Is the UEFA Nations League and friendlies really needed?

International football has taken over from domestic football for the past 10 days, and there seems a growing number of football fans who do not like when their seasons are interrupted. Could it be that international football has simply grown tired, and that the football in many ways feels like it is taking something from the more exciting domestic fixtures.

Normally international games break up the traditional leagues in Europe 3 times a season. In October, November and March, which means that for 30 days in a season there is no domestic football.

Friendly games have rubbed up for fans the wrong way for some time. Whilst the advantage of such games means that fans can see some of the best players in the world and exciting fixtures, they really offer very little in return. In truth you are watching a training exercise- does it matter if your team beat Brazil, Germany or Argentina? It’s just a friendly.

Thankfully the large bulk of friendly games have been replaced by competitive games and yet despite an extra competition being introduced by UEFA friendly games remain a constant fixture. Clubs loathe them because their players can get injured on international duty, even if they get injured at a World Cup that is bad news, but getting injured for a game that means nothing just seems pointless.

So UEFA introduced the Nations League- this could have been more welcomed if it had put an end to the friendly round of games, but of course it hasn’t. Witness how England had to play Republic of Ireland days before a crunch tie in the Nations League against Belgium- what purpose did the game against Ireland serve? Some could argue that it gave England manager Gareth Southgate a clearer view of the qualities of his players going into the Belgium game- one could counter that argument and say that after being in the job for four years he should have a clue what his best team line up is.

The Nations League seemed like a decent idea, but at the same time one has to wonder if it ever was? The complexes of the group stage can leave many an adult dumbfounded by all the rules- and not every team can qualify for the knock out stages that goes straight to the semi-finals. Though if you play well in this competition it can help for European and World Cup qualifications. There are groups in the Nations League where even if you win all of your games, because you are not a band A team, your competition still ends at that point. And so on.

But even if the Nations League was a straight group games and knockout competition- it just feels like one more competition for already tired players, who have a full on schedule in their domestic leagues. Remember the bulk of these players are going to be their best in their countries, which means they will be playing for the best sides who are going for the trophies.

Until it actually gets to the final the Nations League doesn’t seem very important at all. Are current holders Portugal remembered for winning it in its first year or will that team be more remembered for winning Euro 2016 instead? England have just been knocked out in the group stages of the Nations League as they lost 2-0 to Belgium, and yet the media that are always ready to crucify England managers simply haven’t dedicated column inches to their demise. Could you imagine the stories that would have been generated had England crashed out of the group stages of the Euro’s or World Cup? Manager Southgate would be packing his bags now.

Another example is the recent Spanish victory over Germany, where Spain beat them 6-0. It is a groundbreaking result until you learn it happened in the Nations League- it will be forgotten in a few weeks time by everyone outside of Spain and Germany.

Football can feel very over saturated and with UEFA adding another tournament in a calendar which can only run 12 months just feels like over kill. Take in mind that there is actually very little difference between the Nations League and the European Championships, and both competitions will clash next year.

The Nations League final was scheduled for June 2021, but has been pushed back to October. This means that teams who have made the semi-finals of the Nations League will be waiting almost 1 year to get to a final. It also means that UEFA of course recognise that the Euro’s are more important, they keep their original summer outing with the Nations League being pushed back. Also what happens if Germany win the Euro’s and a few months later Spain win the Nations League? Who will care truly? and who will believe that Spain are the best nation in Europe if they don’t win (the big one at the Euro’s)?

So what is the solution, as international fixtures have to co-exist with domestic football? One would be only having international fixtures as a means to qualifying for the respective summer tournaments that are coming up. Whilst some fans may love the idea of the Nations League one has to wonder if long time if it can work alongside all of the other competitions. So it may be best to end it- remember we have 2 international competitions that take place every 2 years to determine the best international teams- why do we need 3?

If UEFA insist on friendly games, because TV money is hard to turn down and when fans are allowed back into stadiums, it is easy gate receipt money, then these need to be limited. Possibly in the summer only, although this would be tricky in a World Cup or Euro’s year. The other possibility would be having them take place over a 10 day period but just once a season.

It is very important that domestic football takes place first and foremost with that in mind. International football can be very exciting at times, but with disjointed teams and players not being able to gel with one another like in club football it also means that international standard can drop, which means that us, the viewer, doesn’t get the very best product on show. It would be beneficial if UEFA could think through their schedules, because the current one seems painfully wrong.



Marouane Fellaini leaves the Premier League with no title but he gave so much more


And so that’s it, after spending 10 and a half seasons in England’s Premier League the Belgian Marouane Fellaini has left to join Chinese club Shandong Lueng. But how will Fellaini’s legacy be remembered in England?

