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[OC] An insight in the world of football kits - 454 teams that play in the most unusual colors
I would like to start with a humble warning, that this will be a longer than "usual" post. Hopefully, it will compensate with the amount of information you might deem as interesting. :) After finishing my first journey into the world of colors in football, by counting which teams play in red & black color combination, I decided to pursue my next curiosity: How many football teams in the world play in unusual colors? By this, I was thinking of teams which have a “main” color that is rarely used (grey, brown, purple, pink, etc.) or use an uncommon color combination. Because of this coronavirus madness that is going on, I was able to spend more hours for this project than I planned, so in the end I was able to go into almost every single league in the world. I checked teams from over 400 divisions, of different tiers, from all continents. Although it’s not an official list, I tried to include as many clubs as possible on it. Now, you're probably asking yourself "How do you measure how rare or how common is in football a color / combination of colors?" An exact answer is impossible to give, so I started the study using my own experience as a football supporter, finally finding an useful purpose for the thousands of hours spent on watching football games. Therefore, I used a subjective point of view and excluded the color combinations that I, personally, considered to be the most common in football teams, namely:
One-color kits: white, black, red, blue, yellow, green
Most 2-color combinations that contain white or black: white-blue, white-red, black-yellow, black-green, etc.
Other combinations: red-blue, red-yellow, blue-yellow, yellow-green.
An exception was the color orange, where I excluded only the orange+black combination, which is much more widespread than all other combinations that include orange.
The selection criteria for the teams were as follows:
The team should have their main kit in colors which are different than the ones enumerated above;
The team must have played or been associated with the colors for several seasons;
The team should be currently active (dissolved clubs were not included).
But enough introduction, let’s jump straight into the list of the most uncommon kit colors in the world of football:
CATEGORY I - Teams with 1 main color
1.Purple(includes purple+white or purple+black) - [73 clubs] Notable teams: Fiorentina, Anderlecht, Toulouse, Austria Vienna, Real Valladolid. Other teams (by conference): UEFA (photo gallery here) - CE Carroi (Andorra), SV Austria Salzburg, Austria Klagenfurt (Austria), K Beerschot VA (Belgium), Etar Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria), NK Dubrava (Croatia), Daventry Town FC (England), Istres (France), VfL Osnabrück, Erzgebirge Aue (Germany), Ujpest, Békéscsaba 1912, Kecskemet TE (Hungary), ACD Legnano, AS Ostia Mare, Gioiese, Casoria Calcio 1979 (Italy), St. Andrews FC (Malta), FC Argeș, ASU Politehnica Timișoara, ACS Poli Timișoara (Romania), FK Graficar (Serbia), KFC Komarno (Slovakia), NK Maribor (Slovenia), Real Jaen, Alameda de Osuna EF, CD Becerril, Atletico Guadalajara, CD Guadalajara, CD Liendo, CD Santurtzi, CD Palencia, La Baneza (Spain) (Spain), Afjet Afyonspor, Hacettepe, Orduspor (Turkey). Rest of the World (photo gallery here):
COMNEBOL - Club Villa Dalmine, Sacachispas FC, Club Atlético Quiroga (Argentina), Deportes Concepcion, San Antonio Unido (Chile) Defensor Sporting, CA Fenix (Uruguay), Metropolitanos FC (Venezuela).
CONCACAF - Orlando City, Louisville City FC, Oakland County FC (USA), Pacific FC (Canada), CD Chalatenango (El Salvador).
CAF - Mountain of Fire and Miracles FC (Nigeria), Mbeya City FC (Tanzania), AS Denguele Foot (Ivory Coast), Fovu Baham FC (Cameroon), AS Sonabel (Burkina Faso).
AFC - FC Anyang (South Korea), Kyoto Sanga, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Fujieda MYFC (Japan), Heilongjiang Lava Spring (China), Hanoi FC (Vietnam), Nagaworld FC (Cambodia), Persita Tangerang, Persik Kediri, PSGC Ciamin (Indonesia), Al-Ain (UAE), De Abasin Sape (Afghanistan), Perth Glory (Australia).
OFC - AS Manu-Ura (Tahiti).
2.Burgundy (includes burgundy+white, or similar shades: maroon, claret, dark red, wine red) - [74 clubs] Notable teams: AC Torino, Metz, Sparta Prague, CFR Cluj. Other teams (by conference): UEFA (photo gallery here) - FK Sarajevo (Bosnia), Chelmsford City, FC Northampton Town (England), JJK Jyväskylä (Finland), Dynamo Berlin (Germany), AEL Larissa (Greece), UM Selfoss (Iceland), Galway United (Ireland), Reggina, Cittadella, Salernitana, Trapani, Livorno, US Pontedera, Arezzo, Reggio Audace FC, Fano, US Capistrello, AC Morrone, AC Locri, ASD Bovalinese, Borgosesia Calcio, Milano City FC, Union Clodiense Chioggia, USD Breno, Olympia Agnonese, ASD Travestere Calcio, AC Nardo, ASD Citta di Acireale (Italy), FC Džiugas Telšiai (Lithuania), Nardo FK (Norway), CD Fatima, Clube Oriental de Lisboa (Portugal), Rapid Bucharest, Viitorul Ianca (Romania), AC Libertas (San Marino), Heart of Midlothian FC, Stenhousemuir FC (Scotland), NK Triglav Kranj (Slovenia), Independiente de Vallecas, CD Cenicero (Spain), Hatayspor, İnegölspor, Bandirmaspor, Elazigspor (Turkey), Cardiff Metropolitan University FC (Wales). Rest of the World (photo gallery here):
COMNEBOL - Lanús (Argentina), Jacuipense, Ferroviaria, S.E.R. Caxias do Sul (Brasil), Deportivo Liberacion (Paraguay), Club Atletico Torino (Peru), Carabobo FC (Venezuela)
CONCACAF - Sacramento Republic FC (USA), Valour FC (Canada), Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica)
CAF - Manzini Wanderers FC (Eswatini), Generation Foot (Senegal), Moroka Swallows FC (South Africa)
AFC - Vissel Kobe, FC Ryukyu (Japan), Al Wahda (UAE), Al Markhiya (Qatar), Shahr Khodro FC (Iran), Al Nasr SC (Kuwait), PSM Makassar (Indonesia), Nejmeh SC (Lebanon)
OFC - Matavera FC (Cook Islands), FC Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands).
UEFA - HNK Sibenik (Croatia), Blackpool (England) SV TEC (Netherlands), Hapoel Rishon LeZion (Israel), Pistoiese (Italy), FK Banga Gargzdai (Lithuania), Bruk-Bet Termalica Nieciecza, Zagłębie Lubin (Poland), CD Burgos Promesas (Spain), AFC Eskiltuna (Sweden), Alanyaspor, Adanaspor (Turkey), FC Mariupol (Ukraine).
COMNEBOL - Nova Iguaçu FC (Brazil), Cobresal, Cobreloa (Chile) Envigado FC (Colombia), Universidad César Vallejo (Peru).
CONCACAF - Houston Dynamo, Rio Grande Valley Football Club Toros (USA), Deportivo Achuapa (Guatemala), Cibao FC (Dominican Republic), Guayama FC (Puerto Rico)
CAF - RS Berkane (Morocco), FC Nouadhibou (Mauritania), Polokwane City FC (South Africa), Akwa United (Nigeria), Dire Dawa Kenema (Ethiopia), Salitas FC (Burkina Faso), Côte d'Or FC (Seychelles), Fosa Juniors FC (Madagascar)
AFC - Jeju United FC (South Korea). Shimizu S-Pulse, Omiya Ardija (Japan), Ratchaburi, Sukhothai FC, Nakhon Ratchasima, Sisaket FC, Kasetsart FC, Udon Thani FC (Thailand), FELDA United (Malaysia), SHB Đà Nẵng (Vietnam), Albirex FC Singapore, Hougang United FC (Singapore), Borneo FC (Indonesia), Sporting Clube de Goa, FC Goa, NEROCA FC (India), Saipa FC (Iran), Sanat Mes Kerman (Iran), Brothers Union FC (Bangladesh), Ajman Club (UAE), UMM Salal (Qatar), Al-Hala SC (Bahrain).
UEFA - CS Sedan Ardennes, US Lusitanos Saint Maur (France), Alba Adriatica, Union Feltre (Italy), Speranța Drochia (Moldova), SP Cailungo (San Marino), Amio SD, Laracha CF, Apurtuarte Club, CF Jacetano (Spain), Amed SK, Karşıyaka S.K., Diyarbakirspor (Turkey)
COMNEBOL - Club Agropecuario, Sportivo Atlético Club Las Parejas (Argentina), Portuguesa RJ, Pato Branco EC (Brazil), Boston River (Uruguay)
CONCACAF - AD Carmelita, AD Guanacasteca (Costa RIca), SV Robinhood (Suriname)
CAF - Stade Tunisien (Tunisia), MC Alger, JSM Bejaia (Algeria), Africa Sports d'Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Teichman City FC (Ghana), Canon Yaounde (Cameroon), Defense Force SC (Ethiopia), AS Pikine (Senegal), Masters Security FC (Malawi).
AFC - Lokomotiv Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Adamstown Rosebud FC (Australia).
UEFA - OFC Sliven 2000 (Bulgaria), Braintree Town FC, Mansfield Town FC (England), Lions Gibraltar FC, ASD Czarlins Muzane (Italy), Aalesunds FK (Norway), AE Roses (Spain)
COMNEBOL - Duque de Caxias (Brazil), Academia Puerto Cabello (Venezuela)
CONCACAF - FC Cincinnati (USA), Lobos UPNFM (Honduras)
CAF - Real Kings FC (South Africa), Sunshine Stars (Nigeria)
AFC - Albirex Niigata (Japan), Queensland Lions FC, Riverside Olympic (Australia), Wellington United (New Zealand), Thai Port FC (Thailand), Al Fayha (Saudi Arabia), Al Karamah SC (Syria), Homenetmen Beirut (Lebanon)
UEFA - Enosis Neon Paralimni FC (Cyprus), Scunthorpe United, Weymouth FC (England), Argja Bóltfelag (Feroe), Glacis United (Gibraltar), Cobh Ramblers FC, Drogheda United (Ireland), USD Vipo Trento, FC Rieti (Italy), Gzira United (Malta), Veles Moscow (Russia), Keith FC (Scotland), Pontevedra CF (Spain), AC Bellinzona (Switzerland), Colwyn Bay FC (Wales)
2.Blue + Yellow + White [1 club] -CA Bella Vista (Uruguay) 3.Blue + Yellow + Black [1 club] -Real Sport Clube (Portugal) 4.Blue + Green + White [1 club] -St. Louis FC (USA) 5.Blue + Orange + White [2 clubs]
2.Red + Yellow + Blue + White [1 club] -ASDC Verbania (Italy) 3.Red + Yellow + Blue + Black [1 club] -Coras de Nayarit (Mexico) Here they are. 454 teams from across the entire the world, from Feroe Island to Papua New Guinea or the 4th Italian league. This should be about it. However, if there are by any chance teams that I might have missed, please feel free to leave a comment and I will add them on the list. Thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed it!
Best Betting Sites » Top International Betting Sites 2020
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On Friday at 8pm UK time, Reading and Derby County will kick off the 127th season of the English second division - also known as the Championship! 24 clubs will compete for 3 promotion spots to the Premier league (2 via automatic promotion and 1 via playoffs) and to avoid the 3 relegation spots to the third tier a.k.a League One.
Its looking like a really tight and competitive season. The league is absolutely full of ambitious player and managerial talent - the more time goes by the more it looks like a Premier League 2. If you want a competitive league with proper English football, that also has the spice of skilful players and forward thinking managers, it really is the place to go.
This is guide written by the fans who have come together on /Championship - an absolutely huge thanks to them. Do check out the sub, we try to keep it a good place to discuss the EFL, away from the rancid gloryhunting shithole that is /soccer (just kidding - I like this place). Lots going on, including a score predictor thread which is running all season.
This guide is in table order with the PL demoted sides first. Only 5 clubs today (because the Swansea one is a fucking novel and I can't fit any more in), the rest will be submitted tomorrow and Friday. Do bare in mind that not all the transfer news will be up to date as these guides were largely written a week ago. Point out to me if there are any clear errors with formatting or spelling.
How to watch in the UK: Live rights are owned by Sky Sports. They are upping the number of televised matches this season. Reading v Derby on Friday is televised. The weekly highlights show previously on Channel 5 is moving to Quest TV, which apparently is on Freeview. How to watch abroad: Depends, but in most territories, the iFollow Service is available, which is £110 to watch all a single club's matches. Bargain. I think the clubs that aren't on iFollow have their own similar streaming services. Check out club Youtube channels - quite a few of them post extended highlights now with their own commentary, including Derby, Norwich, Sheffield Wednesday, Brentford and more. (You may need VPN to watch if you're abroad.)
Location: Swansea, Wales Nickname: Swans, The Jacks Major honours: Football League Cup (2013), Championship Play-off Winner (2011), League One Winners (1925, 1949, 2008) 17/18 finishing postion: 18th (Premier League) Transfermarkt squad value:€115.5 mil NOTE: This number is as of July 22nd, when we still have Mawson (€15 mil), A. Ayew (€15 mil), Bony (€10 mil), Clucas (€8 mil) and Fernandez (€8 mil), who are all pretty much expected to be sold, or loaned out, before the season starts. Without all of these players except Bony (who's injured for a while so it makes it unlikely he'll be sold soon), the squad value would be around €70 mil. Manager: Graham Potter joined the Swans on 11th June 2018. In 2010, he became head coach of Östersund, who were in the fourth tier of Swedish football. 5 years later, he got the club promoted into the Swedish top flight and in 2017, they won Svenska Cupen which qualified them for the Europa League where they managed to get through the group stage. He’s been applauded for what he did at Östersund and the way he managed to build the club up from nothing. The year after his success in the Europa league he signed a 3 year contract with Swansea. Potter is well respected by The Swans and after a few years of poor managerial and financial decisions his appointment is seen as a step in the right direction to bringing us back to our old ways of being a well-run club. Potter has been recognised for his "progressive" and "unconventional" coaching methods. At Östersund, he encouraged his players and staff to engage in community activities, such as performing in theatre and music productions which was designed to take them out of their comfort zone. Potter describes his style of football on the pitch as "tactically flexible, attacking, and possession-based". At Östersund, he deployed a flexible 3–5–2 formation centred on ball possession. Best player(s)/ talisman:With many of our best players being rumoured with a move away what good players that remain at the start of the season is yet to be seen. Alfie Mawson is probably our standout player. He’s been amazing for us since we got him and was a bargain at about £3m. He’s great in the air and is just an all round tank. Keeping him will be a huge boost for us and should be solid in the championship. Federico "El Pajaro" Fernandez has also been strong at the back with Alfie. The pair played with each other for the majority of last season and together became a solid unit. We will most likely sell him to reduce wages though. Jordan Ayew put in a great shift last season and was our top goal scorer. His work rate was immense and was able to drop back and defend when needed. He’s fast, able to beat a man and a decent finisher. Sadly all these players are transfer targets for other clubs and might not even be here at the start of the season. If we can keep a lot of our players we should have a decent season but who knows who'll be left by the end of the window… Rising star: Swansea’s U23 had a great season last year and with Potter wanting a young and fresh squad, a handful have moved up into the first team. Our standout youngster, Oliver McBurnie, joined Barnsley on loan in January last season where he went on to win a Championship player of the month award after 6 goals in 8 games and went on to win Barnsley’s Player of the year award. While only 22, he’s struggled to break into our first team but will most likely be our main striker for the coming season. Be on the lookout for his long legs, miniature shinpads and ridiculous sock length! LEGS LEGS LEGS!!! Connor Roberts performed well at RB last season and adapted quickly to the premier league where he battled Kyle Naughton to be in the starting line up and did great when given the chance. Decent at going forward and professional at the back. Hopefully potter puts him ahead of Naughton. What happened last season?: What Happened last season?: After our great escape the season before and with Paul Clement at the helm there was optimism that the 17/18 season could be our turning point where we start rebuilding 'The Swansea Way". How wrong we were. After a disastrous transfer window where we sold Sigurdsson and never replaced him and started panic buying the week before the transfer window closed we were left an obvious hole in our team. We had no creativity in midfield and no one could kick the ball into the box to save their life. And just to rub it in further Renato Sanches turned out to be more disappointing than Bob Bradley. With the team sitting bottom of the table Clement was sacked in late December. Then along came the wise talking Carlos Carvalhal who managed to rebuild the confidence the team had lost. Our results took a turn for the good, beating Liverpool, Arsenal, Burnley and West Ham consecutively at home. He pulled us out of the relegation zone and things were looking good. However, the good times were quickly followed by the bad times. Our form turned and we didn’t win a single one of our last 9 matches. We were quickly relegated after pitifully losing to both Southampton and Stoke in our last 2 games of the season. Highlights (Or lowlights): The pass by Renato Sanches that summed up his and our season Swansea City 3-1 Arsenal Summer transfer business (so far): At the end of last season, it was clear we needed several transfers, both in and out. However, this would all depend on the manager we got. Yan Dhanda (Free, Liverpool): A 19 year-old Midfielder, Yan Dhanda left Liverpool this summer and joined the Swans in a free, before we even hired Graham Potter. At one time one of the most promosing youngsters in Liverpool's Academy, injuries slowed down his progress, and ultimately made him fall behind other players. Citing lack of first-team playing time, Dhanda decided to join us this summer in hopes of getting regular playing time in the senior squad. Through 3 pre-season games, Dhanda has been one of the brighest and most impressive players in the squad, even scoring a game-winning goal and smashing a penalty in a shootout against Genoa. With our current injuries and shenanigans involved in our midfield, Dhanda has a good chance of becoming a starter and hopefully guide our midfield during the season. Jordi Govea (Free, Real Madrid): Another 19 year-old from Ecuador, Jordi was the first signing under Potter. Not much can be said about the lad, but this is what Real Madrid had as his bio:
Jordi is an Ecuadorian defender who possess three key qualities for a player in his position: he's skilful, is able to go past a player and has a good shot on him. He's left footed and is able to send in good crosses on the run.
