Friendly Preview: England vs. Ireland

Leave a comment

This one should be  very intriguing contest at Wembley Stadium this afternoon. (2:30pm ET, Fox Soccer)

England and the Republic of Ireland have not squared off at Wembley Stadium since 1991, and the Irish could well seal a shock win at the home of football.

England are missing several regulars for the visit of the Irish, with captain Steven Gerrard (shoulder) out and Andy Carroll (heel), Jack Wilshere (ankle), Tom Cleverley (calf) and Kyle Walker all missing.

For fans of Major League Soccer, you’ll get to see Robbie Keane captaining the Irish national team bang in form, after his hat trick against Seattle on Sunday night.

As for Keane’s teammates, they’re struggling through injury too. Wolves striker Kevin Doyle (Achilles tendon), Norwich’s Anthony Pilkington (knee) and Leeds United’s Paul Green (hamstring) are all missing, while Stoke defender Marc Wilson is out with a calf injury.

The rigors of a tough domestic campaign have hit both teams.

No game has been played between these two nations since 1995 when a ‘friendly’ in Dublin had to be abandoned after 27 minutes after England fans rioted at Lansdowne Road. No doubt the English FA will be hoping for calm at Wembley, with the match organized as part of the FA’s 150 year anniversary.

One of the stories ahead of tonight’s clash is Ashley Cole winning his 100th cap at left back. The Chelsea defender will lead the Three Lions out to celebrate the occasion (after much confusion and deliberation) as he joins an elite club of English players to reach a century of games.

(More: What to expect from England vs. Ireland at Wembley)

As for the game itself, there is certainly nothing ‘friendly’ about this. Both teams will be flying into the tackles with their nations pride at stake. That sentiment is often echoed too much. But in this game it is certainly the case.

Roy Hodsgon has refused to call the game a ‘friendly’ and cites the importance of preparing the team for crucial World Cup qualifiers at the end of the summer.

All eyes will be on Wayne Rooney are his recent weeks of unrest with Manchester United, and Arsenal attackers Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should pose Ireland a serious threat.

Giovanni Trapattoni has much more at stake, after Ireland’s disastrous showing at Euro 2012. The Italian manager will be preparing his squad for their crucial World Cup qualifier with the Faroe Islands on June 7.

A positive result in this crunch match at Wembley would do the men from the Emerald Isle the world of good.

Prediction: I am going for an England win. But I do not think it will be anywhere near as comprehensive as fans are suggesting. Ireland are a stubborn and aggressive side, with almost their whole squad plying their trade in the English leagues, so huge pride is at stake here. If Hodgson can get England’s defense settled, then they should find goals going forward. In an open game, I think 3-1 to England will be the final score.

Retailer removes T-shirt from sale over Hillsborough links

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) A British retailer has withdrawn a T-shirt from sale in its stores and online following complaints that its design could be associated with the Hillsborough soccer disaster.

[ MORE: Liverpool, Man City drawn in UCL quarterfinals ]

Topman had on sale a red shirt with a large “96” on the back and the phrase “what goes around comes around” underneath. The word “Karma” is written on one of the sleeves.

Ninety-six people were crushed to death in the Hillsborough stadium disaster, which happened in Sheffield in April 1989 at an FA Cup semifinal match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Topman said it “apologizes unreservedly for any offense caused by this T-shirt” and that the “garment has been removed from sale online and in stores.”

The retailer said the design was inspired by a Bob Marley track, with the number referring to the year of the re-release.

Cosmos, Miami FC petition USSF for 2018 U.S. Open Cup entry

Leave a comment

NASL’s decision to cancel the 2018 regular season has caused significant ramifications, with the latest forcing several clubs to be excluded from the U.S. Open Cup.

The New York Cosmos and Miami FC — both of whom participated in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup have not been named among the eligible teams for the 2018 edition following NASL’s cancellation of the league season.

Now, the two teams have petitioned to U.S. Soccer and its new president, Carlos Cordeiro, to rethink its decision and allow the clubs to play despite not belonging to a professional league.

Both clubs do boast reserve teams though — New York Cosmos B and Miami 2 — which is the lead argument from each organization as to why U.S. Soccer should grant the teams an exemption and a spot in the tournament.

Cosmos B and Miami FC 2 will both play in the NPSL once again in 2018, with both rosters largely comprised of senior team players.

As it stands, 94 teams have been placed in the 2018 Open Cup field, as announced by U.S. Soccer on Wednesday.

Both open letters from the respective clubs can be found below.

Brazil’s Luis could miss World Cup after leg fracture

Clive Rose/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Brazilian left back Filipe Luis has a leg fracture that could stop him going to the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Arsenal draws CSKA Moscow in Europa quarters ]

Atletico Madrid said Friday that Luis sustained the injury to his left leg in the second half of the Spanish team’s 5-1 rout of Lokomotiv Moscow in the Europa League round-of-16 match on Thursday.

The club did not say how long Luis will be sidelined. Similar injuries have required at least six weeks of recovery time and longer if surgery is required.

The 32-year-old Luis was called up by Brazil coach Tite for friendlies against Russia in Moscow on March 23 and against Germany in Berlin on March 27. Brazil’s first game at the World Cup is against Switzerland on June 17.

Luis was injured while trying to prevent Lokomotiv forward Eder taking a shot from inside the area in the 60th minute. He successfully cleared the ball but his leg was hit from behind.

Luis left the field on a stretcher and tests Friday in Madrid confirmed the fracture in his lower leg.

Atletico advanced 8-1 on aggregate after the victory in Russia.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage:

Casemiro: Neymar “would get along very well with Cristiano” at Real

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The speculation (transfer) train keeps chugging along as domestic seasons near their conclusion, and one rumor continues to be fueled linking one of the world’s top players to Real Madrid.

[ MORE: FA Cup preview ]

Neymar’s time at Paris Saint-Germain has been short, less than a season to be precise, but the Brazil international could be moving on from the Parc des Princes sooner rather than later after his side crashed out of the UEFA Champions League recently against Real.

Nothing concrete has been determined about Neymar’s future, but Real Madrid continues to be linked with the South American star, and one current Real player feels Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo would get along “very well.”

“[Neymar] has always been spectacular, since he was 11 years old. He does crazy things,” Real midfielder Casemiro told El Partidazo .l”I don’t think there is any chance that he will come to Real, but you have to ask [Madrid president] Florentino Perez.

“He knows that the door is always open for him in Madrid, but he is happy in Paris. He always says that he is happy there, that he is comfortable in Paris. There are many Brazilians there too, it is very quiet there, but whether it’s possible you have to ask Florentino.

“With the quality that he has, I would sign him for sure. I hope he comes this season.

“He is a great player, one of the top three in the world. He can do whatever he wants off the pitch if he continues to do what he does on it.

“He would get along very well with Cristiano, very well.”

Real is currently in the midst of a historic run in the Champions League, having won the competition three times in the last four seasons.

Casemiro isn’t the only Real player eager to bring in a talent such as Neymar though.

Defender Dani Carvajal also recently told the media that he would be ecstatic to have a teammate like the Brazilian come into the fold at the Santiago Bernabeu.