Major League Soccer -Season So Far

With the 2016 season in full swing and things starting to heat up with the race to get into the later stages of the MLS cup, today i am going to give a review on how i think the season has shaped up so far.

Team of the season – FC Dallas

Standout performers across both conferences sitting top of the standings with 41 points. With no real top quality designated players in their roster they have exceeded expectation. Mauro Diaz sitting 2nd in the assist charts only behind Sacha Kljestan of the New York Red Bulls is an achievement in itself and will be key to the team staying where they are for the rest of the season.

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Mauro Diaz has been in sensational form (Image from Tumblr)

Bottom of the pile  – Seattle Sounders

12 defeats and only 6 wins all season speaks for itself.This club should be doing much better than they are, with players like Mears,Alonso,Ivanschitz , Valdez and Dempsey in the roster this was not expected at the start of the season.  Things have went from bad to worse for the Sounders recently with the club parting ways with head coach Sigi Schmid after a 8 year spell at the club and their only manager in the clubs MLS history.  A permanent manager needs to brought in soon to turn things round at the club before it gets any worse.

Most Improved – New York City FC

After a mixed first MlS season NYCFC have started to find their feet in the division. With a change of coach before the start of the season with Jason Kreis making way for Manchester City reserve coach Patrick Viera coming into to manage the team things have started to pick up. Viera has got the team playing his way and the results have followed. Sitting top of the Eastern Conference with 33 points, David Villa top of the scoring charts and Lampard and Pirlo running the show in midfield after shaky debut seasons , everything is looking good at the Yankee Stadium. Will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out.

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Frank Lampard is finally starting to come good at NYCFC (Image from Tumblr)

Player of the season – David Villa/ Sebastian Giovinco – NYCFC/Toronto

This was a hard choice. Was trying to pick one standout player but i just couldn’t. 2 designated players who have been playing out their skins for their respective clubs New York City FC and Toronto. Villa is topping the charts with 13 goals and as touched on previously has helped his team to the top of the table. Giovinco isn’t far behind on 11 and his performances have been the highlight of an average season for Toronto. At the end of the day these two guys could and possibly should still be playing at the highest level in Europe but they are not and its a joy to watch them in America.

Flop of the season – Antonio Nocerino – Orlando City

The move to the MLS hasn’t worked so far for the Italian. Joined the Florida based Orlando from Italian giants AC Milan and i expected him to run the show with Kaka in the centre of midfield. This has not been the case. Nocerino has had to make do with a place on the bench as a result for poor performances and with a high salary he is collecting each week this has got to change and quick. I don’t think it will take it long for the fans to turn on the player.

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Antonio Nocerino hasn’t quite found form in the MLS (Image from Tumblr)

Caught my attention – Cyle Larin – Orlando City  

The 21 year old Canadian has had a season to remember.  He is the star striker for Orlando with 10 goals this season and currently standing 5th in the top scorer charts. His performances have made him recognized both domestically and internationally with 3 caps for Canada this year and was included in the roster for the MLS All-Star game against Arsenal in which he played 13 minutes in after coming on as a sub. Larin has massive potential and this could lead to a move to a major european club before long.

Brit Watch 

It has been a solid season for all the British players in the MLS.  Frank Lampard sitting top of the league in New York. On the West Coast Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane ( Yes i know he is from ROI but he can count) all these guys are playing well for the Galaxy with Keane scoring for fun. Liam Ridgewell after winning the MLS Cup last year is now captain at the Portland Timbers and performing well. The Wright-Phillips brothers at the Red Bulls are having two very different seasons .Bradley scoring goals as always and Shaun is warming the bench with not much game time this season. Finally Dom Dwyer is playing up front for Sporting Kansas with 8 goals in 18 games and is having a good season so far with the team in fourth place in the Western Conference.

It will be interesting if my views change come the end of the season as we all know these standing and views can change very quickly.

With the MLS being more accessible with Sky showing games each weekend alongside highlights of the goals the next day, i hope more people are interested in the league and check it out when they can as it is generally a good standard of football that gets played.

