Category: Sports Update

Liverpool Tries to Widen the Gap

The Reds take on Stoke City at Britannia Stadium with kick off time at 5:30 pm GMT. They are presently on a great run, as their last loss was to Tottenham last November, have chalked up five wins and four draws and are motivated to continue their unbeaten streak.

The Reds have to win this game, after some people believed was a lackluster showing during their home game at Anfield. A first half strike by captain Steven Gerrard was disallowed for offside earning protests from the fans and the Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez and his coaching staff. It could have given Liverpool the win and increase their lead. Instead the disallowed goal gave Stoke the necessary inspiration to play aggressively in defense the rest of the game. Thomas Sorensen thwarted Robbie Keane’s strike in the second half while Andy Griffin made a late goal-line clearance as they held the leaders on to a 0-0 score. This time, Liverpool are hoping to achieve a better football result.

Club manager Rafael Benitez will have an almost complete squad of players to choose from for this match as previously injured players Martin Skrtel, Fabio Aurelio and Fernando Torres have recuperated and returned to the side. Javier Mascherano has an ankle knock but is expected to recover while Alvaro Arbeloa has been given additional time to heal his hamstring problem. Midfielder Xabi Alonso, who picked up an injury which required seven stitches in his foot during the team’s FA Cup victory over Preston , is hurt with the severity of his injury still unknown until now. Benitez is hoping that the midfielder’s condition improves at the end of the week before making the decision to see if Alonso is fit to be included in the match against the Potteries. Young Argentinean left back Emiliano Insua shall not be joining the team as he has departed for international duty to join the Under-20 South American Championships in Venezuela and represent his country. Insua has started at the left back position for four games straight. He shall be gone until February 8.

Gerrard, in the meantime, has to prove himself once more. He produced a remarkable performance during the game against Preston which saw him end the match with an assist to Torres for the goal that insured Liverpool’s advance into the fourth round, a performance that earned him praises from his manager and the fans. He was under scrutiny of the press and the English football fans after news about his alleged involvement and subsequently being charged with assault and affray was reported by the media.

Benitez initially wanted to rest him during the match against Preston but immediately decided against it once the news broke out. Supporters of the club want to see how the England midfielder shall play at the time when his personal life suffered a blow. And they hope that his good run of form shall continue as the club strives for premiership supremacy.

England’s Interesting Approach down the Line

Part of England’s approach to the game in general, which materializes in possession, is the need to possess the ball with purpose and to dominate the line with passes.

Typically, an English team will be seen making the same pass down the line between three players, essentially getting each player to practically the same position that the previous one was in. Depending on who you ask, it becomes clear that some parts of the field are more important than others. Having said that, critics would argue that the same pass down the line between three players takes England nowhere except down the line for the ongoing battle of the line.

Why is this the case? Why is the line so important? Possibly it’s a choice of needing to be superior over narrow sections of real estate on the outskirts of land, fulfilling their inherent need to satisfy the classic colonial English quest for space and territory, not on the interior of a country but on the exterior, the coastal areas… India, South Africa, Hong Kong, and the Proclamation of 1763 in New England. (The British actually forbade the North American Colonies from going inland; i.e., “into the middle of the country,”42 which was untamed wilderness. Of course, some British surveyors went into the interior of China and essentially said, “Egh. Yeah, I’ve seen enough.” As it turns out, it’s very hard to settle the interior of a country; England found they could use locals to work the interior—with things like hunting and gathering—while they’d oversee their affairs from the coast, controlling trade.)

Subsequently, trickling over to soccer, England has continued to battle with their opponent to own the areas around the line, which is tied to their exuberantly fervent need to cross the ball. In terms of the psychological parallels between colonial settlements of yore and the approach to soccer, the line represents the coastal area of a country, wherein the other side of the line represents the ocean; crossing the line means going into the ocean. They don’t want to do that, considering soccer is a land battle and the areas outside of the lines are out of bounds.

