A World Cup finals without the defending champions would be a severely diminished competition however that is becoming an increasing possibility after Spain were stunned at home by Finland.
Teemu Pukki’s late equalizer cancelling out a Sergio Ramos strike has put the defending and two-time European champions in a decidedly awkward situation. They now trail long time rivals France by two points and have to visit Paris on Tuesday. The knowledge that anything but a win will probably see them finish second in Group I, makes this match the most pressurized situation they’ve experienced since the final of Euro 2012.
Spain coach, Vicente del Bosque cannot be relishing the prospect of a two-legged shoot out in November to qualify for Brazil 2014.
Can you imagine that, the best national team we’ve ever been privileged to watch in that kind of lottery. The list of dangerous, exceptional and talented countries who may finish second in their respective UEFA qualifying groups is a murderers row.
Croatia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Sweden, Hungary, Romania, Portugal, Greece and England could all be potential opponents to the World Champions should the unthinkable happen.
FIFA made a bold statement in 2002 when they decided that the champion should have to participate in the qualification process instead of automatically moving to the finals as had been the case since the inception of the tournament back in 1930 however I don;t think in the corridors of FIFA HQ in Zurich they ever imagined Spain not playing next summer.
Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. West Ham United
Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool’s Spanish training camp: “As always with a training camp, you want the boys to be together the whole day. We are a lot together but not when we have time off so we had that time as well. The weather was brilliant and everything was easier – if you have to do hard work, which we did there, it is easier if the weather plays in your cards and that was a change of circumstance after a long winter. ”
West Ham’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez on the Irons renewed season: “We had our targets, but they changed. At the beginning of the season, we were aiming to qualify for European competition, but now we are fighting against relegation, but that is sport, that is football and part of life, so we need to accept it and try to be better and get out and see what’s going to happen next year. If we have all these players recovered, probably next year we are going to be fighting for a European position, you never know.”
The Reds are hard to predict, but the lay-off between their Porto triumph in the Champions League and Saturday’s match should benefit Liverpool. 2-1 to the hosts.
Calling Dembele a “genius,” Pochettino heaped praise on the 30-year-old.
“I’ve told you, I put him next to Ronaldinho, Maradona, Okocha – players I’ve been lucky enough to play with. For me he’s one of the unbelievable talents in the history of football.”
The temptation is to make a joke about Dembele being next to Ronaldinho and Maradona in the lobby of an awards ceremony, but the player has been dynamite for some time.
The advanced stats, for what they’re worth, aren’t incredibly kind to Dembele aside from his club-best 93 percent passing percentage and average of 2.2 successful dribbles per game. Still, it’s improbably hard to ignore the eye test, and Dembele passes that one every time.
Spurs are off to Selhurst Park for a Sunday match with Palace (Watch live at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.
FULL TV SCHEDULE
Saturday 7:30 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Stoke City – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Ham – CNBC [STREAM] 10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Newcastle United – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM] 10 a.m. ET: Brighton vs. Swansea City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM] 10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Huddersfield Town – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Watford vs. Everton – NBC [STREAM]
Sunday 7 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur – NBCSN [STREAM]
9:05 a.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM]