The past week has provided us with two excellent matchdays from Euro 2016 qualifying. 4 nations have stamped their ticket to the finals in France officially. Some of the traditional giants are in trouble, while some unexpected stars have arisen. We covered 3 teams who have a chance at Cinderella status, and one of those happened to clinch their Euro 2016 ticket over the past week. Let’s check in on the groups.
Iceland and the Czech Republic have secured their automatic qualification. Latvia and Kazakhstan are both officially eliminated. Turkey and the Netherlands are in a fight for 3rd in the group. Turkey have 12 points to the Netherlands 10. Turkey’s remaining games are against the two qualified teams, while the Netherlands play the Czech Republic and Kazakhstan. The Dutch lost Arjen Robben to an injury, which should definitely hurt their chances. This group is mostly settled, but will likely have final day drama to keep it interesting.
Wales and Belgium have secured at least 3rd place, but not automatic qualification. There is a bit more mystery to this group, as only Andorra have been eliminated. Cyprus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Israel are all in contention for 3rd place in the group. Israel are currently in the magic spot, but have a tough remaining games against Belgium and 3rd place competitor Cyprus. Bosnia & Herzegovina play Cyprus and Wales. These are some pretty huge games, with Cyprus being the key to 3rd place. Every game remaining is a must-win in this group.
Spain have all but locked up a spot in Euro 2016 with a 1-0 victory over Macedonia. Slovakia and Ukraine tied 0-0 to keep their 3-point differential intact. Spain get 5 points clear of Ukraine with 2 matches to go. Belarus, Luxembourg, and Macedonia have already been eliminated, but still have a part to play in this group. We will see if our Cinderella Slovakia can hold off Ukraine to claim their glass slipper of Euro 2016.
Germany has assured themselves of at least 3rd place in the group, while Georgia and Gibraltar have been eliminated. Scotland can still qualify as a 3rd place team, but cannot reach a top 2 spot. Poland and Ireland are sitting in 2nd and 3rd respectively, pining for that automatic qualification spot. Germany should capture one of the spots, leaving the other three squads to fight for one automatic qualification and one play-off spot.
England were one of the first to stamp their ticket to Euro 2016, absolutely dominating this group from beginning to finish. Their victory over Switzerland did leave the door open for a few other nations to make some noise. Only San Marino have been eliminated, while Lithuania can only reach 3rd in the group. Switzerland are currently in 2nd with 15 points. Slovenia are in 3rd with 12, followed by Estonia with 10 and Lithuania with 9. The middle four squads have multiple head-to-head matchups remaining, giving those results some extra juice. There is still lots of variability that can happen with this group.
This might be the weakest group, and one of their giants has already been eliminated. Greece is bottom of the group, while the Faroe Islands have also been eliminated. Greece’s football team has fallen harder than their economy, seeing as they have 3 points less than the Faroe Islands. Northern Ireland have secured at least 3rd place in the group. The remaining three sides — Romania, Hungary, and Finland — are all battling for one of the other 2 remaining Top 3 slots. There is lot of fluctuation that can happen in this group, leaving us with excitement that will come down to the final match day.
Austria are through to France! The Austrians have taken complete control of this group, leaving all the remaining teams in the dust. The Russians did rebound from firing their manager to wollop Liechtenstein 7-0, and catapult them to 2nd place with 14 points. Sweden sit in 3rd with 12, while Montenegro are just behind with 11. Liechtenstein and Moldova have been eliminated. The three nations competing for 2 spots will be intensely watching the scoreboards during the final two match days.
This group is mostly settled, but still has a bit of drama left to play out. Italy, Norway, and Croatia are confirmed to be the top 3 in the group. Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, and Malta have all been eliminated. The only thing left to settle is which squad will be stuck in the 3rd place playoff position. Italy have 18 points, while Norway have 16, and Croatia have 15. Italy does play Norway on the final match day, which might leave an opening for Croatia to gain some points. Very close at the top, meaning this group will be really fun to watch all the way to the final minute.
Ah, the politically volatile group. After their dust-up with Albania, Serbia have officially been eliminated from qualifying, along with Armenia. Albania, Denmark, and Portugal all are secured in top 3 slots, although no one has secured automatic slots yet. Portugal look pretty safe at the top, with a 3 point lead and 2 matches to play. Since this group only had 5 teams, they have an uneven schedule. Portugal, Albania, and Serbia have 2 matches to play, with Armenia and Denmark only having 1 remaining. Denmark’s one match is against Portugal, which bodes well for Albania. Unfortunately, Albania will have to play Serbia again, after the first match was abandoned. There will certainly be fireworks in this group, not only on the field though.
So we have 5 of the 24 nations officially in for Euro 2016 including the hosts France. Which 19 other nations will join them for the European Championship next summer? Only time will tell.
While some might simply point to a miserable experience for anyone rooting for the USMNT as the main reason for disparaging CONCACAF after the most recent Gold Cup, the entirety of the tournament still showed that the international soccer in this region is broken…and needs fixing. Even as Mexico fans attempt to balance victory with the recent departure of their extremely expressive manager, the entirety of the area’s fan-base has to be aware that there are a host of changes that need to happen before the Gold Cup (or, even WC qualifying) rolls around again.
The issue that immediately springs to mind is the referees. Sure, there are very few decent referees at any level, but no region has given more credence to the possibility of fixed games and paid-off officials like CONCACAF. A baffling decision or two per tournament is a given, but two or three horrendous calls A GAME just screams for a readjustment. The best display of this was certainly seen in the Panama/Mexico semi-final. While social media and comment sections on websites show some viewers being blinded by fandom, the game was an atrocity. Panama should not have been reduced to 10 men, several yellow cards for simulation would have better suited the game over what actually happened, and the penalty in the dying embers of the game for an absolutely amazing defensive play (completely devoid of any penalty dictating issues) ruined the game and tainted the final.
Since refs don’t grow on trees, CONCACAF definitely needs to put more of a focus in this arena or even research what it would take to convince FIFA to allow non-CONCACAF region refs to officiate major games in the region.
The second problem is the scheduling and thought process behind several of the games for the most recent Gold Cup. A tournament as short as the Gold Cup shouldn’t span more than a few stadiums, and certainly shouldn’t have teams spending most of their off-days in airports/airplanes. The semi-final also showed some serious lack of foresight by whoever was planning the games. With the gates opening at 5 pm, the first game starting at 6, the second game starting at 9, and the high likelihood of fans imbibing a massive amount of alcohol between the gate opening and the second game, the ridiculous nature of the crowd as seen by anyone watching/attending was to be expected. Perhaps taking a cue from events with alcohol tickets to limit drunkenness…or just separating the games…is it really that hard?
There are far too many issues with CONCACAF, and the current turmoil with some of the higher ups shows that there might be some time before any problems are truly resolved. While fans want to start seeing the countries from the region compete at the highest stage, it genuinely feels like fixing some of the issues closer to home might be the best springboard to execute that…right?
Pepsi has unveiled details of their superstar 2014 football squad, bringing together an unprecedented wealth of international talent to create one of the most jam packed, multi-talented and iconic lineups ever. 19 of the world’s greatest players, spanning five continents and nearly 20 countries, are uniting with Pepsi to inspire fans the world over to “Live For Now” in 2014.
Record breaking football superstar Leo Messi, Argentinian international striker Sergio Agüero and young British talent Jack Wilshere will be joined by Brazilian defender David Luiz, prolific goal scorer Robin van Persie and Spanish great Sergio Ramos as part of the global Pepsi lineup. These super six will be bolstered by additional footballing greats from across the globe representing their home countries, including: Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (Colombia), Clint Dempsey (USA), Tarik Elyounoussi (Norway), Maynor Figueroa (Honduras), Mario Gomez (Germany), Vincent Kompany (Belgium), Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica), Victor Moses (Nigeria), Peter Osaze Odemwingie (Nigeria), Oribe Peralta (Mexico), Andriy Pyatov (Ukraine), Mohamed Salah (Egypt) and Gylfi Por Sigurðsson (Iceland).
“Football has been my passion since I was a little boy and it’s certainly one of the things I live for now. I am so proud to be partnering with Pepsi again and representing the brand globally as part of this star-studded team,” says four-time player of the year and Argentinian captain Leo Messi.
When the team was announced, the Pepsi players took to social media to unveil the entire roster in an exciting digital relay that reached fans across the globe.
David Luiz, Premier League player for Chelsea and vice-captain for Brazil’s national team, comments:
“I’m excited to be teaming up with Pepsi and proud to be part of such a great team. For me, playing football is about making the most of every second on the pitch and showing your love and character for the game – and for the fans. I can’t wait to join fans from across the world and celebrate football.”
