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Russia qualifies for 2014 World Cup

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Former England manager Fabio Capello has guided Russia to its first World Cup spot in almost a dozen years.

The final score looked a little surprising as Azerbaijan equalized late Tuesday, but the ultimate outcome was more or less expected: Russia is back into the World Cup (as Group F winner, no less) after failing to qualify for Germany 2006 or South Africa 2010.

Russia needed just a single point against Azerbaijan to book its latest spot under Capello, whose World Cup reputation was a bit in tatters following England’s unimpressive 2010 appearance.

This will be Russia’s first World Cup since 2002, when the country failed to move beyond group stage. The Russians haven’t advanced past group stage in the tournament since the 1980s, in fact, when talented teams under the old Soviet Union banner advanced into the second stage in 1982 and 1986.

Russia nearly made it to South Africa three-plus years ago but fell in a playoff to Slovenia. Capello was hired two years ago to shepherd the team successfully to Brazil, and the Russians took a bit step Tuesday when Alexander Samedov’s wonderful ball cut up the Azerbaijan back line, leaving Roman Shirokov in alone to score the telling goal. A late goal from the hosts made the final 1-1, but was still enough to book Russia’s spot and to consign Portugal.

Also worth noting here is that Russia will not play another World Cup qualifier until 2020. As hosts of World Cup 2018, the Russians qualify automatically.

The updated list of teams that have now officially qualified:

  • Australia
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Germany
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Netherlands
  • Russia
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland
  • United States

Timeline of Brendan Rodgers’ reign at Liverpool

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23:  Brendan Rodgers the manager of Liverpool looks on during the Capital One Cup Third Round match between Liverpool and Carlisle United at Anfield on September 23, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Eight matches into his fourth season in charge at Anfield, Brendan Rodgers was sacked by Liverpool.

[ MORE: Rodgers out as Liverpool boss ]

After leading the team to a 2nd place finish in the Premier League in 2014, Rodgers struggled to replicate those results despite spending nearly $300 million on transfers over the past two summers.

Below, we take a look at a timeline of Rodgers’ reign at Liverpool, and where it all went wrong.

June, 2012 — Rodgers appointed manager — Following the firing of Kenny Dalglish, Brendan Rodgers was named the manager of Liverpool. Rodgers had led Swansea City to Premier League promotion and helped the Swans finish 11th in their first season in the top flight.

May, 2013 — Liverpool finishes 7th in the PL — In Rodgers’ first season at Anfield, Liverpool finishes 7th in the league with 61 points. It was a nine-point improvement from the Reds’ previous season under Dalglish.

[ MORE: Klopp, Ancelotti to take over at Anfield? ]

May, 2014 — Liverpool finishes 2nd in the PL following late-season collapse — Liverpool had been at the top of the table since March, poised to win the club’s first Premier League title. However, the Reds lost to Chelsea 2-0 in the infamous “Steven Gerrard slip-game,” and then drew Crystal Palace despite leading 3-0 with less than 15 minutes to play. Liverpool would finish in second place, two points behind Manchester City.

July, 2014 — Luis Suarez sold to Barcelona for $128 million — Coming off of a 31-goal season in which Suarez won the Premier League Golden Boot and was named PFA Player of the Year, the striker was sold to Barcelona for the third-highest transfer fee of all-time. Without his star man, Rodgers never recovered.

Start of 2014-15 season — Liverpool drops six of opening 12 matches — Following the departure of Luis Suarez, Liverpool got off to a rocky start to the new season, losing six of their first 12 matches and falling to 12th on the table. After losing just six matches all of the 2013-14 season, Rodgers was under pressure.

[ MORE: Twitter reacts to Rodgers getting sacked ]

April, 2015 — Aston Villa defeats Liverpool in FA Cup semifinal — With the Reds out of the title race in the Premier League, the FA Cup was Rodgers’ last chance to win some silverware. Playing an Aston Villa side that was battling for PL survival, Liverpool lost 2-1 in front of a packed house at Wembley. Rodgers became the first Liverpool manager not to win a trophy in his first three seasons in charge since Phil Taylor in the 1950s.

May, 2015 — Liverpool finishes 6th in the PL — Liverpool finished the season in poor form, losing five of the final nine matches, including an embarrassing 6-1 loss to Stoke City on the final matchday. The Reds’ finished 6th on the table with 62 points, a 22-point drop-off from the previous season. Without Suarez, Liverpool scored 49 goals fewer than the 2013-14 campaign.

