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The Lionesses Roar!

England rarely have anything to shout about at the major tournaments, the Men’s team have been disappointing on several occasions, but this time, the Women’s side have given the nation something to be proud off.

The tournament in Canada will end tomorrow, the final between current World Champions Japan, and the USA will be a rematch of the final in 2011. For England, the curtains have come down, it has been an excellent few week for a team looking to raise the profile of the game back home.

The Lionesses (as they are known) did not get off to the best of starts, losing the opening game to one of the favorites, France. Though they were on the back foot off the bat, victories against Mexico & Colombia saw them progress to the knockout stage. England had never won a knock out match at the World Cup, and Norway stood in the way of a ground breaking win for the team. Even though they fell behind early in second half, captain Steph Houghton, who lead by example the entire tournament leveled the game, before Lucy Bronze fired in a long range stunner that sealed a place in the final 8.

Hosts Canada were next on the list. The home fans provided all they could in terms of support, with a near 55,000 in the stadium roaring on the side. England could have been overwhelmed, but it was the hosts who crumbled, 2 goals in 4 minutes in the opening 20 minutes set England off to a flying start. Canada managed to recover a goal back before half time, but England valiantly held on, and booked a place in the final 4. Something no one in the English camp would have believed before it all began.

If they were to go all the way to the final, they would have to depose of the current champions Japan. Although Japan were the favorites to go through, England pushed them literally to the final minutes of the match. With the game level at 1-1, courtesy of 2 penalties, and heading towards the dying seconds of injury time. A late break by the Japanese saw a cross  diverted into the England goal by a despairing Laura Bassett. Japan just barely made it into the final, for England, the cruelest of ways to get eliminated in a semi final, an own goal in injury time. The disappointment aside, the team had done wonderfully well to even get this far, and they could still salvage a medal in the 3rd place play off.

That would prove rather difficult, in their way stood Germany, the number 1 ranked team in the Women’s game,  and a side England have never won against. If the odds were stacked against them vs Japan, it looked near impossible against the mighty Germans. Just as they did against Japan, England played a mighty disciplined game, managing to hold their own, and forced the match into extra time with a 0-0 stalemate. With a shoot out looming against the Germans (which, lets be honest, would have only gone one way!), England managed to win a penalty. Which was calmly dispatched by Farah Williams. Despite all the late pressure by Germany, England resisted the attacks and managed to not only win the game, but secure their first ever victory over the best team int he world right now.

For Mark Sampson, the young England manager, it was a phenomenal end to an excellent outstanding tournament. Players such as Houghton, Bronze & Carney will have done a tremendous role in inspiring many girls in England to take up the game, and make many take the game more seriously. Although they were not technically the best team, they played with great spirit and determination, to overcome superior teams, maybe something the Men’s team could look at.

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Copa America 2015

The season may be over, but there is one last summer party before we move onto the new season. The 44th edition of the Copa America kicks of in Chile this Thursday. The tournament which crowns the champions of South America, and probably the most exciting tournament behind the European Championships.

This time around, we have 12 nations contributing to the fun over the next few weeks. The likes of Brazil and Argentina will of course be there, with the likes of Colombia and Chile looking to sneak in and steal the crown.

The hosts Chile will be looking to use their home advantage and finally win the tournament, they have finished runners up on 4 occasions, and will see this as a great chance to break their duck. Chile put in a great show last summer at the World Cup, and were unlucky to lose to Brazil on penalties. With star players Alexis Sanchez and Arthur Vidal. They will look to go deep into the tournament.

Brazil and Argentina will of course be among the favorites to capture the title. For Brazil, it has been all about redemption. After their slaughter at the hands of Germany last summer. A victory here will help kick start their road to recovery. Though they possess one of the best talents in the world, in Neymar, the Brazilians are in transition. Dunga has been bought back to stabilize the ship. Their eternal rivals across the border look in better shape. Argentina were so close to the world title 12 months ago, and will be looking to make some amends by winning this title in style. Ranked as the top nation in the region, and a squad containing the lethal attacking talents of Messi, Aguero & Co. they will feel confident about go all the way.

Colombia will also be among the top picks for the competition. They were one of the most spectacular teams at the last World Cup, and attracted several new fans with their splendid attacking football. Their team is of course spear-headed by their golden boy, James Rodriguez. The stand out player in Brazil last year. Though the supporting cast of Falcao, Jackson Martinez, Carlos Bacca should also provide much hope for glory.

The Copa America has a tradition of inviting countries from outside the confederation to their tournament. This time, Mexico and Jamaica have accepted an invite to join the party. Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia make up the rest of the participants.  So come 4th of July, we will find out the new Champions of South America, let the games begin!

