European Championship in focus: Spotlighting Spain

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Man that matters: 

Andrés Iniesta: Seriously, it’s impossible to choose between Iniesta and Barcelona midfield mate Xavi. The coin toss landed “AI,” so here you go.

Both players represent the gold standard of midfield possession, masters of astute spacing, the critical first touch and pinpoint connections. They are the cornerstones of Spain’s “generation of brilliance” the indispensable building blocks on which Spain’s flummoxing, mobile passing game has been arranged. Both are set-up men more than goal scorers, although Iniesta certainly turned up with a massive moment of goal-scoring glory; his extra time blast from in close against the Netherlands was a historical World Cup game-winner two summers back.

First-round games:

June 10: vs. Italy (Gdansk, Poland)

June 14: vs. Ireland (Gdansk, Poland)

June 18: vs. Croatia (Gdansk, Poland)

Foursome of knowledge:

  • Periodic dips in friendlies might be concerning, but nothing seemed amiss during a trouble-free qualifying jog, one that ended perfectly at 8-0 and a plus-20 goal difference. Manager Vicente del Bosque’s world champs finished a cool 11 points ahead of distant second place Czech Republic. Of greater concern than indifferent performance in meaningless friendlies are two key injury absences. First is center back Carles Puyol, regal and imposing at once but not available. And forward David Villa is out, too; he was Spain’s leading scorer in qualifiers with seven goals in seven matches.
  • Choices to replace Villa include … uh, oh … start the Fernando Torres debate in 3, 2, 1 …: Torres has spent most of his 18 months at Chelsea thoroughly underwhelming everyone. So does Del Bosque go there? Or does he turn to in-form Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente or even Valencia’s Roberto Soldado?
  • Are we past worrying about the Barca-Real fissure that has long been the bane (or at least the worry) of Spanish soccer? Surely successive championships in major tournaments (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010) have allayed the restive.  If not, here’s the count: Spanish champs Real Madrid has five men, runner-up Barcelona has seven. Perhaps it helps that Spain’s defense is built around Real men while the midfield is largely a Catalan production from Barcelona.
  • We all spend so much time drooling over Spain’s classy passing and brilliant offensive potential that we tend to forget: goalkeeper Iker Casillas is surely among the world’s best. Spain’s captain just back-stopped Real Madrid’s La Liga crowing, and he recently became the most capped Spanish man yet, with 129 international appearances over 12 years.

Where they are going:

It seems to come down to two things. First, how hungry can you be if you’re already full? That is to say, is the drive still alive and kicking after having accomplished so much, especially after such a punishing march through La Liga, Champions League, etc. (Not much of which ended well for the Barca men; Real captured La Liga glory, at least.) The other element seemingly standing between Spain, the tourney favorites, and the chance at an unprecedented third successive major tournament trophy: those talented and confident Germans.

source:  The roster:

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid CF), Víctor Valdés (FC Barcelona), Pepe Reina (Liverpool FC).

Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid CF), Gerard Piqué (FC Barcelona), Jordi Alba (Valencia CF), Álvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid CF), Raúl Albiol (Real Madrid CF), Juanfran (Club Atlético de Madrid), Javi Martínez (Athletic Club).

Midfielders: Xavi Hernández (FC Barcelona), Sergio Busquets (FC Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid CF), David Silva (Manchester City FC), Santi Cazorla (Málaga CF), Jesús Navas (Sevilla FC), Cesc Fàbregas (FC Barcelona), Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcelona).

Forwards: Fernando Llorente (Athletic Club), Juan Mata (Chelsea FC), Fernando Torres (Chelsea FC), Pedro Rodríguez (FC Barcelona), Álvaro Negredo (Sevilla FC).

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Men In Blazers podcast: Chelsea-Arsenal, Rooney, Pep

Men In Blazers
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Rog and Davo break down Arsenal’s draw at Chelsea, Wazza’s return to Old Trafford, and a robotic performance from Pep’s City side. Plus, a musical number at the end.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Top 25 moments in Premier League history: 12-10

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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Premier League we thought it would be great to count down our top 25 moments from a quarter of a century of action.

[ VIDEO: Top 25 moments in PL history ]

Each week we will release our best moments and you can keep track of the full list here.

Below are numbers 12-10 as we enter the top 10 moments in PL history.


12. Sir Alex Ferguson retires as Manchester United’s manager

11. Alan Shearer becomes Newcastle’s all-time leading goalscorer

10. Sheikh Mansour buys Manchester City in 2008

Mark Sampson fired as England women’s coach

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The English Football Association announced on Wednesday that the head coach of the women’s team, Mark Sampson, has been fired as their boss.

Sampson, 34, led the Lionesses to both the semifinals of the 2015 World Cup and the 2017 European Championships, their best-ever finishes on the international stage and also their highest-ever world ranking of third.

However, amid uproar regarding allegations of racist abuse and bullying from current England forward Eni Aluko, something Sampson has been cleared of by two separate investigations, the FA now cite safeguarding allegations from 2014 as the reason for firing Sampson.

His previous job was as the manager of Bristol Academy women’s team from 2009-13 and the FA say it was “unacceptable behavior by a coach.”

Below is the statement from the English Football Association in full.

The Football Association can confirm that Mark Sampson’s contract as England Women’s head coach has been terminated with immediate effect.

Prior to taking charge of the national team in December 2013, Sampson was manager of Bristol Academy. In 2014, safeguarding allegations were made against him about his time with Bristol Academy. The safeguarding assessment was that he did not pose a risk working in the game.

However, the full report of that investigation was only brought to the attention of the current FA leadership last week and it is our judgement that it revealed clear evidence of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour by a coach.

It is on this basis that we have acted quickly to agree a termination of Sampson’s contract. In respect of investigations into specific allegations made by Eniola Aluko in 2016, The FA stands by the findings of the independent barrister Katharine Newton’s investigation.

Sampson has denied all of the accusations put to him and no evidence of wrong-doing was found. We will continue to support the independent investigation as it reviews the recent evidence presented to it and publish any new findings and recommendations.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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It is still early in the season but the player Power Rankings are already becoming increasingly familiar.

[ MORE: Power Rankings archive ]

Players from Manchester City dominate our top five, while plenty of stars from Manchester United are also in the top 20 as Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola work their magic. There are also plenty of new entries as new signings find their feet across the league.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections of the top 20 players in the PL right now.


  1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Even
  2. Nemanja Matic (Man United) – Up 11
  3. Sergio Aguero (Man City) – New entry
  4. David Silva (Man City) – Up 11
  5. Romelu Lukaku (Man United) – Up 4
  6. Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle United) – New entry
  7. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – Down 5
  8. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) – Even
  9. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) – New entry
  10. Juan Mata (Man United) – New entry
  11. Pascal Gross (Brighton) – Down 7
  12. David De Gea (Man United) – New entry
  13. Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) – New entry
  14. Mario Lemina (Southampton) – New entry
  15. Cesar Azpcilicueta (Chelsea) – Down 3
  16. Jack Butland (Stoke City) – Down 11
  17. Matt Ritchie (Newcastle United) – New entry
  18. Jordon Ibe (Bournemouth) – New entry
  19. Laurent Depoitre (Huddersfield Town) – New entry
  20. Shokdran Mustafi (Arsenal) – New entry