I hope you all enjoyed the post and next time you see a game on the TV give it wee watch eh?

Post by Derek Mcallister – writer for Footballs11blog

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Drogba Joins Foreign Legions Moving To MLS

Immediate Impact - Drogba signs (Image from Getty)When Didier Drogba rejoined Chelsea at the start of last season, many believed it would be his last move with the Ivorian striker now in the latter stages of his career. It seemed to be the perfect end to Drogba’s football story, reuniting with the manager who had put him on the map on a global scale. At Chelsea under the guidance of Jose Mourinho, Drogba became a legend vindicated in 2012 when a fans poll voted him the greatest Chelsea player ever. That was at the end of his original eight year stay where he scored 100 goals in 226 games, making him the club’s fourth highest goal scorer of all time behind Frank Lampard, Bobby Tambling and Kerry Dixon.  Subsequent moves to Shanghai and Galatasaray proved successful but Drogba’s heart remained in London and he secretly pined for a return. So when Jose came calling late last summer, Drogba wasted little time in resigning for the club.

Mourinho and Drogba forged a strong friendship at Chelsea  (Image from Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Mourinho and Drogba forged a strong friendship at Chelsea
(Image from Stu Forster/Getty Images )

The move revitalized Drogba despite the fact that he played a more marginal role than before in his previous spell as Chelsea ran in as English Champions. Knowing he still had something to give and with Mourinho’s blessing, Drogba decided to leave Chelsea again in search of one final swan song. Many anticipated a move back to France with former club Marseille expressing timid interest.But the pull of the ever improving MLS and a chance to sign for Montreal Impact was too interesting to turn down. So Drogba flew to the french speaking Canadian province of Quebec to sign for Montreal in a 18 month deal. Drogba will fill one of Montreal’s three designated player spots on their roster alongside Argentine Ignacio Piatti and one other player still to be named. With the MLS season already underway, Montreal find themselves in sixth place in the Eastern Conference on 24 points  in what is quickly becoming a difficult  and competitive division. Despite being arguably one of the weakest teams in the conference, Montreal are doing ok but have lost too many games away from home to be considered contenders. Drogba should offer Montreal a new threat upfront as a proven goalscorer both for club and country.

Montreal Impact have started well but their chances will be boosted by Drogba's arrival  (Image from THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter McCabe)

Montreal Impact have started well but their chances will be boosted by Drogba’s arrival
(Image from THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter McCabe)

His move comes on the back of several other high-profile players joining the league. In the same division as Montreal, newcomers Orlando and New York have been the most active with the Florida side signing Kaka whilst New York snapped up Frank Lampard, David Villa and Andrea Pirlo. Big spending Toronto have continued to invest in their squad, letting Jermanie Defoe leave with Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco joining as replacements in a move that has helped to balance Toronto’s team. Chicago added Scotland star Shaun Maloney in the close season but despite good form for his country he has failed to reignite Chicago’s fire. Elsewhere Steven Gerrard joined Robbie Keane at Los Angeles Galaxy to continue their run of hiring former England captains whilst FC Dallas chose to look to Mexico with their loan signing of Erick Torres. The addition of these players plus the influx of returning US internationals from Europe has increased the competitiveness of the league overall and with it improved its viewership on a global scale. Drogba’s arrival will help this further given his draw in Africa and in particular at home in the Ivory Coast. Whether he can have the same impact on Montreal though is to be seen.

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Will This Be The Most Exciting MLS Season Yet?

Will this be the most exciting MLS season to date? (Image from MLS)Just days away from the kick off of the new season, the MLS has reached a tentative agreement on a new collective bargaining contract with the players and their union. This move has prevented a PR disaster for the league and its commissioner Don Graber as the players threatened to walk out of the league and go on strike just four days before what could be the most important year in Major League Soccer.  With more at stake than ever before, the agreement ends an anxious time for the MLS management team who can now sit back and watch as this season unfolds. But what type of season are we in for? Well the answer may lie in three important factors as detailed below. Could this well be the best MLS season in its near twenty year history?

Who will challenge LA Galaxy for the Cup this year?  (Image from MLS)

Who will challenge LA Galaxy for the Cup this year?
(Image from MLS)

More Competitive than ever

Since its inception almost 20 years ago, nine separate teams have won the league with LA Galaxy dominating in recent years with their most recent success being last season. But this new season sees the addition of two new teams – New York City FC and Orlando City bringing the number of teams in the league up to 20. Both new sides could pose a threat to LA’s defence with New York in particular looking strong through their squad. Managed by former Real Salt Lake boss Jason Kries and under the watchful eye of iconic US midfielder Claudio Reyna in a Director of Football role, New York have attracted Spanish striker David Villa and England midfielder Frank Lampard  to join their cause. The duo could also be joined by Barcelona legend Xavi in the summer although his move is merely speculation at this point. Their additions give New York a strong chance but winning the league in their first season may be a stretch too far. Similarly Orlando, coached by Englishman Arian Heath who has assembled a multicultural squad including Brazilian Kaka, US international Brek Shea and Jamaican goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts are hoping for an immediate impact however they will face stiff competition from other sides in the league in the form of Houston Dynamo, Seattle Sounders, New England Revolution and DC United. Even Toronto FC, who dispatched with the troublesome Jermain Defoe over the January transfer window have a shot given the strength of squad they have now following the signings of Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco this year and Michael Bradley last year. This new season is anyone’s to win and could prove to be an exciting spectacle with several twists and turns along the way.

New Star Players

Since its debut in 1996, the single biggest draw for fans to attend games has been the star players on show. Whilst each team is limited to only three designated players, allowing them to stretch their salary caps beyond their given limits, teams have relied heavily on star power to draw in new and existing fans season after season. In the first few years, the draw mainly came from US internationalist like Tab Ramos, Eric Wynalda, Tony Meola and Alexi Lalas with a splattering of South American talent like the wonderfully gifted Carlos Valderamma and the eccentric Jorge Campos. The success of the 1994 World Cup held in the US, plus subsequent performances of the US team at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups helped to generate the passion for the game and gradually attendances started to rise. However it wasn’t until the arrival of David Beckham to LA Galaxy in 2007 and Thierry Henry in 2010 that the league started to be taken more seriously, not just in the US but abroad.

Once viewed by European players as a league to join in the twilight of your career for one final payday, the perception shifted dramatically when Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane, aged 30 joined LA Galaxy. His move heralded a new era for the league and its fans with it becoming one of the most exciting leagues in the world to play in. Since then, the MLS has attracted some very big names, most of whom will be on show this season.  Steven Gerrard, Kaka, David Villa, Frank Lampard and Sebastian Giovinco are just a few of the new faces that will help kick off the new season (although Lampard and Gerrard will not join officially until the summer)  as it gets underway this coming Saturday.

Increased Coverage

When the league kicked off, it struggled for a long time to get the exposure it so desperately needed from the US media. Obsessed with the more traditional US sports like football, baseball, hockey and basketball, column inches in newspapers and magazines dedicated to soccer were few and far between. Even worse was the desire of TV stations to cover games with little to no interest shown in the new professional soccer league in the US for several of the foundation years. Having been burnt before with the defunct North American Soccer League (NASL), US based media conglomerates like ESPN, Fox Sports and NBC have been cautious in their approach but as the league grew in stature so too did their confidence that the league and soccer as a mainstream sport in the US was here to stay.  Today the MLS has bumper contracts with all three to showcase its games and have added Univision in an attempt to reach the growing Spanish audience in the US too. International awareness and interest in the league is at an all time high as well with TV networks across the globe now striking deals for their own countries to show the games and highlights much to the delight of the MLS.

