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


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


Possession lost on the World Cup stage as defences learn to adapt

July 5, 2018

“No side, perhaps, is ever so much itself as when it is going out of the World Cup. When teams – or at least those with aspirations to the title – fail, they tend to fail in their own way, and become too much of themselves: self-parody is a perennial danger. And so Spain and Germany went out of the World Cup after anaemic performances in which they seemed to fetishise possession rather than it being a means to an end. That doesn’t mean juego de posicion football is over, as some of the more excitable voices on social media have claimed; it just means that two teams who played football infected by Pep Guardiola had bad tournaments. Sides who play post-Cruyffian football won the league in Spain, England and Germany, while Napoli came second in Serie A.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Russia stun Spain with penalty shootout win to reach quarter finals, Iago Aspas and Koke miss from the spot

July 1, 2018


“It started as one of Spain’s typical grand passing rondos, it grew over 90 minutes and then 120 into one of the biggest mountains of possession amassed since World Cup records began, and by the end it felt like this great generation of players had run out of fresh ideas. This was the remnants of the great world champions of 2010 passing the ball 1,114 times in a match but unable to score more goals than a Russia team who refused to be passed to death in the way that so many opponents have in the past. By the end Andres Iniesta looked close to tears, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos had been beaten again and the masterplan that had seen Spain dominate the first decade of the century looked more than a little tired.” Telegraph

Tiki-taxi for Spain as style becomes vice against Russia’s rearguard
“Tiki-taxi for Spain. On a slow-burn, increasingly wild afternoon at the Luzhniki Stadium the outstanding team of the age produced a quietly extraordinary performance, exiting the World Cup with surely the most statistically dominant losing game ever mustered up. At the end Spain’s players sat drained in the centre circle, ranged like red pegs in the same static formation that had seen them pass and move and pass and pass their way through the previous 120 minutes.” Guardian


Fernando Hierro – Spain’s emergency manager with a pastoral touch

June 30, 2018


“The message arrived very late on the night Spain played their opening match against Portugal, so Miguel Linares did not see it until the following morning. When he looked at his phone, he says he could hardly believe it: it was from the national team manager, Fernando Hierro. The day before Linares had announced that, out of contract at 35, he was leaving second division Real Oviedo, where he had played for four seasons. During one of them – and not an especially successful one in 2016-17 – his manager had been Hierro, who now wrote from Russia to wish him well and offer thanks for everything he had done.” Guardian


World Cup Knockout Stage Statistical Primer

June 29, 2018


“The World Cup enters its knockout stage this weekend, which means we’ll see heartbreak and joy in every game. From multigoal thrillers to dour defensive battles that lead to anxiety-inducing penalty shootouts, the emotional roller coaster is about to ramp up a notch. Here are some statistical primers derived from the World Cup data collected by StatsBomb during the group stages.” The Ringer


Melilla, Morocco vs. Spain and the World Cup’s Unique Football Rivalry

June 27, 2018

“On Monday night in Russia’s Kaliningrad Stadium, Morocco played Spain in another thrilling FIFA World Cup match. It was the first time the two countries—which have had a love-hate relationship for over a millennium—met since a two-legged 1962 World Cup playoffs tie. Nowhere on earth—with the exception of Ceuta—had the match such political resonances than in Melilla, which is, along with Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on Moroccan soil. Melilla, with its wide boulevards, modernist buildings and tapas bars, has a distinctly Spanish feel. Palm trees abound.” Bleacher Report


Brazil, Spain, Germany, France failing to find attacking balance

June 25, 2018


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“Football tactics are generally considered a mere necessary evil in football, discussed purely in terms of hampering individual freedom and disrupting opposition play. But tactical planning is also about attacking, about creating the right balance between different concepts to create a cohesive, harmonious but varied threat in the final third. Finding the balance in attack, combining different concepts and formulating how they come together smoothly is the most fascinating element of football strategy. An all-round attacking force offers various qualities: runs in behind, width to stretch play, movement to create gaps in the opposition, late runs from midfield, a target in the middle, a player between the lines to link play, and some degree of long-range, goal-scoring threat to ensure you don’t actually need to penetrate the defence. Limited to only three or four attacking individuals, however, coaches have a tricky balancing act. So far, none of the four favourites for World Cup 2018 — Brazil, Spain, Germany and France — have found the right balance.” ESPN – Michael Cox


