Marko Arnautovic concludes West Ham’s UEFA Nations League involvement

Marko Arnautovic

The first ever round of UEFA Nations League fixtures have come to a close. There were some incredible score lines across the board as Spain beat Croatia 6-0, Switzerland won 6-0 against Iceland and Luxembourg had a 4-0 victory over Moldova. Of the many players involved in the competition, four of them were from West Ham: Lukasz Fabianski, Andriy Yarmolenko, Robert Snodgrass and Marko Arnautovic. They had varying levels of success though.

Of the four it is Yarmolenko who’s struggled most for the Hammers this season, as he hasn’t started a single Premier League match since joining from Borussia Dortmund. However, it is the Ukrainian winger who has had the most success during the international break. Ukraine were the only team in League B Group 1 to play twice; they’re also the only side to have any points, after winning both matches, with Yarmolenko central to their success.

In the opening fixture against Czech Republic, Patrick Schick put the Czechs ahead after just four minutes. It was Yarmolenko who led the Ukrainian charge with some dangerous balls into the box following that setback. He was involved when the men in yellow equalised as he dummied Marlos’ pass which went to Evgen Konoplyanka, who cut inside and fired the ball into the bottom corner. Yarmolenko was brought off in the 66th minute, replaced by Oleksandr Zinchenko. It was the Manchester City man who scored the winner in the dying moments of the match.

The second game of Ukraine’s Nations League campaign came at home against Slovakia. Once again Yarmolenko made the difference as he scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the 80th minute, despite Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka getting his hand to the ball.

Next up was Lukasz Fabianski, who beat Wojciech Szczesny to the starting spot in Poland’s goal for the tie against Italy. Poland took the lead in the 40th minute when Mateusz Klich dispossessed Jorginho near the edge of Italy’s box, offloaded the ball to Robert Lewandoski, who crossed it towards the back post where Piotr Zielinski was on hand to volley into the net.

As he has done for the Hammers throughout this season, Fabianski made a number of impressive saves in the game. However, after Jakub Blaszczykowski had fouled Federico Chiesa inside the box, there was nothing the keeper could do to stop Jorginho’s penalty as he was sent the wrong way; the game ended 1-1.

Robert Snodgrass was not originally part of Scotland’s squad, but was brought into the fold when West Bromwich Albion’s Matt Phillips withdrew through injury. Snodgrass is now getting plenty of time on the pitch at West Ham, but was left on the bench for the entirety of Scotland’s 2-0 win against Albania. It was an own goal from Berat Djimsiti and a 68th minute header from Steven Naismith which earned the Scots all three points.

Marko Arnautovic was the last of West Ham’s quartet to make an appearance in the Nations League, as his Austria side faced Bosnia & Herzegovina away from home. It was a tame affair for the majority of the game. Arnautovic gave Ibrahim Sehic his biggest test of the match with a curling effort from outside the box in the 14th minute, but the Büyüksehir Belediye Erzurumpsor and Bosnia & Herzegovina keeper was able to tip it over the bar. In the end, it was AS Roma’s Edin Dzeko who made the difference as he scored in the 78th minute to earn the home side a 1-0 win.

All four of the West Ham players will now be looking ahead to the Hammers’ next fixture, Sunday’s away fixture against Everton, alongside the rest of the squad.

England v Scotland set to go head to head in a footballing rivalry unmatched


This Friday old foes England and Scotland will play each other at Wembley Stadium in their World Cup qualifier match in front of a sell out crowd. The match will mark the 113th time that the two nations has met on a football field. England have 47 wins, Scotland 41 and there have been 24 draws.

As current standings go in Group F for qualification to Russia 2018 England are in pole position with 7 points though any points dropped here could let in Lithuania or Slovenia, indeed if Scotland were to win this match they would go level on points with England.

The Scottish are aiming to qualify for their first major championships since the 1998 World Cup which was held in France. But first they must meet the old enemy. Whilst both nations have arguably had better sides throughout their glorious past as soon as the players arrive on the pitch and the game gets going the atmosphere within the stadium is sure to be electric.

This fixture has history written all over it, for example the very first international football game was England v Scotland which was played in 1870 and ended 1-1. Then of course there are the infamous matches which took place throughout the 20th century. The Wembley Wizards was a term coined to the Scottish side who in 1928 thrashed England 5-1 with Alex Jackson grabbing  a hat trick.

In 1961 five years before England would be crowned world champions they demolished Scotland 9-3 this time it was Jimmy Greaves scoring three goals in front of almost 100,000 fans.

In 1967 England lost their first game in 19 matches to you guessed it Scotland in what many regard as Scotland’s best if not most famous victory over England given that they had beaten the then world champions. The game ended 3-2 to the Scottish where we witnessed a frantic ending that saw 4 goals scored in ten minutes.

Ten years later Scotland beat England 2-1 at Wembley and memories were forever embedded into the Wembley turf quite literally as Scottish fans invaded the ground after the game and hung to the goal posts.

More recent memories for England anyway will always point to Euro 96 and the infamous group game which saw a rebirth of sorts from the maverick but gifted Paul Gascoigne who scored a wonder goal complete with a wonder celebration in a 2-0 win over the Scots.

The nations have played just twice this century with both wins for England in what were entertaining games loaded with goals. Can Scotland pull off a shock and win on Friday? History is against them since they have only beaten England once since 1986.

Whatever the result we are sure to see a game full of passion and commitment and one surely not to be missed.

Play European Fantasy Football against your friends and colleagues, sign up now with

World Cup 2018 qualifying round-up


Europe kick started the qualification process for the 2018 World Cup over the weekend and there were some interesting results and ties. Here is a quick look at what happened:

England started their campaign with a hard fought 1-0 win over Slovakia. The game which was England manager’s Sam Allardyce’s first in charge looked to be heading for a dour 0-0 result when Adam Lallana struck deep into injury time. This win should give the team a vital boost.

Northern Ireland who had done so well to qualify for Euro 2016 impressed in their first qualification match as they came away from a tricky Czech Republic tie with a point. The game ended 0-0 and that should be seen as a very good result considering that they were away from home.

Scotland who are vying to get to their first World Cup in what will be 20 years made heavy weather of opponents Malta early on but then ran out 5-1 winners away from home. Malta had 2 players sent off during the match, but still this was the perfect start by the Scots.

German press was not happy with their team’s performance which they described as sloppy despite the big score. The World Cup champions won 3-0 over Norway and appeared to be in cruise control- this backlash seems to show high expectations for the Germans.

San Marino almost avoided defeat but ended up suffering a 1-0 defeat to Azerbaijan. Denmark got a much needed home win over Armenia by the same score line.

There are still 9 more games to go for some of the teams and much more twists and turns to finally knowing who will join Russia at the World Cup. Matches continue this week where we will see some mouth watering fixtures such as Croatia v Turkey. Israel v Italy should be an interesting encounter also. Spain will fancy their chances when they take on Liechtenstein at home, not only should the team win but pundits will be expecting many goals also.

Gareth Bale will hope to lead out his Wales side when they open their account at home against Moldova. The Welsh side are experiencing perhaps their best form of football in their history and are aiming to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in what would be 60 years.

The World Cup qualifiers will continue in November and the rest of 2017 before being finalised sometime in next October.

Are you interested in being more involved in football than by just reading about it? Try playing one or more of our fantasy football games. You can play your favorite league or create your Team from players from the Premier League, France’s Ligue 1, Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A, and more!

Can Italy impress in final Euro 2016 warm-up?


Italy’s narrow victory over Scotland last week did little to appease those who fear the Azzurri will limp through Euro 2016. If anything, it served to confirm those apprehensions. Just one match remains before Italy heads to France, as they face Finland tonight in Verona. So, what exactly is coach Antonio Conte looking for from this final friendly?

Firstly, momentum. Italy don’t often dwell too much on friendly outings, but Graziano Pelle’s goal against Scotland gave the four-time World Cup winners their first victory since October. Afterwards, Italy proceeded to lose to Belgium, draw with Romania and Spain and be humbled in Germany. They ended the block against the Scots and will hope for another win against Finland.