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End Of An Era as Ineffective Spain Crashes Out

Sergio Ramos cna barely watch as Spain crash out (Image from Getty)

This was meant to be their fairytale send off, a chance for a group of genuine legends in the game to make history once more by becoming the first team to win four major international tournaments in a row. But instead Spain looked their age and crashed out of the World Cup thanks to a spirited and lively Chile. The beautiful passing game that has characterized Spain’s playing style was officially posted missing against Chile. Tiki Taka was replaced by misplaced and misjudged passes from an uncharacteristic Spanish team as Del Bosque’s team became only the second team (behind Australia) to be eliminated. It’s the end of an era, one in which Spain dominated the international game and entertained the masses with some of the slickest and most effective football we have ever seen.

Questions will be asked about Del Bosque's tactical decisions  (Image from EMPics Sport)

Questions will be asked about Del Bosque’s tactical decisions
(Image from EMPics Sport)

Now the inquest will begin as to why Spain has made an early exit. Strange tactical decisions made by Vicente Del Bosque heading into the game will be questions. Deciding to drop Barcelona duo Gerard Pique and Xavi Hernandez from the starting lineup that was shocked by Holland in the first game was unusual, but more so was to keep faith in Diego Costa upfront. The Chelsea bound striker has looked less like the formidable front man that he has become at Atletico and more like a lost boy, unsure of exactly what he is supposed to be doing. Ineffective against Holland and dithering in the first half against Chile, Costa was replaced on both occasions by Fernando Torres, who himself hasn’t had the best few years for club or country. Tactical adjustments made in the two games will also be under the microscope as Del Bosque failed to make full use of the talent at his disposal. Two games played and still no game time for David Villa and Juan Mata. The latter has had a difficult season at Manchester United but possess the vision and talent to pull any team out of a death slide. But the shun of Villa is the one that makes the least sense. The 32 year old had a fantastic season with La Liga winner Atletico, partnering Costa up front so many anticipated that Del Bosque may deploy the duo together for Spain as well. It would have made perfect sense given that Costa operates better as part of a strike force rather than as a lone striker. But Del Bosque resisted and Spain suffered. Trailing 2-0 to Chile at half time, Villa would have appeared to have been the obvious choice with Spain switching to a 4-4-2 formation but again Del Bosque resisted. Preventing Spain’s all time record goal scorer from coming onto the pitch, not even for 20 minutes was criminal by Del Bosque and cost Spain their chance of retaining the World Cup.

The backlash on Casillas from the media has been unwarranted given what he has done for Spain over the past 10 years  (Image from Getty)

The backlash on Casillas from the media has been unwarranted given what he has done for Spain over the past 10 years
(Image from Getty)

The international careers of Fernando Torres, David Silva, Xavi, Iniesta, Xavi Alonso and Iker Casillas are surely over given their disastrous exit. Questions too about Del Bosque, who despite signing a two year extension before the tournament started will be under the spotlight after Spain became the first ever defending champions to lose their first two games. Despite Spain’s glorious history under his reign, which included 1 World Cup and 1 European Championship, the humiliation of exiting this early from a tournament they were one of the favourites to win may result in his exit. Spain need a fresh start, a rethink of their formation and style of play and Del Bosque may believe he isn’t the right man to do that. Chile to be fair were superb. Fast, innovative, creative and effective to the end, Chile has shown the world that they are to be feared in this competition. Hammering Australia was expected but the way that they played against the current world champions with confidence from the start was breathtaking. They now face Holland to see who tops the group and it will be difficult for anyone to call that one. But for Spain, they must pull themselves together for a meaningless game against Australia, competing for only pride before boarding a plane home. It’s not the exit that this legendary team neither wanted nor expected but ultimately it’s the one they deserved for the way that they played in their first two games. Spain will recover, regroup and as a new revamped team take on the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a renewed passion as if they have to prove something. For true football fans however, Spain have nothing to prove, for they will always be the team that show the world through tiki taka exactly how the game should be played and how to win with style.

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From Workhorse To Thoroughbred – Simeone’s Transformational Season For Atletico

Simeone is transforming Atletico into contenders (Image from Getty)In the Chinese Zodiac, 2014 is the year of the Horse, a powerful creature that symbolizes energetic enthusiasm and the tireless pursuit of goals. In the chase for La Liga this season, the Horse symbolizes Atletico Madrid perfectly and their pursuit of their first title in nearly 20 years. Madrid has demonstrated time and time again their work horse like mentality, carving out results often with critics skeptical of how long it can last. Against all odds, Atletico sit at the top of La Liga in a straight race to the finish, closely pursued by the leagues two thoroughbreds, Barcelona and city rivals, Real. The message from Diego Simeone to his Atletico Madrid team is clear – win your remaining games and the title is theirs. It will take a colossal effort to do so but if they can pull it off, 2014 will no longer be the year of the Horse. Instead it will be the year of the Diego’s.

Year of the Horse but will it be the Year of Diego? (Image from PA)

Year of the Horse but will it be the Year of Diego? (Image from PA)

Atletico’s title run has been a lesson in teamwork, with the entire squad pulling as one in a single direction. But three men have stood head and shoulders above the rest in this endeavor, elevating Atletico Madrid to new heights that they have not experienced in decades. They are the three Diego’s – defender Diego Godin, star striker Diego Costa and last but by no means least manager Diego Simeone. This trio, supported all the way by a pedigree cast such as David Villa, Gabri, Juanfran, Koke and Thibaut Courtios , have symbolized Atletico’s determination and self belief that they can break the Barcelona/Real stranglehold on La Liga and be crowned champions at the end of May. At 28 years old, Uruguayan Diego Godin has spent most of his career in Spain, with three seasons at Villarreal before transferring to Atletico before the start of the 2010/2011 season. Slowly over the next four years, he has toned and perfected his game, becoming a mainstay in the Atletico side and an ever reliable member of the first team squad. His solid performances at the back this season against Barcelona in November and Real Sociedad in February have helped Atletico to hold on to the best goals against total (21) in the league to date. Realizing his importance, Simeone was quick in offering Godin a new long term contract last year, in an effort to ward off the advances of interested teams.

Rock Solid - Diego Godin  (Image from PA)

Rock Solid – Diego Godin
(Image from PA)

One player Simeone will struggle to hold on to at the end of this season is Diego Costa. The Brazilian born Spanish striker has been in blistering form this season notching 24 goals in the league from 29 appearances. His partnership with David Villa has proven to be the catalyst behind Atletico’s push but has attracted the eye of a host of top European clubs. Like Radamel Falcao before him, Costa is likely to depart at the end of the season as part of a bumper transfer but he will be hoping to do so as a La Liga winner. Costa owes a lot to Simeone who put faith in him to fill the void left by Falcao, who departed for Monaco during the summer. Falcao was a legend at the club, scoring 70 goals in 91 games, helping them to lift the Europa League and Super cup trophies as well as the Copa Del Rey during his time. Atletico pocketed €60 million from the sale giving Simeone several options in his search to replace him, but instead he placed his faith in Costa, who has rewarded him in kind with a season full of goals and stunning performances. A strong ox like striker, Costa is a nightmare for opposition defenses. Good with both feet and powerful in the air, Costa drives at defenders like a steam train making him one of the games most feared strikers. If Atletico are to win La Liga, they will need Costa to continue his goal scoring exploits and so far he is do so.

Falcao who? Diego Costa has help Atletico move on after Falcao left  (Image from Getty)

Falcao who? Diego Costa has help Atletico move on after Falcao left
(Image from Getty)

Atletico are performing like a team, with Costa and Godin at the heart but they would not be in this position if it wasn’t for manager Diego Simeone. The Argentinean coach has been nothing short of inspirational since his return to the club in 2011. He has turned Atletico around and made them into a force again in the league. Remarkably he has done so with very little investment in new playing staff, preferring instead to work with and craft the existing squad into a team of winners. The belief that was starved under previous regimes is now back and in abundance, built on the successes in Europe and the Copa Del Rey victory over Real Madrid last season. Before Simeone’s arrival, Atletico struggled and toiled against teams like Getafe, Real Betis and Valencia but this season they are winning those games with ease and emphatically in some cases. Atletico fear no one, not even Barcelona or Real who in the past have been too strong for Los Rojiblancos to cope with.