That’s what the head coach is for; he rests offshore, with reinforcements, sending the occasional message to the players inland, with a flurry of hand gestures, some yelling, which is followed by resignation to the bench with his second-in-command, whispering over strategy, often by covering their mouths so no one can lip read.* Behind them are the common citizens, representing the homeland, telling the coaches what the players should do in language unfit for the queen. So it’s as though, inherently, they must dominant the game as close to the “coastal region” of the field as possible. It’s the English way, what else can you expect?

Establishing more of a “middle game” might be part of the plan administered by the current direction of the FA, which has openly been seeking a better way, and this is something to watch for in World Cup 2018.

Searching for improvements or not, England still provides an exciting presence in each game, playing with a quick pace and a lot of emotion. Despite the previous criticism, they will always be a threat to win the whole thing.

The Merseyside Derby of English Soccer

Everton are playing fantastic football at the moment. The team occupies the sixth position in the Premiership League table and have opened up a five point lead over their closest pursuers Wigan Athletic. In a league were the difference between maintaining your place in the Premiership and stay at the number nine spot and the drop towards relegation is six points, for Everton to have such a gap is quite remarkable. This despite the team’s lack of strikers who have all been suffering from long term injuries.

They have been grinding out numerous draws and carving out close wins that even pundits have stopped to take a second look at the team. Team manager David Moyes does know what tactics to use when your back is against the wall, and that is to play defensive football. And just as I deplored Stoke for using the same tactics, I guess once you manage a team which is trying to fight for its survival, then it has to do what it has to do, including playing defensive football. Everton’s mantra at the moment is quite simple, avoid defeat at all costs!

Benitez must be at his wits end trying to figure out what to do. But to criticize his Everton counterpart for the kind of strategy that his opponent employs shall not solve his problems. If Moyes thinks that it is for his team’s betterment that he applies such a plan, let him be. Besides, even Benitez himself used the same tactics when Liverpool were earning praises for their European success. What Benitez should do is improve the Red’s defense and use his conterpart’s players as an example on how to defend with tenacity in a football game.

Liverpool could have won the first derby match last Monday if Martin Skrtel followed Tim Cahill to the spot were he stood. Cahill was free to move and meet the approaching ball form a free kick by Mikel Arteta as he headed it towards the goal. As awesome as the goal seemed, it was a goal allowed by poor defending.

The second encounter which is an FA Cup tie turned out to be a draw once again. However, it was Everton who scored first with Steven Gerrard scoring the equalizer. I bet Benitez did not forsee a third encounter with their Blue counterparts. Which makes me start to wonder, is the pressure really getting to Benitez and his boys?

Latest EPL english football results saw Liverpool draw against Wigan Athletic 1-1, Everton had a 1-1 tie with Arsenal, Manchester United won over West Bromwich Albion 5-0, Chelsea defeated Middlesbrough 2-0, Aston Villa beat Portsmouth 1-0. Chelsea has moved into second place by virtue of a superior goal difference while Liverpool slipped to third. Both have 48 points Manchester United continue to lead the league with 50 points while Aston Villa are keeping up the pressure on the Reds as they moved closer with 47 points. Arsenal are now at 42 points but still at fifth place.

The crucial games for Liverpool then shall be its February 1 clash against Chelsea and its FA Cup replay against Everton on the 4th, which shall gauge their form as the title race heads towards its final matches.

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The Green and the Gold

The Packers are the aftermost evidence of “small boondocks teams” that were already accepted in the NFL during the 1920s and 1930s. Founded in 1919 by Earl “Curly” Lambeau (thus the name Lambeau Field in which the aggregation plays) and George Whitney Calhoun, the Green Bay Packers can trace their birth to added semi-professional teams in Green Bay dating aback to 1896. In 1919 and 1920 the Packers competed as a semi-professional football aggregation adjoin clubs from about Wisconsin and the Midwest. They abutting the American Able Football Association (APFA) in 1921, the advertiser to what is accepted today as the National Football Alliance (NFL).

