Which English city produces the best players? London, Liverpool and others do battle

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Okay, here’s something I’ve been pondering for a little while.

Earlier this week much debate was caused within soccer circles in the US, as journalists began to compare the different states in the USA and speculate which had the upper hand in producing current soccer talent.

California and Texas seem to have come out on top, and this whole debate has been thrown up after the Canadian province of Quebec is competing in soccer as a non-FIFA nation.

So, that got me thinking. What if we looked at the birthplaces of current Englishman playing in the top divisions across the globe and see which cities came out on top?

Intrigued? Well, check this out.

Below is a list of four of the top soccer player-producing cities in England, with the North East the exception as the major conurbations in that part of England (including Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough) have been grouped together.

London has produced more professionals than any other city, most people would have guessed that. But would a team from London beat a side full of homegrown players from Liverpool or Birmingham?

I’ll leave that to you. So anyway, below is a starting lineup for each city and then a list of any substitutes or reserves who could fill in. And remember this list only includes players currently playing soccer in the top divisions, not those who have retired or moved to the lower-leagues.

London (4-3-3):  Robert Green; Glen Johnson, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole; Jack Wilshere, Frank Lampard, Scott Parker; Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe, Ashley Young

Subs: Luke Shaw, Mark Noble, Steve Sidwell, Kieran Richardson, Steven Caulker, Jonjo Shelvey

Birmingham (4-3-3): Ben Foster; Joleon Lescott, Ben Turner, Ashley Williams, Craig Gardner; Peter Whittingham, Luke Moore, Gabriel Agbonlahor; Emile Heskey, Daniel Sturridge, James Vaughan

Subs: Nathan Delfouneso, Matt Watson

Liverpool (4-4-2): Tony Warner; Ryan Taylor, Andre Wisdom, Martin Kelly, Leighton Baines; Callum McManaman, Joey Barton, Steven Gerrard, Leon Osman; Wayne Rooney, Rickie Lambert

Subs: Kevin Nolan, Jon Flanagan, Ross Barkley, Jack Rodwell,

North East (4-4-2): Fraser Forster; Steven Taylor, Michael Carrick, Andrew Taylor, Jack Colback; Adam Johnson, Jordan Henderson, Lee Cattermole, Stewart Downing; Danny Graham, Andy Carroll

Subs: Shola Ameobi, Steve Harper, James Morrison, Sammy Ameobi

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It is also worth noting that the cities of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield have all produced a high number of players that have graced the EPL and top leagues across the world, but not quite enough to each make a full team.

So which city do you think produces the best soccer talent in England? Personally, London still wins hands down. Chelsea’s trio of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole highlight the capital’s dominance.

I could have included a second and third team of players who hail from LDN. However the quality of the players from the North East and Liverpool is extremely high. Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard are the stars from Liverpool, while Andy Carroll, Adam Johnson and Jordan Henderson all hail from the North East.

Maybe one day games between the top soccer player-producing cities in England can be arranged? That would be something I’d pay money to go and see. Local pride on the line as battles between North vs. South, affluent vs. poor and long ball vs. possession soccer play out.

When can we arrange this?

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Halted World Cup flip-throw heard around the world

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Milad Mohammadi knew the time was right for something special, but special isn’t always good.

And good is a subjective term. Cause to us this is very good, Milad.

The Iranian national team defender failed with a flip-throw bid in the final moments of a 1-0 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

And this wasn’t like he illegally flipped or broke some other rule. No, like a kid trying an audacious jump into the deep end, Akhmat Grozny star Mohammadi just bailed and climbed in from the side (so to speak).

The kiss, the look skyward, the headbutt… all integral parts of a wonderful World Cup moment.

Renard, Morocco ‘very proud’ of unlucky national team

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If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.