Sunday, June 29, 2014

Use PixiClip As a Sports/Soccer Coaching Tool

Pixiclip is an interactive whiteboard which makes for a great sports coaching tool thanks to its various functions, and more importantly its easy sharing capabilities. The Pixiclip website has a clean interface, which makes it easy to upload images, quickly draw, and record everything you're doing in order to easily send or show it to anyone.

By using uploaded images you can show players where you'd like them to take up their positions, and shuffle them around the field if needed. On top of this you can use the pencil tool to show which runs you'd like your players to be making, and with the marker tool it's easy to highlight areas of the field to show what zones a player should cover. Pixiclip's simple and easy-to use interface lets you add text, while also giving you the ability to erase or undo any mistakes you make on the way.

Perhaps what's most impressive about Pixiclip is how easy it is to record and share what you're working on. You can use a webcam and a microphone to explain or give commentary, and once you're finished Pixiclip will host your recording, making it easy to share your link with friends, or embed your video into your website. This makes it easy to share your tactics with your entire team, and Pixiclip also gives you the option to make your videos private, to ensure that your match day tactics remain hidden.

In the video below I run over some easy ways about how you can use PixClip as a soccer/sports coaching tool:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Luis Suarez Banned for Four Months Because of World Cup Bite

The world of soccer/football is full of misbehaviour which often stems from gritty competitive spirit. In the midst of rough tackles, high elbows, and diving, there's a lengthy recorded history of spitting, headbutts, punches, along with an even longer list of insults which have been been thrown and received on the field. Now, with Luis Suarez's contribution biting is joining that list of misdemeanours which are not only recorded, but punished.

After his now infamous bite, Luis Suarez has been banned by FIFA for nine matches along with an additional four month ban "from taking part in any kind of football-related activity" (you can read FIFA's full statement here). Suarez is also prohibited from entering the confines of any stadiums, and to top it all off the Uruguayan received a fine of 100,000 Swiss Francs.

FIFA retains that the ban is rightfully harsh, and that, "such behaviour cannot be tolerated on any football pitch, and in particular not at a FIFA World Cup when the eyes of millions of people are on the stars on the field." however, Suarez has his protectors. Diego Maradona has sided with the Liverpool player, and Giorgio Chiellini (the Italian defender who was bitten) also put out a statement on his website saying that the ban is excessive. Furthermore, the Uruguayan FA has said that they will be appealing FIFA's decision, but it is unlikely that they will manage to change the outcome before Uruguay's next match against Colombia.

Aside from his official sentence, Suarez has also lost his sponsorship deal with 888poker after his bite. The betting website terminated its relationship with Suarez immediately after the incident. Suarez's current club, Liverpool FC, are also looking to end their relationship with him, but in the form of selling the striker to FC Barcelona, who apparently will be making an 80 million Pound bid. However, there could be difficulties with the move because it has been reported that FIFA's sentence extends to the point of disallowing a possible transfer of Suarez.

While Liverpool, Barcelona, and FIFA will decide where Suarez might play next year, Uruguay still have a World Cup to play. Their round of 16 match against Colombia will be difficult, and finding a proper system to play without Suarez in the lineup gives coach Oscar Tabarez an additional challenge to overcome. Perhaps the exclusion of Suarez will finally give PSG striker Edinson Cavani the space to shine, and allow Uruguay to push on in the tournament.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Adopting a Second Team for the 2014 World Cup

As you may have heard, there’s a World Cup on. And while for most of us that means rallying behind our home nation, there’s no hiding the fact we all love to adopt a second team during the tournament.

There are various reasons why we do this. It may be because our home nation didn’t qualify to begin with (sorry, Scotland/Wales/N. Ireland). It also might be because we have dual nationality, enjoy a team’s playing style, hold a soft spot for a particular underdog, or, and probably what is most likely, we may have received a nation in a World Cup sweepstake.

Sweepstakes obviously provide monetary incentives, however the reasons to support a second team are many. The best thing is - there’s no downside. Adopting a second team means you have further vested interest in the World Cup, without the risk of being devastated if your adopted team bow out of the tournament.

As you can imagine, this is a significantly less nerve-wracking experience than supporting your home nation. And if you happen to be an England fan, significantly increases your chances of actually winning the thing! While we all enjoy adopting a second (and even third or fourth) nation for the World Cup there are inevitably varying degrees of embracement.

Some of us simply check in every now and then to see how our adopted team are doing, others may decide to tune in to each of their games, and the most dedicated may even go as far as learning all about their nation of choice.

My World Cup Team 

If you fall into this bracket, and are wanting to swot up on your sweepstake then we can’t recommend My World Cup Team enough. It’s a very nifty site which contains more trivia than you could shake a Caxirola at. Everything from squad value, to historical figures to nuggets of information about the actual nation itself. Well worth checking out!

Adidas Summer Sale: Up to 50% Off

The links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

As the 2014 World Cup in Brazil rages on, you're probably thinking about getting on the field and reenacting your nation's best goals and moments. Just in time, Adidas has just brought their A-game to their summer sale! Now, you can get thousands of items—FIFA World Cup soccer gear, running shoes, basketball gear, swimwear, even iconic Originals and NEO lifestyle pieces and more—up to 50% off! Styles for men, women and kids; everything you'll need for a summer of sports. This sale only happens twice a year, so it is time to go all in or nothing.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

History Making Costa Rica Escape Group of Death

Written by Ashwin Raja

Recife, San Jose, Milan, and London. Four cities, far removed from each other in every way imaginable; distance, culture, economic status. The only thing uniting these disparate cities last night, was their collective interest in the outcome of the match between Italy and Costa Rica. Recife, the city playing host to this crucial Group D encounter was the epicentre of what was nothing short of an earthquake, in a footballing sense, that sent shockwaves across the vast stretches of the Pacific and Atlantic to leave London in a deep malaise, and Milan on the brink.

Though they may not have fully appreciated the magnitude of their achievement at the time, the Costa Ricans were as euphoric and upbeat as anyone on the planet and for a few brief moments post the final whistle, Recife was a suburb of San Jose, Costa Rica. Prior to the match, the Azzuri’s Daniele de Rossi, emphasized the importance of his team not underestimating the potential of their South American opponents. He also spoke of the transformation that the World Cup has witnessed over the years, resulting in an unparalleled level of competition. “There are no teams that are here to just make up the numbers, and concede six, seven goals every game. That may have been the case many years ago, but not now”.

In retrospect, a cynic wouldn’t be incorrect to call those comments excessively flattering and misrepresentative of the Italian mindset. It was evident come kick-off that the confidence gained after their defeat of England had evolved into it’s own worst enemy, overconfidence. The Italians expecting a stroll in the park were thwarted on all levels by a resolute and well organized Costa Rican side. Andrea Pirlo and de Rossi were not afforded any time and space on the ball as the Italian attack was often broken down in it’s tracks. With an overload of players in the center of the park, the Italian passing game hardly got going.

Mario Balotelli cut an isolated figure for much of the game and his contribution to the Italian cause amounted to nothing more than a few wayward shots and the customary yellow card, this time, for a perplexing elbow into the face of a Costa Rican defender, acres away from the ball. The wing play which the Azzurri used so effectively against England failed to pay any dividends this time out with Antonio Candreva having an unusually quiet game on the right flank.