The Green Bay Packers won twelve alliance championships (more than any added aggregation in the NFL) including nine NFL Championships above-mentioned to the Super Bowl era and three Super Bowl victories in 1967 (Super Bowl I), 1968 (Super Bowl II) and 1997 (Super Bowl XXXI). The aggregation has a angry animosity with the Chicago Bears, whom they accept played in over 170 games. The Packers additionally allotment a celebrated animosity with the Minnesota Vikings, who abide in the NFC North forth with the Packers, and the Dallas Cowboys who accept historically been accepted as the Packers better playoff rivals afterwards the Packers defeated them in the acclaimed Ice Bowl.[2]

The Packers are the alone non-profit, community-owned above alliance able sports aggregation in the United States. Beginning with the 1992 season, the Packers had 13 non-losing seasons in a row (their affliction almanac actuality 8–8 in 1999), two Super Bowl appearances, and one Super Bowl win (Super Bowl XXXI). The Packers’ 13 after non-losing seasons was an alive NFL almanac until the aggregation assuredly suffered a accident attack in their 2005 season. They alternate to accept an 8–8 division in 2006 and a 13–3 approved division in 2007, both beneath fresh arch drillmaster Mike McCarthy.

English Premiership Standards for Football Referees

What do you think of the current standard of the football referees in the English Premiership? Do you think a system of video replays should be introduced to help these referees and to stop what are some important mistakes being made? These two questions are things which myself and my friends debate on a regular basis, especially after a few beers.

I will never forget attending a football match a few years ago which was played in one of the leagues below the Premiership. It was a very important match between my favourite team Birmingham City and one of their local rivals Stoke City. It was an important match because Birmingham really needed to win the game as they were in danger of being relegated in that particular season. The three points for the win would certainly have helped them in their quest to survive.

With only around ten minutes of the match remaining Birmingham were leading a tense match by one goal to nil. Then one of the Stoke players barged the Birmingham keeper, who had the ball in his hands, over. The ball slipped from his grasp and one of the other Stoke players kicked it into an unguarded net.

I was certain that the referee would have seen what was a definite foul on our keeper, as I am sure was every other supporter in the stadium. To my and all of the other Birmingham supporters horror, he did not and he let the goal stand. I am normally quite a calm person but became so angry it was untrue. The next thing that happened was one of the Birmingham fans ran onto the pitch and fully punched this referee in the face. The players were taken off the pitch while order was restored.

I remember thinking at the time that this referee had deserved to be hit, but I later changed my mind, once I had had time to calm down. We are all capable of making a mistake of course.

I really believe in the argument that video replays should be introduced in some capacity, as in this case the goal would not have been allowed to stand.

Week in week out in the Premiership many mistakes are made which have a huge impact on the results of different matches. Football is such big business these days with the players earning such huge sums of money, surely we should have something in place to ensure that some of these errors are stopped during the match and are not merely things to debate after it.

I actually feel quite sorry for the football referees these days. With so many matches on the television they are being scrutinised more than ever. Even if they only get one decision wrong over the course of the match they still receive criticism.

I personally think that the overall standard of referees in the Premiership is very good and that we should start to get off these peoples back. I would however like each referee to be interviewed after each match in the same way as the football managers are. By doing this they could explain to the supporters why they made certain decisions during the match. They could also be shown a reply of some of the bigger incidents and asked to comment on whether they think they made the correct decision after viewing the replay.

Sweden Team Tactics and Strategies

Sweden hasn’t found the great results that teams of yore had. Though, with a resurgence of Swedish soccer on the national scene (since the 1990s) and the implementation of Ibrahimović in recent years, they’ve gained momentum. Essentially, within the forest of European talent, they’re a middle-of-the-road team trying to find their form.

 With this team, at this point in history, their chances of winning the World Cup in Russia are close to zero. In fact, to win the whole thing, to walk away with the coveted World Cup trophy, they’ll need a mythical effort, something on the order of 72 small miracles in each game. It would be pretty impressive if they even made the second round. Making it out of their group will likely involve three consecutive ties, hoping for the same from their opponents and praying that points go in their favor. The odd thing about Sweden is that they’re not terrible, by any stretch of the imagination. But, in the post-Ibrahimović era, aside from qualifying for the World Cup, which is an impressive achievement in and of itself, things don’t look incredibly optimistic for Sweden at the World Cup.