Conte came in for criticism regarding his squad selections. Rising stars Domenico Berardi and Jorginho were left home. So too MLS pair Andrea Pirlo and Sebastian Giovinco. Eder was included despite struggling for goals at Inter. It’s clear Conte is constructing what he envisions is the best team to get the job done, not a collection of individuals. And that job is to advance far in France.

To do so, he is leaning on a 3-5-2 formation built upon the Juventus defence. This brick-like formation came together under Conte in Turin and has forged ahead during Massimiliano Allegri’s tenure. It’s Conte, and Italy’s, most assured area.

Further forward the wide men are important. Roman based pair Antonio Candreva and Stephan El Shaarawy are expected to start tonight, while flanking Motta centrally are Emanuele Giaccherini and Alessandro Florenzi – a pair comfortable playing on the flanks. Simone Zaza and Ciro Immobile are to start in attack, players who can dominate in the air and run into the channels to assist the wing-backs. What they can do out wide is significant. Conte is also looking for a patient team to break down what he expects to be a resolute opponent.

Will it be pretty? Probably not. But Conte sees this as an effective way for the Azzurri to proceed. There’s a chance Daniele De Rossi, Lorenzo Insigne and Pelle will take the field against Belgium next week, but the general plan is there. This friendly helps them put it into practice, to ‘verify’ their recent work, as Conte put it on Sunday.

The boss has complained in the past about not having enough time to work with his squad. But in the past fortnight he has been able to mould his team. Tonight will offer another glimpse as to what to expect from Italy at Euro 2016.

Why Roy Hodgson would be wrong to underestimate Scotland with weakened XI

Ahead of England’s international friendly against Scotland on Tuesday, manager Roy Hodgson revealed he would be making changes from the side which recently earned a 3-1 win against Slovenia in their fourth Euro 2016 qualifier.

The 67-year-old has sent first-choice ‘keeper Joe Hart (Manchester City) home, meaning Fraser Forster (Southampton) is expected to start between the sticks ahead of Ben Foster (West Brom), while the likes of Saido Berahino (West Brom) and Ross Barkley (Everton) could both be in line to start. Hodgson is set to make more changes to the starting eleven, but is adamant he’s more than respecting the opposition.

“We will take the game very seriously. Please don’t get the impression that I don’t take the game seriously and don’t have a lot of respect for it because I do,” he said. “I am going to need some experienced players on the field (too). I can’t just make wholesale changes because we want to go up there and give a performance.”

England last played Scotland in a friendly back in August 2013, with the Three Lions earned bragging rights at Wembley in front of over 80,000 supporters. Despite the win, Roy Hodgson’s side were given a  scare, with Scotland twice taking the lead in the game through James Morrison (West Brom) and Kenny Miller (Rangers). Theo Walcott (Arsenal) and Danny Welbeck (Arsenal) respectively cancelled out their efforts, before Rickie Lambert (Liverpool) came off the bench to net the winner.

This time round, however, promises to be a completely new challenge for England. Scotland are full of confidence given their impressive form in the Euro 2016 qualifiers – wins against Georgia and the Republic of Ireland, while drawing against Poland. Under manager Gordon Strachan, there’s a new-found belief with the Scots, and coupled with home advantage on Tuesday – with the tie being played at Celtic Park – could well see England struggle.

Scotland are boasting a strong squad, and Strachan isn’t likely to rest any of his big names for the clash. There is more than pride on the line for the Blues ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, and every player in the squad, along with the supporters, will be fired up from kick-off until full time. They were typically spirited in their last Euro 2016 qualifier against rivals Republic of Ireland, and there will be no let up on Tuesday.

England’s consistent knack of starting slow in games could well go against them, as it did against Scotland last year, and most recently against Slovenia. It’s worth noting the Three Lions haven’t scored a first-half goal in any of their four away internationals (excluding neutral stadiums) played this year. So can Roy Hodgson really afford to ring the changes against Scotland?