Saints' talented crop of youngsters are impressing at St. Mary's

England to call on Liverpool and Southampton’s youngsters for World Cup in Brazil?

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As England’s national team manager Roy Hodgson ponders his options ahead of the Three Lions’ World Cup bid in Brazil this summer, he’s spoken out about two club he’s particularly interested in.

Premier League sides Liverpool and Southampton.

Both teams now boast a whole host of youngsters playing regularly in the top-flight, as Hodgson praised the club’s investment in youth as a big plus point for England heading into the 2014 World Cup.

Needless to say, Hodgson is impressed and seems hell-bent on shaking his squad up and putting in some of the talented youngsters now on show in the PL.

The pool of players has increased this season and more teams are injecting young English players into their teams and trusting them. Raheem Sterling has been playing regularly for Liverpool, as has either Jon Flanagan or Martin Kelly. Southampton are regularly using people like Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse, Calum Chambers, Jack Cork and Jay Rodriguez. So more and more teams are turning to their academies and young players they are bringing through, which is of course a positive thing.

(MORE: England handed tough draw as Italy, Uruguay, Costa Rica stand in their way at World Cup)

source: AP
Raheem Sterling has been on fire as Liverpool surge up the standings.

In the case of Liverpool, Sterling and Kelly have both been capped by England, while Flanagan has performed superbly at right back in recent months as many believe he will be called-up for England’s friendly with Denmark in March. While Southampton have had recent call-ups for academy product Adam Lallana, young striker Rodriguez and stalwart Rickie Lambert, which has shown Hodgson is willing to put faith in Saints’ talented crop of players who are surprising everyone by looking at ease in the top half of the PL standings.

With Southampton boasting a whole host of talented teenagers coming out of their academy ranks, Hodgson has a big decision to make. Does he take some of the most exciting young Englishmen who are not just prodigies but are actually doing it regularly in the PL, or rely on the old guard?

Left back Luke Shaw is just 18, but many are already earmarking him to be in England’s World Cup squad this summer, while Under-21 midfielder James Ward-Prowse has impressed with wicked deliveries and another teenage right back, Calum Chambers, has been superb all season. Chambers has been keeping another England prospect, Nathaniel Clyne who is just 22, out of Saints’ starting lineup.

In Southampton’s 1-0 midweek win against Hull, nine of Saints’ 18-man squad were eligible to play for England and five were under the age of 24 and three of those were teenagers. Liverpool don’t boast that many English players in their squad, but they have more ‘finished articles’ than Saints, with Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Flanagan, Sterling and Jordan Henderson all playing in the 3-2 win away at Fulham on Wednesday, while Martin Kelly was on the bench.

source: Getty Images
Saints duo Shaw and Ward-Prowse could be wildcards from Hodgson this summer.

Hodgson’s comments suggest he will give youth a chance to shine in Brazil this summer, as England are well and truly in a transitional period in terms of where their squad is at. Liverpool and Southampton are two of the form teams in the PL, and it is no surprise that Hodgson wants to latch onto their talented youngsters and ride their feel-good factor into the summer and beyond.

Investment in youth is something PL teams have been slow on the uptake with, but Liverpool and Saints have shown it can work and can prove fruitful as both teams surge up the standings with young English talent leading the way.

Will these teenagers aid England’s progress this summer in Brazil? Roy is certainly contemplating giving it a go.

Why not?

Reports say Wambach entering the fields of broadcasting, reporting

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CA - FEBRUARY 02:  America soccer player and two-time Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach  attends the 2016 MAKERS Conference Day 2 at the Terrenea Resort on February 2, 2016 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for AOL)
Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for AOL
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She’s dipped her toes into the pool during the FIFA elections, and now USWNT soccer legend Abby Wambach may have found her second career.

The all-time leading goal scorer in international competition, Wambach will be branching into the media field.

