This season has seen a few surprises in European football leagues.
HNK Rijeka also shocked the continent when they lifted their first ever Croatian First Division title on Sunday. It is the first time the club in the coastal city would achieve such.
With two rounds of games left, the Croatian side needed to defeat lowly placed Cibalia to confirm their victory. Fans were hoping that the team would seal off the competition a little early and they did.
Mario Gavranovic scored a double within four minutes to set the pace. Roman Bezjak added another on the stroke of half time to send the hosts three goals up. The fans were already in celebration mode as the third goal was scored but Dario Zuparic sent the fans wild with the fourth goal of the match.
Ahead of the last game, Rijeka have five points ahead of their closest opponents, confirming that the title would come home this term for the first time.
Dinamo Zagreb have been the dominant force in Croatia but Rijeka are the new kings of the nation’s football league. Zagreb won the league title for 11 years in a row but that reign has ended.
In France, a youthful Monaco side ended the five-year run of giants Paris St Germain this term as well. AS Roma were not able to end Juventus’ run but it they fought hard to the end. More and more teams are focused on usurping dominant teams across Europe.
Rijeka has a chance to play in the Champions League now. They have finished as runners up multiple times but after winning the title, they would make Europe’s elite club competition. The fans were already celebrating in a big way ahead of the trophy presentation next weekend.
Brazil and Barcelona forward Neymar believes that Brazil can win the World Cup in Russia next year.
He said that it had taken time for the team to rebuild their confidence after the humiliation against Germany in the last World Cup but he believes that they have improved since then.
He said that Brazil is always the favorite of any World Cup and that this would not change in Russia. He said that the team had taken a lot of time to gel and he believes that they have improved massively during the last few months.
Indeed Brazil is currently top of their qualifying table and may qualify for the Russian World Cup if they beat Paraguay in their next game.
He said that there is always a big expectation from the Brazilian fans and it is important that they do not disappoint them. He believes that it will be a tough thing to win the World Cup in Europe, but there is enough talent in the team to achieve this.
He said that there is no more pressure on him to lift Brazil nowadays as the team has matured a lot and that there are now other quality players in the team.
For him, the strength of Brazil at the next World Cup will be their team play and it is important that the players continue to learn how to play together. He said that you cannot win a World Cup by playing like 11 individuals on the pitch and it is important that you play like a team.
Neymar believes that there will be other strong nations at the World Cup 2018 in Russia, but it is important that you focus on your own team rather than the opposing teams. He believes that there is still time for the team to improve and become even better.
AmanjuPinnick is the president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and he believes that one of the reasons of why the Nigerian national football team has consistently been unable to make it into the advanced rounds of any major football competition is due to spiritual forces.
“No doubt, there are loads of Spiritual forces against the NFF and its programs so prayers conquer and answereth all. We are going to approach 2017 with realistic, tactical, practical, objective and prayerful tendencies’’ Nigeria’s AmanjuPinnick said.
Round of 16 is the furthest that the Nigerian national side has ever reached in any World Cup in their entire history but AmanjuPinnick is hoping that this will change from 2017 and so on.
Nigeria is leading the way of group B of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) which is essentially the African section of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification. Nigeria is at the top of group B with 6 points collected out of the 2 opening qualifying matches that have been played so far.
So far, the Nigerian side are doing a superb job in their task of qualifying for the 2018 edition of the World Cup but the main objective is to start getting better results than what they have ever done before in their competitive history not only for the approaching 2018 World Cup but also for any major football competition that they participate in and AmanjuPinnick believes that if the spiritual forces don’t interfere or if him and his team are able to take away those spiritual elements, the Nigerian national side should be able to perform significantly better than ever before.
Thailand surprised many when they forced Australia to a 2-2 draw in the World Cup qualifiers.
The Asian Cup champions were expected to thrash their opposition considerably in a build-up to the match, and they started the game with that faith until things went south. Mile Jedinak scored an early goal from the penalty spot, sending a message. However, the opposition seemed not to agree with the message as Dangda equalized in the 20th minute.
The equalizer was a turning point for the hosts. Their confidence was boosted and they went ahead with a second goal after the break. Half time was tied 1-1 with Australia having a slight edge in ball possession. However, Thai resumed the second half strongly and one of their attacking style of football provoked the Aussies to cause a penalty. Dangda took the kick and converted it, sending the Australia goalie the wrong way.
