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


The World in a World Cup

July 7, 2018

“I would never have watched the World Cup if it weren’t for my partner, a British national who grew up on Gary Lineker, the striker who towered over the English game in the 1980s and early 1990s. I find televised sports—all organized sports—boring. But after celebrating my birthday last weekend, my boyfriend voiced a tentative wish to watch France play Argentina, and I wanted to be with him. So we found ourselves in our pajamas in front of the TV at midnight, watching toy-sized men kick a tick-sized ball around.” New Republic


Neymar and the Art of the Dive

July 6, 2018


“Alarm bells rang inside Jim Calder’s brain earlier this week as he watched Neymar, the Brazilian soccer superstar, squirm on the grass and cry out in apparent distress. ‘Neymar does what all beginning actors do,’ he said. ‘They oversell the event.’ Calder would know. For three decades he has taught acting at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. His voice has been consistently hoarse this summer, a consequence of yelling at students all day at a theater workshop he runs every year in Florence, Italy. Yet when the classes have ended, when he turns on the television to watch the World Cup at night, he continues to have his thespian tastes affronted.” NY Times (Video)


If Ronaldo Can’t Beat Uruguay, the Least He Can Do Is Pay Taxes

July 4, 2018

“Before his team lost on Saturday, Portugal’s superstar forward Ronaldo was having a thrilling World Cup. There was his stunning performance against Spain, where he scored three of the game’s six goals. There was his outstanding early header against Morocco, which prompted his coach to declare that Ronaldo was aging ‘like a port wine.’ Exhilarating displays of virtuosity! Brilliance and showmanship! What’s not to like?” NY Times


Luis Suarez triumphs in battle with Cristiano Ronaldo as Uruguay knock Portugal out of World Cup

June 30, 2018

“Two sumptuous goals from Edinson Cavani set up a tantalising quarter-final meeting with France on Friday on a day when hope of a Messi-Ronaldo showdown in Nizhny Novgorod was vanquished. Yet this was not quite the fairytale for Cavani that France’s thrilling 4-3 victory over Argentina had proved for his club team-mate, Mbappe, earlier in the day. There was only 10 minutes between Cavani scoring Uruguay’s decisive second after the Portugal defender Pepe had cancelled out his opening goal and the striker limping off with a crestfallen look on his face.” Telegraph

Edinson Cavani sends Uruguay to World Cup last eight as Portugal bow out
“Cristiano Ronaldo walked Edinson Cavani out of this game, helping the Uruguayan to the touchline, but not before the Uruguayan had put Portugal out of the World Cup. Cavani departed with 20 minutes remaining, slowly making his way around the edge of the pitch, a lost look on his face. His two goals, both of them superb, took Uruguay through to the quarter-finals but it appears unlikely he will be with them when they face France in Nizhny Novgorod on Friday. Twenty minutes later, it was Ronaldo wearing that look: his World Cup is over, too.” Guardian


Spain, Portugal Survive Simultaneous Madness; Uruguay Roughs Up Russia at World Cup

June 25, 2018

“Day 12 of World Cup 2018 is done, and the drama reached a peak level. In Group B, favorites Spain and Portugal couldn’t manage three points against their game foes (Spain 2, Morocco 2 and Portugal 1, Iran 1) but still advanced to the knockout rounds, even though Iran made it heartbreakingly close late against the Portuguese. Earlier in the day in Group A, things were considerably less dramatic, as Uruguay beat Russia 3-0 to win the group and leave the Russians in a we’ll-take-it second-place spot.” SI


Spain, Portugal, Uruguay Restore Order With Narrow World Cup Wins

June 20, 2018

“MOSCOW — Day 7 of World Cup 2018 was defined by 1-0 scorelines and winners from established soccer countries that never really seemed like they were in danger of squandering those slim advantages. Portugal 1, Morocco 0; Uruguay 1, Saudi Arabia 0; and Spain 1, Iran 0 kept the tournament from having its first scoreless tie, and after a run of surprises in recent days, order was (at least temporarily) restored. Uruguay’s win ensured that La Celeste and host Russia will go through to the last 16 from Group A, while Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Morocco were all eliminated from contention after two matches.” SI


