↑ Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea & England) Hattrick – in 3-1 Europa League win over BATE Borisov – for the underused player
↑ Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund & Portugal) The left sided player scored a brace in the 4-0 Champions League win over Atletico Madrid, after coming in as a sub
↓ AC Milan Followed up a last minute derby loss with a home loss to Real Betis in the Europa League
↑ Arsenal 10 win in a row in all competitions after beating Leicester City 3-1
↑ Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus & Uruguay) Effective midfield performance for Juventus vs Manchester United in Champions League action
↓ Marcus Rashford (Manchester United & England) Lackluster for United, reflecting the team’s poor form
↑ Luka Jovic (Eintracht Frankfurt & Serbia) 5 goals in Eintracht Frankfurt 7-1 Fortuna Duesseldorf Bundesliga win
↑ Levante UD Real Madrid 1-2 Levante in Spain’s La Liga Santander
↑ S.P.A.L. Roma 0-2 SPAL in Italy’s Serie A
↓ Ben Mee (Burnley & England) Defender in Manchester City 5-0 Burnley English Premier League
↑ Paco Alcacer (Borussia Dortmund and Spain) 10 goals on 10 shots for club and country this season, Spain 2-3 England UEFA Nations League, League A: Group 4
↑ Raheem Sterling (Manchester City and England) 2 goals in Spain 2-3 England UEFA Nations League, League A: Group 4
↓ Iceland national team 3 losses in UEFA Nations League with 11 goals against
The Dutch international who also played for Ajax, Sampdoria, Inter Milan and Botafogo in Brazil has had an at best indifferent coaching career. He took his first coaching job at Milan and quit his playing career in Brazil to answer the call of his former team. His record was only 11 wins in 22 matches and he lasted only half a season after he had replaced the fired Massimiliano Allegri. He also failed to rescue Deportivo La Coruna from relegation. In between his two European jobs he spent a short in China coaching Shenzhen F.C. where he failed in promoting the club.
Ironically the man who replaced him at Shenzhen F.C., Sven-Goran Eriksson, had been mentioned as Cameroon’s first choice but the The Indomitable Lions failed to agree terms with the veteran Swede.
Patrick Kluivert will assist Seedorf with the Africa Cup of Nations less than a year away. The 2019 edition of the competition is being held in the summer for the first time and starts next June with Cameroon as hosts.
The FIFA World Cup is starting in less than 24 hours on June 14, 2018. One of the powerhouses and favorites to win the trophy has just made a coaching change that has the potential to change the status of the team from favorites to perhaps less so.
Spain fired Julen Lopetegui with two days to go to Spain’s crucial first match vs Portugal. The coach agreed to take over the vacant Real Madrid head coaching position while in Russia preparing for the month long tournament.
It is still somewhat unlikely that Spain’s group stage position is under threat, here is one set predictions for the World Cup (teams in bold to progress)
Germany – Brazil
The Final is to be a repeat of the 2014 World Cup semi final where Germany humiliated the hosts 7-1!
FIFA has released the names of the referees and assistant referees who will take charge of games at World Cup 2018. The list currently contains 36 referees and 63 assistant referees. The VAR (Video Assistant Referees) will also be chosen from these 99.
FIFA chooses referees based on “skills and personality, as well as his level of understanding of football and ability to read both the game and the various tactics employed by teams” and the final list is chosen after three years of seminars that concentrate on fair game, consistency and protecting players.
There are more workshops and seminars to come after which the decisions will be made as to who will be the first ever VARs at a World Cup.
The list of referees does not include any from the United Kingdom, that is a first in 80 years. Mark Clattenburg who would be the leading UK candidate is now working in Saudi Arabia and was not picked.
The referee list includes five from Asia, five from Africa, five from north and central America, five from south America, two from Oceania and 10 from Europe. The assistant referee list includes three from Oceania, 10 each from Asia and Africa, eight from north and central America, 12 from south America and 20 from Europe.
It is hoped that the use VAR will improve the game and cut down on mistakes while not overly delaying games or disrupting the flow of play too long. Recent uses in some leagues have led to confusion and in a few cases offenses not being caught even after review!
France’s record at the World Cup has been very mixed. The French national team finished third at World Cup 1958 in Sweden. The team featuring Just Fontaine provided France with a golden era that was not repeated until decades later. Michel Platini was the star of the rising French team in the 80s that won the UEFA European Championship in 1984 and was semi finalists at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups in Spain and Mexico respectively. There was another shoter lull but Zinedine Zidane and others, including the current coach Didier Deschamps, made for another golden era that had its climax when winning the World Cup at home in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000. The up and down nature of the team, too often mired in squad controversy and divisions, meant a group stage exit in Wold Cup 2002, followed by a runner up spot in 2006 and another group stage exit in 2010.
The current version of the national team is certainly very talented but that hasn’t always proven to be enough. Below are some of the names that illustrate the depth and the quality of the current crop of French players.
Hugo Lloris Goalkeeper at Tottenham, can make occasional costly mistakes but the team captain is solid.
Alphonse Areola Goalkeeper at PSG, a home grown relative low cost player among the expensive stars assembled in Paris.
Laurent Koscielny Veteran defender at Arsenal, provides leadership.
Raphael Varane Young defender at Real Madrid, had a fast rise to stardom, now considered a solid player.
N’Golo Kante One of the best defensive midfielders of the recent past, virtual unknown until three years ago.
Paul Pogba Most expensive player and arguably most hyped player but having a hard time getting game time at Manchester United this season under Jose Mourinho.
Antoine Griezmann The world class goal scorer opted to stay at Atletico Madrid, more than a few teams willing to pay an enormous sum for him.
Kylian Mbappe Fast rise to stardom at Monaco, left to PSG for an initial loan to be made permanent after the World Cup for €145 million plus €35 million in bonuses and add ons. Still a teenager.
The list doesn’t include Karim Benzema, the sometimes prolific Real Madrid forward, due his ongoing exclusion because of the black mail case involving his national team mate Mathieu Valbuena.
With less than three months to go World Cup 2018 in Russia teams around the world use the FIFA international dates to prepare for the games. The March international break will be busy with many teams playing two or even games. The next times teams play friendlies will be in May and days before the World Cup starts.
In other news:
Te use of VAR (Video Assistant Referee) was given the final seal of approval and it is deemed ready for Russia.
Neymar has undergone surgery for a broken metatarsal and will miss three months. He is due to be ready on the eve of the World Cup but not before.
Below are some of the bigger friendly matches scheduled for this period.
March 23, 2018
Russia – Brazil
Germany – Spain
Italy – Argentina
Netherlands – England
France – Colombia
Portugal – Egypt
Poland – Nigeria
March 26, 2018
Portugal – Netherlands
March 27, 2018
Nigeria – Serbia
Russia – France
Spain – Netherlands
Germany – Brazil
England – Italy
Spain – Argentina