Tag Archives: Soccer

Euro 2016 Group and Knockout Stage Schedules

The French National Team training in March 2016. Ousmane Dembele is pictured trying to control the ball. Euro 2016 will be held across France in June and July. (AFP / Franck Fife)

Euro 2016 Group and Knockout Stage Schedules

We are just two weeks away from the start of Euro 2016 and the group stage schedule is known along with the composition of the groups. Below are the groups as well as the schedule for each game in that group. Game times are Eastern Standard Time for the United States. The stadium and location of the stadia are also noted below.

Also provided are the daily schedules of the games that can be found near the bottom of this post. TV channels will be provided when they are known. Below the group standings and schedules are the daily schedules

Group A

TeamPlayedWDLGFGAGDPts
France (A)32104137
Switzerland (A)31202115
Albania (Elim)310213-23
Romania (Elim)301224-21

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocation
10-Jun-20163:00 PMFrance2:1RomaniaESPN2Stade de FranceSaint-Denis
11-Jun-20169:00 AMAlbania0:1SwitzerlandESPNStade Bollaert-DelelisLens
15-Jun-201612:00 PMRomania1:1SwitzerlandESPNParc des PrincesParis
15-Jun-20163:00 PMFrance2:0AlbaniaESPNStade VelodromeMarseille
19-Jun-20163:00 PMSwitzerland0:0FranceESPNStade Pierre-MauroyLille
19-Jun-20163:00 PMRomania0:1AlbaniaESPN2Parc Olympique LyonnaisLyon

Group B

TeamPlayedWDLGFGAGDPts
Wales (A)32016336
England (A)31203215
Slovakia (A)31113304
Russia (Elim)301226-41

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocation
11-Jun-201612:00 PMWales2:1SlovakiaESPNNouveau Stade de BordeauxBordeaux
11-Jun-20163:00 PMEngland1:1RussiaESPNStade VelodromeMarseille
15-Jun-20169:00 AMRussia1:2SlovakiaESPNStade Pierre-MauroyLille
16-Jun-20169:00 AMEngland2:1WalesESPNStade Bollaert-DelelisLens
20-Jun-20163:00 PMSlovakia0:0EnglandESPNStade Geoffroy-GuichardSaint-Etienne
20-Jun-20163:00 PMRussia0:3WalesESPN2Stade MunicipalToulouse

Group C

TeamPlayedWDLGFGAGDPts
Germany (A)32103037
Poland (A)32102027
Northern
Ireland (A)
31022203
Ukraine (Elim)300305-50

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocation
12-Jun-201612:00 PMPoland1:0N IrelandESPNAllianz RivieraNice
12-Jun-20163:00 PMGermany2:0UkraineESPNStade Pierre-MauroyLille
16-Jun-201612:00 PMUkraine0:2N IrelandESPNParc Olympique LyonnaisLyon
16-Jun-20163:00 PMGermany0:0PolandESPNStade de FranceSaint-Denis
21-Jun-201612:00 PMN Ireland0:1GermanyESPNParc des PrincesParis
21-Jun-201612:00 PMUkraine0:1PolandESPN2Stade VelodromeMarseille

Group D

TeamPlayedWDLGFGAGDPts
Croatia (A)32105327
Spain (A)32015236
Turkey (Elim)310224-23
Czech Republic (Elim)301225-31

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocation
12-Jun-20169:00 AMTurkey0:1CroatiaESPNParc des PrincesParis
13-Jun-20169:00 AMSpain1:0Czech Rep.ESPNStade MunicipalToulouse
17-Jun-201612:00 PMCzech Rep.2:2CroatiaESPNStade Geoffroy-GuichardSaint-Etienne
17-Jun-20163:00 PMSpain3:0TurkeyESPNAllianz RivieraNice
21-Jun-20163:00 PMCroatia2:1SpainESPNNouveau Stade de BordeauxBordeaux
21-Jun-20163:00 PMCzech Rep.0:2TurkeyESPN2Stade Bollaert-DelelisLens

Group E

TeamPlayedWDLGFGAGDPts
Italy (A)32013126
Belgium (A)32014226
Rep. of Ireland (A)311124-24
Sweden (Elim)301213-21

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocation
13-Jun-201612:00 PMRep. Ireland1:1SwedenESPNStade de FranceSaint-Denis
13-Jun-20163:00 PMBelgium2:0ItalyESPNParc Olympique LyonnaisLyon
17-Jun-20169:00 AMItaly1:0SwedenESPNStadium MunicipalToulouse
18-Jun-20169:00 AMBelgium3:0Rep. IrelandESPNNouveau Stade de BordeauxBordeaux
22-Jun-20163:00 PMItaly0:1Rep. IrelandESPNStade Pierre-MauroyLille
22-Jun-20163:00 PMSweden0:1BelgiumESPN2Allianz RivieraNice

Group F

TeamPlayedWDLGFGAGDPts
Hungary (A)31206425
Iceland (A)31204315
Portugal (A)30304403
Austria (Elim)301114-31

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocation
14-Jun-201612:00 PMAustria0:2HungaryESPNNouveau Stade de BordeauxBordeaux
14-Jun-20163:00 PMPortugal1:1IcelandESPNStade Geoffroy-GuichardSaint-Etienne
18-Jun-201612:00 PMIceland1:1HungaryESPNStade VelodromeMarseille
18-Jun-20163:00 PMPortugal0:0AustriaESPNParc des PrincesParis
22-Jun-201612:00 PMHungary3:3PortugalESPNParc Olympique LyonnaisLyon
22-Jun-201612:00 PMIceland2:1AustriaESPN2Stade de FranceSaint-Denis

June 10 Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocationGroup
10-Jun-20163:00 PMFrance2:1RomaniaESPN2Stade de FranceSaint-DenisGroup A

June 11 Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocationGroup
11-Jun-20169:00 AMAlbania0:1SwitzerlandESPNStade Bollaert-DelelisLensGroup A
11-Jun-201612:00 PMWales2:1SlovakiaESPNNouveau Stade de BordeauxBordeauxGroup B
11-Jun-20163:00 PMEngland1:1RussiaESPNStade VelodromeMarseilleGroup B

June 12 Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocationGroup
12-Jun-20169:00 AMTurkey0:1CroatiaESPNParc des PrincesParisGroup D
12-Jun-201612:00 PMPoland1:0N IrelandESPNAllianz RivieraNiceGroup C
12-Jun-20163:00 PMGermany2:0UkraineESPNStade Pierre-MauroyLilleGroup C

June 13 Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocationGroup
13-Jun-20169:00 AMSpain1:0Czech Rep.ESPNStade MunicipalToulouseGroup D
13-Jun-201612:00 PMRep. Ireland1:1SwedenESPNStade de FranceSaint-DenisGroup E
13-Jun-20163:00 PMBelgium0:2ItalyESPNParc Olympique LyonnaisLyonGroup E

June 14 Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocationGroup
14-Jun-201612:00 PMAustria0:2HungaryESPNNouveau Stade de BordeauxBordeauxGroup F
14-Jun-20163:00 PMPortugal1:1IcelandESPNStade Geoffroy-GuichardSaint-EtienneGroup F

June 15 Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocationGroup
15-Jun-20169:00 AMRussia1:2SlovakiaESPNStade Pierre-MauroyLilleGroup B
15-Jun-201612:00 PMRomania1:1SwitzerlandESPNParc des PrincesParisGroup A
15-Jun-20163:00 PMFrance2:0AlbaniaESPNStade VelodromeMarseilleGroup A

June 16 Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocationGroup
16-Jun-20169:00 AMEngland2:1WalesESPNStade Bollaert-DelelisLensGroup B
16-Jun-201612:00 PMUkraine0:2N IrelandESPNParc Olympique LyonnaisLyonGroup C
16-Jun-20163:00 PMGermany0:0PolandESPNStade de FranceSaint-DenisGroup C

June 17 Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocationGroup
17-Jun-20169:00 AMItaly1:0SwedenESPNStadium MunicipalToulouseGroup E
17-Jun-201612:00 PMCzech Rep.2:2CroatiaESPNStade Geoffroy-GuichardSaint-EtienneGroup D
17-Jun-20163:00 PMSpain3:0TurkeyESPNAllianz RivieraNiceGroup D

June 18 Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocationGroup
18-Jun-20169:00 AMBelgium3:0Rep. IrelandESPNNouveau Stade de BordeauxBordeauxGroup E
18-Jun-201612:00 PMIceland1:1HungaryESPNStade VelodromeMarseilleGroup F
18-Jun-20163:00 PMPortugal0:0AustriaESPNParc des PrincesParisGroup F

June 19 Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocationGroup
19-Jun-20163:00 PMSwitzerland0:0FranceESPNStade Pierre-MauroyLilleGroup A
19-Jun-20163:00 PMRomania0:1AlbaniaESPN2Parc Olympique LyonnaisLyonGroup A

June 20 Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocationGroup
20-Jun-20163:00 PMSlovakia0:0EnglandESPNStade Geoffroy-GuichardSaint-EtienneGroup B
20-Jun-20163:00 PMRussia0:3WalesESPN2Stade MunicipalToulouseGroup B

June 21 Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocationGroup
21-Jun-201612:00 PMN Ireland0:1GermanyESPNParc des PrincesParisGroup C
21-Jun-201612:00 PMUkraine0:1PolandESPN2Stade VelodromeMarseilleGroup C
21-Jun-20163:00 PMCroatia2:1SpainESPNNouveau Stade de BordeauxBordeauxGroup D
21-Jun-20163:00 PMCzech Rep.0:2TurkeyESPN2Stade Bollaert-DelelisLensGroup D

June 22 Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocationGroup
22-Jun-201612:00 PMHungary3:3PortugalESPNParc Olympique LyonnaisLyonGroup F
22-Jun-201612:00 PMIceland2:1AustriaESPN2Stade de FranceSaint-DenisGroup F
22-Jun-20163:00 PMItaly0:1Rep. IrelandESPNStade Pierre-MauroyLilleGroup E
22-Jun-20163:00 PMSweden0:1BelgiumESPN2Allianz RivieraNiceGroup E

Knockout Stages

Below is the schedule for each of the knockout stages starting with the Round of 16 followed by the Quarter-finals, Semi-finals, and Final. The schedules will be updated as the participants are known.

Round of 16 Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocation
25-Jun-20169 AMSwizterland1:1 (4:5 PK)PolandESPNStade Geoffroy-GulchardSaint-Etienne
25-Jun-201612 PMWales1:0Northern IrelandESPNParc de PrincesParis
25-Jun-20163 PMCroatia0:1 (aet)PortugalESPNStade Bollaert-DelelisLen
26-Jun-20169 AMFrance2:1Republic of IrelandESPNParc Olympique LyonnaisLyon
26-Jun-201612 PMGermany3:0SlovakiaESPNStade Pierre-MauroyVilleneuve-d'Ascq
26-Jun-20163 PMHungary0:4BelgiumESPNStadium MunicipalToulouse
27-June-201612 PMItaly2:0SpainESPN2Stade de FranceSaint-Denis
27-June-20163 PMEngland1:2IcelandESPN2Allianz RiveriaNice

Quarter-Finals Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocation
30-Jun-20163 PMPoland1:1 (3:5 PK)PortugalESPN2Stade VelodromeMarseille
1-Jul-20163 PMWales3:1BelgiumESPN2Stade Pierre-MauroyVilleneuve-d'Asq
2-Jul-20163 PMGermany1:1 (6:5 PK)ItalyESPN2Nouveau Stade de BordeauxBordeaux
3-Jul-20163 PMFrance5:2IcelandESPNStade de FranceSaint-Denis

Semi-Finals Schedule

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocation
6-Jul-20163 PMPortugal2:0WalesESPNParc Olympique LyonnaisLyon
7-Jul-20163 PMGermany0:2FranceESPNStade VelodromeMarseille

Final

DateTime (EST)Team #1ScoreTeam #2TVStadiumLocation
10-Jul-20163 PMPortugal1:0 (aet)FranceESPNStade de FranceSaint-Denis

The Remaining Schedules For Leicester City And Tottenham

Leicester City are five points clear with seven games to play in the Premier League ( Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe)

The Remaining Schedules For Leicester City And Tottenham

The English Premier League is starting to come to end, but how much drama will there be between the two presumptive title chasers of Leicester City and Tottenham? We will find out, but let’s take a closer look at their respective schedules.

First, let’s see how the table shapes up as of the games completed on Sunday, March 20, 2016:

2015-16 EPL Standings as of 3.20.16

Leicester City has a five point lead with seven games to play while Arsenal sits 11 points off lead in third with an extra game in hand. For the purposes of this article, we will only focus on Leicester City and Tottenham. Below are the schedules for each team.

Final 7 Games For Leicester City and Tottenham

Leicester and Tottenham have pretty similar schedules left as they share common opponents of Southampton, Manchester United, and Chelsea. They both have to face a relegation positioned team away from home with Leicester taking on Sunderland and Tottenham facing Newcastle. The average current position of the teams remaining for the Foxes is 11th while Tottenham is 10th.

It is also worth mentioning that the Premier League will be the only focus as Leicester City did not qualify for Europe last season and Tottenham was knocked out of the Europa League in the Round of 16. Neither team remains in the FA Cup with the Spurs defeating Leicester City in the Third Round and Crystal Palace knocking off Tottenham in the Fifth Round.

Leicester City’s magic point total is 83 points as of right now, which assumes Tottenham wins their final seven games to reach 82 points and a finish on 82 points would be of no help to the Foxes as they have an inferior goal differential. Will Tottenham win all of their remaining seven games? It is hard to say, but probably not given the Premier League’s way of giving us twists and turns. (The same goes for Leicester City as well).

All Leicester, or any team winning a league, has to do is win the games in front of them and not worry about what they cannot control (Tottenham’s results). If the Foxes take care of their business, they will be lifting the Premier League trophy and go down as one of the greatest stories in Football history.

What Hurt the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup

The artificial turf did not stop the US Women's National Team from winning the 2015 Women's World Cup. ( Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)
The artificial turf did not stop the US Women’s National Team from winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup. ( Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)

What Hurt the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup

By most measures, the 2015 Women’s World Cup was an astounding success. Ratings were up for television and there was plenty of exciting action. Nearly every game in the knockout stage was competitive and had some kind of exciting finish whether it was a late goal or a close game throughout. Some teams crashed out earlier than expected (Canada) while others upset their way deep into the tournament (China and England).

However, despite all the positives there were several instances where the Women’s World Cup failed to live up to expectations or was downright ridiculous. Those examples will be listed below.

1. The Referees

For the most part, many people were enthralled by the product on the field between whichever two teams were playing (except this guy). There was one on-field part of the game that really took away from the excellent contests and that was the refereeing, or lack thereof.

Yours truly documented several cases of the referees not calling fouls, penalties given despite fouls occurring outside the box (USA vs Germany), and goal kicks given instead of corner kicks among many other issues. What is so striking about the referees is that these were determined to be the best in the world. (To be fair, there are plenty of gripes about the referees and officials in the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, Premier League, etc.).

That is a scary thought, but the World Cup deserves better. Why not use men to referee during the World Cup? Yes, this is a Women’s tournament, but it does not mean that men could not handle the job if they are qualified. It can be a few sets of male referees and assistants while keeping the majority of referees on the field females as one idea for the future.

Or FIFA can provide better training to the female referees and assistants. Given what we have learned in the past few months, that does not appear likely to be anywhere on the radar of FIFA.

2. “The Turf”

One of the biggest gripes this author has about the 2015 Women’s World Cup is the turf. This is not focused on how the turf plays, but rather the incessant complaining from Fox’s commentators about the turf.

This is not surprising that Fox did not like the turf being used considering many star players, including USA star Abby Wambach, sued FIFA in September 2014 over the turf. The lawsuit was withdrawn this past January, but that did not stop Fox from endlessly complaining about the turf (noted here) It was so bad that at one point a Fox analyst said the turf melted shoes.

It was known in 2011 that Canada would host the Women’s World Cup and the bid included artificial turf at nearly all of the venues. As this author documented in this article, this was a lack of foresight from the players to wait until September 2014 to file a lawsuit.

To be fair, the talk regarding turf was not nearly noticed as much in the latter stages of the tournament as it was at the beginning. Still, the fact it came up nearly ever game in the group stage makes it hard to listen to the game at times.

In the end, the turf did not matter as noticed in the final with the US crushing Japan 5-2. Whatever you want to call this tournament on the turf (an experiment?), it is now over and ultimately had little effect on the outcome.

3. The Analysts

This reason is purely personal, but accuracy is important from commentators and analysts alike.

Despite Fox’s non-stop complaining about the turf (see above), there was another area that really hurt Fox’s coverage. That was the analysts and specifically the mistakes they made. There are a ton of examples that prove Fox needs to provide better analysts.

One of the more egregious mistakes was that Rob Stone stated Canada never made the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup. That would make sense if 2003 never happened when Canada did make the semifinals.

Another analyst made the comment that French midfielder Claire Lavogez was gassed against Germany in the quarterfinal match despite coming on in the 69th minute. It did not make any sense at the time given the context of the game to that point.

One host referred to the extra 30 minutes of soccer as “overtime” instead of extra time. When trying to grow a sport like soccer the terminology is important. Imagine telling a person with no knowledge of College Football that two teams are going to sudden death extra time. (FYI, college football does not have any timed downs and each team is given a chance to score).

Even the usually excellent JP Dellacamera had a lapse in the USA versus Germany game. When Celia Sasic was awarded a penalty in the 60th minute, Dellacamera said it was the decisive moment in the match despite another 30 minutes remaining. It was not decisive, as the US would go on to score twice to win the match 2-0.

In the final between the USA and Japan, Dellacamera said the sun might have played a part in Hope Solo not seeing a shot. However, there was no direct sunlight on Solo in the latter part of the second half when the comment was made.

Another announcing flub was the own goal by England’s Laura Bassett versus Japan. When she accidentally put the ball in her own net, the announcers were completely flabbergasted as to what happened and did not appear to know what even happened. It was not until the Japan players celebrated that they were able to fully comprehend what happened and even the graphics department did not put up Japan’s second goal until well after the ensuing kickoff. For people who are supposed to tell the audience what has happened, that was a massive mistake.

Also in the USA versus Germany game, one of the commentators, Tony DiCicco said, “That Carli Lloyd was having a massive game“. However, DiCicco brought up accolades from the games against China and Colombia, which did not fit the argument of only the Germany game.

4. FIFA

Not a lot of time will be spent on this because, well, it is FIFA after all. This article by Tim Booth sums up what FIFA did wrong.

5. Availability of Some Games

This was not a big problem for the games in the knockout stages, but the group stages did not have all the games available depending on the television providers. For example, if a game was shown on Fox Sports 2 and you did not have that channel via your provider, you could not watch the game on a mobile device or tablet.

This comes down to Fox and the providers, which undoubtedly makes both sides to blame. Only the group stage was affected, but imagine a major tournament in the future (Euro 2016 or the men’s World Cup in 2018) not showing all the games of the group stage.

It should not be that way for any major tournament, men’s or women’s.

Conclusion

The tournament was a huge success for the advancement of women’s soccer and its popularity. We will not have to worry about the 2019 tournament being played on turf, as it will be on grass in France (Yay! No more complaining about the turf). We will have to deal with Fox having the rights (No!), but within four years the availability of the Fox Sports channels across most providers should be settled (hopefully).

2015 European Football End Of Season Primer

Branislav Ivanovic celebrates his goal against PSG in the UEFA Champions League. Will he and Chelsea be celebrating a Premier League title by season's end? (AFP / Getty Images)
Branislav Ivanovic celebrates his goal against PSG in the UEFA Champions League. Will he and Chelsea be celebrating a Premier League title by season’s end? (AFP / Getty Images)

2015 European Football End Of Season Primer

As the calendar nears March, there are plenty of viewing options for American sports fanatics. March Madness will get underway on March 19 along with baseball spring training and the final push of the NBA and NHL regular seasons.

If you are like this author, you were consumed by college football and professional football from September through early February. Unfortunately, football season is over in the American sense, but there are still football options. To be clear, we are talking soccer.

Major League Soccer will also begin on March 6 in the United States, but we are going to focus on something the MLS will not give us: promotion and relegation battles. This is not the place to debate whether there is a place for promotion and relegation in the United States, but instead on what is happening over in Europe.

There will be a focus on the contenders, European playoff spots, as well as the relegation battle in each country. The countries looked at will be England, Spain, Germany, France, Netherlands, and Portugal. Two other leagues, while not in the top 10 of the UEFA Coefficients, but entertaining to this author will be Denmark and Switzerland.

* * * Note: All of the information below is as of Monday, February 23.

England – English Premier League

Contenders: The Premier League appears to be coming down to a battle between Chelsea and Manchester City. Chelsea sits on 60 points while Manchester City is at 55 points. Both teams have 12 games left to play to decide the winner.

European Prospects: Behind the top duo is a logjam of 5 teams within 4 points of each other. Arsenal (48 points), Manchester United (47), Southampton (46), Liverpool (45), and Tottenham (44) are gunning to be in one of the two final Champions League slots. Southampton has been a great story and it would be awesome to see a new team finish in the top four.

Relegation: Leicester City sits bottom of the table with 18 points, Aston Villa is 19th with 22 points, and Burnley is 18th with 22 points as well. Queens Park Rangers (22 points), Sunderland (25), Hull City (26), West Bromwich Albion (27), Crystal Palace (27), and Everton (28) could all fall into the relegation zone with a bad run of form.

Predictions: Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal will be the top three. The fourth team will be Manchester United while Southampton manage to finish fifth and get a Europa League spot.

In the relegation zone, Leicester City, Burnley, and QPR will drop to the Championship. Speaking of the Championship, the three teams promoted at the end of the season will be Derby County, Ipswich Town, and Norwich City. Millwall, Wigan Athletic, and Blackpool will be relegated to League One.

Spain – La Liga

Contenders: Real Madrid lead La Liga with 60 points, Barcelona is second with 56 points, Atletico Madrid is third with 53 points, and Valencia sit fourth on 50 points. This race will come down to the top two and that favors Real Madrid to come away with another Spanish title.

European Prospects: Atletico Madrid are third currently and that does not figure to change by the end of the season. Valencia’s 50 points make them 5 clear of fifth place Sevilla and 6 clear of Villarreal. Malaga are seventh with 38 points, but will need one of the two teams ahead of them to slip up to make the Europa League for next season.

Relegation: It is a tight race for the bottom, but three teams have dug themselves in a small hole. Levante is 18th with 22 points, Granada is 19th with 19 points, and Cordoba is 20th with 18 points. Almeria and Elche are both one point clear of the relegation zone while 15th place Deportivo La Coruna has 24 points.

Predictions: The top four will remain the same as they currently are: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, and Valencia. Villarreal will finish fifth with Sevilla in sixth and Malaga in seventh.

The relegation battle will be tight, but the three teams going down will be Elche, Granada, and Cordoba. The three teams coming up from the Segunda Division will be Sporting de Gijon, Las Palmas, and Valladolid.

Germany – Bundesliga

Contenders: Bayern Munich is in complete control of the Bundesliga at 55 points, 8 more than Wolfsburg in second. Bayern has scored 59 goals while only giving up 9 thus far in the Bundesliga.

European Prospects: The top two are firmly secure for Champions League action next season, but the other spots are still up for grabs. Borussia Monchengladbach is third with 37 points, Schalke is fourth with 35 points, FC Augsburg is fifth with 35 points, and Bayer Leverkusen is sixth with 33 points. Hoffenheim and Werder Bremen sit with 30 points while Eintracht Frankfurt is 9th with 28 points. The battle for European football in Germany will be hotly contested and entertaining.

