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.
In modern sports, the easiest way to alert your Twitter/Instagram followers, facebook friends, social media cohorts, or people in your phone contacts that you are out enjoying an amazing soccer game would be to take a picture. That picture could either be of the action on the field or a “selfie” taken from your seat in the stadium. Still, it is rare that someone lucks into capturing a picture of themselves within a pivotal moment in the contest or right after the celebrations have started…it seems that Fanpics is going to change all of that.
An app that you can download onto your mobile device (for free), Fanpics is currently extending across stadiums in the U.S. as teams and franchises look to deliver the best fan experience possible. While currently only housed in the home of the LA Galaxy in terms of MLS teams, Fanpics is rapidly spreading and growing in popularity. So, how does Fanpics work? And, how will it improve my game experience?
Well, Fanpics is, in the simplest terms, an app that delivers pictures of the fans. However, instead of a few shots taken during the game and of only a few sections, stadiums equipped with Fanpics equipment take constant pictures of the fans and they take the pictures with hi-res cameras. The constant pics and hi-res cameras allow any fan to find themselves in the stands at the game (with amazing clarity). This means that there is a picture of you and your friends celebrating the winning goal or the looks on your faces as the last-second penalty is about to be taken. Did you all react hilariously to the opposing player diving? You can find a picture of that exact moment!
Is that not enough? To make it even better, Fanpics also makes sure that you can match the moment on the pitch with your reaction! Love the face you made with the winning goal, but you want people to know WHY you were screaming for joy? Fanpics makes it where you can find a picture of what was happening on the field that matches up (time-wise) with how you were reacting in the stands. That means that you can pair your unique reaction with the incident that caused it to occur. Fanpics takes around a million photos in every Galaxy game and the photos can be accessed by fans within 30 seconds of the shot being taken!
As we mentioned earlier, the tech’s only MLS residence is at the StubHub Center, but we are hoping that it spreads to the rest of the MLS very soon. Considering how much fun we see in the fan sections at the MLS games every week, I would be super excited to see these pictures of the fan sections during pivotal moments in the game. For a sport that is growing as we step farther into the future, Fanpics is a welcome addition that helps make a fan experience (that is already impressive) a little bit more special.
The Fanpics platform is based on a free, downloaded app, through which photos are delivered in real time to each fan’s mobile phone, allowing them to be instantly shared via social networks. To learn more about the Fanpics story and how to download the app for free, visit fanpics.com. To get in contact with Fanpics for business inquiries and additional information reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Luckily, the MLS allowed all followers of stateside soccer an astonishing precedent this last year with the transfer of Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley; otherwise the latest MLS transfer would be headline news. Jermaine Jones is heading to the MLS and the brash midfielder will be joining the New England Revolution. While this entire article could be comprised about how confusing it is that Jones ended up with his new team, the article where we say the “MLS Continues to Require We Accept Odd Rules,” is not currently in the process. But, why does this newest move have a need for the fan-base to lead with patience?
For the mass of people still decrying the MLS and screaming for it to be the carbon copy of the EPL, this move does (genuinely) show that the American league is still taking steps towards being a legitimate league. Do you remember when the All-Star Game used to just involve a European power beating an MLS to a pulp? The game this season, while one victory can never be justified as a trend, showed that the gulf is no longer as wide as the oceans that separate the MLS from the European giants. While there is no MLS team that could hold their own within the realm of a major European league (perhaps stave off relegation, but nothing else), it now looks like the players actually play a similar level of soccer.
So, this is where the call for patience comes in, and why you can’t allow the success in the recent All-Star Game to cloud your judgment…seeing the MLS on par with other major leagues is still a decade (or more) away. Don Garber and the owners are aware of this and the league is taking small, researched, intelligent steps whenever a situation allows. Looking for relegation? No, as the financial gap between MLS and the next step down would not support it. Looking for the Designated Player slots to disappear soon? No, as the growth of the league has depended on a fair bit of parity within the league itself.
The league is growing. The play is improving. The quality of players that we are seeing within the clubs, the quality of the fan-base with the clubs, and the quality of coverage that we are getting with the league is improving and is showing a continual growth. Understand that the top flight of English soccer has existed for over 100 years and that the MLS is barely over 20 years old! While the dream of the MLS ever eclipsing a major European league is farcical (the U.S.A. has a plethora of major sports leagues to support), the present nature and actions of the MLS seem to point towards a consistent growth. The MLS requires your patience…and your realization that America’s league is a different animal and requires special care.