Atletico's triumph at last years Copa del Rey has given them new belief  (Image from afp)

Atletico’s triumph at last years Copa del Rey has given them new belief
(Image from afp)

Winning La Liga would be the pinnacle of Simeone’s managerial career and would be the final piece in what has been an ever changing puzzle at Atletico. In doing so, Simeone will be in high demand himself, with offers coming from both domestic and international teams but the draw of Madrid should keep Simeone in the Spanish capital. Atletico is deeply entrenched in Simeone’s heart as he is now in theirs. Delivering the La Liga title is his goal and like a workhorse, he is continuing to pursue that dream with vigour and determination. Reaching his goal will mark the transition of Atletico from a work horse to a thoroughbred and in doing so will change the race in La Liga long term from a two horse to a three horse race. Simeone and Atletico know what they need to do, they need to win their remaining games including their final match of the season, away to Barcelona. Not an easy ask but if there is something that Simeone is always up for is a challenge.

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England Hold Their Breath As The World Cup Draw Nears

Getting ready for the draw (Image from FIFA)With the World Cup draw happening tomorrow, nerves in the England camp are at an all time high.  England’s fate will be decided at 5pm (GMT) in Bahia, Brazil so in advance BOTN explores what could be England’s worst group.  Using the existing pools (England are in pot 4) and based on the various rules and regulations attached to the draw itself, here is the “Group of Death” for England. It features Spain from Pot 1, Chile from Pot 2 and Mexico form Pot 3 with England filling the final place from Pot 4.

Current World Cup holders, Spain  (Image from Getty)

Current World Cup holders, Spain
(Image from Getty)

The current World and European champions are amongst those in pot one that could pose a real threat to England’s chances. In fact all eight teams, with the possible exception of Switzerland will be a serious threat to England’s qualification hopes. Spain have talent in abundance and are incredibly hard to break down due to their intense passing game. Xavi and Iniesta are likely to dominate the play with Fabergas and Mata as support options. At the back, they have a solid backline with centre back pairing Barcelona’s Gerard Pique and Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos causing problems for opposition strikers, roaming just in front of Casillas, Reina or Valdes in goal. Upfront Spain’s rich talent pool continues with the likes of Fernando Torres, David Villa, Fernando Llorente and  Roberto Soldado to name a few offering options. Adding to this mix is newly converted Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa who has been in blistering form so far this season. The Brazilian born striker, who recently pledged his allegiance to Spain instead of his homeland, has forged a successful partnership with David Villa for Atletico. This surely gives Spanish head coach Vicente del Bosque food for thought on whether he should unleash the pair for Spain during next summer’s tournament.

Diego Costa and David Villa  (Image from AFP Getty Images)

Diego Costa and David Villa
(Image from AFP Getty Images)

Chile tested England in their last trip to Wembley just under a month ago as Alexis Sanchez backed up his talking off the pitch with a sublime performance. The Barcelona striker made a sly remark about England’s pathway system for future footballers stating how it was too easy for youngsters to join academies and automatically play for a club in the future. In Chile the academy system is nowhere near as advanced as it is in England but appears to be producing the goods. At Wembley they convincingly beat England 2-0, throwing Roy Hodgson’s plans into disarray. Although England chose to field an altered side for the match allowing them to test some new faces, it was a huge win for the South American’s who have shown with the emergence of star players like Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Felipe Gutiérrez and Gary Medal that they are a future force in world football.  Pot 3 may be considered to be the weakest pot but within them lies the stinging tail of Mexico who could relinquish all hope for England. With a squad made up of established stars and Olympic winning youthful exuberance, Mexico are considered to be one of the tournaments dark horses. Despite taking a rocky path in qualifying, Mexico’s strength is their desire to succeed which makes them a dangerous opponent.  Upfront, Mexico can call upon Manchester United’s  Javier Hernandez, Valencia’s Giovani Dos Santos or Santos Laguna’s Oribe Peralta to score the goals needed to progress.  In midfield, head coach Miguel Herrera mixes experience in the form of Andres Guardado (who is one game off his century for his country) with up and coming stars like Porto’s Héctor Herrera with some success. He could also spring a few surprises with his final squad selection if Erick Torres or Marco Fabian make the cut. Both players are good examples of the rich talent that Mexico is producing and that England needs to be aware of if they draw them in the World Cup.  

