Nicolas Anelka

Wild predictions with 100 days until the 2018 World Cup

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With 100 days to go until the 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia, let’s have a little fun in imagining what will play out.

[ MORE: World Cup Power Rankings ]

Below are are some wild predictions for the tournament which runs from June 14 to July 15.

Have your go in the comments section below too.

This video should get you in the mood.


    1. England will actually make the latter stages of the tournament: Gareth Southgate‘s youngsters will shake off the huge pressure on their shoulders and make it to the semifinals, then lose on penalty kicks… to Germany… Again.
    2. Neymar fails to shake off the rust and doesn’t score a single goal as Brazil crash out of the tournament in the last 16
    3. Germany win the entire tournament without conceding a goal and score 20 goals along the way (actually, this isn’t too outlandish…)
    4. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both score eight goals in the group stage and meet each other in the quarterfinals. They each score a hat trick in the quarterfinal, then Argentina win on penalty kicks to make the semifinals. Messi and Ronaldo shake hands and then go their separate ways for the final time on the international stage. Emotions.
    5. Panama are the new sweethearts as Roman Torres scores a late winner against Tunisia to knock Belgium out of the World Cup. He removes his shirt, swings it around his head and swigs on a fans beer in the stand. Beer swigging goal celebrations become a staple of the World Cup tournament and are now known as “doing a Roman”
    6. Mexico’s Hirving “Chucky” Lozano wins the Young Player of the Tournament award and Mexico make it to the last eight, with El Tri’s newest star sealing a move to Manchester United.
    7. Iceland once again stun everyone and reach the knockout rounds in their first-ever World Cup. But, like the vuvuzela and the the ticker tape from the 1978 World Cup, the Viking thunderclap gets old… Fast.
    8. Paul Pogba is not a guaranteed starter for France and loses it with Didier Deschamps before being sent home from the tournament a la Nicolas Anelka in 2010
    9. On the eve of the tournament, Luis Suarez reveals his sponsorship deal with a company which makes the Russian equivalent of beef jerky. Slogan: “If you’re feeling peckish and fancy a nibble, grab a bag of концы”
    10. Egypt make it out of the group stage of the World Cup but lose to Spain in the last 16. Neutrals everywhere are devastated as Mohamed Salah has to settle with scoring just five goals in the tournament

Marseille fans turn on Evra after attack

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Marseille fans have told Patrice Evra he is no longer welcome at the club after the defender kicked a supporter in the head.

Evra was suspended by Marseille on Friday, a day after he confronted a fan and aimed a kick at his head ahead of a Europa League game in Portugal. Evra, who appeared to make light contact with his foot, had shortly before aimed a punch at the same fan.

Fans held aloft two banners criticizing Evra before Sunday’s home match against Caen at Stade Velodrome.

“This Game Is Over,” read one banner in English, mocking Evra’s regular posts on social media where he films himself talking about football and says, “I love this game,” as he breaks into laughter.

Another banner, in French, read: “Love for the jersey. Respect for supporters. Professionalism. Is that too much to ask?”

Other fans chanted against Evra during the game against Caen, which Marseille won 5-0.

Thursday’s incident before the match against Vitoria caused many other Marseille fans to come down from the stands to try and confront Evra, who was then led away by a teammate.

As the players were warming up before the match, Evra had moved away from the field and toward the away section of Marseille fans where an argument began and then escalated.

The 36-year-old Evra is a controversial and often unpopular figure in French football. He was the captain when France went on strike at training during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in protest after teammate Nicolas Anelka was sent home. He was given a five-match ban by the French Football Federation.

The reaction this time round was intense, with former national team players and television pundits roundly condemning him.

UEFA said Friday that Evra will be banned for at least one game. Its disciplinary body will meet next Friday to rule on the incident. He also faces further sanctions from Marseille, which has opened an internal investigation.

Although Marseille said it accepted Evra received some “hateful insults” from a group of fans, the club said he could in no way “respond in such an inappropriate manner.”