[ UCL: Pellegrini hails road record | Ronaldo in ]

The Associated Press’ Anne M. Peterson says it’ll be as an analyst and contributor, while Sports Illustrated media mastermind Richard Deitsch expects her to dig a bit deeper into the reporting world.

Many athletes have succeeded in becoming broadcasters, but true reporting is a different animal. This will be an interesting story to follow.

Wambach’s name was in the news earlier this year when she plead guilty for a DUII charge. She retired from the playing field in December.

FA seeks eye-gouging ban for Dembele of more than 3 games

during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England.
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LONDON (AP) The English Football Association wants Tottenham midfielder Mousa Dembele banned for more than three matches for an apparent eye-gouge on Chelsea striker Diego Costa.

The FA retrospectively charged Dembele with violent conduct on Wednesday after the incident was missed by the match officials in Monday’s 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.

The FA says “the standard punishment of three matches that would otherwise apply is clearly insufficient.”

[ UCL: Pellegrini hails road record | Ronaldo in ]

Dembele has until Thursday to respond to the charge.

Both Tottenham and Chelsea have also been charged with three breaches of FA regulations for “failing to control their players and/or officials.”

The teams have until Monday to respond.

The draw ended second-place Tottenham’s title challenge.

How big of an upset would it be if Man City beats Real Madrid in the UCL?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 03:  The Manchester City squad warm up during a training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City at the Academy Training Ground on May 3, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
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Couple questions for you this fine Wednesday:

  1. Winning at the Bernabeu is no easy task, but would it genuinely be a massive upset if Man City takes down Real Madrid today?
  2. Even putting aside that a scoring draw would do the trick, are we sure the hype is matching up with realism here?

There’s obviously the “Combined XI” test, a flawed proposition that does provide some level of comparison nonetheless. Given the absences of David Silva and Pablo Zabaleta, Real’s depth shines here.

[ MORE: Pellegrini hails road record | Ronaldo in ]

The goalkeepers are both World Cup caliber backstops, and there’s not much difference in quality — if any — between Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas and England mainstay Joe Hart.

And while Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure are very much in the ballpark — on their day — with Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, there are real gulfs in attacking and defending power between the clubs (especially with David Silva out for Man City).

Even in the final four of a major tournament like this, there’s a gap between both of these sides at both ends of the pitch. Even ignoring Cristiano Ronaldo which, come on, you’re looking at James Rodriguez, Isco (doubtful to play) and others.

The back line of Man City has taken injury hits, and Real’s back four might well carry any XI (especially while Vincent Kompany isn’t in peak condition). While Madrid’s backs run hot, they also can run wild. Sergio Ramos and Marcelo are upper echelon pieces.

There’s a significant edge in Manuel Pellegrini versus Zinedine Zidane, and tactically we can expect City to continue implementing its system well against Real Madrid’s 4-3-3. Forcing Real wide on the attack can work well, especially if Karim Benzema is unable to play and punish the interior in the air.

[ PL PLAYBACK: What does Leicester’s title say for the future? ]

We think it would genuinely be a surprise if City were to pull off a win, but no bigger a surprise than what Atletico Madrid pulled off once Antoine Griezmann hit his magnificent counter attack goal yesterday in Munich.

What say you?

FIFA prosecutors want life ban for Webb in bribery case

Sepp Blatter & Jeffrey Webb, FIFA
Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP, File
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ZURICH (AP) FIFA ethics prosecutors want a life ban imposed on former FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb, who has pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in the United States.

The judging chamber of the FIFA ethics committee says it opened proceedings against Webb and will consider a verdict.

The ethics committee says it got a final investigation report last week from FIFA prosecutors.

[ PL PLAYBACK: What does Leicester’s title say for the future? ]

In November, Webb admitted to taking bribes worth millions of dollars linked to commercial rights for international soccer tournaments.

The former Cayman Islands banker should be sentenced in federal court in Brooklyn next month. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

Webb was president of the CONCACAF soccer body when he was arrested on May 27 at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich.