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?
Too many times, football fans hear about the “next big thing” and never see that player come to the forefront. Americans have had this experience relatively recently. Freddy Adu, a kid who was dubbed the “next Pele,” was hyped up to be the greatest revelation America had ever seen. Media took hold and pushed Adu to turn professional at just age 14. Millions tuned into his debut, and eventually, he dropped out of the spotlight and almost out of the game altogether. There are multiple players who have followed this same trajectory, but now some young players are trying to buck the trend.
Brek Shea is one of those players. He grew up in a state that adores American football. Texas lives and breathes it, so it is relatively surprising that the state produces some of the top soccer talent the United States has to offer. Clint Dempsey, Stuart Holden, Omar Gonzalez, and Lee Nguyen are just a few examples from the Lone Star State. Shea grew up in Texas and honed his game at the US Developmental Center in Bradenton, Florida. He was a staple in the youth system for the United States, growing his reputation.
Shea rode that wave of hype into the 2008 MLS SuperDraft after signing a Generation Adidas contract straight out of high school. He ended up selected 2nd overall to FC Dallas, where he began his pro career. For the next 4 years, Shea was a utility man for FC Dallas, playing almost every position on the field outside of goalkeeper. He made 98 appearances, scoring 19 goals in his time at the club. He did show enough raw potential for European clubs to express interest. He ended up accepting an offer from Stoke City in the Premier League.
This was the move that threatened to derail Shea’s career. It did, for a time. Shea only made 3 appearances for Stoke, and a handful of others on loan to Championship clubs Barnsley and Birmingham City. Shea has lamented about his decision to go to Stoke, saying that he wished that he had waited for a better fit. Any way you put it, Shea’s time in England was a huge letdown. It was the type of letdown which many players never recover from. Then came his chance.
The MLS added two new expansion franchises, giving multiple players a chance to begin or resurrect their careers. NYCFC went with more proven players, while Orlando City decided to take a chance on Shea. Another important manager, Jurgen Klinsmann, has monitored the move with extreme interest. The USMNT is in severe need of a left back in the wake of DaMarcus Beasley’s international retirement. There are very few pure left backs in the United States player pool, so Shea has begun to give the position his best shot.
Shea has long been known to be a speedy winger, but has never really set a position for himself. His most common spot has been in the midfield, but with Klinsmann’s new plans, it seems left back is his position of the very near future. In fact, Shea has committed to the position at Orlando City as well, citing his national team career as a large factor. He has gotten lucky to cash in on the position change, with Klinsmann calling Shea up for multiple national team camps and friendlies.
2015 has been very kind to Brek Shea. Klinsmann has given Shea the chance to impress, and he has not disappointed. In his three appearances in 2015, Shea has two goals, including an absolutely brilliant free kick against Switzerland. He played all of the matches at left back, looking surprisingly competent for a player who has recently just switched to the position. Sure he got beat a few times, but even the best outside backs get beaten sometimes. He will be in San Antonio as the US takes on Mexico in a friendly, and it will be interesting to see if Shea gets playing time, or if Klinsmann will go with more Mexican-based players.
The past few months have been a whirlwind. Somehow that wind has propelled Brek Shea back into the limelight, almost willing his career back on track. For a 25-year-old, it was critical to see the field with regularity again. Thus, we have a nice little Brek Shea Revival.
The countdown is becoming a little more real. The 2015 Women’s World Cup is less than 60 days away, making it feel more real with each passing moment. The USWNT had been struggling to get results in friendlies, and have been looking to reverse the trend before the showcase event this summer. The team played New Zealand this past weekend in St. Louis, but still have three more friendlies to get into form.
There is a positive trend for the USWNT right now. Despite a draw in the group stage of the Algarve Cup, they were still able to advance to the Final. There they defeated France 2-0 to claim the title. Its not all sunshine and rainbows though, as the team has been exploited and given up multiple goals at critical stages in the game. Now that major players have recovered from nagging injuries, Jill Ellis’ squad is beginning to play like the contender that they are.
The women’s side of football is a little different, as many players will take off their domestic seasons in order to prepare for the World Cup. For the US, Abby Wambach is taking this approach. Who knows if it will pay off, but it is certainly something to watch for as we embark upon a short journey to Canada this summer.
They did have a game recently in St. Louis against New Zealand. In fact, they broke the all-time record for attendance for a friendly. 35,817 spectators were on hand to witness second half dominance from the US in a 4-0 victory at Busch Stadium. A 4-0 margin is very encouraging, especially considering that New Zealand have also qualified for the Women’s World Cup and are considered by many to be a dark horse in the tournament. Either way, The Kiwis didn’t have a single shot on goal, a promising sign that the US defense might be improving.
With Hope Solo back on the team and playing, it seems that Jill Ellis has one position locked up for the World Cup. The front line is pretty set as well, having a multitude of attackers to choose from. In fact, she cannot get them all on the pitch. Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Sydney Leroux, the list seems to go on and on. Either way, the forward position is also pretty set for the World Cup. Ellis has been experimenting with different midfield combinations, and has been tinkering with the back line as well. The team has a mix of veterans and youth that are sure to get some playing time, including Tobin Heath, Morgan Brian, and Megan Rapinoe.
Speaking of Rapinoe, the New Zealand match represented her 100th cap for the USWNT. This is quite the accomplishment for any international player, and Rapinoe deserves a round of applause for her contribution to the team. She will be one of the critical pieces if the US is going to advance deep into the tournament this summer.
The US has three more friendlies to get everything ironed about before heading to Winnipeg for their first group game. Throughout the month of May, The US plays Ireland and Mexico in California, while having their final friendly against South Korea in Harrison, New Jersey. Mexico and South Korea will also be headed to Canada for the World Cup, but Ireland failed to qualify. Avoiding injuries and major letdowns will be a huge part of these matches.
The US have their first group match in Winnipeg on June 8th against Australia. The next match is four days later against Sweden, also in Winnipeg. The Swedes are led by former USWNT coach Pia Sundhage, who led the US to a runner-up finish in the last edition of the World Cup. After Sweden, the final group match will be against Nigeria in Vancouver. If they place in the top two of their group, they will automatically progress to the knockout stages. If they finish 3rd, they will have to wait for Groups E and F to finish play. If they are one of the four best 3rd place teams, they will progress to the knockout stage. The bottom two 3rd placed teams will be eliminated. This expanded format will be a first for the Women’s World Cup, so it will be very interesting to see how it is played out.
While usually I don’t get too excited about U-any level events, I couldn’t contain myself when I happened upon the U-20 World Cup Draw. Not that the draw itself was very exciting, because I missed that part, but the result of the draw is what has me jumping for joy. The reason is this: THE US FINALLY GETS A DREAM DRAW!!! But then I realized, what if we just wasted our one dream draw in my lifetime on the U-20 World Cup?!
With 2016 Olympic qualifying upcoming, along with the U-20 World Cup, we will have the opportunity to look at the future World Cup stars. The US barely qualified, but we can now be glad knowing that their group when they get to New Zealand is less than intimidating. They got New Zealand, Ukraine, and Myanmar — the team that qualified by hosting the event, one of the lowest ranked European qualifiers, and an Asian country that hasn’t made any real major tournament ever. This group of youngsters will be the backbone of the USMNT in the future, including the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Lets take a look at the US U-20 team members that might have a shot at the upcoming World Cup teams. Some of the players have already made their leap to the pros, while others may still be in college.
Rubio Rubin - Sure, he has already made his senior team debut, but he is still eligible for the U-20 team. The Utrecht forward has really found his stride in the Eredivisie and is an exciting prospect on the front line for the US. He’s still eligible for Mexico and Guatemala due to his parents, but seems to be locked into the US.
Erik Palmer-Brown - The 17-year-old has long been on the radar of the US system. He already has 5 appearances with the U-20’s and has been signed to Sporting KC. With World Cup veteran Matt Besler to mentor him, Palmer-Brown might just be the next defender out of KC to make the US team.
Cameron Carter-Vickers - Another 17-year-old with a hyphenated name who is making splashes for the U-20 team. He is still eligible for England, as he is a dual national. The big defender is at Tottenham’s youth system, signing a 2-year deal with Spurs despite heavy interest from Arsenal. I am very excited for this young man, as he is excelling with players close to 4 years older than him. Not to mention that his father was an NBA player, giving him an athletic pedigree. He said he is leaning towards representing the USA, so this prospect would be a huge get for Jurgen Klinsmann.
Dortmund Boys - Dortmund has a trio of Americans in their youth system that might make an impact for the USMNT in the future. Joe Gyau is a pretty known commodity, but is struggling to return from injury so far. Junior Flores made a splash in the U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament, while also stating the he will play for the US over El Salvador, despite invitations to their senior squad. Christian Pulisic is the latest American import to Dortmund. He got his Croatian passport due to his heritage and has even trained with the senior side. With American David Wagner coaching Dortmund’s reserve side, it is easy to see why some of the youngsters might be drawn there.
Romain Gall - The main scorer for the U-20 side during qualifying plays his club football for Columbus Crew. He took all the penalties for the US in the tournament, of which there were quite a few. He was born in France and is still eligible for the country as well. I am not as high on him as some others, but he is definitely one to watch.
T2 Squared - Tommy Thompson and Tyler Turner might get you tongue-tied if you try and say both of their names back to back. But they are both viable options for the US in the future. Turner is a defender for newly created Orlando City, while Thompson crafts his trade for the San Jose Earthquakes. Each put in some solid performances during qualifying, keeping us on the lookout for T2 Squared.
Emerson Hyndman - Saving the best for last. The 18-year-old is highly regarded as the best American midfield prospect. He already plays regular first team football at Fulham, and made his debut with the USMNT in the Czech Republic last year. He was very clearly the best player on the pitch during U-20 qualifying, but unfortunately broke his collarbone during the tournament. He is technically savvy and has a great mind on the pitch. Throw that in with the American tradition at Fulham, and I believe we will see Hyndman become one of the next best Americans out there.
The U-20 World Cup begins in New Zealand on May 30th, and will conclude with the final on June 20th. I would be very surprised if the US did not at least progress out of their group. Stay tuned for more updates about the future of the USMNT.
This week we lost one of the greatest US soccer players in history when Frank Borghi died at age 89. He was one of the last living players remaining from the 1950 World Cup Team that shocked the world in Brazil. The 1950 World Cup was also the last appearance for the US at the event until 1990. Since TV wasn’t as prevalent around those days, we only have stories from those who were there. Luckily for fans, filmmakers decided to chronicle the team with the movie “The Game of Their Lives.” Popular actor Gerrard Butler played the goalkeeper Borghi in the film. Butler has been a part of multiple soccer-related projects, including Soccer Aid 2012, a semi-annual celebrity soccer match in England that raises funds for UNICEF.
1950 was an interesting time, considering WWII had just ended. Multiple players on the 1950 team had served in the US military, including Frank Borghi, who received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his service. At the time, most of the players on the team were amateur players, as the US did not have an established professional league.
Borghi grew up in The Hill neighborhood of St. Louis. Four other players on the team also grew up on The Hill, in addition to baseball legends Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola. The area was highly made up of Italian immigrants, and is still very Italian today. Other players on the team from St. Louis included Charlie Colombo, Gino Pariani, Harry Keough, and Frank “Pee Wee” Wallace.
The team was coached by Scot Bill Jeffery, who was a long time coach at Penn State. Three players on the team were not even US citizens at the time. Joe Maca was from Belgium, but later received US citizenship. Ed McIlvenny was from Scotland, and was the captain for the match in the upset of England. Joe Gaetjens was of Haitian descent, and scored the only goal in the England match. Other team members included Walter Bahr, John Souza, and Eddie Souza. There were no substitutes during that time, so those 11 players played the entire game. A St. Louis sports journalist Dent McSkimming was the only American journalist to make the trip to Brazil, even paying his own way. He is largely responsible for capturing the magnificent story of the 1950 team.
