Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

EURO 2016 preview, Group D: Until someone beats ’em, Spain runs Europe

2 Comments

Spain

They win. A lot. Aiming for a threepeat, and a fourth overall title.

Game schedule

Star player: Sergio Ramos — The Real Madrid star, along with Barca rival Gerard Pique, is a terror in the air at both ends.

[ EURO PREVIEWS: Group A | B | C ]

Spain will win the whole thing again because until someone knocks them from their continental perch — with all respect to Germany’s World Cup win — we’ll favor their midfield, experience and chemistry.

If an inexperienced strike force fails to take its chances, Spain could be knocked out of the group stage by some tough, battling defensive units.

Bonus fun fact: Spain’s qualifying record since 1996? 45-5-5.


Czech Republic

Have been to all six tournaments, with a runner-up and semifinal stops among them.

Game schedule

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 13:  Petr Cech of the Czech Republic in action during the Group A, UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying match between Netherlands and Czech Republic held at Amsterdam Arena on October 13, 2015 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Petr Cech of the Czech Republic (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Star player: Petr Cech (Arsenal) — The Czechs are in a rough patch of late, but the longtime Premier League goalkeeper will come in handy during tournament play.

They’ll succeed as the overlooked team of Group D, with the guile of Jaroslav Plašil and Tomas Rosicky guiding them onward.

But this group could be too much to handle for a team who’s best tournament players are well into their 30s.


Turkey

Semifinalists in 2008, Turkey has qualified for its fourth tournament in six tries.

Game schedule

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - OCTOBER 10:  Hakan Calhanoglu (L) of Turkey celebrates his goal with his team-mate Arda Turan (R) during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group A Qualifier match between Czech Republic and Turkey at Letna Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic.  (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
Hakan Calhanoglu (L) of Turkey celebrates his goal with his team-mate Arda Turan (R). (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)

Star player: Arda Turan (Barcelona)– Fresh after sitting out the first half of the club season, the Barca man could give Turkey a big edge in the middle of the park.

Buoyed by the steel and skill of midfielders Turan and Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Turkey hits sides with lightning precision to make another deep run.

It’s more likely that an inexperienced batch of goalkeepers will have its share of problems with a very good set of Group D attackers.


Croatia

Twice quarterfinalists, Croatia has qualified for five of six Euros.

Game schedule

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - MARCH 26:  Luka Modric of Croatia in action during the International Friendly match between Hungary and Croatia at Groupama Arena on March 26, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
Luka Modric of Croatia (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)

Star player: Luka Modric (Real Madrid). He gets his chance to shine as the clear cut star of the Vatreni, as part of a terrific midfield with Ivan Rakitic.

Their grit and experience will serve them well in Group D, where Spain, Turkey and the Czech Republic provide no nights off. And they’re in-form, too, unbeaten in eight.

It’s going to be very difficult to survive Group D, and that could take the energy out of the group when it hits the group stage.


Who’s going through, who’s going home: Spain and Croatia advance, leaving Czech Republic and Turkey as hard-luck losers.

Marquee match: Spain and Croatia on June 21 should decide the group, and who has a far better path to the final.

Top players to watch:

  1. Gerard Pique, Spain
  2. Sergio Ramos, Spain
  3. Luka Modric, Croatia
  4. Petr Cech, Czech Republic
  5. Arda Turan, Turkey

Neymar pays tribute to Kobe Bryant (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Neymar dedicated his second goal to Kobe Bryant, who, along with eight others, tragically passed away on Sunday.

The Brazilian star approached a sideline camera after his second goal of the night, gesturing the numbers two and four with his fingers, a number worn by Bryant during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Following the game, Neymar paid additional respect to Bryant via Twitter.

It reads in English: “Sad day for us in sports, for us fans and especially for Kobe’s family and friends. A legend has been made with your hands, thank you for extolling the Kobe sport … may God comfort the hearts of your family and friends”

Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and six others, died in the helicopter accident on Sunday morning in Southern California.

A basketball legend and soccer fan, others within the sport paid tribute to Bryant:

Klopp admits Liverpool youngsters will feature in Shrewsbury replay

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In proper FA Cup fashion, League One side Shrewsbury Town pulled off a late draw against Liverpool, forcing a replay at Anfield.

[ RECAP: Shrewsbury forces FA Cup replay with Liverpool ]

The replay, which is set to take place during the Premier League’s winter break, is going to be a problem for Liverpool, according to manager Jurgen Klopp. First-team players have been granted the time off, forcing Klopp and company to play the “kids” for the upcoming replay of the fourth-round bout.

“We intend to honor the original idea of the break,” the Liverpool manager said on Sunday. “We have respect for the players’ welfare and they need this time off.”

“We got a letter from the authorities in April last year asking us not to organize anything during the week of the break and we haven’t,” he added. “We have given the players the time off, and some are going away. They will still be keeping fit, but they do not have to play football that week and they do not have to come in to Melwood.”

Jason Cummings’ right-footed strike in the 75th minute nulled Liverpool’s two-goal advantage early in the second half. The German also admitted that there was no reason for a replay on Tuesday 4 February or Wednesday 5 February.

“We lost the ball in the wrong moments and we never got used to the pitch,” he said. “We conceded the penalty after losing the ball and when they scored their second goal it was after we had lost two challenges in a row. We didn’t play well enough to take anything from the game, we got what we deserved. I would like to give Shrewsbury credit for their performance and the atmosphere their supporters produced. I enjoyed the atmosphere around the cup tie, I just didn’t enjoy the way we played.”

Liverpool squanders lead as Shrewsbury forces FA Cup replay

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool may be crushing the Premier League, but League One side Shrewsbury Town wasn’t phased facing the juggernaut at its home ground New Meadow, not even after falling 2-0 down on a horrid own-goal. Instead, the hosts came back to draw 2-2 and force an FA Cup fourth round replay at Anfield.

Liverpool started a youthful lineup that featured youngsters Curtis Jones, Neco Williams, Pedro Chirivella, and Harvey Elliott mixed in with Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi, and Dejan Lovren. The opener came in the 15th minute via 18-year-old Jones who slurped up a fabulous through ball from Chirivella and slotted it home from a tight angle past a charging Shrewsbury goalkeeper Max O’Leary.

[ EARLIER: Man City torches Fulham | Man United hammers Tranmere ]

The second came just seconds after the second-half restart on a comical own-goal as former Manchester United defender Donald Love poked a Williams cross into his own net under absolutely no pressure. It was a brainless decision as it appeared Love meant to poke the ball behind for a corner, but with nobody nearby, he somehow finished into the lower left corner instead.

After Liverpool doubled its lead at 2-0, Shrewsbury came to life and began to challenge the young Liverpool lineup. Callum Lang found himself through on goal with a great chance to bring the hosts back into the match, but his one-on-one change was saved by the fingertips of a diving Adrian. Shrewsbury did eventually cut the lead in half after Yasser Larouci cut down Josh Laurent in the penalty area and substitute Jason Cummings slotted home the chance from the spot.

The Shrews were a tough out with confidence back high after the goal, O’Leary made a fantastic diving save to stop Divock Origi. He booted down the field and and they drew level in the 75th minute as Cummings grabbed his second as he brought down a long ball and split the Liverpool defensive duo Williams and Lovren. Once past the Liverpool defenders he slotted home cooly past Adrian to equalize.

Jones nearly won it for Liverpool late as the ball squirted across the line in a goalmouth scramble, but his sliding effort was blocked off the line by a Scott Goldbourne tackle.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Eriksen to Inter nearly complete, Spurs looking for replacement

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tottenham Hotspur is in the news on multiple fronts this Sunday morning, for both incoming and outgoing transfer rumors.

Christian Eriksen, who has been heavily linked with a move to Inter, is nearing the completion of that deal, according to Inter CEO Beppe Marotta who went public with the news. “We are not hiding, we have been negotiating with Tottenham for some time,” Marotta told DAZN about the Eriksen move. “I am optimistic, I hope to conclude as quickly as possible. I am confident that it can be resolved in the next few days.”

Despite all the speculation, Eriksen has been playing for Spurs, but he was held out of the squad for Saturday’s 1-1 FA Cup draw with Southampton. Gianluca di Marzio reports that talks have progressed to the stage where Eriksen is expected in Italy today for a medical.

The 27-year-old’s contract is up at the end of the season, and Spurs clearly wished to offload him early rather than see him leave for nothing. However, the delay Marotta suggested is reportedly due to Spurs hoping to secure an attacking replacement. Reports state their talks for Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose have fallen flat, while Spurs have reached out to PSV about Steven Bergwjin and continue to hold interest in AC Milan striker Krzysztof Piatek.

Tottenham has also reportedly been in contact with Juventus, according to tabloid reports in England. It would cost Spurs around $33 million, a win for Juventus given they signed Can on a free transfer in the summer of 2018. The 26-year-old midfielder has yet to earn a consistent place on the Juve squad packed with midfielders, with just eight Serie A appearances this season.


Leicester City is in a fight for the top four, but the Foxes have come down to Earth a bit in Premier League play, having picked up just 10 points in their last eight matches. That could push Leicester to make a move for a January reinforcement, and they have been linked with young French midfielder  Ibrahima Diallo.

According to a report in France, Leicester City submitted a $17.6 million bid for the 20-year-old who plays for Ligue 1 club Brest. The former Monaco youth product has 18 appearances for the 13th placed side, playing 90-minute shifts in nearly all of those.

Unfortunately for Leicester City, the report states that Diallo is wary of a move too soon in his career, wanting to finish out the year. That’s still workable, with the possibility of a permanent deal to Leicester City in January followed by a loan back to Brest for the remainder of the season, if that placates the player.


Italian outlet Gazzetta dello Sport is confident that Everton will move forward with the pursuit of Inter midfielder Matias Vecino before the January deadline.

The Sunday edition of the publication claims that Inter received an offer for the 28-year-old Uruguayan who’s made 14 appearances for Inter this season but has recently been out of the squad the last few weeks. The report says he’s interested in a move to Everton, and therefore the Toffees have gone forwad with a bid.