The 2019-2020 Premier League campaign got underway this past Friday in Liverpool as the Mercy-siders walloped newly promoted Norwich City at Anfield. It kickstarted a slate of opening weekend games as the PL returned with new teams, new players, new homes, and for the first time ever, VAR.
The big guns got off to a great start to the campaign with Man City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and Man United all opening up their seasons with wins. Chelsea was the lone “BIG 6” team that did not win as they fell to a 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford to the Red Devils. Meanwhile newly promoted teams did not fare so well asNorwich City, and Aston Villa all were defeated in their opening fixtures, and Sheffield United tied to the Cherries of Bournemouth 1-1. However it was VAR that stole the headlines of the weekend.
Making its debut in the Premier League this year, it was used a whopping 42 times, overturning five decisions. The language for the VAR in the Premier League is stated as such to only be used for goalscoring moments, and to correct “obvious” errors. In many cases it got the calls right, and also stole rhythm from the games which was already known to be the case. It was in the Man City vs West Ham game where VAR received it’s harshest criticisms, specifically on the Jesus goal where Sterling was ruled offsides, and Aguero’s penalty that was saved but brought back due to infringement.
The system still isn’t perfect, but for the most part it gets the calls correct. The scenario in the City game where Sterling was ruled offsides was a scenario that will cause problems for VAR as the margin was SO slim that many would argue even the technology couldn’t prove the call right or wrong one way or another.
This year’s Premier League campaign should be more thrilling than the last. Whilst City are still the clear favorites, it feels like more than one squad can challenge them and prevent them from winning three straight titles.
What was your thoughts on the opening weekend and VAR’s impact? Share your opinions with us in the comment section below. orts
The U.S. Women’s national team advanced to the semifinals of the 2019 Women’s World Cup on Friday, with a 2-1 win over host nation France. Both sides entered the fixture as the number one and number two favorite to win the tournament, with many thinking that the winner of this game would go on to win the whole thing. That now remains to be seen, but the USA advance onward to a semifinal matchup vs England on Tuesday.
Megan Rapinoe got the stars and stripes off to a dream start with a free kick goal in the 5th minute of the game. She drilled the kick from the left side of the goal low and hard into a mix of French and American players. Somehow, through all the clutter, the ball squeaked through, and with the goalkeeper unable to see what was in front of her, it found the back of the net. Rapinoe then added on to her stellar game, knocking home a cross at the back post from Tobin Heath to put the U.S. up 2-0 in the 65th minute. From that point, the US went to a 5 player defensive system, a sign of “buttoning down the hatches” to try and close out the game.
In the 81st minute, France got one back off a free kick which found the head of the tallest player on the field in Renard. She powered the header past Naeher who had no chance to make the save, and France had life. The USA did well to hold off France for the final 10+ minutes, and send the host nation home much earlier than they would have liked.
France dominated possession having the ball for over 60% of the game, as well as having 20 shots to the USA’s 10. Despite having more of the ball, USA had more shots on target (8) and had the more dangerous chances of the game. With Rapinoe’s two goals, she now has five for the tournament, and is tied with teammate Alex Morgan and England forward Ellen White for the Golden Boot race.
“That was the most intense match I have ever been a part of” coach Jill Ellis said. “A win is a win in the World Cup”.
Julie Ertz added “We had to defend a lot. That’s what the game gave us. We take a lot of pride of having a lot of tools in our toolbox”. Ertz played a crucial role in midfield for the USA before dropping back into defense when the U.S. switched to a back five.
The USA has not trailed for a single minute of the 2019 World Cup, however, the margins of their victories have gotten smaller and smaller as each game has gone on. Going to a back 5, something rarely done by the USA who are known to constantly attack, shows just how nervy things got. Maybe that is a good thing though. The group heads into the semifinals vs England battle tested, knowing that they can grind out tight games. The Americans are now just two wins away from repeating as back to back World Cup champions, a feat only accomplished by Germany in 2003 and 2007.
