Will England’s back three hold firm against Colombia?

England suffered their first defeat at this World Cup against Belgium on Thursday night, but in truth that loss faded in the memory almost as soon as the sun came up the next day. In what was a surreal scenario, this was something of a dead rubber for both sides, with their passage into the tournament’s last 16 already secured. Even weirder was the scenario that a defeat might have been more beneficial than a win.

Indeed, had England won or even drawn their final group game, finishing top of their section, they would have fallen into the side of the bracket that also featured Argentina, Brazil and France. As it eventually materialised, defeat sent England into the side of the draw that contained Croatia and Spain. There is a stronger and a weaker side and England might just have lucked out.


Of course, this doesn’t mean England will have ti easy. In the round of 16, they will come up against a Colombia side who can cause any opposition team damage on their day. James Rodriguez might be an injury doubt for the fixture, but the South Americans boast a number of top class players who will need to be watched.

Until now, Gareth Southgate has opted for a back three. Those three central defenders are flanked by wing backs, Ashley Young on the left and Kieran Trippier on the right. This has provided the foundation for a positive start to their World Cup campaign. There’s not much reason to change.

However, it should be noted that England have failed to keep a clean sheet in Russia this summer. Of course, the goal conceded to Belgium should be written off given the circumstances, but even against Tunisia and Panama, opponents of a much lower calibre, England leaked a goal.

In the first group game against Tunisia, this was a direct result of the back three. Kyle Walker was caught in a position that he ordinarily wouldn’t have found himself in. Walker is naturally a full back, but has been used as a right-sided central defender by Southgate at this World Cup. That has its benefits, largely in possession, but it also has its drawbacks.

Then there was the goal conceded against Panama, which saw the England defence neglect their duties from a set piece, allowing Felipe Baloy to make an unmarked run into the box. England won’t be able to make such mistakes against Colombia. They have players who will punish them to an even greater extent.

There is space between Walker and centre backs Harry Maguire and John Stones for the likes of Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado to exploit. But should England pass this test it would say a lot about their chances at this summer’s World Cup. For good or bad, this match will define England’s tournament.

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Which three youngsters have been impressive so far this World Cup?


The World Cup 2018 group stages has now come to an end, where most teams have amazingly reached to the Round of 16 within the competition, whilst the others return to their native countries, and enjoy a short break before the pre-season campaign start towards the last two weeks of July.

With the Round of 16 just kicked off, it’s time to take a quick look at some of the young individuals that have impressed their fans and football supporters around the world in their first World Cup campaign for their respective country. Some players are quite known and some are still on the rise.

With no further ado, here are the three youngsters that were incredible during the group stages…

Aleksandar Golovin – Russia

From the first group fixture against Saudi Arabia, CSKA Moscow’s Aleksandar Golovin showed his quality on and off the ball, from being able to drop deep to help his midfield to producing the key passes in the final third of the pitch. Also, his versatility is something that most managers in the world would love to see in a player, as he can play on the flanks as well as a central midfielder.

At the age of 22, he still has a couple of years left until he reaches his total peak and is already showing signs of how complete of a midfielder he actually is. Due to his recent rise and well as his consistent and please performances in the Russian Premier League last season, he has been now scouted by many of the well-known European clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Juventus.

Hirving Lozano – Mexico

Mexico surprised a lot of people when they went on to beat Germany as well as qualify for the knockout stages. Given the defensive solidity that Sweden possess and the energetic and fearless players that South Korea have in their line-up, all the odds were up against Juan Carlos Osorio’s men, who were expected and predicted to leave the competition before the World Cup had even started.

However, a certain winger called Hirving Lozano, has helped his side from the flanks through his incredible burst of pace and intelligent movement in the opposition’s half. The PSV Eindhoven attacker assisted his national team by scoring a goal against Germany and providing a valuable assist in the win over South Korea, which allowed Mexico to achieve six points from their first two games.

