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2014 World Cup Team Preview: Colombia

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Getting to know… Colombia
Colombia are one of the sides tapped to be a dark horse in this year’s World Cup. In fact, they’ve been tipped by so many to make a splash that the term “dark horse” likely no longer applies. Perhaps it’s better to view Colombia as a white knight, riding in to rescue a tournament which might, without them, simply be way too boring.

But the Colombia team hasn’t always been so swift, so intimidating, so…fun. In fact, it’s been more than fifteen years since we’ve seen them at a World Cup. Their last appearance was in France, when they failed to make it past the group stages. In their four appearances in the tournament, their most successful was in Italia ’90, when they made it to the Round of 16.

Los cafeteros have never won more than one game at the World Cup. This could be the year that all changes. They go to Brazil armed with plenty of attacking talent, with (hopefully fit) Radamel Falcao, James Rodríguez and Jackson Martínez just a few of the names that are available to terrorize defenses. But their defense is strong as well, making Colombia a truly formidable opponent.

Record in qualifying
CONMEBOL qualifiers require all South American teams (except with the exception of hosts Brazil this time around) to play each other twice, home and away. So Colombia can’t be accused of having an easy group, or a simpler route to qualifying than the rest of the continent’s sides.

Yet they still managed to reach second in CONMEBOL qualifying, two points behind heavyweights Brazil, and five points ahead of Uruguay, who were so successful in South Africa. Colombia scored 27 goals in 16 matches while conceding just 13, the lowest total on the continent.

A look at Group C 
Will winning the group be a breeze for Colombia? It certainly doesn’t look challenging. First up is Greece, who are known for their defensive style of play. But when up against quality opponents in UEFA qualifying, Greece caved and conceded. It should be no problem for Colombia to get goals.

Then comes Ivory Coast, a rather aging squad. They’ll need to worry about Yaya Touré and the seemingly never-ending threat of Didier Drogba, but again, Colombia should come out on top. Japan may worry the cafeteros defense, but their own back line isn’t the most solid, so the closing match should at least provide plenty of attacking thrills.

Game schedule

Saturday, June 14 at 12 noon ET: Colombia vs. Greece (Estadio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte)

Thursday, June 19 at 12 noon ET: Colombia vs. Ivory Coast (Nacional, Brasilia)

Tuesday, June 24 at 4 p.m. ET: Japan vs. Colombia (Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá)

Star player
For better or for worse, Colombia’s star is Radamel Falcao. He hasn’t played since his injury and subsequent operation in January, but he’s still set to be included when José Pékerman names his final squad. The forward scored nine goals in thirteen qualifying matches, and his partnership with Monaco teammate James Rodríguez should not be understated. The midfielder is a key creator for Colombia, but it’s Falcao that applies the finish. If Falcao suffers another injury setback, Jackson Martínez will step in, but will he and James click the same?

Manager
José Pékerman lead Argentina to the quarterfinals of the 2006 World Cup, then spent time managing in Mexico. He accepted the position of Colombia head coach in January 2012, becoming the third manager of los cafeteros during the 2014 qualifying stages. He came in after the side lost to Argentina, and that’s when the Colombian revolution began.

It’s Pékerman that has exploited Colombia’s wealth of attacking talent. His 4-2-2-2 system not only takes advantage of the likes of Falcao, but also makes use of Colombia’s talented wide players, like Napoli’s Camilo Zúñiga and Fiorentina’s Juan Cuadrado.

Secret weapon
Coffee!

No, not really. I have no idea if the Colombia national team sips a lot of coffee. But it’s appropriate that their nickname is los cafeterosor the coffee-growers. Although Colombia has left much of its violent past behind, the country’s name still conjures up armed guerrillas and drug cartels. About the only previous positive association most people could make with Colombia was its delicious coffee.

Now, Colombia could very well be associated with free-flowing, attack-minded football as well.

Prediction

I have Colombia emerging top of Group C and going on to face Italy in the Round of 16. After Italy’s performance against Ireland, I’m tipping Colombia to move on to the quarter-finals, where they’ll be knocked out by Brazil.

International roundup: Schweinsteiger, Keane say goodbye; Denmark bags five

Germany's national team throws their captain Bastian Schweinsteiger into the air after he played his last match for the national team in Moenchengladbach, Germany, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Germany won the friendly soccer match against Finland with 2-0. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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Two mainstays of the international game are done with that part of their career following shutout wins on Wednesday, just two of several friendlies early in this international break.

[ MORE: Five big Deadline Day signings ]

Germany 2-0 Finland

Max Meyer picked up from his remarkable Olympics by firing home, and Mesut Ozil also scored for the Germans in a match that was not about the winner. Bastian Schweinsteiger called it a day on his international career in the win, his 121st cap. The Manchester United man finishes his career with 24 goals, a World Cup title and a EURO runner-up finish. Not too shabby.

Ireland 4-0 Oman

ROI all-time leading scorer Robbie Keane fittingly ended his tenure as an international player with yet another goal, bringing his career tally to 68 goals in 146 caps. Stoke City’s Jon Walters scored twice for the Boys in Green, and Robbie Brady (Norwich) also netted in the win.

Denmark 5-0 Liechtenstein

It took the hosts a half-hour to break down the visitors, but a pair from Feyenoord striker Nicolai Jorgensen opened the floodgates and Andreas Cornelius, Viktor Fischer and Jens Stryger Larsen finished the scoring in a blowout at the CASA Arena in Horsens. It was Larsen’s first cap.

Elsewhere
Turkey 0-0 Russia
Albania 0-0 Morocco
Estonia 1-1 Malta
Norway 0-1 Belarus
Lebanon 1-1 Jordan

Men In Blazers Podcast: Rashford at the death, Spurs draw Reds, Conte-Pep perfect

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Rog and Davo relive Manchester United’s last gasp win at Hull, break down the 1-1 draw between Spurs and Liverpool, and recap perfect starts for Pep and Antonio Conte at their new clubs.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Five most impactful signings of Premier League Transfer Deadline Day

CURITIBA, BRAZIL - JUNE 26:  Islam Slimani of Algeria (L) celebrates scoring his team's first goal with Essaid Belkalem during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group H match between Algeria and Russia at Arena da Baixada on June 26, 2014 in Curitiba, Brazil.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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From panic buys to the resolution of long sagas, Wednesday’s Transfer Deadline Day was eventful and actually exciting.

Some deadline days see a flurry of loan deals and little else, but we had a bit of everything on Wednesday.

Moussa Sissoko finally found a home away from Newcastle, Mario Balotelli is off to France, and David Luiz (!!!) returned to Chelsea.

[ MORE: Every PL move from Deadline Day ]

But, in all honesty, the big names aren’t the Wednesday deals we think will really cut the muster. For those, read on.

5. Enner Valencia, loan with option to buy from West Ham to Everton — Watch out for this one, as the Hammers’ man could pair with Romelu Lukaku to be a potentially devastating problem for opposing Premier League defenses. With Ross Barkley and Idrissa Gueye in the midfield, Everton has done a ton to strengthen its run toward European qualification.

4. Marcos Alonso, permanent from Fiorentina to Chelsea — He’s solid, but more importantly represents an upgrade in depth and experience for the Blues’ back line. Alonso is the sort of back who fits Antonio Conte‘s desires, and will work well behind N'Golo Kante.

3. Dieumerci Mbokani, loan from Dynamo Kyiv to Hull — While Robbie Brady, Timm Klose, and Nathan Redmond got a lot of the headlines, Mbokani was a powerful part of the Canaries’ attack in an ill-fated campaign. At 30 he’s far from a long-term fix, but Mbokani should provide strength and skill to a Hull City side facing a very challenging campaign. Per 90 minutes, no one on Norwich touched him last year (courtesy advanced stats site Squawka):

http://www.squawka.com/football-player-rankings#performance-score#player-stats#english-premier-league|season-2015/2016#norwich#all-player-positions#16#37#10#0#90#08/08/2015#17/05/2016#season#1#all-matches#total#desc#90
Squawka.com

2. Jack Wilshere, loan from Arsenal to Bournemouth We want so badly to make this our No. 1 for many reasons, but can’t take that risk thanks to the risk presented by Wilshere’s injury history. For Jeff Mostyn, Eddie Howe, and the Cherries to win the rights to bring Wilshere to town is big for a lot of reasons. That Arsene Wenger allowed him to go is another. Frankly, this could be a game changer for two clubs’ PL fortunes.

— Honorable mention — Wilfried Bony is a nice pick-up for Stoke, but Bruno Martins Indi gives the club freedom to use Geoff Cameron in other ways. … Georges-Kevin Nkoudou is another good piece for Spurs’ attacking depth ahead of the UEFA Champions League.

  1. Islam Slimani, permanent from Lisbon to Leicester — The Algerian striker was sold on King Power Stadium by fellow Desert Warriors attacker Riyad Mahrez, and now gives the Foxes even more danger whether counterattacking or taking their talents to the opposition. With Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and Ahmed Musa joining Slimani, Leicester has the depth to dance in Europe.

Who spent most, made profits on transfers in Premier League this summer?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13:  John Stones of Manchester City in action  during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Sunderland at Etihad Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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After a record $1.4 billion was spent in the Premier League this summer, most of the PL’s 20 clubs were throwing around money like it was going out of fashion.

[ MORE: Summer transfer grades ]

There were some huge fees dished out with the two Manchester teams spending almost half a billion dollars between them on transfer fees alone. Let that sink in.

So, that being said, with the summer transfer window slammed shut it is time to crunch the numbers and see who spent the most, who sold well and take a look at the net spend for each team.

[ MORE: Every Deadline Day deal ]  

Below is the summer transfer business from all 20 teams with their total money spent on transfers, incoming transfer fees and net profit/loss listed via information from Transfermarkt.


  1. Man City – Spent: $237.6 million (incoming: $24.3 million) – Net = -$213.3 million
  2. Man United – Spent: $185 million; (incoming: $7.1 million) – Net = -$177.9 million
  3. Chelsea – Spent: $157.6 million (incoming: $45.7 million) – Net = -$111.9 million
  4. Arsenal – Spent: $126 million (incoming: $9.2 million) – Net = -$116.8 million
  5. Tottenham – Spent: $92 million (incoming: $46.9 million) – Net = -$45.1 million
  6. Liverpool – Spent: $89.1 million (incoming: $88.4 million) – Net = -$0.7 million
  7. Leicester City – Spent: $83.1 million (incoming: $59.4 million) – Net = -$23.7 million
  8. Watford – Spent: $75.2 million (incoming: $33 million) – Net = -$42.2 million
  9. West Ham – Spent: $69.5 million (incoming: $13 million) – Net = -$56.5 million
  10. Crystal Palace – Spent: $66.4 million (incoming: $56 million) – Net = -$10.4 million
  11. Everton  – Spent: $60.4 million (incoming: $62 million) – Net = +$1.6 million
  12. Southampton – Spent: $57.9 million (incoming: $84.6 million) – Net = +$26.7 million
  13. Bournemouth – Spent: $44.3 million (incoming: $23.6 million) – Net = -$20.7 million
  14. Swansea City – Spent: $42.2 million (incoming: $54.2 million) – Net = -$12 million
  15. Sunderland – Spent: $35.5 million (incoming: $8.3 million) – Net = -$27.2 million
  16. West Brom – Spent: $29.6 million (incoming: $11.7 million) – Net = -$17.9 million
  17. Middlesbrough – Spent: $27.9 million (incoming: $6.5 million) – Net = -$21.4 million
  18. Burnley  Spent: $27.5 million (incoming: $27.5 million) – Net = -$0 million
  19. Stoke City – Spent: $25.7 million (incoming: $2.5 million) – Net = -$23.2 million
  20. Hull City – Spent: $16.4 million (incoming: $6 million) – Net = -$10.4 million