The race for the Golden Ball is not all about Ronaldo, despite his matchday one heroics

June 20, 2018

“WORLD CUP 2018 was widely hyped as the tournament where Leo Messi might finally taste success at international level, after several disappointments in an Argentina shirt. After one complete round of the World Cup, however, it’s his long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo who is the competition’s outstanding performer so far, after his hattrick in Portugal’s electrifying 3-3 draw with Spain. A World Cup hattrick is, in itself, a very rare occurrence. There were none in 2006, one in 2010 and two in 2014, so Ronaldo’s treble was clearly a significant achievement. It was also an unusual hattrick comprised of a penalty, a free-kick and a goal from open play.” UniBet – Michael Cox


Portugal vs Spain: Cristiano Ronaldo shows new side to his game in classic clash of World Cup styles

June 16, 2018

“Formulate a checklist for the ideal World Cup encounter, and Portugal 3-3 Spain would tick every box: a historic rivalry, an early goal, a high tempo throughout, tremendous technical quality, both sides leading at various stages, a couple of stunning strikes, and a late twist. It was an aesthetically remarkable game, a consistently entertaining game, and also a strategically fascinating game, not because of formations or substitutions, but because Spain and Portugal attacked in entirely different ways.” Independent (Video)


Portugal 3 – 3 Spain

June 15, 2018


“Cristiano Ronaldo produced one of the great World Cup performances as his dramatic late free-kick earned Portugal a draw with Spain in a classic encounter in Sochi. The Real Madrid forward’s 88th minute swerving set-piece soared into the top corner to deny the Spanish a much-needed victory at the end of what has been a painful week for them in the south of Russia.” BBC (Video), The Ringer: Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Spain Was the Wake-up Call the World Cup Needed


Nine Reasons Why Brazil Will Win the World Cup

June 14, 2018

“… They’re among the betting favorites, but the Selecao still haven’t quite emerged as the favorite. ‘As good as Brazil are, they’re still arguably underrated,’ said Omar Chaudhuri, head of footballing intelligence at the consultancy 21st Club. There’s a chance we’ll get to July 15 and wonder, as we watch Neymar lift the World Cup trophy, how we didn’t see it all along. So, to prevent that from happening—and to risk some relatively minor, low-stakes, online embarrassment—here are nine reasons why Brazil is gonna win it all.” The Ringer (Video)


World Cup 2018: How the likes of Andres Iniesta and Thomas Muller helped industrialise youth coaching

June 13, 2018


“Back in the 2010 World Cup, before Andres Iniesta had scored the winner in the final but while he was still suffering the injury problems that would make that moment more wondrous, one leading figure in European youth football spotted something so specifically special about the playmaker’s game. The Barcelona star would always position himself so that he was an equal distance from all the opposition players around him. It meant that even if he was not at his physical maximum, as was the case for much of that World Cup, he still had the maximum space and opportunity to escape.” Independent (Video)


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


Can Morocco Squeeze Past Spain Or Portugal?

June 7, 2018

“Group B features what could have been one of the World Cup’s unexpected teams to watch in Morocco, whose 72.3 rating in FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index places the Lions of the Atlas as the 18th best in the world, tops among all teams from Africa and ahead of more touted underdogs like Iceland and Peru. In Group A, Morocco would be the story. But an unfortunate draw matched it with defending Euro champion Portugal and perennial power Spain.” FiveThirtyEight


Meet the Five Most Exciting Prospects at the 2018 World Cup

June 6, 2018

“Yes, club soccer has overtaken the international game. And sure, all of the best players play for the best club teams, where they get coached by the best managers, who get to use the best facilities on a daily basis. Meanwhile, national teams congregate only a few times per year, for a friendly there or a qualification match here—and most sides get to play in a competitive tournament only once every 24 months. That’s why a tactic like pressing—swarming your opponent while they have the ball in their own defensive third—has dominated the club game but will be a rare sight in Russia this summer.” The Ringer (Video)


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. …”
ESPN


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


Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it?