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


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

June 25, 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


World Cup 2018: Diego Costa strikes lucky to down Iran and help Spain keep pace with Portugal

June 21, 2018

“Of course it was Diego Costa who broke the deadlock. He is a forward who bursts dreams as casually as others pop bubble-wrap, a player who, when his mood is right, gives the impression of being able to muster a goal from almost any circumstance. Half-chances, penalty box ricochets and opportunities wrestled from opposing centre-backs are his meat and drink. For 55 minutes, Spain had been held at arm’s length.” Independent – Jonathan Wilson


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


World Cup Scouting: David Silva

June 15, 2018

“The first marquee match of the 2018 World Cup is Spain against Portugal. The match had enough drama to stand on its own merits, one of the favorites to win the tournament playing against the current champions of Europe, and that was before a chaotic 48 hour whirlwind laid waste to Spain’s camp. In the space of two days Spain’s manager Julen Lopetegui was hired to manage Real Madrid, announced the news suddenly before it leaked, and then was fired over how it all went down.” StatsBomb


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


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


Russia 2018: Group B

June 4, 2018

“The defence is arguably the best in the competition. Even if Dani Carvajal isn’t fit, Cesar Azpilicueta is a fine replacement, with left-back Jordi Alba crucial for offering thrust and speed from the left. Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique aren’t friends off the pitch, but remain reliable as a defensive partnership, and David De Gea is surely the best goalkeeper at the tournament. There’s a slight question over Sergio Busquets, who is more isolated in this system and is increasingly lacking mobility. Nevertheless, Spain are rightly strong favourites for this group and probably overpriced to win the World Cup overall. …” oddschecker – Michael Cox


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


Saudi Stars Arrive in Spain, With One Eye on Russia

February 9, 2018

“VILLAREAL, Spain — After the website had crashed, but before the falcon arrived, Salem al-Dawsari was introduced by his new club. Inside the Estadio de la Cerámica, the banana-yellow-skinned home of the Spanish team Villarreal, a few dozen journalists had arrived to view Dawsari, a midfielder who had become something of a curiosity in the Spanish news media. For one, Dawsari was among the first players from Saudi Arabia to sign for a team in La Liga, Spanish soccer’s top league. But that was only part of the story. …” NY Times


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)


Tactical Analysis: England 2-2 Spain | Start of a transition for both teams

November 18, 2016

“England’s international friendly against Spain on the 15th November marked Gareth Southgate’s fourth game in charge of the Three Lions and a chance for Spain to make one more step towards regaining their identity as ‘La Furia Roja’. Despite incredible depths of talent within the two camps, both teams are looking to rebuild their confidence after disappointing stints at the European Championships over the summer, but this time without the old guard.” Outside of the Boot


Uno: La Historia De Un Gol (One: The Story Of A Goal)

September 15, 2016

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“While a bloody civil war rages at home, El Salvador’s national team travels to Spain for the 1982 World Cup — one of only two World Cup tournaments the nation has ever qualified for. In their opening match, they lose to Hungary, 10-1 – still the most lopsided defeat in World Cup history. But that goal, that one goal, scored by Luis Ramirez Zapata, remains a symbol of pride and joy for the tiny nation. This is the story of that goal and its continuing legacy.” Kicking and Screening (Video)


The New Manager Effect – Five Under the Radar European Managerial Changes to watch in 2016/17