The global player announcement also kicked off a series of exciting year-long activities as part of the 2014 Pepsi Football campaign. Not only will the players star in Pepsi’s global television commercial released later in the year, a selection of the players will also be featured on limited edition, eye-catching packaging and point of sale across the globe, designed to bring to life their flair and enthusiasm for the game. Special commemorative packaging featuring the global Pepsi players will start appearing in market in March, while integrations with music, art, digital, interactive experiences and additional special products will be unveiled throughout the year. Throughout the years, football has been a strong driver of growth for PepsiCo, with both its global beverages and snacks brands activating robust programs in 2014.
Kristin Patrick, Pepsi Global Chief Marketing Officer, PepsiCo Global Beverages Group comments:
“Pepsi has had a tremendous relationship with football, going back nearly 15 years. For this, our latest incarnation, we’ve brought together our most impressive Pepsi football roster yet, comprised of players who truly embody our brand spirit and excite and electrify us every time they step on the pitch. Our players know how to live for the moment, and throughout the year we’ll be collaborating with them to bring our fans exciting and engaging content, products and experiences – bringing fans closer to the game they love.”
It is very exciting for us here at the Center Circle to see an American be included in this campaign and we look forward to seeing what Pepsi has in store for this impressive campaign.
This is the last match the U.S. national team will play before facing Honduras Feb. 6 in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualification. The U.S. will need to perform much better than they performed in the previous round of qualifying. The remaining six teams are the United States, Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico and Panama. Out of these six teams, the top three qualify for the 2014 World Cup and the fourth place team goes to a playoff. Americansoccernow.com has a fantastic page dedicated to the final round of qualifying and is worth a look.
It will be interesting to see whom the U.S. plays tonight and how the team looks going into a difficult final round of qualifying. If you are looking for something to keep you occupied before actual lineups are announced, ProSoccerTalk and Bleacher Report take their best guess of the starting lineup tonight.
After the match, make sure to check out the site again for post-match thoughts and comments about the performance.
Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com
The Japanese are known for inventing and loving wild and zany sports, but they may build a bridge too far with their latest creation, binocular soccer.
This man is braver than I am, and lucky he didn’t get caught by any of the patrons of these fine establishments as they would have surely exacted a heavy price for turning off the tele during the match. I have to say its a fairly funny prank, and Holland went on to lose the match anyway, but nevertheless we can’t recommend trying this one at home.
What happens when two countries quietly fighting a war face each other in a World Cup qualifier, exactly what you’d expect to happen. For the majority of the match both sides held their nerve and there was little trouble in and what seemed to be a jovial atmosphere prevailed in the stands as Algeria scored a lovely goal to go 1-0 up. Libya were never really much of a threat to the Algerians from that point onward, but it was by no means a dirty match until after the final whistle.
At that point tensions stemming from Algeria’s role in supporting the former Libyan government of international tent resident Mommmar Gadhafi boiled over and mayhem ensued. Its not really certain who started the fight, but I’d expect both sides to receive some sort of sanction from FIFA over the behavior, and I doubt they’ll be playing any friendlies soon.
Tonight the United States National Team will be taking on Mexico in the latest installment of the fierce rivalry. After that, the team will be trying to get ready to qualify for the World Cup. A major player for the United States National Team as they look to qualify for the next World Cup will be Clint Dempsey. He is coming off a superb season for Fulham and is looking to continue his wonderful form for his national team.
Nike has released the Nike USA libretto shorts to help show your support for the national team. These shorts are extremely soft and feel great. They feature Nike’s Dri-Fit technology to help keep you dry and comfortable. Whether you are training for your own team or cheering on the national team, these shorts are great to wear.
In addition to being extremely comfortable, they also feature the United States National Team crest pressed on the right thigh. They also feature Dempsey’s number eight that is pressed on the left thigh above the Nike swoosh. These shorts show the national team colors. They are predominantly blue with red accents throughout.
Right now is the perfect time to grab a pair of these great shorts to show your support and also emulate the skills of Dempsey when you are playing. These are currently available at SoccerPro.com, so head over and check them out today.
Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com
Official tournament are known for being useless and repetitive dance numbers, but German group Oceana have managed to set the bar that much lower with their song “Endless Summer.” A hip and peppy club number the song itself is alright for the first few bars, and like the first few bites of a new flavour of ice cream you give it a chance to get good. But like a poorly designed soccer jersey About a minute in is where I realized by dream of a flavourful experience was in vain as my ears where thrashed with the same lyrics of “Oh, Oh Endless Summer” and same three notes at very pitches on the beat. You can give a butchers yourself below, but to be honest, even Shakira would be ashamed of this one…
Written by: Matthew Wall, editor, soccerprose.com