Category Archives: European Football

England win but football loses

Its not often you come away from a tough away game with a 6-0 win and feel sad and disillusioned with the game. But for many last night, the sad scenes in the stands in Sofia overshadowed what was a very good England performance and threw the game into disrepute. 

There had been much speculation about the behaviour of the Bulgarian fans, after a number of incidents in recent years highlighted the large racist undertone within their fan base, and England captain Harry Kane had spoke of leading his teammates off the field if there was any sniff of racially motivated chanting or jeers.

From the get go England’s black stars were booed every time they touched the ball, attackers Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford as well as debutant centre back Tyrone Mings. But it wasn’t until the 28th minute play was put on hold with discussions taking place on the sideline, and a stadium announcement being made over the speakers warning fans the game would be stopped if this behaviour carried on.

However, this did not stop the chants, the boo’s and the abhorrent monkey noises being made, and the game was then stopped again in the 43rd minute, this time with Southgate talking with the referee before the game was again restarted.

Further racist incidents continued into the second half, caught on pitch-side microphones, but play was not stopped for a third time, which would have been crucial as UEFA’s three step racism protocol states if a match is stopped for a third time the match must be abandoned.

Further footage shows fans doing Nazi salutes and one fan holding up a “no respect” jumper. Debate has been rife over the best course of action in a situation such as this, is it best to walk from the pitch refusing to stand for this kind of abuse? Or is it best to play on and not let the racists win? England chose the latter last night, and with Rashford and Sterling both scoring, as well as Ross Barkley who’s grandfather is Nigerian, well and truly silenced the racist scum in the stands.

If this was not bad enough, Bulgaria’s own manager Krasimir Balakov seemingly defended his fans post match, claiming he did not hear any racist chants towards the England players and actually blamed the England fans for unacceptable behaviour. When the man at the top is seemingly just as bad as the racists in the stands, it is concerning for all involved and something UEFA must take a serious look at.

With all of the focus being firmly set on what happened off the pitch, it is important to remember just what the England players achieved in representing their country in such difficult circumstances, standing up to racism and doing our country proud in the process.

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German legend Bastian Schweinsteiger announces retirement

On October 6th, at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida, fans got to witness the last game of Bastian Schweinsteiger’s career as he announced his retirement. This followed from the 5-2 victory in the MLS regular season finale for Chicago Fire.

Known for his playing days at Bayern Munich, Schweinsteiger won several awards with the Bavarians from 2002-2015. Scoring 45 goals in 342 appearances for Bayern, Schweinsteiger won eight Bundesliga titles, seven DFB-Pokal titles, a DFB-Ligapokal title in 2007, a DFL-Supercup in 2010, and was a part of the UEFA Champions League squad that won the tournament in 2013.

After a great career for Bayern, Schweinsteiger signed a three-year contract of £6.5 million with Manchester United in 2015. In Schweinsteiger’s first season with the Red Devils, he won the FA Cup. However, after the arrival of José Mourinho, Schweinsteiger’s role was diminished, forcing him to move to the Chicago Fire in 2017.

The midfielder also played a pivotal role in the success of Germany’s national team, including winning the 2014 World Cup with the nation, deafeating Argentina 1-0. Scoring 24 goals in 120 appearances, Schweinsteiger’s last appearance for the Germans came after the team’s run ended in the 2016 edition of UEFA’s European Championship.

Schweinsteiger also won several individual awards across his career, including being named the German national team Player of the Year in 2010, and two-time MLS All-Star in 2017 and 2018, and was inducted in Bayern Munich’s prestigious Hall of Fame in 2018.

Premier League teams attempt to rise on Matchday 2 of Champions League

As the second matchday of the UEFA Champions League commences later today, Tottenham and Manchester City begin their quests of making it to knockout rounds after having successful tournament results last year. Reigning Champions League winners Liverpool and former winners Chelsea are set to play on Wednesday – aiming to get back in the standings after devastating losses to Napoli and Valencia respectively.

Tottenham, fresh off a Champions League campaign in which they finished as the runner-up, started this edition of the tournament with a 2-2 draw against Olympiacos. Scoring two early goals from Harry Kane’s penalty in the 26th minute, followed by a Lucas Moura goal in the 30th minute – goals from Daniel Podence in the 44th minute and Mathieu Valbuena in the 54th minute were enough to seal a draw at Karaiskakis Stadium. Tottenham will host German giants Bayern Munich at 8 p.m. GMT for its fifth-ever meeting against the club. Bayern are coming off a 3-0 victory over Crvena Zvezda after goals from Kingsley Coman, Robert Lewandowski, and Thomas Müller took all three points at The Allianz Arena.

