Germany to dominate for the next decade

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Soccer comes in cycles. Certain countries produce generations of exceptional players then suddenly one day it stops.

The all-star, World Cup-winning group of Iker Casillas, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Villa, among others, are now either in their 30s or late 20s, and there is a feeling that their dominance of the international game will end at next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. They have won three major tournaments in a row, but all good things have to come to an end at some point.

Lurking behind them are the Germans, who look set to take over Spain’s empire at the top of international soccer.

You only have to see this season’s Champions League to appreciate just how many young Germany stars are emerging. After they were knocked out of the European Championships in 2000, the German Football Association overhauled their youth development system, and that decision is now looking like a great one.

GOALKEEPER

Manuel Neuer is not only Germany’s undisputed first-choice ‘keeper, he’s also one of the top three in the world. The 27-year-old is young in goalkeeping terms, and has a decade in the national side ahead of him still. The likes of Rene Adler and Ron-Robert Zieler are good, young reserves to Neuer.

DEFENSE

Mats Hummels is the main star of Germany’s defense, and the 24-year-old has the look of a future Germany captain about him. He has shone for Dortmund in the Champions League, and his poise, elegance and stature make him a hugely formidable player. Marcel Schmelzer, again of Dortmund, is a very solid left-back, while the Bayern Munich duo of Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng, both also 24, complete the first-choice future back four. The experience of players like Philipe Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Marcel Jansen remain, but they won’t be around forever.

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MIDFIELD

With the brilliant Bastian Schweinsteiger nearing 30, his place in the German side is slowly coming under threat. His midfield partner, Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira, is only just 26 and he has years ahead of him. The most impressive young midfielder is Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan, who looks a superb prospect. He can do everything: pass, tackle, shoot, header. He is the complete midfielder. At 22 he could be around for many years while Sven Bender his 23-year-old Dortmund teammate is also a very good defensive midfielder.

OFFENSE

The offensive area of the pitch is the most exciting for Germany, where they have many great youngsters. Mesut Ozil, despite his experience, is still just 24 and will get better and better with age. Playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid will only help his development. Tony Kroos and Thomas Muller and both only in their early 20s but are regulars for Bayern, keeping the likes of Arjen Robben out of the side at times. Both are very good technically and score plenty of goals. Dortmund’s magnificent duo of Mario Gotze and Marco Reus are perhaps even more impressive. Both are just 20 and 23 respectively, and are being spoken of as potential ‘top 5 players in the world’ material. For all their great depth of youngsters, these two are the real stars. Keep an eye on 19-year-old Julian Draxler too.

While the 2014 World Cup may come to soon for this brilliant German side, with South American conditions favouring Brazil and Argentina, there is no doubt that they could dominate international soccer for many years to come.

Klopp “angry, surprised” by Liverpool defeat to Swansea

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Liverpool fans might disagree — Jurgen Klopp certainly does, tonight, at least — but the beauty of the Premier League is that you can end the runaway leaders’ bid for an unbeaten season, then lose to the last-place team in the league, in back-to-back games.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

This, of course, leaves Klopp, Liverpool’s fiery, combustible manager, more than a little hot under the collar. Following Monday’s 1-0 loss away to bottom-of-the-league Swansea City, Klopp pulled no punches in describing the emotions he feels after such a result.

“Frustrated,” “angry” and “surprised” quickly came to mind after seeing his side’s 14-game PL unbeaten run come to an end. Despite creating 21 chances on the night, the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain managed to put just four on target, which was undoubtedly the genesis of his frustration, anger and surprise — quotes from the BBC:

“I’m frustrated and I’m angry because it was not a good game. We lost the game in the first half. We didn’t do what we wanted to do. It hasn’t happened too often so I didn’t expect that, I was quite surprised. Because of the first half we weren’t flying and they were.

“We made pressure at the end but not enough to score. The last situation was unlucky but if we got a point it would still have been a bad game for us, and it was the opposite of what we wanted. That happens from time to time and it’s never the right moment and like it should be.

“It’s not that we threw it away. Swansea are fighting for their life and we’ve no problem with that, we had a problem with our offensive motions. It’s not what we came here for tonight. We have nothing, and that’s our fault.”

Swansea 1-0 Liverpool: Last-place Swans shock Reds

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  • Swansea shock Liverpool in game of few chances
  • Mawson sweeps home the winner — 40′
  • Reds’ 14-game PL unbeaten run ends
  • Swans now 2W-1D-1L under Carvalhal

From the high of snapping Manchester City’s unbeaten run (30 games dating back to last season) and bid for an unbeaten 2017-18 Premier League season, to being beaten by last-place Swansea City… in back-to-back games… all in the span of eight days.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

On Monday, Swansea topped Liverpool, 1-0 at the Liberty Stadium, to claim just their fifth PL victory all season; two of the five have come in the first three weeks of new manager Carlos Carvalhal’s tenure (four games).

Virgil Van Dijk cost Liverpool $100 million, but he’s yet to arrest the Reds’ woeful set-piece defending. It was the big Dutchman who failed to head the ball clear from the Swans’ 40th-minute corner kick. After an unfortunate bounce in the box, the ball fell to Mawson just 10 yards out. The young Welshman swept his right foot through the ball and Loris Karius could do nothing about it.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Liverpool’s first surefire chance of the second half came in the 60th minute, when Mohamed Salah delicately lifted just over the wall a free kick from 22 yards out. The ball quickly fell as it neared goal, but Lukasz Fabianski reacted quicker and pushed it over the crossbar at full-stretch to preserve the lead at 1-0.

Right on 94 minutes, with the referee staring at his watch, Roberto Firmino headed off Fabianski’s right-hand post and Adam Lallana missed an open-net follow-up, somehow booting the ball well over the bar from three yards out.

Despite holding over 70 percent of possession on the night, Liverpool put on target just four of their 21 total shots.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

With the defeat, Liverpool (47 points) fail to capitalize on Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw with Southampton on Sunday. Having ultimately gained a point in Round 24, Tottenham now trail Liverpool by just two points in the race for fourth. The two sides meet in two weeks’ time, on Sunday, Feb. 4, at Anfield.

Swansea (20 points), meanwhile, have done nearly enough to climb out of the PL cellar, but remain 20th out of 20 teams on goal differential. Three points stand between them and safety.

FIFA seeking sponsors for video replays at World Cup

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LONDON (AP) Video replays will be used at the World Cup for the first time and talks are underway with potential sponsor branding to appear when the technology is used, a FIFA executive said on Monday.

Soccer’s rule-making panel met Monday to assess recent trials ahead of video assistant referees (VAR) being officially approved by FIFA later this season for use in Russia in June and July.

“Definitely VAR will happen,” FIFA chief commercial officer Philippe Le Floc’h told The Associated Press. “It’s great to have technology in football because this is also a fair(ness) thing.”

Referees were assisted for the first time by high-tech aids at a World Cup in 2014 when goal-line technology was used. That system sees a message instantly flash on referees’ watches saying only whether the ball crossed the line.

Video review is used when there is a “clear and obvious error” involving goals, penalty awards, red cards, and mistaken identity.

Replays could lead to delays in games in Russia as different angles are reviewed, presenting an opportunity for FIFA to brand up the segment on the global broadcast feed.

“We are talking to various technological companies who are very interested with what we are doing on the technology side of things,” Floc’h said on board the World Cup trophy tour plane during a stop at London Stansted Airport.

The final decision on allowing replays to become part of the rules of the game falls to the International Football Association Board on March 3 when its annual meeting is held at FIFA.

Video review has been expected at the World Cup because FIFA controls half the votes in IFAB’s decision. The other voters are the four British soccer federations.

Monday’s meeting brought together IFAB technical experts, FIFA refereeing officials, and researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium, who have studied use of video review in 804 games across more than 20 competitions.

“The discussions we had today do not indicate that further experiments need to be conducted,” said Johannes Holzmueller, FIFA’s lead official for technological innovation.

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. Liverpool

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Swansea City’s bid to slow down steamrolling Liverpool begins at 3 p.m. ET Monday at the Liberty Stadium (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The rampaging Reds are coming off a 4-3 win that ended Manchester City’s unbeaten Premier League season, and will hope to avoid a let down against desperate Swans.

The Welsh hosts are six points adrift in the race for Premier League safety, and look set for a 5-4-1 with Jordan Ayew the only forward. Wilfried Bony and Oliver McBurnie are on the bench along with attack-minded Luciano Narsingh.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Van der Hoorn, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson, Ki, Fer, Clucas, Dyer, Ayew. Subs: Nordfeldt, Bartley, Roque Mesa, Carroll, Narsingh, McBurnie, Bony.

Liverpool: Karius, Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane, Firmino. Subs: Mignolet, Milner, Klavan, Lallana, Ings, Solanke, Alexander-Arnold.