Evra’s temperament has been an issue in the past. He has clashed verbally with former players — especially Lilian Thuram and Christophe Dugarry — and with television pundits, often mocking some of them with invented names as a pun on their names.

The attack-minded left back’s 81st and last appearance for France was a year ago in a World Cup qualifier against Sweden.

Earlier this season, Evra was heavily criticized in some sections of the media, including by Dugarry, for filming himself offering a bag of food to a homeless person on Marseille’s streets and posting a message asking others what they were doing to help.

Lukaku hails debut win, “intense” Pogba friendship, Henry’s tutelage

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Sunday couldn’t have gone much better for Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United’s $97-million superstar signing from the summer, as the big Belgian striker scored twice on his Premier League debut for the club and helped the Red Devils to a 4-0 victory over West Ham United.

[ RECAP: Man United thrash West Ham to opening 2017-18 season ]

After the game, the 24-year-old joined the NBC Sports broadcast team field-side at Old Trafford for a lengthy interview (above video) on a wide range of topics — from his own performance on the day, to his “intense, competitive” relationship with Paul Pogba, to the icons of the game who bestowed their wisdom upon him during his five years in England, and so much more.

“[It was] a difficult first 20 minutes, I’d say, but then afterwards we found the spaces to play and we played at a higher tempo. From the press of Nemanja [Matic] we recovered the ball and he went really quickly; before the ball came to me, I had a couple looks at the goalkeeper; the pass from Marcus [Rashford] was excellent, so it was all instincts.

“The second goal was a good free kick from [Henrikh Mkhitaryan], something we worked on in training. From then on, we really controlled the game. We tried to be entertaining for the fans. That’s what they want at Manchester United.”

…

“Our relationship is really intense. He’s really competitive at the training ground, outside the training ground really competitive, and on the pitch we just want to win. We’re two winners.

“When we play opposite each other, the guy that loses he’s going to get stick until the next day, or has to serve the other guy for the whole day. We are like that, we’re really competitive. Playing together, I think is the best thing, because he has things in his game that I want to have, and I have things in my game that he wants to have, so we try to learn from each other. We push each other everyday on another level.”

[ VIDEO: Lukaku scores his first Man United goal ]

“I think [having Thierry Henry as a coach at mentor with the Belgian national team] is the best thing that happened to me. He’s the best thing that happened to me.

“If I look back, from 18 when I came to England until now, I’ve had possibly the five best strikers in the last 10 years as mentors. I had Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Samuel Eto'o, Fernando Torres, and now Thierry Henry. … I think it’s the best thing that could happen in my career as a young guy. … Everyday, if it’s negative or it’s positive, I really take it in stride because I know what is expected at the top level.”

The stages of Arsene Wenger’s reign at Arsenal

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Initially there was intrigue. Then there was admiration. Next came pity, followed by anger and protest.

It has been a roller-coaster of emotions during the 21-year tenure of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, which will continue after the Frenchman signed a contract extension for two more years on Wednesday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

A look at the various stages of Wenger’s reign:

“Arsene Who?” read the headline across a London newspaper when Wenger, a wiry, bespectacled and relatively unknown French coach was hired by Arsenal in September 1996.

Within two years, it was clear the club had pulled off a coup.

That’s all it took for Wenger to turn Arsenal around – its players’ drinking culture, their dietary habits and the team’s style of play – and lead the club to a Premier League-FA Cup double in 1998 at the end of his first full season in charge. He was the first foreign-born manager to achieve the double.

Helped by his knowledge of the French league, Wenger quickly began constructing a formidable side: Patrick Vieira had already joined in the months before Wenger’s arrival; Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit and Nicolas Anelka joined ahead of the 1998-99 season; Thierry Henry replaced Anelka in 1999. By 2001, he was building the team that would become known as the “Invincibles” – one that went through the 2003-04 league season unbeaten.

Arsenal recovered from losing the UEFA Cup final to Galatasaray in 2000 and the FA Cup final to Liverpool in 2001 by winning another league-cup double in 2002.

