Julen Lopetegui – From World Cup to Nothing…

First of all let us just rewind the clock to June this year…

A feast of summer football is about to begin in Russia, the World Cup 2018 is upon us and the usual suspects are fancied to contest the latter stages of the biggest tournament in the game.

Spain, quite rightly – are tipped by many – due to their talent pool and their unbeaten run in qualification which saw them win all but one game, topping a group also containing Italy.

Having arrived in Russia for the tournament, it was announced that Lopetegui would take over as the Head Coach of Real Madrid on a three-year contract after the conclusion of Spain’s involvement at the World Cup.

The following day, he was dismissed from his job with the national team after the SFF stated it was unaware of the talks between one of its countries biggest clubs and Lopetegui.

Surprisingly Spain were eliminated by the host nation in the last 16, but this just left unanswered questions for the former Porto gaffer and a spotlight that turned out to be too bright in the dugout of the Santiago Bernabeu.

Fast forward just a matter of weeks and before the festive period is upon us – Julen Lopetegui has been dismissed as Manager of Real Madrid after a less than impressive, unacceptable start to life in the Spanish capital.

julenlopetegui.jpg

Fair to say that the board didn’t hold back in their statement either “there is great disproportion between the quality of staff of Real Madrid”

Played 14 – Won 6 – Drawn 2 – Lost 6

To have lost as many as you have won whilst in charge of one of the world’s biggest clubs is cause for concern enough. However it is the manner of loss and against whom that has forced Florentino Perez to act accordingly.

UEFA Super Cup defeat to City rival Atletico followed by a stalemate against the same opponent in La Liga. A resounding 3-0 loss to Sevilla, back to back humiliations against Alaves and Levante with an unthinkable CSKA disaster in the UCL. Most recently, a 5-1 demolition at the hands of a Barcelona minus Messi was an embarrassment too far.

The 52-year-old will be “provisionally replaced” by ex-player Santiago Solari, coach of B team Castilla. But there is a twist that will need untangled and quickly…

Under Spanish regulations, an interim coach can be at the helm for a fortnight – but must be appointed officially after 15 days, or not at all.

Longer term, Former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is widely expected to replace the former goalkeeper and become Real’s 3rd manager this calendar year.

Following the surprise resignation of treble Champions League winner Zidane was always going to be a tough ask, but to replace him without a certain Cristiano Ronaldo in your side is even harder.

Lopetegui’s overriding error was that he did not make moves to replace the talisman nor seek assurances around his future before accepting the position. You’d have to suggest that Zizou knew what was on the horizon.

With his reputation damaged by his recent decisions both on and off the pitch, it will take a sensational recovery if Lopetegui has aspirations to remain a high level coach.

A shocking 2018 can’t end soon enough for the Spaniard, what a miserable few months he’s had.

Julen Lopetegui image sourced from www.standard.co.uk

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Ajax, PSV & Feyenoord – Doing their bit for the Dutch

A well-deserved round of applause for the Dutch sides that have taken the unprecedented step of sharing all European earnings made this season with the rest of the Eredivisie.

Ajax and PSV have made it to the group stages of the Champions League whereas Feyenoord came up short in the Europa League, having been knocked out in the qualifying round.

However, the disappointment of the men from Rotterdam is a mere blip compared to the gesture made.

The country’s three biggest clubs have agreed to give 10% of their earnings to the rest of the league, as a way of ensuring Dutch football doesn’t fall too far behind.

To give some perspective, Group stage qualification in the UCL is worth roughly £20m and Ajax currently sit top of their group having gained a well-earned draw with German giants Bayern Munich.

The intention? To improve the overall standard of Dutch football and aid the removal of plastic pitches.

As it stands an additional and unexpected £4m is about to be ploughed into the game in Holland and this will soften the blow of a newly proposed league structure to those unfortunate enough who will have to drop out of the top division.