With Martin Olsson currently as our starting LB, and Kyle Naughton as the backup, the hope is that Jordi can develop on our U-23 squad and hopefully move up to the senior squad in coming years. Also the only man I've seen do a medical while wearing jeans (https://twitter.com/SwansOfficial/status/1015251916132057089) Joel Asoro (€2 mil., Sunderland): Yet another 19 year-old, a Swedish winger who has represented his country in the younger levels, he was Potter's first senior signing. With world-class speed, and some impressive skills, Asoro was able to score 3 goals and get 2 assists last season in 26 apperances for Sunderland. While these numbers may seem a bit disappointing, many of these games were sub appearances on a very dysfunctional team. Along with Dhanda, Asoro has been one of the most impressive players during preseason, constantly beating his man with either speed or skills, and whipping in good balls to Legs. At the current rate, Asoro appears to have a good chance of starting on the right wing spot, with Nathan Dyer and Luciano Narsingh backing him up. Predicted starting XI: NOTE: This is gonna be assuming Mawson, A. Ayew, Clucas, and Fernandez are all sold by the start of the season. If by some reason they end up staying, they are pretty much guaranteed to start. Based on the pre-season games so far, a lineup looking like this would be plausible, with Rodon most likely to be replaced by a CB (possibly Scott McKenna) when we buy one. Our second unit is looking something like this. Best case scenario: Graham Potter is able to motivate and make sure our senior players (Fer, Carroll, etc.) stay fit, along with our youngsters being able to make an impact as expected, and also we retain Mawson, Fernandez, and Clucas, we can finish in the top 2 and get promoted automatically. Worst case scenario: Our worst case scenario, and something many of us fear of happening, consists of primarily 3 things. 1. Graham Potter isn't given enough time to build an identity with our squad and is sacked by the midway point of the season by the greedy, dumb American owners. . 2. We end up not replacing the players we sold properly like last summer, therefore having a squad with holes everywhere and no chemistry. 3. Our youngsters such as Asoro, McBurnie, Dhanda and company don't pan out and progress at all, thefore becoming mediocre players. This would all culminate in us looking like Sunderland, and making relegation a probability. Prediction: Realistically I see us selling Mawson and company in the last days before the season starts and not replacing them properly until later on. Because of this, as well as our current injuries with Fer and Clucas, I can see us initially struggling to build an identity but over time, we will start playing like Potter wants us and finishing the season strongly. 8th place, missing the play-offs by 4 points What will happen to your closest rivals?: The scum that is known as Cardiff City will break the record for lowest points ever accumulated in a Premier League season, getting 5 points all from draws, and will therefore get relegated with 17 games to spare.
Location:The Hawthorns, West Bromwich, West Midlands Nickname: The Baggies, The Throstles Major honours: 1x League title, 1x League Cup, 5x FA Cup 17/18 finishing postion: 20th in Premier League (relegated) Transfermarkt squad value: £101.16m Manager:Darren Moore or Big Dave as he's known to Albion fans. A club icon as a player in the early 2000s, he returned to look after our U23 squad before being promoted to assistant manager by Alan Pardew in January. Following the end of Pardew's horrific reign, Moore took temporary charge with Albion facing inevitable relegation. He led us to wins over Newcastle, Spurs, Man Utd and a draw with Liverpool, somehow taking our futile battle for survival to the final week of the season. Following this he earned the head coach role permanently. Moore is loved among the Albion faithful, largely due to his reputation as a player here. He heavily favours a 4-4-2 formation and at the back end of last season, tended to soak up pressure and play on the counter attack. It will be interesting to see how his approach differs in a league where we are one of the favourites, not fighting to survive (hopefully) Best player(s)/ talisman: It's an interesting situation for Albion currently. There are plenty of Premier League quality players still in the squad. A lot depends on if they are picked off before the deadline shuts. Chris Brunt is a club stalwart and likely to be reappointed as captain. He is adored by the fans and in my opinion will be an incredible asset in the championship. His set pieces alone will bring 10+ goals to the side. Kieran Gibbs is a high quality player who appears to be set to stay and should make a big difference. Jay Rodriguez, Craig Dawson, Salomon Rondon and Nacer Chadli should all make a big difference in this division IF they stay. In all honesty I expect to lose a few of the above. Sam Johnstone appears to be an astute signing to replace the outgoing Ben Foster. Rising star:Sam Field he's one of our own! He looked completely at home against some of the top Premier League sides last campaign. A box-to-box midfielder, he's full of energy and looks so comfortable on the ball. I expect him to be a major part of our side this season, having just signed a new long-term deal. Kyle Edwards is an exciting attacking midfielder who has been impressing in pre-season. He may have a part to play following a loan spell at Exeter last campaign. Jonathon Leko looked like a potential world-beater when he first came through a couple of years back. A lightning quick winger full of tricks. A loan spell at Bristol City and limited appearances later he seems to be losing his way. Will be an interesting one to watch. Finally, the enigma that is Olly Burke. After signing with us last summer for £15m, he failed to impress any of the four managers we had over the season. He looks exciting when he comes on, without any end product so far, and was unfairly blamed for a loss at West Ham by Alan 'Coward' Pardew. We all know the talent he's got. Hopefully we can see it this season. What happened last season?: Let's not talk about it... We finally escaped the stranglehold of Tony Pulis, only to opt for the human joke that is Alan Pardew and duly hurtled towards relegation. Four of our players stole a taxi and then played (and lost) the following weekend. Pardew was sacked about 3 months too late, and Moore took over, restoring pride with some notable wins over Man Utd and Spurs. This season we also lost the great Cyrille Regis, and the outpouring of emotion and the coming together of the club during the weeks after his passing was something special. Summer transfer business (so far): We started by releasing Claudio Yacob, Boaz Myhill and Gareth McAuley. Yacob and McAuley will be greatly missed but it is perhaps the right time for them to go. Jonny Evans departed for Leicester for a cut-price £3m, Ben Foster left for Watford and James McClean has departed for Stoke City. Sam Johnstone has been bought in to replace Foster, with Jonathon Bond arriving as backup. Kyle Bartley has joined from Swansea City and it appears that Harvey Barnes will soon be arriving on loan from Leicester. Finally, James Morrison is currently out of contract but still with the club. His future is uncertain. I am very happy with Johnstone and Bartley. It has been a quiet window for Albion so far but that is largely a good thing. The squad is packed with Premier League talent and the window is more about keeping hold of them. There is major interest in Dawson and Rondon, along with interest in Rodriguez, Hegazi and Chadli. If any of the above go, then we would need to replace. Otherwise I would be happy with another striker and another CB. It is also worth mentioning that every player in the Albion side suffered a 50% wage cut upon relegation which means that we are financially sound despite relegation, but may lead to more big names leaving. Predicted starting XI:This is my best attempt. It will undoubtedly be 4-4-2. We may see Nyom in at right back and perhaps Barry in for Field. Obviously about half of this side could leave, so we shall see. Best case scenario: The bulk of the side remains and the quality in the side shines through as we breeze to automatic promotion. Worst case scenario: The better players leave or do not put the effort in. Moore cannot transfer his great start into his first full season in management. We become embroiled in a relegation battle Prediction: It will be somewhere in the middle. I'd like to think we'll go up automatically but I think play-offs are more likely. 6th What will happen to your closest rivals?: Villa won't go down but will settle into mid-table, despite the recent takeover. I think Wolves will do well in the PL, although I don't know how long Nuno will last before a big club comes in.
Location: Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire Nickname: The Potters Stadium:bet365 Stadium, 30,089 seats Major honours: 1972 League Cup 17/18 finishing position: 19th, Premier League Squad value: £127.8 million Manager:Gary Rowett signed from Derby in May. His honest attitude has brought lots of optimism to fans, who are looking forward to an overhaul of the Club. His style of play seems to change based on the squad he has available. Best Player:Joe Allen was vital to the Club last season, giving us hope that we would avoid relegation. His massive new contract signed this summer shows how loyal and committed to the Club he is, and will be a vital player this season. Rising star:Tom Edwards is a local lad who has won the Under 18 Player of the Year award twice in the Club. In the latter parts of last season he played some good first team football. What happened last season: A pathetic attempt at a season that had been coming for a while under Mark Hughes. Paul Lambert was appointed in January, but a win rate of just 2 in 15 matches wasn’t enough for him to keep his job and miss out on the million pound bonus offered to him. Transfer business so far: So far this has been a decent transfer window. Peter Etebo had an amazing World Cup for Nigeria and Benik Afobe looks really promising. Adam Federici has also been appointed to replace Lee Grant. Xherdan Shaqiri has left along with a few players like Stephen Ireland and Glen Johnson who will not be missed. Badou Ndiaye also looks to be on his way out, but it looks like Jack Butland will stay with us, which is massive. Perhaps most surprising are the new contracts signed by our 2 best players last season, Joe Allen and Moritz Bauer. Predicted Line up:Here is our predicted squad. I’m not sure what formation we will have. EDIT: This is a new version, complete with our rumoured new signings and in the right formation. Best case scenario: Stoke will finish top with an all-time Championship points record. Worst case scenario: A mediocre start to the season will see Rowett sacked and Stoke with a disappointing mid-table finish. Prediction: I think with our squad and our new manager, we will finish 1st. What will happen to our closest rivals? Port Vale will be relegated to the Vanarama National League.
