England

Euro 2012, Quarterfinal Predictions

Ronaldo will look to book his team into the Semi-finals

Euro 2012, Quartfinal Predictions!

By: Henry Whitfield

Just when you think you can rest up after a crazy two weeks of Football, Euro 2012 throw’s the knockout rounds at you.

Surprise pick Greece squeaked into the round, but the match up of Spain v France and England v Italy will have fans of the beautiful game licking their lips.

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Czech Republic v Portugal

Portugal will be buoyed by the resurgence of Christiano Ronaldo, who picked his game up and showed the footballing world he’s still here with a masterclass display against the Netherlands.

But will it be enough?

The Czech’s have used sturdy defence, after their 4-1 demolishing by Russia of course, and tough work ethic to break down opponents and seal their spot in the next round.

It will be Petr Cech vs Ronaldo to determine this one, throw in a dash of Nani and a sprinkle of Postiga and you’ll have a win for Portugal and a spot in the semi-finals.

Prediction: Portugal 3 – 1 Czech Republic

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Rain or shine, Mario Gomez will score Friday.

Germany v Greece

 This isn’t 2004 and this isn’t a Germany team to be taken lightly.

Greece parked the bus, rode the biggest lucky horseshoe they could find and plumped themselves against tournament favourite Germany in the Semi-finals.

Even the most die-hard of the Greek faithful must see this one as a hopeless cause, we’ve seen bigger upsets, but this is a Germany team locked and loaded from to top to bottom.

Rain or shine, expect Mario Gomez to score and continue his red hot form this season.

Sorry Greece, better luck next time but congratulations on getting this far with Samaras up front.

Prediction: Germany 4 – 0 Greece

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Spain v France

The current holders of the Jules Rimet Trophy and Henri Delaunay Trophy respectively, Spain come into this game without a convincing display in the tournament, (yes they beat Republic of Ireland 4-0, but did they have to do much to do it?)

France started off slow, won then lost in a 2-0 match against Sweden and despite the effort of forgetting the 2010 implosion of this team there were once again reports of a bust-up between players.

Players fighting and arguing isn’t exactly what France want’s heading into a match against the world’s best.

Spain have yet to look like that of 2008 and 2010, but will still be favourites to win this one.

Look no further than Fernando Torres as the answer for Spain, if he can get his shooting boots working then it’s a win but if they toil and find themselves unable to get in gear, don’t think that France will be afraid to pounce.

This game looks far more even on paper or form than any other, but Spain edges this and books themselves into the semi-finals.

Prediction: Spain 2 – 1 France

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Which Mario Balotelli will show up for Italy?

England v Italy

Oh England, what have you gone and done now? They forgot to read the script and instead of crashing out of the group stage have pushed through to the knock-out rounds and face a resilient Italian squad.

Regardless of the controversy at home and the scandals abound in Italian football, this Italian squad has been solid in all three displays and the ageless Gianluigi Buffon has continued his dominance of opponents forwards.

While some may see two draws and a solitary win as weak, the Italians drew Spain and a difficult to break down Croatia, finally putting Ireland away in their final match.

England had stumbled into the tournament but after a draw against France, they were able to scramble and pick up wins against Sweden and Ukraine; shockingly finishing top of their group.

This match up is as dead even as it gets, from keeper to midfield to the strikers up front, my heart says England will win and the realist in me says that England can sneak this with a tough Roy Hodgson tactical display.

Will Joe Hart stand tall? Can Pirlo bend it enough? Will Balotelli stay on the pitch? Can Terry’s body hold up?

If England can sneak this, it may truly be a Great Escape.

Prediction: England 2 – 1 Italy

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Batting 6/8 in the first round, let’s hope the luck can continue:

Predicted Semi Final match-ups: England vs Germany, Spain vs Portugal

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Henry is a writer for Sportstream.ca  and part of the Bill McLean Sports Show on 88.1 CKDU  every Thursday Morning at 9am. You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , he’ll be bringing daily updates throughout the entire European Championships.

Euro 2012 Group Predictions, how did we do?

Wayne Rooney returned for England, heading them to top of Group D

Euro 2012 Group Predictions, how did we do?

By: Henry Whitfield

The wild roller coaster of the Group Stage is over, but the ride is far from over for the eight teams who have made it through to the knockout rounds.

