Soccer, Uncategorized, Women's World Cup

Women’s World Cup Group C

Group C – Australia, Italy, Brazil, Jamaica

Australia

The Matildas are in a tricky pool as they aim to make an impression in this year’s World Cup.

They have qualified for seven out of the eight World Cups and have reached the quarter finals in the last three tournaments.

Sam Kerr
Eyes on the prize. Sam Kerr will try help Australia progress beyond the group stages. Photo by: Nigel Owen/Action Plus via Getty Images.

Australia have not made an impact in their previous campaigns but they do possess one of the best players in the world in striker Sam Kerr.

She was shortlisted for the inaugural Ballon d’Or last year and will captain her country this summer.

She has failed to score in her last two World Cup campaigns but at aged 25, she will be expected to put that right.

Australia have experienced off field issues, firing their coach Alan Stajcic in January and they are now lead by Ante Milicic, a former assistant with the men’s national team.

This is a difficult group but Kerr should be able to steer her side in to the knockout stages.

Italy

The Italians have qualified for their first World Cup since 1999 and have enjoyed an upsurge in form, reaching the final of the Cyprus Cup this year before losing to North Korea on penalties.

They have won seven out of nine games in 2019 including a victory in a friendly against Ireland.

Italy Women's Soccer Team
This is the first Italy team to reach the World Cup since 1999. Photo by: Getty.

Their striker Crisitana Girelli scored seven goals in qualifying  while Barbara Bonansea is a skillful winger who helped Juventus win the league and cup double this year.

Sara Gama will captain the team from midfield while Manuela Giugliano is another to keep an eye on after she helped Italy finish in third place at the U17 World Cup in 2014.

The side ranked 15th in the world would have been hoping for an easier group as they seek to progress to the knockout stages for the second time in their history.

With some third placed teams progressing to the knockout stages, they will not have a better chance to change that statistic.

Brazil

The 2007 runners up have plenty of World Cup experience as they have competed in all seven previous campaigns.

They looked assured in wining the Copa America Femenina, winning all seven of their matches while scoring 31 goals.

Fourteen of their 19 outfield players scored in the tournament but they traditionally dominate the competition, winning seven of the eight tournaments held.

Cristiane
Cristiane (centre) celebrates after scoring a hat trcik in Brazil’s opening round win against Jamaica. Photo By: Naomi Baker – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images.

Their problem however is their ageing squad which may not be able to withstand the quick turnaround in games.

Marta is one of the most recognised names in the women’s game and the World Cup’s record goal scorer with 15, will look to add to her tally this summer.

Beatriz is another to watch as she finished top scorer for her country at last year’s Copa America Femenina.

Midfielder Formiga, who turned 41 in March, retired in 2016 but returned last year.

Brazil have the experience and the pedigree and will be hoping for a deep run but can they find their form?

Jamaica

The feel good story of this World Cup, the Jamaicans have qualified for their first ever World Cup after a cut in funding in 2010 caused the team to not be able to take part in the 2011 World Cup qualifiers.

The turnaround was financed in part by Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella who became an official ambassador for the team and has helped with their fundraising.

They are nicknamed the Reggae Girlz and their fans will be expected to bring plenty of colour to France.

Jamaica made history by becoming the first Caribbean nation to qualify for the World Cup after beating Panama in a penalty shootout last year.

Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw is a top class striker and has scored 31 goals in 22 appearances for her country.

She scored 19 goals in qualifying, the most scored by any player representing the 144 nations attempting to qualify for the World Cup.

They could reach for the knockout stages if they finish in the top three but they will need Shaw to produce big performances.

It would be a terrific story if they could but the odds are stacked against them.

Group Fixtures: 

9th June

Australia 1 Italy 2

Brazil 3 Jamaica 0

13th June

Australia v Brazil 17:00

14th June

Jamaica v Italy 17:00

18th June

Australia v Jamaica 20:00

Italy v Brazil 20:00

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Soccer, Uncategorized, Women's World Cup

Women’s World Cup Group B

Group B – Germany, China, Spain, South Africa

Germany

Dzsenifer Marozsan
Dzsenifer Marozsan will be crucial to Germany’s hopes of winning the World Cup. Photo By: Lar Baron/Getty Images.

Two time World Cup winners Germany would have been delighted with their World Cup draw.

