Advertisements

Simeone, Loew or Ancelotti – who should win the 2014 FIFA Coach of the Year?

By Waddah Hassani

FIFA has announced its final shortlist for the 2014 FIFA Coach of the Year award and it was (sort of) what everyone was expecting it to be; it included Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti, World Cup winner Joachim Loew and La Liga winner Diego Simeone.

Aside of the detailed statistical comparison provided, who deserves the award the most?

FIFA 2014 COTY Comparison

Carlo Ancelotti: Where do we start? The experienced Italian has literally done it all in 2014, from winning titles, matching records, breaking records, winning over the fans and locker room, to re-inventing players.

Lets start with the titles; Ancelotti has won three titles thusfar in 2014 in the shape of the famed La Decima, the Copa del Rey, and the UEFA Super Cup. This list is very likely to see an addition in the form of the Club World Cup, which Real Madrid will contest in late December.

So, with three titles in 2014, Carlo Ancelotti is the coach with the most tiles won between not just the final shortlist, but the entire 10-man list initially released by FIFA.

Carlo Ancelotti

He also ventured into the ‘record breaking’ path as he orchestrated Real Madrid’s longest winning streak ever in all competitions (currently stands at 17 wins), longest winning streak ever in the Copa del Rey (10 wins), most goals scored in one Champions League campaign (41 goals), being the fastest coach in Real Madrid’s history to reach 50 official wins, and if Los Blancos wins the CWC, he will also be the first coach in the club’s history to win four titles in one calendar year.

He also equaled Bob Paisley’s record of three European Cups won and in the process became the first and only coach to win three European Cups with two different clubs.

The former Chelsea chief has guided Real Madrid to the top of the La Liga table with 10 consecutive league wins and secured the first spot in Group B of this season’s Champions League thanks to winning all the team’s matches so far in the competition.

On top of all that, Ancelotti also ‘re-invented’ players like Di Maria, James, and Isco to better suit the dynamics of the team, which in part lead to them being better overall players themselves. Certainly an eventful year this has been for the Italian mastermind.

Joachim Loew: With Ancelotti you see a lot of records and achievements, but some may argue that all of these feats are not equal to what Joachim Loew has won in 2014; the World Cup.

Loew guided Germany to the World Cup title with consistent, entertaining, direct, and brutal football that ruthlessly destroyed Brazil 7-1 in the semi-finals; providing the biggest ever semi-final result in World Cup’s history and the South American nation’s biggest home defeat ever.

Joachim Loew

While many teams showed promise but eventually delivered below par performances, Loew’s Germany dominated with sheer consistency. They were on point throughout the tournament and deservedly won the title to prove it.

The World Cup is without a doubt the biggest title in world football so winning it in style surely can’t hurt your chances in winning the COTY award.

Diego Simeone: Quite possibly the ‘dark horse’ in this year’s COTY award race, Diego Simeone has to go up against a coach that has won more titles and broke more records than anyone else in 2014, and a coach who has won the grandest prize in football in the shape of the World Cup.

And what does he have to go against them? Just a La Liga title and the Supercopa with Atletico Madrid.

Diego Simeone

On the surface it might not seem enough, but once you realize that Simeone achieved this with a Vicente Calderon outfit that was battling relegation when he was first appointed, you will come to know the magnitude of his achievement.

He lifted Atletico to heights that saw them challenging the two Spanish powerhouses in the form of Real Madrid and Barcelona, and he actually beat them to the La Liga title. Something that hasn’t happened in a decade.

With a budget that pales in comparison to the Clasico giants, and with a squad that may lack the flair of traditional world-class players, Simeone relied on sheer hard work and discipline to battle through the opposition.

This eventually led Atletico to the final of the 2013/14 Champions League where he was just a 100 seconds away from winning the title, and a La Liga triumph that will surely go down in Spanish folklore as one of the most surprising upsets in league history.

On any other year, what Simeone has done might have been enough, but in 2014, with a Champions League winner and a World Cup winner; it may not be the safe to bet on the Argentine.

Advertisements

Roy Hodgson – The master of lowering England’s expectations

“I thought we hung on well, all things considered we mustn’t be too disappointed; a point here gives a chance to build for the future,” said Roy Hodgson speaking after England’s 1-1 draw with Montenegro on Tuesday night.

Hodgson, the master of lowering expectations, was at it again in Podgorica.

