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England World Cup Squad of the Week #3

Roy Hodgson has just named his England squad for next week’s friendly match against Denmark as he continue’s his preparations for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, and there were one or two players in there, such as Ross Barkley and Ashley Cole, who haven’t featured prominently for their clubs in recent months. Cole’s reputation and experience makes him a shoe-in for the finals if fit, but here at aboutaball.co.uk we have been picking an England squad each week based purely on players’ performances in that week’s Premier League matches. Here’s our latest selection.

Starting off as usual with the goalkeepers, there wasn’t much choice as only three Englishmen turned out in goal for Premier League clubs in this round of fixtures. Fortunately they all acquitted themselves fairly well, with Joe Hart and John Ruddy both keeping clean sheets and Ben Foster making some decent saves despite conceding one goal, so they all make the squad with Hart as first choice.

There weren’t too many contenders for the centre-back slots this week but the four we have chosen all had solid performances. Once again the Chelsea pairing of Gary Cahill and John Terry were integral in their team’s shut-out of Everton at Stamford Bridge and their partnership is forming the bedrock of Chelsea’s push for the title. Their individual talent makes them strong contenders for national team starting spots, but it’s their understanding from playing together at club level that would be invaluable to Hodgson come the summer. Therefore, we’ll continue to include Terry in these squads whilst there remains a possibility that he could be enticed back into the frame. Backup this week is provided by Curtis Davies, who stood out in Hull’s demolition of Cardiff, and Mike Williamson, who impressed for Newcastle as the kept a clean sheet in the victory over Aston Villa.

Glen Johnson’s return to action for Liverpool was a welcome sight, but he looked a bit rusty, so he didn’t make the cut for this week’s squad. Instead we have gone for Manchester United’s Chris Smalling and Everton’s Leighton Baines with backup from John Flanagan and Liam Rosenior at full-back. No English full-backs really stood out last weekend, but these four were better than most and the likes of Flanagan and Smalling offer a lot of versatility.

Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson were the outstanding English performers in the heart of midfield last weekend and we’re aligning them in the heart of a 4-4-2 formation this week with the lively Raheem Sterling on one flank and the revived Stewart Downing on the other. Matthew Jarvis will provide cover in the wide areas and Frank Lampard and Jake Livermore in the centre with Swansea’s Jonjo Shelvey as a more attacking wildcard following his great strike at Anfield.

Up front there wasn’t much competition this week with Daniel Sturridge continuing his impressive run of form. Let’s hope it continues into the summer and Wayne Rooney can return to the height of his powers to play alongside him as they would make an fearsome partnership on their day. Rooney scored with a fine strike against Crystal Palace and there were also goals from Carlton Cole and Kevin Nolan in West Ham’s home win against Southampton that earned them a place in this week’s squad.

So our England World Cup 2014 Squad of the Week #3 is:

Goalkeepers:
Joe Hart
John Ruddy
Ben Foster

Defenders:
Liam Rosenior
Chris Smalling
Leighton Baines
John Flanagan
John Terry
Gary Cahill
Curtis Davies
Mike Williamson

Midfielders:
Jack Wilshere
Frank Lampard
Jake Livermore
Jordan Henderson
Jonjo Shelvey
Matthew Jarvis
Stewart Downing
Raheem Sterling

Forwards:Adam Johnson
Carlton COle
Kevin Nolan
Wayne Rooney
Daniel Sturridge

And our England starting XI of the week would line up something like this:

England Team of the Week

England Team of the Week #3

England World Cup Squad of the Week #2

With only thirteen rounds of Premier League matches left before the 2014 World Cup finals kick off in Brazil, here’s the second in our new weekly series of England squads picked solely on the basis of the English players who perform best in each round of Premier League fixtures until the end of the season. We’re looking for the form players in this final third of the season – previous performances and reputation will count for nothing. By the end of the campaign, we will hopefully have a clear idea of who deserves to be on the plane to Brazil.

Starting off between the sticks, we’ve gone for Joe Hart following his clean sheet against Norwich City at Carrow Road. He edges out his opposite number from that match, John Ruddy. As Celtic’s Fraser Forster was on the end of a beating this weekend, we’ve selected Hull’s Steve Harper as our third choice ‘keeper thanks to his clean sheet at Sunderland.

There weren’t that many contenders for the defensive positions this weekend, especially at fullback, so we’ve taken a risk and only picked seven defenders for the squad and beef up the midfield options. Hopefully Jon Flanagan’s ability to play on both sides would mitigate that risk as Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw are the only other full-backs in the squad. There were good performances for Chelsea’s Gary Cahill and Spurs’ Michael Dawson in clean sheet victories for their clubs and they are joined by Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann and West Ham’s James Tomkins to make up a full complement of four London based centre-backs.