They will be expected to top the group and will look to maintain their record of at least reaching the quarter final stage in each of the seven previous World Cups campaigns.

Martina Voss Teckelenburg’s side have not lost a game this year recording wins against France, Sweden and Japan.

The second ranked side in the world will look towards Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan to anchor the midfield.

She is capable of creating and scoring goals, while Lea Schuller is another to keep an eye on as she has scored eight goals in 13 games for her country.

This could be her breakout tournament as Germany aim to join the USA as three time winners.

China

China are the most unpredictable side in the tournament as they reached the final in 1999, suffering a defeat on penalties to the US but they have not progressed beyond the quarter final stage since then.

They will be looking towards Wang Shuang to provide the goals needed to see them progress.

The reigning Asian Footballer of the Year plays her club football with PSG and is the only player in the Chinese squad to ply their trade abroad.

China have qualified for the World Cup seven times but their form in the Algarve Cup, a warm up tournament for teams, saw them finish last after losing all of their matches.

Spain

Women’s soccer in Spain has grown rapidly over the past few years as they won the Algarve Cup in 2017 and the Cyprus Cup a year later.

They qualified for their first World Cup tournament four years ago, failing to win a single game and finishing in 20th place.

La Roja have improved greatly since then and won all eight of their qualifying games for this tournament.

Jennifer Hermoso will be crucial to their hopes of progressing beyond the group stage for the first time.

She helped Atletico Madrid win the league title ahead of Champions League finalists Barcelona as the striker finished top scorer with 24 goals.

Jennifer Hermoso
Spain will need Jennifer Hermoso to be in top form if they are to progress in the World Cup.

Patri Guijarro is another attacking player who could shine as she won the Golden Boot at the Women’s U20 World Cup last year.

Spain face China in the final group game and the result there should determine who finished behind the Germans.

South Africa

South Africa are the second lowest ranked side in the tournament and will find it difficult to gather points in the competition.

The wonderfully nicknamed Banyana Banyana are competing in their first World Cup after finishing as runners up in the African Cup of Nations, losing to Nigeria in a penalty shootout.

They beat the Super Falcons in the group stage but their results against European teams is worrying.

South Africa
South Africa will hope to make an impression in France. Image via: Eyewitness News

South Africa have conceded a combined total of 10 goals  in friendly games against Norway and the United States before this tournament.

Janine van Wyk is the heartbeat of their defence and holds the record as the country’s most capped player of any gender.

Striker Tembi Kgatlana won Player of the Tournament at last year’s African Cup of Nations but she may struggle for service as her side are favourites to finish bottom of the group.

Fixtures: (British and Irish Times)
8th June:
Germany 1 China 0
Spain v South Africa 17:00
12th June
Germany v Spain 17:00
13th June
China v South Africa 20:00
17th June
China v Spain 17:00
Germany v South Africa 17:00
Soccer, Uncategorized, Women's World Cup

Women’s World Cup Group 1 Preview

The Women’s World Cup kicked off last night with France laying down a marker with a 4-0 victory against Korea Republic. The month long festival of football will showcase the best players in the world with the tournament taking place in France. Here I discuss each team in the group and how likely they are to progress beyond the group stage. 

Group A – France, Korea Republic, Norway and Nigeria

France

France will start this group as favourites as they seek to become the first nation to hold the Men’s and Women’s World Cup trophies at the same time.

Les Bleus have never won this tournament and are seeking to become only the second side after Germany to win the Men’s and Women’s hosting of this competition.

The team are ranked fourth in FIFA’s rankings and with home support should progress to the knockout stages.

Their striker Eugénie Le Sommer will lead the line.

The Olympique Lyonnais player has won six Champions League titles and has scored 74 goals in 159 French appearances.

They are unbeaten since February and their home fans will be expecting them to go deep in the tournament.

Eugenie Le Sommer
Eugenie Le Sommer will hope to lead hosts France to World Cup glory. Photo By: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images.

Korea Republic

Korea Republic, also known as the Taeguek Ladies will compete in their third World Cup finals having reached the knockout stages in 2015 where they were defeated by France.

Their other appearance in 2003 saw them suffer a 7-1 hammering to Norway as they failed to progress from the group.

Their captain Cho So-hyun is a midfielder who plays with West Ham United and is considered one of her country’s greatest ever players.

Ji So-yun plays for Chelsea and is another midfielder worth keeping an eye on.

They are hoping to get out of the group but they only just secured the final qualifying place in Asia while their poor form against European teams is cause for concern.

Norway

The World Cup winners in 1995, Norway, would have been widely regarded as dark horses for the tournament but the first ever winner of the Ballon d’Or feminin prize Ada Hegerberg’s decision to boycott the competition is a major blow.

She argues that female players are shown a lack of respect and will miss the tournament. Hegerberg has scored 38 goals in 66 appearances for her country and they may struggle for a cutting edge without her.

Norway have won six of their seven games this year and will need Chelsea player Maren Mjelde to create chances.

Caroline Hansen is a talented winger who has signed for Barcelona after impressing with Wolfsburg.

The opening game with Nigeria looks to be vital towards deciding who progresses from the group.

Ada Hegerberg
Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg will not be playing for Norway at the World Cup.

Nigeria

Africa Women’s Champions Nigeria will be hoping to bring their success in their nation to the global stage.

The Super Falcons are the only African team to have qualified for every World Cup.

They have only got out of the group stages once, in 1999 when they reached the quarter final stage before losing to Brazil.

Nigeria will be looking to Asisat Oshoala to provide the goals; she announced herself on the world stage when she finished top scorer at the U20 Women’s World Cup.

Oshoala scored in the Champions League final as Barcelona were defeated by the all conquering Olympique Lyonnais.

They know that a top three finish may be enough to progress and the format gives them every opportunity to rectify previous World Cup failings.

Champions League, Soccer, Uncategorized

Best XI To Never Win the Champions League

As Mo Salah, Virgil Van Dijk and co. will now finish their careers with Champions League medals, some great players have graced the Champions League without winning it. Here we pick the best players to never win the competition (1992/93 onwards). We have not included players who are still active in the competition which means that Gianluigi Buffon cannot be picked. Also, we will not include players who won the old European Cup and they must have played in the Champions League era.

GK: Jens Lehmann

The two time UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year will be remembered for his sending off in the 2006 Champions League final which Barcelona eventually won 2-1. The German international undoubtedly enjoyed the greatest goalkeeping campaign in the Champions League in the 2005-06 season as Arsenal went a record 10 games without conceding a goal. That saw him go 853 minutes without the ball ending up in his net which is a record to this day. He maintained that record in the final as Manuel Almunia was between the sticks when Barcelona struck twice. Lehmann never got as close to Champions League success again with many Arsenal fans wondering what could have been if he did not get sent off in that final.

Jens Lehmann
Seeing Red. Jens Lehmann’s sending off left Arsenal fans wondering what could have been. Photo By: EPA.

RB: Lilian Thuram

One of the best defenders of his generation, Thuram missed out on Champions League glory with Juventus and Barcelona. A world cup winner who is a record appearance holder for France, he surprisingly ended his career without lifting Europe’s biggest club trophy. He was part of the Juventus side that lost the 2003 Champions League final to a star studded AC Milan side on penalties. He joined Barcelona in 2006 after the Calciopoli scandal saw Juventus relegated to Serie B. He left the club and retired in 2008 before they won the Champions League the year after.

Lilian Thuram
Lilian Thuram was one of France’s finest defenders. Photo by Getty Images/

CB: Laurent Blanc

Le Président was never able to claim the Champions League during a 20 year career which saw him win the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championships alongside the Premier League with Man United. Despite playing for Barcelona, Inter Milan and United, he failed to claim victory in the tournament. The closest he came was when the Red Devils reached the semi finals in the 2001/2002 season when they were defeated by Bayer Leverkusen on away goals. He retired the following season but he did so without lifting the ultimate honour in club football.

Laurent Blanc
Laurent Blanc never claimed Champions League glory. Photo via: www/101greatgoals.com.

CB: Fabio Cannavaro

The great Italian defender surprisingly never claimed the Champions League despite playing with Parma, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid. He captained Italy to World Cup glory in 2006 and helped his side concede only two goals during the whole tournament. Cannavaro claimed the Ballon d’Or the same year but despite this he never reached the final of this competition. He was part of the Inter Milan team that lost to bitter rivals AC Milan on away goals in the semi finals in 2003. It is simply unbelievable that Djimi Traore has won a Champions League while Cannavaro has not.

Fabio Cannavaro
Despite playing for Real Madrid and Juventus Cannavaro never won a Champions League winners medal. Photo By: Getty/John Walton.

LB: Gianluca Zambrotta

The 98 times Italian international failed to win the Champions League despite playing with clubs such as Barcelona, Juventus and AC Milan. Zambrotta played over 200 games for Juventus but he was another member of the side which lost the final to AC Milan in 2003. He reached the semi final with Barcelona in 2009 when they lost 1-0 to Man United on aggregate. Zambrotta successfully kept Cristiano Ronaldo quiet during the second leg but it was his poor clearance which led to Paul Scholes’ goal. A consistent player who is often overlooked for lists such as this, Zambrotta was an excellent defender but that did not translate to Champions League success.

CM:Patrick Vieira

The French international was one of the best midfielders of his generation but that did not translate itself in to Champions League success. He left Arsenal in 2005 but unlike Thierry Henry his move did not result in winning the competition. In fact the Gunners reached the final the year after he left while he departed Inter Milan in January 2010 befoe they won the competition that season. He was not eligible for a medal. Amazingly he never progressed beyond the quarter final stage of the competition for any team he played.

Patrick Vieira
Patrick Vieira left Inter Milan six months before they win the Champions League in 2010. Photo By: Getty.

CM: Pavel Nedved

Nothing sums up the highs and lows of football better than Pavel Nedved in the 2003 Champions League semi-final between Juventus and Liverpool. The Czech Republic player scored a wonderful goal to help send The Old Lady in to the final but unfortunately for him a needless foul on Steve McManaman saw him receive a booking which ruled him out of the final. Juventus ended up suffering an agonising defeat on penalties to AC Milan with many wondering would Nedved’s presence have helped Juventus beat their Italian rivals. He did win the Ballon d’Or that season but the devastation remained for the rest of his career.

Pavel Nedved
Pavel Nedved missed the 2003 final through suspension. Photo By: Reuteurs.

CM: Lothar Matthaus

This player came closer than anybody on this list to claim the Champions League crown. Matthaus was part of the Bayern Munich side which came agonisingly close to winning the 1999 final before Man United scored twice in injury time to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Matthaus was an excellent box to box midfielder in his prime before he became a sweeper later in his career. The World Cup winner with West Germany was one of the best players in his era. He was 38 years old when he played in that final and it proved to be his final opportunity to claim a title that his talent deserved.

ST: Roberto Baggio

One of the most gifted players to grace the game, Baggio never claimed the Champions League title despite wreaking havoc in Italy and on the international stage. He helped Inter Milan qualify for the Champions League in the 1998-1999 season before they were defeated by eventual champions Man United. Baggio was in his prime before the introduction of the Champions League but for a player of his talent to never come close to winning the trophy is a shame.

Roberto Baggio
Roberto Baggio (right) won the Ballon d’Or in 1993, never claimed a Champions League winners medal. Photo By: EPA.

ST: Gabriel Batistuta

A player whose trophy haul did not match his obvious talent. Batistuta was among the most feared strikers in the world in the 1990s as he terrorised defences with Fiorentina and Argentina. He was 30 before he made his debut in the competition while his goals against Arsenal and Man United will never be forgotten. For those who had not seen him score hat tricks in the 1994 and 1998 World Cup he did not disappoint. Batistuta was one of the most feared strikers of his generation but he did not finish his career with the medals that his talent deserved.

ST: Ronaldo

Quite simply one of the greatest players of all time. The Brazilian failed to win the Champions League despite playing with PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. He famously scored a hat trick for Real Madrid against Man United in the 2003 Champions League before he helped them beat Juventus 2-1 in the first leg of the semi final, scoring the first goal. He limped off in the second leg as injuries began to take their toll. Juventus beat them to reach the final before the Galacticos were aiming for a treble the following season but lost to Monaco in the quarter finals with the Brazilian injured for the tie. One of the all time great players who unfortunately finds himself without a Champions League winners medal.

Ronaldo
Ronaldo is one of the all time great players. Photo By: Bru Garcia.

Honourable Mentions: Jose Francisco Molina, Roberto Ayala, Amadeo Carboni, Phillip Cocu, Michael Ballack, Denis Bergkamp, Eric Cantona, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Francesco Totti,