Steven Gerrard gets fitting farewell as Liverpool legend departs Anfield for the final time

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LIVERPOOL — “Steve Gerrard, Gerrard. He’ll pass the ball 40-yards. He’s big and he’s f***ing hard. Steve Gerrard, Gerrard.”

As Steven Gerrard walked out onto the Anfield pitch for the final time with his daughters holding his hands through a guard of honor from the playing and coaching staffs of both Liverpool and Crystal Palace, that famous song sung to the tune of “Que Sera, Sera” thundered around the terraces. Serenaded by Liverpool’s faithful, mosaics simply stating “Captain” filled the Centenary Stand, plus “SG” and the number eight was emblazoned across the Kop along with a number of banners depicting Gerrard’s greatest moments in a Liverpool shirt over the years.

[ VIDEO: Reliving Gerrard’s farewell ]

It was a sight to behold and a fitting farewell to perhaps the greatest player in Liverpool’s history, as Gerrard addressed the fans after the game.

“I am absolutely devastated I am never going to play in front of these supporters again,” Gerrard reflected. “The moment you play for the first time for Liverpool is an absolute dream come true and anything else after that is a bonus for me… Before the tears come, I’d like to thank the fans. These supporters here stand out more than any. I’ve played in front of most supporters around the world, but you are the best.”

On Saturday, the day of his final game for Liverpool at Anfield, there was a buzz in and around the stadium as banners and scarves saluting Gerrard lined the streets. All round the city people were wearing Liverpool shirts with Gerrard and his famous number eight on the back. The sense of occasion was strong in a stadium which has seen so many great moments over the years. The overall mood was one of celebration but it was also somber as Liverpool’s leading man for nearly two decades would never maraud around these parts in a red shirt again.

[ VIDEO: Gerrard says goodbye to Anfield ]

source: AP
Gerrard kisses his daughters ahead of the game against Palace at Anfield.

Following all of the rigmarole and procession of Saturday’s match, Gerrard looked emotionally drained during the game and the occasion seemed to weigh heavy on him. When Adam Lallana gave Liverpool the lead in the 26th minute the first person he ran to was Gerrard. The joy on Lallana’s face said it all, Liverpool’s players wanted to send Gerrard off in the best way possible but they couldn’t manage it. In the 64th minute he curled a shot towards the bottom corner which lacked the desired pace to beat Wayne Hennesey. Gerrard was moved into an advanced midfield position late in the game by Brendan Rodgers but despite a few surging runs — which were cheered on by home fans screaming “go on lad!” — there wasn’t going to be a fairytale ending to his Anfield career as Liverpool lost 3-1 to Palace but his name was sung loud and proud in the final minutes of the match.

[ RELATED: Rodgers, Pardew salute Gerrard ]

The hometown hero has carried the weight of expectation squarely on his shoulders for the majority of his 17 years as a professional at Liverpool. Gerrard, 34, has been with the Reds since the age of nine and on Saturday his emotional farewell sparked scenes of celebration and sadness around one of world soccer’s most hallowed stadiums.

Gerrard has chosen to move to the United States of America and start a new life with the LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer. Many feel that he should have remained at Liverpool for another one or two seasons and then retired but Gerrard has made his decision and the U.S. awaits this summer.

On the surface, the decision to leave Liverpool in his mid-30s to move abroad for the first time in his career seems like a strange one but the fact of the matter is, Gerrard has spent his entire life in Liverpool. His childhood, adolescence and adult life has been consumed by one thing: Liverpool Football Club. Born and raised just 6.5 miles from Anfield, Gerrard has admitted that his entire life all he ever wanted to do was play for Liverpool. That hunger and drive saw him break into the first team as a teenager in 1998 and he has remained their ever since.

source: Getty Images
Liverpool v Crystal Palace – Premier League

As he strode around Anfield at the end of the game and applauded every stand and looked up to the vast rafters of the Kop wistfully, Gerrard’s bond with the fans seems unbreakable. That’s because it is. He’s one of them. Through the good times and the bad. When Liverpool fans mourned the 96 fans lost in the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, Gerrard’s family mourned more than most. Gerrard’s younger cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley was the youngest victim of the Hillsborough disaster and Gerrard ended his 2006 autobiography with the simple yet powerful sentence: “I play for Jon-Paul.”

Gerrard also explained that the death of his cousin in the greatest soccer tragedy in English history had a huge impact on his career. “It was difficult knowing one of your cousins had lost his life,” Gerrard said. “Seeing his family’s reaction drove me on to become the player I am today.”

