Monthly Archives: April 2018

  1. Is the rise of English football approaching us once again?

    After Liverpool’s emphatic 5-2 first leg win at Anfield against Italians Roma, there was a real sense that Jürgen Klopp’s men had placed one foot in the door for the final in Kyiv come the end of May.

    Not many pundits, fans or even club officials would have said that Liverpool could, realistically, reach the Champions League final this season. Yes, they had a promising attack and still maintained Philippe Coutinho until January, but their defence was leaking in goals left, right and centre. To have thought they would be 180 minutes away from lifting the trophy for the first time since 2005 under Rafa Benitez’s kinship would have been ludicrous. 

    And yet, Liverpool are on the verge of something truly spectacular. Through Mohamed Salah’s brilliance, Sadio Mané’s relentless energy and Roberto Firmino’s selflessness, along with a fantastic manager and team cohesion, the Reds are halfway to the Champions League final. 

    Recent Champions League Performances

    The last English team to reach such a stage in European football was Chelsea, back in 2012, when Robert di Matteo took his team to Munich to face Bayern. Again, somewhat surprisingly, the Blues made it against all the odds and obstacles in their way. They went on to lift the Champions League and that was the last time an English club did so.

    The intermittent years between 2012 and 2018 have been barren for English clubs. Less of the European celebrations and more of the keeping their heads above water. The lack of competitiveness in the Champions League has been worrying and their absence has been filled by the dominance of Spanish teams. 

    Even with the influx of money, English teams have failed to mark their stamp on continental football and have been left in the shadows. Manchester City were one of the outright favourites for the competition this season, but fell at the hands of Liverpool in a thrashing that was unforeseen. While the Reds are not

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  2. Jorge Campos Goalkeeper Extraordinaire

    Not all goalkeepers can claim to be the subject of a ‘Top 6 Goals’ highlight reel on YouTube, but then 1990's star Jorge Campos was nothing like all goalkeepers. In fact, watching the aforementioned tribute video, the immediate impression formed is that he was something of a predatory finisher with quick feet and quicker thinking.

    Inside his ‘Top 6’ are some majestic finishes. There’s a penalty kick which he shapes to kick with his left foot, deceives the opposition goalkeeper and calmly slots home with the outside of his right. There’s a lobbed strike that he executes immediately after being tackled to the ground. There’s also a magnificent scissor kick, which is the hallmark of only the truly innovative footballing hitmen.

    Goalkeeper Turned Striker

    Time for some crucial context for the confused: Campos was, at various points throughout his career, a striker. No, he didn’t just go up for the odd corner kick when his team were losing and only seconds remained; he was an actual, bona
    fide striker. When he was making his way in Mexico with Pumas, he found the No.1 jersey difficult to gain possession of. So, instead of sitting around twiddling his thumbs and waiting for the jersey’s incumbent, Adolfo Rios, to step aside, he asked if he could play outfield. His request was granted, and in his maiden campaign he found the net 22 times in all competitions.

    After one season that saw Campos compete with his country’s most prolific scorers, he went back between the sticks. However, his scoring days were not done with. In each of the following five seasons, he got his name on the scoresheet at least once. This was because, while now the first-choice goalkeeper, he was still occasionally shifted up front when his side were in need of goals.

    His attacking tendencies led to him being labelled as ‘crazy’ or ‘eccentric’ by onlookers who couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea of a goalkeeper being just as capable of finding the net as

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  3. Four Youngsters that are on the Rise in La Liga

    There are a lot of exciting young players in Europe right now, some are already well-known whilst others are about to announce themselves in their respective leagues. On top of that, several rising individuals are prepared to do anything to achieve the opportunity of going to the World Cup. 

    In Spain, the production line of youngsters being promoted from the youth academy to the first team or are brought for cheap from elsewhere and are developed effectively, remains consistent season by season. This is one of the huge factors to why Spanish football will always be superior. 

    Here are the four youngsters that are having a wonderful season at a personal level in La Liga...

    Unai Nunez – Athletic Club

    Athletic Club have proven to be a side that produces many talented individuals and a team that can keep hold of their valuable gems for longer than expected. For sure, Inaki Williams, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Yeray Alvarez are a few players that are worthy of being mentioned, however, its Unai Nunez that has entered the main event at San Mames and has featured in all of the headlines from the beginning of the campaign up until now. 

    Since his La Liga debut at the start of the season, the 21-year-old centre-back has evidently shown that he is a solid player on and off the ball as he continues to make a mark in Jose Angel Ziganda’s starting line-up. Also, he is regarded as a classic defender, who is not afraid of aggressively completing an interception or tackle without a second thought in the first third of the pitch. Given the fact that he has managed to produce 25 shots blocked, 57 interceptions, 60 tackles and 101 aerial duels won in 28 league games, Nunez is showing to Spain as well as the whole of Europe that he is a complete defender who will become a wanted man soon or later. 