Greece and Czech Republic are unlikely members of the final eight,  while Germany dominated the Group of Death and the Dutch were unable to get a single point out of their three matches.

England were surprise winners of Group D, turning a poor performance in their final game against Ukraine into a vital three points.

With the opening round of the tournament complete, here’s a wrap up of where everyone sits and how our predictions went:

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Group A

My Prediction – Russia, Czech Republic, Poland, Greece

Actual Standings Czech Republic, Greece, Russia, Poland

Who saw this one coming? Russia dominated the Czech Republic in their opener 4-1, sending waves through the tournament but they were unable to replicate that performance and crashed out. Greece snuck into the final rounds, using their defensive nature to scratch out results.

Group B

My PredictionNetherlands, Germany, Portugal, Denmark

Actual StandingsGermany, Portugal, Denmark, Netherlands

What went wrong for the Netherlands you ask? Everything. After losing their opener against Denmark, the Dutch were in tough and never seemed to get started. Germany rolled through the group, picking up all nine points, while Portuguese star Ronaldo finally showed up against the Dutch and booked his team a place in the final eight.

 

Torres will need to start firing on all cylinders to help push Spain forward.

Group C

My Prediction – Spain, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Croatia

Actual StandingsSpain, Italy, Croatia, Republic of Ireland

Spain and Italy made short work of the Republic of Ireland and Croatia, Spain did however look questionable in their final match against Croatia. Italy looked strong defensively and were able to get the points needed to progress.

Group D

My Prediction – France, England, Ukraine, Sweden

Actual ResultsEngland, France, Ukraine, Sweden

England clawed and scratched their way through, it wasn’t pretty and it was often ugly, but they drew France and picked up vital wins over Ukraine and Sweden. France were frustrated by England on opening day but were able to beat Ukraine to ensure their progression, but concern will be abound after a convincing 2 – 0 loss to Sweden in their final match.

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Correctly predicting 6 of the 8 teams to progress wasn’t too shabby, but i’d have to question anyone’s sanity who was able to correctly put the Czech Republic and Greece through. Insanity indeed.

Predictions for the Quarterfinals will be coming soon! 

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Henry is a writer for Sportstream.ca  and part of the Bill McLean Sports Show on 88.1 CKDU  every Thursday Morning at 9am. You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , he’ll be bringing daily updates throughout the entire European Championships.

Euro 2012 – Day 4, As It Happened

Lescott opened the scoring for England

Euro 2012 – Day 4, As It Happened

By: Henry Whitfield

The much anticipated match between England and France failed to produce an exciting display of football, ending in a 1-1 draw. With France unable to turn their dominance into a result to be happy with.

The surprise catalyst for excitement in Group D was Andriy Shevchenko, as the 35-year old scored two headers in six minutes to steal win for the Hosts.

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England 1 – 1 France

The pre-game talk was all whether England would be able to stop the 21-game unbeaten streak by France, but the match ended a bore 1-1 draw.

France dominated for much of the match, with 60% of the possession and a whopping 15 shots on target, compared to the just one by England.

James Milner had an excellent chance to score early on, beating the keeper but hitting the side netting instead of the wide open goal.

England were saved the embarrassment, with Joleon Lescott heading a sublime free-kick into the back of the net and sending the England fans into celebration.

Despite their positive start, England were guilty of sitting back for much of the game and at times seemed content to sit with ten men behind the ball, void of all attacking intent.

The tactic was their downfall, with Samir Nasri scoring a long-ranged shot past keeper Hart, with three England players unable to close down the Manchester City midfielder.

France will be disappointed that their superior control in the second half was unable to secure them a vital three points as Karim Benzema came close to sneaking a win.

Man Of the Match: Samir Nasri

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Shevchenko turned back time with a splendid brace for Ukraine

Ukraine 2 – 1 Sweden

A battle of two aging strikers lived up the billing as both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Andriy Shevchenko scored, showing the skill that has cemented the two in their countries respect lore.

After a tightly contested first half, Ibrahimovic put his Swedish team ahead off a cross from Kim Kallstrom, making no mistake from six yards out.

The excitement was short-lived, with the Ukraine talismanic forward turning the game on it’s head with a quick fire double.

His first goal came from a killer header off a short cross, the second was an even more spectacular header at the near post off a corner kick, turning the match around in a mere matter of moments.

The 35-year old sent the stadium into delirium, turning back the years and showing why he is regarded as nothing short of a National Hero.

Man Of the Match: Andriy Shevchenko

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Henry is a writer for Sportstream.ca  and part of the Bill McLean Sports Show on 88.1 CKDU  every Thursday Morning at 9am. You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , he’ll be bringing daily updates throughout the entire European Championships.

England’s Goalkeeping Makeover

Flashback two months, David James was the England number one, with Robert Green and Paul Robinson seen as backups to the Portsmouth keeper.

Due to injury Green started the first match in place of an injured James, but had a gaffe that will make his career for decades, while Paul Robinson never got a shot at the big show.

James returned to injury and although he played well in his first two matches, he showed a lack of skill and very slow reflexes in the four to one drubbing by Germany.

With England playing Hungary on Wednesday, Fabio Capello has gone full

Joe Hart look's to be the future for English goalkeeping

circle on his goalkeeping selections and has named young Manchester City keeper Joe Hart as his starter. Meanwhile Scott Carson will be his backup and Ben Foster had been named as third choice.

Many will wonder that after a strong season with Birmingham, why didn’t Joe Hart get a shot at the World Cup? He will seemingly be the England goalkeeper for the next decade and the experience would have given him valuable insight into the pressures of playing in important matches.

Ben Foster has since pulled out due to injury problems and this prompted Capello to call up inexperienced Watford keeper Scott Loach and Blackburn reserve keeper Frankie Fielding.

Loach has become England’s U21 first choice after Hart made the move to the senior level and is seen as a possible replacement in years to come but has little experience at the top level.  While Fielding is a Blackburn player he has yet to play for the club at Senior level and has been on loan at various teams since 2007, his most recent stint with Rochdale where he made 17 appearances.

Fabio Capello promised a youth movement in the aftermath of a terrible World Cup and it seems the first changes will be at the back.

Five Reason’s Why England Fans Shouldn’t Worry…

Anyone watching the World Cup by now has seen the howler by England Keeper Robert Green by now.

Clint Dempsey’s speculative shot turned into the net by Green and the England squad seemingly could find no way to respond to that drastic turn of events.

Logging into Facebook post-match, I was quite prepared for abuse and boy was it ready and waiting. Almost 70 comments, posts and messages reminding of the most painful footballing experience since we failed to qualify for Euro 2008.

That being said, here’s the Five Reasons Why England Fans Shouldn’t be worried:

5. In Capello We Trust: The Italian maestro engineered an almost flawless qualifying campaign for the World Cup and although he may have gotten it wrong with Robert Green, Ledley King and James Milner, you’d have to be crazy to think he’d get it wrong again. Fabio Capello is one of the best minds in football and will not take this draw lightly; Look for a truly inspired performance in England’s next match.

4. Gareth Barry Returns: Now fully fit, Gareth Barry will return to the lineup and allow Stevie Gerrard to go play on the left and Frank Lampard to get forward again. Without a holding midfielder both Gerrard and Lamps were forced to play in the central midfield and England fans all know how well that works…

3. Slow Starts Can Be Lucky: Italy in 2006 anyone? The defending World Cup champions had a torrid start back in Germany before going on to lift the Jules Rimet trophy. England will learn from this early trouble and come back stronger than ever, this could be the catalyst for a truly memorable run deep into the tournament.

2. Rooney Will Score: With so much pressure on Wayne Rooney, it seemed he took edge off and played with less intensity than usual as the nerves settle but when Rooney gets into rhythm he will start to score and when he does, I’m not sure he’ll stop.

1. It Can’t Happen twice.. Right?: Let’s be serious, that howler of a save by Robert Green had to happen to England at least once in this tournament. Paul Robinson’s missed back pass? David Seamen caught of the line by Ronaldinho? With our crucial mistake out of the system in game one, we’re good to go for the next month.

But, let’s be serious here. England faces both Algeria and Slovenia in the next two matches and there is no way that the Three Lions put in the same lacklustre performance in those games.

They may have entered the tournament with a whimper but the Three Lions will start to roar and show the true class of their team as the World Cup goes on.

Don’t forget to check out my pre-world cup predictions and keep checking back for your daily recaps throughout the tournament.

Henry Whitfield is an avid sports fan who covers everything and anything in the sports world, while focusing on hockey and football. Follow him on twitter @HenryWhitfield.

World Cup: Day 2

The second day of the World Cup allowed some big guns to come out with Diego Maradona and his Argentinean wonder-kids against Nigeria and the much-anticipated matchup between England and the USA.

South Korea 2 – 0 Greece

The surprise South Koreans from the last world cup opened their scoring account just seven minutes in and continued to pressure Greece for the rest of the match.

The good news from this match was that match fixing seems to be a thing of the past for South Korea, as a clear a blatant penalty shout was turned down for the South Koreans in the 15th minute.

But the South Koreans showed they are no pushovers and dominated the Greeks throughout the match, adding a second goal from Manchester United midfielder Ji Sung Park, however, it could have easily been five or six goals from the crafty Koreans as they weaved in and out of a mostly static Greek defence.

Man Of The Match: Ji Sung Park.

Argentina 1 – 0 Nigeria

On paper Argentina should have walked out with a much larger margin of victory and Diego Maradona will not be pleased that his team wasted so many opportunities. Playing in a 4-3-3, Diego’s boys played attractive attacking football and looked dangerous for the entire 90 minutes.

The only saving grace for a clearly outmatched Nigerian side was their goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama who made countless saves to keep his team in the match.

Gabriel Heinze broke the deadlock with a diving header to the top corner and both Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi will be disappointed to not have added goals.

Man Of The Match: Vincent Enyeama

England 1 – 1 USA

When this game was announced back at the 2009 fixture draw it was circled and underlined by fans on both sides of the pond. The USA were looking to upset the big dogs and England were looking to show the World they had become much more than an underperforming nation on the World stage.

The Three Lions kicked things off in style with newly appointed captain Steven Gerrard scoring just 4 minutes into the game after a deft pass from none other than Emile Heskey. Unfortunately for England that was the only contribution from the striker and he failed to make an impact on the game, missing a few golden opportunities.

The turning point in the match came just before halftime when Clint Dempsey took a weak shot from outside the box and Robert Green turned the ball into his own net instead of around the post. It was a howler that crushed the English spirit and seemed to shake the team to its core.

Although they dominated down the stretch, England just couldn’t find a goal to take the lead and the USA seemed content with playing to a draw.

Man Of The Match: Steven Gerrard

Daily Roundup

–          Unfortunately for the beautiful football style of the Argentinean side, it was Diego Maradona, who stole the spotlight. The crazy manager was shown over 30 times throughout the match, a tad bit of overkill no?

–          England will look to find some replacements in the back four with Ledley King going off injured at halftime and Jamie Carragher looking slow and exposed throughout the rest of the second half.

–          It appears that South Korea put the rest of the teams at the World Cup on notice with a dominant performance over Greece and showed that they have the skill and fitness to go deep in this tournament

Live blog of the buildup to and game between England vs Algeria on Friday, but keep your eyes open for more daily roundups!

Henry Whitfield is an avid sports fan who covers everything and anything in the sports world, while focusing on hockey and football. Follow him on twitter @HenryWhitfield.

BREAKING NEWS: The Official England Squad For WC 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Official England Squad for World Cup 2010

Yesterday I threw out my predictions for the team that Fabio Capello would select to send to South Africa to end the 46-year drought for England at the World Cup.

Now here, after an official announcement from The FA, is the 23-man squad hopping on the plane to South Africa:

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, David James, Robert Green.

Defenders: Jamie Carragher, Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, Ledley King, John Terry, Matthew Upson, Stephen Warnock
Midfielders: Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Forwards: Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey, Wayne Rooney

This means the Seven Players missing out are: Leighton Baines, Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone, Scott Parker, Adam Johnson, Theo Walcott, Darren Bent.

A quick refresher, I picked the following players to be dropped from the squad: Heskey, Carrick, Huddlestone, Parker, Wright-Phillips, Dawson and Warnock.

I had it close, but as you can see Capello has pulled a quick one and gone against his idea of ‘picking on form’ and chosen the same old England squad. Players like Heskey, Wright-Phillips and Michael Carrick have had horrid seasons but all book a place in the squad.

It appears that Adam Johnson and Leighton Baines just haven’t spent enough time with the England Squad, and Darren Bent just didn’t impress the manager enough.

This is it for now until my Group C breakdown comes out later this week…

Henry Whitfield is an avid sports fan who covers everything and anything in the sports world, while focusing on hockey and football. Follow him on twitter @HenryWhitfield.