A new structure will see the Eredivise drop from 18 sides to 16 with end of season play offs, with the future top division being separated much like the Belgian top tier.

The Belgian league system currently consists of 16 teams and at the end of the season the top 6 clubs qualify for a Championship play-off.

While places 7 to 15 qualify for Europa League play-off system and the bottom side gets relegated to the 2nd tier. However, any final changes are yet to be disclosed.

With the national side failing to reach Russia 2018 and Euro 2016, the agreement is also seen as a way to aid the nation and stop the slide.

Needless to say the recent 3-0 victory of Germany will have raised hopes once more.

All of the talk of single figure millions will sound like a drop in the ocean to any follower of and English Premier League side, but outside the bubble that Sky and BT provide – this is how football is for many leagues all over the continent.

Perhaps other countries could ask their regular European teams to forgo a small percentage of their added income to aid both club and country?

The media have labelled it all “the stronger the opponent, the stronger you will become,”

Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord have shown the way for others to follow.

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Image sourced from @caughtoffside‘s Twitter page

Jadon Sancho – A BIG future

This week saw the unexpected yet deserved inclusion of Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho into Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the upcoming Uefa Nations League games against Spain and Croatia. With him being a relative unknown to many, it’s worth profiling this exciting attacking talent and detailing why he is in the Bundesliga and not the EPL.

Sancho, at the age of 17, made the brave decision to leave Premier League title favourites Manchester City last summer.

The Cityzens had offered fresh terms and had planned to take him on their pre-season tour of the USA in order to provide him with some game time.

Like many an Englishman before him Sancho decided that his future lay elsewhere after becoming worried that his 1st team involvement would be limited at The Etihad.

The soon-to-be England international joined City from Watford at the age of 14 and played regularly in 2016-17 in the under-18 league and the Uefa Youth League – as well as seven appearances in the Premier League 2, England’s reserve league.

On deadline day in August 2017 the surprise move to Borussia Dortmund came about.

Sancho was instantly given the squad number of 7, left vacant by Ousmane Dembele’s switch to Barcelona. The transfer fee a reported £8m.

The teenager was called up to the England Under-17 World Cup squad in October 2017, although Dortmund were reluctant to allow him to leave to represent his country at this level.

Sancho scored three goals in three group games – but was then recalled by the German club before the knockout stages on the understanding from all parties, including the FA that Sancho was about to be unleashed in the yellow and black.

Sancho duly made his Dortmund debut days later, as a late substitute against Eintracht Frankfurt, and also featured against Bayern Munich two weeks later.

England deservedly went on to win the Under-17 World Cup, with Sancho getting a winner’s medal.

He ended the season with one goal and four assists from 12 Bundesliga games, including seven starts.

The International Champions Cup competition, the new pre-season friendly threw together Sancho and City.

The winger impressed with his quick feet and ability to take men on as the Bundesliga side beat the Premier League champions 1-0 and this set him up for this current season firmly in manager Lucien Favre’s plans.

jadon-sancho-image

He has had a brilliant start to the 2018-19 season and has set up more goals than any player in the Bundesliga, the Londoner has set up six league goals in as many appearances.

Sancho has also added his name to a scoresheet with a strike in a 7-0 demolition of Nuremberg recently.

He has started both Champions League games this season.

He has set up a total of eight goals, including one in the German Cup against lower league Greuther Furth.

Rumour also has it, that he has had his wrist slapped for continuously nutmegging his team mates in training, perhaps the exuberance of youth but experience will teach behaviours.

Perhaps most importantly his form has been rewarded with a contract extension seeing him put pen to paper on a deal until 2022.

He could well be the future of the English national side and Man City’s loss could be a nation’s gain.

Image sourced from; www.fourfourtwo.com

UEFA Nations League – What is it? How does it work?

UEFA’s latest competition is underway and whilst it is just getting started the format does leave a lot of individuals confused.