December 6, 2017


A man receives clean syringes after being given methadone at a clinic in Lisbon.
“When the drugs came, they hit all at once. It was the 80s, and by the time one in 10 people had slipped into the depths of heroin use – bankers, university students, carpenters, socialites, miners – Portugal was in a state of panic. … The crisis began in the south. The 80s were a prosperous time in Olhão, a fishing town 31 miles west of the Spanish border. Coastal waters filled fishermen’s nets from the Gulf of Cádiz to Morocco, tourism was growing, and currency flowed throughout the southern Algarve region. But by the end of the decade, heroin began washing up on Olhão’s shores. Overnight, Pereira’s beloved slice of the Algarve coast became one of the drug capitals of Europe: one in every 100 Portuguese was battling a problematic heroin addiction at that time, but the number was even higher in the south. …” Guardian


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


World Cup 2018 power rankings: Germany on top among qualified 23

October 12, 2017


“Twenty-three nations have booked their places for the World Cup in Russia, with the holders and Brazil looking in good shape but we rank England in 13th place, below Iceland.” Guardian (Video)


The Question: was Euro 2016 the death of possession football?

July 19, 2016

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“So, it’s over then, the worst of the 15 European Championships to date, a tournament so bereft of quality that Wales’s mildly diverting win over an inept Belgium was raised to the status of minor classic. Of 51 games, perhaps one, France’s victory over Germany, will be remembered by neutrals – and it, in truth, was utterly unrepresentative of the rest of the tournament. Many have questioned whether Portugal were worthy winners but in a sense they are the most worthy of winners: no champion ever, perhaps, has been so representative of the ethos of a tournament.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Euro 2016 Tactical Analysis: France 0-1 Portugal (AET) | Substitutions the key for Portugal

July 19, 2016

“The Euro 2016 final saw the home nation favourites France take on Portugal. France, who played in a 4-2-3-1 for almost the entirety of the match, dominated the match but were unable to put away their chances. Portugal stuck with the 4-4-2 diamond that had got them to the final and put on yet another disciplined display, made even more impressive following Ronaldo’s early exit from the match. Combined with the goalkeeping heroics of Rui Patricio, excellent substitutions, and France’s profligacy in front of goal, Portugal was able to record their first ever major tournament victory. This tactical analysis will look at how the teams set up to play, Portugal’s tactical change, and key substitutions that affected the outcome of the match.” Outside of the Boot


After unorthodox path, Griezmann has France on cusp of Euro 2016 title

July 8, 2016

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“‘They didn’t create any chances,’ Germany manager Joachim Low moaned following the Euro 2016 semifinals. And yet somehow France scored two goals in the 2-0 victory, both from its newest hero with the unique backstory, Antoine Griezmann. One, admittedly, was a penalty awarded after a handball following a set piece, but the other was a classic piece of poaching. There was something very old-fashioned all around about that second strike–a cross, a goalkeeper stretching with a striker bearing down, the loose ball prodded in. It felt anachronistic, which perhaps goes some way to explaining Germany’s greatest problem in this tournament–and also why Griezmann has had such an impact.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Portugal rides its defending, Ronaldo’s heroics to Euro 2016 final

July 8, 2016

“With a goal and an assist, suddenly everything is right in the world of Cristiano Ronaldo. This may be the least entertaining of the seven Portugal sides to reach the semifinals of a major tournament, but it is only the second to reach a final, after a comfortable 2-0 win over Wales, and if Ronaldo’s role is simply to provide a cutting edge ahead of the hard-tackling midfield that is the true strength of the side, neither he nor they will mind. It’s a remarkable sleight of tactical hand that Fernando Santos has pulled to create a situation in which one of the greatest players of all time is a sort of bolt-on to the main body of the side, but Ronaldo is not the reason Portugal is in the final of Euro 2016. He played excellently against Hungary, but if Portugal had continued to defend as it did in that 3-3 draw, it would not have got this far.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Brutally tough path suiting Italy’s strengths at Euro 2016