There are people who claim that an away draw at international level should never be grumbled at, and of course, they have a point, but Hodgson’s reaction to a stalemate against a team with a national population of just over 600,000 was irritating at best, baffling at worst.

Roy Hodgson

Of course, Hodgson has previous for these sound bites that reveal an exasperating inferiority complex; regardless of what team he is managing.

After seeing his Liverpool side enter their most turgid performance of testing campaign in their 2-0 defeat to fierce local rivals Everton in October 2010, Hodgson did not quite see the fuss being made from the Anfield faithful:

“I watched the performance and the second half was as good as I saw a Liverpool team play under my management that is for sure,” opined Hodgson, to the incredulity of all who follow the five-time European Cup winners.

Hodgson had earlier that campaign gave an almost comical response to a question put to him after a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City.

Asked if his techniques still worked in the Premier League in 2010, Hodgson fumed: “What do you mean do my methods translate? They have translated from Halmstads to Malmo, to Orebo to Neuchatel Xamax, to the Swiss national team, so I find the question insulting.”

Neuchatel Xamax, Orebo and Halmstads? To use such sides as a reference point to defend his managerial record was beyond belief to many who sat at the Etihad Stadium, watching Roberto Mancini’s side dismantle the Reds.

Hodgson has also flourished with this kind of Basil Fawlty-esque take on media handling in the role of national manager, particularly when criticising Wayne Rooney immediately after a quarter-final penalty shootout exit at the hands of Italy at Euro 2012.

Asked if the Manchester United striker was struggling for fitness after missing the first two Group games through suspension, the former Fulham boss dismissed such suggestions and claimed that Rooney simply was playing far below his level.

“In the first game against Ukraine he didn’t show any particular signs of lacking fitness. He played 120 minutes [against Italy].

“What you might be saying is that you are a bit disappointed with his performance and maybe thought he could have played better. He didn’t have his best game – I’m sure he will admit that. That could be down to a number of factors but I don’t think the fitness itself was a particular factor.”

Roy Hodgson

A masterclass in how to alienate your best player, minutes after a demoralising exit from a tournament that dominated two years of his international career.

The truth is, Hodgson had already worked his special brand of expectation-lowering before he had even picked a first XI for the Three Lions. Pipping red-hot favourite Harry Redknapp to the role of manager back in April 2012, many fans and pundits alike accepted that the forthcoming European Championships would be a write-off – a chance for Roy to experiment and blood some youngsters into the senior fold for experience, that may serve them well for future tournaments.

It was a majestic way of disarming a perpetually over-exuberant fanbase before a major tournament. Had Redknapp, who was forging a reputation as the darling of English football at the time, taken over as England chief, the nation would have been awash with optimism heading into the tournament, as the-then Tottenham Hotspur manager was riding high at White Hart Lane.

Of course, expectation levels would have risen unrealistically high, but would that have been any worse than accepting that a team comprised of players playing for some of the biggest teams in the Premier League every week will fail miserably?

We suspect that the truth is, Redknapp was not offered the job at Wembley due to the reported £10m compensation package that Spurs chairman Daniel Levy wanted for the services of the-now Queens Park Rangers boss.

Hodgson was even playing down his chances before he first sat in front of the press as national manager.

“I would rather hope that, if I was ever going to be offered the England job, it would be with the backing of the important people. Otherwise, it’s going to be a very difficult job for anyone who takes it.”

“A difficult job” indeed, one that he is not making any easier for himself or his team.

Pirlo’s poise exposes ordinary England

England were eliminated from Euro 2012 by Italy on Sunday night, with the Azzurri rightful winners. Despite a one-sided game it took penalties kicks to confirm Italian progression, with Ashley Young and Ashley Cole off-target.

One player stood out above the rest in the form of Andrea Pirlo. The veteran is certainly one of the best deep-lying playmakers in world football, and his ability on the ball, range of passing and ability to keep his side in possession shone through.

Pirlo’s poise on the ball was in contrast to the dogged but wasteful Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker, and shows the technical gulf between English football and some of their European rivals. The Three Lions simply did not have a midfield general to run the show this summer, which is unlike all other nations – Schweinsteiger, Xavi, Moutinho etc have shown the importance of this at Euro 2012.

And then, there was this…..