    Igor Zubeldia – Real Sociedad

    Meanwhile, just under 50 miles away from San M

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  4. Three Premier League stars who have performed well in 2017

    It has not been a Premier League classic in terms of any sort of title race given Manchester City’s dominance over the whole country, but that’s not to say there haven’t been great performances elsewhere.

    The spotlight is firmly stuck on Pep Guardiola and his men, and rightly so, but three players have performed to a level that looked incomprehensible before the season had begun.

    Here are Liam Canning’s three Premier League overachievers this season: 

    Mohamed Salah: Liverpool, right wing

    It’s not right to call Salah an underrated gem, because he’s not anymore. He was, however, looked at as a gamble when Liverpool decided to spend £35 million on the Egyptian King to bring him from AS Roma last summer.

    Questions were being raised, even by Liverpool’s fans, about Salah’s last stint in England at Chelsea, and how it did not go according to plan under José Mourinho. That was putting it kindly.

    However, with more experience and maturity in the wide forward, Salah came to Liverpool at the right time: just before his exponential rise. The right winger, who drifts all over the pitch which makes it so difficult to mark him, has scored an unbelievable 30 Premier League goals in 32 appearances, leading the way as the division’s top goal scorer. 

    The Egypt international’s record overall reads: 45 games, 40 goals, 13 assists, and a goal every 89 minutes in all competitions. 

    That, right there, is simply stunning. The scouting department at Liverpool will be licking their lips at Salah’s numbers this season and will be in line for a huge pat on the back for identifying his brilliance. Jürgen Klopp will also be in Liverpool fans’ good books for playing a system that promotes the best from Salah - the sheer pace of the Reds’ front three is frightening. 

    It will be interesting to see if Salah can emulate this level of performance year after year - because that’s what both Lionel Messi and Cri

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  5. Denmark 1986: Story of the Kit

    It could be argued that Denmark’s second goal in their 2-0 win over West Germany in 1986 was the definitive move of that summer’s World Cup. Diego Maradona may have stolen the show with a couple of ridiculous strikes against England – one being his infamous ‘Hand of God’; the other a wonderful solo run that saw him beat five players and then slot past the goalkeeper – but neither of those efforts truly captured the times in a footballing or a stylistic sense.

    Denmark V West Germany 1986 World Cup

    Denmark’s second against West Germany did. It originated with a goal kick from an outfield player, which is something so rarely seen these days. What’s more, left-back Henrik Andersen didn’t just boot the ball downfield, but daintily chipped
    it into midfield. That effortlessly graceful lobbed pass was followed by a nonchalant dribble up the pitch by its recipient, Soren Lerby, a provocative playmaker who wore his socks around his ankles and saw no need for shin pads. What is most noticeable, watching the goal now, is that Lerby didn’t come under any pressure whatsoever as he carried the play forward. He was able to take six touches and move over the halfway line into West Germany territory before encountering any sort of serious opposition.

    When Lerby was finally faced with a defender, he simply laid off to the onrushing Jan Molby. Molby then sprayed the ball wide to the right-hand side, where Frank Arnesen was attacking. Arnesen looked up, spotted the run of John Eriksen, and found the striker with a first-time cross across the face of goal. Eriksen, evading both his marker and a desperate lunge from German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher, finished with aplomb.

    From the lofted goal kick to the low-socked Lerby, the simple lay-offs and the lack of pressing, this goal screamed 1986. Tactically, it simply would not be possible today – the goal kick wouldn’t be on, and even if it was played Lerby would have been forced wide or back, or dispos

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  6. Who is the 2017/18 Premier League Player of the Year?

    A fiery debate takes place every year which awards the Premier League Player of the Year to the best footballer in the division. The usual suspects are put up for the award, seldom anyone but forward players, and this season is going to be no different.

    Two players stand out for their teams - who have both been phenomenal in their own regard - and have been a cut above everyone else this season. It is the obvious duo of Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Liverpool’s Mo Salah.

    One set of fans is going to be bitterly disappointed their man didn’t win the award, but here’s Liam Canning’s take on who deserves to be crowned the Premier League Player of the Year: 

    Kevin De Bruyne

    After being sold by Chelsea in 2014 to Wolfsburg, not many thought that the Belgian would make a comeback to the Premier League. Not least of all with Manchester City.

    However, four years later, the Belgian is on course to winning his first Premier League title. De Bruyne has had arguably his greatest ever season in a football jersey and has been a pivotal member of Pep Guardiola’s team.

    While it has been a disappointing 10 days for City, those poor results shouldn’t get in the way of the celebrations when they eventually do win the Premier League title. 11 goals and 20 assists in all competitions show the Belgian international’s contribution to the club this year, but goals and assists are not the only measure of the man.

    When Guardiola deployed De Bruyne as a number eight, instead of a 10 in the playmaker’s role, there were queries being raised. However, just like Roberto Martinez knew, the Spanish manager had faith in the former Wolfsburg player’s ability to read the game intrinsically and be pragmatic when there’s a need to be.

    The most eye-pleasing attribute De Bruyne has is his vision for a pass. While the pass itself is beautiful and the execution is to a world-class standard, the vision of even seeing the pass to be

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  7. Italy 2000: Story of the Kit

    For many people, fashion is one of the first things that springs to mind when discussing Italy. The Italian appreciation of style, the way things look, is unique; time spent in any of the country’s major cities confirms as much. This aspect of the culture is sometimes seen in club football on the peninsula, though it’s often proved a more difficult assignment to incorporate at international level.

    Italian Style Injected into the National Kit

    The Italy national team, like all national teams, have a set look, at least when it comes to colours involved, which generally limits their stylistic options. However, in the first tournament of the new millennium, Euro 2000 in Belgium and
    Holland, the Azzurri took to the field in one of the most eye-catching kits seen in recent times.

    There were several reasons behind the kit’s appeal. Firstly, it utilised a slightly different hue of blue to the traditional Italy kit. Secondly, the shirts were much tighter than the norm at that time. In many ways, this was an effortlessly simple look, with nothing but shirt numbers and the national team crest on the front, but it nonetheless managed to earn a special place in the hearts of many a football fan thanks to its sheer unwillingness to adhere to convention.

    Exactly why Italy went to Euro 2000 in a lighter shade of blue isn’t clear. But while the new colour looked nice for a change, this slight modification quickly paled into insignificance. What was more intriguing was that the shirts were figure-hugging. This was a bold call – no other top team in the club or international game had committed to such material.

    Figure Hugging Fabric

    Kappa were the manufacturer responsible. This meant the kit had the added benefit of featuring the brand’s iconic ‘Omini’ logo – a silhouette of a man and woman sitting back to back – on each of the shirt sleeves. This particular range of shirt was titled ‘Kombat’, and the name made a great deal of se

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  8. Argentina's World Cup hopes rely on Lionel Messi performing

    Not all international friendlies tell the full picture leading into a major tournament, but Argentina’s problems on the world stage have been transparent for several years now. They might be possessed with star-studded names, but when all is said and done, there is only one player that continually drags them forward. And that is: Lionel Messi. 

    A 2-0 win against an Italy side going through a transition period a 6-1 demolition at the hands of Spain suggest things in Jorge Sampaoli’s squad are rather tumultuous. A lack of consistency, especially in World Cup qualifying, has been a present theme over the past 24 months.

    Although the Argentinean boss put out a weakened side, it was still staggering to see Julen Lopetegui’s men rip their opponents piece by piece, limb by limb in what can only be described as a massacre. La Albiceleste failed to create a game plan to stop Real Madrid star Isco, who carved open their midfield and defence, scoring a hat-trick of his own at the Etihad Stadium. The Spanish playmaker put his name up in lights against Sampaoli’s men, and made his case to Los Blancos manager Zinedine Zidane as to why he should be starting each week.

    It seems absurd that two players in Mauro Icardi, Serie A’s second best goalscorer, and Paulo Dybala, the heir to Messi, are set to miss out on their country’s 23-man World Cup squad. Sampaoli is said to have notified the Inter striker that he will not be going to Russia this week, partly due to his off field relationship with the players, which started from when Maxi Gomez, the former Sampdoria teammate of Icardi’s, accused the Argentine of cheating with his then-model girlfriend Wanda Nara. Shortly after their divorce was finalised, Icardi married Wanda and caused quite the controversy.

    The same can’t be said for Dybala, who must be wondering how on earth he is about to miss out on going to the World Cup. There’s one thing not starting, but another not even making the

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  9. Sampdoria 2017-18: Story of the Kit

    When telling the story of a kit, there is usually a good amount of interpretation involved. How did the club arrive at such a colour scheme and design? Where does their crest come from? Why are they sponsored by this particular organisation? These are all questions that need to be answered, and answering them takes effort. However, Sampdoria’s 2017/18 kit requires little by way of research. In many ways, the kit tells its own story, and simply by looking at it from a few different angles one can easily gleam information about the club’s past and present.

    Origins of the Sampdoria Colour Scheme

    The most visually striking element of the kit is the colour scheme. It’s well-known, and it’s the height of football fashion. The base colour of the shirt is a dark blue, with a thick white horizontal stripe across the midriff. Within that stripe are two more horizontal stripes – one red, one black. These colours are both style and substance – they look good, and they also hint at the club’s origins.

    Sampdoria was founded in 1946 through a merger between two teams: Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria. Bright sparks will notice that the name ‘Sampdoria’ is simply a squashing together of the two original club names. The kit is also a representation of the two teams’ coming together, with Sampierdarenese’s red and black horizontal stripes combining with Andrea Doria’s blue and white to create one of Italian football’s most distinctive looks.

    Rather strangely, a crest with the Saint George’s Cross adorns the front of the shirt. It would be entirely reasonable to assume this reflects some sort of English connection; after all, English sailors are believed to have introduced the sport to Italy, and countless English stars have turned out for Samp, including Trevor Francis, Des Walker and David Platt. However, this is no more than a neat coincidence. The crest actually represents the club’s Genovese roots – for hundreds of years, Genoa’s flag has been th

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