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Cup Finals Galore!

There were domestic cup finals taking place all over Europe yesterday. Champagne, Ticker Tape and Pyrotechnics were the order of the day!

We start in England, where Arsenal managed to retain the FA Cup that they won last year. Aston Villa had improved under Tim Sherwood, and the semi final in which they took out Liverpool gave the neutrals some hope of an even final. In truth, Villa just didn’t show up, If sides have shown recently how to frustrate Arsenal, it’s with a tight defensive display. This was not the case, and Arsenal ran the show from start to finish. Walcott opened the scoring with a vicious strike to give the Gunners a deserved half time lead. Soon into the 2nd half, it was 2, as Alexis fired in from 25 yards, a thunderbolt off the underside of the crossbar. Probably one of the finest Cup final goals in recent times! Mertesacker and Giroud added the gloss to a fine display. Arsenal now become the most successful team in FA Cup history, lifting the prize for a 12th time, Wenger in turn becomes the joint most successful FA Cup manager with 6 wins.

We jump over the channel to France,where PSG were looking the complete a domestic Treble, after winning the league and league cup. In their way stood Auxerre, who currently play in the French second division. With all the firepower at the disposal of PSG, the final itself was a rather tight affair. A single goal decided the final, Edinson Cavani heading home during the second half. A tough result for Auxerre to take, but its PSG who rule the roost in France, they become the first team in France to complete the domestic Treble.

Speaking of Trebles. Barcelona are looking the the toughest Treble there is. The League, The Cup and The Champions League. With the league already won, the Copa del Rey final was next for the Catalans. Atletic Bilbao were the side looking to rain on the parade, with the final being held in the Nou Camp. Any chances of an upset were dampened after Lionel Messi broke the deadlock early in the first half. Messi has scored many magnificent goals, but this was among one of the best, picking up the ball near the touchline close to the halfway line, surrounded by 3 defenders, he managed to wriggle his way past, glide into the box and fire into the net. Up there with one of his best! Neymar killed the game with a second, tapping in just before half time. Messi completed his brace in the second half, reacting first to poke in a cross from Alves. With the game all but over, Bilbao did manage a deserved goal back from Williams. So the job is 2/3s done, Juventus await next week for the final piece of the puzzle.

In Germany, it was an emotional finale for Jurgen Klopp, as his time with Dortmund came to an end after 7 memorable years. Wolfsburg stood in the way of a fairy tale ending for the much adored manager. It appeared the fairy tale ending was on the cards, after Pierre Emerick Aubameyang fired Dortmund in front. But Wolfsburg have shown that they are a class team, finishing runners up in the league, and managed to respond magnificently. Goals from Gustavo, Bast Dos and their player of the season, Kevin De Bruyne turned the tie, ending the first half 3-1 in front. Dortmund could not find a way to fight back, and Klopp ended his career at Dortmund with a defeat. Wolfsburg get their hands on the wonderful DFB-Pokal cup.

Before we wrap it up, a quick shout out to Inverness Caledonian Thistle, who won their first even major trophy, winning the Scottish cup by beating Falkirk. Well done!

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Premier League Season Review : Part 1

With the season all wrapped up, we can now have a look back on how each team faired, so in Alphabetical order, the first 5………..

Arsenal – 3rd C+ (B if they retain the FA Cup)

A title challenge never looked possible this year, considering an underwhelming  start to the season, allowing Chelsea to pull away. Finishing in the top 4, and more importantly, 3rd, to avoid an early season qualifier would be the main aim. The sensational form of Alexis was the primary factor in Arsenal hanging in until the New Year, with the likes of Ozil & Giroud out to long term injuries. A long streak of wins in Spring gave them a chance to sneak into 2nd, but 3rd reflects where they are right now, jsut not good enough to challenge the top 2. With still an FA Cup final to come, their season could end on a high.

Aston Villa – 17th D- (C if they win the FA Cup)

Speaking of the FA Cup, it will be Aston Villa who will face the the current holders this Saturday. Their domestic form was abysmal for the first half of the season. A run of form that saw Paul Lambert depart the club in February. At that point, it seemed relegation was inevitable, but the maverick Tim Sherwood was drafted in. Though many were sceptical of his abilities, his positive effect on the team cannot be denied. Christian Benteke has been their stand out player, but the likes of Fabian Delph and the emergence of Jack Grealish have helped Villa survive. A shock FA Cup will be help forget a largely forgettable season.

Burnley – 19th E

The smallest club in the league, with the smallest budget were likely to go straight back down. Though they did not bring any shame in their fight to beat the drop. The team did have to wait until November to win a game,  a run which they never truly recovered from. The team never managed to go above 17th place in the table. They did some some great highlights though, mainly at the expense of Manchester City. They pulled back a 2-0 deficit to draw away at the Etihad, then recorded a stunning win at Turf Moor. The performances of Danny Ings, their top scorer has caught the eyes of many Premier League clubs, and they look set to lose him over the summer.

Chelsea – 1st A+

What more can be said? The stand out team in the county and deserving champions. Chelsea did all their summer business early, the addition of Costa and Fabregas was vital in their early season surge. The talent of Eden Hazard adding the extra fire-power to an already quality team.  With all the attacking potential, it was the defence that won Chelsea the title. John Terry marshalling a water tight defensive unit, protected by Matic, only conceding 32 goals all season. This was the vital factor that gave them the edge over a shaky City defensive unit. Chelsea ended every month top of the league, which pretty much says it all.

Crystal Palace – 10th B-

It was a season of two halves for Palace. The first half was dreadful, manager Neil Warnock struggling to get anything out of a reasonably talented side. Heading into the New Year, in the bottom 3, Palace took action, and sacked Warnock, the first managerial sacking of the season. At the same time, Alan Pardew had left Newcastle after a turbulent few seasons, and as a former player for the South London side, saw it as a great opportunity. Pardew reinvigorated the team, firing the team up the table, taking scalps such as Man City, Spurs and Liverpool in the process. The team finished in 10th, a remarkable job considering where the team were at the start of the new year!

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Happy 1st Birthday!

This month marks our first anniversary! Since we’ve begun, there have been almost 100 posts on the blog (95 to be precise!) and a few Podcasts for good measure. We have reached out to over 85 countries around the world, across every continent. Amassing almost 3,000 hits on the site!

We want to thank everyone who has supported us with the likes on Facebook and the follows on Twitter. We will take a break over the Summer, and hopefully return with some new ideas to freshen everything up.

So here’s to another successful year ahead. *raises glass*

Team TSY :)

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Barcelona Back On Top

This time last season, it was Atletico who went to the ground of then holders Barcelona and snatched away their title. A year on, the roles were reversed. Barcelona travelled to the Vicente Calderon, looking to take back their crown.

Unfortunately for Atletico, it has not been a successful defence of their title. The loss of Costa & Courtois to Chelsea and the strengthening of the Big 2 has seen their title hopes dented.

Real Madrid and Barcelona have traded top spot all season, but it is the Catalans who have ended the season on a high. The sensational trio of Messi, Neymar & Suarez have been unstoppable, contributing to over 100 goals this season. Madrid have been stumbling recently, and their form has seen them get knocked out in the Champions League, and a 2-2 draw to Valencia last week, virtually killing their title hopes.

With a 4 point gap with 2 to play, Barcelona just needed to equal the result of Real Madrid, playing away to Espanyol. A situation which saw Real wanting their neighbours Atletico, to take points off Barcelona. Who in turn, would love to see their neighbours Espanyol steal some points from Real.

Atletico were never going to be a walkover, the current champions would not go down with a fight, but in a tight game, it was none other than Lionel Messi who scored the valuable goal to take Barcelona to the brink in the second half. Over at Espanyol, Madrid were looking for an unlikely turnaround at the top of the table, after a goalless first half, Madrid took the lead after Ronaldo put away a Benzema pass. Espanyol did equalise soon after, a gaffe from stand in keeper, Kaylor Navas. Barcelona may have had an eye on the scores back home, but they knew all they needed was to hold onto the lead . Real charged back, Marcelo and Ronaldo completing his hat-trick took them to a comfortable 4-1 win.

But it was too little too late. Barcelona held on, to take them to title number 23. For Real, a disappointing end to an average season, for Barcelona, this is only the start, with 2 more finals awaiting in the Champions League and Copa del Rey.

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The Old Lady Rises

Rewind back to 2004, an unwanted Fernando Morientes is sent away from Real Madrid, only for him to have a key part in the Spanish club getting knocked out in the Champions League. It was deja vu for Madrid, as this time, it was the unwanted Alvaro Morata sold to Juventus in the summer who returned to haunt his former club.

After Barcelona had progressed to the final the previous night, thanks to 2 away goals from Neymar in a 3-2 defeat to Bayern Munich, all the pressure was on Real Madrid to not just overcome the deficit against Juventus, but to also set up the ‘dream’ Champions League final with their Catalan rivals.