All 55 UEFA nations have been split into 4 tiers (Leagues A-D)

Each league has league has 4 groups and for some there is the hope of Euro 2020 qualification.

The sides in each group will play home and away in a 10-week period between September and November 2018 , with the team finishing top of each section being promoted to a higher tier and the nation finishing bottom dropping down one.

Still with us?

In a final flourish, the four nations who win the groups in the top tier (League A) will advance to a knockout finals next June to decide the Nations League winner. So there will be some silverware on offer for those superior nations.

With the winner of the Nations League decided, what about this Euro 2020 qualification hope? This is where it all becomes REALLY confusing!

The traditional qualifying groups for Euro 2020 will still go ahead, finish in the top 2 in your group and you’re in the finals. Boom, nice and simple.

However with 10 groups x 2 qualification places that would leave Euro 2020 four nations short.

Back we go to the Nations League…

The four group winners in each tier will then play-off in March for a first crack at claiming one of those four vacant spots.

However, should a nation already have qualified, their place will go to the next highest-ranked team from their Nations League tier. To confuse things further, that will not necessarily be the runners-up in their group.

uefa-nations-league-euro-2020-qualifying.jpg

If we haven’t explained it properly or your head is extremely sore we’ve included the links for the official videos below:-
https://www.uefa.com/uefanationsleague/video1
https://www.uefa.com/uefanationsleague/video2

The official line from UEFA is “different, not complex”

Not sure we agree, but it will certainly be fun trying to work out what’s going on as this competition progresses.

Qualification image sourced from; www.goal.com

Scotland vs England – European Nights

It took extra time at the end of Thursday’s 2nd leg to see EPL side Burnley finally overcome a spirited Aberdeen side at Turf Moor, however let it be said that there was no disgrace in the defeat for the side from north of the border, you could argue that they could even stake a claim for a moral victory.

With both legs finishing 1-1 it was a Jack Cork header and an Ashley Barnes penalty that sent Derek McInnes’ men home, home with their heads held extremely high.

The much maligned Scottish game has been given a further shot in the arm this week with the progression of Celtic, Rangers and Hibs in their respective ties with hope of group stages still burning.

Burnley finished 7th in the “best league in the world” last season banking an estimated £120m.

In comparison Aberdeen finished 2nd in the Scottish Premiership adding a staggering £2.5m to their bank account.

Chris Wood is Burnley’s record signing (£15m) and scored their opener in the 2nd leg. Aberdeen’s starting frontman was a £20k purchase from Carlisle this summer.

Burnley’s Starting XI cost £38.85m vs Aberdeen’s starting XI at £190k

We feel we’ve made our point but just to add further proof, If you look back at the clashes since the 1980’s you’ll probably be surprised by the numbers…

The last 5 ties between Scottish and English club sides in competitive football have all ended as stalemates.

