Johannsson head shot

Icelandic FA president raises valid questions of nationality in Kick TV interview

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The president of Iceland’s soccer association, Geir Þorsteinsson (Thorsteinsson), appeared on Soccer Morning with Jason Davis on Friday to discuss Aron Jóhannsson’s decision to play for the U.S. national team over Iceland.

In part, Þorsteinsson joined Soccer Morning to discuss a release from the KSÍ following Jóhannsson’s announcement that said, among other statements, that “Aaron’s ties with soccer in the United States are nonexistent.”

The striker played for IMG Academy in Florida in 2007-08 after stints with Icelandic youth clubs, and he returned to make his professional debut with Fjölnir of Reykjavik in 2008. Jóhannsson played for Iceland at the under-21 level, earning 10 caps and scoring one goal, and he started every game at the 2011 UEFA European U21 Championship.

“This particular player has been brought up through all the youth levels in Icelandic football until he reached the age of 20, and then he went abroad,” Þorsteinsson told Soccer Morning.

The KSÍ boss seemed to disagree with the FIFA regulation more than Jóhannsson’s decision in particular, although he said he would like the player to explain his actions.

“He hasn’t spoken, so we don’t know why,” he said. “Is it for us the conditions? What is the real reason? We need to know.”

In the KSÍ’s statement on Tuesday, the association said that it “has received suggestions” that Jóhannsson’s move was influenced by a greater possibility to earn sponsorship money as a U.S. player than as an Icelandic player.

Þorsteinsson’s full interview is available here:

The text of FIFA’s Regulations Governing the Application of FIFA Statutes Article 3.6 states that a player can play for a national team “only if, in addition to having the relevant nationality, he fulfills at least one of the following conditions:

a) He was born on the territory of the relevant Association;

b) His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant Association;

c) His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant Association;

d) He has lived continuously on the territory of the relevant Association for at least two years.

In addition, according to Article 3.8, a player can only file a one-time request to change allegiance if he hasn’t played in an official “A”-level international game. Although Jóhannsson received a couple of Iceland call-ups, most recently for World Cup qualifiers in October 2012 against Switzerland and Albania, he did not step on the field.

With the seemingly endless statutes and possibilities, some strange permutations of national teams have made recent appearances at major tournaments.

In Turkey’s Euro 2008 squad that finished in third place, five of its players had a similar lack of ties to the country they represented: Colin Kazim-Richards was born and grew up playing in England; Mehmet Aurélio is Brazilian; Hakan Balta and Hamit Altintop are German; and Mevlüt Erdinç is French.

While nothing is inherently wrong about players representing other nations, especially those with unique immigrant situations such as Turkey and the United States, it does raise a question of veracity with regard to international competition.

If a nation wins a World Cup with a squad comprising primarily foreign-born and raised players, can that country claim to have won anything? Does it add an asterisk to what should be an undeniably major triumph on the global stage?

In Jóhannsson’s case, he is good enough to play for both Iceland and the U.S. Other players could use their second nationalities to get into situations they otherwise could not. Jermaine Jones, for example, only declared his intent to play for the U.S. after German coach Joachim Löw decided he was surplus to the current crop.

Players switch clubs like playing cards, but representing a national team is supposed to have a different sort of resonance in the soccer world. These days, it feels like another transfer market has opened up among national teams.

As Þorsteinsson asked in his interview this morning: “Is this really how football should be done at national team level?”

Watch Live: West Ham vs. Southampton (Lineups & Live Stream)

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21:  Manager of West Ham United, Slaven Bilic look on during the  EFL Cup Third Round match between West Ham United and Accrington Stanley at the London Stadium on September 21, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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The Hammers are in a bad spot. Five matches into the season, they have just three points – one third their haul at this point last season. They host Southampton at the Olympic Stadium at 11am E.T. live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

Southampton isn’t in much better shape. They own just five points thus far and sit in 14th, and manager Claude Puel has slotted  in-form striker Charlie Austin into the starting lineup looking to build on a pair of wins over the last week.

WATCH LIVE: West Ham vs. Southampton live online at NBCSports.com

Austin scored the only goal in Saints’ 1-0 win over Swansea last weekend, their first of the league season, and then scored again in the 2-0 win over Swansea in the EFL Cup midweek. That gives Austin four goals in his last three games following a Europa League brace two weeks ago.

For West Ham, Slaven Bilic has a problem at left-back yet again after Arthur Makuasu, Aaron Cresswell‘s replacement, went down with a knee injury. Newly-arrived Alvaro Arbeloa will move from his usual right side to deputize. Defensive issues have plagued the Hammers thus far, having conceded 11 goals in their last three league games.

LINEUPS

West Ham: Adrian; Nordtveit, Reid, Ogbonna, Arbeloa; Noble; Antonio, Kouyate, Lanzini, Payet; Zaza.
Subs: Randolph, Byram, Oxford, Obiang, Fernandes, Feghouli, Fletcher.

Southampton: Forster; Cedric, Fonte, Van Dijk, Bertrand; Romeu, Højbjerg; Davis, Tadić, Redmond; Austin.
Subs: McCarthy, Yoshida, Clasie, Long, Martina, Ward-Prowse, Hesketh.

Joe Hart, Torino down Roma 3-1 in early Serie A game

BERGAMO, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 11:  Goalkeeper of FC Torino Joe Hart gestures during the Serie a match between Atalanta BC and FC Torino at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia on September 11, 2016 in Bergamo, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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In today’s early Serie A game, Joe Hart and Torino held down Roma to win 3-1 at Stadio Olimpico to move into the top half of the table.

Roma dominated the stat sheets, holding 69% possession and out-passing Torino 466-174, but were wasteful in front of net, only able to put just five of their 21 their shots on target.

Andrea Belotti scored just eight minutes in to put Torino ahead, and Iago Falque bagged a brace with goals 13 minutes apart in the second half to seal it. For all its possession and movement in the attacking half, Roma could only manage a goal on a penalty, scored by Francesco Totti, his 250th career goal, all coming for one club.

Manchester City loanee Joe Hart commanded a solid performance by Torino’s back line, with the home side managing a whopping 22 tackles and 33 clearances. Roma actually out-performed Torino on the expected goals front, proving Hart’s influence.

The win, the club’s first since late August, pushes Torino up to eight in the Serie A table on eight points. They have conceded just a single goal – the Totti penalty – in their last three matches. It’s a far cry from the 2-1 loss to Atalanta in Hart’s debut, in which a mistake by the England international allowed Atalanta to score the winning goal.

On the other side, Arsenal loanee Wojciech Szczesny made a mistake to gift Torino their early goal. The result for Roma is a big blow to their hopes at challenging for the title, dropping them five points back of leaders Juventus and four behind Napoli.

Championship match features nightmarish halftime shenanigans

DERBY, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Nigel Pearson, manager of Derby County looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Blackburn Rovers at iPro Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Derby, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
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On Saturday, Derby County fell at home to Blackburn 2-1, with all three goals scored in a furious four-minute span midway through the second half.

It’s been a nightmare start to the season for both clubs, with the clubs in 20th and 22nd on a combined three wins.

That, however, was not the most disturbing thing on display at Pride Park Stadium. The halftime show featured a show with a character from a child’s bad dream. A man in a fish suit swallowed a person whole then spit him back out sans clothing. But don’t take our word for it:

Have fun sleeping tonight.

After a pair of La Liga draws, all is not well at Real Madrid

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 21: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF grimaces in pain during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Villarreal CF at Santiago Bernabeu stadium on September 21, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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It’s amazing how results go hand-in-hand with off the field mood for the top teams in the world.

There is no club where that seems to be more true than Real Madrid. The team has drawn two in a row, first a 1-1 finish against Villareal at the Bernabeu that saw Los Blancos pump out 23 shots, but put only six on target. Then, they drew 2-2 Saturday with this year’s darlings Las Palmas out on the Canary Islands, crumbling at the back by blowing a pair of leads.

All this still leaves them atop the La Liga table, a point above Barcelona, and yet the wheels appear to be coming loose.

Things always start with Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, and that was the case on Saturday, when the superstar was withdrawn by head coach Zinedine Zidane in the 74th minute, and appeared to be visibly upset with the decision. Zidane told media after the game he was looking ahead to Tuesday’s Champions League matchup with Borussia Dortmund, saying, “He [Ronaldo] always wants to play and be out there on the pitch, but I’ve also got to think about the player and he needed to rest and think about Tuesday.”

Ronaldo did not speak to the media following the match.

Always in his teammate’s shadow is Gareth Bale, but things aren’t going well for him either. According to a report by The Sun, Bale has increased security after his fiance’s family has reportedly been targeted for arson attacks by a drug gang. In addition, Bale is reportedly unhappy after being substituted himself in the 70th minute of the draw with Villareal, according to reports in Spain. There have been reports for a while that his agent is shopping the Welshman to top clubs like Manchester United.

“We’re relaxed,” Zidane said after the Las Palmas draw. “We are working hard and focused on what we’re doing. We have to realize that you can’t always win, but we’re on the right track.”