Liverpool and Gerrard go hand in hand. Like Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins. Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers. Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees. One of the greatest, most successful and prestigious clubs in the world has lent on a local lad for inspiration for nearly two decades but now, reluctantly, it’s time move on. He had chances to leave Liverpool for more trophies and success as Chelsea, Real Madrid and others came calling but each and every time Gerrard refrained from walking out on his club, his people, and instead stuck around to drag them to success time and time again. He epitomizes the one-club man and in modern day soccer, he may be one of the last to dedicate himself to Liverpool the way he has. The likes of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs were legendary figures at Manchester United but both weren’t treated like this in their final home matches for United.

Before and after the game another song was belted out to signify Gerrard’s stature among Liverpool’s loyal supporters.

“Steven Gerrard is our captain. Steven Gerrard is a Red. Steven Gerrard plays for Liverpool. Scouser born and bred.”

From his memorable goal and performance in the incredible UEFA Champions League final win of 2005 to his stunning last-gasp goal in the 2006 FA Cup final, Gerrard dragged Liverpool out of trouble time and time again. Despite captaining England at two World Cups and representing the Three Lions 114 times, he never really had the same influence as he did with the Reds.

Gerrard’s hometown club and the people in it has always seemed to bring out the best in him.

The City of Liverpool (the red half, anyway) has embraced ‘Stevie G’ since day one and his image as the local lad come good resonated with every Liverpool fan and most soccer fans around the world. Everybody wants to see one of their own succeed and Gerrard has certainly done that, and more, after winning 11 trophies with Liverpool and captaining the club for the last 12 years. His humble demeanor has remained throughout his career and although sour looks and crunching tackles have kept his hard-man status on the field intact — he even left room for a few of those late in the game on Saturday — Gerrard’s personality off it reflects his hometown. Determined. Full of grit. And hard as nails.

source:
Gerrard was honored by the fans at Anfield.

Gerrard was heavy-hearted as he was given a standing ovation by the 44,000-plus fans at Anfield on Saturday. As he walked across the hallowed turf for one final time as a Liverpool player and down the tunnel, it was a real lump in the throat moment as grown men wept in the stands. For fans of a certain age, they will have grown up wanting to replicate Gerrard’s success. They will have worn the No. 8 jersey because Gerrard did. And they will have wanted to play soccer because Gerrard did. He was, and will be for quite some time, an inspiration to millions around the world. His loyalty, dedication and professionalism were the benchmarks of one the greatest careers the PL has ever seen.

Some legendary players have called Anfield home over the years. Kenny Dalglish. Graeme Souness. Ian Rush. Phil Neal. Kevin Keegan. Years from now — and even over the past few years it has started happening — Gerrard’s name will be mentioned in the same breath as those greats. Nobody knows what the future may bring, if Gerrard may return to the Reds as a manger one day or in another capacity, but his name will forever be inextricably linked with Liverpool Football Club.

For the local lad who grew up supporting Liverpool and captained them for most of his career, Gerrard may have said goodbye to Anfield as a player but his heart will always remain with his boyhood club. And every fan of his boyhood club will forever have memories of Gerrard’s greatness etched into their own hearts.

He inspired. He conquered. Gerrard lived for Liverpool Football Club and despite his farewell on Saturday, his heart will always remain at Anfield.

USMNT reportedly opens contract talks with Gregg Berhalter; Good or bad idea?

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Gregg Berhalter may be sticking around the United States men’s national team program, giving the USMNT coaching continuity as it moves from 2022 World Cup Round of 16 member to 2026 World Cup co-host.

ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle says that Berhalter is beginning contract discussions with the United States Soccer Federation but also interested in taking a job in Europe with his profile having risen alongside the USMNT at the World Cup.

Berhalter’s current contract ends at the end of the calendar year, and the Yanks have scheduled a domestic camp in January and friendlies against Serbia and Colombia.

[ MORE: USMNT transfer rumors for Musah, Dest ]

Berhalter has done some good things for the program, most notably winning the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup with two different groups. He also straightened out the defending, for the most part, and got out of the World Cup group.

Berhalter successfully recruited Sergino Dest and Yunus Musah, two of the program’s stars at the World Cup. He also convinced Malik Tillman, Gaga Slonina, and Jesus Ferreira that the U.S. was the right place for their national team futures.

He also, subjectively, was slow if not downright stubborn in acquiesing to certain points-of-view that made the team better. From Tyler Adams as a right back at the outset of his tenure to saying Tim Ream didn’t fit how he wanted to play about a month before the World Cup… then playing him every minute of the tournament.

But for the most part when lessons were learned, they stayed learned.

Should Gregg Berhalter continue as USMNT boss?

Let’s start here, because it’s necessary: It’s clear that Berhalter cared about his players and the project, whether you like the way he operated or not. This wasn’t a half-assed operation, but one with passion.

So does he still have that passion? Only he can answer that, and if he’d like to get more matchdays in his life then maybe he does want to go back to the club game.

And frankly, that’s fine either way, because his four years with the program were neither amazing nor pitiful. They can be described as anything from a slight disappointment to a minor success, depending on your perspective and expectations.

If you believe that picking up the pieces from the absolute travesty that was failing to qualify for the World Cup from the richest nation and one of the two most talented nations amongst CONCACAF men’s programs was really hard, then you think Berhalter getting the men to the 2022 World Cup and surviving the group with a young group was a solid step in the right direction and a minor success.

If you believe that the American soccer climate is such that you should always make the World Cup out of one of the world’s lesser confederations and that the Yanks progressed as the second team of a group in which they were the second-ranked team according to FIFA and Elo Ratings, well, you can have a different standard.

The Yanks will never again fail to qualify for the World Cup given the expanded field, but hosts have historically had a drastically-improved chance to reach the semifinals. THe federation would have to be confident that picking the best squad regardless of how it reflects on his previous selections — let alone a Best XI — is going to happen under a given coach.

Berhalter’s 49 and is far from the worst or best boss in USMNT history. Whoever’s in the job four years from now will have a chance to go down as either one. Choose wisely, fed. And Gregg! Who knows how far his star could rise with a solid run in Europe, and history says there will be the chance to reconnect with the USMNT job.

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Premier League table, 2022-23 season

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If it’s the 2022-23 Premier League table you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

We’re at the 2022 World Cup break, and the final few rounds of Premier League fixtures caused so many shocks.

Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?

Almost at the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest.

The Gunners will have their hands full for the duration of their title challenge, as Erling Haaland continues to take the Premier League by storm with an almost impossible goal-scoring record.

Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United are locked in a battle for the top four, while Liverpool have improved and will be back in the Champions League scrap and Chelsea are struggling.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Who are the early-season candidates for relegation?

Newly promoted Nottingham Forest moved off the bottom of the table with a win before the break, with Wolves and Southampton currently occupying the other two relegation places.

Leicester have picked up a few big wins, while West Ham, Everton and Leeds all find themselves within a few points of the bottom-three after a topsy-turvy start.

Below you will find the latest Premier League table.


Premier League table – Matchweek 16

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England vs France: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Match 59 of the 2022 World Cup features a pair of European heavyweights duking it out for a place in the semifinals when England faces France on Saturday.

Didier Deschamps’ France is bidding to become a back-to-back World Cup winner, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are tournament-hardened and have shown their explosive nature three times this tournament.

STREAM ENGLAND vs FRANCE LIVE

France beat Poland 3-1 in its Round of 16 match while England overcame a dodgy start to pound Senegal 3-0.

Neither team can say its faced a test like this in the tournament, and this could be a fantastic fight in Qatar.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for England vs France.


How to watch England vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday, December 1
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

England will look to Harry Kane, though the question remains who will flank the Tottenham center forward. Marcus Rashford’s been very good but Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden got the starting spots against Senegal and it paid off for Southgate.

Kylian Mbappe has been borderline unstoppable and will test Harry Maguire, John Stones, and friends and Antoine Griezmann pulls the strings in behind and Aurelien Tchouameni continues to strengthen his reputation in the center of the pitch.


England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Pickford

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann

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Croatia vs Brazil: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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World Cup-savvy Croatia stands in the way of stylish Brazil’s pursuit of a sixth World Cup crown, and the pair promise a complex match-up on Friday in Al Rayyan.

Match 58 of the 2022 World Cup kicks off the quarterfinals as Neymar leads Tite’s star-studded CONMEBOL powers into a match against the 2018 runners-up.

STREAM CROATIA vs BRAZIL LIVE

Croatia got past Japan in penalties and will now dream of the two wins that could set it back in the final where France could again be waiting for a juicy rematch.

Croatia needed penalties to get past Japan in the Round of 16, while Brazil pasted South Korea 4-1.  Croatia has never beaten Brazil in four meetings, losing at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Croatia vs Brazil.


How to watch Croatia vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic was fantastic in penalties versus Japan to get here, but Luka Modric continues to do the things that get Croatia out of trouble and puts the opponents into heaps of it. Josko Gvardiola has arguably been the defender of the tournament, and the 20-year-old looks to test his mettle again against the Selecao.

Pick a Brazil player who’s failed to impress and you’ve achieved a mighty feat. Neymar’s been fantastic when healthy while RIcharlison is in serious pursuit of the Golden Boot. Alisson Becker flexed his muscles once or twice versus South Korea and figures to be busier as the competition continues to heat up in Qatar.


Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Follow @NicholasMendola