Played 34: Scottish Wins – 7     Draws – 14     English Wins – 13

Aberdeen 0-1 Liverpool, 1980/81 European Cup first round
Liverpool 3-1 Aberdeen, 1980/81 European Cup first round
Ipswich 1-1 Aberdeen, 1981/82 UEFA Cup first round
Aberdeen 3-1 Ipswich, 1981/82 UEFA Cup first round
Nottingham Forest 0-0 Celtic, 1983/84 UEFA Cup third round
Celtic 1-2 Nottingham Forest, 1983/84 UEFA Cup third round
Manchester United 2-2 Dundee United, 1984/85 UEFA Cup third round
Dundee United 2-3 Manchester United, 1984/85 UEFA Cup third round
Rangers 2-1 Leeds, 1992/93 UEFA Champions League second round
Leeds 1-2 Rangers, 1992/93 UEFA Champions League second round
Celtic 2-2 Liverpool, 1997/98 UEFA Cup first round
Liverpool 0-0 Celtic, 1997/98 UEFA Cup first round
Celtic 1-0 Blackburn, 2002/03 UEFA Cup second round
Blackburn 0-2 Celtic, 2002/03 UEFA Cup second round
Celtic 1-1 Liverpool, 2002/03 UEFA Cup quarter-finals
Liverpool 0-2 Celtic, 2002/03 UEFA Cup quarter-finals
Rangers 0-1 Manchester United, 2003/04 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Manchester United 3-0 Rangers, 2003/04 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Manchester United 3-2 Celtic, 2006/07 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Celtic 1-0 Manchester United, 2006/07 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Manchester United 3-0 Celtic, 2008/09 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Celtic 1-1 Manchester United, 2008/09 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Celtic 0-2 Arsenal, 2009/10 UEFA Champions League play-offs
Arsenal 3-1 Celtic, 2009/10 UEFA Champions League play-offs
Manchester United 0-0 Rangers, 2010/11 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Rangers 0-1 Manchester United, 2010/11 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Hearts 0-5 Tottenham, 2011/12 UEFA Europa League play-offs
Tottenham 0-0 Hearts, 2011/12 UEFA Europa League play-offs
Hearts 0-1 Liverpool, 2012/13 UEFA Europa League play-offs
Liverpool 1-1 Hearts, 2012/13 UEFA Europa League play-offs
Celtic 3-3 Manchester City, 2016/17 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Manchester City 1-1 Celtic, 2016/17 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Aberdeen 1-1 Burnley, 2018/19 UEFA Europa League qualifying
Burnley 1-1 Aberdeen, 2018/19 UEFA Europa League qualifying

It’s about time we put all of this “pub league” nonsense to bed, football in Scotland can provide just as much quality as the game in England. Despite all of the social media rubbish posted by clueless supporters looking for a cheap like or comment.

Money runs the game as we all know – but just try telling that to Sean Dyche who was probably wondering how he would explain a defeat to a Scottish side to the media after their recent scare.

Aberdeen, you did yourselves, your fans and your nation proud.

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England & Scotland fan image sourced from; www.mirror.co.uk

Russia 2018 – The Final Showdown

32 nations arrived in Russia last month to contest the 2018 World Cup, we’ve seen some surprises amongst the shocks and now we’re left with just two nations, both desperate to get their hands on the Jules Rimet trophy.

Sunday in Moscow will see 1998 winners France, take 1998 3rd placed Croatia, in what has turned out to be an all European final. Somewhat hammering home the recent dominance to those in South America.

Image result for france vs croatia

France under Didier Deschamps appear to have put the disappointment Euro 2016 behind them by making a 2nd successive major final (just as they did back in 98 & 00) and will start the game as favourites given their navigated route and the players at their disposal. A magnificent 5th final in 20 years is something special, just like this French team.

Deschamps himself has the chance to add his name to an exclusive list – by winning the World Cup as both player and manager, only 2 others have achieved this magnificent feat before. All this, after calls for him to go during the qualification stage after a home draw with Luxembourg.

Other than a drab draw with Denmark in the last group game, Les Bleus have been impressive and deserve their final berth given the level of opposition that they’ve seen off. The successes over Belgium, Uruguay and Argentina in the knockout stages have been impressive.

With Lloris, Varane, Kante and Griezmann the spin of the side is remarkably strong and they’ll be looking to rid themselves of a disappointing extra time defeat to Portugal in the Euros.

Croatia have made the final by whatever means possible, all 3 knockout games have required settling out with the originally scheduled 90mins. Penalty defeats of Denmark and Russia were followed by a Mandzukic winner deep into extra time vs England.

Appearing in their 1st final it will be up to the likes Modric and Rakitic to impose themselves in the midfield to give the Croats any chance.

Coach Zlatko Dalic only took the post last October following the sacking of Ante Cacic, upon arriving, Dalic announced that he would only remain head coach if Croatia qualified for the tournament. Safe to say he could potentially have a job for life should Sunday’s game swing in their favour.