- Brazil vs. Paraguay (June 27) – Porto Alegre
- Venezuela vs. Argentina (June 28) – Salvador
- Colombia vs. Chile (June 28) – Sao Paulo
- Uruguay vs. Peru (June 29) – Recife
- Winner QF 1 vs Winner QF2 (July 2) – Belo Horizonte
- Winner QF3 vs Winner QF4 (July 3) Porto Alegre
- Loser SF1 vs Loser SF2 (July 6th) – Sao Paulo
- Winner SF1 vs Winner SF2 (July 7th) – Rio de Janeiro
The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup round of 16 concluded on Tuesday and the quarterfinal match-ups have been set. Europe has been dominate so far in this World Cup. Seven of the eight teams remaining are European and the lone outcast is the United States. Here’s how the next round of fixtures will look and a preview of each.
Germany vs Sweden
We start with Germany and Sweden who will face off this Saturday. The Germans were flawless in group play winning all three of their games, and have still yet to concede a goal this tournament. They are looking like a true contender to bring the cup home in typical German soccer fashion. Germany defeated Nigeria 3-0 en route to a quarterfinal matchup against Sweden. Sweden who finished second in their group to the USA is always a threat in the women’s international game. The Swedes narrowly edged out Canada 1-0 in their round of 16 game, a game in which Canada missed a PK to tie the game. This should be one of the better quarterfinal match-ups among the four, played very tightly and tactically.
Prediction – Germany concedes it’s first goal of the tournament, but defeats Sweden 2-1.
Italy vs Netherlands
Next up is Italy who take on the Netherlands on Saturday. Italy were a surprise winner of their group which features the likes of Brazil and Australia. All three teams finished with 6 points but it was Italy who advanced in first place on goal differential, defeating Jamaica and Australia and losing to Brazil. Meanwhile the Netherlands dominated group play with three wins including an impressive victory over Canada. Italy beat China 2-0 in the round of 16 while Netherlands outlasted Japan thanks to a 90th minute penalty kick giving the Dutch a 2-1 victory. Italy typically has the reputation for being very defensive, while the Dutch, very technical, and fluid in possession. If Italy are to win this one, we expect it to be done potentially in extra time or in penalties, but advantage Netherlands heading into this quarterfinal game.
Prediction – Italy defend well and frustrate the Dutch, but it is not enough as the Netherlands narrowly escape with a 1-0 victory.
England vs Norway
On the other side of the bracket, Norway match up with England in the first of the quarterfinal games this Thursday. Norway finished as runners up in their group to hosts France and squeaked by a strong Australia side in penalties after the game finished 1-1. England have had a resurgence in the last couple international cycles and carried that momentum through an undefeated group stage, which included a win over Japan. This game should be another tightly contested match with both teams looking to stay organized and attack off the others mistakes.
Prediction – 1-1 after 120 minutes and England lose on penalties in classic England fashion. Norway goes two for two in penalty shootouts and onto the semi finals.
United States vs France
That leaves us with the matchup everyone has their eyes on, powerhouses USA take on host nation France, kicking off this Friday. This game very well could be the best game of the entire World Cup, and could just as easily produce our eventual champion. The USA enters the match as the favorite to win the World Cup, ever so slightly over France. Both sides won their groups with relative ease, and both played below their potential in their round of 16 matchups vs Spain and Brazil respectively. The result of this finals like matchup in the quarterfinal round will depend on two factors.
First, will France try and play off the defensive like Spain did, and frustrate the Americans in their efforts to attack. This would be the sensible decision, but France, a strong team of its own, and the host nation, may choose to go toe to toe with the Americans, which could be a big mistake. The second key is the goalkeeping for team USA. Alyssa Naeher has had a good year for club and has gotten off to a good start internationally. However, this is her first ever World Cup, and she hasn’t looked like the confident rock we’ve grown accustomed to in goal for the USA like Hope Solo or Brianna Scurry of years past. We expect Naeher to be tested, how she answers the bell will be a huge factor in who wins and who loses this all star matchup.
Prediction – No bias here! USA defeats France 3-1 as the depth and drive of the Americans rises to the occasion and knocks the host nation out of the World Cup!
The semi finals are set to take place on July 2nd and 3rd, and the consolation game and final on June 6th and 7th respectively.
Give us your thoughts on the Women’s World Cup thus far, and how you think it will play out going forward.
When a player is regarded by only one name; Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Pele, Maradona, it usually means they’re good, really good.