Masterful Andrea Pirlo, take a bow

England vs Italy, Spain vs France and the Euro 2012 quarter-finals

All 16 teams in Euro 2012 have now played their three group games, and as such half have progressed to the knockout rounds, whilst the other half have departed for home. The quarter-finals line-up has produced four interesting ties, with the room for error now miniscule. Betfair Euro Cup 2012 odds point towards the likes of Germany and Spain progressing towards the final, but there has been a number of shocks in the competition already. Here is a breakdown of the next round of Euro 2012 fixtures.

Czech Republic vs Portugal

Michal Bilek’s Czech Republic side topped Group A unexpectedly, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that they were thumped 4-1 by Russia in their competition opener; wins over Greece and Poland sees the eastern Europeans through to the last eight. Keyman Tomas Rosicky is carrying an injury and as such is a doubt for Thursday’s game, whilst the likes of Vaclav Pilar and Petr Jiracek have stepped up to score goals for the side.

Portugal also were beaten in their first game, but came back to finish as runners-up in Group B after wins over Denmark and Netherlands. Paulo Bento’s men rely heavily on skipper Cristiano Ronaldo, who bagged a brace in the 2-1 victory over Netherlands last time out, after initial mediocre form in the tournament. The Real Madrid superstar’s form will be critical in ascertaining just how far the Iberian nation can go in Ukraine and Poland.

Prediction – Czech Republic 0 Portugal 2

Germany vs Greece

One of the tournament favourites, Germany have lived up to their highly-fancied billing with three wins out of three games to top Group B. Joachim Low’s men have a blend of experience and youth, and have strength in every position – currently the team to beat in the competition.

Greece have shown extraordinary determination to overcome the odds this time round, and have a never-say-die attitude that Germany will find difficult to break down. A 1-0 win over Russia in their last game confirmed the side as Group A runners-up at their opponents’ expense.

Prediction – Germany 1 Greece 0

Spain vs France

Spain have not been their imperious selves in the tournament to date, but glimpses of brilliance show that the holders will still take some beating this summer. A last-gasp win over Croatia ensured that Vicente del Bosque’s men topped Group C, but they will now face a step up in the quality of opponent.

France were looking in line to top Group D, but an unexpected 2-0 defeat to Sweden in their last game ended a 23-match unbeaten streak and resulted in a runners-up finish. Laurent Blanc’s men have the players to cause an upset, but must be at their very best to stand a chance against the world champions.

Prediction – Spain 1 France 1 – Spain to win on penalties

England vs Italy

Arguably the most even and interesting of the four fixtures. England topped Group D with two wins and a draw, with a solitary Wayne Rooney strike ensuring a 1-0 win over Ukraine in their last pool game. Roy Hodgson’s men have been uninspiring, but will hope a dogged performance can send them through to the semis.

Italy are unbeaten in the tournament after two draws and a win saw the Azzurri finish second in Group C. Cesare Prandelli has played both 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 in the tournament, and must get his tactics and team selection right if his side are to progress past the Three Lions.

Prediction – England 2 Italy 1

England overlooked XI: How well would this bunch do at Euro 2012?

England put in a gutsy and relatively composed performance against France in their Euro 2012 opening fixture, with Roy Hodgson’s men recording a 1-1 draw against Les Bleus in their first game in Group D. Despite this, some of the new manager’s squad selections have been queried; here is an alternate England XI that was overlooked.

GK – Ben Foster – Opted to retire from international football due to past disappointments, the Birmingham man proved a consistent performer for West Brom last term.
LB – Kieran Gibbs – Potential in spades, Gibbs is one of Arsene Wenger’s youth projects and could well play a role in the national set-up after Ashley Cole’s days are done.

RB – Micah Richards – Despite being an important player at the Etihad Stadium, Richards seems to have done something to annoy the powers that be at the FA.

CB – Rio Ferdinand – Omitted for ‘football reasons’, Ferdinand apparently was too good to call up after Gary Cahill’s injury. Hmmm

CB – Ledley King – In this fantasy team lets pretend King is fully fit and functioning. Rolls Royce of a football player.

LW – Adam Johnson – A victim of Roberto Mancini’s star-studded squad, the former Middlesbrough winger has the ability to deliver if he is in the mood.

RW – Aaron Lennon – One of the surprise omissions, Lennon’s blistering pace and penetration is vital at White Hart Lane, and could have been for the Three Lions too.

CM – Paul Scholes – Mercurial, masterful, magic but getting old, Paul Scholes is one of the best players to play in the Premier League over the last 10 years. Fact.

CM – Michael Carrick – Has been overlooked once more even though he starts most weeks for Manchester United. In England’s little black book alongside Richards.

ST – Grant Holt – The Norwich targetman proved a right handful for Premier League defences in 2011-12, and he netted 15 goals. The Italians or Spanish in the knockout stages wouldn’t have enjoyed encountering him for the first time.

ST – Daniel Sturridge – Was an important player for Chelsea under AVB, but lost his way in the second half of 2011-12; still a talented player and one for the future for England.

Ferdinand’s leadership, Richards’ physicality, Scholes’ guile, Lennon’s pace, Carrick’s passing range and Holt’s bullying tactics; I think this team would have done ok……

Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Euro 2012 distractions

Whilst Euro 2012 is on the Ninety Minutes Online team have outsourced their considerable resources to cover the tournament for other leading media outlets. As such posts for the next while may well be sparse.

However just quickly, after watching the Germany vs Portugal game last night a few things came to the fore. Firstly, Mesut Ozil steadied a rocky Germany ship that was in no way sure to beat Paulo Bento’s men. The Real Madrid playmaker showed poise and confidence on the ball and it is easy to see why he is so highly regarded at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Another Real Madrid man, Fabio Coentrao, had an enterprising game for Portugal at left-back, showing solidity in defence but a real attacking threat when he ventured forward.

However, Los Blancos’ main man Cristiano Ronaldo was decidedly muted and did not look like the player that scored against every Primera Division team in 2011-12. Playing predominantly in a wide position CR7 struggled to make any impact on the game; Nani looked more dangerous on the other flank. Ronaldo’s claim to be amongst the best players to have ever played the game hinges on whether he can replicate club form on the international set-up, and last night’s showing did little to inspire confidence that he can be talked about in the same light as Pele, Maradona, Cruyff etc.

Whilst Ronaldo toiled, Messi starred. The current Ballon d’Or holder scored a meticulous hat-trick in Argentina’s 4-3 win over Brazil to show why he is the world’s best; check out this wonderful winner.

Enjoy the remainder of Euro 2012

Chelsea’s Torres in Spain Euro 2012 squad, but no Roberto Soldado

Vicente del Bosque has the task of bringing home a third straight international tournament success this summer, with the triumphs at Euro 2008 and in the 2010 World Cup meaning Spain are favourites for this year’s Euro 2012. The successful trainer has named his squad for the tournament in Ukraine and Poland, with a raft of star names included. However, with David Villa injured, Del Bosque’s selection in attack was sure to be interesting, and one name is surprisingly omitted: Roberto Soldado.

Goalkeepers

  • Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Victor Valdes (Barcelona), Pepe Reina (Liverpool)

The reigning world champions have an embarrassment of riches between the sticks, with one of the game’s best in the form of Iker Casillas set to lead the side. However, if something unforeseen should happen to the Real Madrid stopper, Valdes and Reina are more than able deputies.

Defenders

  • Raul Albiol (Real Madrid), Jordi Alba (Valencia), Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Juanfran Torres (Atletico Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Athletic Bilbao)

With Carles Puyol injured, it will be interesting to see just who Del Bosque picks to fill the experienced Barcelona man’s boots. The personnel and shape of the defence will depend on where Sergio Ramos is deployed, with the Santiago Bernabeu man’s versatility of playing either on the right or in the centre an attribute. Ramos is likely to play in the centre alongside Gerard Pique, but Del Bosque could also use him at right-back, and partner the Camp Nou man with Javi Martinez. Jordi Alba looks a shoe-in at left-back.

Midfielders

  • Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Xavi (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Santi Cazorla (Malaga), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Juan Mata (Chelsea)

With only four strikers selected in the contingent and the sheer quality of the players listed above, it is likely that Spain will play with five in midfield, with a 4-5-1 formation without the ball quickly changing to a 4-3-3 whilst in possession. Xabi Alonso and Xavi are certainties in the centre of the park when fit, and they may well be joined by either Cesc Fabregas or Sergio Busquets, depending on whether Del Bosque wants to keep it tight or include an extra attacking player. David Silva and Andres Iniesta may well start from wide areas, but look to get space in-field and provide chances. Santi Cazorla could be used if Spain look for width and delivery.