Take nothing away from the Costa Ricans, however. Undaunted by the challenge that faced them, they defended sternly, attacked with purpose and did not at all look a team placed 19 places below the Italians. A lesser side may have been content to just allow the Azzurri to have the ball and defend deep. To their credit, they pressed the Italians high up the pitch and quelled any move just as it seemed to be gathering steam.

Prior to their opening goal, Joel Campbell continuing his good run of form in the tournament was extremely unlucky to not have been awarded a penalty for a blatant barge by Giorgio Chiellini. Whether it was the presence of Andrea Barzagli that may have dissuaded the referee in blowing his whistle, it cannot be said. Leading the vehement Costa Rican remonstrations, Jorge Luis Pinto looked as though he was going to have a fit. Luckily enough for him, justice was done a couple of minutes later as captain Brian Ruiz headed home a superb cross from Junior Diaz. Ironically, the goal, requiring confirmation from goal line technology would turn out to be the damning goal for England just as it’s absence damned them four years ago.

The timing of the goal could not have been better, as Costa Rica went into the dressing room at halftime, 1-0 up and full of confidence. Much to the credit of Cesare Prandelli, changes were made almost instantly in the second half with veteran Parma forward Antonio Cassano coming on at the expense of Thiago Motta in an effort to bolster the attack.

Despite a few lively exchanges between Cassano and Balotelli early on, there were no clear cut opportunities created in the first fifteen or so minutes of the second half, which prompted the rising stars of the Serie A, Lorenzo Insigne and Alessio Cerci to be brought on for the ineffective Candreva and tired looking Claudio Marchisio. Insigne, like his colleagues had no room whatsoever to exhibit his blistering pace and dribbling skills while Cerci fought an isolated battle on the left.

As the Italians committed an increasing number of players forward, they left themselves exposed at the back and were lucky not to have picked off on the break. Had substitute Randall Brenes exhibited better finishing, the Costa Rican joy would have had no bounds, as if it didn’t already.

In a group where they were paired alongside three previous World Cup winners, all in the top 10 of the FIFA rankings, no one would have imagined that they would be the first to qualify out of it. They were supposed to be the easy 3 points. They were supposed to the minnows, victory over whom would be the launchpad for two out of the big three to qualify for the knockout stages. Instead, they have been the launchpad for two out of the big three to be knocked out.

In retrospect, de Rossi was right. There are no minnows, no teams that are there just to make up the numbers in the grandest of all footballing stages. It’s just a shame how his team failed to practice what they so astutely preached. Whether it will cost them big will be determined on Tuesday night as they take on a formidable Uruguay side in a winner takes all match.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Free-Scoring France Pound Switzerland 5-2

After France's 3-0 demolition of Honduras, there were questions about whether this France team would be able to win as comfortably against a more experienced opponent. In an impressive display of attacking dominance, France have silenced critics with their 5-2 victory over Switzerland.

France coach Didier Deschamps has shown that not only does his side not require the talents of Franck Ribery to be victorious, but that they can do it in a variety of formations. While against Honduras Deschamps set his side up with Benzema as the lone striker supported by wingers Griezmann and Valbuena, against the Swiss France set up with Giroud and Benzema up front. Furthermore, Deschamps mixed up his midfield, replacing Pogba with Moussa Sissoko.

Olivier Giroud quickly repaid his coach for the starting selection, heading in the opening goal from a corner in the 17th minute. Straight from the kick off, Switzerland's back pass was intercepted by Benzema and the Real Madrid striker put through Matuidi who snuck his shot inside Benaglio's near post. The French were relentless, and just past the half hour mark earned a penalty. Karim Benzema had his effort parried by the Swiss keeper Benaglio, and Cabaye's followup shot bounced off of the crossbar.

But it wasn't over for the Swiss, as a lightning fast counter-attack from the French cut open the Swiss defence with Valbuena tapping in the third goal just five minutes before halftime. In the second half Deschamps replaced Giroud with Pogba, and it was Pogba's chip with the outside of the boot which freed Benzema to produce a spectacular volleyed finish through the legs of Benaglia. It wasn't long after that Benzema assisted Sissoko for his own goal, a tight diagonal finish into the bottom corner.

While the Swiss suffered for most of the game, a reaction came late on with Dzemaili's bullet free kick which zipped along the ground and into the bottom corner of the French net. Just minutes later, Switzerland found another goal, with Xhaka volleying just inside the near post to make it 5-2. In the dying seconds of the match, Karim Benzema curled another fantastic goal into the Swiss net, but the referee blew for full time just before the shot hit home. It was another strong performance from the French, while the Swiss will have to get a positive result in their next match against Honduras if they intend on qualifying for the knockout rounds of the competition.

Uruguay vs. England 2014 World Cup: Complete Match Report

Written by Ashwin Raja

Amongst the wide gamut of emotions Luis Suarez must have been going through as he watched his immaculate shot ripple the back of the net, relief would have been the most dominant. After being much maligned by the English press over the last few seasons, for his flagrant and off-the-handle play at times, Suarez could not have reinforced better, why taking away all his infractions, he is amongst the top three players in the world. It was a cathartic moment for the player, who just weeks ago looked to set to miss the World Cup due to injury.

"It was one of the best games I've played," he said. "It's an amazing moment for me. Maybe a few days ago I thought this wouldn't be possible. Before the game too many people in England laughed about my attitude over the last few years. This is a very good time for me. I want to see what they think now."

England and Suarez were a study in contrast. Where Suarez was precise, unrelenting and inspirational, England lacked clinicality, looked jaded and were devoid of any imagination. After a difficult opening game at Manaus where the Three Lions, despite the flattering scoreline, were beaten comprehensively by a clinical Italian side, calls were made to ring in the changes to get England’s World Cup campaign back on track.

You would think once bitten, twice shy. After the obvious failings of the English forward line in establishing some cogency in their play, Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley were serious contenders for a starting berth ahead of a lacklustre Wayne Rooney, and wasteful Danny Welbeck. As has been the case so often with Roy Hodgson, much to his discredit under the circumstances, he refused to be swayed, naming an unchanged starting lineup.

England started positively and unlike the top teams in the tournament failed to capitalize on their early dominance. This was repeatedly exploited by Uruguay with Suarez and Cavani coming close on a number of occasions, before the latter eventually found the net on 37 minutes, just moments after Rooney inexplicably failed to nod home a Steven Gerrard corner from a yard out. Questions mark will be raised about England’s shabby defending with both Glen Johnson failing to stop Cavani’s delicious ball from getting into the danger area and Phil Jagielka simply not doing enough to prevent the brilliant Luis Suarez from pouncing.

England went into the game with the dubious distinction of having never recovered from a deficit to win a World Cup match, except on one occasion. That occasion being England’s proudest moment, it’s 1966 World Cup win over the mighty West Germans. This damning statistic set the doom and gloom tone for English fans who harbored no hopes that their team would change it. That is of course, unless England made changes immediately.

Unsurprisingly, that didn’t happen either. This is a another source of criticism aimed at Roy Hodgson. His inability to change his tactics and make substitutions quickly enough to markedly affect proceedings. England, started the second half as they ended the first. Decent enough possession, but nothing to show for it. Daniel Sturridge was the only bright spark on the night and came close to finding an equalizer. Suarez and Cavani continually caused problems at the other end of the pitch and England were lucky to have still been in the match.

Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana, much touted as the future of the English midfield eventually came on for Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck. Both offered some dynamism and verve that England lacked, but were not afforded any room whatsoever by a stern and well organized Uruguayan backline. England’s equalizer eventually came through some good work on the right hand side by Glen Johnson whose low cross was expertly finished by Rooney for his long overdue, maiden World Cup goal.

