland-Albania Match at Euro 2016 Told a Personal, Massive Balkan Story

June 12, 2016

“One Sunday in June 2000, I biked to The Abbey Pub on the northwest side of Chicago to watch Spain play Slovenia in the UEFA Euro Championship. Back in the day, it was much harder to find ways to watch the Euro Championship in the U.S. The Abbey, an Irish pub, was one of the few places showing the matches. I got there early—the game was to start at 8 a.m.—to have breakfast, but it was already packed with Irishmen clutching their pints, watching a live broadcast of an important game of hurling live from Dublin. Many of them were inebriated, shouting at the gigantic screen. It didn’t look good.” Slate


Euro 2016 lacks a clear favourite as France, Germany, Spain all flawed

December 17, 2015

“Euro 2016 will be the first-ever European Championships comprised of 24 teams, a format that opens up the tournament to the continent’s minnows. Yet assessing the runners and riders ahead of Saturday’s draw, it feels like one of the most closed European championships in a long time. There are three clear favourites who each have something obvious to shout about: France are the hosts, Spain the holders and Germany the world champions. Other than this trio, it’s incredibly difficult to make a case for anyone else triumphing.” ESPN – Michael Cox


2016 UEFA Championship: Host France gets favorable draw

December 15, 2015

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“The 2016 European Championships draw was made in the Palais des Congres in Paris Saturday. UEFA president Michel Platini was not present—he is currently suspended from his duties by FIFA—but there was support for the Frenchman when footage of player-turned-politician helping France win Euro 1986 was met with applause in the draw auditorium. It was Platini who instigated this new-look Euros format: there are now 24 teams in the tournament, eight more than in previous competitions.” SI (Video)


Euro 2016 power rankings: every team assessed before draw

December 10, 2015

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“The Euro 2016 draw takes place in Paris on Saturday and Jonathan Wilson looks at all the teams, putting France at No1 and Romania at No24” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Premier League: The most unpredictable season?

December 8, 2015

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“It is the Premier League season that has everyone scratching their heads. Champions Chelsea are down in 14th. Leicester, bottom at Christmas last year, are top less than 12 months later. In fact, as this image below shows, the old cliche that anyone can beat anyone has never been more apt. Undoubtedly, there have been some strange results.” BBC


The Outsiders, Part 1: Berwick Rangers

November 30, 2015

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“As you approach from the south, staring wistfully out at the slate grey North Sea reflecting the equally slate grey sky over the sand dunes of Cheswick and Goswick, the quaint walled-town of Berwick-upon-Tweed – perched neatly atop the sloping banks of the famous River Tweed – slowly and neatly begins to frame this picturesque view of northernmost Northumberland. As the train lurches across the Robert Stephenson-designed Royal Border Bridge, leaving the villages of Tweedmouth and East Ord in its slipstream, one could easily be fooled into thinking you were entering another country. The shimmering, twinkling surface of the Tweed – that most renowned of salmon grounds – gives one a sense of a natural dividing line between England and Scotland. Indeed, throughout the centuries and the turbulent history between the two neighbours, it often has. However, since 1482, at the height of the Anglo-Scottish wars, Berwick has remained firmly under English control.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 2: FC Büsingen
“Surrounded by the Swiss: not something you hear very often, is it? In this case, we’re not referring to a rare military skirmish (those multi-functional Army knives can be very threatening under certain circumstances), rather the tiny German enclave of Büsingen am Hochrhein which is, as inferred, totally contained within the conventional borders of Switzerland. The town has been separated from the Motherland (or should that be Fatherland?) since 1805 and the time of the Napoleonic Wars when it switched from Austrian control to that of Württemberg, which itself became a part of the German Empire a year later before eventually becoming part of the modern Bundesrepublik Land of Badem-Württemberg we see today. The ties to Germany remain unbroken despite the result of a referendum in the town after the First World War, in which the inhabitants voted to become part of Switzerland, was ignored due mainly to the Swiss being unable to offer anything substantial in return.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 3: Derry City
“Derry, of all places in Britain and Ireland, seems ready made for the language of football, with a history that’s very much composed of two halves. You’ve those who see themselves as Irish on one side of the pitch, and those who see themselves as British on the other. Out of this strange, enforced marriage comes a place that’s cut from different cloth to anywhere else on both sides of the Irish Sea. Home of shirt factories and receptacle of the shared history between two islands, this is a city that has suffered, as described in Phil Coulter’s famous song ‘The Town I Love So Well.’ But, as in the poems of Seamus Heaney and the upbeat rhythms of The Undertones, the character of Derry is based on triumph over suffering, and in finding a voice and a position unique to itself.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 4: FC Vaduz
“William Cook, writing in the weekly conservative magazine The Spectator, describes Liechtenstein as ‘utterly ridiculous’. It is a tax haven that has more registered companies than people, In August 2009, the British government department HM Revenue & Customs agreed with Liechtenstein to start exchanging information. It is believed that up to 5,000 British investors have roughly £3billion deposited in accounts and trusts in the country. To put the size of the country into a British context, its population is similar to Milton Keynes. You’ll find something familiar with their national anthem, it is sung to the same tune as ‘God Save The Queen’. The capital of Liechtenstein is the sleepy town of Vaduz – the home of FC Vaduz.” Football Pink


Five players to keep an eye out for in the Swiss Super League this season

October 17, 2015

“The Swiss Super League is starting to develop into a little gem for European clubs. Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Roman Bürki have all respectively made the move across to Europe’s most competitive leagues in recent years. With big potential and little fees involved, more clubs from Europe’s ‘top five’ leagues are starting to scout the once relatively unknown league. Out of all the major European leagues the Bundesliga has the biggest grasp of the Swiss Super League. With ten players in the current Swiss national team playing in Germany, expect German clubs to return to the Swiss Super League to have a look at the following players.” backpagefootball