The team was assembled very hastily, with many players scrambling to make the trip. Gino Pariani even had to reschedule his wedding to the day before the team left to get married. Considering most of the players were not even full time, no one in the world expected the Americans to even compete, with 500-1 odds of winning the tournament. The US lost its opening match to Spain 3-1, surprising many around the world for keeping it that close. Harry Keough was captain for the match, as he was the only US player who spoke fluent Spanish. The next match was against England, who were expected to compete for the Cup coming in with odds at 3-1 to win the tournament.
The Miracle Match took place in Belo Horizonte in front of 10,000 mostly Brazilian fans. Fans were allegedly very pro-US, as Brazil did not want to face England until the finals. The British absolutely dominated from the beginning of the match, with Borghi making some brilliant saves. The US didn’t even get a shot off until the 25th minute, which was easily handled by the England goalkeeper. The English kept pressing the Americans until the 37th minute when Walter Bahr took a long shot that Joe Gaetjens redirected with his head into the net. The goal gave the Americans the lead, and a breath of new life heading into the half. The 2nd half was much of the same, with Borghi continuing to deny England an equalizer. In the 82nd, England star Stanley Mortensen broke through the defense with the ball, until Charlie Colombo tackled him from behind. The English pleaded for a penalty, but the Italian referee only gave a free kick from outside the box. They failed to convert the opportunity, and seemingly took the life out of the favorites. That was the last real chance they would get, and the US held on for a 1-0 victory.
The shock of the match was felt around the world, with some British believing that the score was a misprint. The US and England would go on to lose their final group match, and crash out together with identical 1 win and 2 loss records. This single match might be the greatest performance by a US team at a World Cup ever.
So today we grieve the loss of an American, one who was a brave veteran, and an impressive soccer player. Frank Borghi may have died, but his memory and story reminds us that we can still be great.
The draw for the Women’s World Cup brought an excitement that reassures us the main event is almost here. Despite not kicking off for another 6 months, the draw gave up plenty to talk about from now until then. FIFA put on a show in Ottawa for the Official Draw, while the 24 competing nations waited to see their fate revealed. Jerome Valcke, FIFA Secretary General, was the main host of the event and announced the nations as they were drawn into their respective groups.
With all of the seeded team placed in groups pre-draw, the interest was where the other 18 teams would land. The draw went great until Colombia was drawn into the same group as Brazil. The organizers moved Colombia to Group F and placed AFC nation South Korea in their Group E place. Other than that small blip, everything went smoothly. The draw created some interesting matchups for each of the groups.
Group A is made up of hosts Canada, China, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. Canada head coach John Herdman was manager of New Zealand from 2006-2011, giving the hosts a link to one of their opponents. As Andrew mentioned on the Center Circle, this group is oozing with potential for any of the teams involved. Canada will need their home field advantage as they hope to progress to the knockout stage.
Group B has two UEFA teams with Germany and Norway, in addition to Ivory Coast and Thailand. This will be Thailand’s first World Cup appearance, while two-time champions Germany will look to complement their men’s squad by adding a second World Cup in as many years. Norway will also be a threat, considering they are one of the four nations (USA, Germany, Japan) to win a World Cup.
Group C has reigning champions Japan, along with Switzerland, Cameroon, and Ecuador. The latter three are making their tournament debut. It seems Japan will have an easy path to the knockout stages, but the games have yet to be played. History is certain to be made, considering at least one of the debut nations will progress to the knockout rounds.
Group D has been dubbed this Cup’s version of the Group of Death. World power and two-time champions USA headline the group. Australia is always a fierce opponent, and Nigeria boast their resume as the reigning African champs. Sweden have former USA coach Pia Sundhage and three top 3 finishes at the World Cup to hang their hat on. Every team in this group had better strap on their goal scoring boots if they are going to progress out of the Group of Death.
Group F has an interesting mix with Brazil, South Korea, Spain, and Costa Rica. Brazil has progressed to the knockout stage in each of the last four World Cups, and they have Marta, the superstar who we had the opportunity to interview for the Instep. This will be the debut for Spain and Costa Rica’s women’s team, and the second tournament for the South Koreans. Similarly to Group C, it seems there is a favorite (Brazil), and three other teams hoping to progress.
