Wayne Rooney, bamboo forests, and England-Ukraine: Tuesday’s Euro 2012 B-Side

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Sunday’s great moment in old time-y overthink came courtesy of the ITV studio panel  One of England’s broadcasters for Euro 2012, the network has Roy Keane and Roberto Martínez as part of their rotating panel analyzing his year’s championships. When asked how Wayne Rooney should be re-assimilated into England’s team, Martínez said from the bench. You not only don’t want to mess with a good thing, but the competition for spots in the starting XI would be a good thing. Surprisingly, there were no snickers, with Keane going so far as to agree with Martínez, saying the team that beat Sweden deserved to keep their places.

The strangest part about this is the near-180 degree turnaround that’s happened since Wayne Rooney’s suspension. When he earned a three-match ban (later reduced to two) after seeing straight red to close qualifying, the apoplexy was comical. What will England do without Wayne, the papers bemoaned. Probably play three group games like everybody else, I thought to myself. Now that England’s undefeated through two matches, Rooney’s only slightly more meaningful than Jermain Defoe or some other potential impact sub? You can just imagine Alex Ferguson on the phone to the FA, If you’re not going to use the boy, send him home already.

If English soccer isn’t thrilled to have Rooney back, then they’ve got something in common with Ukranians, who surely aren’t happy that an already difficult opponent will be bolstered ahead of a potential elimination game. Between that, their tournament’s only goal scorer being doubtful (Andriy Shevchenko, knee), the pressures of potentially becoming the fourth straight co-host to fall in group stage, Ukraine has three too many things to worry about.

Then again, this is exactly the type of scenario that tends to bring English soccer’s downfall.

The match kicks off at 2:45 p.m. Eastern. England goes through with a win or a draw and can win the group with either result, depending on what France does against Ukraine. England could also get through with a loss, provided Sweden works some magic.

Here’s your playlist:

Side 2: England vs. Ukraine

5. Shock and awe

Word broke late Monday that Theo Walcott may not only be cleared to play (after suffering a hamstring injury) but could start in place of James Milner on the right of midfield. With Rooney set to partner Danny Welbeck up top and Ashley Young likely to retain his spot on the left wing, England’s suddenly putting together the counterattacking team we dreamed about in our preview. No team in this tournament will be as dangerous on the break as an England led by Welbeck, Rooney, Walcott and Young.

This is absolutely amazing. I can’t explain how excited I am about this, which is bad, because I’m a writer (I get paid to explain how I feel). I just spent a good six minutes walking around my kitchen trying to get my head around the feeling. And I don’t even like England that much. Just the idea of watching the game with that constant, gut-hallowing anticipation that something amazing can happen?  It’ll be like having Axl Rose back in his prime.

I can’t remember the last time I felt this way about an international soccer game. It’s not that the move makes England all that great. It just makes them a hell of a lot fun.

6. Beating expectations

One of the pleasant virtues of England’s pre-Euro preparation was the lack of expectations. Usually England treats every major tournament like it’s the finale of LOST, and they’re always left to deal with Jack’s pathetic regress into a bamboo forest. This tournament was more like the New Girl. Everybody expected it to be terrible only to find it was pleasantly tolerable.

Things are changing, though. England expects to beat Ukraine. Worse, so do their supporters. For a country that has habitually failed to meet expectations, the switch from let’s hope for quarterfinals to Wayne’s back, `nuff said feels like somebody’s tempting fate.

Does anybody else see where this is going? Bamboo forest, people.

7. No options?

Look at Ukraine’s talent and how England play and you wonder how the co-hosts can break their opponents down. But in England’s aggression, the co-hosts could find hope.

Ukraine’s best options are wide with Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka. If Hodgson does drop James Milner, that will leave Theo Walcott and Ashley Young wide. Particularly on the left, where Konoplyanka can get to Glen Johnson, Ukraine has hope. On the right Oleh Gusev overlapping Yarmolenko could also prove problematic for Ashley Cole.

The problem is what Ukraine does if they beat England wide. Nobody besides Shevchenko has scored, and if he can’t play, who’s left to capitalize should the wingers create chances? Andrei Voronin, who has scored eight international goals in 74 appearances? Behind Shevchenko, Ukraine’s most prolific scorers are Gusev and central midfielder Sergey Nazarenko. Each have 12 career international goals, but neither will be play in a positions where they’ll be expected to score.

Ukraine coach Oleh Blokhin said Shevchenko was “50-50” to play. Given speculation he may retire after the tournament, you’d expect him to play unless his leg’s falling off.

8. Destroy on command

Even before news of Walcott’s potential start came out, defensive midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk was going to play an important role. He’s the man who would me matched up with Wayne Rooney, more often than not. Thirty-three and capped 118 times, Tymoshchuk would leave the team with one icon should Shevchenko be unable to go.

But with Walcott’s potential inclusion and England ready to unleash the counter attack to end all counter attacks, Tymoshchuk’s role has gone from important to vital. In front of a back line that lacks foot speed, Tymoshchuk must prevent England attackers from meeting the defense at full speed.

If he can’t, England won’t have to worry about failing to meet expectations.

 

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.

UCL team news: Man City, Spurs, Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea

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Three Premier League giants are in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday and below is a roundup of the latest team news from Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Also, don’t forget Chelsea and Manchester United are both in UCL action on Wednesday as the five PL clubs all aim to remain unbeaten through the opening two weeks of group play.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]   


Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has revealed that left back Benjamin Mendy will have a late fitness test ahead of City’s clash with Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

City will be looking to win their opening two UEFA Champions League group games for the first time in club history after they beat Feyenoord 4-0 away from home in their Group F opener.

Guardiola also revealed that Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan are back in training but neither play is fit enough to play at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.


Tottenham have plenty of absentees as Mauricio Pochettino‘s men are in Cyprus to face APOEL in Group H.

Dele Alli and Jan Vertonghen are both suspended, while Erik Lamela (hip), Mousa Dembele (ankle), Victor Wanyama (knee), Danny Rose (knee), Christian Eriksen (ill) are all out injured.

Pochettino’s men will be hoping to build on their impressive home win against Borussia Dortmund in their group stage opener and Harry Kane will be the main man for Spurs once again as he’s scored six goals in his last four appearances for the north London club.


Manchester United will be without midfielder Marouane Fellaini for their trip to CSKA Moscow in Group A.

Fellaini was injured after a nasty challenge from Shane Long at Southampton in United’s 1-0 win on Saturday and with Paul Pogba also out, Mourinho could turn to either Michael Carrick or Ander Herrera to step in.

The Red Devils boss will face no further action after his sending off at Saints on Saturday and he will be hoping his side can shake off any jet-lag to continue their unbeaten start to the season and make it eight wins from nine.


Liverpool are also in the Russian capital as they play Spartak Moscow in Group E.

Jurgen Klopp is without the suspended Joe Gomez, so Trent Alexander-Arnold is expected to slot in at right back, while the big piece of team news is that Loris Karius will start in goal over Simon Mignolet.

Sadio Mane is also likely to start after he served the final game of his three-match domestic ban during Liverpool’s 3-2 victory at Leicester City on Saturday.


Chelsea have a huge game in Group C as they travel to Atletico Madrid.

Antonio Conte could start captain Gary Cahill on the bench as David Luiz is available after suspension, while Eden Hazard started at Stoke City on Saturday and came through it unscathed.

Quotes from the Italian coach about his future may concern some Chelsea fans though.

Report: Man United eye $209 million Dybala

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Manchester United is ready to pay Juventus another huge transfer fee for a star player.

[ MORE: Conte heading back to Italy?

Paulo Dybala, 23, is ripping it up for the Turin club after his move from Palermo in 2015.

The Argentine playmaker has scored 12 goals in his opening eight games of this season after scoring 42 in his first 94 appearances in all competitions for Juve.

Reports have surfaced across the UK media stating that United are set to battle it out with Barcelona next summer for Dybala and are willing to pay over $209 million for the forward who is capable of playing centrally or out wide.

Dybala has 10 caps for Argentina but is yet to score for La Albiceleste.

Does Jose Mourinho really need another attacking midfielder/secondary forward?

Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba are all currently scrapping for three spots underneath Romelu Lukaku in Mourinho’s attack. Dybala is a class above most of those players with the diminutive attacker perhaps a long-term replacement for Mata who turns 30 in April.

Not only are his set pieces and crosses a deadly weapon (ask Gonzao Higuain at Juve) but consistently scoring close to 20 goals a season will make the biggest clubs in Europe stand up and take notice.

When I watch Dybala a see a more clinical Philippe Coutinho. Is he worth $209 million? Who knows anymore. The transfer market has gone bonkers but if Neymar is worth $265 million, Dybala’s output isn’t much less than the Brazilian forward.

Juve have said they won’t stand in his way if he wants to move on but United will have to pony up the big boy cash to snap up one of the hottest talents on the planet.

Gareth Barry’s historic longevity: Incredible stats, top goals

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Gareth Barry is expected to make Premier League history on Monday.

If Barry, 36, appears (he is expected to start) for West Bromwich Albion in their game against Arsenal (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Emirates Stadium he will make his 633rd appearance in the PL, breaking Ryan Giggs‘ record.

After making his PL debut in the 1997-98 campaign for Aston Villa, Barry has gone on to play for Manchester City, Everton and now West Brom who he signed for in the summer.

In a recent interview the left-footer said he could go on playing until the age of 40 but he only has a contract through the end of this season at the Hawthorns after turning down a new two-year deal at Everton.

The midfielder, a former England international, won an FA Cup and a Premier League title while at Man City and has played as a left back, center back and in central midfield. Steady, composed and dependable, Barry is the kind of seasoned pro who are worth their weight in gold.

In the video above you can watch Barry’s top five goals in the Premier League, while below are some incredible stats from his near 20-year career in England’s top-flight.

  • Most starts in Premier League history: 600
  • Most minutes played: 52,871
  • Most yellow cards: 119
  • Ranked 10th all-time in wins with 261
  • 17 current PL players were not born when Barry made his Premier League debut on May 3, 1998

Trio of USWNT players stay in locker room for national anthem

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USWNT players Megan Rapinoe, Sydney Leroux and Becky Sauerbrunn were among players from both the Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City who did not appear for the national anthem at a NWSL game on Sunday.

Rapinoe was the first USWNT player to kneel during the national anthem as she joined the protests led by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick calling for racial equality and against police brutality.

With several NFL teams on Sunday taking a knee during the anthem and the Pitstburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks staying in the locker room during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, U.S. President Donald Trump has responded angrily to sports teams who decided to kneel during the national anthem.

Here’s more info from Sounder At Heart on SB Nation:

This time Megan Rapinoe is not alone. Several players from both teams joined her, staying in the locker room during the flag and anthem ceremony.

Elli Reed, Megan Rapinoe, Madalyn Schiffel, Lauren Barnes and Diana Matheson from the Reign did not take the field. Former Sounders/Reign player Sydney Leroux was among the FCKC starters who were not out for the ceremonies. Yael Averbuch, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Desiree Scott round out that group. Sauerbrunn is currently the United States captain. Leroux and Rapinoe are both regulars with the USWNT.

With U.S. Soccer bringing in a new bylaw earlier this year which states players must stand for the national anthem, could we see male and female U.S. stars following this option by not going out onto the pitch for the national anthem in upcoming international games?

All eyes will be on USWNT captain Sauerbrunn, plus midfielder Rapinoe and Leroux, during the anthem when Jill Ellis’ side play against South Korea on Oct. 19 and Oct. 22.

The actions of Bruce Arena’s USMNT side will also be heavily scrutinized ahead of their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad & Tobago on Oct. 6 and Oct. 10 respectively.