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:
And our England starting XI of the week would line up something like this:
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:
And our England starting XI of the week would line up something like this:
Do you agree? Who would you have picked on this week’s Premier League performances? You can leave your comments below.
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:
And our England starting XI of the week would line up something like this:
Do you agree? Who would you have picked on this week’s Premier League performances?
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.
The United States won the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 1-0 victory over Panama in front of a 57,920 crowd at Soldier Field in Chicago. Stoke City midfielder Brek Shea scored the only goal of the game in the sixty ninth minute, having only just come of the substitutes bench to replace Tijuana’s Joe Corona. The win gives Jurgen Klinsmann his first title as United States manager and recaptures the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time in six years after Mexico won the last two editions. Mexico had lost to Panama in the semi finals this time out, whereas the United States saw off the challenge of Honduras at the same stage.
Three players finished the tournament tied on five goals at the top of the scorers chart and shared the Golden Boot award. They were Gabriel Torres of Panama and Landon Donovan and Chris Wondolowski of the United States. Panama also picked up the Fair Play award and their goalkeeper Jaime Penedo won the Golden Glove whilst Landon Donovan picked up the overall Most Valuable Player award. The result means that the United States have now won an incredible eleven matches in a row since their 4-2 friendly defeat to Belgium at the end of May.
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has named a twenty nine man squad for his team’s friendly match against England at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday the 14th of August. The match is part of the English FA’s 150th anniversary celebrations and is a repeat of the first ever international fixture, first played on the 30th of November 1872 in Partick, which finished 0-0. It’s the first time the two countries have met on the football field this millennium, as their last encounter was the Euro 2000 Qualifying Play-off second leg at the old Wembley Stadium on the 17th of November 1999, which Scotland won 1-0 with a first-half goal from Don Hutchison but lost 2-1 on aggregate, having been beaten 2-0 four days earlier in Glasgow.
Celtic and Norwich City are the two best represented clubs in the squad, with three players each in the form of Charlie Mulgrew, Scott Brown and James Forrest from the Scottish champions and Russell Martin, Steven Whittaker and Robert Snodgrass from the English Premier League side. In total, there are twenty two English league based players in the squad, with twelve of them currently at Premier League clubs. Five players are from the Scottish Premier League, striker Kenny Miller is coming over from Vancouver Whitecaps in the Canada, who play in the MLS, and defender Andy Webster is currently a free agent after his Hearts contract expired. There is no place for Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher, who is still recovering from his ulcerative colitis.
The squad in full is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Matt Gilks (Blackpool), David Marshall (Cardiff City), Allan McGregor (Hull City)
Defenders: Alan Hutton (Aston Villa), Grant Hanley (Blackburn Rovers), Gordon Greer (Brighton and Hove Albion), Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic), Andy Webster (Free Agent), Steven Hammell (Motherwell), Russell Martin & Steven Whittaker (both Norwich City)
Midfielders: Barry Bannan (Aston Villa), Chris Burke (Birmingham City), Liam Bridcutt (Brighton and Hove Albion), Craig Conway (Cardiff City), James Forrest and Scott Brown (both Celtic), Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United), Steven Naismith (Everton), George Boyd (Hull City), Robert Snodgrass (Norwich City), Charlie Adam (Stoke City), Graham Dorrans and James Morrison (both West Bromwich Albion), James McArthur (Wigan Athletic)
Forwards: Jordan Rhodes (Blackburn Rovers), Kenny Miller (Vancouver Whitecaps), Shaun Maloney (Wigan Athletic), Leigh Griffiths (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
The semi finals of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup take place in a double-header at the Cowboys Stadium in Dallas on Wednesday night with Honduras and Panama standing in the way of a fourth successive United States versus Mexico final. Panama were the last team to break the domination of the big two in 2005, when they made the final but lost out to the United States on penalties at the Giants Stadium. The USA retained their title two years later with a 2-1 final win over Mexico at Soldier Field in Chicago, but the Mexicans had their revenge in 2009 with a thumping 5-0 win over their neighbours at the Giants Stadium and they beat the hosts again in 2011, winning 4-2 at the Pasadena Rose Bowl.