There were plenty of impressive English central and wide midfielders this weekend and it was difficult to narrow to selection down to the nine that we have chosen. Liverpool’s line up from their 5-1 crushing of Arsenal has provided Gerrard, Henderson and Sterling, with goalscoring wingers Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer and Tom Ince also joining the party. Swansea’s Leon Britton, Chelsea’s Frank Lampard and Fulham’s Steve Sidwell complete the midfield options, the latter after an impressive display in the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford.

A few English strikers found the net this weekend, but Darren Bent misses out on the squad in favour of Southampton’s Rickie Lambert, who turned in another fine all round performance, Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge, Stoke City’s Peter Crouch and West Ham’s two-goal hero Kevin Nolan.

So our England World Cup 2014 Squad of the Week #2 is:

Goalkeepers:
Joe Hart
John Ruddy
Steve Harper

Defenders:
Gary Cahill
Scott Dann
Michael Dawson
James Tomkins
Jon Flanagan
Kyle Walker
Luke Shaw

Midfielders:
Steven Gerrard
Jordan Henderson
Frank Lampard
Leon Britton
Steve Sidwell
Raheem Sterling
Nathan Dyer
Wayne Routledge
Tom Ince

Forwards:Adam Johnson
Kevin Nolan
Daniel Sturridge
Rickie Lambert
Peter Crouch

And our England starting XI of the week would line up something like this:

England team of the week

England team of the week

Do you agree? Who would you have picked on this week’s Premier League performances? You can leave your comments below.

England World Cup Squad of the Week #1

There are now only fourteen more rounds of Premier League matches left before England manager Roy Hodgson must name his twenty-three man squad for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil. We thought it would be a good time to start our countdown to the tournament with a new weekly feature on the English players who perform best in each round of Premier League fixtures between now and the end of the season. We’re going to pick our own England squad each week based solely on performances in the most recent set of matches and see which players most consistently make the cut so that we will be able to tally up their appearances come June and see who most deserves to be on the plane to Brazil. We’re looking for the form players in this final third of the season – previous performances and reputation will count for nothing.

We will start with the goalkeepers. There isn’t a lot of competition at the moment and Celtic’s Fraser Forster is likely to be in the final squad, which leaves two places for Premier League goalkeepers. It wasn’t a vintage weekend for English ‘keepers, but Ben Foster produced a couple of crucial saves and performed well enough in West Brom’s draw against Liverpool to earn one of the spots. We’ll hand the third spot to Joe Hart, who was beaten by a good shot in Manchester City’s defeat to Chelsea, ahead of Hull’s Steve Harper, who could have done better with the Tottenham goal, and John Ruddy, who let in two for Norwich at Cardiff.

In defence there weren’t many outstanding performances from English full-backs in the Premier League this weekend but several centre-backs staked a claim for a place in the England squad. Not least among them were the club partnership of Gary Cahill and John Terry who did what nobody else has done for over three years and shut out Manchester City at the Etihad. Yes, we know John Terry is out of the reckoning for England selections at the moment, but stranger u-turns have happened in the past so we’re going to keep him in contention for the time being. As a partnership, those two are going straight on to this week’s England teamsheet with squad back up from Sunderland’s Wes Brown and James Tomkins of West Ham, who both impressed with clean sheets for their clubs. Leighton Baines gets our nod for the left-back slot ahead of Southampton’s Luke Shaw but right-backs are a bit thinner on the ground at the moment. We’ll hand Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne a starting spot even though he only played the last thirty two minutes. He made a big impact as all three goals came after his introduction and he created one of them with a good run and cross. Liverpool’s Jon Flanagan gets in as his back up.

There was a bit more competition for places in midfield this week, where the stand out performer was Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He scored two goals and will be a certainty to make the squad if he carries on in that form. It’s a real boost to England to have him back from injury and he should be fresh for the World Cup having missed over half the season. He’ll slot into a midfield three alongside Gareth Barry, who was effective as ever in Everton’s comeback win against Aston Villa, and Jack Colback, who shone for Sunderland against Newcastle. Other options in the centre of the park will be provided by the West Ham pair of Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan as a more advanced option.

We were somewhat spoilt for choice in the wide areas this week, with plenty of Englishmen putting in stellar performances in the Premier League. In the end we went for Sunderland’s Adam Johnson on the right side of attack with Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge on the left, but it could just as easily have been Adam Lallana or Jay Rodriguez of Southampton, who also make our squad, as does Sturridge’s team mate Raheem Sterling. That doesn’t leave many places for out and out strikers in the squad, which is just as well because not many made an impression this week. Only two really stood out and they were West Ham’s Andy Carroll, with his two assists against Swansea, and Southampton’s Rickie Lambert, with a goal and two assists against Fulham.

So our England World Cup 2014 Squad of the Week #1 is:

Goalkeepers:
Ben Foster
Joe Hart
Fraser Forster

Defenders:
Gary Cahill
John Terry
Wes Brown
James Tomkins
Leighton Baines
Luke Shaw
Nathaniel Clyne
Jon Flanagan

Midfielders:
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Gareth Barry
Jack Colback
Mark Noble
Kevin Nolan
Adam Lallana
Raheem Sterling

Forwards:Adam Johnson
Daniel Sturridge
Jay Rodriguez
Rickie Lambert
Andy Carroll

And our England starting XI of the week would line up something like this:

England team of the week

England team of the week

Do you agree? Who would you have picked on this week’s Premier League performances?

Rain in Rome lets Juve extend lead

Italian champions Juventus were able to extend their lead at the top of Serie A to nine points over the weekend with a 3-1 win against rivals Internazionale at the Juventus Stadium in Turin. A goal from Swiss wide man Stephan Lichtsteiner on the quarter of an hour mark gave Juve a half time lead and they doubled their advantage just after the break when defender Giorgio Chiellini found the net. Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal sealed the victory with more than half an hour left to play before Portuguese defender Rolando notched up a consolatory strike for Inter, who are now without a win in six outings since their Derby victory against Milan back in December.

Second placed AS Roma were unable to keep up the pressure on Juventus at the top of the table due to the wet weather in the Italian capital. Their match with Parma did get under way but a heavy downpour forced it to be abandoned so Roma now have a game in hand on the other clubs around them in the table. They didn’t have to worry about anyone catching them up from behind as third placed Napoli were well beaten by Atalanta in Bergamo and fourth placed Fiorentina fell to a 1-0 defeat at Cagliari. The big movers were Verona, whose 2-1 win away at Sassuolo allowed them to jump up three places to fifth. On Monday night Sampdoria ran out winners in the Genoa derby, beating their neighbours 1-0 with a first half goal from Argentine striker Maxi Lopez.

Chelsea end Manchester City’s unbeaten home record

Chelsea have ended Manchester City’s unbeaten home record in the Premier League this season and kept the title race wide open with a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium. Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic lashed home the only goal of the game in the thirty second minute to lift Jose Mourinho’s team up to fifty three points, leaving them in joint second place with City, only trailing the Manchester club on goal difference. City, who had won all eleven of their previous home league fixtures this campaign, failed to find the net on home turf in the league for the first time since November 2010 and missed out on the chance to go top of the table.

Arsenal have a two point advantage at the top of the table thanks to their 2-0 home win in a London derby against Crystal Palace at the weekend, which came courtesy of two goals from the returning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. However, things could change at the top as early as next weekend with the Gunners facing a difficult looking trip to Anfield to take on fourth placed Liverpool, who could only draw at West Brom on Sunday, and Chelsea and Manchester City having easier looking fixtures against Newcastle and Norwich respectively.

Expanded Elite One Kicks off in Cameroon

The new football league season kicked off in Cameroon this weekend with the first round of fixtures in the newly expanded Elite One, the country’s top division. Five teams have been added to the fourteen who competed in last season’s edition, taking the total up to nineteen. The newcomers are UMS de Loum, Bamboutos de Mbouda, Scorpion, Apejes De Mfou and Cosmos de Bafia. The expansion meant that last season’s bottom three, Sable, Tonnerre Kalara Club De Yaounde and Panthere Sportive Du Nde were all saved from relegation.

Reigning champions Coton Sport travelled to newcomers Bamboutos de Mbouda and were held to a goalless draw on Saturday. The opening game of the season had seen Unisport de Bafang win 1-0 away at Les Astres earlier in the day, but they were soon joined on three points at the top of the nascent Elite One table by Apejes De Mfou, Panthere, Njala Quan Sports Academy and New Star De Douala.

Sunday’s pair of fixtures saw Union Sportive of Douala become outright leaders on goal difference courtesy of their 3-0 home win against Scorpion and newly promoted Cosmos De Bafia earned an impressive debut win away at Canon Sportif of Yaounde. The second round of fixtures is on Tuesday this week.

Bayern Maintain Thirteen Point Gap

Bayern Munich thrashed Eintracht Frankfurt 5-0 in the Bundesliga in Germany to maintain their perfect home record and keep the gap at the top of the table at thirteen points from second placed Bayer Leverkusen. Bayern were in control from the off and took an early lead through Mario Gotze with Franck Ribery doubling their advantage just before half time. Substitute Arjen Robben added a third shortly after coming off the bench before Dante and Mario Mandzukic wrapped up the scoring. Eintracht Frankfurt were never really at the races and clearly had their mind on next weekend’s key clash against fellow strugglers Eintracht Braunschweig.

Bayer Leverkusen had reduced the gap at the top to ten points overnight with their 2-1 home win against VFB Stuttgart. Bayer had to fight back after Moritz Leitner gave the visitors an early lead, but Stefan Kiessling and Eren Derdiyok replied to half their run of three successive defeats. Stuttgart now sit on a losing run of four and are only two points clear of the relegation zone but their troubles are nothing compared to those at Hamburger SV, who lost for the fifth time in a row on Saturday, going down 3-0 at Hoffenheim and dropping into seventeenth place. They were overtaken by Nurnberg, who picked up their first away win of the season at Hertha and moved clear of the relegation zone.

Elsewhere, a brace from Pierre Emerick Aubameyang saw Borussia Dortmund finally return to winning ways away at rock bottom Eintracht Braunschweig in the Friday night clash and hold on to third place ahead of a resurgent Schalke, who beat Wolfsburg 2-1 thanks to goals from Felipe Santana and Kevin Prince Boateng. Schalke’s win saw them move up into fourth spot, leapfrogging Borussia Monchengladbach, who went down 3-1 away at Hannover. Mainz made it two wins from two following the resumption after the winter break with a South Korean inspired 2-0 win against Freiburg, who drop into the relegation zone, and Augsburg recovered from an early own goal to beat Werder Bremen 3-1 at home.

Next weekend kicks of with the biggest clash on Friday night as Bayer Leverkusen travel to fifth placed Borussia Monchengladbach. Bayern Munich travel to Nurnberg and Werder Bremen host Borussia Dortmund on the Saturday and Schalke round off the set of fixtures against Hannover in the early Sunday evening match. Hertha Berlin’s Colombian striker Gustavo Adrian Ramos is a goal clear at the top of the scoring charts, having taken his season’s tally up to twelve with his early strike in the defeat to Nurnberg.

Chelsea loan Brazilian youngster to Inter

Chelsea have announced that their nineteen year old Brazilian right-back Wallace Oliveira dos Santos, commonly known simply as ‘Wallace’, has been loaned to Internazionale of Milan in Italy for the forthcoming season. They hope that the youngster, who doesn’t figure in new manager Jose Mourinho’s plans for this campaign, will be given playing time by new Inter manager Walter Mazzarri allowing him to develop his talents and adapt to playing in Europe. At Inter Wallace will find his compatriots and fellow defenders Jonathan and Juan Jesus.

Wallace was signed by Chelsea from Fluminense at the end of last calendar year but was immediately loaned back to the Rio de Janeiro club and has featured twenty one times in their first team, scoring one goal, since making his debut at the age of seventeen. He has caps for Brazil at under seventeen and under twenty levels and was part of the Fluminense squad that won last season’s league championship. He was involved in Chelsea’s pre-season tour of Asia and played in the win against the Singha All-Star XI in Bangkok.

Egypt beat Uganda in friendly

Whilst a state of emergency was being declared across many of the states in Egypt and scores of people were being killed in the violence that has flared up in Cairo and elsewhere in the troubled country, the national team, led by American coach Bob Bradley, escaped to the relative tranquillity of the Red Sea resort of El Gouna where they faced Milutin Sredojevic’s Uganda in a friendly that really was meaningless when compared to the terrible events ongoing nearby.

Only a few hundred people were in the stadium to witness the Egyptian team continue their recent run of good form with a 3-0 victory against a Uganda side that had won two games in a row themselves. Striker Ahmed Hassan Koka of Portuguese Primeira Liga club Rio Ave gave the home side the lead in the twenty second minute and it remained that way until FC Basel’s Mohamed Salah doubled the advantage twelve minutes after the break. Substitute Ibrahim Salah of Al Orubah in Saudi Arabia wrapped up the scoring ten minutes after coming off the bench to replace Mohamed El Nenny. Egypt’s next outing is scheduled to be a home World Cup qualifier against Guinea in September but the situation in the country will obviously determine exactly when and where that match takes place.

Khizhnichenko gives Kazakhstan win over Georgia

Shakhter Karagandy’s twenty-two year old striker Sergey Khizhnichenko scored a stunning goal after seventeen minutes to edge out Georgia and hand a narrow victory to Miroslav Beranek’s Kazakhstan team in a friendly match in Astana. Khizhnichenko brought down a ball in from the right with a fine touch that turned the defender and set him up for a pin-point strike into the bottom right corner of the net from just outside the box. It was the stand out moment of a tight game in the Kazakh capital that saw the home team end their run of three successive defeats. Their opponents own dreadful run of form has now been extended to four defeats in a row and no wins from their last eight games, a sequence going back to September 2012, so they will be struggling for confidence ahead of their forthcoming World Cup qualifiers at home to France and Finland next month. The Kazakhs also face a pair of home qualification matches in September, with the Faroe Islands and Sweden due to visit.

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