Fellaini was bought by Everton’s David Moyes way back in the summer of 2008 and he immediately became a regular fixture in the Everton side, helping the club to top 6 finishes and they reached the 2009 FA Cup final, eventually losing to Chelsea 2-1.

Fellaini became instantly recognisable with his permed out hair, which looked as if he had just had an electric shock, but he was giving his opponents that kind of treatment in midfield, let’s just say you knew he was in the middle of the park and he certainly had that physical side to his game- the Everton fans duly loved him. Still there seems to be a myth that he was always receiving red cards, which simply isn’t true and he was given his marching orders less than 4 times in his career in England.

Once David Moyes had joined Manchester United in his ill conceived move, spurred on by a retiring Sir Alex Ferguson one of Moyes’ first purchases was to bring Fellaini to Manchester. At first it seemed short sighted, perhaps the Belgian was only good enough on a level for Everton. But over 5 seasons later he actually proved his worth to the United side.

Countless times it was Fellaini’s goals that got Manchester United out of trouble, where they have mostly belonged since Ferguson departed the club back in 2013. In his first difficult season he didn’t even score a goal and injuries also plagued him. But in his second season that changed and he netted 7 times. Under different coaches a lot changed for him and the trophies finally started to come in. The FA Cup under Louis van Gaal and then the League Cup and perhaps his most important trophy to date the Europa League with Jose Mourinho followed suit.

Fellaini leaves England with no Premier League title of course, but at least he ended up winning 4 trophies with United. He’s also very much proved his worth as a player, scoring crucial goals, and the key reason United are still in the Champions League was because of his goal against Young Boys in the group stages, otherwise United could well have been out of the competition.

His quality and worth to both Everton and Manchester United has been of great significance and he survived so many different coaches throughout the years. Him leaving feels like a small slice of Premier League memory ending and he richly deserves his move away to China. Although at just 31 one does wonder if he still had a few more seasons in him at the very highest level. That may never be found out.


Is Franck Passi about to take Thierry Henry’s job at Monaco?


Since Thierry Henry took over as coach of Monaco it has been a nightmare in the south of France which has seen the team stuck in the bottom two of Ligue 1. One wonders if Henry’s role with the club is coming to an end with the announcement that Franck Passi has been drafted into the team as assistant.

Passi is well known in Ligue 1 as the ‘fixer’. He has done commendable caretaker jobs at clubs such as Marseille and Lille he is if you like the man who stabilises a club before a bigger name replaces him. The worry is that Henry already knows this and may just not get on with that idea. Time is certainly ticking for the ex Arsenal legend.

One of the biggest problems for Henry has been his attitude as seen through the French media who have reported that he seems disinterested at times, easily wound up and very moody on the touchline. In an era where it is difficult to criticise the modern day footballer- see Jose Mourinho for that, Henry continues to do so and when the team make mistakes he makes it very known. For some media they see Henry as a dead man walking at the club.

It has, for sure been incredibly hard for him. Henry has lost 9 games from the 14 managed at the club with a win rate of 21%. Just before the Ligue 1 season wrapped up for Christmas Monaco had to play Guingamp at home a game seen as one that should be three points, given that Guingamp have been ever poorer than Henry’s side this season. What followed was a 2-0 defeat and more misery for Henry. What was depressing is that Monaco had just 2 shots on target against the bottom club.

They are now 4 points from safety and yet with a decent run there is every chance that Monaco will not be relegated to Ligue 2. It is true that this isn’t all Henry’s fault but he was the wrong person to bring in only having some experience as an assistant with the Belgium national team beforehand. Most of the blame must go to the owners who have constantly sold their best players that now run into double figures in the last few seasons alone. That is the real reason that the 2017 champions could be relegated this season.

Ligue 1 kicks off again for Monaco on January 13th and it doesn’t get any easier for Monaco and Henry with an away trip to Marseille. Could a heavy defeat at Stade Velodrome signal the end for Henry?


England manager Gareth Southgate is right to question why the Premier League kicked off so early this season


It took just 27 days after England were defeated by Belgium in this summers World Cup for the 3rd place play off for the English Premier League to kick off. When it did on August 10th it was, as ever. welcomed but it did feel that the league was starting incredibly soon after the World Cup.

Neither player or fan have had much time to recuperate after such a major finals and now England manager Gareth Southgate has spoken out about this. Southgate said: “Everyone adapts their training load appropriately. But I think when you see the league, there are a lot of teams who haven’t started yet at the level when they are at their maximum. There have been a lot of injuries across certainly our league, too. I don’t know about the rest of Europe.

Southgate added: “I don’t really understand why our league started so early but they did, so it’s been a really difficult situation for the clubs. Some of the clubs couldn’t field a team without, look at Tottenham Hotspur, who had so many players in the semi-finals of the World Cup. They had to put players straight into matches on the back of very little pre-season. It was an impossible situation for the coaches really. I didn’t really know, and I hadn’t looked into when the season started until when we got back from the tournament. Maybe they were expecting us to be back by the end of June. I assumed the rest of the world were going to be there until the middle of July.

“It’s always easy to make a comment like that and not know the complex scenario the decision makers had to go to, because that happens to me quite a lot. But everybody knew when the final was going to be, and the semi-final, and that the players would be away for a period of time.”

It was quite a statement for Southgate who, as an example has seen the national side looking weary and tired as he hooks up with them for their Nations League matches. But Southgate is spot on in his assessments of why did the Premier League start so early?

Given that there is no major tournament next summer it seems odd, and the league could have started in late August or even at the beginning of September. The Spanish and Italian leagues both started a week later than the Premier League. And it was no surprise to find that the German Bundesliga did not kick off until the end of August, this is the same league that takes a month off for Christmas and New Year.

An explanation from the Premier League would be welcomed, though one would not want to hold their breathe on a reply.



France beat Netherlands to maintain momentum after World Cup title

mbappeFrance began life at home after winning their second World Cup with a hard-earned win over the Netherlands, who failed to qualify for this summer’s tournament. It seemed fitting that the first goalscorer was none other than PSG forward Kylian Mbappe, who won the “Best Young Player” award in Russia. His work rate wearing the blue of his national team is every bit as impressive as it is in the Parisian home kit, and he timed his run perfectly to get onto the end of Blaise Matuidi‘s lovely pass across the face of goal, tapping France ahead after 13 minutes. Didier Deschamps’ men were ahead until the second half, when Besiktas’ Ryan Babel brought the Dutch level. It wasn’t long until Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud restored the lead and ultimately won it for France.

Continue reading

World Cup 2018 – individual awards


Although the World Cup came to an end last weekend, where France went on to beat Croatia in the finals, a large number of football fans are still talking about the prestigious competition as a whole and are massively debating about which players deserve to win which award at the end of it.

With no further ado, here are EuroFantasy League’s individual awards per position…

Goalkeeper of the tournament

Thibaut Courtois. It wasn’t a straight forward decision with who was the best goalkeeper throughout the World Cup campaign, especially when the likes of Danjiel Subasic, Guillermo Ochoa and Jordan Pickford produced a number of solid performances. However, Thibaut Courtois showed why he still remains as one of the best shot-stoppers in Europe despite his lack of development in recent years.

The Chelsea goalkeeper was top notch from start till end, and if it wasn’t for his incredible number of saves in the Quarter-finals against Brazil, Roberto Martinez’s men would not have gone on to finish in third-place this summer. Also, if his dominant displays were watched by a certain individual called Florentino Perez, Thibaut Courtois’ potential move to Real Madrid could be quicker than many think.

Defender of the tournament

Raphael Varane. France became known for how complete and dominant their midfield is and how many fine superstars they have in attack. But, one department that does not get the appreciation it deserves is the defence, an area that was brilliantly ran by Raphael Varane.  The Real Madrid centre-back was there when his side need him the most as he stepped up as a leader without the armband.

In the World Cup final, Varane made a monumental interception that prevented Ivan Perisic from going one-on-one against Huge Lloris, which could have allowed Croatia to level up with France just ten minutes into the second half. On top of that, Les Blues had two young and rising full-backs in the backline, meaning that Varane had to remain consistent with his duty whilst guiding both players.

Midfielder of the tournament

Luka Modric. It’s never easy for a midfielder to be on top of his game and on top of the opposition from start till end on a weekly basis. On the other hand, Luka Modric showed how a midfielder can be purely effective in all ways and how an ageing player can store his energy whilst using his stamina to the best of his ability. If it wasn’t for him, Croatia would not have reached past the Quarter-finals.

Having proving himself at club and international level, there is no doubts at all that Luka Modric will go on to be regarded and mentioned as one of the best central midfielders of all time. The Zadar-born star superbly remained cool, calm and collected whilst carrying his country forward game by game, even when his side were struggling to gain momentum or were a goal down to the opposition.

Forward of the tournament

Eden Hazard.  Within this area, many football fans would potentially pick the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe or Harry Kane. Though, the most ideal pick had to be Eden Hazard, someone who was constantly creating chances for Belgium. Despite playing under a defensive-minded coach in Roberto Martinez, the dazzling winger still came up with three goals and two assists.

Even when he was marked by a few players from the opposition, the Chelsea attacker would somehow find room and space to dribble into. Hazard went on to completing 40 successful dribbles and 15 key passes in six games, which is seriously impressive for a player that was heavily relied on. In the end, his commitment and performances was seen and praised by everyone around the world.

Play the most challenging Fantasy World Cup 2018 game here

Juventus and Napoli aces have mixed World Cup runs with France and Belgium


France’s World Cup in Russia ended in a blaze of glory with a dazzling performance in the final that coronated an impressive run, where Les Bleus displayed great pragmatism, sturdiness and tactical astuteness. Combine that with the talent of Kylian Mbappè, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba and you have a winning recipe.

Blaise Matuidi was initially behind Corentin Tolisso in the hierarchy, but after being inserted late in the first game, Didier Deschamps could not get him off the pitch and as a matter of fact he started all the key games but the Uruguay one, where he was suspended. Continue reading

Euro Fantasy League Podcast – #23 – Enrico Passarella on Ronaldo/Juventus Deal


The lads are joined this time by Enrico Passarella (@Guardalinee) to discuss Cristiano Ronaldo‘s transfer to Juventus, Antonio Conte’s future, the Serie A season ahead and more.

The lads also round off the World Cup chat with a bit of discussion about France as champions, Kylian Mbappe, how proud Croatia will be and Dave (as usual) makes his feelings about England well known.

Continue reading

Eden Hazard hints he could leave Chelsea this summer


Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard has hinted that the time may be right to leave west London and seek a new challenge. The 27-year-old has enjoyed a wonderful World Cup in Russia with his native Belgium, helping them achieve their best-ever finish of third after beating England 2-0 in St Petersburg on Saturday. With a little bit of time off now before joining up with the Chelsea squad for their pre-season, Hazard has left the door open on where he may be playing his football this coming campaign. There has of course been some upheaval at Stamford Bridge during the tournament, with Antonio Conte having been sacked and replaced with fellow Italian Maurizio Sarri – and that uncertainty seems to have opened the door on a prospective move.

Continue reading

What Next for Eden Hazard after Belgium’s Exit from the World Cup?

After having won four out of their five matches at this year’s World Cup, including being among the very few to win all their group games, Belgium exited the semifinals with a commendable performance. With the likes of Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku leading the Belgian attack, the two have been instrumental in guiding their nation to the semifinals for the first time since 1986.

We previously examined Hazard and the Belgian team’s progress on Euro Fantasy League and discussed their prospects on reaching the final. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and they were narrowly edged out 1-0 against France. However, after Belgium’s third place match against England, Hazard will be contemplating his next club move.

His obvious choice will be to Spanish giants Real Madrid. After recently losing Ronaldo to Juventus, Madrid will undoubtedly be looking at a few big names, with Hazard as a favorite, to replace their Portuguese star. The latest news is that Barcelona have also indicated their intention to sign Hazard. A fight between the two Spanish giants over the Belgian could be on the cards. Yet, in an interview about his future with Chelsea, Hazard suggested it will depend on which players Chelsea signs for next season.


The 27-year-old is considering his options carefully, aware that his next contract will probably be one of the last he signs while in his prime. For now, he is a sought-after superstar. His past six years in the English Premier League have been exemplary and he has been an extraordinary presence at Stamford Bridge.

So much so, that in 2016 he was nominated along with Marco Reus, James Rodriguez and Anthony Martial to be the face of the popular FIFA 17 game. EA Sport’s senior producer Nick Channon told the Independent that Hazard, along with the other three superstars, represent exciting, attacking football and expressed his excitement at the prospect of global fans voting on the face which would represent the FIFA franchise globally.

Since the FIFA franchise’s inception in 1994 there has been an influx of soccer games vying to tap into the lucrative gaming market. Digital platform Foxy Bingo is well known for releasing sports themed slots that look to tap into soccer’s global fanbase. Their ‘Striker Goes Wild’ game is designed to target soccer’s online mobile gaming community and fans of the beautiful game. This only goes to show how wide reaching the market is for soccer fans who enjoy the sport on digital platforms; it demonstrates why the announcement of the next FIFA cover star is considered one of the biggest events in sports gaming, and what it says about the star who becomes the latest face of the game.

While Hazard was not chosen for the FIFA 17 cover (Marco Reus was), his popularity has not waned. Still in his prime, he remains a sought-after name with Chelsea officials offering a new contract worth over $400,000 per week, to persuade him to stay. With the World Cup behind him, and the world at his feet, Hazard’s career will reach greater heights no matter where he goes, or doesn’t for that matter.