Location:Villa Park, Trinity Rd, Birmingham B6 6HE Nickname: The Villans, The Villa, Prince William's Club, David "Twat" Cameron's Second Club. Major honours: 7 First Division wins, 7 FA Cups, 5 League Cups, 1 European Cup, 1 European Super Cup, 1 Intertoto Cup 17/18 finishing postion: 4th Transfermarkt squad value: £67.77m and dropping fast Manager:Steve Bruce (for now). Former Man Utd playing legend who's been a fixture of English football for decades. He joined Villa in 2016 after successful runs at Hull, Sunderland (yes they were good once) and Birmingham City. A bit of a promotion specialist, he's taken Championship clubs up to the Premier League 4 times in the past and just missed out last season, losing 1-0 to Fulham in the Playoff Final. Tactically, he's fairly old school who prefers 4-4-2 or a 4-1-4-1, usually involving a big man up top. Fun fact: while managing Huddersfield in 1999 he wrote three novels, "Striker!", "Sweeper!" and "Defender!", which focus on main character Steve Barnes, a football manager. Barnes solves crime and takes on terrorists, and the books have become prized rarities. The Guardian's Football Weekly podcast managed to get a copy and read out some of the copy - suitably awful. Best player(s)/ talisman: There's only one Jack Grealish. A Villa boy through and through, he's been with the club since 2001 (aged 6), and made his way into the first team in the 2013-14 season. He's been the centre of controversy a few times, most notably getting on the beers and passing out on a Tenerife street. Playing as a number 10, his quick feet and dribbling skills provide a number of goals and assists, as well as fouls. He probably went down a bit too easily when first in the Premier League, but time in the gym has noticeably toughened him up and he's a much more solid player as a result. One of the better players in the Championship, and due to Villa's abject finances, a transfer target for the likes of Leicester. Rising star: Keinan Davis could possibly be it, potentially Andre Green and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy as well. What happened last season?: Have you ever walked into a casino, spotted the roulette table and popped £10,000 on red? It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off. You've doubled your money if you win, but look like a right git if you lose. Villa figured this was a good way to approach 2017-18: spend millions on players, get in lots of loans, gamble everything on achieving promotion. After a so-so start, Bruce got the team playing well, stringing together a number of wins and moving through the playoff spots. Unfortunately they ran into a few teams playing out of their skin - champions Wolves ran away with the league and boasted a squad that included several Champions League players. Neil Warnock's Cardiff couldn't stop winning and grabbed the second automatic promotion. In the playoff final Villa came up against a Ryan Sessegnon-led Fulham and were just pipped at the post 1-0. Summer transfer business (so far): It's one-way traffic, due to absolutely abysmal finances. Loan spells for Lewis Grabban, Robert Snodgrass, Josh Onomah and Sam Johnstone have all ended, which is almost the spine of the team (Johnstone in particular - he was arguably the best keeper in the Championship and personally bagged a number of wins). Plus clubs are circling to pick off whatever assets we have left (eg. Jack Grealish, James Chester). With no prospect of anyone new coming in, it looks like the youth academy will be getting a lot more game time. Predicted starting XI:Possibly this, but half these players could be gone before the first match. Best case scenario: Mid-table anonymity would have to be best case - Villa are a mess and could go down this time around. Worst case scenario: Our finances are the real issue - they are dire. Villa need to find £9 million this month to avoid going into administration. Owner "Dr." Tony Xia is a billionaire, apparently, but tax bills went unpaid and the question remains if he's able to support the club as generously as he has in the past. Administration, points deductions and potentially relegation to League One are all real possibilities right now. It's not looking good. Prediction: Due to financial irregularities in the 23 clubs above us, Villa will get into the Champions League and take out the likes of Atletico, Bayern and Real Madrid on the way to our second European Cup. "Taylor, Green, prepared to venture down the left. There's a good ball played in for Jack Grealish. Oh, it must be and it is! It's Keinan Davis!" What will happen to your closest rivals?: Unfortunately the Scum managed to avoid League One in the final rounds of the season. Here's hoping they go one better. Agbonlahor to re-sign for one game: the Derby. And score the winner, again.
Location: The Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough Founded: 1876 Nickname: The Boro (Or just Boro) Major honours: The League cup 2003-2004 season 17/18 finishing position: 5th Transfermarkt squad value: 79.34m Manager: Tony Pulis became manager of us in late December 2017, replacing the sacked Garry Monk after a pretty lacklustre few months of the campaign (despite where our league position was). Pulis is known in England for being the man that is never relegated when in charge of someone in the top flight. We are all aware of Tony Pulis' style of football. You start by having a strong and massive defence and maximise your use of set pieces to gain an advantage. Pulis is a lover of all set piece plays, whether that is crossing the ball in from a corner or free kick, or launching a ball into the box from a throw in, they're all in his arsenal of weapons. 'Pulisball' as it is pretty much known. Pulis has achieved promotion from the championship once before with Stoke, and I hope he achieves it again with us this season Best player(s)/ rising star: I mean, where else do I begin. Adama Traore. Arguably the best player in the championship on his day and is one of the most frightening dribblers in English football, maybe even world football. The winger is known for his speed and dribbling ability although is usually criticised for his lack of end product. Before last season I would've agreed, however 5 goals and 10 assists, with all but 2 assists coming before Pulis' arrival show the progression of the Spanish winger. As for other members of the squad, Ben Gibson, the prodigal son. Boro through and through he's progressed into a commanding centre half with the ability to play out from the back thanks to Karanka. He gained attention and emerged as one of the few given credit after our disappointing premier league campaign but was only the subject of one bid upon our relegation, from now manager Tony Pulis. It remains to be seen whether he'll be here come the first game of the season, but I hope he will be. As for future stars, Dael Fry, already has played 2 championship campaigns for us and looks as assured as a veteran of the game. Another centre half produced by our academy and he is being played in cdm this pre-season by Pulis, to add to his versatility. Hopefully a standout season for him, especially if Gibson does end up leaving. Finally, yes, he does always look as confused as images of him show. What happened last season?: Well, the first half of the season was tragic under Monk. We played really poor football at times and looked like we hadn't defended a day in our lives. There was also no consistency in the team, we'd win one game then lose the next. A key theme under both managers however, was our inability to beat those around us in the table. After Pulis' appointment the results picked up and it ended with us finishing 5th in the table. We ultimately lost in the playoff semi finals to Aston Villa but honestly, we didn't think we'd even be in the top half around Christmas. Summer transfer business (so far): Just the three deals to talk about so far. We've acquired Paddy McNair from Sunderland who looks like a decent player. He's been utilised in right back and midfield during pre-season so it looks like they'll be his positions for the season. I imagine he'll play alongside Clayts and Howson in a midfield three. Aden Flint was signed from Bristol City and I think I'm in the minority when I say I don't like how much we paid for him. Obviously the man is a Pulis player but I'm a bit unsure about his defensive ability. That being said he's looked strong during pre-season and I'm sure Pulis will get the best out of him. Fabio departed our club for Nantes so we'll need more full back cover. As for the rest of the window, I expect Gibson to leave but will be delighted if he doesn't. One of our strikers will also leave and Braithwaite should follow after his decent World Cup performances. We'll probably bring in a striker and a winger and hopefully hold onto Adama. That'd be a successful window in my eyes. Predicted starting XI: My best guess The only other guess I could make is that Gibson might leave and then Ayala would start, but he's injured at this point in time. Britt might play over Gestede too if Pulis is feeling fancy. Best case scenario: It has to be top of the pile right? It's not out of the question to imagine us up there and if everything clicks then we've got a chance. A defence that scores more than some teams' strikers, Adama channelling his inner Messi and finding consistency, Rudy/Britt/Bamford scoring for fun. It could be carnage. Worst case scenario: I can't see us finishing outside the playoffs, if we did then that would be gut-wrenching. But if we did then that would most certainly be the worst. Realistically, it'd be losing in the playoffs... again, and if it were in the final again then god help me. Although saying this, now losing Bamford and maybe Traore will be a worst case scenario in itself, definitely if they're not replaced. Prediction: Have to be confident, although it always kills me. 1st or 2nd. Tony Pulis and his nice white trainers carry us to the promise land. That being said, we never do it the easy way. Best Match of Last Season Sorry Leeds fans, but it had to be. "Hattrick Bamford" as our Twitter account tweeted, 3-0 against Leeds with Adama running the show. Leeds clearly found some positive from the game as they're set to sign him off us. This was the sign of what we should've done more last season. Showed what Paddy could've been too if given an even more extended period in Striker by himself. Oh well. What will happen to your closest rivals?: Who even are our closest rivals in this league? We're in geographical purgatory. Can't say Sunderland anymore so what? Leeds? Bielsa either turns them into the well oiled machine they hope for or he succumbs to the old Leeds ways and is sacked by December. As for the Mackems, probably promoted from League 1.