That leaves us with Group F. The only team with a top 4 finish is France, who finished 4th in 2011. England, Colombia, and Mexico have all been to the tournament before, but without the success of some of the other groups. Any of these teams can progress as top 2 in the group, but don’t pencil anyone in until all the matches are played.
As usual the top 2 teams out of each group will progress to the knockout stage. However, with the expansion of the tournament to 24 teams, four of the six third place teams in each group will also progress, while the other two will be knocked out. Now managers have the task of preparing for their group games in the quest for the Cup. The first match will feature Canada vs China on June 6th, 2015 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
Just when we thought that Manchester United and the England national team were descending into an irrecoverable nosedive, their captain Wayne Rooney has almost singlehandedly willed his squads to get back on track. On top of that, Wazza has put up some pretty awesome individual accomplishments as well, winning his 100th cap for England in a Euro Qualifier against Slovenia. He is only 3 goals away from Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time record of 49, while Peter Shilton’s 125 caps are also within reach for Rooney. All the while, Rooney has captained these sides to important victories in the last month.
Starting with Manchester United, it was looking like the Red Devils were destined for another season without European competition. It began with early season struggles, hitting its peak with Rooney’s red card against West Ham in September, ruling him out for all the club’s October fixtures. He was notably rusty for the first match back against Manchester City, a 0-1 loss, but bounced back against Crystal Palace and Arsenal. He scored on a breakaway against Arsenal, which would prove to be the decisive goal in a 2-1 victory. The win and three points lifted United to 4th place in the Premier League.
Looking forward, Manchester United has some excellent opportunities to pick up points before the end of 2014. The next three matches are against Hull City, Stoke City, and Southampton, all teams that United can pick up points from. Above all, the club is beginning begin to play well, starting with their captain. With van Persie struggling, and Falcao being injured, Louis van Gaal will need Rooney to continue his inspiring play.
As for the England national team, things were looking pretty grim during the World Cup. Many were calling for Roy Hodgson to be sacked, claiming he was too old and not adapting to the new styles brought by South American players. Then Hodgson named Wayne Rooney captain, and the Three Lions have rattled off 6 straight wins. Rooney got his 100th cap in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia, scoring a goal in the process as well. Three days later he scored a brace against Scotland in a friendly. On top of all of that good news, England are tops in the Group E table with the maximum 12 points. While there are 6 match days to still be played, a six point cushion is pretty substantial at any stage.
Any rumors about sacking Roy Hodgson have been squashed, and Rooney with the captain’s armband seems to be working out pretty well. England are hoping that Wazza can continue his goal scoring streak all the way to next year, as the next time the Three Lions play is at the end of March 2015. If England are going to continue their success and qualify for Euro 2016, Rooney will be a major piece to the puzzle.
Maybe the break from international play will be good for Rooney, as he can concentrate on getting Manchester United some much needed points to ascend on the table. Teetering on the line between Champions League and Europa League is not a place that Red Devils supporters would like to be, but it is a welcome change from 7th place and being left out of European competition entirely. These past couple weeks have really been a pivotal stretch, while it seems United have turned the proverbial corner to success.
We would be remiss if we did not highlight some of the individual accomplishments of Wayne Rooney. He is now one of only 9 Englishmen in history to gain 100 caps for their national team. Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, and Frank Lampard are still playing, but have retired from international football with 107, 114, and 106 caps respectively. He joins Sir Bobby Charlton as the only forwards in the century cap list, while the all-time leader Peter Shilton is the only goalkeeper on the list. Bending legend David Beckham is second on the list with 115 caps over a 14-year span. As of today, he is 24 caps behind Peter Shilton, and 3 goals behind Sir Charlton.
There are questions as to whether Rooney will be able to eclipse both the caps and goalscoring records before his international career is over. We have a few numbers that might clear the picture. Despite 2014 not officially being complete, the English national team does not have any fixtures scheduled for the rest of the year. That means that Rooney will finish 2014 with 8 goals in 13 appearances. He had 6 goals in 10 appearances during 2013. His career average goals per appearance is .4554, roughly meaning he scores in just under half of the matches he plays. His 2013-14 average is .6086, which is considerably better than his career average.
Barring injury, Rooney will likely captain England through Euro 2016, assuming they qualify. England have 9 scheduled fixtures in 2015 between Euro qualifying and friendlies. Even with his career average, it is likely that Rooney will either tie or better Sir Charlton’s goalscoring record in 2015. There is no way he catches Peter Shilton’s cap record in 2015, but 9 more appearances would put Rooney in 4th place with 110 caps. 2016 would have friendlies, Euro 2016 competition, and probably some 2018 World Cup qualification. In 2012, England played 13 fixtures after advancing to the quarterfinals of Euro 2012. Another 13 matches in 2016 would put Rooney within spitting distance of Sir Charlton.
It is no sure thing that Rooney will play in every England match, but it is more likely now that Hodgson has made him captain. At age 29, Wazza still has plenty of good football left in him, injuries and age may slow him down. For now, we will say that the goal scoring record is probable, while the caps record is possible.
For all the debate about Rooney as a captain and a footballer, 100 caps for your country is an amazing achievement. We give two thumbs up and a standing ovation to Wazza, and wish him all the best in the years to come.
Player Escort program gives 25 children in U.S. once-in-a-lifetime trip to Brazil, grants to benefit local youth soccer organizations!
McDonald’s USA is giving young soccer enthusiasts the opportunity to meet their soccer heroes competing for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ trophy in Brazil this summer and also secure a $1,000 grant for a local soccer organization of choice.
Having started recently, McDonald’s Player Escort sweepstakes will give 25 super-lucky kids ranging from the ages of 6 to 10 the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to head to Brazil and walk out of the tunnel with some of the biggest names in the sport! Not only will they be attending a 2014 World Cup match, but the kid (along with a parent or guardian) will enjoy a four-night, five-day expedition to Brazil! In order to enter the contest, parents or guardians will need to visit www.McdOneGoal.com before April 6th to enter for the sweepstakes, with the winner going to Rio de Janiero and leading players onto the pitch in either Rio, Natal, Manaus or Recife.
The senior VP, global relationship officer of the McDonald’s Corporation, Dean Barret spoke of soccer’s growth in the U.S. and what his program hoped to acheive by saying, “Our Player Escort program aims to fuel kids’ passion for the game and inspire active play, while also giving twenty-five lucky U.S. winners an unforgettable experience with players.”
McDonald’s is continuing its partnership with U.S. Soccer for this year’s Player Escort program to motivate young athletes and help increase the popularity of soccer in America. In fact, McDonald’s has long been acknowledged by many in the U.S. National soccer set-up as being a huge contributor to the growth of the game at the youth level.
Globally and locally, McDonald’s will select 1,408 children from 70 countries including Brazil to serve as Player Escorts and support their country’s players during the month-long competition, which starts June 12 and culminates with the final match on July 13. During their time in Brazil, Player Escorts and their parent or guardian will experience the thrilling atmosphere of the FIFA World Cup™ and the lively surrounding culture.
McDonald’s Player Escort program began in 2002 at the FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™. Since that time, McDonald’s has given more than 6,000 children from around the world the chance to lead a player onto the field. Additionally, McDonald’s has been a supporter of soccer at both the global and grassroots levels for more than 25 years. The Company has served as an Official Sponsor and the Official Restaurant of the FIFA World Cup™ since the United States Tournament in 1994, continuing for each FIFA World Cup™ through to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
One last reminder, here is the website to enter the contest: www.McdOneGoal.com
For more info on McDonald’s, visit www.mcdonalds.com, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook for updates on business, promotions and products.
And, for more information on the growth and other sides of soccer in the U.S.A., visit www.ussoccer.com.
McDonald’s and Player Escort are registered trademarks of McDonald’s Corporation and its affiliates.