This time around, the United States are up against Honduras in the first of the two semi finals. The United States have been the form team of the tournament so far and had no trouble brushing aside El Salvador 5-1 in their quarter final whereas Honduras came through a much tighter affair with a 1-0 win against Costa Rica last night. Mexico, who beat Trinidad and Tobago by a single goal in their quarter final, must face Panama, who came from a goal behind to crush Cuba 6-1 at the same stage.
Honduras won their Gold Cup group with two wins and a defeat after they had already sewn up top spot but they lost to the Americans in a World Cup Qualifier in Utah last month with Jozy Altidore scoring the only goal of the game in the second half and the United States are now on a nine game winning streak, so they will be favourites to progress to the final after winning all three of their group games and having scored sixteen goals in their four Gold Cup games so far. Mexico and Panama met in their opening Group A match and Panama ran out 2-1 winners going on to win the group a point ahead of the Mexicans in second place. Mexico have travelled to the tournament with an experimental, all home-based, squad of players, having also competed in the Confederations Cup this summer and opting to send a second string selection to the Gold Cup. Therefore, they could be ripe for another upset against the in-form Panamanians, who are spearheaded by twenty four year old Zamora striker Gabriel Torres, joint top scorer in the tournament with five goals from his three games.
Italy 2 (Astori 24, Diamanti 73)
Uruguay 2 (Cavani 58, 78)
Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador. Temp. 28°C, wind 8 mph, scattered clouds. Referee: Djamel Haimoudi (Algeria)
Italy: Buffon, Chiellini, Astori (Bonucci 96), De Sciglio, De Rossi (Aquilani 70), Montolivo, Maggio, Candreva, Gilardino, Diamanti (Giaccherini 83), El Shaarawy.
Uruguay: Muslera, Lugano, Pereira M (Pereira A 81), Caceres, Godin, Rodriguez (Gonzalez 56), Gargano, Arevalo (Perez 107), Suarez, Forlan, Cavani.
Cesare Prandelli’s Italy team bounced back from the heartbreak of their penalty shoot out semi final defeat to Spain on Thursday night to beat Uruguay by the same method and secure the consolation of third place at the 2013 Confederations Cup. Instead it’s the Uruguayans who are now cursing their luck from twelve yards as failure from that distance has now cost them dear in successive matches following Diego Forlan’s failed spot kick in their semi final against Brazil. The same player missed Uruguay’s first effort in the shoot out in Salvador to put the Italians in the ascendancy and the Azzurri scored three of their four kicks to win 4-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw.
Italy looked the stronger of the two teams, despite having had a day’s less rest than Uruguay following the semi finals and their 120 minutes of attrition in the heat against Spain. They took the lead in the twenty fourth minute when a Diamanti free-kick from the right hit the far post and rolled back along the goal line to the opportunistic Cagliari defender Davide Astori who reacted first to tap it into the net. The eagerly anticipated new goal line technology hadn’t been needed thus far in the tournament so FIFA took the opportunity to use it to show that the ball hadn’t crossed the line before Astori touched it, this proving that it was his goal rather than Diamanti’s.
The Italians held onto their lead until thirteen minutes into the second half when Napoli’s Edinson Cavani beat Gianluigi Buffon with a curling shot to make it one apiece. Uruguay enjoyed their best period of the game but they were undone by another free-kick from Alessandro Diamanti. This time the Bologna striker didn’t need help from anyone as his seventy third minute shot flew straight past Muslera int he Uruguay goal to make it 2-1. Cavani responded with a free kick of his own five minutes later to notch up his second goal in the game and third of the tournament, making it 2-2 and forcing extra time.