Relegation: Stuttgart is last in the Bundesliga with 18 points, Hertha is 17th with 21 points, and Freiburg is 16th with 22 points. There is not much room for the six teams in front of the relegation zone as that extends only to 26 points.

Predictions: Bayern Munich will win the Bundesliga again, but it is a matter of which match day they will do so on while Wolfsburg is locked into second at worst. Schalke will grab third and Borussia Monchengladbach will finish in fourth. Bayer Leverkusen will finish fifth with Werder Bremen securing a wild sixth place finish.

The relegation battle will see Hertha, Paderborn, and Hamburger fall to the next division (assuming Hamburger loses in the Relegation Playoffs). 2. Bundesliga will automatically promote Ingolstadt and Kaiserslautern to the Bundesliga while Karlsruher will beat Hamburger in the Promotion playoffs.

Italy – Serie A

Contenders: Juventus have lost only once in Serie A this year and have 57 points compared to 48 for Roma. It is Juve’s title to lose at this point.

European Prospects: While the top two look good, there is a battle for the third Italian Champions League slot. Napoli sits on 45 points, Lazio has 40 points, and Fiorentina has 39 points. Unless InternazionaleGenoa, and/or Sampdoria make an improbable run into third place (all on 35 points), one of the first three teams will be in the Champions League next year.

Relegation: One relegation spot is all but assured for Parma given their financial difficulties. There is even a chance Parma will not finish the season. Cesena  is currently 19th with 16 points while Cagliari is 18th with 20 points. Sitting in 17th is Atalanta with 23 points, Chievo is 16th with 24 points, and Verona is 15th with 25 points.

Predictions: Juventus and Roma will finish one-two as expected. Third place will go to Napoli, Lazio will finish fourth, and Sampdoria grab fifth spot (and a Europa League place).

The relegation battle will be lost by Parma, Cesena, and Atalanta. Coming up from Serie B at the end of the season will be Carpi, Bologna, and Vicenza.

France – Ligue 1

Contenders: Lyon leads a tight race at the top with 54 points. PSG is second with 52 points and Marseille is third 50 points. The eventual winner of Ligue 1 will come from this trio of teams.

European Prospects: Outside the top three, four teams will be in contention for the single remaining Europa League spot. Monaco is fourth with 43 points, Saint-Etienne is fifth with 42 points, Bordeaux is sixth with 41 points, and Montpellier is seventh with 39 points. It will surely be a tight finish for the Europa League slot.

Relegation: As of this writing, Lens will be relegated at the end of the season regardless of where they finish due to irregularities when they were promoted from Ligue 2 at the end of the 2013-14 season. They currently sit 19th with 22 points. In 20th is Metz with 22 points and Evian is 18th with 26 points. Just above the drop zone are Lorient and Toulouse both with 28 points. The two teams above them are Caen and Reims on 31 points.

Predictions: In an exciting finish to the Ligue 1 season, Lyon will hang on for the title over PSG with Marseille back in third. Taking fourth place will be Saint-Etienne with Bordeaux fifth and Monaco sixth.

The relegation teams will be unchanged from the current bottom three meaning Evian, Lens, and Metz will spend next season in Ligue 2. Coming up from Ligue 2 will be Troyes, Brest, and Angers.

Netherlands – Eredivisie

Contenders: PSV currently holds a 14 point lead (64-50) over Ajax and are well on their way to reclaiming the Eredivisie title.

European Prospects: Feyenoord is third with 44 points, but right on their heels is AZ Alkmaar with 44 points as well. Zwolle is fifth with 39 points, Heerenveen is sixth with 38 points, Vitesse is seventh with 37 points, and Twente is eighth with 34 points.

Relegation: Dordrecht will need a miracle to stay in the Dutch top flight with only 12 points from 24 games. NAC Breda is 17th with 18 points and Heracles is 16th with 21 points. Just above the relegation zone sits Go Ahead Eagles with 23 points. Excelsior have a bit of breathing room with 26 points, but could afford to turn some of their draws into wins (Excelsior has a league high 11 draws).

Predictions: PSV cruises to the Eredivisie title with Ajax in second place. AZ manages to overtake Feyenoord for third place with Heerenveen in fifth, Zwolle in sixth, and Twente in seventh.

The one team automatically relegated to the Ereste Divisie will be Dordrecht with N.E.C. replacing them. NAC Breda and Go Ahead Eagles will be put into the relegation playoffs at season’s end.

Portugal – Primeira Liga

Contenders: The usual suspects are involved for the league crown once again. Benfica is at 56 points, Porto is at 52 points, and Sporting CP have 47 points. Barring a major collapse by Benfica and the other top two teams, one of these three will win.

European Prospects: Braga (43 points), Vitória de Guimaraes (37), and Belenenses (34) are in the best positions to take the two Europa League spots. Pacos de Ferreira (30), Rio Ave (29), Nacional (28), and Maritimo (27) would need to go on massive win streaks to have a chance to steal one of the Europa League places.

Relegation: There are only two relegation spots in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. Penafiel is last with 16 points while Gil Vicente is 17th with 17 points. The teams above the relegation zone should feel pretty warm given how close they are in points to the bottom two. Academica (18), Vitória de Setubal (19), Arouca (19), and Boavista (21) could easily find themselves in the bottom two by season’s end.

Predictions: Benfica will win the title while Porto holds off Sporting CP for the second place spot. Even with a third place finish, Sporting CP will still be in the Champions League next season. Braga finishes fourth with Vitoria de Guimaraes finishing fifth and Belenenses in sixth.

The relegation battle will see both teams currently in the drop zone escape to be replaced by Vitoria de Setubal and Arouca. Chaves and Tondela will be promoted from the Segunda Liga.

Switzerland – Super League

Contenders: Basel currently holds a 5 point lead (45-40) over Young Boys with 21 match days played out of 36. On February 22, Young Boys beat Basel 4-2 and they have one final game against each other the rest of the season. Zurich is third with 39 points and are not out of the running for the league title yet.

European Prospects: The top two teams will be going into the Champions League next season with the third and fourth place teams going into the Europa League. Thun is fourth with 34 points and St. Gallen is fifth with 30 points. It will come down to these five teams to determine the four European entrants for the 2015-16 season.

Relegation: The relegation battle is very tight with only one team going down to the Swiss Challenge League next season. Sion is last with 16 points, but have played 19 games compared to the three teams ahead of them. In 9th is Aarua with 17 points, Luzern is 8th with 18 points, and Grasshopper is 7th with 19 points. Even Liechtenstein based Vaduz is not out of the woods in 6th place with 22 points.

Predictions: Basel will win the Swiss Super League while Young Boys manages to hold on for second over Zurich. Thun will take fourth place as St. Gallen’s late season rally falls short of European football.

Sion will escape the basement at the expense of Aarau who will spend next season in the Challenge League. Lugano, who is currently third in the Swiss Challenge League by three points, will replace them in 2015-16.

Denmark – Superliga

Contenders: Through 18 of 33 match days, Midtjylland is first with 43 points over Copenhagen (35) and Randers (34). Given the fourth place team, Brondby, has only 27 points, it is safe to assume one of the top three teams will emerge with the title.

European Prospects: As mentioned above, Brondby is in fourth place with 27 points while the Superliga offers only three European spots. AaB (25), Nordsjaelland (25), Esbjerg (23), and SonderjyskE (23) need things to start going their way if they are to play in the Europa League.

Relegation: Two teams will be relegated at the end of the season and one of them is virtually assured to be Silkeborg. They have four points at this point in the season thanks to four draws. They also have the worst offense in the Superliga and are 15 points adrift of safety. In 11th place is Vestsjaelland with 15 points and are 4 points behind 10th place Odense. Hobro has 21 points while SonderjyskE has 23 points along with Esbjerg. It will come down to the trio of Hobro, Odense, and Vestsjaelland for the final relegation spot.

Predictions: Copenhagen will mount their usual late season rally to contend for the title, but Midtjylland will survive as the Champions. Copenhagen will be second with Randers third.