Manchester City had a huge victory 3-0 over Shakhtar Donetsk at The Metalist, with Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gündogan, and Gabriel Jesus providing the necessary goals. They will face off against Dinamo Zagreb at Etihad Stadium at 8 p.m. GMT. The Croatian side defeated Atalanta 4-0 on Matchday 1 after Mislav Orsic’s hat trick at Stadion Maksimir. This will be the first-ever matchup between the two clubs – who do you think will end up in top spot?

Liverpool, fresh off of their recent Champions League winning campaign, started their campaign off with a dud as they lost 2-0 to Napoli. Late goals from Dries Mertens in the 82th minute and Fernando Llorente in injury time, helped the Italian team embarass the holders. Now, Liverpool will have to get back on track as they host Red Bull Salzburg at 8 p.m. GMT. The Austrian side had a 6-2 victory against Genk on the first matchday, led by a hat trick from Norwegian teen sensation Erling Braut Haaland at Red Bull Arena. The matchup between tonight’s game will be the first-ever matchup between the two clubs.

Chelsea, the champions of last year’s edition of the Europa League beating London compatriot Arsenal, did not get off to a great start in the Champions League as new coach/former club legend Frank Lampard and The Blues suffered a 1-0 loss at the feet of Rodrigo at Stamford Bridge. Considered the favorites of the group before the start of the tournament, Chelsea will have to get back in gear as they head to Stade Pierre Mauroy to battle Lille OSC at 8 p.m. GMT. Lille suffered a 3-0 defeat in their last game against Ajax due to goals from Quincy Promes, Edson Álvarez, and Nicolás Tagliafico at Johan Crujiff ArenA. The two clubs will face off against each other for the first time.

With the Champions League still in the beginning stages, time will tell if England will have back-to-back winners in the tournament for the first time since Liverpool and Aston Villa won the 1981 and 1982 editions.

Best FIFA Football awards 2019 winners

What is it?

The FIFA football awards were originally introduced in 1991 to go along side the French publication, French Football’s Ballon D’Or prize. 

The difference between the two is the organisations in charge; The Ballon D’Or was set up in 1956.

 However, both awards were combined in 2010 to create the FIFA Ballon D’Or for six years before FIFA President, Gianni Infantino reverted it back to the original separate award system in 2018.

Lionel Messi wins best player for a sixth time

Lionel Messi was voted the best men’s player at the awards in Milan.  The Barcelona man was voted ahead of fellow finalists, Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk as well as Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 32-year-old Argentine helped Barcelona win La Liga and reach the semi-finals of the Champions League, scoring 54 goals in 58 games for club and country, and provide 20 assists in the 2018/19 campaign.

I think that Van Dijk should have got the award because of the impact he has made to Liverpool’s defence, particularly last season, while Messi had an impressive season; Van Dijk ultimately played a critical part in Liverpool winning their sixth Champions League trophy as well as the dramatic improvement that he has made to the reds’ defence in the league.  His former manager at Celtic, Neil Lennon, also shares this viewpoint.

FIFA however have not crowned a defender as it’s player of the year since Fabio Cannavaro won it in 2006 after the Italian led Italy to World Cup glory.

Megan Rapinoe awarded the women’s player prize

American superstar Megan Rapinoe led her country to a second consecutive World Cup win scoring crucial goals against Spain in the last 16, France in the Quarter-finals and the World Cup final itself during their victory over the Netherlands.

Rapinoe won the award with 46 per cent of the vote, just ahead of World Cup 2019 Silver Boot winner Alex Morgan, 42 per cent and Lyon treble winner and England international Lucy Bronze, 29 per cent.

Jurgen Klopp named coach of the year ahead of Pep Guardiola

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp was announced as coach of the year after guiding his team to a Champions League win in Madrid against Tottenham Hotspur. Other notable highlights included the comeback in the Champions League Semi-finals against Barcelona, 4-3 on aggregate.

The German coach also lost only once in the Premier League during the 2018/19 season and achieved a 97 point tally, falling just one point short of eventual winners Manchester City.

The other finalists included domestic treble winner (Premier League, League Cup and FA Cup), Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola.

Tottenham Hotspur coach, Maurico Pochettino was also nominated having led the London side to their first ever Champions League Final.

I think you can make a strong argument for both Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola when it comes to winning coach of the year.

Pep Guardiola for me should have got it ahead of Klopp on this occasion, purely for leading his team to the first ever domestic treble, or perhaps they could have even been joint winners?

World Cup winning coach Jill Ellis named best women’s coach

Probably the least surprising award winner, Jill Ellis helped America win another World Cup in France this year.  This was following on from her 2015 success in Canada.