Everyone expected the effects of tiredness to set in for the Italians as the game wore on, especially when they were reduced to ten men by Riccardo Montolivo’s dismissal in the 110th minute but they dug in and withstood the pressure from Suarez, Cavani, Forlan and co. Buffon was the hero in the subsequent shoot out, saving from Forlan, Caceres and Gargano as Aquilani, El Shaarawy and Giaccherini scored for Italy to wrap things up despite Mattia De Sciglio missing their third kick. All in all, Italy look in decent shape for next summer but they will have to tighten up their defence and hope that Marion Balotelli stays fit if they are to win back the World Cup. Uruguay have an ageing group of players that may still be able to produce the goods in twelve months time but they definitely need to think about rejuvenating the side in some areas. Firstly it’s back to the business of actually securing their qualification for the finals for both teams.
Brazil 3 (Fred 2, 47, Neymar 44)
Maracana, Rio de Janeiro. Temp. 23°C, wind 9 mph, mostly cloudy. Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Holland)
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo, Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho (Hernanes 88), Oscar, Fred (Jo 80), Hulk (Jadson 73), Neymar.
Spain: Casillas, Ramos, Arbeloa (Azpilicueta 46), Pique, Alba, Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets, Torres (Villa 59), Mata (Navas 52), Pedro.
Brazil impressively swept aside the challenge of Spain and were totally unfazed by the pressure of competing in a final in front of their own fans as they scored three goals without reply to retain the FIFA Confederations Cup, making it three wins in a row and their fourth triumph in the history of the tournament. Once again their star player, Neymar, was on song and they tormented the Spanish defence for ninety minutes whilst largely snuffing out any hint of a threat at the other end.
Nerves were settled early on as Brazil once again struck in the opening minutes. All three of their front line were involved in the move that led to Fred’s second minute strike, with Hulk crossing from the right for Neymar to knock it down to Fred and the Fluminense striker scooped it in. Brazil kept the pressure on and their fast start clearly rattled Spain, who struggled to cope with the speed and movement of the selecao attack. Both Arbeloa and ramos were booked before the half hour mark and just as Spain were looking forward to a chance to rest and regroup over half time, their task got much harder as Neymar fired in the second goal of the night.
The struggling Arbeloa was replaced with the more attacking Chelsea right-back Cesar Azpilicueta at the interval but he didn’t have time to make an impact before Fred effectively wrapped it up for Brazil with his second and their third on the game within two minutes of the restart. Spain looked to have been handed a route back into the game six minutes later when they were awarded a spot kick for Marcelo’s trip on Jesus Navas, but Sergio Ramos struck the penalty wide of the goal and any lingering hopes of a comeback were finally extinguished in the sixty eighth minute when centre-back Gerard Pique was dismissed for a foul on Neymar.
Jadson, Jo and Hernanes were introduced for Brazil late on as manager Luiz Felipe Scolari tried to give as many of his players as possible a chance to experience winning the final of a major international tournament before the real thing starts next summer. They saw out the game without difficulty to spark celebrations across the city and country and raise expectations sky high that they will repeat the success in the World Cup in twelve months’ time. The impressive nature of their win over the world champions has certainly quietened any of Scolari’s doubters and on this form his team can mount a real challenge for the World Cup. Spain have had a wake up call after a record breaking unbeaten run in competitive matches, but they have plenty of time to put their house in order before the main event and they will also still be strong contenders.
Brazil 2 (Fred 41, Paulinho 85)
Uruguay 1 (Cavani 48)
Mineirão, Belo Horizonte. Temp. 26°C, wind 6 mph, partly sunny. Referee: Enrique Osses (Chile)
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo, Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho, Oscar (Hernanes 72), Fred, Hulk (Bernard 64), Neymar (Dante 90+1).
Uruguay: Muslera, Lugano, Pereira M, Caceres, Godin, Rodriguez, Gonzalez (Gargano 83), Arevalo, Suarez, Forlan, Cavani.
Brazil qualified for the final of the 2013 Confederations Cup and will face either Italy or Spain at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. Goals from Fred and Paulinho at the end of each half were enough to see of Uruguay, who replied through Cavani but missed a penalty in the first half. Uruguay will now face the losers of the other semi final in the third place match on Saturday.
Both teams were back to their strongest line ups with Paulinho returning to the midfield for Brazil and Uruguay bringing back the whole host of first team regulars who were rested for their final group game against Tahiti. There was an emotional applause just before kick off as the stadium remembered Cameroon midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe, who passed away ten years ago today in a Confederations Cup semi final match against Colombia in Lyon.
The first dozen minutes passed uneventfully as neither team managed to find their rhythm or keep possession for a prolonged period of play. The first noteworthy action occurred in the thirteenth minute when Uruguay won a corner and David Luiz hauled down Uruguay captain Diego Lugano as the ball was played into the box. Diego Forlan stepped up to take the penalty and struck his shot low to the goalkeeper’s left but Julio Cesar dived the right way and pushed the ball around his post to the delight of the crowd and relief of his team mates. Immediately after that, Brazil produced their first meaningful attack culminating in a speculative shot from Oscar that sailed just wide.
The match continued in a similar, scrappy, vein with chances few and far between until Diego Forlan managed to get on to the end of a cross from the left and blaze a venomous shot just over the bar from the edge of the box in the thirtieth minute. It was the closest anyone had come to a goal in open play thus far. Full-back Marcelo was providing much of Brazil’s attacking threat with his forays down the left flank and he put a promising ball into the box towards Fred but the forward was beaten to the ball at the near post and couldn’t convert it. Uruguay goalkeeper Muslera wasn’t totally redundent in the first period, but his work was largely restricted to periodically plucking Brazilian crosses out of the air until five minutes from the interval when he was forced off his line to close down Neymar but could only deflect the striker’s shot into the path of Fred, who was left with a simple tap in to make it 1-0.
There was still time for a Luis Suarez chance before the interval, but the Liverpool forward didn’t connect properly with his shot and couldn’t trouble Julio Cesar. The one nil deficit at the break seemed a bit harsh on the Uruguayans as they had had the best chances and allowed Brazil to score with their only dangerous attack. Whatever they said at half time obviously had an effect because they were level within three minutes of the restart. It was a messy build up with the ball pinging around the Brazilian box, never under control and never properly cleared, until Cavani pounced and clinically dispatched it into the far corner with a low shot to silence the crowd.
The equaliser prompted a more exciting period of play with chances at both ends, for Oscar when Muslera fumbled a high ball and for Uruguay when an inviting Suarez cross was whipped away from the head of Forlan by a defender at the last moment. Hulk then fired in a stinging, swerving free kick from long range that Muslera could only punch away, and the same player was off target with an overhead kick a few minutes later. It was his last action of the match as he was replaced by local hero Bernard shortly after.
Uruguay were almost handed the lead in the sixty sixth minute when a Forlan free kick from the right was headed towards his own goal by Thiago Silva, but fortunately for the defender it flew just over the bar. Brazil immediately responded with a chance for Fred at the other end and then produced the best move of the match to set up Neymar, but his shot wasn’t strong enough to trouble Muslera. Spaces started to open up in the last quarter of an hour and chances came a bit more frequently as the prospect of an extra half hour started to loom. Forlan did well to set up Cavani for a sharp turn and shot that almost completed the turn around, but Brazil generally had more of the possession as the game wore on.
Their breakthrough came five minutes from full time when Paulinho outjumped Caceres at the far post to head a corner from Neymar past Muslera and make it 2-1. There was some late pressure from Uruguay in stoppage time and Muslera even came up for a couple of corners, but Brazil withstood and booked their place in Sunday’s final. Neymar lost his record of scoring in every game of the tournament but once again he was the most influential player on the pitch and created both goals. The only downside of his performance was the amount of time he spent rolling around on the pitch.