A close relegation battle will see Vestsjaelland drop down to the Danish First Division with Silkeborg for the 2015-16 season. Coming up from the First Division will be Lyngby and Viborg.

Please feel free to comment on what you think of the predictions above. Enjoy the football action from Europe as the season turns into the home stretch!

Champions League Match Day 6 Roundup

The 6th and final match day took place on Tuesday and Wednesday. The teams for the Round of 16 are all set in the UEFA Champions League. Here is the Group-by-Group breakdown:

Group A

Manchester United squeaked out a 1-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk thanks to a Phil Jones goal in the 67th minute. The group’s other match between Real Sociedad and Bayer Leverkusen also ended 1-0. Omer Toprak scored in the 49th minute to ensure Leverkusen moved on in the Champions League.

Manchester United won the group with 14 points, Bayer Leverkusen finish 2nd with 10 points, Shakhtar Donetsk finished 3rd with 8 points, and Real Sociedad finished last with only 1 point. Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen will move on to the Round of 16 in the Champions League. Shakhtar will be placed in the Europa League Round of 32. Real Sociedad are eliminated from European competition.

Group B

Real Madrid went to Copenhagen and won 2-0. Luka Modric scored first in the 25th minute with a wonderful curling strike. Ronaldo scored the 2nd goal in the 48th minute adding to his already impressive total. Ronaldo has scored 9 goals in the Champions League Group Stage, the most ever in this famed competition. The game’s other match between Galatasaray and Juventus was halted in the 32nd minute for weather. After an unsuccessful attempt to restart the game, it was abandoned. The game resumed on Wednesday in the 32nd minute with the score at 0-0. Wesley Sneijder hit an 85th minute goal to give Galatasaray the 1-0 win and the spot in the Round of 16.

Real Madrid won the group with 16 points, Galatasaray finished 2nd with 7 points, Juventus finished 3rd with 6 points, and Copenhagen were last with 4 points. Real Madrid and Galatasaray move on in the UEFA Champions League. Juventus will go into the Round of 32 in the Europa League and Copenhagen are eliminated from European Competition

Group C

The battle for 2nd between Benfica and Olympiacos was in doubt until the last minutes. Benfica rallied from 1-0 down to beat PSG 2-1. Lima had a goal from the penalty spot in the 45th minute. In the 2nd half, Nicolas Gaitan put a goal in the back of the net to give Benfica the needed victory. Olympiacos was at home to Anderlecht and needed to win to make the Round of 16. Javier Saviola got on the score sheet for Olympiacos in the 33rd minute, but that was cancelled out by Sacha Kljestan’s 39th minute goal for Anderlecht. Saviola put Olympiacos ahead for good in the 58th minute, while Alejandro Dominguez put the game beyond doubt with a 95th minute stoppage time penalty goal.

PSG won the group with 13 points. Olympiacos and Benfica both finished level on 10 points, with Olympiacos having the better goal differential of +2 compared to 0 for Benfica. That means Olympiacos will play in the Round of 16 while Benfica will move to the Round of 32 in the Europa League. Anderlecht finished last with 1 point.

Group D

The stunner of the Tuesday games happened in Group D. Bayern Munich looked well on their way to victory after a 5th minute goal from Thomas Muller and a 12th minute goal from Mario Gotze. Manchester City did not give up as David Silva pulled a goal back in the 28th minute to make it 2-1 Bayern Munich. Aleksandar Kolarov hit one home from the penalty spot in the 59th minute, before James Milner made the comeback complete in the 62nd minute. The group’s other match saw Tomas Wagner hit a 90th minute goal from Viktoria Plzen to beat CSKA Moscow 2-1.

Despite the loss, Bayern Munich still won the group with 15 points. Manchester City also had 15 points (worse goal differential vs. Bayern Munich), Viktoria Plzen finish 3rd with 3 points, and CSKA Moscow finished last with 3 points as well. Viktoria gets the nod over CSKA Moscow because they had more away goals in the group stage. Bayern and City were confirmed for the Round of 16 in the Champions League already, but Viktoria Plzen have stolen the Europa League spot from under CSKA Moscow.

Group E

A 10th minute Demba Ba goal was all that separated Chelsea and Steaua Bucuresti in their match. The match between Schalke and Basel turned in the 31st minute when Basel’s Ivan Ivanov got a straight red card to leave his team with 10 men. Schalke took advantage of the extra man in the 2nd half with goals from Julian Draxler in the 51st minute and Joel Matip in the 57th minute. Schalke took all 3 points with a final scoreline of 2-0 over Basel.

Chelsea won the group with 12 point, Schalke finished 2nd with 10 points, Basel were 3rd with 8 points, and Steaua Bucuresti finished last with 3 points. Chelsea and Schalke will move onto the Round of 16 in the Champions League with Basel going to the Europa League and the Round of 32. Steaua are eliminated from European competition.

Group F

The “Group of Death” went down to the final minutes. Napoli got a goal from Gonzalo Higuain in the 73rd minute and then another goal in the 93rd minute from Jose Callejon to make it a final score of 2-0 over Arsenal. Borussia Dortmund were tied 1-1 and on their way out of the Champions League until Kevin Grobkreutz put the German side ahead 2-1. Borussia would not relinquish that lead.

Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, and Napoli all finished on 12 points. However, thanks to goal differential, Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal will march on in the Champions League. Dortmund had a goal differential of +5, Arsenal had +3, and Napoli had +1. Napoli will have a slight consolation prize in the Europa League Round of 32. Marseille failed to register a point, but did make things very interesting on this last match day of the Champions League group stage.

Group G

Atletico Madrid already had this group in hand, but still made their case as a darkhorse contender in this Competition with a 2-0 victory over Porto. Atletico got goals from Raul Garcia in the 14th minute and Diego Costa in the 37th minute. Austria Wien got their only win of the group stage in a 4-1 thrashing of Zenit St Petersburg. Aleksandr Kerzhaov put Zenit ahead 1-0 in the 35th minute, but it was all Austria Wien after that. Philipp Hosiner had goals in the 44th and 51st minutes, Tomas Jun had one in the 48th, and Roman Kienast added the final for good measure in the 93rd minute.

Atletico Madrid had already won the group on Match day 4 and they finished with 16 points. Despite their crushing defeat, Zenit hung on for 2nd place with 6 points. Porto and Austria Wien both finished on 5 points, but Porto’s better goal differential of -3 compared to Wien’s -5 sees them finish 3rd. Atletico Madrid and Zenit march on in the Champions League with Porto dropping to the Europa League. Austria Wien will no longer take part in European Competition this season.

Group H

Barcelona completely dominated Celtic from the opening kick, winning by 5 goals, 6-1. Neymar had a hat trick within a 15 minute span and the route was on. The group’s other match between Milan and Ajax ended scoreless despite Milan playing with 10 men for almost 70 minutes. Ricardo Montolivo was sent off for an awful challenge in the 22nd minute.

Barcelona won the group with 13 points, Milan finished 2nd with 9 points, Ajax were 3rd with 8 points, and Celtic finished last with 3 points. Barcelona and Milan move to the UCL Round of 16 while Ajax will play in the Europa League Round of 32. Celtic are eliminated from European Competition.

 

Knockout Stages

The Round of 16 teams are set and here they are:

Seeded Teams Unseeded Teams
Manchester United (England) Bayer Leverkusen (Germany)
Real Madrid (Spain) Galatasaray (Turkey)
Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) Olympiacos (Greece)
Bayern Munich (Germany) Manchester City (England)
Chelsea (England) Schalke 04 (Germany)
Borussia Dortmund (Germany) Arsenal (England)
Atletico Madrid (Spain) Zenit Saint Petersburg (Russia)
Barcelona (Spain) Milan (Italy)

 

The Round of 16 draw will take place on Monday, December 16, 2013. As a reminder, teams from the same association (such as England) cannot face each other in the Round of 16. Also, teams from the same Group (such as Group A which featured Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen) cannot be drawn together.

Be sure to check back when the Round of 16 Draw is complete for my analysis and picks!

Brazil 2014 – Part 3: Odds and Predictions

This is the third post in a series leading up to the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil. The first post can be found here and the second post here.

In the first post of this series I posted the odds for each team to win the World Cup prior to the draw (odds were taken from 5Dimes). For a refresher, here is that table:

 

Team Odds
Brazil  +300
Germany  +560
Argentina  +660
Spain  +680
Belgium  +1650
Netherlands  +2150
Colombia  +2350
Italy  +2450
England  +2550
Uruguay  +2850
France  +3250
Portugal  +3450
Chile  +4450
Russia  +10500
Switzerland  +14500
Ghana  +15000
Croatia  +16000
Mexico  +16500
Japan  +17000
USA  +18000
Ivory Coast  +21000
Bosnia and Herzegovina  +22500
Ecuador  +24000
Nigeria  +29000
Greece  +35000
South Korea  +50000
Cameroon  +70000
Australia  +70000
Costa Rica  +225000
Iran  +250000
Honduras  +250000
Algeria  +250000

As you can see, the top 4 favorites were Brazil (+300), Germany (+560), Argentina (+660), and Spain (+680). All other teams were at +1650 or higher. Now let’s see how the draw affected those odds (again odds from 5Dimes):

 

Brazil   +330
Argentina   +490
Germany   +610
Spain   +775
Belgium   +1550
Colombia   +2150
France   +2250
Netherlands   +2850
England   +2850
Italy   +2850
Uruguay   +2950
Portugal   +3700
Chile   +5350
Russia   +8875
Switzerland   +12500
Ecuador   +13500
Mexico   +15000
Ivory Coast   +16500
Japan   +18500
Bosnia and Herzegovina   +23500
USA   +25000
Ghana   +25000
Croatia   +26500
Nigeria   +28500
Greece   +34000
South Korea   +48500
Australia   +80500
Cameroon   +100000
Costa Rica   +250000
Iran   +250000
Honduras   +250000
Algeria   +250000

 

Brazil’s odds went up to +330 despite the opponents they drew in their group. The slight bump in odds has entirely to do with their possible Round of 16 opponent which will almost certainly be Netherlands, Spain, or Chile. Argentina, which was already a favorite to win, dropped from +660 to +490. This is for good reason too. They got drawn with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, and Nigeria.

Below is a table that shows each team’s odd before and after the draw. Also is a column for the odds change that occurred.

 

Team Prior Draw Odds Post Draw Odds   Odds Change
Brazil  +300   +330 +30
Germany  +560   +610 +50
Argentina  +660   +490 -170
Spain  +680   +775 +95
Belgium  +1650   +1550 -100
Netherlands  +2150   +2850 +700
Colombia  +2350   +2150 -200
Italy  +2450   +2850 +400
England  +2550   +2850 +300
Uruguay  +2850   +2950 +100
France  +3250   +2250 -1000
Portugal  +3450   +3700 +250
Chile  +4450   +5350 +900
Russia  +10500   +8875 -1625
Switzerland  +14500   +12500 -2000
Ghana  +15000   +25000 +10000
Croatia  +16000   +26500 +10500
Mexico  +16500   +15000 -1500
Japan  +17000   +18500 +1500
USA  +18000   +25000 +7000
Ivory Coast  +21000   +16500 -4500
Bosnia and Herzegovina  +22500   +23500 +1000
Ecuador  +24000   +13500 -10500
Nigeria  +29000   +28500 -500
Greece  +35000   +34000 -1000
South Korea  +50000   +48500 -1500
Cameroon  +70000   +100000 +30000
Australia  +70000   +80500 +10500
Costa Rica  +225000   +250000 +25000
Iran  +250000   +250000 0
Honduras  +250000   +250000 0
Algeria  +250000   +250000 0

 

Odds to Win Group

Here I will list each teams odds to win their respective group. As before, these odds are from 5Dimes.

Group A

Brazil   -350
Mexico   +650
Croatia   +875
Cameroon   +2150

Group B

Spain   -130
Netherlands   +200
Chile   +475
Australia   +2700

Group C

Colombia   -135
Japan   +350
Ivory Coast   +460
Greece   +700

Group D

Italy   +160
Uruguay   +195
England   +215
Costa Rica   +4000

Group E

France   -145
Switzerland   +310
Ecuador   +340
Honduras   +2800

Group F

Argentina   -430
Bosnia   +595
Nigeria   +830
Iran   +3000

Group G

Germany   -180
Portugal   +260
Ghana   +1050
USA   +1075

Group H

Belgium   -180
Russia   +230
South Korea   +750
Algeria   +2500

 

Super-Duper Early Predictions

I will pick the finish of each group as I see them right now. These are subject to change many times over until the start of the World Cup.

Group A

1st – Brazil

2nd – Croatia

3rd – Mexico

4th – Cameroon

Group B

1st – Spain

2nd – Chile

3rd – Netherlands

4th – Australia

Group C

1st – Colombia

2nd – Ivory Coast

3rd – Japan

4th – Greece

Group D

1st – Italy

2nd – Uruguay

3rd – England

4th – Costa Rica

Group E

1st – Colombia

2nd – Switzerland

3rd – France

4th – Honduras

Group F

1st – Argentina

2nd – Nigeria

3rd – Bosnia and Herzegovina

4th – Iran

Group G

1st – Germany

2nd – Ghana

3rd – Portugal

4th – United States

Group H

1st – Russia

2nd – Belgium

3rd – South Korea

4th – Algeria

I will skip to the Semi-final match ups where I have Brazil vs Germany in one and Italy vs Argentina in the other. I like Brazil and Italy to meet p in the final with Italy coming out on top. Again this is subject to change (and probably will as we learn more about each team’s squad).

Be sure to check back often for part 4 and other blog posts!

Brazil 2014 – Part 2: A Quick Analysis of the Draw

This is the second post in a series leading up to the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil. The first post can be found here.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup has been drawn and the groups are now set. I will take a look at each group and give a short analysis.

Group A

Group A is comprised of Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, and Cameroon. Undoubtedly, Brazil are the favorites to win Group A and the World Cup especially after the favorable draw. The battle for second place will be between the other three teams. I see any of the three teams being able to finish 2nd, but it will most likely come down to Croatia and Mexico.

Group B

Group B is mighty interesting considering the 2010 World Cup Final. Both Spain and the Netherlands are draw into this group and as fate would have it, will be playing the opening match of this group. Chile and Australia are also drawn in this group. The rank outsiders of this group are Australia as they have been poor in recent games. I cannot wait to see how Netherlands plays considering they did not win a game at Euro 2012.

Group C

This group contains Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, and Japan. Colombia are the favorites to win the group, but after that any of the three remaining teams can win. Greece are probably the 2nd favorites in this group while Ivory Coast have not gotten out of the group stage the last two World Cups. Japan played in the 2013 Confederations Cup, but went winless and showed issues with their back four.

Group D

Another tough group resides here in Group D between Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, and Italy. Uruguay and Italy are the favorites to go through, but expect England to have a say in whether or not that happens. This is a tough spot for Costa Rica to have hopes of making the last 16.

Group E

This group is headlined by the “easiest” seeded team in Switzerland. They will be joined by Ecuador, France, and Honduras. Ecuador look to be favored here with this World Cup taking place in South America. France has a great chance of making the Knockout stages despite a less than stellar qualifying run to get here. Honduras are considered outsiders to make the last 16.

Group F

This group is headlined by Argentina and includes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, and Nigeria. Argentina will be heavily favored to win this group. Bosnia and Herzegovina along with Nigeria will battle for the 2nd spot in this group and Iran are considered long shots to make the last 16.

Group G

Arguably the toughest group (along with Group B) will be contested between Germany, Portugal, Ghana, and the United States. Germany are favorites to go through, but any of the remaining three teams can certainly make it through. Ghana has been to the Round of 16 and Quarterfinals in 2006 and 2010, respectively. Portugal have the immensely talented Cristiano Ronaldo and the US have been in good from during 2013. In my opinion, this group is by far the toughest to figure out and that means this should be an entertaining group from start to finish.

Group H

The last group contains the highly talked about dark-horse team in Belgium. They will play in this group along with Algeria, Russia, and South Korea. While Belgium will be favored to win, 2nd place looks like it belongs to Russia. Don’t sleep on South Korea as they made the Round of 16 in 2010 and finished 4th in 2002. Algeria are considered outsiders against this group.

 

This draw gave us a lot of intrigue to look forward to. There is the possibility of Spain and Brazil clashing in the Round of 16. In addition, we could see Spain or the Netherlands not make it out of the group stage. There is even the possibility of Germany struggling and not making it to the knockout rounds (It may be a small chance, but it is possible).

In Part 3 of my series I will look at the odds of each team making it to the Round of 16 as well as the odds of them winning the World Cup courtesy of 5Dimes. I will also give my super-duper early predictions (which are subject to change between then and the World Cup). Until then, enjoy the action and enjoy the World Cup draw banter!

Brazil 2014 – Part 1: What to Watch for at the Draw

This is the first post in a series leading up to the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil.

The pots for 2014 World Cup have now been confirmed by FIFA. This image from ESPN FC best illustrates the breakdown of each pot:

(Again, Thanks to ESPN FC for the picture and they own all the rights to it).

Pot 1 is the comprised of the top 8 seeds for the 2014 World Cup. Pot 2 belongs to the five African qualifiers and the remaining two South American qualifiers. Pot 3 is for North American and Asian qualifiers. Pot 4 is the other 9 European qualifiers. In order to have 4 pots of 8 teams, one team from Pot 4 will be randomly selected and placed in Pot 2 to obtain the eight teams.

Keep in mind that no more than two European teams will be matched up in a group. In addition, no more than 1 South American team will be matched up in group. Finally, Brazil will automatically be placed in Group A.

Watch out for the “Group of Death” which would have the strongest teams concentrated in a single group. Every team wants to avoid the so called “Group of Death” which would be headed by Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, or Uruguay. The idea of a Germany, Ghana, United States and France Group is tantalizing and would be entertaining every match.

Also watch out for what I will coin as the “Group of Ease”. Both Belgium and Switzerland are being perceived as the easiest of the seeded teams to overcome in 2014. I am not sure that there is such thing as any easy group in the World Cup, especially if the top seed is a European team. It could be the “Group of Ease” for either Belgium or Switzerland if the draw the shakes out correctly.

Below are the odds of every team in the 2014 World Cup as of this writing. The odds are from 5Dimes.

 

Team Odds
Brazil  +300
Germany  +560
Argentina  +660
Spain  +680
Belgium  +1650
Netherlands  +2150
Colombia  +2350
Italy  +2450
England  +2550
Uruguay  +2850
France  +3250
Portugal  +3450
Chile  +4450
Russia  +10500
Switzerland  +14500
Ghana  +15000
Croatia  +16000
Mexico  +16500
Japan  +17000
USA  +18000
Ivory Coast  +21000
Bosnia and Herzegovina  +22500
Ecuador  +24000
Nigeria  +29000
Greece  +35000
South Korea  +50000
Cameroon  +70000
Australia  +70000
Costa Rica  +225000
Iran  +250000
Honduras  +250000
Algeria  +250000

 

I will be tweeting this event live on Friday and you can follow me here. Part 2 of this series will be posted on Friday evening after the Draw has concluded. I will analyze the draw and look at how it affected each teams odds to win the 2014 World Cup. Be sure to check back and enjoy the 2014 World Cup Draw!

Champions League Match Day 5 Roundup

Here is the Roundup for Match Day 3 and the Roundup for Match Day 4. Without further ado, here is match day 5’s roundup:

 

Group A

Both of the games in this group were blowouts as Manchester United leveled Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 and Shakhtar Donetsk destroyed Real Sociedad 4-0. Manchester United got goals from 4 different players including Antonio Valencia (22nd minute), Jonny Evans (66th), Chris Smalling (77th), and Nani (88th). Emir Spahic had an own goal for Bayer Leverkusen in the 30th minute. In the other Group A game, Luiz Adriano started the scoring for Shakhtar Donetsk in the 37th minute and that was followed by Alex’s goal in the 48th minute. Douglas Costa added a brace (68th and 87th) to give Shakhtar the much needed victory. Manchester United are 1st with 11 points, Shakhtar Donetsk jump to 2nd with 8 points, Bayer Leverkusen fall to 3rd with 7 points, and Real Sociedad are in last with only 1 point.

Manchester United is now confirmed for the Round of 16 with today’s victory while Real Sociedad will not be participating any further in European competition after match day 6. That leaves Shakhtar and Bayer Leverkusen battling it out for 2nd. Match day 6 features Manchester United hosting Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Sociedad taking on Bayer Leverkusen at home.

The way I see this unfolding is Manchester United winning at home against Shakhtar Donetsk. That means a win by Bayer Leverkusen at Real Sociedad will but Bayer in the Round of 16. Bayer Leverkusen can still go through with a draw, but would need Shakhtar Donetsk to lose by at least 5 goals in order for that scenario to unfold. Even if Shakhtar and United tied, Bayer Leverkusen would still go through with a win. That would mean Shakhtar would go to the Round of 32 in the Europa League.

Group B

As with Group A, this group featured two blowouts. Real Madrid ripped Galatasaray apart to win 4-1 even without Cristiano Ronaldo. Gareth Bale opened the scoring in the 37th minute for Real Madrid, but Umut Bulut did very well to equalize in the 38th for Galatasaray. The 2nd half featured 3 goals from Alvaro Arbeloa (51st), Angel di Maria (63rd), and Isco in the 81st minute. Juventus came to life with a 3-1 victory over Copenhagen that improves of qualification to the Round of 16 immensely. Arturo Vidal had a hat trick for Juventus with goals from the penalty spot in the 29th minute and the 60th minute. Olof Mellberg got a goal in the 56th minute for Copenhagen, but it was to no avail. Vidal added his 3rd in the 64th minute and Juventus was on cruise control from there. Real Madrid have won the group and sit on 13 points. Juventus are 2nd with 6 points, Galatasaray are 3rd with 4 points, and Copenhagen are last with 4 points. Galatasaray are 3rd due to their better goal differential than Copenhagen at -6 versus -8.

The winner of the game between Juventus and Galatasaray will make the Round of 16. Copenhagen cannot finish better than 3rd in this group. Match day 6 features the pivotal winner take all game between Galatasaray and Juventus. The other match is Real Madrid traveling to Parken to take on Copenhagen.

With Real Madrid already through to the Round of 16, I see Juventus as the 2nd place finisher in this group. All they need is a draw to make it through and I see them winning in Turkey on the next match day. It is a tough proposition to see Copenhagen get out of the bottom, but if they get a point and Galatasaray loses to Juventus, Copenhagen will be in the Europa League.

Group C

A couple of late goals proved to be the difference in both games of Group C. Benfica got a 90th minute goal Rodrigo to secure a 3-2 away victory over Anderlecht. PSG also got a 90th minute goal via Edinson Cavani to give them all 3 points against Greek side Olympiacos. PSG are 1st in the group with 13 points, Olympiacos is 2nd with 7 points, Benfica also has 7 points, and Anderlecht are last with only 1 point. Olympiacos is 2nd due to a better goal differential than Benfica (0 for Olympiacos to -1 for Benfica).

PSG are now confirmed as Group C winners and therefore into the last 16. Olympiacos and Benfica are both guaranteed to finish no worse than 3rd in the group. Anderlecht are eliminated from European competition upon completion of their match day 6 game at Olympiacos. The other game in this group is Benfica taking on PSG at home in hopes of making the last 16.

I see Olympiacos finishing behind PSG for 2nd here. Not only do I see Olympiacos beating Anderlecht, I think PSG will do no worse than a draw against Benfica.

Group D

The first match of this group was played early in Moscow. That game saw Arjen Robben score an early 17th minute goal for Bayern Munich. In the 2nd half Mario Gotze led off the scoring in the 56th minute. CSKA Moscow got a 61st minute penalty, converted by Keisuke Honda. Just 4 minutes later, Thomas Muller slotted home a penalty for Bayern Munich as the game finished 3-1 in favor of Bayern Munich. The group’s other match was also filled with goals in a 4-2 Manchester City victory over Viktoria Plzen. Sergio Aguero had a 33rd minute penalty while Tomas Hofava equalized in the 43rd minute. Samri Nasri gave City the advantage at 2-1 in the 65th minute, but Stanislav Tecl tied it up again at 2-2 in the 69th minute. Negredo (78th minute) and Dzeko (89th minute) gave Manchester City the needed goals to finish off Plzen. Through 5 games Bayern Munich have 15 points and are 1st, Manchester City are 2nd with 12 points, CSKA Moscow is 3rd with 3 points, and Viktoria Plzen sit last with 0 points.

This group is all set for the top two teams as they have both made it through to the knockout stages. Match day 6 features Bayern Munich hosting Manchester City. Manchester City needs to beat Bayern Munich by 4 goals in order to win the Group. The other game in this group features the battle for the 3rd as CSKA Moscow will travel to Plzen to take on Viktoria Plzen.

I see this group finishing the exact way it will start match day 6: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, and Viktoria Plzen. Plzen need to beat CSKA Moscow by 3 goals to finish 3rd, but that is too tall an order with how this defense has performed in the group stage.

Group E

For the 2nd time in this group Basel defeated Chelsea, this time by a score of 1-0. Mohamed Salah scored a wonderful goal in the 87th minute to give Basel the sweep against Chelsea. In the group’s other game between Steaua Bucuresti and Schalke, both teams failed to score leaving them to split the points. Despite their loss, Chelsea are now guaranteed to make the knockout stages of the Champions League. Chelsea sits top of the group with 9 points. Meanwhile, Basel’s wins gives them 8 points and puts them in 2nd place. Schalke are 3rd with 7 points and Steaua are last with 3 points.

The 6th and final match day will see Schalke take on Basel at home while Steaua will travel to London to face Chelsea. Both Basel and Schalke can win the group if Chelsea loses to Steaua and those teams do not draw.

This group comes down to Basel at Schalke to decide which team will move on to the Round of 16. The winner of that game will go into the final 16. If the game ends in a draw, Basel will finish 2nd. I still like Basel to go through. I see Chelsea easily defeating Steaua at home to win Group E. Steaua have officially finished last in this group regardless of their last game in the group.

Group F

An early goal from Jack Wilshere was all Arsenal needed at home against Marseille as they won 2-0. The big game of the group between Borussia Dortmund and Napoli ended in Dortmund’s favor. Marco Reus scored a 9th minute penalty, Jakub Blaszczykowski added a goal in the 60th minute, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished Napoli off in 78th minute as Dortmund won 3-1. Arsenal sit atop the group with 12 points, Borussia Dortmund are 2nd with 9 points (better goal differential than Napoli at +4 versus -1), Napoli are 3rd with 9 points, and Marseille are last with zero points.

Match day 6 sees Borussia Dortmund travel to Marseille to seal up their bid for the knockout stages. The 2nd game of the group has Arsenal traveling to Napoli. It is important to note that none of the top 3 teams have secured their spot in the Round of 16. Both Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund control their fate, while Napoli will need help from Marseille or an epic defensive collapse from Arsenal to make the Round of 16.

Arsenal look good to make the Round of 16. All they need to do is muster a single point against Napoli and they will win the group. They can even make the Round of 16 with a loss as they have the superior goal differential over Napoli (+5 versus -1). For 2nd I have to go with Borussia Dortmund. Marseille has not been able to play the spoiler I thought they would and I expect Dortmund to put a lot of goals in the back of the net. That means Napoli will finish 3rd and go into the Europa League. Marseille are guaranteed to finish last and I think they do so without obtaining a single point.

Group G

The results of Tuesday’s games did not change the table. Atletico Madrid went to Saint Petersburg and drew 1-1. Adrian scored a goal in the 53rd minute, but the score was equalized at 1 apiece after an own goal off of Toby Alderweireld in the 74th minute. The more surprising result of this group was Austria Wien going to Porto and securing a 1-1 draw. The standings remain unchanged from Match day 4. Atletico Madrid are 1st with 13 points, Zenit Saint Petersburg sit 2nd with 6 points, Porto are 3rd with 5 points, and Austria Wien are last with 4 points.

Atletico Madrid secured their spot in the Round of 16 back on match day 4 as the winners of Group G. Zenit and Porto will hope to progress to the last 16 while Austria Wien will finish last. Match day 6 features Austria Wein taking on Zenit Saint Petersburg in Vienna and Atletico Madrid will host Porto.

I still think Zenit will make the Round of 16 as the 2nd place team in this group. One of the things going for Porto is that Atletico Madrid cannot improve their position which may allow Porto to steal a win at Madrid.

Group H

Let’s start with the upset of the day on Tuesday in Amsterdam. Ajax had a 2-0 goal lead at halftime thanks to goals from Thulani Serero in the 19th minute and Danny Hoesen in the 40th minute. Xavi pulled one back for Barcelona from the penalty spot in the 49th minute, but it was not enough as Ajax held on for a 2-1 win. Milan destroyed Celtic 3-0 to bolster their knockout stage hopes. Barcelona are still 1st with 10 points, Milan are 2nd with 8 points, Ajax are 3rd with 7 points, and Celtic are last with 3 points.

Barcelona have secured their spot in the Knockout stages (did so on Match day 4), but have not won the Group yet. Milan and Ajax will battle it out for the second knockout spot in this group on Match day 6 at the San Siro. Barcelona will take on Celtic at the Camp Nou.

I see Barcelona winning at home, thus winning the Group. For 2nd, I have a hard time picking against AC Milan at home, though I would not mind seeing Ajax make the last 16 in the Champions League. As it is, Ajax will finish 3rd in my projections. Celtic cannot improve their position.

 

The 6th and final match day takes place on Tuesday, December 10 (Groups A through D) and Wednesday, December 11 (Groups E through H). Until next time, enjoy the football from whichever country you desire to watch!

Thoughts on MLS Addition of Orlando SC

On Tuesday, November 19, Major League Soccer (MLS) announced that Orlando SC will become the 21st Franchise beginning with the 2015 Season. Orlando SC currently competes in the USL Pro Division, which is on the third tier of the United States Soccer Pyramid. This will be the first team in the state of Florida since 2001, when both the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion.

It is worth noting that both the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion folded after the 2001 season due to financial issues. At the time for MLS, financial woes were rampant throughout the league. This Forbes article by Chris Smith does an excellent job illustrating the early problems for MLS. Also in the article, he talks about the current value of each MLS team as well as providing a chart to show the profitability of each team.

In my opinion, the main concern for any new franchise in the Southeastern United States is the competition it will face. The Southeast is football crazy and is treated like a religion down there. That does not mean Orlando SC will fail, but it will take time for them to get near the backing of some recent MLS Expansion teams (e.g.: Portland, Seattle, Vancouver).

Another concern is the complete lack of any other regional teams. Orlando SC’s nearest competitor will be the Houston Dynamo to the west and DC United to the North. Orlando to Houston is approximately 963 miles according to Google, while Orlando to Washington D.C. is approximately 847 miles per Google. The lack of regional competition may hamper the ability for Orlando SC to flourish. This could be less of an issue if the rumored Miami Franchise comes to fruition.

One further thought on the lack of regional competition is noted by the fierce rivalries that have developed between Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland. These three franchises have thrived due in part to the Cascadia Cup that they contest each year. Do not discount the lack of a regional rival as an obstacle.

One final note, with Orlando SC becoming the 21st team it will almost certainly mean another unbalanced schedule in 2015. Adding another team will alleviate this problem, but at this time, it appears that will not happen until 2016 at the earliest.

Overall I think the addition of Orlando SC will help MLS in the long run, but there are some issues they will have to contend with early on. If Orlando SC can build a passionate and devoted fan base as well as be competitive within the football crazy South, they will be just fine.