Reinvigorated, England came desperately close to grabbing the go-ahead goal through Daniel Sturridge who was foiled by an excellent Fernando Muslera save. Just as England were getting their hopes back up and dreaming of a famous comeback victory, they were brought back down to Earth. A long clearance by Muslera, misjudged by Steven Gerrard inadvertently laid it on a plate for his Liverpool teammate Suarez to win the game for La Celeste.

In a moment of touching symmetry, Suarez was seen consoling Gerrard after the final whistle akin to Gerrard doing the same after Liverpool had virtually lost the title at Crystal Palace. Though the collapse of England and Liverpool took place under vastly different circumstances, it will hurt all the same for Steven Gerrard, who is surely set to retire from England duty after the World Cup.

The ignominy of monumental failure looms large for England, and nothing short of a mini miracle will be suffice to see them through to the knock out stages. Suarez and co. will go into the final game knowing that they have their destiny in their own hands.

Suarez Double Lifts Uruguay Past England

Make sure to check out the Uruguay vs. England complete match report.

In what was hailed as the 2014 World Cup's "battle between the desperate", Uruguay managed to defeat England 2-1 thanks to their star striker Luis Suarez. While there were doubts whether Suarez would start due to the knee surgery he is recovering from, the Liverpool forward not only started but made the difference on the night. With this loss, England now sit at the bottom of Group D without any points, and qualification looks near impossible unless England beat Costa Rica by a high margin and Italy win their next two matches.

Just like against Italy, Roy Hodgson's England set up with the same starting lineup and began the match with the same attacking enthusiasm. Yet Uruguay was just as hungry, and both sides started the encounter looking shaky but energetic. The best early chance came from a free kick which Rooney curled just inches from the top corner. While England's nerves remained tense with plenty of misplaced passes and rushed clearances, Uruguay began to look comfortable as they put the three lions under more pressure.

In the 39th minute, England's defence crowded around Cavani at the top corner of their box, who deftly looped a cross just over the jumping Jagielka for Suarez to head in around Hart and open the scoring. Despite going down, England showed signs of life as they pushed back but never managed to link the final pass or shot. On the other side, Uruguay were continuously dangerous on the counter, with Cavani putting a great chance wide along with Rodriguez blasting a shot just barely over the bar.

England's response came midway into the second half, with Johnson cutting inside Uruguay's box and passing the ball across for Rooney to easily tap in. But the joy of Rooney's first goal in the World Cup finals wouldn't last for long, as Suarez punished England just ten minutes later. Uruguay keeper Muslera booted the ball into the England half, and it was Steven Gerrard whose header flicked through the England defence for Suarez to latch onto and power the ball home into the back of the net.

Suarez celebrated with his teammates, and then ran over to the Uruguayan team's kinesiologist Walter Ferreira to celebrate with him. Ferreira helped take care and rehabilitate Suarez's knee after surgery, even putting off his own cancer treatment in order to help the Liverpool striker be fit for the tournament and join the rest of the Uruguayan national team for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It was an emotional goal and victory for Uruguay, who will face Italy next in their race for qualification. Meanwhile, England will face Costa Rica as their dreams of qualification draw to a close.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spain Knocked Out of 2014 World Cup by Chile

Just two matches into the 2014 World Cup, the reigning world champions Spain have lost the chance to retain their title. After their humiliating 5-1 defeat to the Netherlands, the Spanish national team lost 2-0 in their second group match against Chile. The result confirms Netherlands and Chile as qualified for the next round, while Spain and Australia will be going home after they play each other in their final match of the tournament.

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque modified the starting line-up which lost to the Netherlands by removing Xavi and Pique, replacing them with Javi Martinez and Pedro. Even with the new additions to the starting eleven, Spain ran into the same problems from the first group match. Their possession was ineffective and slow-moving while also being incredibly vulnerable to Chile's devastatingly fast counter-attack. Diego Costa still seemed out of place in the team, unable to link up and contribute to build-up play, while also having a difficult time of finishing off any of Spain's rare chances.

Chile's constant pressure and high tempo left the Spanish with little room to breathe, and on the twenty minute mark Chile punished the Spaniards. The Chileans burst forward with a great passing move, with Vargas sliding in the finish past the scrambling Casillas. While the nightmare of early elimination began to dawn on the Spaniards, Chile had no brakes and found a second goal just before halftime. It was Sanchez's free kick which forced Casillas to a punching save, but the ball fell right at the feet of Aranguiz who punted the rebound into the net.

In the second half Vicente Del Bosque tried to right the tables by introducing Koke for Xabi Alonso, partially in hopes that the Atletico Madrid midfielder would find a way to bring the best out of his former club teammate Diego Costa. For a moment it seemed like the plan was working when Diego Costa produced a spectacular bicycle kick to serve Sergio Busquets the ball in front of an empty net, but the Barcelona midfielder's tap-in bounced wide of the goal. Spain kept trying, and Iniesta managed to carve out a great opportunity for Diego Costa with a wonderful through pass, but the striker took an extra touch and was stopped by the Chilean defence.

In the 64th minute Del Bosque's patience with Diego Costa was up, and he replaced him with Fernando Torres, hoping that El Nino would be more acclimatized to the Spanish playing style. Yet Spain seemed powerless as the minutes ticked away. They tried every method they could, from their traditional tiki-taka to pumping crosses into the box and shots from long range. Santi Cazorla substituted Pedro with fifteen minutes left, but at that point Chile's two goal lead seemed impenetrable to a set of Spanish players who looked defeated from the moment Chile's second goal went in.

What are your thoughts on Spain's early exit? Can Chile manage to upset the Netherlands and qualify at the top of the group? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Belgium Victorious and Brazil held Goalless by Ochoa

This 2014 World Cup has been full of comebacks, and Belgium was the latest team to complete a comeback victory in their group game against Algeria. After conceding an early penalty scored by Feghouli, Belgium were forced to chase after the result. It was two substitutes who made the difference late on to grab three points.

It was in the 70th minute when Belgium finally managed to break past Algeria's defence, Kevin De Bruyne curled a cross for substitute Fellaini to head in and make it 1-1. Ten minutes later Eden Hazard unlocked Algeria's defence, drawing the defence to him before slipping a pass for Dries Mertens to blast into the back of the net for the winner. It was a promising comeback from a Belgium team which showed very little in the first 70 minutes of the match.

On the other hand, the hosts Brazil were held to a goalless draw in Fortaleza against Mexico. Neymar was unable to find the back of the net as Mexico keeper Guillermo Ochoa had an unstoppable night for his country. While it took Brazil some time before they began to threaten Mexico's goal, when Neymar finally turned on and began to create some chances him and his teammates couldn't get the ball past Ochoa's flying saves.

Mexico created a few chances for themselves, but nothing like Neymar's header which Ochoa tipped just past his post. Brazil's starlet had another great chance from close range, but his powerful volley was a bit too central and bounced off of Ochoa. It was a fantastic performance from the entire Mexico team, with Ochoa undoubtedly earning himself the man of the match award for keeping Brazil goalless.

Adidas Summer Sale: Up to 50% Off Over 1,000 Items

The links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link. 