July 1, 2016

“This was, they said, the weakest Italy squad in half a century. The draw has been so unkind that, after facing Belgium in the group stage, Italy’s putative route to the final means taking on the world champion Germany after the defending European champion Spain with the host France–or the host-slayer Iceland–waiting in the semi. For other sides that might have been too daunting a prospect, but Italy seems almost energized by it. Antonio Conte’s side has produced highly astute tactical performances to beat Belgium and Spain. It wouldn’t even be true to say they were counterattacking displays, although that clearly is a strength of his side, because Italy matched Spain for possession in the first half of their last-16 clash. But it is a team that is at its best using an opponent’s strength against itself.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Euro 2016 Tactical Analysis: Croatia 0-1 Portugal (AET) | Dark horses crash out of the tournament

June 27, 2016

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“Croatia, everyone’s favourite to win or at least reach the finals of Euro 2016, crashed out of the tournament after losing to Portugal. Ricardo Quaresma netted in the rebound of Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot in the 117th minute, which was the first shot on target in the entire game – which only speaks how boring and dull the fixture was. Tactically there were a few developments that were quite intriguing. Here’s my tactical analysis of Croatia 0 – Portugal 1.” Outside of the Boot


Euro 2016 Power Rankings: Final 16 teams in France

June 23, 2016

France's Paul Pogba (2nd L) celebrates with team mates after scoring against Portugal during their friendly soccer match at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis near Paris October 11, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau (FRANCE - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) - RTR49T0J
“The dramatic end to the group stage couldn’t disguise the fact that, for the most part, this has been a slightly disappointing opening to the tournament, yielding just 1.92 goals per game and precious few games of real quality. No side won all three group games, while many of the less-fancied sides troubled their supposed betters. The suggestion is that this is a very open tournament, although there remains the possibility that one of the top sides will suddenly click into gear and surge through to success on July 10. The knockout bracket has yielded an unbalanced final 16, with powers France, Germany, Spain, Italy and England on one half, while Belgium and Portugal benefited from underperforming in the group stage by being given a more favorable rout to navigate on the road to the Stade de France.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


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


Euro 2016 group stage grades

June 23, 2016

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“The group stages of Euro 2016 have provided goals and controversies, outrageous skill and dreadful mistakes. With no team able to win every game, but only one side losing all three matches, the tournament has proved more competitive than anyone could have expected. After 36 matches, the action is only just hotting up, but having played three times each, we now have a decent idea about what shape the teams are in.” Daily Mail


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


Ronaldo endures inauspcious Euro 2016 start as Portugal draws Iceland

June 15, 2016

“Cristiano Ronaldo is by far the best player in this Portugal side. He is also probably the reason why it so consistently under-performs. For 45 minutes, everything was going well for the Portuguese. They had played extremely well in the first half of their Euro 2016 opener and gone ahead through Nani. Iceland looked like the minnow it is. And then Portugal disintegrated. Iceland celebrated a 1-1 draw–secured through Birkir Bjarnason’s 51st-minute volley–with understandable uproariousness, but this was a take of Portugal’s collapse.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Life’s a Pitch for Leo Messi

March 23, 2016

“Pitch concerns increase for Leo Messi as Suarez promises no return to naughty corner. Although Barcelona have a cushion at the top of La Liga that could comfortably house the most impressive of posteriors, the Catalan club will still be fretting and fussing outside football’s school gates as they drop their MSN at the rough-and-tough daycare that is the international break. Perhaps the biggest worry is over Leo Messi who has a fairly tough battle against Chile on Thursday night, followed by a clash in Cordoba against Bolivia on a pitch that looks a little like a post-apocalyptic cabbage patch.” Bein