For anyone that has resigned themselves to sitting at home and watching the World Cup because they would be unable to work their way down into Brazil on their own, McDonald’s may have provided you with the last-second solution. While continuing to show and celebrate their sponsorship of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, McDonald’s are going to send some lucky fans to the third place and FIFA World Cup Final match in a contest that runs from June 10th to June 23rd.
All of this comes on top of the McDonald’s Player Escort program that we covered a few months ago and will continue to raise awareness of soccer and the World Cup within the United States. Customers will find game pieces on the Egg McMuffin, Large Fries, and 10- and 20-piece Chicken McNuggets where they can win Arch Cards (valued at $10/$50/or $100), U.S. Soccer gear, Fanatics.com digital gift codes and free McDonald’s food. As if any of us needed an excuse to snag some McDonald’s over the summer, well…. now, we have one!
All of McDonald’s large French Fry boxes will also be getting Brazil-inspired paint jobs during the tournament, further showing how the massive brand will continue to help build soccer awareness at all levels.
Approximately 11 months ago or so, everyone was proclaiming from the rooftops that Bayern would rule the world for years and that the German giants had not only ended Barcelona’s reign, but they had replaced the Catalan club. A few mere hours after Munich watched their Champions League aspirations get crushed by a titanic Real Madrid outing, it seems impossible that the Bayern steamroller was halted so swiftly and firmly. But, perhaps an even bigger story than Bayern’s sudden failure with Pep at the helm, is this Madrid team THAT dominant? A 4-0 destruction of a team that, at least halfway through March, was still seen as the mightiest squad in the world…what does it all mean?
The scariest part of this Madrid show of power is that the team still feels like there is building to be done. Benzema will, inevitably, be replaced with someone better. Whether it be a Luis Suarez or someone else, the spearhead of the attack will be better. On top of that, Gareth Bale will only CONTINUE to improve and mix into this squad. Chelsea may have shown how to defend compactly and counterattack against Liverpool at the weekend, but Madrid just gave a master class on how to do it best…the difference between a High School diploma and a Doctorate.
No matter who Madrid catch in their sights for the Champions League final or their final La Liga fixtures, it feels like everything is rolling downhill for Madrid right now. Ronaldo is back in Ballon D’Or form, Di Maria actually lets us forget how one-footed he is, Modric finally fits, Bale is actually working towards his transfer fee value, Casillas AND Diego Lopez are playing fantastically, and the rest of Madrid seems to be following suit. Heck, Sergio Ramos just scored a brace!
There is very little about what Madrid did in Germany that was not amazing. To shut down Bayern Munich is just as impressive as scoring 4 against them on their own turf. If it was not for the quick reaction of players to constantly surround the referee at all times, they might even be likable. This is now a team to be feared, and a team that will remain largely unchanged once the next campaign rolls around.
The craziest part of this story is that Madrid could be this dominant and still not take the CL or La Liga title home this season! If Atletico stay on top and do not surrender points (even their last match against Barcelona does not seem like a likely drop of points), Madrid will miss La Liga. The two teams remaining in the Champions League feel like the only teams with the know-how to challenge Real (Real Madrid dwarfs them both exponentially in talent though). To imagine such a remarkably talented team missing out on major silverware makes for a fantastic storyline…so which story will still be written? No matter what, we are witnessing the pinnacle or might from this Real team…just ask Bayern…they will probably be having nightmares for months!
Banned for the first five games of the season and seen as a piece that was teetering on the edge of being more “problem” than “solution” for Liverpool, Luis Suarez seemed destined to depart his English club for greener/Champions League pastures at the end of the 2013/14 season. With the attitude of the whiny Uruguayan during the summer having most speculating that his performances for Liverpool would be poor, it seemed unlikely that Suarez would be seeing Champions League football provided by Liverpool and his sale would be forced through.