In the seven tournament matches her side scored 26 goals, including a record 13-0 win over Thailand and conceded just three times.

Ellis finishes her reign as American coach next month and currently is the only coach to lift the Women’s World Cup twice.

The other finalists were England coach Phil Neville, who helped the Three Lions to a fourth place finish at the World Cup as well as a first ever SheBelievesCup win back in March 2019.

Sarina Wiegman, the Dutch coach, was also nominated having got her country to their first ever World Cup Final.

Alisson Becker and Sari Van Veenendaal named the best male and female goalkeeper

Brazilian and Liverpool Goalkeeper, Alisson Becker was announced as the best goalkeeper and this was certainly justified after keeping a record high 21 clean sheets in the league. Alisson was also able to help his club side to Champions League glory, keeping five clean sheets including four in the knockout stages.

The runners-up were Manchester City’s Ederson, who kept 20 clean sheets during the last campaign and Barcelona’s Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.

Sari Van Veenendaal, the Dutch number one keeper, meanwhile was awarded the women’s goalkeeper award.  Van Veenendaal helped her team to their first ever World Cup final, keeping three clean sheets in the process.  She was also part of the Arsenal side who won the Women Super League title.

Sweden’s Hedvig Lindahl, who played an integral part in her side finishing third at the World Cup, was the runner-up.

Eighteen-year-old Daniel Zsori wins the Puskas award for best goal

Daniel Zsori was awarded the best goal prize by scoring a stunning bicycle kick in stoppage time in what proved to be the winner for his club side Debrecen against rivals Ferencvaros in February 2019.

Incredibly Zsori was making his first senior appearance for the club.

Silvia Grecco chosen as FIFA fan winner

Silvia Grecco was given this award because she was seen with her son, 11-year-old Nickollas, who is blind and mildly autistic, describing and commentating on a Palmeiras football game for him against rivals Corinthians.

The footage of this went viral all over Brazil and the mother later explained that she had been doing this for a few years.  Grecco won the award with roughly 58 per cent of the vote.

Fifa Fifpro Men’s Team of the Year

Goalkeeper – Alisson (Liverpool/Brazil)

Defenders – Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax and Juventus/Netherlands), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid/Spain), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool/Netherlands), Marcelo (Real Madrid/Brazil).

Midfielders – Luka Modric (Real Madrid/Croatia), Frenkie de Jong (Ajax and Barcelona/Netherlands), Eden Hazard (Chelsea and Real Madrid/Belgium)

Forwards – Kylian Mbappe (Paris St-Germain/France), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Portugal), Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina)

Fifa Fifpro Women’s Team of the Year

Goalkeeper – Sari van Veenendaal (Arsenal/Netherlands)

Defenders – Lucy Bronze (Olympique Lyonnais/England), Wendie Renard (Olympique Lyonnais/France), Nilla Fischer (Linkopings FC/Sweden), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals FC/USA)

Midfielders – Amandine Henry (Olympique Lyonnais/France), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars/USA), Marta (Orlando Pride/Brazil), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit/USA),

Forwards – Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC/USA) and Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride/USA)

Were some of these inclusions justified?

Certainly there were a few surprising inclusions such as Real Madrid player’s Marcelo, Sergio Ramos and even Luka Modric.

Sergio Ramos in particular as he admitted after the first leg of the last 16 ties against Ajax that he picked up a deliberate yellow card to rule himself out of the return leg, that Real Madrid ultimately lost.

Meanwhile, Kylian Mbappe was impressive in Ligue 1 and domestic competitions in France but he did not make much of an impression on the Champions League stage last season.

I would have chosen Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte who played a crucial role in their treble winning campaign ahead of Sergio Ramos. Laporte helped his side keep 23 clean sheets out of 48 games.

Liverpool’s Andy Robertson at left back instead of Marcelo, again due to his influential displays in their Champions League and Premier League campaigns. Last season Robertson was responsible for 13 assists from his position at left back.

Christian Eriksen also I think gets in ahead of Luka Modric as he played an important role in Tottenham Hotspur getting to their first ever final. Eriksen was responsible for eight goals and 12 assists from 35 appearances during the London clubs previous campaign.

Finally I would bring in Mohamed Salah instead of Kylian Mbappe, purely because of the importance of the goals that he scored and the impact that he made in crucial moments of the campaign contributing 22 goals and 11 assists in all competitions.

Unlucky absentees?

Both Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and Liverpool’s Sadio Mane were unlucky to just miss out as well having both had superb seasons with their respective clubs. Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son and Ajax’s Dustin Tadic were also outstanding.

Do any 24/7 readers have views on the award winners and who would you choose in your team of 2018/19?