Scout Report: Miguel Silva | The youngster who bears the king on his chest

February 14, 2016

“In an extremely business minded football world, it’s extremely rare to see players with a deep connection to the city and club that they play for. And it’s justifiable too – everyone knows that the sport we all love is a job just like any other for the ones who play and coach. But everyone also misses the Maldinis and Zanettis that passed through football, and every fan idolizes the Buffons and Tottis of today.” Outside of the Boot


Tactical Analysis: Valencia 1-1 Barcelona | Valencia risks pay off

December 10, 2015

“Following a circus of a week at Los Che where Portuguese manager Nuno walked after his side failed to register a shot at goal in their 1-0 loss at Sevilla; which resulted in the surprising arrival of new boss Gary Neville, both playing and coaching staff at the club will have been desperate to get back to league action. Thousands of the home fans welcomed Neville & co. to the stadium before the game by lining the streets surrounding the historic Mestalla stadium whilst singing his name and making plenty of noise in support of his ambitious words in his first press conference.” Outside of the Boot


Goal Analysis: How Yannick Ferreira Carrasco’s goal announced himself at Atletico Madrid

November 1, 2015

“Atletico Madrid vs Valencia. Without a spare seat in the house, we were in for a real battle in what promised to be a mouthwatering clash between two historic Spanish giants that both came into this one having boasted wins in the Champions League days earlier. True to their trademark, the hosts were out of the blocks like greyhounds and within minutes Valencia goalkeeper Jaume Domenech was forced into several top drawer saves to keep Simeone’s men at bay. The heat was turned up further and Atletico’s Rojiblanco fans greeted every one of their player’s challenges with deafening cheers of encouragement which made for a ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ atmosphere in the famous Vicente Calderon stadium that lays beside the Manzanares river in the working class district of Arganzuela, south Madrid.” Outside of the Boot


FC Astana – The Kazakhstani minnows who are taking on Europe’s elite

September 10, 2015

“In beating APOEL Nicosia 2-1 on aggregate, FC Astana have become the first team from the former Soviet Union state of Kazakhstan to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. The Kazakhstanis beat Maribor of Solvenia, HJK Helsinki of Finland and Cypriots APOEL on their way to the group stages for their maiden season with Europe’s elite after being drawn against Atlético Madrid, Galatasaray and Benfica in an almost impossible Group C.” backpagefootball


Champions League draw analysis: Picks to make it out of each group

August 29, 2015

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, left, and UEFA Competitions Director Giorgio Marchetti, right, remove the balls containing the names of the soccer clubs, during the draw for the Champions League 2015/16 play-offs, at the UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
“There was a twist to the Champions League group stage draw in Monaco Thursday. UEFA’s new seeding regulations meant that only reigning champions would be picked from Pot 1, leaving some dangerous contenders in the lower pots. And so it proved, as Manchester City was drawn with Juventus and Sevilla while Real Madrid drew Paris Saint-Germain and Shakhtar Donetsk. The draw resulted in some intriguing individual storylines, powerhouses going up against one another and the first steps on the road to the San Siro.” SI (Video)


Ten Portuguese players who could breakout this season

August 19, 2015

“Portugal’s performance at the FIFA U20 World Cup and UEFA U21 European Championships strengthened the perception that Portuguese football is on the ascendancy once again. Andre Gomes, William Carvalho and Bernardo Silva are just some of the players that have established themselves over the past few seasons.” backpagefootball


Thiago Alcantara : Tactical Analysis of a Brilliant Comeback Campaign

May 6, 2015

“The list of achievement is impressive: a penalty decider in the thrilling Pokal shootout against Leverkusen, an away goal in Porto keeping Bayern’s UCL hopes alive, and finally the opener in Bayern’s 6-1 dismantling of FC Porto. These key moments make Thiago Alcantara’s return to Bayern’s starting lineup appear perfect. Doubts about the Spaniard lengthy injury exodus and wider future have quickly disappeared. According to this convention thinking, Thiago’s arrival back on the field has been a combination of perfect timing brilliant football. But a question can be posed, is this conventional thinking true?” Bundesliga Fanatic