Chile ran out victors the last time they faced England  (Image from PA)

Chile ran out victors the last time they faced England
(Image from PA)

In the World Cup, there is no such thing as an easy team as England have found out in the past. There are various other teams who pose a threat to England’s chances of progression, most noticeably host’s Brazil, a Messi inspired Argentina and arch rivals, Germany. But some of the dark horses could also cause problems such as the Ivory Coast or Ecuador. Ivory Coast has plenty of talent including Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, Roma’s Gervinho and CSKA Moscow’s Seydou Doumbia. They will be no pushovers, nor will Ecuador who are an improving side and will be a lot tougher than the last time England played them in 2006. Antonio Valencia and Vitesse’s Renato Ibarra are two talented wingers with lots of pace to burn plus with Felipe Caicedo up front, Ecuador could be a real threat. The country is still hurting from the death of legend Christian Benetiz so will be approaching the World Cup with a desire to do well for his memory. The USA are also amongst the group of teams who could be a potential danger as England found out in 2010 in South Africa. Coach Jürgen Klinsmann has spent the past few years experimenting with different players but now has established a nucleus of talent like Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley that he is building his team around. Added into this the emergence of Brek Shea, Terrance Boyd and Sunderland’s Jozy Altidore, Klinsmann has a strong group that is ready and prepared for the World Cup next year.

Hodgson will be hoping that he is still smiling after the draw  (Image from Getty)

Hodgson will be hoping that he is still smiling after the draw
(Image from Getty)

Hodgson and England will be hoping to avoid such a nightmare by drawing a generous group such as Switzerland, Algeria and Iran. Based on previous draws, England has had luck on their side but can it hold for Brazil? Interestingly one team in pot 4 will be moved into pot 2 just before the draw starts. This is to allow for 4 groups of eight and a somewhat easier drawing process. That said, it is still quite confusing as FIFA will not allow a group to have more than two European teams in it so adjustments will need to be made, ruling out the three European teams in Pot 1 being pulled.  If England were chosen for Pot 2, it could play in their favour or perhaps not. Either way, Hodgson is unlikely to get any sleep tonight as he worries about who his team will face next summer.

Blog by Richard Waterhouse

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How Did They Miss That?

Chris Iwelumo misses on his debut for Scotland (Image from Reuters)The ball bobbled, it moved slightly before I hit it, the wind swept it up – all reasons given by players who have missed sitters, better known as open goals. It’s every player worst nightmare, the ball falls kindly to you in the box, the keeper is nowhere near to save it, you only have to tap it and your team is one goal better off. But then disaster strikes, all doesn’t go quite to plan and you pull the ball wide or over. It doesn’t happen too often but when it does, no one can forget about it. Every football fan will be able to tell you about at least one bad miss that they have witnessed, either live or on TV or now on YouTube. The latter provides fans with a multitude to chose from but we here at BOTN have chosen three of the worst to share with you so enjoy!