July 30, 2016

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“The conclusion of the European football season, a time for fans to sit back and reflect on the season just passed for their club. To assess and debate whether or not it was a good, bad or merely average season. The owners and board members of clubs will also spend the summer months doing exactly the same thing, however, the one crucial difference is they must make a decision whether to continue with the incumbent manager or whether to make a change. For those that choose the latter option and make a change, there is no such thing as a summer break, negotiations and interviews remain ongoing until a suitable replacement has been found. Criteria is weighed up such as past success at clubs, experience, past performances at clubs counter-balanced alongside the financial situation said individuals inherited and whether or not a new inexperienced manager could add a breath of fresh air to a football club.” Outside of the Boot


Italy dominant, special in ousting reigning Euro champion Spain

June 27, 2016

“From Italy, this was magnificent, a display of intelligence and swagger to eclipse anything seen at this tournament so far. The 2-0 victory over two-time reigning European champion Spain in the Euro 2016 round of 16 was revenge for the final four years ago, for this was a victory every bit as comprehensive as Spain’s 4-0 win in Kyiv. For Spain, meanwhile, there was confirmation that the World Cup was not a one off. The magic has gone. This is a good side, but no longer a great one.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


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


The Ten Oldest Stadiums in Spain

November 21, 2015

“Before I start, I have to admit that there is a flaw in a club claiming to have the oldest stadium. It’s a bit like Trigger’s Broom (or Theseus’ Paradox if you’re that way inclined). Can something which has had all of its component parts replaced over the course of time, remain fundamentally the same? Well for the sake of this article, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. Quite simply here are the 10 oldest stadiums in Spain. Just a couple of criteria apply; The current stadium has to be on the site of the original ground and it must have hosted a match in any of Spain’s top three tiers. So in reverse order, in at number 10 is… ” Inside Spanish Football


Euro 2016: Are Spain over their World Cup hangover?

November 16, 2015

“Despite a solid record in qualifying of nine wins from 10 games, European champions Spain are facing several dilemmas as they prepare for the defence of their title in France next summer. Veteran coach Vicente del Bosque faces selection problems in several areas, and there is also a more general concern over La Roja’s playing style as they continue to address the lingering hangover from last summer’s World Cup finals campaign, where they made a shock group-stage exit. Going into Friday’s friendly with England, these are the main issues.” BBC


Talent Radar Young Defender Rankings: Bellerin climbs, and Gimenez makes the cut

November 3, 2015

“Judging the calibre of a young player is often a tricky task. Perceived potential has an important bearing in any consideration and is just one of the many parameters to consider when trying to quantify the ability of football’s young stars. To add a basis to what may be a leap of faith, it is useful to look back and trace the growth, or indeed lack thereof, in young players.” Outside of the Boot


Talent Radar Young Defender Rankings: Jordan Amavi, John Stones & Samuel Umtiti impress

September 27, 2015

“Judging the calibre of a young player is often a tricky task. Perceived potential has an important bearing in any consideration and is just one of the many parameters to consider when trying to quantify the ability of football’s young stars. To add a basis to what may be a leap of faith, it is useful to look back and trace the growth, or indeed lack thereof, in young players. Our Talent Radar Player Rankings, along-with our Talent Radar Team of the Weekdocuments the progress of youngsters across Europe, with those featuring in these regular pieces, eventually being recognised in our end of season Talent Radar Young Player Awards and 100 Best Young Players to Watch list. Read this document for all your queries on Talent Radar and explanation of the features under it.” Outside of the Boot


Homage to Murcia – A Season of Football Anarchy

September 18, 2015

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“Whilst the book is principally about travelling around Murcia ,with the fans CAP Ciudad de Murcia, I mixed with the ultras and hinchas of Cadiz, Athletic Club, Seville and SD Eibar as well meeting many British and Irish fans who get their kicks from following the Spanish games not so glamourous clubs. I went to over 50 matches in the 2013-14 and travelled to places as diverse as Bilbao, Gibraltar, Soria, Madrid and every nook and cranny of Murcia, searching for what makes the football sub-culture of Spain tick. I also discovered some of the lesser known football pioneers that brought football to Murcia and Spain in general including the Spanish Geordie Manny Pelegin who brought football to Lorca in the 1890s.” Homage to Murcia