Australia react by changing players and tactics. As they pressed, Jedinak is fouled and the referee points to the spot for the third time. Jedinak scores to equalize for the visitors in the 65th minute.
Ange Postecoglou’s reshuffle tried getting the match winner but the Thai players hold their ground. The resolute defence kept leaving the Australians to stray into the offside trap and the score does not change. Thailand have a lucky break in the 86th minute as the Australian defence grows weary. At the end, the score line remains unchanged .
For Postecoglou’s men, it was a below-par performance that saw Aaron Mooy play his worst in a Socceroo shirt. The draw sees Australia drop to third place as Japan defeat Saudi Arabia. The visitors would not be happy after the first two games in the qualifiers.
The Nigerian national side has been able to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in the previous 2 editions of the worldwide competition back in 2010 and 2014 and John Obi Mikel has faith that they will be able to qualify for another successive year.
“We have a very good chance to qualify for the World Cup if we keep our heads and play at our best level. Each and every one of us is determined to go to the World Cup. Now that we are top of the table, we have to remain there.I have belief that we can reach new heights with this team. The boys are so committed that it makes you happy. The coaching crew is made up of very matured and brilliant people who respect the players. We are onto a good thing,” The Chelsea midfielder said as he voiced his confidence in the Nigerian squad.
The first and only 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match that the Nigerian nation has played so far saw them facing off with Zambia on October 9 of 2016 which resulted with Nigeria claiming a 2-1 victory.
Nigeria’s next qualifying is scheduled to take place on November 12 as they lock horns with Algeria and the team that is currently being captained by John Obi Mikel will be hoping to snatch another triumph and continue adding more points to their journey of qualifying for the 3rd successive time.
John Obi Mikel and his national side are currently positioned at the top of group B with 3 points secured but taking into consideration that only 1 match has been played and there are still 5 left, anything can happen in these remaining games and no team has assured their qualifying ticket.
After managing to excel at the Euro 2016, Northern Ireland are hungry for more successes and are looking towards qualifying for the World Cup 2018 according to Chris Baird.
Interestingly,Baird announced his retirement just after the Euro 2016 concluded. He has been a long-term serving player for the national team. Even though he has gone into the twilight with regard to international career, Ireland are hopeful of finding a successful replacement. They need to do so in order to achieve the objective of qualifying for the World Cup 2018.
The increase in the number of teams taking part in the finals of major tournaments has been a major factor towards the likes of Iceland and Northern Ireland qualifying to major tournaments. The World Cup 2018 also follows a similar path and it allows several new teams into the competition. Baird represented Northern Ireland in 79 games and he says that it will be a difficult objective, but the players remain confident after the recent exploits at the Euro 2016. The presence of hugely experienced Martin O’Neill has also provided them with a lot of confidence, but they could only get a 0-0 draw against Czech Republic in the opening qualification game.
The next couple of games will be very difficult as one of them involves world champions Germany.”They have a taste of it now and will want to continue that and progress. Hopefully we can qualify again and I don’t see why not.It is a big ask. We never get it easy and we always get some big team in there. We did it in the last campaign and you never know in football what will happen,” said Baird. Ireland will largely be targeting games against the likes of San Marino and Azerbaijan for a number of their target points.
KwesiAppiah is a 56 year old manager who took charge of the Ghana national football team on April of 2012 and he left the national side on September of 2014.
The 2018 World Cup qualifiers are edging closer and closer as the matches are scheduled to kick-off on September of the ongoing year. The Ghana national side is going through a fairly impressive period of time as the Ghanaian side managed to reach the quarter-finals of the 2010 edition of the World Cup.
In the 2014 World Cup, things did not go as impressively as they had to settle with the group stages but it’s still a position that is worth mentioning as there are many national sides that have never even managed to qualify for the worldwide competition.
Just by qualifying for any World Cup is a feat that does deserve recognition as it means that the national side which did achieve this had to advance through their respective group.
The former manager of the Ghana national team, KwesiAppiah is hoping that they continue qualifying and making memorable performances throughout the upcoming few years and the 56 year old manager stated that they should not sit back and take it easy as the competition is getting tougher each year with teams and players becoming better.
‘’There are no little or big teams in modern football.The game have developed in Africa and every opponent is strong now. If Ghana are going to qualify, then they will have to prepare for every match. We can’t just rest on past achievements, no matter how glorious the past was.” Former coach of Ghana, KwesiAppiah said.
KwesiAppiah is hoping that even though Ghana has been qualifying and doing pretty good jobs in qualifying for the past editions of the World Cup, that they should not take it easy and get overly confident.
Ghana was pitted in group E for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers along with Egypt, Congo and Uganda.
Russia’s length as a nation would create discomfort for the spectators in World Cup as they would have to cover a little too much distance at times to watch games.
Not only the spectators, the players too would be on the journey a lot more which would be highly exhausting.
The area of Russia is bigger than any other nation. A portion of it falls in Asia, while, rest falls in Europe and the games have been deliberately slotted in the latter portion as the spectators would generally be from Europe only. However, even that European portion is a little too big.
Only a few cities have advanced train system, while, in most of the others, the trains are still old, running at a much lower pace which means in order to catch all the games, you have to take the aerial means of transportation and that would only add to your cost.
Another issue is security. While the terrorist activities within Russia have not been frequent in the last couple of years and the foreigners would be slightly lesser worried regarding that, what would be worrying them more is the behaviour of the local supporters who don’t shy away from violence as they proved recently during Euro.
If they are daring enough to attack others on foreign soil, they would not require much of a provocation to do that inside their own surroundings and apart from violence, the Russians are known for getting racial too. Quite a few players employed in the top tier Football in Russia have been the victims of racial abuses and some have even protested on occasions.
Also, the fact that rather than being apologetic Moscow was actually mocking and suggesting the falseness of the Euro story would only make people more fearful and they would seriously re-think about their plans of buying the ticket to Russia.
As the years continue to roll by, Arsenal is still struggling to win major pieces of silverware.
With each new season that arrives, it seems like Arsenal is just on the verge of winning the Premier League title but they lose their pace and fall short.
There appears to be a split between the fans of Arsenal as there are supporters of the club that still have faith in Arsene Wenger but there are others that want to see Wenger leave the Emirates Stadium and be replaced by another manager who is truly able to go all the way through and start lifting major accolades.
Arsene Wenger’s contract with Arsenal expires at the end of the season and when that time arrives, the future of the French coach remains uncertain as the veteran manager does not know what’s going to happen but there are rumors going on involving Wenger with the managerial position of the French national side.
“I am getting a bit old now to make long-term plans. For the moment I am a club manager, we shall see what happens’’ Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger said.
Didier Deschamps is the current manager of France and his contract will reach it’s end after the 2018 FIFA World Cup and depending on how well or mediocre the French national side perform, it might determine the future of Deschamps but nonetheless, there are already rumors involving Wenger as a realistic candidate to take up the managerial position of France eventually someday.
For the time being, Arsene Wenger just wants to focus in winning big titles with Arsenal and he does not want to get distracted by anything that could mislead him from his objectives of the upcoming season and his time at the Emirates Stadium is running out as there are more fans that have expressed their frustration in seeing Wenger not being able to lift any significantly big or important title after so many years of disappointment.
Gianni Infantino has a positive take on the developments in Russia regarding the World Cup.
According to Infantino, everyone in Russia, from the public to the government to the association, is contributing to the preparations and with the cooperation of all; the tournament will be hosted as well as it has been hosted in the past.
Infantino has also assured the incoming spectators from different regions of the world that they will be provided high class hospitality in Russia as the living population in the country is very friendly and has an extremely welcoming nature.
There was not a lot of transparency in the process through which Russia was given the hosting rights and it was hoped that the new chairman coming in would go into that and come up with some explanations.
But, Infantino reckons he should work focussing on the facts rather than anything else and the fact is that Russia has been finalized as the host country. So, his duty, as the chairman of FIFA, is to supervise the developments and ensure a smooth organisation as far as the mega event is concerned.
The recent schedule of Infantino has not been the easiest. There has been constant touring around for him, from one continent to another. Soon a tour of Qatar is lined up as well where he would be looking to grasp complete idea of how the gulf country is progressing towards hosting World Cup 2022.
Any dissatisfaction on Infantino’s part on that tour might lead to the cancellation of Qatar’s hosting rights.
Infantino, since being chosen, has looked fully passionate about the job. He says all he wants to do is to make FIFA gain its credibility as an organisation again which it has lost after the corruption accusations lately.