Defending Is Hard: Porto Learn a Lesson Against Bayern Munich

April 24, 2015

“It’s one of the most pernicious myths in soccer: Defending is easy. Any manager can order his players to stay behind the halfway line, kick some shins, clear a few corners, and voilà: He’ll have a clean sheet. Fans lob this accusation against opposing teams all the time, but tune in to enough postgame interviews and you’ll see managers are often no different. After the infamous Steven Gerrard slip game last year, Brendan Rodgers said it about José Mourinho, and a week later, Mourinho himself dropped a similar bomb in response to Norwich’s tactics. Seemingly anybody who’s ever played against Tony Pulis or Sam Allardyce has lodged a comparable complaint: What’s so special about you? All you do is defend.Grantland


Berlin-Bound: Which Team Has the Best Chance of Winning the Champions League?

April 16, 2015

messi-point-barcelona
“As we told you a few weeks ago, the drama’s all but gone from the major domestic leagues across Europe. Thankfully, the Champions League is here to save us. The quarterfinals of soccer’s greatest annual competition kick off today with Atlético Madrid hosting Real Madrid in a rematch of last year’s final and Monaco traveling to Juventus. Tomorrow, FC Porto welcomes Bayern Munich and Barcelona visits Paris Saint-Germain.” Grantland


La Liga’s top Spanish scorer may have played his way to Portugal

April 13, 2015

“The messages started arriving, and they didn’t stop. ‘There were more than 100,’ Rayo Vallecano attacker Alberto Bueno told El País. ‘And that’s not including Twitter. I couldn’t even keep track of the ones which were coming through on there.’ Manchester United’s Juan Mata wasn’t among those who sent a message, but he did phone Bueno, who he played with at Real Madrid many moons ago, to congratulate him on his 14-minute, four-goal haul in Rayo’s win over Levante at the end of February. And the goals didn’t stop there: One more came against Barcelona, two against Granada and another at Eibar.” Soccer Gods (Video)


Cape Verde’s win in Portugal will reverberate and be remembered

April 3, 2015

“Let’s start with the caveats. There was no Cristiano Ronaldo, João Moutinho, Nani, Fábio Coentrão or Bruno Alves. There wasn’t even José Bosingwa. This was a young, experimental Portugal side. It was only a friendly. It was windy. And Cape Verde have improved immeasurably over the past decade; they are ranked 38th in the world, not quite as good as Wales but better than Scotland, and were denied a play-off for World Cup qualification only after they were penalised for fielding an ineligible player. But still, this is a result that will reverberate and will be remembered – the night when Portugal, semi-finalists at the last European Championship, hosted their former colony and lost 2-0.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Spain-based Scot Ian Cathro continuing to grow admirers

March 11, 2015

“Ian Cathro has not followed a conventional career path, but he has still encountered lingering assumptions. During his first pre-season as assistant coach at Rio Ave in Portugal, a training session based on running rather than ball work prompted some players to cast withering glances his way. As a Scotsman, even one whose very presence in the Portuguese top-flight at an age when he was younger than many of the players in the squad was unorthodox, still prompted stereotypical thinking.” BBC


Deco’s Instrumental Display in Porto’s 2003/2004 Champions League Final Win

February 10, 2015

“‘He’s taught me many, many things. When he came to Porto he brought a new mentality. Many players didn’t believe it was possible to win the Champions League. I’ll never forget that. We had a good team but his narrow-mindedness showed us how to do well and win the big games.’ These were the words muttered by Deco as he mused upon the incredible belief that Jose Mourinho instilled into the Porto squad that won the 2003/2004 Champions League. And what a triumph it was. Along the way they knocked out the likes Manchester United, Lyon and Deportivo la Coruna before defeating Monaco in the final. The remarkable 3-0 win over Didier Deschamps’ men in the final showed just how far Mourinho had brought this side.” Licence to Roam


Portugese Column: Why do Benfica underperform in Europe?

December 2, 2014

“The midweek European matches saw current Portuguese champions Benfica get knocked out of international competitions for the season. Since Jorge Jesus took over in 2009, Benfica have won the title twice and played in the Champions League group phase five times, yet only once have they qualified for the latter stages. And whilst on all other occasions they managed to hold on to the third spot and subsequent qualification for the Europa League, this time not even the last group game against Bayer Leverkusen will help them go above fourth place.” Outside of the Boot


Five things we learned this week in the Primeira Liga

October 8, 2014

“For the second game in a row, the Primeira Liga champions had to wait until the last 20 minutes to breakthrough a stubborn defence. Benfica eventually ran out 4-0 winners over Arouca at the Estádio da Luz but for a long time it seemed to heading for a stalemate. This game was an interesting one as it was the first time ‘Aguias’ fans got to see Lisandro López in action. The 25-year-old Argentinian centre back signed for Benfica from Argentinian side Arsenal de Sarandi in 2013 but was loaned out to La Liga side Getafe for all of last season. López was signed as a long term replacement for Ezequiel Garay who joined Zenit Saint Petersburg in the summer. Arouca defended deeply in the first half forcing Benfica to shoot from distance. Arouca looked far more dangerous going forward and forced Artur into making a couple of decent saves.” backpagefootball


Tactical Analysis | Atletico 1-0 Juventus : Atletico up the tempo to grab an important winner

October 3, 2014

“The second gameweek of the UEFA Champions League had some tasty encounters in store for all viewers, with a number of top teams clashing. In terms of results and entertainment too, it didn’t disappoint, with lots of goals, and a lot of good, competitive football. One of the tastiest fixtures was Atletico hosting Juventus. It was a clash of Champions from Spain and Italy. Coming into the game, Juventus had a 100% record, with no goals conceded. Atletico have made a good start, but find themselves in third after a few indifferent results. This was a different situation, as Atletico had lost their opening fixture in Greece, and a positive result against Juventus was absolutely vital. The Italians were up against it, as a daunting home support, combined with Atleti’s usual aggressive approach had meant that they had 17 wins in their last 19 European fixtures.” Outside of the Boot


Barça face cross-border issues, Athletic hit rock bottom

October 1, 2014

“‘Ha! Zat eez wot ‘appens when ze Barca do not have ze Granada every week! Ha!’ snarked a much-loved French friend of LLL after PSG’s 3-2 victory in the Champions League on Tuesday night. Actually, that’s a bit of a porky-pie lie. The voice creeped out the imaginary mouth of an imaginary French friend living in the blog’s largely empty head. It is very unloved. Although it’s a little knee-jerk, which is what LLL is all about deep down, this is one possible reaction to Barcelona’s first loss this season – and the first goals conceded for that matter.” FourFourTwo


Reviving Benfica: The Return Of Bela Guttmann

September 24, 2014

“Early in August, Bela Guttmann returned to Lisbon to be greeted at the airport by a wildly enthusiastic crowd of players, directors and fans all hysterically delighted to welcome him home. For the Hungarian born, naturalised Austrian, ‘home’ now is surely Lisboa, for although it is now more than three years since he quit, it has never ceased to be clear that Guttmann left his heart with Benfica. This being so, it becomes difficult to understand why he left in the first place, for there was never any suggestion of the directors sacking him, or another club attracting him. His resignation, announced so sensationally in London, where Benfica were to meet Tottenham Hotspur in the Semi-Final of the European Cup only 24 hours later, was a typically Guttmann touch for while the decision had been made months before, he withheld the announcement until it could bring the maximum benefit to Benfica.” In Bed With Maradona