Whereas Barcelona looked comfortable for most part of the tie, only looking nervous in the second half of the return leg, when Munich pressed for an unlikely win. Madrid had not looked at ease at any point in the tie. Juventus deservedly won the first leg, and were holding firm in the Bernabeu for the early part of the match. It was only until a clumsy challenge by Chiellini on James that allowed Ronaldo to fire Madrid level on the night from the penalty spot.

Thought the home team were ahead, Juventus knew it would only take one goal from them to force Madrid to score 2 more to win it in normal time. Juventus, with a midfield of Pirlo, Pogba and Vidal were simply on top of their game. Their power, combined with grace was too much too handle for a Real midfield not really set up with any defensive players in mind. As Juventus got a foothold in the second half, it was once again Morata, who scored in Turin, to break the hearts of the home fans. A cheap free kick given away, lead to the ball being played back into the box for the young Spanish striker to smash the ball off the pitch into the net.

The Bernabeu was stunned, after their La Liga hopes were pretty much extinguished over the weekend, their season suddenly looked to be on the ropes. Try as they may, the holders could not find a way past the brilliant Italian wall. Ronaldo failed to make much of an impact, Bale spurned several opportunities and the other top players were simply not up to it on the night. In fact, Juventus had a few chances to finish the tie once and for all, but were denied by some fine saves.

So the team perceived to be the weakest by some fans out of the 4 semi-finalists,has ended up in the final, eliminating the current holders while they were at it. Once again, the Champions League trophy has not been retained the following season. Real Madrid can have no complaints, the better team won over the two games. But now the Old Lady has a far more daunting task at hand, to stop the lethal combination of Messi, Neymar and Suarez in Berlin.

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The Europa League : England needs to respect it

The Europa League is seen as somewhat of a burden to the English clubs. A hindrance, rather than a quest for European glory. It’s around this time of year managers will complain about the prospect of having to play those Thursday night games and the media will make a song and dance about teams willingly trying to avoid those ‘dreaded’ spots.

It’s a weird conundrum, the teams that usually end up in these spots, such as Tottenham Hotspurs, Liverpool & Everton will not make a realistic challenge to the title, they may end up with a domestic cup if things go their way. Yes, the Europa League may start earlier than it really should, and yes, the format is drawn out, but the the representatives from England should be well enough equipped to make a decent attempt at it.

England have been shown up in Europe this year, with no English team making the Quarter Finals in either of the two European club competitions. The English Premier League may call itself the best in the world, but it’s La Liga who currently hold both of the European crowns.

The early rounds may be an annoyance, but our clubs can manage them with a mix of first team and reserve members. It is the later knock out rounds where the teams are not as bothered to go for gold, worried it may impact their domestic form. This season, neither Everton or Spurs ever had a realistic shot at breaking the top 4. So why not prioritize the Europa League, a competition that now awards the winners a place in the following seasons Champions League? It will also give the teams good practice in dealing with 2 games a week, and encounter some top teams. For Liverpool, it may have been a tougher decision on what to prioritize, but getting knocked out at the Round of 32 was underwhelming.

Chelsea took the cup seriously, and although it was a competition they could have easily put on the back burner and fielded their reserves, went on to win the cup in 2013. The prize money may not be of any significance for a top club like Chelsea, but for the players and fans. A trophy is a trophy.

Southampton, who have done remarkably well, will hopefully go all out for that last Europa league spot. They have had a great season, and will not make a top 4 bid next season. A European campaign would not only give their fans a treat (well the later rounds anyway!) but also give them a chance to entertain some of Europe’s finest names.

The attitude in general needs to change in regards to the Europa League, the Premier League cannot boast about how great it is, if it cannot win any of the European cups, which is a more accurate marker on which league is on top.

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Who Will Bite The Bullet?

With Burnley and QPR looking set to be relegated, one dreaded spot still remains. Two points separate Aston Villa,  Newcastle, Leicester City, Hull & Sunderland, any one of those 5 could end up taking the unwanted 18th spot in the table.

Sunderland are currently in 18th, and have the most work to do. Their current form isn’t too bad, only losing once in their last 4, and picking up 3 points on two occasions in that time. The Black Cats may look back to last season, when they pulled off a marvellous escape this time last season, beating Chelsea and taking points off City. If Sunderland are to escape, they will be looking at wins against Everton and a vital clash against fellow rivals Leicester.  Their final two games are away at Arsenal and Chelsea, and any points from them look very unlikely. 