Attackers

  • Pedro (Barcelona), Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao)

Likely to be one of four in attack, however Pedro could also be used as a supporting striker. Negredo, Torres or Llorente will be charged with finishing the chances created by the mercurial midfield maestros, which should be plentiful. After the Sevilla man’s season of injuries and Torres’ torrid time at Stamford Bridge, the omission of Roberto Soldado is surprising to say the least. The Valencia marksman has continued to progress this season at the Mestalla, and was for some (including myself) the pick of the available forwards to fill David Villa’s shoes. Atletico Madrid’s Adrian also missed out.

Del Bosque’s squad is dominated by World Cup winners, Barcelona and Real Madrid superstars and has extraordinary depth. Spain rightly go into the competition as frontrunners, however it will be interesting who gets the nod up front and given the task of firing La Roja to their third consecutive glorious campaign.

Published – Soccerlens

Republic of Ireland’s greatest international tournament results

Republic of Ireland go into this summer’s Euro 2012 tournament as overwhelming underdogs, with a group of Spain, Italy and Croatia to battle against. Despite Giovanni Trapattoni’s men being disregarded due to the quality of their Group C opponents, the Emerald Isle will look to take inspiration from previous positive results to have a chance of progressing through the pool. Thousands of Irish fans will purchase cheap flights to travel to Poland and Ukraine with hope, but these results should also prove that anything is possible.

Republic of Ireland 1 England 0 – Euro 88

Jack Charlton’s side were drawn against old enemies England in the group stages of the 1988 European Championships in West Germany, and were given little hope of recording a result. However, a loping Ray Houghton header after six minutes sent the travelling Irish fans into delirium and a strong defensive effort gave Ireland a momentous victory.

Republic of Ireland 1 Italy 0 – World Cup 1994

Again, faced with a tough group, Ireland qualified from Group E in the 1994 World Cup thanks to a unforgettable 1-0 win over European giants Italy in their opening game. Ray Houghton was again the man to provide the winner, with a sublime lofted shot beating Gianluca Pagliuca in the Azzurri goal. A draw with Norway sealed progression through to the knockout rounds, and Italy’s elimination, with stars such as Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi heading home early.

Republic of Ireland 1 Germany 1 – World Cup 2002

A last-gasp Robbie Keane strike in Nilgata gave the Republic of Ireland a point and a memorable result against Germany in the 2002 World Cup, with the draw eventually seeing the Irish side to progression through Group E. The likes of Keane, Shay Given and Damien Duff will look for similar results this summer, ten years on.

Just to get the Emerald Isle’s fans in the mood for Euro 2012 and the upcoming Group C fixtures against Spain, Italy and Croatia, Aer Lingus have released a new video encouraging the supporters to get behind Giovanni Trapattoni’s men….

England squad for Euro 2012: Hodgson makes his mark

When Roy Hodgson was named England manager many pundits commented that he was a conservative manager, who would play it safe in his squad selections. His 23-man squad for Euro 2012 has blown this theory out of the water though, with some big decisions made and a couple of surprise selections.

Goalkeepers
The selections of Joe Hart and Robert Green are no surprise. Hart has firmly established himself as one of the best and most confident keepers in Europe, whilst Green has had another consistent season at West Ham and is a very able back-up. The inclusion of John Ruddy, ahead of Scott Carson and David Stockdale, has come as a surprise though. Loaned out by Everton to nine clubs, he has finally found a home at Norwich City and has come into his own.

Defenders

A number of the defenders picked themselves. At right-back Glen Johnson has been a regular member of the squad for a number of years, whilst Hodgson is also blessed with two fantastic left-backs in Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines. Gary Cahill has earned his place with solid performances over the last year for club and country while Joleon Lescott has been one of the unsung heroes in Manchester City’s title winning campaign. Phil Jones has had an up-and-down season for Manchester United, but continues to show great promise and also has the versatility to play at right-back as well as centre-back.

The major talking point though has been the inclusion of John Terry and the omission of Rio Ferdinand. The Manchester United man has only made one England appearance in the last year and his form and constant fitness issues have clearly had a major impact on what Hodgson describes as a “footballing decision”. Many people will also wonder whether having Terry in the squad will cause problems in the dressing room. The fact is though, Terry has performed better than Ferdinand this season and if it was a straight choice between the two, Terry was always going to be the winner – Hodgson has made the correct choice.

Midfielders

In midfield Hodgson has gone for a blend of youth and experience. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have the drive to lead from midfield  and also are consistent performers for their clubs. With being named captain as well, the Anfield talisman can provide great inspiration and leadership as he does for Liverpool. Gareth Barry and Scott Parker will provide a solid base for the midfield whilst James Milner can play any of the four midfield positions and even right back if need be.