The “Invincibles” season would define his reign, with Arsenal winning 26 games and drawing the other 12 as the likes of Henry, Vieira, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp and Sol Campbell excelled. Wenger’s swashbuckling, slick side was awarded a special gold version of the league trophy in recognition.

[ MORE: Two more years — Wenger signs new contract ]

Arsenal then won the FA Cup in 2005 after a penalty shootout against Manchester United. Few could have imagined that would be the club’s last major trophy for nine years.

Although Arsenal reached the Champions League final the following season, losing to Barcelona after taking an early lead in Paris, a fourth-place finish in the league – the first time Wenger had finished outside the top two in a full season – was a sign of things to come.

Arsenal left its Highbury home of 93 years and relocated to nearby Emirates Stadium in 2006. Suddenly the priority was financing the new 60,000-seat stadium over strengthening the playing squad.

Vieira had already left in 2005, Henry and David Dein – who was both the vice chairman and a trusted ally of Wenger in the boardroom – departed in 2007, and Arsenal veered toward bringing through youth players and cheaper signings.

There was a gradual loss of leadership at the club, on and off the field, and it began to show in results.

Between 2007-13, Arsenal finished either third or fourth in the Premier League and rarely had a shot at the title. The team blew a five-point lead in February in the 2007-08 season and imploded in the last months of the 2010-11 season when in contention for four trophies, including losing to Birmingham in the English League Cup final.

Wenger couldn’t afford to keep hold of his star players. In 2011, Cesc Fabregas was sold to Barcelona, and Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy joined Manchester City. Top scorer Robin Van Persie moved to Manchester United in 2012, leading his new team to the league title the following season.

[ MORE: Huddersfield win promotion, complete 2017-18 PL field ]

Aspirations lowered at the Emirates. By 2012 and with Arsenal struggling to win titles, Wenger was saying that finishing in the top four – and therefore qualifying for the Champions League – was comparable to winning a trophy.

By 2013, Arsenal’s title drought extended to eight years and Wenger would soon be labeled a “specialist in failure” by managerial rival Jose Mourinho. Fueled by cash from their Russian and Abu Dhabi owners, Chelsea and Manchester City had sprinted past Arsenal and changed the financial landscape of the Premier League – much to the chagrin of the more conservative Wenger.

“I accept one basic principle for every company,” Wenger said, “that you can spend the money you make.”

No longer hamstrung by stadium debts, Wenger could finally start spending again. Off came the financial straitjacket and in came two stars of the Spanish league, playmaker Mesut Ozil for a club-record 42.4 million pounds (then $66 million) in 2013 and forward Alexis Sanchez for 35 million pounds (then $60 million) in 2014.

Arsenal continued to secure Champions League qualification each season and the team ended its wait for a trophy by winning the FA Cup in 2014 – but only after a penalty-shootout win over second-tier club Wigan in the semifinals and the need for extra time to beat Hull 3-2 in the final. There were reports that Wenger might have quit if Arsenal had lost the final; instead he signed a new three-year deal.

[ MORE: Slaven Bilic confirms he’ll return to West Ham next season ]

By now, though, there was a small but loud contingent of fans that was growing tired with Wenger. The embarrassing losses started to build up, including in the 2013-14 season a 5-1 loss at Liverpool and 6-0 loss at Chelsea in his 1,000th match in charge of Arsenal.

Arsenal retained the FA Cup in 2015, taking Wenger’s haul of titles in that competition to six, but it couldn’t hide the team’s failure to challenge for the Premier League or Champions League. Arsenal’s limitations in the Champions League were particularly galling, with Wenger unable to lead his side beyond the last 16 from 2011-17.

Wenger acknowledged that he missed a great chance to win a first Premier League title since 2004 when Arsenal finished second behind surprise champion Leicester in the 2015-16 season.

Fan unrest was at its worst the following season as the Gunners slipped from league contention by February and were routed 10-2 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Arsenal ended up finishing fifth in the Premier League and missing out on Champions League qualification for the first time in a full season under Wenger, although a strong finish to the campaign saw the team beat Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup final. It was a record seventh FA Cup triumph for Wenger, and – following a board meeting three days later – he signed up for two more years.

