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Why Boxing Day is a sacred day in the Premier League

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Boxing Day is one of the most sacred days in the Premier League calendar.

It is my favorite.

[ STREAM: Every Boxing Day game live

There’s a special buzz around the stadiums, towns and in homes across the UK as the entire festive schedule centers around December 26 each year.

When I speak to most Americans about the Premier League, one of the topics which often comes up is “hey, how crazy is Boxing Day?” It is crazy, especially with so many matchdays bunched together around Christmas and New Year’s.

But Brits wouldn’t have it any other way as eight games take place on Dec. 26 and you can sit back and watch them all via NBC Sports by clicking on the link above.

Boxing Day is, of course, a national holiday in the UK and in case you didn’t know the history behind the day, it dates back centuries with the etymology being linked to a day where Christmas boxes were given to trade workers in the week after Christmas to thank them for their work all year.

It is also a day where the sporting calendar thrives as cricket, horse racing and rugby all compete with soccer to be the sport to watch on Dec. 26. When it comes down to it, it’s all about soccer with a full day of games across the professional, semi-professional and often amateur leagues across the UK. Across the rest of Europe, they’re on a break and enjoying the holidays with their families and friends.

In the UK soccer takes center stage on Boxing Day.

With some calling for a winter break in England to give the English national team a better chance of advancing to the latter stages of a World Cup or European Championship, many soccer fans in the UK would rather have the Boxing Day schedule such is the connection to the day. They’d rather have that warm moment around the holidays to connect with their team than see England get to the semifinals of a tournament and then get knocked out on penalty kicks…

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Fans wear 'Father Christmas' style hats during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Southampton at Selhurst Park on December 26, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

Coming the day after Christmas Day, it is also the perfect time to head out of the house after a few days of feasting and sharing gifts with the family. It’s a chance to get some fresh air, catch up with friends over a pint or at the bookies about their holiday stories and then cheer on your team while you wear your new scarf of jacket.

There’s no other day like it.

In the past teams used to play back-to-back games on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (the last time they did this was 1957) and that seems a little too much. Boxing Day has survived the test of time and with stadiums packed due to everyone heading home for the holidays, it’s a special time to watch a game and usually special games spring up with goals galore. Due to squad rotation and some teams adapting to the festive schedule better than others, you never quite know what will happen.

Opposition fans are friendlier (minutely) with their chants, stadium staff and supporters get along and even the players seem to be enjoying themselves a little more despite having a game to play.

The energy and vibe is different and, much like opening day, it is one of the best days in the Premier League season. Plus, you’re approaching the midway point of the campaign so plenty of teams are still optimistic about what lies ahead and even if your team is struggling, there’s still time to turn things around.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14: General View of a Christmas tree at the front of the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on December 14, 2014 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Full of festive cheer, crazy games and history, Boxing Day is ingrained in the British soccer psyche.

Like opening day in MLB, Thanksgiving games in the NFL and the Sunday of a Masters week at Augusta, it is a sacred day in the sporting calendar where the action often encapsulates the overall mood.

Lippi leads China over SKorea 1-0 in World Cup qualifier

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Marcello Lippi earned his biggest victory since taking over as coach of China’s national soccer team, leading his squad to a 1-0 victory over South Korea on Thursday in a World Cup qualifier.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT hosts Honduras as WCQ resumes ]

The coach, who led his native Italy to the World Cup title in 2006, was hired by China in October.

Yu Dabao scored the lone goal at Helong Stadium in Changsha with a header in the 34th minute, giving China only its second victory over South Korea in 32 matches.

China spent much of the second half defending with the visitors piling on the pressure. Ki Seung-yeung and Ji Dong-won both went close for South Korea but could not find a way past China goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.

South Korea has 10 points from six matches in Group A and is still on course to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. China, which last qualified for the World Cup in 2002, has five points.

Only the top two teams from the six-nation group qualify automatically. The third-place team will head to the playoffs.

CONMEBOL wrap: Brazil routs Uruguay, Messi guides Argentina past Chile

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A roundup of Thursday’s action from around CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying…

[ MORE: USMNT looks to build momentum against Honduras in WCQ ]

Paulinho‘s hat-trick helped bring Brazil back from an early deficit as the Selecao topped Uruguay, 4-1. Edinson Cavani put the hosts ahead after nine minutes from the penalty spot, but it was Paulinho that answered 10 minutes later for his first of the night. Neymar also tallied for the Brazilians, who continue to lead CONMEBOL qualifying with 30 points.

Lionel Messi scored in the first half to help lift Argentina over Chile, 1-0. The Barcelona attacker scored after 16 minutes when Angel di Maria was taken down inside the Chilean area by José Fuenzalida. Chile was held to just one shot on target throughout, and the loss leaves the reigning Copa America winners on the outside looking in at the top five.

James Rodriguez rescued Colombia on Thursday as the Real Madrid winger capitalized off of his penalty-kick rebound to give Los Cafeteros a 1-0 win over Bolivia. Goalkeeper Carlos Lampe did his best to preserve a draw for the visitors, recording six saves on the afternoon, however, it wasn’t enough to tame Colombia.

Meanwhile, Paraguay knocked off Ecuador, 2-1, behind goals from Bruno Valdez and Junior Alonso. The visitors pulled a goal back in the 70th minute when Felipe Caicedo converted from the penalty spot, but it wasn’t enough for Ecuador.

Peru battled back with two second-half goals to preserve a 2-2 draw against Venezuela on the road. The hosts got out to a 2-0 advantage before halftime when Mikel Villanueva and Romulu Otero scored for Venezuela, however, the Peruvians struck back in the second stanza to knick a point. Andre Carrillo and Paolo Guerrero scored in the 46th and 64th minutes, respectively, for Peru.


Thursday’s results

Colombia 1-0 Bolivia
Paraguay 2-1 Ecuador
Uruguay 1-4 Brazil
Argentina 1-0 Chile
Venezuela 2-2 Peru


Updated CONMEBOL table

  1. Brazil — 9-3-1 — 30 pts.
  2. Uruguay — 7-2-4 — 23 pts.
  3. Argentina — 6-4-3 — 22 pts.
  4. Colombia — 6-3-4 — 21 pts.
  5. Ecuador — 6-2-4 — 20 pts.
  6. Chile — 6-2-5 — 20 pts.
  7. Paraguay — 5-3-5 — 18 pts.
  8. Peru — 4-3-6 — 15 pts.
  9. Bolivia — 2-1-9 — 7 pts.
  10. Venezuela — 1-3-9 — 6 pts.

Ex-Disney CEO Eisner eyes English soccer club Portsmouth

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PORTSMOUTH, England (AP) Michael Eisner, the former chief executive of The Walt Disney Co., is in talks to buy English soccer club Portsmouth.

The fourth-tier club says it has entered into a 70-day exclusivity agreement with Eisner for takeover talks to take place.

Eisner wrote on Twitter: “Exciting times! Looking forward to coming over and meeting you all. Good luck against Newport County on Saturday!!”

Portsmouth, which is based on the south coast, spent beyond its means in the pursuit of glory. The team endured financial turmoil in the years following its 2008 FA Cup win, sinking from the Premier League to the fourth tier.

After entering bankruptcy protection, Portsmouth was rescued by the fans through a trust in 2013.

CONCACAF: USMNT, Trinidad & Tobago seek first points of Hexagonal

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Through two rounds of play in the Hexagonal, everything has gone according to plan for Mexico and Costa Rica.

Not so much though for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT hosts Honduras as WCQ resumes ]

While Los Ticos and El Tri currently sit in the top two positions of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the U.S. is left at the bottom and faces a difficult match against Honduras when play resumes on Friday night.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ahead of Honduras match ]

Mexico and Costa Rica will face off at the Estadio Azteca in the second of Friday’s three slated qualifiers, and while both nations surely expect to reach the World Cup in Russia, both CONCACAF heavyweights have the opportunity to put their stamp on the group.

For Costa Rica, a victory could potentially open up a five-point gap over El Tri, while a win for Mexico would bring Juan Carlos Osorio’s side the opportunity leap over their Central American foes.

Friday’s action will kick off at 7 p.m. though when third place Panama travels to Trinidad & Tobago, who seeks its first points of the Hex. Trinidad will be led by captain Kenwyne Jones of Atlanta United as well as Minnesota United midfielder Kevin Molino, with the duo scoring a combined 39 international goals for the Soca Warriors.

Below is the schedule and current table ahead of Friday’s CONCACAF matches as the region turns its attention to Matchday 3 of the Hexagonal.


Trinidad & Tobago vs. Panama — 7 p.m. ET

Mexico vs. Costa Rica — 9:50 p.m. ET

USMNT vs. Honduras — 10:30 p.m. ET (PREVIEW)


1. Costa Rica — 2-0-0 — 6 pts.
2. Mexico — 1-1-0 — 4 pts.
3. Panama — 1-1-0 — 4 pts.
4. Honduras — 1-0-1 — 3 pts.
5. Trinidad & Tobago — 0-0-2 — 0 pts.
6. USMNT — 0-0-2 — 0 pts.