 If you've put off shopping for your summer sports wear until now, you have just hit the jackpot. The adidas Summer Sale is on and you can get up to 50% off of over 1,000 items! Running shoes, basketball gear, soccer cleats, swimwear—for men, women and kids—everything an athletic family needs to participate in a summer of activity. This sale lasts as long as the supplies, so don't wait or before you know it, just like summer, the sale will be over.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Benzema and Valbuena Shine as France Demolish Honduras

After the collapse in South Africa, the French team has been waiting for a chance to prove that they're still one of the World's elite nations when it comes to the big stage. Although France's 2014 World Cup campaign started with the news of Ribery's injury, perhaps the lack of Bayern Munich's winger in the squad will prove to be a positive as Les Bleus have found balance by replacing his starting spot with Antoine Griezmann from Real Sociedad. With Griezmann and Valbuena on the wings of the trident starring Karim Benzema up top, France had few problems against Honduras as they won 3-0 in Porto Alegre.

From the start of the match, France took control of possession with the midfield trio of Matuidi, Cabaye, and Pogba. Honduras defended with physicality and aggressiveness, but were never able to find any continuity as the French kept the ball with ease. Without the presence of Ribery, the French team was able to operate with more freedom when going forward, working the ball more rather than depending on the Bayern Munich winger's runs.

Although the French looked dangerous for the entire first half, it was only minutes from the break that they were given the chance to take the lead. Honduras' Wilson Palacios barged into Paul Pogba from behind, giving France a penalty while also earning his second yellow card, thus leaving Honduras with ten men and Benzema free to score from the spot.

With the 1-0 lead France started the second half with ease, scoring a second in just three minutes. It was Benzema again who volleyed onto the post before Honduras keeper Valladares fumbled the rebound just over the line. It was goal-line technology's debut in terms of being actually required, and it got the job done without delays or difficulties.

The second half went on with Valbuena running the show and dictating the tempo, linking up smoothly with Benzema and Griezmann while Honduras could only defend. It was Benzema yet again who sealed the scoreline, controlling the loose ball from a corner and blasting it into the back of the Honduras net to make it 3-0. With this first win under their belt, France prepare to face Switzerland (who defeated Ecuador 2-1) next.

Is this France team ready to make a proper run this World Cup? Is Ribery's injury giving the rest of the team more freedom to play? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Italy Overcome England 2-1 with Balotelli Header

After Costa Rica's impressive 3-1 comeback against Uruguay, the pressure was on England and Italy as they faced off in Manaus. Both sides were hunting for a win, and it was England who came out with the right intensity, creating a couple of good early chances. However Italy soon took over with their languid possession, stifling England's quick tempo with Pirlo and Verratti in central midfield moving the ball with ease.

While the Azzurri took their time going forward, when things clicked they took the lead with a well worked set play from a corner. It was Pirlo's calm dummy which let the ball slip to Claudio Marchisio, who rifled a low shot into the bottom corner of Joe Hart's net. It was a great goal to give a patient Italy side the lead, but England's reaction came quickly. Not more than two minutes later a through ball on the left wing released Rooney to place a curled cross for Sturridge to tap in.

Even if England had sparked the majority of the action in the first half, they came out slow in the second. It was Tim Cahill who was caught napping five minutes into the half when Candreva's cross found Mario Balotelli with just enough space to head into the back of the net. For all of the early promise England showed, the Three Lions were once more left chasing the Italian's possession.

Marchisio's strike to give Italy the lead
As the half went on, England brought on Barkley and Lallana, hoping for an injection of creativity.  Ross Barkley had the best moment of the half for England with a low shot which forced Sirigu into a diving save. Italy continued in their collected possession, slowly wearing down England and the clock but not creating any notable chances. Both sides seemed to have switched off by the time the final whistle arrived: Italy were content with the lead and England unable to find any continuity without the ball.

Now, Costa Rica currently tops Group D with Italy just behind on goal difference. Meanwhile England and Uruguay are both without points, and will face each other on Thursday June 19th. Both sides will be desperate for a win in order to still have a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages. The real question which remains is whether Costa Rica will be able to get a positive result against Italy, and make a real case for reaching the knockout stages.

Can England pick themselves up after this loss and get a result against Uruguay? Are Costa Rica the true dark horses for this World Cup? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Costa Rica Upset Uruguay With 3-1 Comeback

Costa Rica's Duarte celebrating his diving header
There are very few certainties when it comes to the World Cup, but when group D was drawn it looked certain that Costa Rica would be the punching bag of all the teams. Yet in their first game against Uruguay, Costa Rica have managed to defeat the current south american champions. Uruguay were the very team which stopped Costa Rica from attending the 2010 World Cup, as the two sides faced off in the qualifier playoff which was won by Uruguay.

Today's match started just yesterday's between Spain and the Netherlands, with the favourites Uruguay grabbing an early lead with a precise penalty by Cavani after Uruguay's captain Diego Lugano was dragged down in the penalty area. In the first half Costa Rica were unable to find a proper rhythm, chasing the game without really managing to worry a Uruguay side which had left Suarez on the bench due to injury worries.

However, it wasn't even ten minutes into the second half when Costa Rica spread out of their half in a passing move which ended with Joel Campbell's powerful strike into the back of the net. While Uruguay tried to recollect themselves, just three minutes later Costa Rica struck for the lead with Oscar Duarte's diving header placed into the far bottom corner of Muslera's goal. At this point Uruguay were doing damage control as Costa Rica continued to hassle and threaten the South American goal.

Urena's tight finish to make it 3-1
As the second half ticked away both coaches made a flurry of substitutions, and it was Costa Rica's which ultimately paid off just a few minutes from the end. The fresh legs of Marco Urena latched onto a well timed through ball right before cutting a tight angled finish which rolled over the line to complete the comeback. It was a glorious goal for Costa Rica, especially considering they had never beaten Uruguay in their history, and were knocked out of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup by the Uruguayans.

The match ended with some tempers flaring from the Uruguayan players, with Maxi Pereira receiving a red card in injury time after a vicious hack at Joel Campbell's shin. After this loss and the suspension for Maxi Pereira, Uruguay find themselves in a difficult position in one of the most competitive groups. Meanwhile, Costa Rica will be waiting to see the result of the Italy v. England match, as a draw between the two favourites of the group could strengthen the possibility of Costa Rica qualifying for the knockout stages from the one of the toughest World Cup groups.

What are your thoughts on Costa Rica's upset comeback? Can Costa Rica challenge for the knockout stages? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Netherlands Crush Spain 5-1 in Historic Comeback

Robin van Persie's flying header to equalize
When Spain took a 1-0 lead in this rematch of the 2010 World Cup final, everything seemed in order. The Spanish toyed with possession, looking cool and composed as they stroked the ball around the quaking Dutch players. Halftime was just minutes away, when Robin van Persie flew through the air and popped a stunning header over Casillas to equalize. It was a fantastic equalizer which would set the gears in motion for one of the most unexpected comebacks imaginable.

It wasn't long into the second half when the Netherlands turned the score around. With a feathery touch Robben controlled a long ball over Spain's defence before dribbling past Pique to slot into the back of the net. Just eleven minutes later Sneijder's free kick found Stefan de Vrij at the back post who bundled it into the back of the net. At 3-1 Spain were unable to regain control of the match as Robin van Persie gave them another scare with a thunderous volley which slammed onto the crossbar.

However, the Dutch captain didn't have to wait long before finding the scoresheet again, as Iker Casillas' poor touch let van Persie slide the ball in to make it 4-1. The Netherlands were running rampant at this point, dancing around the Spanish and creating chances with ease. It was Robben who scored the final goal, his blistering run past the Spanish defence and around Casillas was finished with a blast into the top corner.

