All posts by ellabrennand

Is VAR killing the games passion?

Friday’s return of the long awaited 2019/20 Premier League season produced no shortage of goals, passion and controversy, with the teams getting used to the newly implemented VAR following two seasons of monitoring in other domestic competitions.

In order to prevent the stadium audience and viewers from having little understanding of the formalities that the referee and back room VAR team take, 18 of the teams (all excluding Liverpool and Manchester United) have promised to make clear on giant screens when there is a clear delay to a match or a referees decision has been raised to VAR. If the VAR team believe there is a definitive video clip which helps explain the overturned decision, this will also be broadcast on the giant screens in attempt to maintain fan excitement and involvement in the stadium.

The question many of us are asking is whether the use of VAR will take away the excitement and subjectivity of the game, will there still be an element of chance involved? Or is the introduction of video analysis ensuring the game is very objective and plain? Saturday’s tie between Manchester City and West Ham saw 7 checks in total, with 2 overturned decisions. Despite a number of decisions going against both teams, the energy of the crowd seemed only boosted when the opposing team had a decision against them – despite both teams suffering a disallowed goal or 2nd penalty given against them. Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola spoke in response to VAR in his post match interview, stating his belief that in order to overcome unwanted decisions “you have to be mentally strong when VAR is not on your side”, he later went on to say that the use of VAR will change the dynamic of the game, not just for the team but for the supporters.

Another question being asked of VAR is will it be completely accurate and consistent across all 760 games? Following the conclusion of the Women’s World Cup last month, the PL clearly stated they would take an alternative route when awarding a 2nd penalty for a goalkeeper infringement – after Scotland were thrown out of the WWC despite the spot kick being saved by their keeper against Argentina. A spokesperson for the PL stated they will not be enforcing the rule that a retaken penalty will occur if keepers do not have at least one foot on the goal line when a penalty is taken – however West Ham still suffered at the hands of VAR following a fine save of Aguero’s penalty strike by Lukasz Fabianski at the London Stadium.

Prior to the implementation of VAR, the PL openly stated that they were aiming for ‘minimum interference’ during games, however with 70 individual checks in the opening weekend alone there is an argument that it is being overused just because it is available. Goals and referee decisions that were already clear and obvious were being rechecked whenever the VAR officials deemed necessary, such as all of Manchester United’s second half goals against Chelsea. This could potentially slow down the excitement and flow of the game in situations such as goal scoring opportunities or counter attacks, and instead cause constant delays similar to that experienced in Rugby Union.

All in all, the use of VAR is ensuring fairness and consistency in regards to referee decisions, but arguably at the cost of fan excitement and the pace of the game. Do you think VAR should be used in the Premier League this season?

UEFA Champions League Final – The All English Road to Madrid

Some 11 years after Manchester United prevailed against Chelsea, Saturday marks the 2nd all English UEFA Champions League Final in history; as Liverpool take on Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

Tottenham manager Pochettino had his work cut out for him from the start, facing a challenging group of Barcelona, PSV and Inter Milan. Spurs and Inter tied for second place on points and goal difference, with Spurs only reaching the knockout rounds by tallying more goals in total.

They immediately made an impact in the round of 16, thrashing German giants Borussia Dortmund 3-0 at Wembley; furthermore consolidating their Champions League status by winning the away leg as well.

It appeared that Spurs’ UCL dreams could be quickly over, as they drew Treble winning Manchester City in the quarterfinals. Pochettino managed to lead his side to a 1-0 victory in their first Champions League game in the new stadium, and the away leg in Manchester was one to remember. Spurs scraped their way through to the Semi-Finals, following an enthralling game filled by VAR and controversy. They lost the second leg 4-3 but secured their place through the away goal rule.

The London team further shocked the football world when achieving their place in this years UCL final; a second-half hat trick from Lucas Moura including an injury-time winning goal was what it took to overcome Ajax. This will be The Lilywhites first European final since 1984, where they beat Anderlecht to raise the UEFA Cup.

Few teams in this year’s competition had a harder run than Liverpool. Following the backlash that Klopp’s men received in the 2017/18 UCL for their somewhat easy run of fixtures, the Reds’ have certainly earned their place this year in Madrid. Having survived arguably the toughest group stage in this years competition – consisting of Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli – Liverpool then surged on to defeat domestic-double winning Bayern-Munich and Porto.

The Reds semi-final victory is bound to go down in the history books after an astonishing night at Anfield. Facing Barcelona, Klopp had his work cut out for him; even more so after losing the first leg 3-0 in Spain, and star attackers Salah and Firmino injured.

Nearly everybody would have thought Barcelona were through to another UCL Final, their first since they last won the trophy in 2015. At Anfield, Origi opened the scoring early, following a rapid brace from newly substituted Wijnaldum. In the 79th minute, the stadium filled with ecstasy. Origi managed to get his second, and Liverpool had triumphed. The game was one that flooded fans with the nostalgia of that night in Istanbul in 2005.

Alongside the UCL, Liverpool’s fantastic run in the Premier League spurred themselves and Manchester City to the highest two team point total in Premier League history, being narrowly beaten by The Blues by a single point. Having not lost a game since 3rd of March, along with a series of injuries to the XI including Mohammed Sarah, Roberto Firmino and Joe Gomez as well as long term injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana.

Tottenham performed well in this year’s Premier League season, finishing 4th and securing their place for next years European competition. Very few people would have expected them to reach this stage, so will they go on to cause an upset? England’s star striker Harry Kane left the field injured during their victory over Manchester City in the UCL and has yet to make a return to action. There is a slight doubt of his fitness, but facing Liverpool, Pochettino needs all the firepower he can get. Sanchez, Winks and Vertonghen are also doubted for the clash against Liverpool.

Liverpool may have the psychological difference going into the game, following their success in the Premier League this season. The Reds’ beat Spurs both home and away 2-1 on each occasion. They are certainly favourites to win this years competition and will be seeking revenge following last years disastrous loss to Real Madrid. We predict Liverpool will prevail, and win the game 3-1.

FIFA Women’s World Cup: 7th June – 7th July 2019

With only 54 days until the first kick off in France, the 24 teams are upping their game with team announcements being released and international friendlies taking place across this week. For those competing for the title, as well as those hoping to shine for the first time on a global scale, the countdown to the World Cup has begun…

There have only been four different winners of the prestigious World Cup, which comes with £4 million in prize money and an increase in the FIFA world rankings. As defending champions and current leaders of the FIFA rankings, the USWNT (USA), are arguably favourites to defend their title following a breeze-through in qualification. The road to France saw the USA comfortably beat Mexico and Panama 6-0 and 5-0 respectively, before thumping Trinidad and Tobago 7-0 and Jamaica 6-0 in the CONCACAF Championship to cement their qualification. However, having been closely pipped by England’s Lionesses to the title of the SheBelieves Cup in March, it may not be all plain sailing for the USA this time around!

England Lionesses boss Phil Neville has recently expressed his intent to be ‘ruthless’ in his team selection as he drives for success in his first World Cup over his managerial and footballing career. Having lost to Canada but putting two past Spain in a 2-1 win during this weeks’ international friendlies, Neville has advised his players to “stay fit, keep in form and keep charging forward”, in the hope of replicating the success they saw in the SheBelieves Cup in March. England currently stand 3rd in the FIFA rankings as they head into the tournament, with their campaign kicking off against bordering rivals Scotland on the 9th June.

With more than prize money and glory on the cards, England striker Toni Duggan has highlighted her hope for the media to boost the crowd numbers and TV audience across the women’s game. With the current attendance record (60,739) coming last month at Barcelona’s success over Atletico Madrid, Duggan hopes that success at this summers tournament can improve these numbers in England, which on average sees just short of 1000 fans per Women’s Super League (WSL) game.

As well as the FIFA top 10 heading to France this summer, the 2019 World Cup will also see the introduction of 4 new teams; Jamaica, Chile, Scotland and South Africa. Jamaica, one of the the lowest ranked teams in the tournament, saw their funding cut 8 years ago by the Jamaican Football Federation, this led to 3 years of inactivity and they failed to even achieve a FIFA rank. They begin their campaign on the 9th June against the competition’s 2007 runners-up Brazil.

The tournament kicks off on the 7th June with France hosting South Korea at the Parc des Princes in Paris, with the final being played a month later in Lyon at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais. Coverage of all 52 games is on BBC this summer.

International Women’s Day: the rise of the women’s game

With the recent success of England’s Lionesses in the SheBelieves Cup, the future of Women’s football looks bright. On International Women’s Day (8th March 2019) we reflect on how the game has grown and the future of the game on a global scale.

The women’s game has been kicking around for longer than most know, with the first game being played in 1895 before the commencement of the FA ban; preventing women from playing on any football league grounds in 1921. This didn’t stop the popularity increasing, and before long the Women’s Football Association (WFA) of 1969 was formed with 44 newly organised clubs. The prevalence of the game has only increased, with the recent restructuring of the Women’s Soccer League.

The recent changes saw 11 teams including the likes of Manchester City Women, Chelsea Women and Yeovil Town Ladies FC become professional with clear academy pathways and set contracted hours for all players – something that became compulsory to obtain an FA License. Katie Brazier, head of the FA’s women’s leagues and competitions expressed how the “changes will continue the journey to transform key elements of the women’s game” and will “provide an elite performance environment that will produce more and better players, increase the interest and excitement via a more competitive league and attract a greater number of fans” – a crucial component of professional football needed to elevate the women’s game.

Phil Neville, head coach of the England Women’s Team has recently spoken out following the Lionesses 3-0 success over Japan in the SheBelieves Cup. He believes “the future for English women’s football is absolutely amazing” owing to the emphasis on youth pathways and success at recent competitions (2019 SheBelieves Cup; U20s finishing 3rd in the 2018 World Cup). Alongside the new professionalism in the Women’s leagues, Neville now considers there are “8-10 world-class players in the women’s senior team”. With the upcoming World Cup this summer and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics looming, is there any stopping the Lionesses in their bid to become the best team in the world?

Do you think the Lionesses can win the 2019 Women’s World Cup?