October, 2015 — Rodgers is fired — Following a draw against Everton in the Merseyside derby, Brendan Rodgers was relieved of his managerial duties with Liverpool. At the time of his firing, Liverpool sits 10th on the table with 12 points through eight matches.

Why Arsenal can win the Premier League title

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LONDON — Before the 2015-16 Premier League season began, all of the momentum was behind Arsenal’s bid to win the Premier League title for the first time since 2003-04.

Eight weeks in, despite a topsy-turvy start to the season, the momentum is once again building behind Arsene Wenger‘s men as they rode a blistering start to seal a 3-0 win over fellow title contenders Manchester United on Sunday.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Many would suggest United fell at their first major hurdle this season, with Arsenal’s fluid front three of Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil ripping apart their makeshift backline. But what about the Gunners, can they kick on and sustain a lengthy title challenge?

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers fired ]

Manchester City is their biggest challenger, with the offensive power of Manuel Pellegrini‘s side making them the title favorites. However, considering how easily Arsenal brushed aside United thanks to their supreme attacking talents, Wenger’s men have supreme attackers of their own and sent out a message out to the rest of the PL. At least, that’s what striker Walcott had to say after he set up two goals and put in a dominant display.

“After the Olympiakos disappointment we started this game completely differently. We caught them on the break, we maybe eased off in the second half but the clean sheet was crucial for the whole team today,” Walcott said. “This game will send out a message to the Premier League that we are ready to have a go this season.”

So, according to Theo they are ready, but why can Arsenal win the title?


After his summer signing from Chelsea, the Czech Republic stopper has cemented himself as the undisputed No. 1 for the Gunners… no matter what Wenger says. The Arsenal manager was lambasted for leaving Cech out of Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League defeat to Olympiakos last week, as his replacement, David Ospina, made a howler to hand the Greek side a 3-2 defeat, but Cech proved his importance to Arsenal once again on Sunday. Looking past his mistakes in the opening day defeat to West Ham United, Cech has already made several stop saves this season (hence the bemusement for him being left out of the UCL games) and although Arsenal led 3-0 after 19 minutes on Sunday he was called into action at pivotal stages.

Right on half time Anthony Martial got free in the box and Cech saved at close range, gobbling up the Frenchman’s low shot. Not long into the second half he showed great bravery to dive at the feet of Bastian Schweinsteiger and he was faultless throughout as he claimed high balls and marshaled Arsenal’s backline. Cech, 33, won everything possible with Chelsea, now he could be the key cog in Arsenal’s quest for glory.


Arsenal’s success on Sunday was largely down to having a settled front three who all knew their jobs and performed them with ruthless efficiency. With Walcott through the middle, Alexis Sanchez off to the left and Mesut Ozil off to the right, the Gunners possessed the perfect amount of creativity and pace. With Olivier Giroud up top, the Gunners are sometimes too reliant on knocking high balls up to the Frenchman and hoping for the best. With the Walcott-Sanchez-Ozil trio, United couldn’t deal with their movement in behind their backline.

It may have been Sanchez and Ozil who got the goals, but Wenger reserved special praise for Walcott after the game as his non-stop running saw the England international lauded by the home fans throughout.

“I hope and I believe it can,” Wenger said when asked if the trio is the answer. “I must say, Walcott had a hugely committed performance today and a very convincing one. He didn’t score but I like to praise the strikers when they don’t score but contribute and give assists. He was involved in two goals and he showed that he can fight and commit and protect the ball as well. He is gaining aspects of his game as a center forward and is improving.”


When you look at the rest of the Premier League, the title race doesn’t seem wide-open. Yes, United, City and Arsenal have all lost two of their opening eight games of the season, while Chelsea has lost four times, but when you look at it overall, only Arsenal and City have the credentials to challenge for the title. Given City’s tendency to blow hot and cold, there may have not been a better time for the Gunners to win the title in the past 10 seasons.

Arsenal have now faced Chelsea away and Manchester United at home, while their next six PL fixtures (trips to Watford, Swansea, West Brom and Norwich, plus home games against Tottenham and Everton) give them a chance to set up a battle with City for the top spot between now and the busy festive period. Wenger agreed with Walcott and believes his side sent out a statement to the rest of the PL as they thrashed United.

“To win in a big game is always a statement and we are in it, you know. We are two points off the leaders Manchester City,” Wenger said. “I hope that result today will give us belief and ambition to fight for it [the title], yes.”