Marta, also falls into that same category, she is really good, and everyone knows her by one name, Marta. In fact, she is more than really good, many think she is the best women’s player to ever play the game. It would be hard to argue with that claim. She has the most goals ever for any male or female player in World Cup history, she is a 6 time FIFA Player of the Year, has scored in 5 world cups, and has more World Cup Goals than any Brazilian player ever. Yes that includes Ronaldo, and Pele.
Marta is however missing one major piece on her resume, a World Cup Trophy, and at age 33 this year was thought to be the last opportunity for her to earn one. Brazil struggled through group play and qualified for the knockout stages as a third place team. Unfortunately that meant they had to meet the host nation France in the round of 16, who were among the top 3 favorites to win the tournament at the start.
When Brazil and France meet in a World Cup, there is always drama, and it rarely disappoints. Sunday’s match was no different. France had a first half goal taken off the board thanks to VAR, but managed to open the scoring in the second half, and grab the first lead of the game. Brazil answered just 10 minutes later with a goal that stood up against VAR to tie the game. It would remain that way through 90 minutes and extra time would be required. Despite an excellent opportunity for Brazil to take the lead in overtime, it was France who scored first in the 106th minute with a goal from Amandine Henry … no not Thierry. The result would hold and it was France who would move on ending the journey for Marta’s Brazil.
Naturally the Brazilian side including Marta was very emotional after the game. Many of their star players are aging, and the window with their “golden generation” is all but closed. Through all the tears and emotions that flooded the pitch, Marta delivered maybe one of the most powerful post game interviews ever, across any sport male or female, to her nation and the female footballers within it.
Staring down the lens of the camera, into the eyes of millions across the globe watching, here is what Marta had to say (translated from Portuguese to English) to her nation.
“It’s wanting more, it’s training more, it’s taking care of yourself more. It’s being ready to play 90 minutes plus 30. This is what I ask of the girls. There is not going to be a Formiga forever, there is not going to be a Marta forever, there is not going to be a Cristiane. The women’s game depends on you to survive. Think about that. Value it more. Cry in the beginning so you can smile in the end.”
If Marta is not the greatest women’s footballer of all time, she is certainly one of them. And if this is her last time in a Brazil kit on the World Cup stage, she certainly closed this chapter of her career with a powerful message that speaks to way more than just the game of soccer.
It wasn’t too long ago when the U.S. Men’s national team was walking off the pitch in disbelief and embarrassment, after losing 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago, and failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup for the first time in decades.
In truth, it has been a turbulent journey for the USMNT over the last two plus years since the departure of Coach Jurgen Klinsmann. They’ve fallen under serious criticism by a nation that was just starting to gain serious momentum in the soccer world. They’ve had three coaches since 2016 when Jurgen parted ways with the United States Soccer Federation; Bruce Arena, Dave Sarachan, and now Greg Berhalter. And above all else, they’ve lacked a real identity in playing style for quite some time.
Despite a rough start to the Berhalter era, the USMNT managed to fight off some demons from their not too distant past when taking on Trinidad and Tobago over the weekend in game two the 2019 Gold Cup’s group stages. Although many players said revenge wasn’t on their minds, you could see from the demeanor of the players throughout the game, that this game meant a little extra. Often physical and chippy throughout the match, the USMNT clearly played with an edge, and managed to break open the scoring just four minutes before half time to take a 1-0 lead.
Scoring a goal before halftime can be a major momentum shifting moment, and on this day, it was certainly the case. The Americans would pour on an onslaught of goals in the second half, five to be exact, including one by international star Christian Pulisic. The game would end 6-0 in favor of the USMNT.
“Every time we step on the field we want to make a statement,” said U.S. forward Gyasi Zardes, who scored twice and barely missed a third. “We’re trying to change the way the world views American soccer.”
Overall there is still a lot to be done with in the men’s national soccer program to reach the levels of success and consistency so many believe this country is capable of reaching. There is still a lot to be done this summer in their quest for another Gold Cup trophy. However, maybe, just maybe, a big win, over the team that knocked the USA out of the World Cup a little over a year ago, is the first positive step forward for this new tenure in it’s journey to establish themselves as a formidable soccer nation.