Month: May 2014

WORLD CUP: Who should England send to Rio?

fifa-world-cup-feat21-1024x592Roy Hodgson has his hands full as he gets ready to name the 23-man squad that England will send to Rio this Summer, with expectations at an all time low the England manager can shed the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ and focus on the future by sending a youthful team to the World Cup, but will he take the plunge?

Hodgson has snubbed the return of John Terry, the walking wounded continue to pile up as Andros Townsend, Theo Walcott, Jay Rodriguez and now Phil Jones have been hit with the injury bug, while stalwarts like Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Jermaine Defoe have struggled for first team action or in the latter’s case, failing to score against less than quality opposition.

For me, there are only four players who I would put money on to start against Italy in England’s opener June 14th: Joe Hart, Gary Cahill, Wayne Rooney and of course, Captain Steven Gerrard (If he’s done coughing up the title by then…). Outside of those four, there’s question marks around health, formation and of course experience verse youth – with the question being, who which will Roy go with?

In the spirit of useless predictions (Because, why not?), here is our prediction for the 23-man squad that England should send to Rio.

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Fraser Forster, Ben Foster

Defenders: Glen Johnson, Leighton Baines, Steven Caulker, Gary Cahill, John Stones, Luke Shaw, Phil Jagielka

Midfield: Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana, James Milner, Ross Barkley, Michael Carrick

Striker: Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll

Snubs: John Ruddy, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Rickie Lambert, Jermaine Defoe, Chris Smalling

So you may be saying “Henry, you’re bloody crazy – what are you thinking?!” – well, maybe, maybe that’s true. However, the 23-man squad listed is a great mix of experience versus youth and finally gets rid of some of the shackles of the Golden Era – why send Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard, when we’ve apparently got no-shot at winning the World Cup but young players who can gain experience instead?

Sure, John Stones is an outside shot – but why not him? He’s been outstanding for Everton this season and while new on the senior level, has shown he can play against some of the

Potential Starting XI

Potential Starting XI

best Strikers in the world.

Jordan Henderson? Are you crazy? Yeah, I struggle with this a lot – but you can’t deny how well Henderson has partnered Steven Gerrard this season at Liverpool, why not give the kid a shot? Jack Wilshere is there if the experiment fails, plus you’ve got the reliable Michael Carrick (Well, if he remembers how to pass after his abysmal season…) to fall back on in case of injuries.

Taking Andy Carroll over Lambert or Defoe, now you’re crazy – well, maybe not? Andy Carrol has been very strong in his return after a struggle to overcome injuries this season, plus he offers a threat that none of our other forwards do. Defoe has failed to impress in Major League Soccer, and those defences are brutal, plus Rickie Lambert has failed to hit the mark this season.

But, now it’s your chance – let me know what you think and who YOU would send to Rio for England – leave a comment or two and let me know how wrong you think I am.

Henry writes about his two passions the Beautiful Game and the Brutal Game – whether you’re a die hard Soccer fan or passionate hockey fan, he’s got you covered. 

You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.

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THE BATTLE FOR THE CUP: SECOND ROUND PREDICTIONS

SCF2014What an end to the first round with three game sevens and the end of a beautiful, almost predictable, San Jose collapse – have the Sharks become the ultimate chokers in the playoffs, does this latest epic collapse put the crown on their heads? (Oops, too soon?).

With that said, how did we do in the first round?

We aced the Eastern Conference with the Bruins, Canadiens, Penguins and Rangers all winning, while we split the results in the Western Conference.

The Ducks and Blackhawks won, while the Wild and Kings upset our picks in Game 7 – we were within a MacKinnon goal and a 3-game collapse from a perfect first round.

And without further adieu, we’re onto the second round with the Bruins and Habs kicking things off on Thursday night.

Here are our picks for the second round:

 

 

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens

Nasty, ugly, brutal, crushing, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking – this second round matchup between North American sports’ most bitter rivals will be all that and so much more.

The playoff history is lopsided in the Habs favor, with them hold a 24-9 series record over their American rivals – but the tide has turned in recent memory, with the Bruins winning in the last two match-ups.

canadiensWe know the goalies are top notch, we know the usual suspects and we know that penalties galore are to be expected – for me, the key to winning could be in who doesn’t retaliate and who manages to keep their tempers under control.

Prediction: Montreal in 6

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Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers

Surviving scares, these two teams managed to make it into the second round but it could have easily been the Blue Jackets against the Flyers – with both teams digging deep to find a way to win.

The biggest difference between these two teams starts in net, with Henrik Lundqvist holding a clear advantage over the calamitous Marc-André Fleury – who single handily did as much as he could to give the Blue Jackets a series win.

All that aside, the Penguins have history on their side and have beaten the Rangers in ever series they’ve met. This time around, Rick Nash and rangerscompany will be looking to take advantage of sloppy defence and weak goaltending to break that goose egg.

For me, the glaring issues in net and the sloppiness will be too much with the Rangers taking advantage and running away with the series.

Prediction: Rangers in 6.

 

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild

Balanced scoring and responsible play helped the Wild get past the Avalanche and to be fair, the same could help them sneak by the Blackhawks in the second round.

It may not be enough though, with the Chicago offence on fire after scoring 14 goals in the final four games of their series against the Blues, add in the fact that Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper is questionable and  Ilya Bryzgalov is not the most reliable of goalies, this series could be over before it begins.

hawksI give the Wild credit for knocking off Patrick Roy’s young, inexperience team, but for me the Chicago playoff experience and form make this an easy prediction.

Prediction: Chicago in 6

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Anaheim Ducks v LA Kings

Let’s all take a collective moment and let it out: WHAT THE HELL SAN JOSE!?

Okay, now that we’ve covered that – how about those Kings? Coming back from being down 0 – 3 in a series, the fourth team ever to do that by the way, and stealing the series from the Sharks was impressive – but can they take that momentum and turn it into a Western Final berth?

Anze Kopitar was stellar in the first round and the Kings will ask for more of the same, he’ll have to contend with the likes of Ryan Getzlaf in this round and that should be a fun battle to watch.

For me the big question for this matchup is pretty clear: Goaltending.

Jonathan Quick vs maybe a healthy Frederik Anderson, but perhaps a Jonas Hiller (Without confidence of course….) – Old Brucey will need to decide, but either way the Ducks need a 180 turn around on the goaltending scale.
Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 7.32.13 PMThis is easily the toughest series for me to predict, but I’m going to give the edge to the Kings – maybe it’s their amazing twitter account that wins me over?

Prediction: Kings in 7

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Henry writes about his two passions the Beautiful Game and the Brutal Game – whether you’re a die hard Soccer fan or passionate hockey fan, he’s got you covered. 

You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.