Send us a message

Interested in being a part of the team? Get in touch with us today.
Nov 192013

Fifa World Cup 2014 Brazil 3 213x300 Tuesday World Cup Qualifying Preview: The Final Frontier


It is with a heavy heart that I put out this last World Cup Qualifying Preview. To me, one of the most enjoyable parts of the World Cup is the journey to the World Cup. As a fan, there is nothing better than watching games at all hours of the day and watching countries that you would normally not get to see. One of my favorite World Cup moments is getting up at 4:30 in the morning on a Tuesday, pulling together an omelet, and watching Australia qualify for the World Cup against Iraq. And of course, watching the United States whip Mexico 2-0 with the Frederick Soccer Drinking Society to secure their spot in Brazil.

That being said, it will be great to finally have a full field of teams and start thinking about the potential group matchups. I don’t have a crystal ball and frankly trying to give thought to the multiple permutations of who can play who gives me a headache. What I can say is that this is shaping up to be a very competitive field. With the additions of Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, and Nigeria, it is looking like all of the major regional powers from the past twenty years will be going to Brazil (with the exception of one, but we will get to them shortly.) So with that in mind, here is the latest list of teams that have qualified for the World Cup, with the recent additions in bold.

Federation Country
CONMEBOL Argentina
AFC Australia
UEFA Belgium
UEFA Bosnia and Herzegovinian
CONMEBOL Brazil-Host
CAF Cameroon
CAF Cote D’Ivoire
UEFA England
UEFA Germany
AFC Iran
UEFA Italy
AFC Japan
UEFA Netherlands
CAF Nigeria
UEFA Russia
AFC South Korea
UEFA Spain
UEFA Switzerland



Now this set of previews is a bit different from the previous weeks. With the small number of matches remaining, and goal difference playing a role in some matches, there are only a few close matches worth paying attention. Chances are Mexico and Uruguay will qualify on Wednesday given their superior goal difference.

So here is a look at three of the top matches today:

Portugal v Sweden (2:45 ESPN2) Portugal leads on goal differential 1-0

In Friday’s World Cup Preview, I talked a little bit about how Portugal has had difficulties putting teams away at home. Friday’s match against Sweden was no exception. In a match where Portugal had the advantage in both possession and shots, they were only able to score 1 goal off of a deflection by Swedish goalkeeper. Now a 1-0 result is not bad, but anytime you have to travel to not only a different country, but a different climate makes things very problematic. Portugal’s biggest problem in the match was finishing. They flat out dominated Sweden in the midfield and were able to make countless crisp decisive passes to their strikers. But their attackers were not able to make the best of the attempts, only placing three of their 19 shots on target. While Cristiano Ronaldo should be given full credit for his goal in the 82nd minute, he did not look particularly sharp.

While Portugal’s attack may have been lacking, Sweden’s entire game plan was terrible. Their passing was at best poor, and the players just looked like they lacked confidence. They were only able to get 6 shots on goal and were often on their heels against a much faster, more efficient Portuguese squad. The thing that really bothered me the most was how often the team relied on striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. While that is certainly a justifiable idea when they are setting up their attack, you could often see him shouting out assignments to the defense, which should never be the case. I was very disappointed in Sebastian Larsson who should be the maestro in the midfield. Far too often did he cede control over to Ibrahimovic, who should be playing the role of the leading man up front.  I am also not really sure why coach Erik Hamren chose to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation, but Sweden has had most of their success  during qualifying playing out of a 4-4-2.

To overcome this deficit, Sweden is going to have to show more energy on offense. Although the team runs through Zlatan he cannot be responsible for both setting up the plays and finishing them. Larsson and Olsson have to take a more prominent role in creating opportunities for Ibrahimovic. The thing to bear to mind is that Portugal has gone through these two-leg playoffs  prior to the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European Championships. On both occasions against Bosnia and Herzegovina they took the lead in the first leg and were able to hold on in the second leg on the road. If Sweden can get a goal early on then they will force Portugal to be more aggressive.

Ukraine v France (2:45pm ESPN3)- Ukraine leads 2-0

Sacre Bleu! The French Men’s National Team once again did not show up for a major game! In what seems like a yearly tradition, France once again buckled under expectations losing 2-0 to the Ukraine in Friday’s match in Kiev. I know that everyone sees the name “France” and thinks of the Zidane years, but can we finally move beyond that era and call France for what they are. This group of underachievers has lived off of years of hype and failed to deliver time and time again. It almost seems like Zidane’s head-butt in the 2006 World Cup is a curse on the team. They lack discipline, chemistry, and the basic fundamentals that make good teams great. There is enough talent on this team that they can hide their blemishes against opponents like Finland and Georgia. But against someone like the Ukraine, their flaws are exposed.

It would be fairly easy to spend the remainder of this preview talking about the faults of France, but the truth is that the Ukraine is a really good squad. Last year’s European Championship was an excellent training ground for a team that is looking to move beyond the likes of Andriy Shevchenko and Andriy Voronin. Coach Mykhalo Fomenko has relied on a contingent of young players from Dynamo Kiev and Shaktar Donetsk to create a very aggressive attacking team that can also play stellar defense. Their success should not be a shock to anyone: this team very nearly beat England for the automatic qualification spot in Group E and was able to overtake veteran teams like Poland and Montenegro for the playoff spot.  During Qualification, the Yellow-Blue only gave up 4 goals one of the lowest in all of Europe.

In the first match, the Ukraine found success on the counter- attack, which they used to set up the first goal in the 62nd to go up 2-0. Ukraine is not going to be able to matchup man to man against the French midfield of Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle,) Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich,) and Samir Nasri (Manchester City.) But what they can do is give themselves space on the wings and force the aging French defense to run. Midfielder Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev) and Forward Roman Zozulya  (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk) exposed this weakness in the French defenses by setting up a penalty and scoring off of another opportunity in the 56th minute. France will also be without Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal,) who was given a red card in the first leg. Ukraine Goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov (Shaktar Donetsk) will be under fire for most of the match and is prone to making the occasional mistake. Though France has had their problems, they do have one of the best attacking players in the world in Ribery(16 goals in 79 appearances).

2-0 leads are often considered the most dangerous leads in all of soccer. France has an advantage in technical skill and athletic ability, but as evidenced in the first leg they still lack chemistry and the basic skills that make a football team work. Ukraine may not have the big names, but they have enough to get through a tough road game in Paris to qualify for the World Cup. Hopefully, France will finally undergo a rebuilding project, much like Germany did after the 2006 World Cup, and get back to the glory that they once had.

 Burkina Faso v Algeria (2:00pm beINSPORT) Burkina Faso leads 3-2

If you would have said to me at the beginning of World Cup Qualifying that Burkina Faso and Algeria would have produced one of the best matches in qualifying, I would have not believed you. A minnow vs. Algeria, a team who just merely showed at the last World Cup? Never would have thought about. But amidst the adulations given to the power teams in Africa like Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Nigeria, two teams that are not as well-known put on a clinic in their first match in Ouagadougou. Despite the score-line, both teams played tactically efficient defense and showed flair and chemistry that one rarely sees in African football. Although African players have been making an impact in international soccer for close to 30 years, the emphasis has always been on developing the player not the team or the country. It is why teams like the 1990 Cameroon team and the 1994 Nigeria team are regarded so highly. Watching Algeria and Burkina Faso operate as units as opposed to parts gives me confidence that the game is now finally developing in Africa.

I almost feel bad for Algeria because they deserved more than just a narrow loss. For the first 45 minutes, they matched Burkina Faso blow for blow. On defense, they were cutthroat, allowing few strikes in their 18 yard box and making precise, physical tackles on Burkina Faso Forward Aristides Bane (Fortuna Dusseldorf). On offense, Sofia Veghouli (Valencia) was brilliant. On the right wing, he was able to stretch out the Stallions defense forcing them to play wide. His goal in the 50th minute was splendid, an excellent display of patience, poise, and accuracy.

But Burkina Faso were stubborn literally as the mules in their nickname. In the second half, they came in with a more aggressive style. Using Djakarindja Bande as an attacking midfielder paid off with their goal in the 65th minute. You can argue that the penalty should not have been awarded as the foul on Bance was suspect, but Burkina had been knocking on the Desert Foxes door for most of the second half.

For the match today, it is critical that the Stallions do not park the bus in this match. They must push for at least another goal. Algeria showed that they are no longer a team that will settle for a 0-0 draw. They are aggressive, they have pace, and they understand how to push a defense outwards to be able to create spaces. Going back as far as the Africa Cup of Nations final with Nigeria, Burkina Faso has shown that they do break down later in the match. If they are going to make the next step, if they are going to move beyond being a “team on the cusp” and be a team that goes to the World Cup, they are going to have to take it to Algeria.


Other games worth checking out:

Ghana v Egypt (11am beINSPORT:) 5-1. (Author’s Note: Egypt defeated Ghana 2-1 earlier today, but Ghana will qualify for the World Cup based on besting Egypt on Goal Differential by a score of 7-3.)

Iceland v Croatia (2:45 pm ESPN3:) 0-0

Romania v Greece (2:45 ESPN3:) 1-3

Jordan v Uruguay (Wednesday 6pm beINSPORT:) 0-5

Mexico v New Zealand ( Wednesday 1am ESPN2:) 1-5



USWNT draw France, Colombia and North Korea

 Posted by on April 24, 2012 at 9:45 am  USWNT
Apr 242012

 USWNT draw France, Colombia and North KoreaWe’re now another step closer to the Women’s Soccer Summer Olympic tournament in London after this morning’s draw at Wembley Stadium.

Here’s how the groups break down for the tournament (FIFA world ranking in parentheses):

Group E: Great Britain (9), New Zealand (24), Cameroon (52), Brazil (4)
Group F: Japan (3), Canada (7), Sweden (5), South Africa (65)
Group G: USA (1), France (6), Colombia (28), Korea DPR (8)

Some quick thoughts about the groups:

* Out of the top 4 teams, Brazil received probably the best draw by avoiding an early matchup with the USWNT, Japan, Sweden or France. Their biggest challenger will be the hosts, Great Britain.

* Oh Canada. What a draw for our neighbors to the north. Japan and Sweden makes for a tough, tough draw for Canada.

* In Group G, the USWNT will have some work ahead of them. Of course, their biggest challenger is the very talented France.

* Most anticipated match: USA vs. France

* Team to watch out for: France. Throw the FIFA rankings out the window. While everyone will be talking about the USWNT and Japan, France is poised to have an excellent tournament and will definitely be contenders for a medal.

* Player to watch: Alex Morgan, USWNT. Morgan was a part-time player at last year’s Women’s World Cup. Entering the Olympics, Morgan will now be a starter and with that responsibility will come huge expectations. We’ll have to wait and say how she does but I anticipate a tremendous Olympics for the 22-year-old.

International Round-Up

 Posted by on October 12, 2011 at 12:57 am  Uncategorized
Oct 122011

It was great day for international football as today was the last of the group matches to qualify for Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland. Below is a briefing on how some of the boys from Chelsea did.

Frances players celebrate 005 International Round Up

Florent Malouda is the latest Chelsea player to book his place in next summer’s European Championships. He was a part of the French side that earned a 1-1 draw at home to Bosnia & Herzegovina today. The winger played the first hour in Paris as his side trailed, only for Samir Nasri to score a late penalty to send France through. Bosnia and Herzegovina will now go to the play-offs.

Petr Cech and the Czech Republic came out 4-1 winners in Lithuania today, the goalkeeper will now go into next month’s play-offs in second place behind Spain, who defeated Scotland 3-1 in Alicante. Fernando Torres and Juan Mata were unused subs for this match.

Raul Meireles and Portugal will also be in the play-offs as they were defeated 2-1 by Denmark.

Branislav Ivanovic’s Serbia were beaten 1-0 in Slovenia, Ivanovic played the entire match at centre-back. Unfortunately, the defeat eliminates Serbia from qualification so next year it will be a summer break for the defender.

Romelu Lukaku will also have the summer off as Belgium were eliminated after their 3-1 defeat from table leaders Germany. Turkey secured the play-off spot in that group.

John Mikel Obi played the final 20 minutes of Nigeria’s 0-0 friendly draw against Ghana at Vicarage Road. Nigeria were eliminated from the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations so there will be no international football for Mikel in the month of January and early February.

Conor Clifford played the first 66 minutes in Ireland’s Under 21 match where they came out 4-1 winners in Liechtenstein, and Milan Lalkovic player the full ninety as Slovakia were 6-0 winners away at Latvia.

The playoff draw for a spot at Euro 2012 will be made in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Thursday, with the two-legged ties set to be played on November 11/12 and 15.