Preview: World Cup qualification achieved; now it's time to experiment
Ecuador will take on Alejandro Sabella's squad in a friendly match that will likely get a lot of attention in on the east coast in the USA. With both countries having already guaranteed their place in next year's World Cup, both managers will have a chance to test out some new options.
Argentina will first take on Ecuador, and they will then take on Bosnia-Herzegovina. That will give the Albiceleste a chance to see some of their options, but they will be without Lionel Messi for both.
The United States’ agenda in the last six months has been dominated by CONCACAF opponents due to the Gold Cup and the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. The idea of playing European sides is to prepare for a higher level of football ahead of next year’s tournament.
Jurgen Klinsmann is yet to finalize his 2014 World Cup squad so friendly matches appear as a good opportunity for players to justify their inclusion. Friday’s friendly encounter against the Scots will go on without Clarence Goodson, Edgar Castillo and Landon Donovan.
These three players, along with goalkeeper Brad Guzan, are sidelined with injuries. The USMNT has however been boosted by the return of Michael Bradley. The AS Roma midfielder had to miss last month’s World Cup qualifier against Mexico.
Preview: Iceland to take advantage of woeful Croatia
Lars Lagerbäck’s men will be hoping to take full advantage of Croatia’s dismal run in recent games which saw them finish second in Group A, nine points behind leaders Belgium. The Blazers got off to a flying start winning five of their opening six matches, but uncharacteristically failed to win any of their remaining four. As a result of which former head coach Igor Stimac was relieved of his duties, replaced by former Croatian captain Niko Kovac who will take charge of his team for the first time on Friday.
Preview: German nightmares to be revived in Milan?
Germany will be without Mario Gomez going into this one. Bastian Schweinsteiger underwent ankle surgery recently and is set to be out as well. Miroslav Klose is a doubt after sustaining a shoulder injury for Lazio against Parma. Mesut Özil and Per Mertesacker are both trying to recover from illnesses to get themselves ready for this match. All permutations concerned, young Max Kruse might lead the line in this friendly for the Germans. Other alternatives would include starting Mario Götze or Thomas Müller as a falsche neun.
Preview: Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic will have to make the difference
Since the draw dictated Portugal and Sweden would go head-to-head to determine who would be in next year's World Cup, nearly all of the talk has been about Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. On Friday, they will both get a chance to to prove their worth at the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon.
The unfortunate part of this highly anticipated match is that one of the world's best players will have to miss out on the World Cup. Will it be Ronaldo or Ibra?
Preview: Hodgson set to experiment as injuries pile up
Roy Hodgson is set to be without a number of star players as injuries continue to stack up at the England camp. Captain Steven Gerrard has been ruled out with a hip injury, whereas his club teammate Daniel Sturridge who has been on an impressive scoring run in the league will also miss the fixture.
Manchester United duo Danny Welbeck and Michael Carrick who has been ruled out for at least six weeks will also not make the squad, whereas first choice right back Kyle Walker has also been declared as unavailable.
Preview: Gordon Strachan is still trying to find the right balance
Since taking over in January, Gordon Strachan has done a good job working with what he has at his disposal. He walked into the Scottish National Team with a tough task of qualifying for the World Cup, something his country has not done since 1998, but unfortunately they fell just short.
One positive for the Scotland fans will be their countries two victories to end their qualification campaign.
They defeated Macedonia, but the confidence boosting victory will have been their 2-0 triumph over Croatia. Now Scotland will turn their attention to a USA squad that will be present in next year's World Cup.
As two of the biggest football stars in the planet prepare to lead their respective nations in the World Cup playoff, it is definitely the time to take out the stats book and have a look at how Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic have terrorised opponents for club and country this year.
Breaking a 24-year record in the Championnat
Despite playing host to some of the most talented strikers in the continent, no French Ligue 1 player was able to break a record set by Olympique de Marseille legend Jean-Pierre Papin in the 1989/90 season.
It’s often said that criticism is the best motivator. In the case of Cristiano Ronaldo, it seems to have spurred him on to new heights that many had not even thought possible, despite his reputation as arguably one of the world’s finest footballers playing today.
The Portuguese attacker has scored 24 goals so far in all competitions and will certainly break the Champions League group stage record of eight goals set by trio Ruud van Nistelrooy, Filippo Ingazhi, and Hernan Crespo. As a result, he’s passed perennial rival Lionel Messi’s previously established haul of 13 European strikes in a calendar year.
Given that he’s scored in every single Champions League game so far this season, it’s probably certain that he’ll add more to that tally before the group stages conclude in December.
Preview: Romania to make Athens trip without star defender
Spurs star Vlad Chiriches has been ruled out of Romania’s two legged affair against Greece, after suffering a facial injury during Tottenham’s 1-0 loss against Newcastle in the Premier League. Tottenham’s Portuguese manager confirmed of the 23 year olds misfortune and when inquired about the Romanian international’s injury he responded: "I think he broke his nose."
The injury will be a huge blow to Romania’s chances of making it through who had been relying on the services of their star defender. Chiriches has gradually established himself as one of the most important members of the first team and his absence will surely be felt as Romania aim for a World Cup berth for the first time in 16 years.
Preview: France hoping to take away goal advantage to the second leg
A two legged encounter provides for the fact, that should the scores remain level after 180 minutes of football away goals will be taken into account. Didier Deschamps’ quest of securing a place for the French national side into the World Cup to be held in Brazil next year could have been much more trickier had the Blues been drawn against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, however the 1998 World Cup winners have been handed a relatively easier tie but should take nothing for granted at this stage.
Les Blues finished second in Group I, three points behind World and European champions Spain and despite of just losing once in the eight matches they played in the World Cup Qualification group stages, Les Tricolores were denied an automatic qualification to the tournament.
In one of the most hotly contested playoffs for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Ukraine vs France will be a tricky affair, one that could possibly go down the wire. The opening game takes place in Kiev and there are a number of reasons why Didier Deschamps’ side will not be feeling confident about their chances of getting a right result in Ukraine.
Strong defence on both sides
France let in six goals in eight games during the group stages of the UEFA WCQ. Ukraine on the other hand, let in just four goals in 10 games. Moreover, Ukraine defended consistently well in a group containing the likes of England, Poland and Montenegro, three sides that boast some of the best strikers in Europe at the moment.Apart from Spain, France faced more or less teams of a lesser stature in the shape of Belarus, Georgia and Finland.
While the loss of star defender Kyriakos Papadopulos is a big blow, Fernando Santos’ side is brimming with confidence and have abundant talent in their ranks in order to finally settle the score with the Romanians who have defeated them in their last two meetings.
33-year-old striker, Theofanis Gekas has been recalled for the first leg of the playoffs and the veteran striker’s addition will add much experience to a side that will be looking to break the Romanian resistance before making preparations for a siege.
Preview: Perfect rehearsal for both World Cup participants
Belgian and Colombian football fans are enjoying the time of their lives and Thursday’s matchup will surely produce pure entertainment. The current generation of Belgium’s national football team players forms an enviable line up for any coach – with Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke and Eden Hazard constituting a terrifying attacking trio while Thibaut Courtois and Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet provide headaches to opposite strikers.
In the UEFA World Cup qualifying campaign, Les Diables Rouges proved too fierce for Group A’s five other contenders. They notched in a decent amount of 18 goals in 10 matches and conceded only four times. The road to Brazil was an enjoyable one for Belgium and the time has come for them to build up on what they have already achieved.
Thanks to Graham Zusi who scored for the US national side against Panama a few weeks back, Mexico managed to secure fourth place in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers last month. There was relief all across Mexico as the national side had made quite a meal of things during the qualification campaign.
On the other side of the world however, the reaction was viewed with quite indignation.
After qualifying for the intercontinental playoffs against a country from Oceania, the Mexicans seem bullish about their chances of securing a berth for Brazil 2014, something that many Kiwi players have not found impressive at all.
Preview: The Azteca will be the scene of more thrills
New Zealand last played a competitive game in March whereas Mexico have been through less ups than downs all this while. If El Tri are in with a chance of appearing at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, it is greatly thanks to the Americans. On the final day of the World Cup qualifying campaign in the Hexagonal, USA staged an unbelievable 3-2 comeback in Panama City at the delight of the Mexicans who fell 2-1 in San Jose. In an interview with FIFA.com on Tuesday, New Zealand forward Chris Wood revealed:
“We were hoping for Mexico to lose and for Costa Rica to win their game, but Panama just couldn’t hold out for those last couple of minutes. At the end of the day it’s what the draw has given us so it’s going to be a tough match, but I don't see why we can’t win it.”
Five different ESPN channels – ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN, Watch ESPN and ESPN Deportes – will combine to feed viewers in the United States with top action from across the globe. It all begins this Wednesday with the thrilling intercontinental playoff between El Tri of Mexico and the Kiwis of New Zealand. The second leg of this tie, scheduled for November 20, will close ESPN networks’ international break coverage.
On Thursday, there will be an enticing friendly between world football’s fourth and fifth-ranked nations – Belgium and Colombia, respectively. This battle should serve as a perfect platform for both teams to test themselves ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
And it does not stop here as ESPN will mark your Friday with five matches from Europe. This package includes USA’s vital friendly fixture against Scotland and all UEFA World Cup qualifying playoffs.
Preview: Suarez and co. not underestimating underdogs Jordan
All eyes will be on Luis Suarez, the jewel of Uruguay’s attacking trio which includes the likes of PSG’s Edinson Cavani and veteran striker Diego Forlan. Suarez has been La Celeste Olimpica’s top man for years now. With his 11 goals in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying campaign, he can hardly be blamed for the Uruguayans’ inability to qualify automatically for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
His current great form at Liverpool is set to benefit Uruguay in the playoffs. The 26-year-old missed the first few games in the Premier League through suspension but now counts eight goals and shares the number 1 spot in the goalscorers chart with Manchester City’s Serigo Aguero and team mate Daniel Sturridge.
Who will win the 2013 Puskas Award?
The Annual FIFA Puskás Award celebrates and honours the memory of Ferenc Puskás, the Hungarian National Team captain during the 50's. The award is given to the scorer of the best 2012/2013 goal (male or female & according to FIFA).
The Winner of the award will be presented at the 2013 Ballon d'Or ceremony on January 13, 3014 in Zurich, Switzerland.
Here are the ten goals that made the Puskas Award short-list for this year. Who do you think will win it? Did FIFA get it right or did they miss out on other deserving spectacular goals. Have your say below.
Preview: A battle of first against last
With the exception of Osasuna, no other team in La Liga has been able to steal points from the Blaugrana. 34 points from a possible 36 has Tata Martino's side top of the Spanish League, with a visit to Betis not looking like it will slow them down.
Getting the full three points will be vital for Barcelona. Although they have started in brilliant fashion, Atletico Madrid is right on their heals, with just one point separating the two clubs.
In contrast, Betis is last in La Liga, with only two victories from 12 matches. Both those victories came at home against Valencia and Villareal, but they have four losses and one draw from their last five in La Liga. Turning things around against Barcelona looks like it could be difficult, but their mid-week victory over Vitoria Guimaraes in the Europa League will have given them some added confidence.