Book review: Homage to Murcia – A Season of Football Anarchy by Tony Higgins
“Tony Higgins, long time friend of The Football Pink, has just released his first self-published e-book, Homage to Murcia: A Season of Football Anarchy, the title largely borrowed from George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia and chronicles Tony’s experiences of following Spanish lower league club Ciudad de Murcia, home and away, through the 2013/14 season. Immediately apparent in this book is his sense of disillusionment with modern football, something an ever-growing number of weary devotees are experiencing as corporate avarice continue its rampage across the values of the supposed game of the people.” Football Pink


On-field meddling, off-field brilliance form Pérez’s double-edged sword

June 4, 2015

“Florentino Pérez might be an idiot, at least it when comes to matters on the field, but off of the pitch, he could be a genius. Therein lies the double-edged sword that defines the Real Madrid president in his time at the helm of the world’s biggest club. In the past week ‘Uncle Flo’ has been universally panned for his impulsive firing of Carlo Ancelotti, who’s been replaced today by a far less desired Rafa Benítez. The former Valencia and Liverpool coach now has the dubious honor of being the 90th coach to serve under Pérez during the embattled president’s 12-year reign.” Fusion


Netherlands and Spain’s recent World Cup meetings have grown a rivalry

March 31, 2015

“Most football rivalries originate from geographic or political concerns, but the most intriguing are often those based purely upon football. In this respect, the 2010 and 2014 World Cup matches between the Netherlands and Spain, who meet again in Amsterdam on Tuesday night, have been significant enough to form a brand-new rivalry on the international stage. Before the 2010 final, these two countries had never previously met at a major tournament. They’d faced one another in friendlies, in qualifiers and in the Olympic Games of 1920, but there were no previous encounters to set the scene, to provide a backdrop for a chance of competitive revenge.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Watch the 8 Best Goals Scored by Premier League Managers

March 13, 2015

“Sam Allardyce | Bolton Wanderers vs. Ipswich Town. 21 April 1979. Big Sam gets accused of being many things: long ball merchant, unambitious, over indulgent at the buffet. But I can only accuse him of abandoning an excellent mustache. While playing for Bolton Wanderers, Allardyce scored this thunderbolt of a header against Ipswich Town. In the early 2000s, Allardyce’s returned to Bolton as manager and would take them back into the Premier League and the Europa League. Sadly, the mustache did not come with him.” 8 by 8 (Video)


Euro 2012: Croatia 0-1 Spain | Epitome of the Control of the Game

February 15, 2015

“At first glance, this may appear a strange game to select as representative of what is arguably the greatest international side of all time. Spain, capable at times of the most gloriously intricate football, produced a cautious and tentative display in their final group game of Euro 2012, and were only sure of qualifying at Croatia’s expense when substitute Jesus Navas netted in the 88th minute. Yet this match best epitomises what this Spanish team stood for: control of the game via possession of the ball.” Outside of the Boot


Simeone and Atlético are a perfect fit, but Cholo’s next step is on the horizon

January 14, 2015

“Long before he was introduced to hair gel, Diego Pablo Simeone was conducting an orchestra in Argentina. He was only 10 years old at the time, still in school and tasked with organizing children much older than him. But Bruno Amasino, the school’s music teacher and a ‘genius at playing the piano’ (Simeone’s words), disregarded his age. His leadership was far more important. Amasino clearly had a good eye. Thirty-four years later, the Atlético Madrid head coach is still leading, his restless patrol of Atleti’s technical area reminiscent of a highly-tuned jungle cat. Covered in black from head to toe and with that trademark gel swooping his hair back, he now appears to be auditioning for a part in a South American version of Goodfellas. On the contrary, Simeone’s too busy cementing his place as one of the elite coaches in world soccer.” Soccer Gods