Even Torres misses  (Image from AFP)

Even Torres misses
(Image from AFP)

1) Ronny Rosenthal

Rocket Ronny Rosenthal made his name in football as a power striker with a hard shot but unfortunately for Ronny he is remembered most for a horrendous miss. The former Israeli international played for a variety of clubs including hometown club Maccabi Haifa as well as stints at Standard Liege, Club Brugge, Tottenham and Watford. But it was his spell as a Liverpool player that made him famous for all the wrong reasons. During the 1992-1993 season, Liverpool faced up to Aston Villa with Rosenthal starting up front. Latching onto a long punt down field from David James, Rosenthal cleared his marker and controlled the ball as the rushing Nigel Spink came to stop him. With some quick footwork, Rosenthal rounded Spink and was through on goal. What happened next needs to be seen to be believed as he hooks the ball up and off the crossbar much to the dismay of his teammates and fans. Rosenthal did recover from this and went on to have a successful career at Liverpool before joining Spurs in 1994.

Rocky Ronny before the miss  (Image from Getty)

Rocky Ronny before the miss
(Image from Getty)

2) Peter Van Vossen

When Peter Van Vossen arrived at Rangers as part of an exchange deal for Oleg Salenko, he did so as European Cup winner, having won the cup with Ajax a couple of years earlier. He was also a member of the Dutch world cup winning squad so Rangers fans were forgiven for thinking they had signed a star striker. For any player joining either Rangers or Celtic, the instance way to become a legend is to score in the Old Firm derby, something that Van Vossen knew going into his first local derby. With Rangers leading their arch rivals 1-0 going into the closing stages of the game German powerhouse Jorg Albertz broke clear of the Celtic defense with Van Vossen in support and only the keeper to beat. Having drawn the keeper out as he entered the box, Albertz squared the ball to Van Vossen to tap the ball in. But the Dutch striker caught the ball wrongly, sending the ball sailing over the bar. Van Vossen was devastated and spoke to reporters the next day about how he felt to miss:

“Nobody said a word to me in the dressing room afterwards. They could all see how terrible I felt at missing and left me alone. I still can’t stop thinking about it. I hardly slept last night because I kept seeing that miss over and over again. Normally I would have looked for a hole to swallow me up, but there were still 10 minutes left and I had to keep my concentration. I felt there would be more chances for me – and I was right. Their keeper saved well but if I’d done things properly he should have had no chance”

His teammates did eventually forgive him but his time at Rangers was marred after that as the fans coined the term “doing a Van Vossen” as ways to describe a terrible miss.

Van Vossen wasn't smiling after his miss  (Image from Getty)

Van Vossen wasn’t smiling after his miss
(Image from Getty)

3) Nicoletta den Ridder

The latest player to join the ranks, Nicoletta plays for Beerschot AC women’s team in the BeNe League. The star defender was playing in a match against Ajax last month when Beerschot were rewarded a free kick on the edge of the area. Caroline Janssens stepped up to take the free kick, curling the ball over the wall and past the diving Laura Du Ryin the Ajax goal. Unfortunately for Beerschot, who haven’t won a single game this season, the post would deny them the lead but as the ball rebounded back across the goal, Den Ridder was on hand to poke the ball home from two yards. Well that’s at least what everyone thought, until the defender, who was looking to add to her only goal this season, spooned the ball over the bar.  Ajax went on to win the match by two goals to nil thanks to strikes from Desiree van Lunteren and Eshley Bakker but it will be Den Ridder’s miss that will be remembered rather than the score line.

A moment to forget for Beerschot's Nicoletta den Ridder  (Image from YouTube)

A moment to forget for Beerschot’s Nicoletta den Ridder
(Image from YouTube)

Nicoletta is still young and has many more years ahead of her to help erase the memory of the miss but unfortunately it will never go away. She has to move past it as Van Vossen and Rosenthal did. And she should take solace in the fact that some of the game’s greatest players – David Villa, Fernando Torres, Jean Pierre Papin and Kanu have all missed sitters in their careers and they are all strikers. Or better still, she could just watch the clips below which show that she isn’t the only one to have struggled to score from a few yards out.

To See Rosenthal’s miss, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhviGuX09i0

To see Van Vossen’s miss, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DEkKs_dj2I

To see Den Ridder’s miss, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=te33PnBrmV8

To see a host of misses, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKuEDQj7KnA

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