Past meetings

  • July 8, 1998 FRANCE WON 2-1 (1998 World Cup)
  • November 13, 1999 FRANCE WON 3-0 (International Friendly)
  • May 28, 2000 FRANCE WON 2-0 (International Friendly)
  • June 17, 2004 DRAW 2-2 (Euro 2004)
  • March 29, 2011 DRAW 0-0 (International Friendly)

History will point to a straight forward victory and a 2nd title for France and we don’t disagree with what the stats show.

We are predicting a comfortable 3-1 win for the French in a game that will prove a step too far for Croatia.

2018_fifa_world_cup_trophy_russia

All the best to both nations, let’s hope for a fitting final for what has been a great tournament.

France v Croatia Image Sourced From; www.thetelegraph.co.uk/world-cup
Russia 2018 Trophy Image Sourced From; www.theweek.co.uk

Russia 2018 – 1st Round Of Matches

We’ve had the opening ceremony, tested the VAR and had our chance to run our eyes over every qualified nation at this summer’s World Cup.

We’ve seen drab draws, deserved defeats and a genuine WC classic.

From rampant Russia to the organised Swiss we take a brief look at how each group is shaping up heading into the 2nd week at Russia 2018.

Group A

We all expected the Saudi’s to be making up the numbers in group A and their performance showed that they are still lacking at this level, Russia however surprised even their own. Many articles wrote off the hosts (including ours) but despite the opposition, they did a job on Saudi Arabia and scored some great goals to set the standard for the upcoming matches.

Egypt and Uruguay looked destined for the 0-0 that the Pharaohs arrived for. Leaving most attacking talent on the bench, they wanted to nick a point against Suarez and co. A late header from unlikely centre half Jimenez made Salah’s head drop but ultimately made him feel the pain that his coach’s negative tactics warranted.

Next up – Russia vs Egypt & Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia

Group B

Well well, Iran currently top a group containing the mighty Spain and reigning European Champions Portugal. A draw between the neighbours wasn’t an unsurprising result but Iran sneaking a late win over Morocco certainly was. The Moroccans will have banked on a winning start to give them momentum heading into clashes with the big two.

Spain and Portugal still heavy favourites to progress without incident.

Next Up – Portugal vs Morocco & Iran vs Spain

Group C

It started with France in all of their French ways. A tight 2-1 victory over the battling Aussies aided by both VAR and Goal Line technology, there is more to come from Deschamps men but they’ll need to improve quickly with the dangerous duo of Denmark and Peru to come. Speaking of the latter two, they played out one of the more underrated games we’ve seen. Peru blazed a penalty over the bar at a crucial time and the Danes took their chance when it came. Pardoned captain Guerrero came on to trouble Schmeichel over and over but you got a feeling it just wasn’t their day as the ball trickled past the post and cleared off lines.

Next Up – Denmark vs Australia & France vs Peru

Group D

The mighty Iceland strike again! Fresh from their Euro 2016 heroics, into their 1st World Cup and followed to Eastern Europe by a 10th of their population – they held their nerve better that little Lionel did from 12 yards. Croatia saw off the Nigerian challenge as expected, leaving the door a jar for Iceland to take it to the final game shootout with Croatia.

Next Up – Argentina vs Croatia & Nigeria vs Iceland

Argentina-vs-Iceland-Image.jpg

Group E

A Kolarov stunner lit up and otherwise uneventful opener between 2014 surprise package Costa Rica and a potentially dangerous Serbia. Mitrovic spurned a few chances before a wonderful free kick from the skipper captured a crucial 3 points. In the other game, the Brazilian boys were met with Swiss steel. A Coutinho curler was cancelled out by a simple cross / header combination leaving Neymar frustrated and not just with amount of “treatment” he was receiving.