Ranking the Top 10 Young Forwards so far in 2014-15: Depay & Alcacer swap positions

November 21, 2014

“Our Talent Radar Player Rankings, along-with our Talent Radar Team of the Week documents the progress of youngsters across Europe’s top six leagues, with those featuring in these regular pieces, eventually being recognised in our end of season Talent Radar Young Player Awards and 100 Best Young Players to Watch list. Read this document for all your queries on Talent Radar and explanation of the features under it.” Outside of the Boot


Tales of Spain’s Fall May Be a Bit Too Early

November 17, 2014

“Condolences to Spanish soccer, for the losses it has suffered in 2014 might be premature. The manner in which it surrendered the World Cup, followed by a loss in Slovakia in European Championship qualifying last month, brought all manner of condemnation to the national team. La Roja, it was said, was falling apart. The team was old, with its central pillars of Xavi Hernández and Xabi Alonso retiring from the national cause. And though he had a winning percentage of more than .800 since he took over in 2008, Coach Vicente del Bosque was considered past tense.” NY Times


Clyne, Callejon and Talisca get their chance at international level

November 17, 2014

England v Slovenia - EURO 2016 Qualifier
“In the aftermath of the World Cup, with national teams beginning a new, four-year cycle, there have been plenty of debutants for major nations recently. Here are three players who were hoping to earn their first caps this week and how they might influence the play of their respective national teams, should they become regulars.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Checking In on Europe’s World Cup Heavyweights: What’s New in the Old World?

November 14, 2014

“… But guess what? We’ve got another international break on our hands, so there’s no club soccer until next weekend. And since it’s the last such intermission of the year, let’s check in with your favorite European World Cup squads as they’re about to put a bow on 2014.” Grantland


The 5 best soccer mascots based on cuddliness, adorability, and influence on team success

September 10, 2014

“You would be hard-pressed to find another sport that’s had a revolution in analysis the likes of which soccer has experienced in the last few years. Where a decade ago post-match analysis began and ended with guts, determination and hustle, the modern pundit relies on an array of technical minutiae to justify their conclusions. Tactics, heat maps, possession rates, successful dribbles, aerial duels won, distribution percentages, expected goal differentials, goal impact, man-marking, zonal marking, expected goals created, inverted wingers, inverted full backs, false nines, false coaches, training methods, choice of breakfast, team selection, nominal GDPs, and even jersey tightness are just some of the tools in use to break down a team’s performance.” Fusion


A Tiny Club’s Uneasy Rise

July 27, 2014

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“This month, Toni Kroos and Lionel Messi played in the World Cup final in front of nearly 75,000 people at Rio de Janeiro’s Estádio do Maracanã. Soon, however, these star players will discover the challenge of playing at Ipurúa, a hillside stadium with 5,250 seats that is home to Eibar, the new kid on the block in Spanish soccer. Tiny Eibar has needed more than just victories to join La Liga, Spain’s top division, and earn the right to challenge Kroos and his Real Madrid teammates or Messi and his fellow Barcelona players. After winning promotion in late May from the second division, Eibar faced a race against the clock to raise 1.72 million euros, or $2.32 million, and meet regulations on how much capital a top-division club should have.” NY Times


Spain ’82: My First World Cup

July 9, 2014

“The first World Cup I remember was Spain ’82. I was eleven and in my fifth year of primary school and living at the Holy Child Teacher Training College, in Ikot Ekpene, in southern Nigeria, where my mother taught home economics. This is about an hour from my village. It was two years since I watched Nigeria’s Green Eagles (as they were called then) defeat Algeria to lift the African Cup of Nations for the first time, in 1980. I remember the three goals against the Desert Foxes, or Les Fennecs, by Segun (Mathematical) Odegbami and Muda Lawal and the celebrations that swept through the land. The image of our captain, Christian (Chairman) Chukwu, lifting the cup after the game was something to behold.” New Yorker