Theo Walcott has improved considerably for Arsenal in the second half of this season both in front of goal and in terms of his composure with his final pass or cross. Ashley Young has had a good first season with Manchester United and his willingness to run at his opponent and his excellent set piece delivery made him an easy selection.

Stewart Downing however is a baffling selection. Whilst he is the only natural left-footed winger in the squad, his record of no Premier League goals or assists all season is a major cause for concern. Another shock inclusion is Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but it would be unfair to compare this selection to that of Walcott for the 2006 World Cup. Chamberlain has proven his ability in the Champions League this season, and his performance in the centre of midfield against AC Milan at home was hugely impressive.

Forwards

Of the forwards, Wayne Rooney is an easy choice despite the fact he misses the first two games. Danny Welbeck has impressed in partnership with Rooney this season and is skilful, quick and has shown absolutely no fear of any centre-back pairing. Jermain Defoe remains one of the most natural goalscorers in the country and with Darren Bent unfit he had to be in the squad. The shock choice in the attackers is Andy Carroll. Despite impressive performances in the final few games, Carroll only scored six goals in his first 40 games of this season and despite three in his last seven he needs too many chances to score a goal and you do not get these at international level.

Notable omissions

Apart from the obvious omission of Rio Ferdinand there are a few other players who will feel they are unfortunate to miss out. Micah Richards has been very consistent this season and a big part of Manchester City’s success. Michael Carrick has been impressive in the second half of the season and England may well miss his range of passing and ability to control the pace of the game. Aaron Lennon and Daniel Sturridge will feel unfortunate to lose out to Stewart Downing as both have provided more goals, assists and better performances than the Liverpool man. Paul Scholes meanwhile was thought to be interested in coming out of international retirement, but the 37-year-old was not deemed worthy of a place.

By Chris Newman

Team GB: What are their chances at the Olympics?

With the current campaign over, all eyes are turning to the summer’s international tournaments to fill the off-season void. Euro 2012 comes first in June, before the exciting prospect of Team GB competing for gold at the Olympics. With some of the traditionally bigger nations not present at the competition in London, the home representation will be one of the favourites to claim gold medals, but who will be playing and can they go all the way?

Firstly it should be stated that Team GB manager Stuart Pearce has been in contact with potential players about their interest in competing at the games, with a shortlist of a whopping 80 players being compiled. The squad must be completely 23 years old or under, with leeway for three overage players. Team GB will be comprised of athletes from England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and any player who represents England at Euro 2012 will not be considered.

With such a wide span of players to pick from, predicting the Team GB squad is difficult, but there are a number of players who have been mentioned and are seemingly eager to compete. David Beckham has been a high-profile name mentioned as a possible captain, however Pearce recently admitted that the LA Galaxy midfielder’s inclusion will be decided on form and fitness. Welsh midfielders Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have both been raised as possible candidates for inclusion, and the north London duo would add much-needed quality to the side. From Northern Ireland, Manchester United defender Jonny Evans had been touted to be included but this has been ruled out by the Red Devils, whilst the likes of Barry Bannan and Grant Hanley are potential Scottish inclusions.

The majority of the squad will be comprised of English players, with youngsters on the verge of the senior squad for Euro 2012 potentially taking part. Jack Wilshere has not been ruled out by Pearce in playing, despite the Arsenal man’s long-term injury concerns. The likes of Daniel Sturridge, Kyle Walker, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tom Cleverley will wait to see if they are needed in Ukraine and Poland, and if not could feature. Finally, Jack Rodwell has been ruled out of Euro 2012 through injury, but could well play in the games as part of his rehabilitation and recovery. With Pearce as manager, former or current England under-21 players could make up a bulk of the 18-man squad.

But can they lift the gold? One of he factors working against the side will be lack of preparation time, and the fact that most of the players will never have played together. However, along with Spain and Brazil, Team GB will be one of the frontrunners for victory, as the rest of the 16 teams seem beatable on paper. Team GB have been drawn in Group A alongside Senegal, Uruguay and the United Arab Emirates, with their first game against the African nation on July 26th.

All-in-all, glory for Team GB at the Olympics would be a real milestone for the game in the United Kingdom, and an excellent collective and personal achievement for the players. With a raft of Premier League talent likely to make up the squad, there is no reason why the hosts will not celebrate glory in the final on August 11th.

Published – 2012 Olympics Blog

%d bloggers like this: