Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

England ‘building belief’ not only for World Cup, but for long-term success

1 Comment

Gareth Southgate is presently performing a complex balancing act: he’s simultaneously attempting to guide England into Sunday’s World Cup final, while being forced to stave off rising — and potentially crippling — expectations for his young squad, but also using his side’s trip to Wednesday’s semifinal as a motivational point for various iterations of the national team.

[ MORE: France edge past Belgium to reach World Cup final ]

Such is the task the manager must meet head on when the Three Lions suddenly — but expectedly — become one of the feel-good stories and most endearing sides at a major tournament. It’s an identity and mentality that Southgate and Co., have been working to forge over a number of years and tournaments at various youth levels — quotes from the Guardian:

“I’ve been involved in all the plans really, right through the age groups. To have seen our younger teams have success they have has been hugely rewarding.

“We know our academies at club level are producing really good players, technically good players. We made a lot of changes with the national teams that helped us be successful. We believe we have to continue doing that, to constantly evolve and improve. With this team, it’s the same. The experiences of the last few weeks, the milestones they’ve hit, will be a great reference point moving forward. The more big games we’re involved in, the more pressure situations they’re involved in and emerge from successful, the more belief it will build.

“We have a core group of young players in this squad we believe will take us forward, and others coming through the age-group teams with good experiences who have belief they can win, but also expectations that we should be in quarterfinals, semifinals and finals more regularly. That’s what we wanted to do with our younger teams. All of that work is great but you really have to achieve at senior level in the end for that to be fulfilled. And we have a great opportunity now to get to a World Cup final.”

As for what he expects from the Three Lions beyond this World Cup, Southgate firmly believes that “this team is nowhere near the level they’re going to be capable of”:

“Sometimes you have to go through difficult times as a team, and failures, to learn and to improve. There were a lot of young players involved in the team two years ago who suffered a huge disappointment, and we could have ignored that and tried to be positive and look to the future. But we felt it was important to learn from it, unpack it a bit, and find out why we’d gone so long without winning a knockout game.

“We’ve been fortunate the FA has backed us financially to bring in a lot of staff, experts in lots of fields: physical, medical, coaching, to offer good support for the players. We’ve planned really well, and learned as much as we can. We’re starting to see through the age groups some success because of that, but it’s an ongoing process. This team is nowhere near the level they’re going to be capable of, partly because of their age, but also because they’ll have more big-match experiences over the next few years. We are excited about the future, but we want to make the most of this opportunity as well.”

Emotional scenes as Thailand scores in World Cup loss (video)

AP Photo/Claude Paris
1 Comment

Kanjanaporn Sung-Ngoen won the World Cup for Thailand.

Well, that’s not entirely correct, but the late goal she scored against Sweden in Thailand’s second game of the 2019 Women’s World Cup sure means a lot to the team.

[ LIVE: Watch every single 2019 Women’s World Cup game ]

Thailand was hammered 13-0 by the USWNT in the first match of the World Cup, a statement of the Yanks’ strength as much as the underdogs’ weakness. After all, Thailand carries a higher FIFA ranking (34) than its final opponent Chile (39).

But Sung-Ngoen’s finish late in Sunday’s 5-1 loss to Sweden was a visible relief to the Thai team, who will now turn its attention to Chile and a possible win (The USWNT’s destruction of Thailand’s goal differential gives the Asian side little chance of getting a third-place spot in the knockout rounds).

It was a fine finish, too (See below). Linda Sembrandt, Kosovare Asllani, Fridolina Rolfo, Lina Hurtig, and Elin Rubensson scored for the Swedes, who are 2-0 heading into Thursday’s meeting with the USWNT.

Juve, Chelsea announce Sarri agreement

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The white smoke coming out of Italy isn’t a new pope, it’s Maurizio Sarri setting up shop in Turin.

Juventus and Chelsea confirmed the long-anticipated news: Sarri is returning to Serie A and will manage The Old Lady’s quest for a UEFA Champions League crown.

[ MORE: Pogba says he could leave Man Utd ]

Chelsea executive Marina Granovskaia says an agreement was reached and that the Blues wanted to allow Sarri the chance to be closer to home. From ChelseaFC.com:

“He also believed it important to be nearer his family, and for the well-being of his elderly parents he felt he needed to live closer to them at this point.”

If it took Sarri some time to understand the personality of Eden Hazard, just wait until he gets a load of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sky Sports says the move will net Chelsea around $6 million, and that Gianfranco Zola will also leave Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard has been widely expected to get a shot at the Chelsea gig, though Derby County is trying to lock him down with a new deal.

Just how different will Manchester United look next year?

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
1 Comment

It’s Sunday morning, Paul Pogba wants to leave Manchester United, and the USWNT doesn’t play its World Cup match until Noon: Let’s deal in theoreticals by starting with a fact.

This season is going to be a major challenge for one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Manchester United boss will seemingly be pulling together a significant amount of new parts into a team which is coming off a sixth place finish in the Premier League, with four of the five teams ahead of him having maintained their managers and most if not all key pieces.

Oh, and he’ll have to fashion this team based out of parts willing to buy into the club’s mystique and ignore the lack of UEFA Champions League play (which is seemingly why Paul Pogba is ready to skip town).

Big paychecks will help, but there’s no way to quickly meld these pieces into one unit. That’s especially true if the biggest piece of their 2018-19 puzzle, Pogba, isn’t in the middle of the park (or pushed a bit forward).

Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, and Antonio Valencia are out of contract, and Romelu Lukaku has been as mentioned as any striker on the market (He has three goals in four days for Belgium, albeit against Kazakhstan and Scotland).

Pogba’s potential departure puts a lot of weight on Ed Woodward to spend money well (One could make an argument for United needing 60-80 percent of those names).

Subtracting them and adding no one, United’s best XI is something like David De Gea, Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford.

As an aside, the expectations and pressure heaped on Rashford by the “he’s better than Lukaku, play him now centrally” media crowd is going to be a burden if 21-year-old has to bear the center forward burden alone. My goodness are their Old Trafford subplots in excess or what?

Now, of course, there are seven weeks to go in the transfer window and there’s no guarantee Pogba and Lukaku will leave town. In fact, you may want to place your confidence on Pogba opening the season unhappy but at Old Trafford. Either way, the center of the park is going to get a remarkable makeover, and both center back and goalkeeper will get upgrades, too.

To the fixes:

— United is expected to spend big on Crystal Palace right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who was sensational last season with the Eagles. They reportedly have sent a $51 million offer to Roy Hodgson‘s squad.

— They’ve been linked with desire for Issa Diop, though West Ham has hopes of $75 million for the center back who made JPW’s Top Ten of the season.

Wilfred Ndidi is “flattered” by links to United, but is focused on Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations line. Should the Red Devils want to buy the 22-year-old, he’s likely in the same price range as the above names.

— Don’t forget Monaco’s Youri Tielemans, who feels like a PL player from his outstanding time at Leicester City last season. He’d merit another $50 million or so.

It’s worth noting that all would get more European football than at their current home with a bump in wages plus an new iconic shirt. Don’t sleep on that.

You’re probably talking a $240-250 million outlay there, should United land them.

Without going further, nor mentioning Swansea’s young Daniel James and Sheffield United loanee Dean Henderson, you can see a thread here: United could be showing us how a Premier League Best XI without any Top Six players would fare in the top flight.

Of course, United has also been linked with big buys from outside of the Premier League and many of these are older than Ndidi, Diop, Tielemans, and AWB.

But taking those four young players and assuming a focal point/back bone strengthening holding mid would likely join part-time players and full-time leaders Nemanja Matic and Chris Smalling (and maybe Juan Mata).

Now of course there are rumors of experienced leaders Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona and there could be a return from Real, PSG, or Juve. And this whole post looks even worse when United swaps Pogba for Neymar straight-up.

Here’s another question in the myriad facing Solskjaer and Woodward: Is the Europa League a better route to the Champions League than the idea of beating out two of Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, and Liverpool (And noting that Spurs, City, and Liverpool will be heavily expected to finish 1-2-3 in some permutation and Chelsea has a leg up on the field assuming Eden Hazard is their lone significant departure).

Manchester United w/ above transfers (Age when season starts)

De Gea (28)

Wan-Bissaka (21) — Lindelof (25) — Diop (22) — Shaw (24)

Ndidi (22) — Matic (30)

Tielemans (22)

Lingard (26) — Rashford (21) — Martial (23)

What a time to be alive. Rashford better deliver!

Watch Live: 2019 Women’s World Cup – Day 10

AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
Leave a comment

Ten months ago, the United States women’s national team beat Chile 3-0 and 4-0 in a pair of friendlies, but the expectations were ratcheted up when the ladies began their 2019 World Cup with a 13-0 demolition of Thailand.

The Yanks and Chile tangle Sunday at Noon ET in the business end of a Women’s World Cup Group F doubleheader, with Sweden and Thailand opening play at 9 a.m. ET.

You can watch every single game from the tournament live online in Spanish via Telemundo Deportes and via the NBC Sports App. All you have to do is click on the links below.

[ LIVE: Watch every single 2019 Women’s World Cup game ]

Here is your full schedule for Friday, June 14 at the Women’s World Cup.


2019 Women’s World Cup schedule

Group F: Sweden v. Thailand – 9 a.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group F: USWNT v. Chile – Noon ET – STREAM LIVE