Sweden Football Team at 2018 World Cup (Photo source:

 On the positive side, they do have a group of experienced players that can keep games close and pull out victories here and there. Will it be enough to get into the semifinals and possibly win the whole thing? It’s unlikely, but that’s the beauty of sports.

 They’ll probably take up a 4-4-2 formation, a reliable option. They don’t play the two-man game very often; if they do it’s out of necessity rather than a strategic means to improve chemistry. And they prefer attacking down the flanks.

 Essentially, they’re a group of serviceable players, trying to find a magical formula, which may not be there. But, on the big stage, with a little push, things can often come together in the right way, and that’s what Sweden is counting on.

Sweden Football Team a Brief Team History

Sweden has one of the more curious World Cup records around. In the early days, they did quite well, then sort of fizzled out. In the 1930 World Cup, they didn’t compete. In 1934, they made the quarterfinals. For the 1938 World Cup, they placed fourth.

 Then, in 1950, they placed third. Things were looking good for old Sweden. However, for 1954, they didn’t qualify. As hosts in 1958, they earned second place. Back at it! So far, so good. However, at this juncture, things began to go downhill.

 They didn’t qualify in 1962 or 1966. In 1970, they didn’t get out of their group. In 1974, they got to the second round only. At Argentina in 1978, they didn’t get out of their group. Things got worse in 1982 and 1986, as they didn’t qualify. In 1990, they were back, but couldn’t get out of their group. Then, in 1994, they did very well, earning third place. But, for France in 1998, they didn’t qualify. Back at it in 2002 and 2006, they made the big tournament but were eliminated in the round of 16. And, similar to their track record of being consistently inconsistent, they didn’t qualify for 2010 or 2014

 During European World Cup qualifications, Sweden finished second in their group behind France. As a result, they went into a two-game playoff with Italy (who had finished second in their group behind Spain). And so it was, for the first time in a long time (1958, to be exact), Italy would not be going to the World Cup. In the opening game, Sweden won 1-0 on November 10, 2017, in Sweden. Then, a few days later, on November 13, 2017, a 0-0 tie held in Milan, Italy, sent Sweden to the 2018 World Cup.

Outside of the World Cup, Sweden has won the Nordic Football Championship (1924-2001) nine times. They also won the gold medal in the 1948 Olympics.

Germany Key Players and Their Characteristics

Kroos, Özil, Müller, and Neuer

 Definitely keep an eye out for Toni Kroos controlling the midfield with intelligent passing that strings together each side of the field. He is the conductor of possession seeing as how Germany plays the ball across the field from one outside player to another (be it an outside mid or defender). During stints of possession in their opponent’s half, Kroos often likes to stand on the left side of the field, somewhat diagonal to the corner of the penalty box— similar to how Ronaldinho did toward the end of his career. From there he dictates the playing pace. In this situation, some teams fail to keep a man on him, allowing him to make intriguing additions to the swing of passing, which can often lead to strong scoring opportunities.

 Helping Kroos in this midfield effort will be Mesut Özil (who tends to favor his left foot), applying skillful grace to each pass. Özil, in counterattacks, has an uncanny feel for the right pass at the right moment, which can be debilitating for opponents.

 After bursting onto the scene in the 2010 World Cup, Müller has proven to be a unique goal-scorer and playmaker. Despite his lanky and skinny build, he has the ability to make the right pass for the moment, whether it be a simple touch to continue possession or a well-placed through-ball, and he always seems to serve it at just the right moment. This skill often goes unnoticed, but it is vital in Germany’s success in a ninety-minute game.

 In goal is the ever-talented Manuel Neuer, applying not only his dominate goal-keeping skills—some say the best in the world— but also his eager array of talent as a sweeper. Often he comes off his line to clear out danger or add to the possession game by distributing the ball (sometimes in tight spaces, which makes television announcers flinch) from defender to defender.

How Spain Football Team Play

When it comes to Spain, team passing is more important than any one player.

 Spain usually puts forth great individual talent that exudes a team philosophy. There won’t be too many—if any—flashy players, demanding the ball, attention, and self-serving gratification of being in the limelight. In this respect, Spain is similar to Germany. They don’t have star players who must have the ball at their feet to get the whole team going. All of Spain’s players need the ball for the unit to succeed.

 Watch for the short passing while the players move the ball through numerous channels in a unique fashion which is a focal point of the Tiki-Taka style and still Spain’s basic approach to the game. (Within the Tiki-Taka approach, often two players will exchange multiple passes, improving possession and chemistry within the passing structure, which, over the course of a ninetyminute game, wears down the resolve of the opposing team. It also creates better scoring opportunities. This is where its effectiveness gets tricky. The Golden Generation had a unique understanding of Tiki-Taka, which makes them a tough group to live up to.)

 The origins of Spain’s style, of course, come from the influence of the Dutch player and coach, Johan Cruyff. The style had continued to progress at Barcelona under the guidance of coaches Louis van Gaal and Frank Rijkaard before trickling over to the Spanish national team. It was later adopted by Spanish coaches, including Vicente del Bosque, the coach of Spain from 2008- 2016. The Dutch vision sought to implement this style of play within the youth systems, notably the Barcelona La Masia youth academy, which had similarities with the youth academies of Ajax in the Netherlands.

At La Masia, various players were educated in this system, including Iniesta and Pedro. Spain and Barcelona definitely benefited from this training made available to the young players, players who turned into adults and eventually took over the responsibility of leading their teams on the field. In Russia 2018, many of the Spanish players will bring this influence to each game.

 Without a doubt, Spain in Russia 2018 will provide high quality, but actually scoring goals will be another question altogether.

Neymar Living up to Pele

Neymar, Brazil’s answer to Garrincha and Pele with a modern twang, is carrying an entire nation’s hopes and dreams into World Cup Russia.

Undoubtedly, any star Brazilian players will be compared with Pele, the best of them all. What can be written about him that hasn’t already been said? He’s one of the most celebrated athletes of all time. As a refresher…he was fast in longer sprints and quick in short spaces. He was effective with open-field dribbling and in crowded spaces. He could play long passes accurately, as well as short ones. He had every shot down. He was good with both feet. Despite being around five-foot-five, he was good in the air. And, yes, he scored a couple goals with the bicycle kick.

He wasn’t so much the maestro-in-the-middle type, building up the passing structure in possession, similar to Valderrama, Platini, or Hässler, but, similar to Messi, it seemed like everything he did was the right play for any given situation, be it a simple pass, making a teammate look good, or something amazing as in dribbling past three or four defenders with fake kicks, misdirection, and pure guile. In terms of dribbling, he wasn’t as dynamic with the northsouth savvy that Maradona had and was more of an east-west dribbler. (Though, Maradona had everything Pele did accept the aerial game.)( Maradona’s one drawback was his lack of presence with head balls. Ranking Pele, Maradona, and Messi in the air would go like this (best to worst): Pele, Messi, Maradona. Though, it should go without saying, but said nonetheless, none of them were Oliver Bierhoff)

After Pele, a long line of great Brazilian players followed, including: Zico, Socrates, Junior, Careca, Romario, Bebeto, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Robinho, and Neymar, to name a few.

For Russia 2018, Neymar, who came up with Santos and Robinho (Robinho, whose dribbling Pele liked so much), will have the responsibility of a nation to live up to Pele, along with everyone since, as well as carrying the nation one step closer to a sixth title. While Neymar has established himself as the heir apparent to Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (as the world’s next greatest player in the modern era) in terms of World Cups and in terms of how Brazilians view their great players, he’ll be held up next to Garrincha and, of course, Pele, along with all the other salient talents that have adorned the Brazilian jersey. And, undoubtedly, he won’t be considered equal to or greater than Pele without a World Cup title to his name.

Not only that, he’ll need to be a pivotal fixture in all Brazil’s games (with goals and assists) on the march to a World Cup title for people to accept him as Pele’s true successor. That’s just part of the baggage that goes along with leading Brazil.