Is Adam Lallana the man England should build their World Cup dreams around?

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With England struggling to break down a stubborn Denmark side on Wednesday, the score was locked at 0-0 with just over 30 minutes to do.

Then Adam Lallana skipped onto the pitch to replace Jack Wilshere with a point to prove, and at the final whistle, he’d surely rubber stamped his place in England’s 2014 World Cup squad, and possibly the starting lineup.

Southampton’s 25-year-old captain had dazzled on his first two appearances for England back in November, but this was his chance to solidify himself into Roy Hodgson’s World Cup plans. He did just that, with attacking panache, bravery on the ball and a willingness to create from a central attacking midfield role. In the 82nd minute Lallana jinxed past two Danish defenders before dinking a delightful ball into Daniel Sturridge to head home the game’s only goal which gave England victory. Moments like those prove his quality is needed by England.

Time and time again he pulled off audacious Cruyff turns that the Dutch legend would’ve been proud of, as Saints’ star man shone brighter than any other player in an England shirt at Wembley on Wednesday. England manager Hodgson earmarked Lallana’s second half cameo for special praise.

“From the 60th minute onwards we showed some really good play and Adam Lallana made a big difference.”

The fact that he only played for just over 30 minutes shows that he is still on the outside looking in at Hodgson’s World Cup  squad, and Lallana hadn’t even featured in the entire qualifying campaign. But after moving his wedding forward from June 14 (the date England will face Italy in Manaus) to Christmas Eve 2013, Lallana has perhaps had a quiet word in his ear for quite some time from the coaching staff that he will be heading to Brazil this summer.

source: AP
Will Lallana start for England this summer?

Should England build their side around him? Absolutely. Well, at least their attack.

Lallana brings an energy that has been lacking from England, in the final third, for years. His poise and quality on the ball has already seen him thrive on the international stage and pundits across England are calling for him to be given the chance to run the offense this summer. Left foot, right foot, Lallana is comfortable on the ball and can play anywhere across the midfield or attack. Looking past the World Cup this summer, he is sure to be an integral part of the England setup for many years to come.

His inclusion also satisfies many England fans who would love to see talented players included from teams other than the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool. The fact that Lallana was joined by three of his Southampton teammates (Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw and Jay Rodriguez) in the latest England squad proves that Hodgson is picking players on merit rather than reputation.

Long may that continue, and long may Lallana be the playmaker for England. He’s the missing ingredient the Three Lions have been searching for, and they’ve found him just in the nick of time before they jet off to South America this summer.

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

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Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.