Just as Manchester City regained control over Liverpool in the race for the Premier League title, international football kicked in. Let’s face it, we all love it at such a vital stage in the season. A total of 13 players from Pep Guardiola’s first team have been called up to their respective nations with Euro 2016 qualifiers, friendlies, Africa Cup of National qualifiers and U21 in full swing. Continue reading
We know now who will take part in the very first UEFA Nations League semi finals which will be held next year in Portugal in June.
Even though there have been mixed reactions to the new competition it does seem like the majority of teams are at least taking the games seriously enough and if the group stages didn’t convince some the semi final and final of this competition will and they are sure to be classic and intense matches.
The first thing we need to know is that the draw has not been made yet for the semi finals- this happens in December. We do of course know who will have the chance to pick up the very first Nations League trophy and below we will look at each teams chances.
What a year it has been for Gareth Southgate and England, reaching their 2nd semi final of a competition after their World Cup exploits in Russia this summer. England have had to beat Croatia who knocked them out of the World Cup in the last four and Spain away from home to get here, so there has been no lucky games for the three lions. Southgate has believed in youth and has shown hands on managerial one to one expertise which has run through this team. England want to play to win and have their best team in a generation. This could be England’s first chance of silverware since winning the World Cup in 1966.
Portugal will be the favourites to win the competition- mostly because of two things; they are at home and they have Cristiano Ronaldo- although after what should be a taxing an thrilling season for Ronaldo, his debut one in Serie A with Juventus they will be hoping that their man is fit enough and ready for the occasion. The last time Portugal hosted a tournament at home they lost in the final to Greece. Although they have more than made up with that in recent times winning Euro 2016.
Switzerland will be seen as the rank outsiders to win this, although their 5-2 demolition of Belgium, a side that dazzled at the World Cup should have raised some eyebrows. They are here on merit and always put in a solid display making them a hard side to beat. Switzerland have never won a major trophy, and will be 100% motivated to do so.
It’s fair to say that since reaching and then losing in the 2010 World Cup final, the Netherlands have been very poor, failing to qualify for the last World Cup and going through many coaches and a transition of sorts. It’s also fair to say that they played poorly in their final Nations League group game against Germany and yet claimed a 2-2 draw which saw them beat France on goal difference to be here. Perhaps the Germany draw was a real turning point for the nation, and they could be a genuine danger to any side come next June.
Germany, the great international side that are usually compared to the very greatest footballing nations in the history of football have been relegated in the UEFA Nations League.
What this means is that the team cannot win the next edition of the new international cup set up by UEFA. This is all by and large and the competition is still under scrutiny as to whether nations are really taking this seriously. After all it isn’t the World Cup or European Championships and feels like glorified friendlies. Still whichever way you look at it relegation means you are not getting results and this has been a quite woeful year for the Germans so accustomed to winning.
But when will the finger point to coach Joachim Low. Low has been in charge of the national side for an incredible 12 years- surely his tenure is up now? In that time he has won the ultimate prize- the World Cup in 2014 as Germany became the first ever European side to win it in South America when that edition was held in Brazil.
Many expected Low’s time was up this summer when Germany exited the World Cup in Russia at the group stages. It was the first time in 80 years that Germany had done so and pardon the pun was a new low for the national side. His sacking seemed inevitable and yet the German FA gave Low the choice- he remained in the hot seat.
Low has done fantastically well for the national side, reaching the European Championship final in 2008 and making the latter stages of major competitions but surely now is the time to walk. Since the World Cup things have hardly improved for Low with just 2 wins from 5 games and now failure in the Nations League.
What Germany need now is another strong character in order to qualify for Euro 2020 which shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Low has actually done very little wrong in his time with the national side and him stepping down should just be an occurrence of time, and he has certainly had his. It would be a major surprise if the FA do not take action and let him go if he doesn’t want to.
If anything Low who is almost 60 needs to give others a chance and there are a lot of ex German players now that are reaching that age where they would like to give the national team a decent shot. Change is needed because if not the great German side may just stagnate, something that we couldn’t see coming in a generation. Low’s time is up.
France 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.
It was a summer to forget for Germany and their national team. Failure to advance from their World Cup group which included Mexico, South Korea and Sweden, Joachim Löw’s managerial skills came into question following sub-par performances.
Unlike four years ago, there was a sense of uncertainty around this Germany squad once the squads had been announced. Löw once again put faith in his old guards, such as Sami Khedira, Thomas Müller and Mario Gomez while the likes of Leroy Sané were left at home, a decision that angered fans. Continue reading
As the World Cup has now come to an end, many football fans will be filled with pure joy or sadness as 32 countries went on to play in the most prestigious international competition there is to play for.
Many young talents received their ideal chance of shining on the grandest stage of them all in Russia, whilst a number of well-known players failed to show their skills and quality this summer.
With no further ado, we now look at the four individuals that had a poor World Cup at a personal level and did not replicate the performances they were producing at club level in recent years.
David De Gea – Spain
Manchester United’s David De Gea, who is seen as the best goalkeeper in England and the whole of Europe, had a poor World Cup at a personal level as he could not produce the crucial saves that he makes on a weekly basis at Old Trafford. However, his team-mates and most importantly the manager, kept faith in him and had had his back as he started in all of the side’s fixtures.
De Gea’s first error of the competition came in the opening fixture, where it allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to score his second goal of the match during an entertaining and thrilling draw between Portugal and Spain. Also, he was criticised and personally targeted following the side’s penalty shoot-out against Russia in the last-16, where he failed to save any of the four penalties he faced.
Javier Mascherano – Argentina
Not many were expecting Javier Mascherano to play a regular role for Jorge Sampaoli’s side throughout the competition due to his poor positional awareness as well as the decline he has experienced in recent years. Though, the 34-year-old surprisingly started in all four of Argentina’s games as he went on to construct some unconvincing displays whilst being a passenger in midfield.
After having such a below-par campaign compared to his old and usual standards, it’s not a surprise to see the former Barcelona and Liverpool player retiring from international football. Four years ago, Mascherano played an influential role in helping the side to reach the World Cup finals, but he could not do the same this time around as he looked past his best and totally confused on and off the ball.
Jerome Boateng – Germany
Germany were seen as one of the main favourites to win the competition, especially as they were the current champions of the world before the tournament had kicked off in Russia. Many football fans will state that the likes of Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller had let the side down, when in fact, it was Jerome Boateng and the rest of the defence that could not handle the pace of the opposition.
Against Sweden, Boateng let the team and himself down, when he made two unnecessary fouls which led to him being sent off at a time his side needed him the most. Although the team went on to beat Sweden, it was more down to some late brilliance and due to the help of the video assistant referee. Overall, the 2018 World Cup will be one campaign that the defender will want to forget.
Neymar – Brazil
It’s quite difficult to analyse Brazil’s time in the World Cup as they did not take it up a notch after the group stages, and it followed with them not having the composure and mentality to go on to beating Belgium in the quarter-finals of the competition. Tite’s men and the whole of Brazil had huge expectations in Neymar, who simply did not come up with the goods in the final third of the pitch.
On top of that, his antics of rolling around the pitch and diving from time to time summed up his average performances throughout the competition. The Paris Saint-Germain star was hyped up as the key man who would bring some excitement to the World Cup and help Brazil to take the trophy back home, however, that was not the outcome as he only scored twice from 26 attempted shots.
After a fantastic tournament, Sweden were knocked out of the World Cup, losing to England in the quarter-finals. Despite this anticlimax, Sweden fans should remain hopeful for the future, with Janne Andersson leading the line.
Sweden headed into the World Cup with more attention than usual, having knocked out Italy in the playoffs over two games. Despite this, not many had them advancing from the group, facing the likes of Germany and Mexico already in that stage. Continue reading
A couple of shockers, late drama, clutch goals: the third round of the group stage did not fall flat. The biggest surprise was obviously Germany dropping the ball against South Korea: Die Mannschaft just had to win two-nil (or more) to be safe, but despite multiple good chances, they did not manage to score and eventually the Taeguk Warriors took advantage of their unbalanced tactics and punished them, much to the jubilation of Mexico.
The World Cup Champion curse continues, as also Spain in 2014, Italy in 2010 and France in 2002 also were not able to get past the first phase after lifting the trophy. Continue reading
Just about the biggest shock imaginable at this summer’s World Cup has now taken place. With almost every major international tournament there are a few surprises in store, particularly during the earlier stages when some of the less fancied teams take to the field with a point to prove. That proved to be the case in Group F when Germany went up against South Korea on Wednesday afternoon, needing a win to smooth a path through to the last 16. What ensued was a thoroughly sub-par performance from the reigning world champions, and two injury time goals in South Korea’s favour ensured Germany were out of the competition at the first hurdle for the first time since 1938. South Korea went ballistic, but the Germans were atrocious.