Manuel Akanji – Switzerland

Switzerland have had the tendency to be known to have a solid defence, dominant midfield and an inconsistent attack. Due to this, the national team have constantly done well in the group stages but have failed time and time again to do well in the knockout rounds. Centre-back Manuel Akanji has been one of the few reasons to why Vladimir Petkovic’s side have been aerially dominant and very tough to beat.

The 22-year-old is currently enjoying his time at Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund, who he joined during the January transfer window on a four-year deal from FC Basel. Since then, Akanji has made a number of league appearances under head coach Peter Stoger, and will be aiming to become a regular starter for the German side anytime soon. With Sokratis expected to leave in the summer, Akanji’s time to shine has certainly come.

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Inter sign Matteo Politano


After acquiring Radja Nainggolan, Inter have completed another big move and have announced the acquisition of Matteo Politano from Sassuolo. The formula is fairly similar, but this time it will be season-long loan with 20M option to buy and Jens Odgaard moved to the Neroverdi as part of the deal. The 24-year-old winger has signed a five-year contract.

Politano is coming off his best season yet, where for the first time in his career he reached double digits goals and provided five assists on top of that. He truly spearheaded the Neroverdi’s late push to avoid relegation, scoring seven goals in the last ten Serie A games and clearly emerging as their best go-to guy. He recently debuted with Italy. He leaves Emilia after three seasons, 110 appearances and 24 goals. He was intensely pursued by Napoli in January, but the management did not let him go.

A natural left-footed right winger, Politano has very often played on the other flank to co-exist with Domenico Berardi. In the final few months of last year, he has found a lot of success as striker in a light attack after Giuseppe Iachini decided to switch to 3-5-2.

His versatility will give Luciano Spalletti some flexibility as he is pondering a new system based on a three-man defence. In any case, Politano is poised to challenge Antonio Candreva for the starting job, since the production of the former Lazio has steeply decreased last season. The Beneamata also did not have any alternatives behind the starters beside Yann Karamoh, who showed some promise but needs more consistency.

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Hector Herrera crucial to Mexico chances against Brazil


Mexico‘s victory over Germany shocked the footballing world, but not for too long. The way they put the world champions, who have since been eliminated from the World Cup, on the back foot with their high press, meant that they were soon taken seriously. They followed it up with a 2-1 win over South Korea, but a 3-0 defeat to Sweden saw the Scandinavians top Group F; next up, as a result, is a clash with five-time winners Brazil.

Continue reading

Nullifying Eriksen threat pivotal to Croatia’s World Cup mission


Having collected maximum points from their three Group D fixtures against Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland, it is unsurprising that Croatia are now regarded as one of the favourites to win this summer’s FIFA World Cup. The Vatreni entered the tournament as ‘dark horses’ – of course they did – but, with a series of impressive performances on the pitch, they have now earned the right to be considered much more than rank outsiders. Continue reading

Colombia survive the group of death


After suffering a defeat to Japan in the first fixture of Group H, a lot of people were having doubts on whether Colombia would be able to pick themselves up from the floor and turn the situation around before it is too late. Also, the experts of the beautiful game were seriously shocked at their start to the competition as many had the South American side down as their dark horses of the tournament.

However, Los Cafeteros do what they do best, and they made sure that they were not going to leave Russia and most importantly the World Cup anytime soon. Once James Rodriguez returned into the line-up for the second game against Poland, the side were in full confidence and had the ability as well as the pure mentality to go on to beating Adam Nawalka’s side like it was a piece of cake.

With the goals coming from Juan Cuadrado, Radamel Falcao and Yerry Mina, the side have shown that there a number of talented players in all positions, who can go on to contribute towards the team on both sides of the pitch. Meanwhile in midfield, both Abel Aguilar and Wilmar Barrios were dictating play and keeping the Polish attackers quiet as well as helping the team progress forward.

In the final fixture of the group stages, Colombia had to make sure they picked up the three points against Senegal whilst the other match was been Japan and Poland. Despite having a slow start to the game, the side turned it up a notch in the second half and completed an incredible smash and grab victory, where Mina’s goal in the 75th minute put the team ahead and in the driving seat.

Up next, Jose Pekerman and Colombia will go head-to-head against Gareth Southgate’s England, who will have a huge point to prove as the Three Lions have been eliminated, from the European Championship or the World Cup in the group stages or the Round of 16 on many occasions. On Tuesday evening, football fans will see a thrilling match between two fearless and passionate sides.

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Rooney departs with no fanfare but history will be kind to his legacy

Wayne Rooney

Farewell, then, Wayne. You will be missed. Or perhaps not. It’s difficult to gauge how well the former Manchester United striker is remembered and liked by fans but whatever side of the debate you sit on, there’s only one incontrovertible conclusion to reach: Wayne Rooney had a good run. The man had a brilliant career in the Premier League, and as time washes away and we’re all turned to dust, history will be kind to his legacy.

In case you haven’t heard, Rooney left Everton this week after signing a three-and-a-half year deal with MLS side D.C. United, bringing to an end his 16-year career in the Premier League. It has been evident that at, 32, Rooney isn’t quite the force of nature he once was. The pace is gone and so is the explosiveness; that ability to bring fire and potent force to a game as he so desired. It’s the reason he was back at Everton last summer in the first place: he was no longer fit for purpose at a club of United’s ambition.

There’s a little sadness here, too. In the middle of a World Cup where Gareth Southgate’s England are winning hearts and putting points on the board, Rooney, a veteran of three largely doomed campaigns, departs quietly from centre stage to the worst side in MLS. It is the same World Cup where Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney’s old mate and six months his senior, is shining brightly with four goals in three games.

But it would be uncharitable to view Rooney’s career solely through the lens of the latter years of his career, especially when the loss of pace is directly related to how he started his playing days like a house on fire. Rooney is not like most 32-year-olds in terms of his playing age. This is the man who took the game by surprise as a stocky 16-year-old with rage in his eyes and an incredible eye for goal. A man who scored a hat trick on his United debut. The goals and numbers bear witness to his greatness. 253 goals in 559 appearances for United, 28 in 118 for Everton and 53 in 119 for England. He is the record goalscorer for United and England, two of the most important institutions in world football. You do not achieve that by being a fraud. When Ronaldo was at his pomp during that glorious 2008/09 season, Rooney was the the dutiful teammate who willfully played out of position numerous times for the greater good.

As Rooney departs with no fanfare to the other side of the Atlantic, it should be remembered that when he was at his best, England had no answer to a player who could make magic happen all the while looking like your next door neighbour.

Marco Asensio will be a £158m bargain for Liverpool

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Of all of the transfer rumours to be swirling round at the moment, the one which places Marco Asensio at Liverpool isn’t as outlandish as it first appears.

When the player was asked about it earlier in the week, he didn’t refuse to answer but cryptically commented that he ‘couldn’t think about that at the moment.’

Hardly the vehement denial that might’ve been expected, thereby giving the rumour some ‘legs.’ Continue reading

World Cup Preview


After the first break of the tournament, the World Cup is ready to proceed with what promise to be four great days of football. The round of 16 will kick off later today with two of the most interesting match-ups on paper: France-Argentina and Uruguay-Spain.

Les Bleus have won two out of three matches in the group stage, but they have been rather uninspiring so far, squeaking by Australia and Peru and drawing with Denmark. The Albiceleste is the poster child of not playing up to their talent: they showed great character in the thriller against Nigeria, but their manoeuvre is still way too discombobulated. Both teams need to improve to go far, but they have an excellent launching pad early because eliminating a contender always gives you a big boost. Continue reading

Portugal have to take a leaf out of Godin’s book

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Two contrasting styles will take to the Fisht Olympic Stadium on Saturday as Uruguay face Portugal.

Both have their merits and weaknesses and as the stakes get higher, we could be in for one of the games of the tournament so far.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be keen to continue his goal scoring form from the first couple of group games, and his prowess in front of goal could well be needed if Messrs. Suarez and Cavani are in the mood for Uruguay. Continue reading