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The Hater’s Guide to the 2018 FIFA World Cup (Part 2)
I know I'm ahead of the promised Friday release of this article, but between work and personal obligations tomorrow, I likely wouldn't have the time and/or energy to post this at the promised time. So here it is a bit early! I've been blown away by the response to the first part of this Hater's Guide, so I hope you enjoy this 2nd part! TEST CARD As we all know, USA didn’t make the World Cup because of recent brain donor Bruce Arena and his band of lolcows. This means a shorter MLS break than usual because the CONCACAF sides are usually the ones that go out early. Soccer-loving Millennials and MLS fans alike need to get their fix without breaking the bank, and can do so quicker than in World Cups past. Enter the power of SeatGeek. It’s a ticket aggregator that sorts all available tickets on a 1 to 100 scale in terms of value. It even organizes these tickets from red to green to show you how good of a deal it is. If it’s red, it’s as bad as Radamel Falcao at Manchester United. Avoid at all costs. If it’s green, we’re talking Sebastian Giovinco levels of value, so snap that shit up. Need to save a couple bucks to get your favorite player’s kit? Be sure to enter the code word “TREE” during checkout and you’ll get $20 off your first order. TREE = Not missing an open net like Chris Wondolowski If you want to be able to watch soccer games in person and not have to stay up at all hours for most of them, then SeatGeek is the site for you. Allez, Allez, Allez. And now, our feature presentation. TEST CARD As promised, here’s the second half of my picks for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. We’ve only covered the first 16 teams in Groups A through D so far, so let’s take a gander at the other 16 contestants. KNOCKOUT ROUND PICKS SO FAR: Uruguay, Egypt, Portugal, Spain, France, Peru, Argentina, Iceland Group E: Group of Death?Brazil Always a favorite to make noise, if not win the whole thing, the Seleçao seem to have mentally recovered from the thrashing the Germans gave them four years ago. Some of the flotsam from that team has been cleared away (David Luiz, anyone?), leaving gobs of attacking talent, but also a more cohesive defensive unit. However, despite their newfound defensive shape, they’re still a bit suspect in that department, I think. When questions are asked of this back line, how will the Brazilians respond? And how will Thiago Silva’s legs hold up? One thing you can bet your bottom dollar on is that this team will score. They will score in bunches. How can you not with attacking talent like Neymar, Coutinho, Willian, and Bobby Firmino? Brazil could sleepwalk through the group and top it. Costa Rica This might’ve been the spot reserved for USA since they always get fucked by FIFA in World Cup draws. But this time around, it’s Los Ticos that have to contend with the consensus Group of Death in this tourney. The Costa Ricans are solid and experienced defensively, but they haven’t dealt with the firepower of Brazil too often. And where the fuck are all the goals?! Literally nobody selected for the World Cup has more than four—FUCKING FOUR—goals in their international career. The midfield and striking corps are very young as well, so this will be crucial big game experience for them. The Costa Ricans are not in “win now” mode. However, given Switzerland’s penchant for disappointment and the age of their squad as well, I think the second spot is Los Ticos’ for the taking. Why couldn’t USA beat these guys again? Serbia Ho-ho, you guys are FUCKED. You got the benefit of a comically weak group in UEFA qualifying and your squad was formed shortly after the Cambrian Explosion. Now you’re facing quality, some of it from your own confederation. There’s no hope for you. The Serbs have an odd mix of veterans and youth. As the American World War II song went, “they’re either too young or too old.” Defensively disciplined, but lacking in offense (like so many teams, as we’re seeing), only a sinkhole opening up beneath the hotels of the other sides in this group will allow you to advance. Switzerland World Cup disappointment is nothing new to the Swiss. Brazil looked like their best chance to date to get out of the Round of 16. They did not. Now most of the squad is four years older, and the offense is still limited. The offense runs through and only through Xherdan Shaquiri and Haris Seferovic. Stephan Lichsteiner still captains the squad and runs the defense, but this will be his last tango at the World Cup. Given how he and the rest of the team are chronic underachievers in this competition, I expect them to capitulate as usual. Group F: MinefieldGermany Here’s a horror story. Germany tea bagged Brazil 7-1 on their home turf in the semifinals in 2014. I’m not done. Most of that team is back. All of the key players are still in their prime, with such players as Mesut Özil, Marco Reus, Thomas Müeller, Mats Hummels, and Jerome Boateng (if he’s healthy), and they still have one of the best keepers in the world in Manuel Neuer. Even their younger players have experience on the big stage because Germany has returned to being a footballing factory. Pretty much the only one that was lost was Miroslav Klose, and he was 38 in Brazil to start with. The prohibitive favorite to repeat for a reason, these guys are ruthless. They do not know pain, they do not know fear. They are as intimidating as the Uruk-Hai that took Helm’s Deep. South Korea I had the unique opportunity to see this team live late last year, and even though it was a friendly against Serbia, this team handily beat them and shockingly defeated Colombia to the country’s delight. These guys are fighters. They will not be the warm and fuzzy story (aided by ample home cooking) that the 2002 squad was, playing in front of the home fans. This team is more than just Son Hyung-min. Ki Sung-yueng and Lee Jae-sun are the leaders on this team, and are creative lads on their own. Make no mistake: Son will carry this squad on offense. But the Taeguk Warriors will have plenty of moments where they simply outwork the other sides they play against. And I think they’ve got a good shot at that second spot. In fact, I think they’ll take it. Mexico As a supporter of a confederation rival, fuck these guys. Fuck their diving, fuck their whining, fuck their ref-working, and fuck their supporters’ “our shit don’t stink” attitude. Arjen Robben’s dive and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s subsequent penalty conversion four years ago was karmic fucking justice. That being said, this side—which arrogantly thinks their primary competition are sides in Europe, by the way—are old and have a penchant for a disappearing act. Players who were supposed to terrorize their CONCACAF brethren and give opposing teams fits for years have somehow turned into big balls of nothing. Giovanni dos Santos? Carlos Vela? Oribe Peralta? All guys that only show up when they feel like it. Also, what about that Great Wall of Guillermo (Ochoa)? Oh yeah, he similarly has disappeared since the 2014 World Cup. Manager Juan Carlos Osorio is also experimenting a bit too much with the squad ahead of a major tournament. Now where have I heard that before? Even if you do make it to the Round of 16, I can’t see this team going much of anywhere beyond that. You’re fucked. P.S. Why the fuck is geriatric Rafa Marquez still on this squad? Sweden Well, well, well. NOW you return to the World Cup after you totally waste the career of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the single best player you’ve ever had. He might’ve been able to help you at this point because this squad can’t seem to score. Four goals total in your last seven games? Good god, you’re making the entire sport look like a slog again! I have no expectations for the Tre Kronor. As a matter of fact, I think they’re gonna pull a USA ’98 and score only one goal in group stage. It’ll be a miracle if they even get a draw out of this group. That said, please embarrass Mexico, guys. Group G: How Will England Blow It This Time?Belgium I’d have more faith in this squad, but there’s one reason I can’t get excited: Roberto Martinez. This guy took a dream situation at Everton and turned it into a goddamn nightmare. Expect his inept managing to squander even more of this golden generation that the Belgians are currently enjoying. There’s plenty of great talent here, from Marouane Fellatio—I mean—Fellaini, Nacer Chadli, Kevin DeBruyne, Romelu Lukaku, and Christian Benteke. But the World Cup is where tactics and managing can win or lose games, and every decision is amplified even further. You guys have put Belgium back on the map and given it levels of popularity not seen since Jean-Claude Van Damme, and you’re gonna crash out in the Round of 16 again—if you make it that far—because of your lolcow manager. You don’t have a USA squad to pick on this time. You’re gonna continue to waste this golden generation, and you make me fucking sick for doing so. You’re pathetic. England Sam Allardyce getting caught in that scandal was the best thing to ever happen to the Three Lions. Gareth Southgate has restored some measure of belief to the English supporter’s groups due to his fixation on youth and a desire to start somewhat fresh after they and living corpse Roy Hodgson were pantsed in front of an international television audience—AGAIN—at Euro 2016. World class lolcow and known Wold Cup boat anchor Wayne Rooney is gone, and the team is lean and mean in his place. There’s gobs of talent here, but can they play as a cohesive unit, which has been their Achilles’ heel for so long? Don’t be surprised if we see Southgate not even start his most-capped defender in Gary Cahill, maybe in favor of the uncapped Trent Alexander-Arnold? Also, Harry Kane is pretty good at soccer. Thought that was worth mentioning. With how weak this group is, anything other than tops will be a bit of a shock. But remember: this is England we’re talking about. You specialize in finding new ways to kick your fans in the dick at every tournament. Two years ago, it was Iceland who administered podiatric trauma to the English groin region. The suspense is killing me as to how it’ll happen this time. I’ll have popcorn at the ready. Panama The Soccer United Marketing inmates were running the USMNT asylum, and Panama benefited from this with their first-ever World Cup appearance. If Serbia’s team was founded just after the Cambrian Explosion, then the Panamanian squad was formed shortly after the Earth cooled. As such, there’s a lot of international experience. But that is mostly against fellow CONCACAF