While many thought that the Netherlands would be hungry for revenge against the Spanish, no one expected this sort of a scoreline. This 5-1 loss puts a significant damper on Spain's 2014 World Cup campaign, bringing up the question about whether the era of Spanish dominance is coming to an end. This is certainly the country's biggest defeat in a while as the last time Spain conceded this many goals was in 1963 against Scotland when they lost 6-2. A historic scoreline marks a great start for the Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup, and an unexpected set of problems for Spain.

What are your thoughts on this historic victory? Is this the beginning of the end for Spain's dominance? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Peralta Gives Mexico 1-0 Win Over Cameroon

In a match played under torrential downpour, Mexico have managed to start their 2014 World Cup campaign with a 1-0 victory over Cameroon. Mexico coach Miguel Herrera set out his side in an attacking 3-3-4 formation, which without the ball dropped back into more of a 3-5-2. The two up front for Mexico were Giovani Dos Santos and Oribe Peralta, with Javier Hernandez kept on the bench. Cameroon had the two main pillars of Alex Song in central midfield and Samuel Eto'o up front, settling into a 4-5-1 with Eto'o as the main attacking outlet.

It was Herrera and Dos Santos for Mexico who took control of the match, and put Cameroon under pressure. El Tri were much more comfortable with the ball than the African nation who looked fairly shaky as Mexico maintained possession and cut forward with their quick movement. Although both sides went into the half without a goal it could have been 2-1 for Mexico, as there were three disallowed goals, all due to offside positions (some more legitimate than others). After the opening match's doubtful penalty, the surely legitimate goal which Dos Santos had disallowed only adds to the criticism of this tournament's refereeing.

Although Cameroon were holding onto the draw fairly well, they had little invention going forward. The African side wasn't able to settle down with possession, and were often too snappy in trying to feed Eto'o or run towards goal. On the other hand, Mexico were patient and in the 61st minute Herrera topped a great passing move with a through ball for Dos Santos towards goal. The Villarreal forward had his shot parried by Itandje, but Peralta pounced on the rebound and tucked it in.

With the 1-0 lead, Mexico coach Herrera decided to give Peralta the scorer's ovation substituting him with Javier Hernandez. The Manchester United striker looked dangerous, but when served a pacey cross in front of goal, the unmarked Chicharito blasted it over the bar. With this win Mexico put Croatia in a difficult position in group A, but El Tri still have plenty to worry about as they play Brazil in their next match.

Can Mexico manage to get out of group A ahead of Croatia? Has the refereeing hindered this World Cup so far? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Brazil Open 2014 World Cup with 3-1 Win Over Croatia

The 2014 World Cup has officially started, and Brazil have won the opening match 3-1 over Croatia. All four goals were scored by Brazilians, as Marcelo started the scoring with an own goal in the eleventh minute. Croatia's low drilled cross was flicked on by Jelavic, and the Brazilian defender wasn't able to get out of the way before the ball scuffed in off the tip of his boot. It was a nightmare start for Brazil, and when Neymar elbowed Modric in the 27th minute, Brazil's starlet graciously received a yellow card which could have been red.

Just a couple of minutes later Neymar steadied his nation's nerves with a low diagonal shot which pinged off the post for the equalizer. It was a deserved goal, as Brazil finally began to ease into the match creating some good chances, with Oscar forcing a flying save from Croatia's keeper Pletikosa. The two sides went into halftime even, both having created some dangerous opportunities without finishing them off properly.

Marcelo's unlucky start to the 2014 World Cup
In the second half Croatia lowered their tempo and sat further back in their half, letting Brazil attack in their hunt for the winning goal. While Neymar was always dangerous with the ball, Croatia defended well, stifling Brazil with a bit too much ease. However the turning point came in the 70th minute, when Fred let himself fall in the box and was awarded an inexistent penalty. It was Neymar who stepped up and had his effort nearly saved by Pletikosa, the Croatian keeper almost managing to stop Neymar from putting Brazil in front.

A few minutes later Croatia managed to put the ball in the back of Brazil's net, but their goal was disallowed because of Olic's barge into Brazil's keeper Julio Cesar during the buildup. While at this point Brazil's victory might have seemed undeserved, it was Oscar who made sure to seal the opening win with a brilliant goal. After slipping through the Croatian defence and running towards goal, the Chelsea player toe punted the ball into the bottom corner just out of Pletikosa's reach to make it 3-1.

Although Neymar delivered on the night with his two goals, it was Oscar who gave Croatia a lot of problems throughout the match, assisting Neymar's first, and scoring the final goal. It was a fairly shaky start for Brazil, and the home country will have to step up their game if they plan on competing with some of the other top teams in the tournament.

What are your thoughts about the opening match of the 2014 World Cup? Can this Brazil team go all the way? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

2014 FIFA World Cup Coverage Starts Soon!

With opening match of the 2014 World Cup just hours away, I thought it would be best to give a summary regarding the World Cup coverage I've got planned, along with a few various updates about the site itself. You might have noticed that SWU has now moved to a proper domain (, and hopefully in the coming days the entire website will be given a new fresh design. SWU has always had Facebook and Twitter pages so you can easily keep up with the latest articles, and now you can also stay up to date with our new Google Plus page.

2014 FIFA World Cup

For the World Cup SWU is working with a variety of groups in order to provide as much quality coverage possible for the tournament in Brazil. During the matches I'll be joining FanKave's interactive chat along with fans and other soccer writers/experts, with everyone hanging out and sharing our thoughts on the matches. I'm also going to be working with Fandio to provide occasional post-match coverage where fans can call in and discuss all of the World Cup action.

World Cup Videos by
On top of those two live services, SWU has partnered with in order to provide video highlights and coverage of the 2014 World Cup. All of these partnerships, on top of the match reports and other coverage which will be posted here will make for a pretty exciting World Cup. I leave you with this info graphic on England's chances in Brazil, and hope you enjoy the tournament!

This infographic is from the folks over at Gruss Software

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Chelsea's Strengthening Starts with Diego Costa

After having completed medical examinations in London, Diego Costa looks set to join Chelsea for next season. The English club will be matching the release clause on Diego Costa's contract, paying 42 million Euros to Atletico Madrid with the added possibility of a Chelsea player being exchanged to Atletico. With 35 goals this season in all competitions, and an upcoming World Cup for Spain in which he'll be competing for a starting spot, Diego Costa looks like he will be the true goalscorer Mourinho has been calling for. 

Jose Mourinho has already gotten to work on strengthening his Chelsea side for next season, with the toughest task that of ensuring Eden Hazard remains at Stamford Bridge. After PSG's 75 million Euro bid for the Belgian starlet, Chelsea have managed to fend off the French club by giving Hazard the number ten jersey. With the frontline combo of Hazard, Diego Costa, and Willian, Chelsea now have to plug some holes in the midfield and defence during the transfer window. 

Due to Frank Lampard's departure and the disappointing season of Ramires, reinforcements in the centre of the midfield are required, especially considering Mourinho's tactical dependence on a strong midfield. Although there have been rumblings about a return to Stamford Bridge for Atletico Madrid's Tiago, it seems like Mourinho would prefer the either of the Brazilians, Sandro or Paulinho from Tottenham (most likely with an exchange including John Obi Mikel), or Juventus' Paul Pogba. There's also the possibility of a thirty to forty million Euro move for Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona, however it has been reported that Mourinho isn't completely convinced by the Spaniard and that Pogba remains at the top of his midfield list. 

In terms of the defence, Chelsea have been looking to address their weakness at left back and to replace the spot left by David Luiz after his move to PSG. Real Madrid's Raphael Varane is a strong candidate for the center of defence, however certain reports suggest that the 21 year-old might not be interested in a move to Chelsea. The other names for defence continue to come from Atletico Madrid with Diego Godin a possibility at the centre and Filipe Luis for left back. Atletico Madrid had their offer of around 8-10 million Euros for Granada's left back Siqueira (who playing on loan at Benfica this past season) accepted, possibly in preparation for Filipe Luis' departure. Atleti's other recent signing of Getafe keeper Miguel Angel Moya points to Thibaut Courtois' return to Chelsea, however it seems like the keeper still hasn't decided whether or not to end his loan spell at Atletico Madrid.

With the possibility of five new signings from Atletico Madrid (Diego Costa, Tiago, Godin, Filipe Luis, and Courtois), Chelsea have started the summer transfer window with swift plans to bolster the starting eleven with a set of hungry and passionate players. Whether or not Mourinho will be able to bring out the best from a set of players who were incredibly connected to their coach Diego Simeone is difficult to predict. For now, what remains certain is that Chelsea intend on strengthening every part of the squad with some of the best La Liga players around in order to claim the Premier League and Champions League next season.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Best Bets for the Upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup

Written by Sam Darby

The World Cup odds to win for the 2014 FIFA World Cup hosts, Brazil are 3/1 and whilst some might think that’s a bit short they deserve that price. No European team has ever gone to an American continent and won a World Cup and Brazil showed the strength of the home advantage when they beat Spain 3-0 in the Confederations Cup final last year. However, everyone knows about Brazil’s strong chances, and there might be some better value in the lesser considered markets.

Betting on the groups is always enjoyable as you collect your winnings half way through the tournament. There are few better bets than a France/Switzerland dual forecast in Group E at 11/10,   which is a bet on both teams to qualify for the next round. Honduras and Ecuador stand in their way but Honduras didn’t manage to score a goal at the 2010 World Cup whilst Ecuador tend to be a bit too reliant on their home advantage where they play at high altitude. In qualifying only 3 of their 27 points came away from home which suggests they won’t be as good in Brazil.

 In Group G a straight forecast on Germany to win the group and Portugal to finish second looks worth a bet at 13/8. They are a class above the other two teams in the group, USA and Ghana, and it is worth remembering that Germany were drawn with Portugal at the group stage of Euro 2012. They finished first and second in that order then and that form looks likely to be upheld again here at a nice price. 

A market that is often ignored but offers some great betting opportunities is the team top scorer betting. All you have to do here is outscore your team mates and the best bet could come in the Mexico team, but not on Javier Hernandez. He scored five goals in qualifying which was the second best return, as he was blown out the water by Oribe Peralta who played fewer games but scored twice as many goals. Peralta is available at 3/1 to score more than any other Mexico player, and those odds are too generous to ignore.

 Another standout team top scorer bet is Italy’s Mario Balotelli. He proved himself a big game player at Euro 2012 and was Italy’s top scorer in qualifying with 5 goals. The only other player in qualifying to score more than twice was Dani Osvaldo but he hasn’t been picked for the World Cup squad so Balotelli looks a standout bet at 15/8, especially as he takes the penalties for Italy. With all of the World Cup action coming around soon this summer, keep an eye on the final squad announcements in order to get a good idea of which teams have the best chances to come ahead in Brazil.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bale Decides Copa del Rey Final for Dominant Real Madrid

Real Madrid have claimed their first piece of silverware as they march to the treble with a dominant performance over Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final. With Cristiano Ronaldo on the sidelines due to injury, Carlo Ancelotti picked the attacking trident of Bale, Benzema, and Di Maria. It was Di Maria who sparked the match into life after a deadly counterattack of one touch passing started by Isco. The Argentine latched onto the low cross-field pass by Benzema before finishing across goal, with Pinto's weak touch unable to stop the ball.

Gerardo Martino's under pressure Barcelona had plenty of time and possession to fight back, however were often unable to find a comfortable rhythm against Real's compact defending. Messi and Neymar weren't given any time with the ball by Real Madrid's defenders, and it was left to Iniesta and Xavi to retain possession and search for openings. Martino's choice to start Fabregas as a sort of false center forward was incomprehensible, especially considering the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Pedro kept on the bench. Fabregas rarely touched the ball, and Martino's side was continuously vulnerable against Real Madrid's quick transition led by Bale, Benzema, or Di Maria.

In the second half Barcelona suffered more of the same. An uncontainable Isco pinged passes for his teammates, and all of the Galacticos showed incredible selflessness in their counter-attacking play of one-touch passes. Messi continued in his mediocrity, with a couple of shots snapped wide or too weak to trouble Casillas. However, it was the 23 year old central defender Marc Bartra who found the equalizer for Barca, with his powerful header from a corner. With about 20 minutes left, Barcelona had suddenly reopened the encounter, and Martino's earlier substitutions of Pedro and Adriano (for Fabregas and Jordi Alba) now looked ready to double up and score the winner.

Yet it was another Real Madrid counter-attack which undid the Barca defence, this time manned by the unstoppable Gareth Bale. Poking a long touch past Bartra, Bale was pushed off of the field by the scorer of the equalizer, however the Welshman continued his tempestuous run around the defender and straight at Pinto before nudging the ball into the net for the winner. It was a fantastic goal which left Barcelona with only five minutes to reply, and Martino immediately threw on Alexis Sanchez in desperate hope for an equalizer. The final chance of the night fell to Neymar after Xavi slipped a sublime pass through the Real defence, but the Brazilian banged his effort against the post with a practically empty net to shoot at.

The match ended 2-1 for Real Madrid, with Gareth Bale claiming his first major trophy thanks to his brilliant goal. The disappointment of Barcelona's meek performance, highlighted by Messi's invisibility throughout the match will now surely prompt Martino's dismissal at the end of the season. On the other side of the spectrum, Ancelotti and the rest of Madrid will be celebrating the Copa del Rey victory passionately, before preparing themselves for the two other trophies which await them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Liverpool's Title Dream Nears Under Rodgers' Guidance

The kindling of belief in Liverpool's title run is one which began in the best way possible. With Rodgers at the helm, this season's Liverpool players have been pushed to be versatile, able to play in various positions, in any formation. The continuous tinkering of formation by Rodgers has shown its results: a 3-0 win with a 4-3-3 at Manchester United, 4-0 against Everton and 5-1 against Arsenal playing with a 4-2-3-1, and now the 3-2 win over Manchester City with the midfield diamond 4-4-2. With that latest victory over Manchester City, Liverpool now have the fate of the Premier League title in their hands.

Earlier in the season, as Liverpool were rampantly eviscerating teams in free-flowing style with high-scoring matches, the possibility of a title run briefly came into my thoughts. It seemed reasonable that a team playing, scoring, and winning with that much ease deserves a title run, however I quickly came to the conclusion that they lacked the squad depth necessary in order to do so. With an already patchy defence, Liverpool's reliance on Suarez and Sturridge is evident seeing as they are the only two strikers who have scored for the club this season. Considering that the starting eleven for Liverpool are rarely rotated, the over-dependence on these players can not only lead to fatigue and injuries, but also stagnation and predictability.

By pushing his side to be adaptable, Rodgers has managed to avoid these problems of predictability while strengthening and broadening the attacking possibilities of his team. This growth is also seen on an individual level, with Raheem Sterling's performance against Manchester City highlighting a shining example of brilliant versatility. Previously only considered as a fast-running winger, Sterling has now become one of, if not even England's finest playmaker. Rodgers is a master of individually moulding his players. He has modified Gerrard's role into one of deep-lying and key importance while giving Henderson the space to blossom, and has helped Coutinho acclimatize into the Premier League with frightful speed. If you further consider the monumental man-management work required to transform Suarez into the loved goal-machine he now is, and to control the young and tempestuous Sturridge, Rodgers has revolutionized Liverpool and its players.

It definitely feels like Liverpool deserves this season's Premier League title. Recognition for one of Steven Gerrard's best season's yet, respect for Rodgers and his coaching of intoxicatingly exciting football, and a tribute in memory of the 25th anniversary of Hillsborough. Yet the way things are poised, this season's heartwarming story is precarious with Mourinho's Chelsea still to beat. The Portuguese coach is hunting for silverware to crown his returned season as a success. While Norwich awaits Liverpool next weekend, the true test for Rodgers and his team will be against one of the most cunning and ruthless managers in the world. And if there's one man willing to shatter Liverpool's title dreams for his own, it is undoubtedly Jose Mourinho.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Griezmann Inspires Real Sociedad to Stun Barcelona in 3-1 Win

After a successful Champions League night in Manchester, Gerardo Martino felt at liberty to experiment with the Barcelona lineup away against Real Sociedad. Leaving Xavi and Fabregas on the bench, Martino chose a new midfield trio of Sergio Busquets, Song, and Iniesta. Even with the attacking trident of Messi, Neymar, and Pedro, Barcelona succumbed 3-1 to a much superior Real Sociedad.

Martino probably should have anticipated a tough match against the Basque side, considering that Real Sociedad remain unbeaten at home against Barca in La Liga since their promotion back in 2010. It wasn't surprising that the altered Barcelona defence of Adriano, Bartra, Pique and Montoya had difficulty against the dynamic and hard-working Sociedad attack. Carlos Vela up front supported by the left-footed playmaker Sergio Canales, along with Zurutuza and Griezmann on the wings quickly put the blaugrana on the back foot with their fast-moving combination play.

Thirty-two minutes in Barcelona conceded the first, with Song unfortunately redirecting a corner past Victor Valdes for an own goal. Just a few minutes later Barcelona briefly decided to right the ship, with Messi rifling a low shot into the corner after a brilliantly set up dummy by Sergio Busquets. With both sides even at halftime and Gerardo Martino sent to the stands by the referee, Barcelona looked ready to turn the game around in order to equal Real Madrid's 63 points at the top of the table. However it was Real Sociedad who came out in the second half with one-touch counter-attacks, cutting through the Barcelona defence at an alarming and impressive rate.

It took less than ten minutes for Real Sociedad to score, with Carlos Vela putting across a perfect pass for Griezmann to blast into the net to take the lead. Minutes later it was Griezmann who placed a curled cross for Zurutuza's late run (which none of the Barcelona defence picked up), the ball poked into the net with Valdes swiping Zurutuza off of his feet right after. Less than fifteen minutes into the second half, Barcelona were 3-1 down and unable to muster any sort of fire to fight back. Fabregas and Sanchez were quickly introduced in hopes of spurring a reaction, but the Blaugrana possession was slow-moving and inconclusive, while Real Sociedad continued to create goalscoring opportunities. The match ended with Barcelona not even using their third substitution, Martino perhaps realizing from the stands that he might as well let Xavi rest considering the dominance of the home side.

Now unbeaten in ten league matches (seven wins, three draws), Real Sociedad have scaled their way up to fifth place in the table, just behind Athletic Bilbao. With the race for the La Liga title as exciting as ever, the competition for the fourth spot (the final qualifying Champions League spot) is just as tight and exciting, especially with Real Sociedad playing wonderfully thanks to its set of starlets. Griezmann continues to be eyed by just about every top European club, and the resurgences of Carlos Vela and Sergio Canales have blossomed an attacking force which is tearing through La Liga defences. Real Sociedad have claimed three important points against Barcelona in their fight for fourth place, however when the summer approaches the club will have a new challenge in retaining Griezmann and the rest of their top players.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Barcelona Punish Ten-Man Manchester City in First Leg

Manuel Pellegrini's Manchester City suffered a 2-0 defeat at the Etihad stadium in the first leg of their Champions League round of sixteen tie against Barcelona. Although Pellegrini might argue that his side were slightly unfortunate, with the key foul by Demichelis on Messi starting outside of the box (which would've made it a free kick instead of a penalty), what still remains is the curious question as to why Pellegrini has stuck to picking Demichelis. In a season where Manchester City are thriving, playing in an attacking and exciting style, Pellegrini's hamartia of sympathy towards Demichelis is bringing down the goliath which was expected to win the Premier League and maybe even the Champions League.

Previously against Chelsea, when Fernandinho was replaced by the barely moving pony-tailed figure of Martin Demichelis, Manchester City suffered as Chelsea's quick moving quartet tore through the field in their counter-attacks. Now at his more comfortable centre back position against Barcelona, Demichelis was still the weakest link in an otherwise fairly well-constructed Manchester City team. Pellegrini's choice to use only one striker in Negredo, along with Kolarov sitting in front of Clichy on the left wing in the packed five-man midfield closed down on the available space for Barcelona to use in the midfield. City's disciplined and deep defending was stifling opportunities for the visiting Spaniards, however also led to their stuttering offence never really able to retain possession. Demichelis' sending off was a liberating of the shackles, as Manchester City was never truly dangerous until the Argentinean defender mixed everything up with his late tackle on Messi in the 53rd minute.

Messi himself put away the penalty, and a ten man Manchester City began to shine without the presence of Demichelis. They lost that reserved fear of the blaugrana which held them back in the first half, and began to play with a hint of the recklessness which previously belonged to the man who got himself sent off. David Silva came close with a well-created volley, however Barcelona continued to dominate possession and continuously found ways to cut in behind the City defence. In the final minutes Dani Alves combined in a passing triangle with Neymar, darting past the home side's defence to slide the second goal in through Hart's legs.

With this fairly comprehensive home loss, it's difficult to consider that Pellegrini's Manchester City has resigned itself to being knocked out of the tournament. Despite a return leg victory being a monumental task for City, the side showed itself to have the mettle and intensity to compete with Barcelona for an entire match, even with only ten men. If Pellegrini can put aside whatever strange preference he might have for Demichelis (whether he be playing in or out of position), and instead start using the various players available to him (Lescott, Javi Garcia, and many more), there's the true possibility of his team mounting a comeback.

The Chilean manager's tactics weren't off the mark, rather, they were just brought down by a single clumsy Argentine defender. Pellegrini finally got his formation set up without any gaps, and in the second leg without Demichelis, perhaps along with Aguero fit and back in the side, Manchester City is suddenly looking much competitive than some might expect.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Adidas Reveal Spain and Germany Away World Cup Kits

The World Cup always brings an influx of new kits, cleats, and gloves as companies try to make every single team's equipment memorable in case they win the tournament. Recently Adidas revealed the away kits of two big contenders for this year's tournaments, and they've both taken a darker look, especially the Spain kit.

The black body with neon design is an interesting choice, most reminiscent of referee kits. Germany on the other hand have a Flamengo-esque combination of red and black horizontal stripes, with a slightly more defined collar than the Spain jersey. Both of these teams will be debuting these jerseys in upcoming friendlies: Spain against Italy at the Vicente Calderon Stadium and Germany against Chile, both on March 5th.