Staying in the north east, Newcastle find themselves in one almighty mess. A shambolic run of 8 defeats on the bounce has dragged them from mid-table safety into the relegation dogfight. After a pathetic performance last weekend at Leicester, John Carver has a mountain to climb, but they have one of the more simpler run ins. QPR already have one foot back in the Championship, and both West Brom and West Ham have nothing much to play for. On paper, they should pick up at-least one win, but on this current form, nothing is certain!

It’s been a resurgent Leicester City who have somehow found a spectacular run of form to drag themselves off the foot of the table. 5 wins in 6 games has catapulted the Foxes up the table. Nigel Pearson may be a controversial figure,  but he has instilled a great fighting spirit in the squad, and their main striker Leonardo Ulloa has found his golden touch from earlier in the season. His goals being vital in their late surge. With Sunderland and QPR still  to play, they will fancy their chances in retainer their status in the top flight.

Hull have been in a malaise for quite some time. last season they stumbled to 16th place, their run to the FA Cup final did mask their dire domestic form. This season has been the same, despite an abundance of new faces in summer. They face a tricky set of fixtures to end their season. Next up is Burnley, a win here is a must, as Spurs and United await in the subsequent weeks. If points are dropped to Burnley, it will be a nervous fortnight for the fans.

Tim Sherwood does not enjoy the best of reputations, but he has done a great job at turning around the season of free-falling Aston Villa. With 4 games left to play, and a 2 point buffer, Villa should feel some what comfortable, compared to their rivals. Christian Benteke has been stunning in the last few weeks, surely putting himself in the window for a big move come summer. The striker has been instrumental in Villa’s late season resurrection.  Home games against West Ham and Burnley should provide the points required to survive, though with the confidence flowing in the FA Cup finalists, points at Southampton and Arsenal could be salvaged.

Of the 5 teams, Sunderland and Hull have the most to do, and Newcastle may get sucked in if their current form continues until the end of May. The other 3 will feel confident that they can obtain the points that they require. If we had to say one team, Hull City look like the unfortunate team. One thing is for sure, this fight will go into the final minutes of the 38th match of the season!

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To the victors, go the spoils….

With 3 games to go, the champions of England have been decided, and their coronation awaits on the final game of the season. Chelsea have been the stand out team all season, and have cruised to the title with relative ease. Manchester City were level with the Blues at the turn of the year, but stuttering performances from the current champions lead to a commanding Chelsea run.

Chelsea may not have finished the season with great conviction, but their sensational early season run had given them much room to work with. Summer signings Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas were instrumental in their early season charge, helping the team win 10 of their first 12 league games. Their first league defeat not occurring until December. While rivals City, United and Arsenal were struggling to find their best form, and Liverpool suffering from the departure of Luis Suarez, Chelsea were the only team showing championship credentials.

The team has lost only 2 games so far this season, away to Newcastle, and a stunning 5-3 defeat at White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day. They have been unbeaten ever since.  Arsenal, with 6 defeats were 2nd in terms of games lost. Showing the winning mentality that Mourinho has embedded into the team, and the gulf in class to the chasing pack. Chelsea have not always been convincing in the last few months, scraping late wins, and benefiting from several goalkeeping errors to bag the 3 points. The team may have been labelled with the ”Boring Boring Chelsea” tag, but that won’t bother them much, as they will now cruise to the finish line, and lift the grand prize later this month.

Eden Hazard has been the stand out performer of the season, while Fabregas’s stunning early season form dropped considerably after Christmas, and Costa suffering from several injuries stalling his season, it has been the Belgian ace who has electrified the Bridge. He has been the key play maker all year, and was voted the Player of the Year by his fellow professionals. The best team, with the best player. The perfect end to the season for the Blues. While captain John Terry has had one of his finest seasons, after several underwhelming years in the team.

While it has been Chelsea who emerge triumphant, the standard of the rest of the league has not been so great. Arsenal had a moderate start, and only a run 8 straight wins in Spring has elevated them up to a potential 2nd place finish. If they started the season as they are ending it, the race may the title may have been a bit more thrilling. Manchester City, who for most of the season were looking like the biggest challengers to Chelsea, had a shocking 2015, losing 5 games. From being challengers, level on points with Chelsea, they dropped back, and are now fighting for 2nd. United also suffered a shocking start, and only run of wins in the last few months had taken them up into the top 4, though with 3 consecutive defeats, a scrap for 4th is still on the cards.

But take nothing away from Chelsea, while the rest have been struggling to hit find top gear, Chelsea have been top all season, and as boring as they may be at times, they have achieved their goal, and the rest must step up for next season, otherwise it may be back to back titles next season.