Now, thirty goals and an impressive number of assists later, Suarez has been the catalyst that has pushed Liverpool back into the competition that Anfield demands and actually has Liverpool fans hoping (albeit hoping that City stumbles more than Liverpool succeeds) for a possible Premier League title. His work effort as a striker is second to none and he is, easily, the hardest attacker for Premier League defenses to keep track of for 90 minutes. While Sturridge and other Liverpool attackers have also been finding the back of the net with impressive regularity, it takes very little courage to say that Sturridge and the others would probably have their goal totals slashed in half without teams having to also focus on El Pistolero and without Suarez providing them with so many promising chances.
While there have been other impressive players in the Premier League this season, Suarez would probably be flirting with 40 league goals this season if he had not been absent for the first five matches of the season. It is also difficult to add-in the club’s accomplishments with a player when deciding who should win this award, but Liverpool’s jump from the second-best club in their own city to one of the best clubs in all of England (maybe even Europe?) this season has to be attributed to the other-worldly level play of Suarez. Considering the amount of goals that Liverpool have allowed this season, they would probably be battling for Europa League spots (at best) if Suarez was not playing at this level.
If his conduct remains as impressive as it has been this season and he keeps up any semblance of the form he is currently in, he has the ability to become one of the greatest players that Liverpool (and even England) will have ever seen. The only thing that should scare Liverpool fans would be that his stellar play will have caught the interest of clubs with the resources available to tempt the sale of Suarez. Still, from that perspective, Suarez’s play this season (and his new contract) will have increased his transfer fee by incredible amounts. If Liverpool are to experience any type of CL success and remain in Champions League contention next season, the Uruguayan forward will be absolutely pivotal.
In parting, if Suarez is not (at least) on the shortlist for the upcoming Ballon D’Or…then somebody has messed up. If the striker is able to carry his form into Brazil this summer, underestimating Uruguay would be at your own peril. Suarez deserved this award, and he has made it where Liverpool deserves Champions League football. Impressive for a man that was only seen as a cannibal and racist around one year ago…very impressive…
A discussion in my household about the MLS rarely strays far away from my wife’s beloved Portland Timbers and her constant desire to see the “fish gutted” in their current campaign. However, after the beginning of the season has shown serious doubt on whether the Timbers can return to last season’s heights, even my “RCTID” wife realizes that there are some serious pieces of the MLS that are broken…and need fixing.
The MLS claims parity…and yet, sadly, this is not how a league grows. A league needs dominant forces…it needs constant underdogs…and it needs to breed hatred toward the teams that can spend freely and a love for the teams that are successful on a tight budget. Although Beckham’s idea is probably motivated by a fair amount of selfish greed, the Miami man makes some serious sense here.
The MLS will never grow as fans are unable to flock to a “bandwagon” team. Look at the EPL and La Liga as newborn fans are able to herd themselves towards Chelsea, Manchester United, City, Real Madrid, and Barcelona because of the success that new fans are able to immediately experience when they discover European soccer. Although LA Galaxy can be a fairly safe bet, the simple view of the early season fixtures show that the MLS is devoid of the type of constants that help build a league.
The NBA grows as new fans can flock to LeBron or a team with a wealth of history, the NFL never fails to see success from one of the old firms and failure from the constant punching bags, MLB will always be dominated by the Yankees and other juggernauts that see fans roll in by the thousands, and even college sports are full of constant story-lines that draw fans in. The MLS has very little in common with these ever-growing sports. No major powers able to outspend opponents (and draw the ire of “purists”), the playoffs have a different feel every season, and the MLS almost forces you to relearn everything about the league at the beginning of every season.
Toronto FC spent a ton of money this season, and, while money never really guarantees success, there is no telling what it could ever mean for Toronto this season. Seattle failed miserably at the tail-end of last season, but the tides of Cascadia have turned without any real change in terms of personnel or administration. The MLS preaches parity…but the best leagues in the world are successful because of the LACK of parity…
While Beckham’s ideals might be simply to bring big names to Miami, the league needs the stories that a lack of salary cap would bring. There needs to be a team that new fans or curious eyes can be drawn to…there needs to be teams (outside of a particular rival) that new fans can immediately hate or love because of how they do business…and the league needs the ability to overspend and bring in big-names without having to worry about the Designated Player rules.
Please – for the good of the league and the future growth of domestic football, get rid of the salary cap. While Beckham has never been one of my favorite legends, he might have a serious point on getting rid of the cap. As someone that really wants to see the MLS succeed, it feels like this might be the right time.
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.