Although these are simply friendly matches, there might be some incentive to prove something (especially for Italy) after the latest FIFA rankings were updated today. Italy moved down to eighth after Switzerland jumped up to sixth, and Spain and Germany remain in first and second untouched by the movement in the top fifteen. Portugal moved up to fourth, while England was bumped down two places to fifteenth after USA and Chile leapfrogged the three lions.

With Adidas getting ready for the big tournament in Brazil with its announcements, if you're planning to go to Brazil for the World Cup, it's important you be prepared. From knowing the cities, stadiums, and travel packages, there are many ways to ensure you get the best deal for the best experience. Here are some top tips to save money and have the best World Cup experience possible in Brazil.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Conte's Juventus Nearing Scudetto after Defeating Inter Milan

Antonio Conte’s march to the scudetto continues forward after Juventus’ 3-1 win over Inter Milan. The current Italian champions were dominant in their performance, only slightly ruffled by Rolando’s goal following Juve’s inability to properly clear an Inter corner. Even if the late consolation goal brought some vitality to the nerazzurri, the result was inevitable after their timid display.

In a way it seemed inevitable from the very start. Inter Milan were without Cambiasso, Guarin, and new signing Hernanes, forcing Mazzarri to pick a midfield of Kuzmanovic, Kovacic and Taider. With the outstanding trio of Pirlo, Vidal, and Pogba, the Juve midfield quickly took control of the match. It was Pirlo who dismantled the Inter defence with his picked out pass for Lichtsteiner to head into the far post.

 It seemed fitting for Lichtsteiner to score, his relentless pressing forward on the right side paired with Asamoah on the left kept Inter Milan uncomfortable in possession, and unable to widen their attacking play. The dependence which Mazzarri’s sides on their wide players led to a rough match for Inter, the neutralized pair of Nagatomo and Jonathan were completely ineffective throughout the match.

Two more goals by Chiellini and Vidal were enough to put away any possibility of an Inter comeback. The only positives for Mazzarri came with the introduction of two new signings, the midfielder Botta and the former Torino defender D'Ambrosio both put in good performances. D'Ambrosio helped steady the defence, and Botta provided additional creativity and decisiveness going forward, so much so that he's rumoured to have a place in the starting lineup next week against Sassuolo.

With Roma's match against Parma suspended, Juventus is temporarily nine points clear ahead of the giallorossi. Antonio Conte's meticulous preparation and relentless hunger for improvement is pushing his team to important heights. However what remains to be conquered is Europe, and the tenacity of this bianconeri side will have to be proven against Trabzonspor later this month in their Europa League tie.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Juan Mata Transfer to Ease Manchester United's Troubles

There's a definite sense of building frustration in David Moyes as his starting season at Manchester United has disappointingly unlucky. After failing to defeat Sunderland in their Capital One Cup semi-final, this season looks to be one barren of trophies for Manchester United.

The Champions League is an unrealistic expectation (even if Manchester United should be able to beat Olympiakos), and the Premier League will be a desperate scrap for fourth place against Liverpool, Tottenham, and Everton - all of which are currently above United in the table. All of these sides are hungry for a strong finish to the season, and if you have an idea of who will come out on top you can head over to Betfair football betting to place a wager.

With league and cup troubles mounting, there's some hope for David Moyes as the January transfer window could bring in that creative player which Manchester United is missing (or has on the injury list). Juan Mata looks set to complete his move from Chelsea for an estimated sum of around 40 million Pounds, and some are suggesting that the Spaniard could already make his debut against Cardiff City.

Even if this is a move well-orchestrated by Jose Mourinho (keenly pointed out by Arsene Wenger), by getting rid of a player he's not using to opposition he has already played against twice in the league, it's the type of signing which can re-invigorate United's lifeless campaign. This new signing will ease some of the pressure on David Moyes, and lift some of the creative burden from young Januzaj's shoulders. When also considering that Wayne Rooney could be leaving the club this summer, the 25 year-old Spaniard is starting to look like what could be a pivotal signing for Manchester United.

Moyes will have a few tactical dilemmas to work out, as fitting Juan Mata into United's system could be difficult as Rooney and Robin van Persie look set to return from injury in the coming weeks. The likely solution seems to be a 4-2-3-1, with Mata, Rooney, and Januzaj supporting the lone striker van Persie. Whether or not Mata will be operating in the central number 10 position is questionable, especially seeing how strong Rooney has looked in that role.

The versatility of Rooney, Mata, and Januzaj offer other tactical alternatives, especially in the likely situation that Robin van Persie is forced out due to another injury. While Moyes could bring in Welbeck to replace the Dutchman, a more dynamic and creative solution could be to use Rooney as the central forward with Kagawa slipping into the supporting trio. Perhaps the biggest dilemma for Moyes will be figuring out which two holding midfielders will work best to provide adequate cover for his forwards. With Fellaini returning to training these past few days, pairing the Belgian alongside Carrick or Fletcher could provide Moyes with a fairly balanced formation.

Just how crucial Mata will be to Manchester United's remainder of the season is yet to be seen, however if the player can play similarly to the pre-Mourinho-return days at Chelsea then Moyes will have something to look forward to in the coming months. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Writing and Website Update

Over the past while, I've been slightly neglecting this blog due to a variety of different commitments I've had to maintain. A lot of these commitments are new websites which I'm writing for, and planning a new layout (which is still a far ways away) for Soccer Wrap Up. In the future I'll be making an effort to post at least once a week on SWU, and hopefully with guest contributions this blog can return to having consistent and up to date news and analysis of the soccer/football world.

In the meantime, I've linked my latest articles for the three websites I write for. Give them a read if you're interested, and any comments or criticism are greatly welcomed. You can also keep an eye on those sites for future articles of mine, and for the top quality news and analysis they continuously offer.

World Soccer Talk: Liverpool Held to a Draw after Rodgers' Tactical Misstep
Soccerly: Five Lessons from Seedorf's Victorious Debut
Soccerlens: Inter Milan Struggles as Thohir Must Rebuild

Furthermore, I'm also keeping a small Tumblr going at Loving that Soccer as well as my other blog History of Notes, where I write about music, games, and movies.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Cristiano Ronaldo Wins 2013 Ballon d'Or

After four long years of seeing Lionel Messi claim the Ballon d'Or award, Cristiano Ronaldo has won the 2013 Ballon d'Or. The Real Madrid player finished ahead of Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich) and Lionel Messi (Barcelona), earning the second Ballon d'Or of his career. In an important year for Real Madrid and especially Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo has shown that the competition to be the world's top player isn't anywhere near over, especially with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil approaching.

Alongside Ronaldo and equally victorious at FIFA's award ceremony were Nadine Angerer (Women's World Player of the Year), Silvia Neid (World Coach of the Year for Women's Football), and Jupp Heynckes (World Coach of the Year for Men's Football). FIFA also awarded the FIFPro World XI, which consisted of Manuel Neuer in goal; a back four of Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Thiago Silva, and Philip Lahm; a midfield trio of Xavi, Ribery, and Iniesta; and the deadly attacking trident of Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic also won the FIFA Puskas award with his truly awesome overhead kick when Sweden beat England 4-2 in a friendly. A big congratulations to all the winners, it's just a shame we won't be seeing more goals by Ibrahimovic at the 2014 World Cup.


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