France

Game on: France looks to prove they are Group E favorites against Honduras

Leave a comment

It’s been a tumultuous past decade of French misery in the World Cup, and now back stronger and hopeful once again, Didier Dechamps looks to lead France back to World Cup glory.

The collective favorites of Group E (despite Switzerland being the seeded team), France will be hoping to now keep pace with Switzerland after their late three points, and also avoid an upset akin to what Uruguay slumped to earlier this weekend.

Now, with stars like Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud, Hugo Lloris, and Blaise Matuidi, the studded French squad looks to avoid an upset of their own.

Switzerland’s 93rd minute winner puts a little more pressure on the match, as a draw would give France a good feeling about their group going into this match, but now with serious competition at the top, they’ll want to keep pace.

There have been plenty of comeback wins and no draws so far in this World Cup, so expect more excitement ahead.

[ MORE, Previews: France | HondurasGroup E]
[ MORE, Soccerly: PreviewFollow live ]

Starting lineups:

France – Lloris; Debuchy, Varane, Sakho, Evra; Cabaye, Matuidi, Pogba; Valbuena, Benzema, Griezmann.

Honduras – Valladares; Figueroa, Bernardez, Izaguirre, Beckeles; Palacios, Espinoza, Najar, Garrido; Bengtson, Costly.

Talking points:

1. Can France expel the demons from years ago? The French have just a single win in their last 10 World Cup matches, and the recent history haunts the country, dating back to 2002 when the team didn’t even score a single goal in the entire group stage.  Didier Deschamps captained the team to World Cup victory decades ago, and is now in charge, but can he turn things around from their recent failures?

2. What can Honduras bring to the Cup? In a group with three contenders, Honduras appears to be the odd team out.  However, we said that about Costa Rica as well in their group of 3 former champions, and they thumped Uruguay 3-1. Here, we have another team with high expectations but recent failures matched up against a CONCACAF team not expected to do much.  Can the 33rd-ranked country in FIFA make noise against their group favorites?

Expectations: This French side has plenty of attacking power – Olivier Giroud is on the bench, that’s all you need to know – and they will likely overpower the Honduran side. However, if the underdogs can weather an inevitable early storm, we may have a match on our hands.

One blogger’s prediction: As much as I expected Uruguay to perform and they didn’t, there are fewer uncertainties surrounding France’s squad.  They have quality players on the bench as well as in the starting lineup, and on paper, it’s hard to see France falling short here.  They should score early and often for a 3-1 win.

Southampton: Van Dijk won’t leave, selling days likely done

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  Ralph Krueger the Southampton Chairman looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Newcastle United at St Mary's Stadium on March 29, 2014 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ralph Krueger doesn’t plan on selling any more big Southampton stars, and there’s none brighter than Virgil Van Dijk.

The Dutchman is perhaps the best center back in the Premier League, regularly linked with transfers to anywhere from Manchester City to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

But Krueger says Saints have had enough of selling big assets. Southampton has sold Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane, and Nathaniel Clyne in the past three seasons, and those are just the names to go to Liverpool. Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama have also moved on from St. Mary’s.

From Sky Sports:

“We would like to move away from that and we feel confident this summer will be a lot quieter in Southampton and we can keep the core of this team moving forward for a few years.

“That is going to be important when you see how excellent the group is right now and how exciting the football is. The game we are playing is a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to be part of.”

Saints were the more effective side in a 3-2 EFL Cup Final loss to Manchester United this weekend, but are well off the pace in the race to make back-to-back trips into Europe.

It will be hard to hold onto Van Dijk and even new bright light Manolo Gabbiadini without Europe, but Krueger is a strong leader with the ability to convince almost anyone to buy into a plan.

Real Salt Lake signs Plata to multi-year DP deal

Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata (8) gestures while walking during an MLS soccer game against New York City FC Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Sandy, Utah. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) DESERET NEWS OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; MAGS OUT
Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP
Leave a comment

SANDY, Utah (AP) Real Salt Lake has re-signed forward Joao Plata to a multi-year contract and he will continue to hold a designated-player spot.

The 24-year-old was acquired from Toronto FC before the 2013 season and he has 30 goals and 30 assists in regular-season play with RSL.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

Plata ranks No. 3 on the team’s all-time assists list and No. 5 in goals. He has 33 goals and 35 assists during his MLS career.

Real Salt Lake begins the season Saturday when it hosts Toronto FC.

Gotze out indefinitely with metabolism disorder

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 06:  Mario Goetze (R) and Ann-Kathrin Broemmel attend the MTV Europe Music Awards 2016 on November 6, 2016 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV)
Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV
Leave a comment

Mario Gotze’s last few seasons have not fulfilled the expectations thrust about the World Cup-winning attacker.

Gotze, 24, scored the 113th minute goal that lifted Germany past Argentina in the 2014 World Cup, but has endured successive disappointing seasons between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

With just two goals this season, Gotze has played just 24 minutes since BVB came back from winter break. On Monday, the club revealed why: a metabolism disorder that will keep him out for an indefinite period of time. From Sky Sports:

“We are glad to know the reasons for Mario’s complaints and we are convinced that after recovering he will give us extra quality with his exceptional abilities,” said Dortmund’s director of sport Michael Zorc.

“Mario gets the full backing and maximum support from all of us at Borussia Dortmund on his way back.”

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Gotze at his best, and here’s hoping this problem is both curable and the reason for his struggles.

Liverpool hires EA Sports executive as new CEO

Leave a comment

Liverpool has named Peter Moore as the successor to chief executive office Ian Ayre.

Ayre, 53, is off to 1860 Munich this summer, and has stepped down early to allow Moore to take over.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

A Liverpool-born executive, Moore was the chief operating officer at EA Sports and has also worked with Microsoft and SEGA.

The move “completes a transitional phase” which saw several new names join the fray. From The Liverpool Echo:

The appointment completes a transition plan by FSG which included appointing Michael Edwards as sporting director while Billy Hogan was promoted to the role of managing director and chief commercial officer.