Next Up – Brazil vs Costa Rica & Serbia vs Switzerland

Group F

World Cup shock anyone? Germany 0-1 Mexico

A counter attacking and literally earth moving goal was enough for the Mexicans. A fine solo strike from PSV’s Lozano was enough to spark wild celebration back home, wild enough to register on the Richter scale! Germany huffed and puffed but couldn’t find the elusive equaliser despite 21 attempts and high levels of possession.

The turn up for the books allowed Sweden to take advantage with a narrow victory over South Korea, leaving the World Champions with a lot of work to do and potentially relying on results elsewhere.

Next Up – South Korea vs Mexico & Germany vs Sweden

Group G

Unlike every other group so far this one happened as it was supposed to. Belgium comfortably eased past Panama and Kane scored a double to wrestle 3 points from Tunisia.

This group will go down to the last game to decide top spot with the others fighting it out to go home with some pride.

Next Up – England vs Panama & Belgium vs Tunisia

Group H

We had a fair amount of late drama but this group opened up with plenty. Just 3 minutes in and Columbia were down to 10 men giving Kagawa an easy opportunity to get Japan off and running. A clever free kick deceived all in the wall but even a James-inspired Columbia couldn’t kick on and fell victim to a deadly set piece leaving them deflated and defeated.

Poland have turned themselves into regular qualifiers in the past few championships but you got the feeling they massively underestimated a Senegal squad filled with equally underestimated talent. This game showed that you can have a quality player such a Lewandowski but that can’t match a quality squad such as the Senegalese. They could surprise again just like back in 2002.

Next Up – Japan vs Senegal & Poland vs Columbia

Poland-vs-Senegal-Image

Russia have already laid a marker with another 3 goals and in turn sending Egypt back to the hotel to start packing.

Roll on the remainder of round 2!

Iceland vs Argentina image sourced from; www.goal.com
Senegal vs Poland image sourced from; www.totalsportek.com

Russia 2018 – The World is Waiting

The wait is almost over, in just a few days World Cup 2018 will kick off with host nation Russia entertaining Saudi Arabia with the eyes of the other 30 competing countries watching on awaiting their chance to lay down an early marker in the competition.

We’ve looked through the squads, the stats and can provide our tips for the tournament.

Winners

For us it’s proving very difficult to look past Brazil, the 5 time winners boast Neymar, Firmino and Coutinho among their attacking threat. A favourable group draw and their tournament experience will stand them in good stead in Russia.

A tricky qualification was navigated with ease, Tite’s men finished 10, 13 and 14 points ahead of nearest challengers Uruguay, Argentina and Columbia respectively.

Despite them being prone to a big stage wobble in recent times (defeats to France, Holland and the famous 7-1 against Germany) we are backing the South Americans to wrestle back a trophy last won by them in 2002 and end the recent European dominance.

Brazil-Team.png

Dark Horses

It seems like an obvious choice and maybe not even a dark horse shout but the Belgians look in terrifying shape.

A starting XI with a spine of Courtouis, Vertonghen, De Bruyne, Hazard and Lukaku will make any opposition re-evaluate their tactics.

Unbeaten in qualification with 28 points from 30, a record only bettered by current World Champions Germany and scoring a tasty 43 goals over the 10 games proves they are in great form.

A golden generation expected to impress and justify their world ranking of 3.

The only downside for us is the manager. It’s hard to imagine a footballing world where Roberto Martinez can add a Jules Rimet trophy win to his CV.

Belguim-Team

1st Plane Home

Now whilst they may not necessarily need a plane Russia is such a vast country that a lot of players may be taking long trips home after just the 1st week of their own competition.

Injuries mean that CSKA defender Viktor Vasin and key man Zenit St Petersburg’s Aleksandr Kokorin miss out. A late call up for a 39 year old Ignashevich indicate their struggles.

You’d fancy Uruguay to top Group A leaving 2nd place to be fought out by the hosts, an unknown Saudi side and a Salah inspired Egypt. The latter being our picks to sneak into the knockout rounds.

Russia-Flag-Image

Surprise Package

Any team that comes through South American qualifying cannot be underestimated. Add into this a victory over the French back in March and you have a side that could surprise and go a long way in this World Cup.

Columbia are the side we are talking about.

Their recently announced squad are littered with players from Munich, Milan and Barca.

James and Falcao will lead Los Cafeteros but will have the likes of Carlos Bacca, Davinson Sanchez and Juan Cuadrado backing them up, not to mention their wild fanbase!

Columbia-Fans-Image

Top Goalscorer

We feel England could be coming home with a trophy this time around, Harry Kane is in with a great chance of returning with the golden boot to make up for losing his PL crown to Mo Salah.

England should progress through the group with a game to spare and you wouldn’t bet against Kane being on the scoresheet against both Panama and Tunisia.

Goals against the lesser opposition should rid the three lions of any nerves and lead them into the last 16 with a striker bang in form.

Captain Kane could notch 5-7 with relative ease over in Russia.

England v Turkey - International Friendly

Players Destined for the Post Tournament Move

We’ve picked out three to watch throughout the duration of the competition that appear destined for bigger things within the game.

Timo Werner – Germany

The young striker is currently starring for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.

In the Germany squad and whilst he may not feature prominently he’ll provide a good option from the bench. A potential replacement for Lewandowski should he leave Bayern as expected.

Leander Dendoncker – Belgium

One of the lesser mentioned Belgian galacticos is the Anderlecht defensive midfielder. Just the 4 caps to his name currently but making the cut ahead of the likes of Nainggolan shows a lot of faith.

Don’t be surprised to see top 10 PL side make a bid in August.

Kahraba – Egypt

Despite the reports Egypt are more than a one man team.

Kahraba is the nickname of 23-year-old winger Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim, who is currently on loan at Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad from Egyptian giants Zamalek. In Arabic, Kahraba means electricity. He is a pacey direct winger and with the groups his nation find themselves in he could prove a vital part in navigating the Egyptians through to the knockout rounds.

Timo-Werner-Image

The stadiums are built, the friendlies are over and the stage is well and truly set.

We’re all hoping for a footballing summer to remember from Eastern Europe.

The world is waiting, World Cup 2018, let’s see what you’ve got!

The Brazil 2018 team image is sourced from; www.sportsbible.co.uk/football
The Belguim 2018 team image is sourced from; www.vivaonnews.com
The Russia flag image is sourced from; www.depositphotos.com
The Columbia fans image is sourced from; www.panamericaneworld.com
Harry Kane image is sourced from; www.metro.co.uk
Timo Werner image is sourced from; www.bundesliga.com

Europe vs The World – The Battle of the Best 11

With the World Cup just a few weeks away and with the best players on the planet preparing to lead their respective nations in Russia, we wondered what the best XI’s would look like if it was the EU vs. the rest of the world (ROW).

We have stuck purely to nationality and put aside their club’s locations, this way we get to keep Messi and Ronaldo on opposite sides!

Have a look, cast judgement over our sides and comment on who we’ve missed or who has no place on the pitch?

Europe XI

A strong Premier League spine to our European side with added La Liga flair.

De Gea, Kante, De Bruyne and Kane provide safe hands, phenomenal work rate, creativity and goals.

A defence made in Germany with Munich’s Hummels and Kimmich accompanied by Spain’s Alba and France’s Varane from La Liga.

Kante and new wonderkid – Asensio, in the middle with and amazing trio of Griezmann, De Bruyne and CR7 all in behind Harry Kane. Safe to say that any goal scored against the below World XI will be claimed by the Tottenham man. Now we’ve all seen Ronaldo’s tantrums when someone tries to take a goal from him!

Mentions for players missing out include Ramos, Hazard and the difficult omission of Kieran Tierney!

Onto the best of the rest World XI…..

World XI.jpeg

Perhaps unsurprisingly that the South American superpowers of Brazil and Argentina make up a good proportion of this side.

Roma’s wanted-keeper Allison has the gloves, with an interesting centre half pairing of the reliable Uruguayan Godin and solid Senegalese Koulibaly. Either side of these, there was a no contest in our eyes with Alves and Marcelo, serial winners and are both equally as good going forward as at the back.

The Midfield has been collated to counter balance their opponents. Casemiro and Vidal provide good distribution. Perhaps the most surprising inclusion of Naby Keita could be the key? The box-to-box midfielder who isn’t afraid of a challenge could nullify counter attacks.

Up top it was straight forward. Messi, Neymar and future Ballon D’or winner Mo Salah. Do we need to justify these selections? Thought not.

No Suarez, Cavani, Firmino or Sanchez – we felt they weren’t quite up to level we wanted to put against the Europeans this time.

Now remember that it’s never easy to throw out 22 options and be 100% correct, the teams are open to interpretation and change but we believe they are as close as can be.

Perhaps with all the glamour friendlies that go on pre, mid and post season we will get to see the best each side can offer – go head-to-head for a good cause and for the pure interest of every football fan around the globe.

Team images created with the Footballsilo App.

York City – The Demise of the Minstermen

On a chilly Tuesday North West evening, a near 400 strong York City diehards made the journey along the M62 to Manchester in the hope of seeing their side grab a vital 3 points in their search for a Play Off place in National League North.

What they got was an abject performance and a 1-0 defeat at the hands of FC United virtually confining them to another season in English football’s 6th tier.

This, just days after the 1-0 defeat to 10 man Gainsborough Trinity, a result which has been described as the worst in the clubs recent history.

York-City-Players-Image

The Minstermen had returned to the football league in 2012 after an eight year absence however back-to-back relegations have left them with league football being nothing other than a distant memory.

When departing League Two in the 2015/16 season they were under the charge of former Partick Thistle and Dundee United Manager Jackie McNamara. Prior to his dismissal at Tannadice, he had led the SPL club to back-to-back Cup Finals so appeared a solid choice.

After the drop and a record showing just 8 wins from 48 games, it was announced that the former Scotland right back would leave his position. However he would continue in a caretaker capacity until a successor was found. Interesting we hear you say, well just hold that thought….

Once former Manager Gary Mills was re-appointed, McNamara didn’t leave the club as originally planned. He moved upstairs and took on the role of Chief Executive.

How? Why? What?

Martin Gray is now the man in the dugout and will be tasked with leading York into next season despite the poor end to this one. The club’s Chairman Jason Mcgill and the afore mentioned McNamara have recently left the club with immediate effect leaving a new board room set up in place.

The new regime have a “challenging” campaign and “mammoth task” ahead of them according to York’s Financial Management Consultant Peter Rookes. The most recent accounts have revealed a £500k loss. Gray has added that he is happy to see an end to “open cheque book” recruitment and is urging the board to pay salaries more in line with sixth tier standards.

With ex-league players such as Aiden Connolly, Josh Low, Michael Rankine and big Jon Parkin in their ranks, York do have all the ingredients to start the painful climb back up the pyramid. They only have themselves to blame for currently mixing it with the likes of Brackley and Curzon Ashton.

On a brighter note, work has started on their new home. An 8,000 all seater community stadium at Monks Cross will see football and rugby league combine to strut their stuff at the start of the 2019/20 season. Surely the club will be determined to depart Bootham Cresent on a high and head into their new home in a higher division?

York-Monks-Street-Stadium-Image

The club is up for sale with interested parties having only a few days left to declare an interest. Hopefully better times ahead for those 400+ that made the long journey home after trudging away from FC United last week.

York City Players Image Sourced From; www.yorkpress.co.uk/sport
York City Monks Cross Image Sourced From; www.thenonleaguefootballpaper.com