EURO 2016 final preview: France’s return to power meets Ronaldo’s legacy

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It wasn’t so long ago — six years, to be exact — that French football had disgraced itself with a group-stage exit (finishing 29th of 32 nations) and a locker room blow-up for the ages at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO 2016 coverage ]

Nicolas Anelka said some extremely unsavory things to then-manager Raymond Domenech and was ultimately banished from the national program forever; current French international Patrice Evra incited and led a squad-wide walk-out during a training session; Jean-Louis Valentin, who served as team director, resigned. All of this occurred before France’s final group game had been played. It was the unceremonious, ugly end of Thierry Henry’s legendary international career.

Now, buoyed by a generation of exuberant, relatable youngsters inching toward global superstardom, France finds itself back on the doorstep of footballing immortality: 90 (or 120) minutes away from being crowned champions of Europe for a record-tying third time (alongside Germany and Spain’s three titles).

[ MORE: Griezmann vs. Ronaldo — EURO 2016’s superstar no. 7s ]

Antoine Griezmann (6 goals) leads the EURO 2016 Golden Boot race by a wide margin, three ahead of a pair of teammates, Dimitri Payet and Olivier Giroud. We knew this France team would be a joy to watch, but Les Bleus have comfortably over-delivered on the excitement and champagne football expected of this tournament.

LYON, FRANCE - JUNE 26: Antoine Griezmann of France celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between France and Republic of Ireland at Stade des Lumieres on June 26, 2016 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

With Didier Deschamps finally settling on a Paul Pogba-Blaise Matuidi midfield-two, France have scored more goals (13) than any other side at EURO 2016. When Adil Rami found himself suspended for the quarterfinal victory over Iceland, 22-year-old Samuel Umtiti slotted into Rami’s starting center-back role and retained his place for the semifinal triumph over Germany. Powerful, dynamic and free-flowing on the attack; increasingly resolute and formidable in defense — goals conceded: four, in six games.


It wasn’t so long ago — or maybe it was; 12 years this week, to be exact — that a precocious, fleet-footed 19-year-old talent helped Portugal to the final of EURO 2004.

You’re probably familiar with his work by now. He is Cristiano Ronaldo, and he finds himself 90 short (or 120 long) minutes from a feat that would cement his already-safe place, beyond any reasonable argument, as one of the game’s all-time greats: leading Portugal to victory at a major tournament.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - JULY 4: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal in tears after the UEFA Euro 2004, Final match between Portugal and Greece at the Luz Stadium on July 4, 2004 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Cristiano Ronaldo
(Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images)

Forever intertwined with Lionel Messi in this inane “who’s the best player in the world?” debate (can’t we just enjoy and appreciate both of them without the need to assign their places in history before their careers are finished? … But Messi is the better player and inarguably the best of all time, for the record.), Sunday’s final in Paris presents Ronaldo an unlikely opportunity to temporarily or perhaps permanently one-up his El Clasico rival as the first (or only) of the two to win a major international tournament.

[ MORE: Ronaldo revels in Portugal reaching EURO 2016 final ]

Messi has failed three summers in a row, driving him to retirement from the international game (for now, at least), leaving the door wide open for Ronaldo, who has also been close — back to the semifinals of EURO 2012 — since suffering defeat to Greece in that 2004 final in Lisbon.

Of the six players currently on three goals this tournament, Ronaldo and his Portuguese teammate Nani make up half of the non-French contingent. The 2016 squad, outside of the aforementioned ex-Manchester United wingers and 18-year-old midfielder Renato Sanches, lacks the typical flair of Portuguese teams of the past, instead opting for an ultra-disciplined approach that favors pragmatism and defensive solidity.

France will find it far more difficult to fashion scoring chances against Portugal than they have done throughout EURO 2016 so far. France will look to limit those of Portugal by pouring on the attacking pressure and pinning A Selecao inside their own half for prolonged periods. No matter which side comes out on top on Sunday, we’ll have an incredible story of perseverance and a legacy forever defined to celebrate and champion at full time.