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
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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,

 

Tennis

Players who can win the Australian Open

The first tennis Grand Slam of the year is fast approaching as the world’s top players battle for glory. Ivan Smyth picks the men in contention to lift the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.

  1. Novak Djokovic

The Serbian enters this tournament as the favourite after an outstanding end to his 2018 season. The number one ranked player in the world returned from injury to win Wimbledon and the US Open. He suffered defeat in Doha last week, losing to an inspired Roberto Bautista Agut. The 5-set format suits his game and it is hard to see many players who could potentially upset the 14-time Grand Slam Champion. He is aiming to win a record seventh Australian Open title and he will have a major say in who reigns supreme in two weeks’ time.

Novak Djokovic
Can Novak Djokovic win a record seventh Australian Open title? Photo By: PA
  1. Roger Federer

The 20-time Grand Slam champion comes in to this tournament in impressive form after helping Switzerland secure the Hopman Cup. He was undefeated throughout the competition where he defeated Cameron Norrie, Stefanos Tsitsipas and rival Sascha Zverev. Federer is tied with Djokovic and Roy Emerson (who won six titles from 1961-1967) on six Australian Open victories. He struggled towards the end of last season but if he is physically fit then he can create further history.

Roger Federer
Can Roger Federer win three titles Australian Open titles in a row? Sourced Via: Sky Sports
  1. Marin Cilic

It seems like now or never for the 6ft 6in Croat to claim an elusive Astralian Open crown. He is a Grand Slam champion after winning the US Open in 2014. He reached the final last year where he lost out to Roger Federer in a classic final. The 30-year-old reached three Grand Slam quarter finals and helped Croatia to win the Davis Cup in 2018. The fast courts Down Under suit his hard-hitting game and nobody would begrudge him another Slam. He faces a tough first round against Bernard Tomic, but he can go deep once more.

 

  1. Rafael Nadal

The 32-year-old Spaniard will always enter a Grand Slam among the favourites. He has been disrupted by injuries since losing to Novak Djokovic in an epic semi-final at Wimbledon. He has yet to play a competitive game in 2019 which is far from ideal preparation. The 2009 Australian Open champion faces a tough draw in which he may have to face Alex Di Minaur, Kyle Edmund, Kevin Anderson, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to win his 18th Grand Slam title. It would be one of his most impressive Grand Slam victories if he could achieve the feat. If anyone can do it then Nadal can.

Rafael Nadal
Will Nadal win the first Grand Slam of the year? Photo By: Getty.
  1. Sascha Zverev

The talented German has yet to progress beyond the quarter final of a Slam. The 21-year-old is one of the biggest prospects in the game, but he needs to serve big and improve his forehand. Since 2005 only two players outside of Djokovic, Federer or Rafael Nadal have won the Australian Open. Zverev may well be the best bet to break those player’s hold on the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup. He has not yet progressed beyond the third round of this competition, but he beat both Djokovic and Federer and the ATP Tour Finals last November.

  1. Karen Khachanov

The Russian is an outside bet to win his first ever Grad Slam title. His big serve and large forehand are well suited to the Australian courts. He defeated four top 10 players to win the Paris Masters last November: John Isner, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic. The no.10 seed has not progressed beyond the second round in this tournament before, but he should rectify that stat this year. He can beat any player on his day.

 

The Australian Open runs from 14-27th January. It promises to be a fantastic tournament with plenty of top-quality action in the men’s and women’s draws.

Uncategorized

Talking Points ahead of US Open Men’s Tournament

Tennis’ final Grand Slam starts tomorrow as the best players battle it out to become US Open champion. Here I preview the action in what promises to be an action packed two weeks of tennis.

Nadal gets a favourable draw

Although Nadal will not admit it, he must be quietly pleased with his draw for the tournament. Te defending champion is on the opposite side of the draw to Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. He may have to face Karen Khachanov, Kyle Edmund and Kevin Anderson or Dominic Thiem. Nadal will feel that he can outlast those opponents and he will be determined to defend the US Open for the first time.

Rafael Nadal
Will Nadal win his second Grand Slam of the year? Photo By: Getty

Tough Draw for Federer

Roger Federer has not enjoyed a happy few months of tennis by his own high standards. He was knocked out of Wimbledon by Kevin Anderson and was comfortably beaten by Novak Djokovic in the final of the Cincinnati Open. The 20 time Grand Slam champion is projected to face Benoit Paire in round 2, Nick Kyrgios in round 3 and Hyeon Chung or Fabio Fognini in the last 16. That is before a potential semi-final with Djokovic. A tough draw indeed.

Novak Djokovic
Can Djokovic win back to back Grand Slams? Photo By: PA

How far can Murray go?

Andy Murray will play his first Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon 2017. Murray’s return is great to see but question marks remain over his movement as a result of his hip injury. Murray is keen to quash any talk of him being a dark horse but if he is fully fit then he could be a dark horse. He could face Juan martin Del Potro in round 3 in what could be a titanic tussle.

Dimitrov v Wawrinka Part II

Grigor Dimitrov and Stan Wawrinka were paired together for the second Grand Slam in succession after being drawn in the opening round of Wimbledon earlier this year. The unseeded Wawrinka won that day and he has enjoyed an excellent hard court season – reaching the quarter finals in Cincinnati. Dimitrov has endured a difficult season but a win here could reignite his season.

Britain Wimbledon Tennis
Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland plays a return to Taylor Fritz of the U.S during their men’s singles match on day two of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

Can Zverev make the breakthrough?

Alexander Zverev is a force to be reckoned with but he has not proved himself on the major stage yet. He reached the quarter finals at Roland Garros this year. He holds three Masters 1000 titles but if he is to progress deep in this tournament then he will need to show greater mental fortitude than he has in previous Slams. To his credit he managed to win five set matches on the French clay but he faces a tough draw. He has the potential to beat anyone as he has one more chance to go deep in a Slam in 2018.

The 2018 US Open promises to be an action packed tournament filled with drama. May the best player win.

Uncategorized

World Cup Taking Points as Spain, Portugal, Uruguay and Russia Progress

The World Cup saw top class goals, plenty of drama and plenty of talking points. Here I pick the main talking points from yesterday’s action.

VAR

VAR played a large role in last night’s action as Spain were awarded a last minute Iago Aspas goal despite it being initially ruled out for offside. Iran were awarded a late penalty in their 1-1 draw after a VAR review. This penalty seemed to be harsh as the Portugese defender could do little to avoid the handball. Cristiano Ronaldo was yellow carded after a VAR review when Iran were demanding a red. VAR has caused more drama and it did not enjoy the best of evenings.

Portugal v Iran VAR
Referee Enrique Caceres awarded two penalties using VAR. Photo By: Getty

Penalty Record

This World Cup has seen a new penalty record created. In 2002, 18 penalties were awarded but that record has been broken as Cristiano Ronaldo was awarded the 19th penalty in Russia. Iran were awarded penalty number 20 as VAR has made a profound impact on the number of penalties awarded. One suspects there will be more penalties and more talking points as we approach the knockout stages.

Ronaldo penalty miss v Iran
Ronaldo was awarded the 19th penalty at this World Cup – surpassing the total of 18 in 2002. Photo By: Getty

Spain need to improve

Spain drew 2-2 with Morocco as they have not been beaten since losing to Italy at Eur 2016. La Rojas looked suspect in defence as Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta got mixed up to gift Morocco their opening goal. Gerard Pique was fortunate to not be sent off for a two footed tackle while David De Gea was forced to make one on one saves. Spain’s defending from Morocco’s second goal left a lot to be desired while they struggled to create clear chances in attack. Plenty of work for Fernando Hierro to do.

Uruguay can go deep

Uruguay enjoyed an easy 3-0 win against Russia as they comfortably sealed top spot in Group A. La Celeste have a rock solid defence and an experienced goalkeeper while Lucas Torreira anchors their midfield. The strike partnership of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani is a formidable one as both got on the scoresheet yesterday. If they can overcome Portugal then they have every chance of reaching their first World Cup final since 1950.

Cavani celebrates
Cavani celebrates his first goal at this World Cup. Photo via Sky Sports

Reality Check for Russia

Russia had enjoyed an excellent start to their World Cup campaign with wins against Saudi Arabia and Egypt before they were easily dismissed by Uruguay. The Russian public have gotten behind the team but they simply did not have the quality to match Uruguay. They missed the few chances they had while they were punished for sloppy defending. They will need to improve to challenge Spain but there is still hope for them after Spain’s performance yesterday.

Golovin
Bend it like Golovin. Photo By: Getty

Egypt have been woeful

Egypt finished pointless in Group A as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia yesterday. Mo Salah put the Pharoes ahead but their second half performance was poor as the Saudis took control. Egypt had no other threats in attack besides Salah as the Liverpool man was closely watched. He scored both of Egypt’s goals in this World Cup but his teammates have done little win in a campaign they will want to forget.

Anything can happen at this World Cup

Last night’s action showed that this World Cup is the most unpredictable in recent memory. Iran were inches from topping the group and knocking Ronaldo and co. out while Spain struggled in a game they were expected to win. Russia are the lowest ranked side in the competition but they qualified with a game to spare. None of the favourites have raised their game and that is why this World Cup promises much more drama.

World Cup Trophy
Who will get their hands on the Jules Rimet trophy? It’s anyone’s guess at this juncture. Photo By: Getty