rivals, which means they don’t have the big-game experience against European and African sides needed to go anywhere in this tournament. Possibly in a taste of what’s to come, they got ass-blasted in a friendly against Switzerland 6-0 in Lucerne. Four key players: Jaime Penedo, Gabriel Gomez, Blas Perez, and Luis Tejeda are all 34 or older. These are the guys that run the show for Los Canaleros. Heavy legs will be one problem in this tournament, and a lack of quality will be the other. Don’t expect anything, Panama. Just enjoy the ride. Tunisia In making their first World Cup since 2006, the Tunisians would have been my pick for the African Cinderella story. Then the World Cup draw happened. I think there’s still hope for the Tunisians, though. They’ve been performing in their friendlies against other World Cup sides like Portugal, Iran and Costa Rica. What makes this team potentially surprising is that not only are so many of their players in their prime, they’re playing with belief, and they’re playing for each other. If they were in a weaker group like, say, Group A or even Group H, I think they’d have a shot at the Round of 16. But not in this group. They’ll give sides trouble, and they might even beat England, who always seem to play down to African sides. Colonial habits die hard, I guess. Good luck, Tunisia. You’re gonna need it. Group H: Coffee, Sushi, Paczki, and ThiéboudienneColombia A side that is fun to watch, and simultaneously infuriating. James Rodriguez has fallen off a cliff since his first season at Real Madrid, and Radamel Falcao hasn’t been himself since he first left Monaco and suffered a knee injury shortly thereafter. This is likely Los Cafeteros last shot with their current core, but it’s unlikely they’ll make much noise in this tournament. Their best shot was four years ago in Brazil, when they were undone by home cooking and a lack of physical restraint against the hosts. Because this group is so weak, they’ll get into the knockout rounds. It’s anyone’s guess from there. Japan Samurai Blue puzzles me. They either look like world-beaters, the class of Asia, or they’re completely punchless. The Japanese are possibly the oldest team in the tournament, and this could be our last chance to enjoy the company of guys like Shinji Okazaki, Keisuke Honda, and Makoto Hasebe. Only five players on this team are under the age of 25, which means heavy legs will be a problem, and fast. Also, unlike their rivals in South Korea, they haven’t had any hot young talent come up in a while, so this might be the last time we see Japan on the international stage for a little bit. If this team plays inspired soccer like they are known to at times, they will be dangerous. If they don’t and play soccer as staid and organized as their social hierarchy, this team will finish at or near the cellar. I’m picking the latter. Senegal I’ve learned my lesson. Every time I pick Senegal to make some noise in the World Cup like they did in 2002, I get set up for disappointment. Not this time, guys. They may have a world-class striker in Sadio Mane, but their smattering of talent that plays in some pretty competitive leagues all over Europe is usually not enough when they are put together as a whole. And that’s what makes me sad about Senegal: clearly, they have talent. They have quality. But they can’t do it all at once for the national team, for one reason or another. And that, my friends, is how I lost my faith in Senegal. You guys make me sick. That said, watch them make a miracle run to the quarterfinals. Book it, Vince. Poland You guys lost to Nigeria in a friendly in March? AND Mexico? What the fuck is the matter with you? Way to make that 5th-place finish in Euro 2016 look like a fluke, you assholes. That’s what I get for getting my hopes up again. There’s a lot to like about the Poles, and Robert Lewandowski is easily the best striker they’ve ever had. But with those pre-World Cup friendlies being the disasters they were, I can’t see this team doing anything in an admittedly weak group. They have no excuse to not get into the knockout rounds. Television Snow You want predictions? Bitch, this entire Reddit is where predictions go to die. I’ll make them anyway, though. The following are my 16 teams (with group positions) that will make it to the knockout rounds. Uruguay (A1), Egypt (A2), Spain (B1), Portugal (B2), France (C1), Peru (C2), Argentina (D1), Iceland (D2), Brazil (E1), Costa Rica (E2), Germany (F1), South Korea (F2), England (G1), Belgium (G2), Senegal (H1), Colombia (H2). I don’t see the same level of quality in this tournament that I did four years ago. We had generational talents at or in their prime seemingly all across the spectrum in Brazil, but very few teams seem to be organized or willing enough to make the needed youth movements. Squads like Spain, Japan, Colombia, and Mexico come to mind. That’s where the Germans come in. I had them winning in 2014 simply because I felt they were the best-balanced team, but little did I know how ruthless they would be. Their team setup is perfect. The project the German football federation enacted ahead of the 2006 World Cup has borne the best possible fruit: a team of efficient professionals that have a mean streak and a killer instinct. With most of the world champion squad returning from Brazil, an eagerness to avenge their semifinal exit in the European Championships two years ago, and with just how ruthlessly efficient and focused this team always seems to be, expect Operation Barbarossa: Fußball Edition to succeed. They’ll defeat Brazil to do it. The national trauma will intensify as Brazil fails to gain revenge for the Maracana Massacre. Cachaça shortages will abound as Die Nationalmannschaft salt the earth, slaughter everyone, and turn the livestock into bratwurst. They’ll do to you what you’re doing to the Amazon rainforest. Have a nice day. TELEVISION SNOW Thanks for reading! Check out my other soccer articles here! And here! Also here!
Hockey has thrived most in areas with long, cold winters; places where people needed to do... something outside to avoid frostbite. When most hockey fans think of the game internationally, they think of the Olympics, or maybe the World Juniors or the World Championships. There, a similar group of teams from a similar group of countries play each other year after year. It's easy to think that hockey's only played in a few places. Wrong. Hockey is growing globally, and it's growing fast. One of the places where hockey is growing fastest is Africa. When you think of the stereotypes surrounding hockey – cold weather and rinks, expensive equipment, rich players and families - you don't think of Africa. That's fair. Truth is, hockey's been played in Africa, in some way or another, since the 1930's. There have been professional leagues, games played in front of thousands of spectators, and even a few NHL players and prospects born on the continent. Four NHL players were born in Africa – Chris Nielsen was born in Tanzania, Olaf Kolzig in South Africa, and both Rumun Ndur and Akim Aliu hail from Nigeria. Players with roots in Congo-Brazzaville (the Impose brothers, Auguste and Aurelien), Eritrea (Oliver Kylington), Liberia (Clarence Kparghai), and Swaziland (Adrian Savelo Alvarstein) all play in Europe or in North America. Today, I'm gonna try to take you through each country in Africa that currently plays, or may start playing soon. There aren't a lot, obviously, but there are more than you might think. We'll start with the first.
South Africa, as far as African hockey goes, is the motherland. The first hockey game on the continent was played in Johannesburg in 1935, on a temporary rink. A year later, the South African Ice Hockey Association was founded, and the first permanent ice rink in the country, the Wembley Ice Rink, was opened. South Africa joined the IIHF in 1937, and formed a national team, which played a senior team from Canada later that year. The country's first star was Heinz Ball, a German-born player who moved to the country after WWII broke out. Heinz came to Jo-burg in 1936, and he was joined by his brother Rudi in 1948. If you're wondering, yes, these are the same Ball brothers who we wrote an article on back in the fall. It took until 1961 for South Africa to play its first international game, played at the World Championships in Switzerland. South Africa played Yugoslavia, and... they got their butts kicked, 12-3. South Africa finished 19th out of 20, winning only one game in the tournament. Not a great start. Meanwhile, back home, a semi-professional league was starting at the Wembley Ice Rink. The rink's owner, Hymie Sofer, started a small league that would play, every Tuesday night, at his arena. He teamed up with the SAIHA's head, Otto Hertz, a wealthy businessman related to the same Hertz family that people rent cars from today. Hertz was flush with money, and bankrolled the league. With this new money, Sofer hired scouts and coaches, and set out to attract players from top European leagues. South Africa is south of the equator, and as such, has opposite seasons to the ones seen further north. Sofer and his group scheduled the season during the European off-season, and promised players decent pay, summer work, and a chance to stay in shape over the summer. Many players took up the offer. The teams were named after the countries where most players came from; Canadians played on the Maple Leafs, the Swiss Bears were full of Swiss players, and players from the Austrian league suited up for Edelweiss. Other teams, like the Holiday Inns and the Hush Puppies, were named after sponsors. Things went well for the league, until the world discovered the nasty side of South Africa – apartheid. Other countries stopped playing the South African national team, and many countries boycotted South Africa altogether. The country's currency, the rand, plummeted. Players previously attracted by quick money in the off-season went home. The league died on its feet. Today, South Africa has the most advanced hockey infrastructure in Africa by a mile. They have a women's national team, founded in 1999, which is the highest ranked on the continent. The men's side now features players like Ashley and Gary Bock, a pair of goaltending brothers who are known for their titanic size, and players like Uthman Samaai, Wesley Krotz, Xander Botha, and Reelan Malgas, all of whom spent their winters playing in North America. In South Africa now, there are three amateur hockey leagues, centered in Cape Town, Gauteng, and Durban. More than 20 teams take part, and there is a national championship set up where the winners of the three leagues face off for a national title.
Namibia is an odd case. You see, Namibia doesn't play ice hockey; the country doesn't have a rink. However, they have a very advanced inline hockey program. Namibia has a domestic inline league set up, with teams like the Swakopmund Coastal Pirates, the Windhoek Lions, and the Otjiwarongo Scorpions. The Scorpions actually hold the world record for the longest inline hockey game ever played, going for 27 hours to raise money for the national program. Final score: 316 to 291. The Namibian national team plays tournaments around the world, and will attend the FIRS World Inline Championship in Italy this June. However, despite their inline infrastructure, Namibia has no ice rinks. One may possibly open up on the site of a new shopping mall in the capital of Windhoek, but for now, there's nothing. However, some top team players, like Vincent Van Biljon and Riyaan Ely, have taken their game on ice in other countries, like South Africa or Australia. They also know how to dress up, too. Which is nice.
We're now taking a hike up north, to Algeria. The Algerian national team was started by players of Algerian descent playing in Europe. They were first formed in '06, and played their first organized international games in the IIHF's 2008 Arab Cup. The Arab Cup was intended to be an annual competition between Arab nations with teams; after 2008, the idea was abandoned. The team played their first game against Kuwait, and got their first goal; scored by French-born Hakim Boukhaloua. They lost all five games they played, but the team's top scorer, Harond Litim, won tournament MVP. Since the Arab Cup, the Algerian team has been in a sort of stasis. The national team has played a few exhibition games, including one against a lower-level French team which ended 8-8. The Algerians were paced by Francky Sadani, who scored five points, and Yassine Fahas, who had three assists. Now, only two Algerian national players still play in France – Gael Benbekhti and Harond Litim. The team's main supporter, player and manager Karim Kerbouche, follows the team and it's players wherever they go, snapping photos and chronicling the team's story along the way. They can't join the IIHF officially, since for many years, there were no ice rinks and no current domestic league. However, a rink has been built in Algiers, and another rink may be erected elsewhere soon. A league is set to start for next season, and some Algerian hockey players have received equipment donations from the NHLPA. It doesn't seem too far-fetched to say that Algeria may soon be the IIHF's newest member. And their jerseys are pretty damn sweet, too.
Much like Algeria, Morocco's team was started around the time of the 2008 Arab Cup. The Moroccans finished in third place, in their international debut. In Morocco, there are existing ice rinks, one in Rabat and another in Casablanca. The team featured some notable names, like Omar Ennaffati, a former Canadian pro player who would later play for Hungary internationally, and a few former major junior players, like Youseff Kabbaj. The three people who helped start the team are a set of Canadian brothers, the Harrochs; Patrick, Eric, and Marc. All three were born in Quebec, and played some level of junior hockey. Marc even played in a training camp with the Rimouski Oceanic, where he played against Sidney Crosby. The team's leading scorer, Samir Bouchaoui, was born in Sweden and played several years in Sweden's second and third division leagues. Junior teams still play in Morocco, even though there's not much news on the men's front. A national youth team has played tournaments against teams from Spain and France, and has a close relationship with FC Barcelona (yes, that FC Barcelona. They field a hockey team, too.)
We'll finish things off with another country with no national team, Nigeria. Nigeria has produced more NHLers than any other African country, with both Akim Aliu and Rumun Ndur suiting up. Jarome Iginla's family immigrated to Canada from Nigeria not long before his birth, too. Despite that, organized hockey hasn't ever become a big thing in Nigeria, mostly due to a lack of ice. Now, though, there is a permanent rink in Nigeria, in a shopping mall in Ikeja City, not far from the largest city, Lagos. There have also been portable rinks set up around the country in the past, usually as a short-term gimmick. I'll leave you with an image of one of those rinks, set up at the British Buckswood School north of Lagos. Check out the smiling guy over our buddy's shoulder. Nigeria has a large ex-pat community, and an abundance of oil money. If there's one country where a team could begin soon, I'd bet on Nigeria.
I was shocked at the Amazonian river of money that sports betting generates... the Interpol chief Ron Noble says several billion euros a year, an ex-FIFA official has said up to $500 billion a year. BILLION...! if you are a criminal mastermind, all you have to do is use some fixed games to deliver a tiny sliver of that and you will be wealthier than you ever imagined. That's about the yearly GNP of Switzerland, no slouch economy.
Until lately, no one thought to look for match-fixing in the soccer wilderness. but extremely low level games in Finland, Norway and Canada that were fixed proved that theory wrong. for fixers, best thing is virgin territory not already claimed by other fixers...
Prolly the shorter list would be what mobs DON'T want to get involved with match-fixing... AP talked to Turkish commentators who said fixing allegations have cropped up every year for at least 40 years, and even Turkish prosecutors in court documents noted that mobs had infiltrated Turkish soccer since at least 1980... As for Russia, one illegal Asian betting den that an AP reporter visited wouldn't even touch bets for Russia's 2nd division (or Greece's for that matter). Even illegal sites know when to run! Italy's match-fixing has produced over $2.6 billion for the Camorra and the Mafia. And since the vast majority of sports betting money originates in Asia, Asian crime gangs are said to be intimately involved in fixing games.
Ah yes, where a zagreb player winked on a YouTube clip. plenty of suspicions, Ajax started howling immediately, no good evidence ever emerged. was about the same time in which Croatian first league (where dinamo played) was riddled with match-fixing (see our story about Croatia Seveste player Mario Cizmek) but dinamo never implicated in those trials.
It's more &&#$ than top officials want to publicly admit. There are large areas of the world where football has been not only infiltrated by criminals but is being run by criminals. Last year in China, two ex-chiefs of its FA (football association for American fans) got 10 1/2 years in prison for corruption. In 2011, the national TV channel in China REFUSED to broadcast matches from the Chinese League due to widespread match-fixing. I can't imagine the reax here in London if Sky or the BBC refused to broadcast Premier League games...
Well, our FIFA correspondent Graham Dunbar says that depends if you include the 1982 World Cup West Germany-Austria game, which appeared to be a deal with the teams. FIFA changed its rules after that so games at the end of rounds start simultaneously. More recently you have the 2010 WC qualifier between Liechtenstein and Finland ... and Latam types will always debate whether the WC 1978 Argentina 6, peru 0 was fixed, sent host Argentina into final...
Hmmm. where to start? well, going way back, juventus reputedly bough the ref in the 193 European Cup semifinal, according to one of our top football guys... and they were pretty front and center in Italy's 2006 match-fixing scandal, where they were regulated to Serie B (2nd division), got 9 points deducted, got hit by a massive fine, got stripped of their 2006-07 league titles, got tossed out of the Champions League for a year. Their club president at the time was fined and banned from the sport for five years. Their current coach, Antonio Conte, just got back in December from a 4-month FIFA ban for a separate match-fixing allegation. As Premier Mario Monti said, maybe Italian football should just shut down for a few years to get rid of that corruption thing...
Gotta give kudos here to Chris Brummett, our Vietnam bureau chief, who visited a Wild West betting boomtown on the border of Cambodia. Going around illegal Asian betting dens, talking with bettors about fixed matches, looking for hints of Asian triad involvement. Not a place that you could take TV cameras or where bettors would let u take a picture, that's for sure. And when I was filming a TV segment at a Zagreb stadium with a player convicted of match-fixing, all of a sudden we saw that a photog with a long lens was zooming in on us. The guy came over to see what we were doing, I made sure not to speak a word of English and our photographer Darko talked to him. After that, Darko said "it's time to go." When a photog who just got back from Syria says its time to go, u go.
Super Bowl betting is big in the US but is tiny in relation to global soccer betting. And the Super Bowl has one big thing that keeps it from being fixed -- very high player salaries. Players in countries like Croatia are match-fixing sometimes for as little as 2500 euros ($3300). Major league baseball salaries and NFL salaries are too high -- and you need to involve too many players to ensure a rock-solid fix. In soccer, the goalie alone has enough influence to fix a game by himself.
In terms of the betting, there's about five-six levels of betting in Asia, which leads from local illegal betting shops that deal in cash to next level, regional betting houses, still in cash, to next level, super betting sites, to online betting sites that take credit cards and are openly operating. Asian betting sites don't know their customers, so its easier to disguise large wagers as many small ones. European betting sites know their customers via credit cards, but criminals can use fake credit cards. anyone who knows about a fixed game can bet on whichever betting site offers the odds
Actually 'friendlies' between two nations are a prime target for fixers, because football associations can hire agencies (some of which later turn out to be fronts for fixers) to arrange the games and give a cut of the proceeds (or even bribes) to corrupt FA officials Just imagine, in a friendly you can get world-class talent for free and they can generate gobs of TV revenues. some suspect friendlies in recent times: Nigeria-Argentina 2011, one or more South Africa friendlies right before the World Cup, Bolivia-Latvia 2011, Bulgaria-Estonia 2011, several Latam games involving Venezuela and Bolivia. These are all men's games, so far no whiff of suspicion among women's friendlies.
No, so far no reports of match-fixing in any women's games. in fact, some of the bettors AP interviewed in the illegal Cambodian den were at the time betting on live women's U-20 game between New Zealand and Japan just because they felt it was not fixed.
Me and another AP reporter have visited a betting monitoring site that runs 31,000 games thru computer models to see if they may be fixed. Companies like that can often see if games are suspicious up to two days before a match _ ie they know if XXX amount bet on a Italian league game is normal or way off. They also keep tabs on 110,000 players, teams, refs and officials and give them match-fixing credit scores... they have seen where a suspicious player changes teams and infects a previously untouched team with his knowlege of fixing... Only one match in England reflects high premier league salaries that protect the players and the game. But bet monitors do have one person on their top 20 'to watch' match-fixing suspicions list that lives in the UK.
The sheer variety. I mean there are some things we can plan for _ we know when the 2012 London Olympics will start _ but you never know each day what will happen. Will an Icelandic volcano erupt and blow the travel plans of 10 million people to bits? Or maybe a meteor will hit Russia? i am constantly amazed.
Well, i live and work now in north London, so i would be crucified if I didnt keep up with Arsenal (condolences will be accepted here today). Favorite player, hmm. got two. Fernando Torres because i was living in Zurich during Euro 2008 (he was electric then) and he looks just like my hubby did years ago with his freckles; Robin van Persie now because the man just dances on the field, a joy to watch.
At a family level, I brought my ten-year-old daughter and her soccer team to see the American women play at Giants stadium in NJ when the US hosted the Women's World Cup in 1999... Mia Hamm and her buddies really inspired a generation.
Betting companies are always going to advertise next to matches, its the smart operating model for their business. but it is interesting how they can be in severe denial about match-fixing. I went to a London betting conference in Nov, and a top representative from Ladbrokes insisted to me that 'maybe 5-6' games were fixed a year. he claimed that some betting monitoring companies have an incentive to say there are hundreds of possibly fixed games a year just so they would get contracts from FIFA, UEFA, national leagues. On the other hand, his own industry has a HUGE interest in not talking about fixed games -- who is going to bet if they think things are fixed? he did me a big favor though - AP reporters could not get into the monitoring sites until we reported his ludicrous comment to them.
What i'm going to do is give u some link to our stories that explain all this. ironically, match-fixers often groom players just like pedophiles groom targets, according to a major 2012 study on sports corruption. Players can be seduced into fixing by other coaches or players or agents. Or they can be ordered to fix by their corrupt soccer club bosses. Or they can have no idea a game is fixed because the refs were bought off instead. so many ways to match-fix...!
FIFA's latest anti-match-fixing project is to educate players and refs about the problem. A noble idea, for sure, one that no one can find fault with. but it's kinda like warning your kids not to play with matches when your kitchen is already on fire and that may burn down your whole house. Time to get out the big firehose. Let's not forget how doping has driven sponsors and TV revenues away from cycling or even track. And soccer authorities also have another problem -- their own officials may be the ones driving the fixing. A major sports corruption report last year even gave that a label "chairman-to-chairman" fixing. in turkey last year, 93 people went on trial for match-fixing, and only 14 were players. I think the best model to emulate is germany's, its FA has a omsbudman where players, refs, anyone can call to report fixing worries anonymously.
That was one darn obvious handball but absolutely no suggestion of fixing in that. as we say in our Dirty Game series, referees and players can perform poorly for all sorts of legitimate reasons. Gotta say, American fans could never stomach bad ref calls like that, that's why they love NFL instant replay. the concept that such a bad call could knock a team out... it's why the NFL had to end its referee lockout...
If you got any knowlege of this, let FIFA/UEFA/the national leagues know. AP took a deep dive into fixing in Croatia's first division, (let me tell u google translator is a mess with croatian court transcripts) and found both match and spot fixing in the same games. one sports expert, David Forrest of University of Salford, says that's a great way for gangs to increase revenues, you get to place two-three-four bets on the same fixed game.
Hmm. it's kinda like doping in that you need zero tolerance. That said, its clear that match-fixers target players like lions on the savannah, picking off the young (easy to manipulate) the old (nearing the end of their employment, fearing what's next) and the weak (those with betting problems or financial difficulties. Young players lured into fixing by older players should get lesser sentences if it's found that they were forced or pressured into it. Older players (or refs hitting age limits) should get harsher penalties because they absolutely knew what they were doing. national stars who fix bring shame upon an entire nation but the fixing penalities should be the same no matter what the league.
There's no question that Italy has had repeated, major match-fixing instances at least since 2005. And each case seems to bring new amazing allegations. My all time favorite is the goalie who wanted to fix a game, so he drugs the water bottles of his teammates to play poorly. they stink, lose the game, and one even crashes his car afterward. Since Italy takes drunk driving quite seriously, the driver gets a blood test which shows he is full of sedatives, and the whole fixing operation is unveiled. can't make this up. I give plenty of kudos to Italian prosecutor Roberto Di Martino but the country has had plenty of corruption issues in all walks of life ... , so i dont think we can just credit good prosecutors for us hearing about italian match-fixing
We noticed that AP was doing about a dozen match-fixing spot stories around the world a month... but it was country by country. This trial, that arrest, this investigation. It was time to look at the whole of the sport, something that fits an international news agency better than a local or national paper. I had been interested in match-fixing since i covered FIFA for AP in 2007-2008 and did a story when they first set up their EWS monitoring site. got promoted to London, distracted by volcanos and a wonderful London Olympics, but began interviewing people last june.
Wild theory, too bad it's prolly not true -- they must have been drinking pretty heavily! If a game is fixed by players, they know beforehand and they know exactly what marks they need to hit: X-X score at halftime, X-X final result, X goal differential. No need to look over their shoulder, they already know if they should make it or not. If the game is fixed by club officials, they have already told their players what to do. If the game is fixed by referees, often players don't even know. They might think it's a ridiculous penalty call but they are not going to hurt their stats, they are going to try to make the penalty.
This was a significant problem in Asia, and its a terrible business model when two crime gangs are trying to fix the same game. That propeled at least Asian gangs to seek out more European games, which were considered several years ago to be much cleaner. One monitor told me about a match in which his company's spotters at the game saw thugs from two different crime gangs shouting with the ref at halftime. Only one side won. (think the ref in that case had a death wish or was just blinded by greed)
I don't bet on sports, not after seeing all this...! The most common bets on fixed games are four things: final score, half-time score, total number of scores and score differential. who is taking the corner doesnt bring in enough money...
David Forrest, the UK economist who specializes in sports betting, tells us that fixed sports betting is a fabulous way to launder money. You take cash from drug or trafficking operations, you bet on fixed games, not only do u make a profit but dirty money comes back clean. He says some crime gangs are trying to buy soccer clubs just to launder money through them.
You maybe are just looking at one Italian match-fixing investigation. Multiply that by investigations in 50 nations last year, add to it all the bribe money that is linked to organizing friendlies that can generate big TV revenue... the point about match-fixing is not illegal or legal betting. It is tainting all betting with a fix. European betting agencies pride themselves on their legality, but anyone can be undermined by a fix. In asia, illegal gambling dens thrive because gambling in an ingrained cultural habit that is going to occur even if govts ban it.
Huge amounts of late bets on an obscure game. In-game live betting in which lots of bettors put money on another goal and the referee orders a penalty for an unfathomable reason. Games in which all scoring is due to penalty kicks. Games in which scoring is so high that it looks more like baseball. Games in which many goals are disqualified for offsides. so many options i just cant list them all
Cricito, an Italian defender who plays for the St. Petersburg club Zenit, was cleared, not charged with any match-fixing. He has said that he's trying not to be angry but still is about how he was dropped from the Italian team playing in Euro 2012 due to allegations that turned out to be unproven.
Big break on Thursday (feb 21, day after this AMA). a top suspected fixer was arrested by Italian police, Admir Sulijic. he reportedly has links to singapore money man Dan Tan. --- Big break on Friday, Dan Tan being interviewed by Singapore police!!!
I'm such a cynic that I can't say 'No' about any team. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, that's a 'known unknown' -- we know there are some things we do not know. that applies to all teams, not just Chelsea.
Hey even amazing teams lose sometimes! Plus this doesnt match the typical M.O. of the most successful match-fixers. When great teams lose, it always raises more suspicions among bet monitoring companies than when bad teams lose (our reporters visited some secret betting monitoring sites). A convicted midfielder who talked to us about match-fixing says it's always better to simply have bad teams lose once again -- criminals just pre-determine HOW MUCH that team will lose by and play those odds.
Sri don't mean to be flippant. You go for zero tolerance, you establish anti-match-fixing officials in every national league, you teach players and refs and soccer officials how to recognize approaches by fixers, you increase criminal penalities for fixing, you don't stop investigating serious allegations just because a referee has retired 'from the football family,' (FIFA) you protect whistleblowers better. Italian defender Simone Farina told police about being approached by a fellow player to fix, and that effectively ended his playing career and made him a pariah in italy...happily months and months later Aston Villa made him a 'community coach'
ESPN online did pick up the AP Dirty Game story... and they did a video piece after Europol cited 680 suspicious games. but on that video piece they got an Italian soccer commentator who thought this was being overblown...
Hmm. I saw an NBA rep at the London conference on sports betting. the major difference, obviously, is the huge number of scores in basketball and low number of scores in soccer. 1-0 wins a soccer game, but you need what, 35-50 scores to win an NBA game? So many more scoring variables in the NBA and such high salaries. I would think college ball (no salaries) would be much much more vulnerable to spread fixing.
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