World Cup play-offs: where the four European ties will be won and lost

first_imgWhile Vladimir Petkovic’s side have the highest Fifa ranking of the eight teams in the play-offs (11th), Michael O’Neill is working with the smallest pool of quality players. Jonny Evans is the star at centre-back, where is he partnered by his West Brom team-mate Gareth McAuley, and their understanding is pivotal. Northern Ireland kept seven clean sheets in their first eight qualifiers, guaranteeing that they would finish in second place behind Germany with two games to spare while playing for more than 10 hours without conceding a goal.Josh Magennis, who plays for Charlton in League One, has leapfrogged Kyle Lafferty in the pecking order up front, but the key for Northern Ireland will be to keep things tight at the back and look to exploit any opportunities on the counterattack or at set pieces. They have only lost one competitive game at Windsor Park in four years so will feel confident of being in good shape before the second leg in Basel. Expect two tight, low-scoring affairs.First leg: Northern Ireland v Switzerland, Thursday 9 November, 19:45 GMTSecond leg: Switzerland v Northern Ireland, Sunday 12 November, 17:00 GMTCroatia v Greece Infographic:WhoScored Northern Ireland v SwitzerlandSwitzerland have a right to feel hard done by having not qualified automatically with 27 points from 10 matches. Not only did they pick up their best ever points haul from a qualifying campaign, but they also finished with a higher total than five of the nine group winners in Europe. That said, Northern Ireland will go into the tie with hope, knowing the Swiss were handed a very favourable group draw.Switzerland are virtually unchanged from their Euro 2016 campaign, which could be taken as a positive or a negative. They’re very familiar with one another but at the same time haven’t had a real star break into their ranks for a while now, with 20-year-old Schalke forward Breel Embolo yet to really make his mark. One man who could come into contention in the play-offs and will certainly have an impact in the future is Denis Zakaria, who has impressed at Borussia Mönchengladbach, where he has followed in the footsteps of his potential midfield partner, Granit Xhaka. Serie A team of the week Infographic:WhoScored Northern Ireland Pinterest • Follow WhoScored on Twitter and Facebook• Follow Martin Laurence on Twitter Bundesliga team of the week Sweden fans saw a lot of goals during their campaign. Photograph: Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images Twitter Twitter Pinterest Having come on very strong in qualifying towards the end of the campaign, Denmark are perhaps not the side that Martin O’Neill would have wanted to draw, but he’ll back his Boys in Green to make a real fist of the challenge as ever. The Danes, however, not only have the sort of star quality in their ranks that the Republic of Ireland simply don’t – namely Christian Eriksen – but enviable depth and a squad more than capable of making an impact in Russia next summer.Last season’s Eredivisie top scorer Nicolai Jorgensen will likely lead the line in the play-offs having recovered from injury, so the fact that Kasper Dolberg may have to sit on the bench highlights the strength of the options available to coach Age Hareide. With Kasper Schmeichel between the posts, protected by Andreas Christensen and captain Simon Kjaer, there’s a good balance between solidity at the back and creativity going forwards that the Irish will have to negotiate.O’Neill’s men have perhaps exceeded expectations to make it thus far, albeit from a relatively favourable group, as the only team drawn from pot four still in with a chance of a place at the finals. Their crucial victory in Wales wasn’t a thing of beauty but it was no smash and grab either, delivering the manager’s game plan impeccably to frustrate Chris Coleman’s side and exploit a mistake at the back.They stood up tall defensively throughout qualifying in truth, only conceding more than once away to group winners Serbia and still coming away with a 2-2 draw. Their resilience is undoubtedly their greatest hope, and a fifth goal in consecutive away appearances from James McClean wouldn’t go amiss either. He’ll be a weapon on the counter, while Daryl Murphy and Shane Long will put themselves about to try and disrupt their hosts’ rhythm ahead of a return leg in Dublin.First leg: Denmark v Republic of Ireland, Saturday 11 November, 19:45 GMTSecond leg: Republic of Ireland v Denmark, Tuesday 14 November, 19:45 GMTSweden v Italy Read more Facebook Pinterest World Cup 2018 play-offs: how do you rate your team’s chances? Share on WhatsApp Share via Email Read more La Liga team of the week James McClean celebrates after scoring the goal that took Republic of Ireland into the play-offs. Photograph: John Sibley/Action Images/Reuters Topics How Croatia, Italy and Ireland fared in Europe’s first World Cup play-offs in 1997 The glamour tie. Sweden and Italy will be rueing being drawn against one another given their billing as the best unseeded and seeded sides, respectively. Sweden have begun life after Zlatan in very encouraging fashion and have looked a side with more freedom now they are not looking to pass the ball to their former talisman as quickly as possible.Sweden fired home 26 goals in a difficult group, not only the most of any side to qualify for the play-offs – including Italy (21) – but eight more than outstanding favourites France in Group A. Having beaten France earlier this year, this side have a giant-killing mentality and they will back themselves to pose Italy all sorts of problems. Emil Forsberg is the creative force in midfield, while striker Marcus Berg, who is now playing at Al Ain in Abu Dhabi, showing the kind of form that had him earmarked as a potential star early in his career.center_img Infographic:WhoScored Croatia Infographic:WhoScored World Cup 2018 World Cup Facebook features Share on Pinterest Guardian Sport Network Having been drawn from pot one, Croatia were favourites to win Group I but they had to win in Ukraine in their final match to make the play-offs. Ante Cacic lost his job before that crucial game in Kiev, which was a real baptism of fire for replacement Zlatko Dalic, who coached the U21s for five years up until 2011.In the opposing dugout Michael Skibbe has had far longer to pick his best XI and work out a style of play. The German has done an impressive job to say the least. Taking over following a disastrous Euro 2016 qualifying campaign from which Greece finished level on points with the Faroe Islands, the former Borussia Dortmund and Galatasaray boss had an uphill task on his hands. Skibbe’s team were third seeds in the group but they looked rejuvenated, losing just one game (to table toppers Belgium) and conceding just six goals in 10 matches.Croatia have the greater individual quality but they seem to have regressed after an impressed showing at Euro 2016, where they won their group but were narrowly defeated by eventual winners Portugal in the last-16 stage. No longer the sum of their parts, they scored just 15 goals in their group and seem to have been affected by Mario Mandzukic’s switch to a left-wing role at club level. He led the line in qualifying but scored in just three of his 10 appearances. Like a few of his team-mates, Mandzukic is missing the supply he once enjoyed from former captain Darijo Srna, who retired last summer as Croatia’s most capped player.Greece have very strong defensive options capable of frustrating Croatia, with the likes of Sokratis, Kostas Manolas and Kyriakos Papadopoulos all vying for spots at the heart of a back four. The midfield is their weak point and, crucially, their opponents’ greatest strength, but Kostas Mitroglou was in fine form in qualifying, scoring six goals in eight appearances and he will pose a threat to Croatia’s defence.First leg: Croatia v Greece, Thursday 9 November, 19:45 GMTSecond leg: Greece v Croatia, Sunday 12 November, 19:45 GMTDenmark v Republic of Ireland World Cup 2018 qualifiers Share on Twitter Italy’s qualifying campaign went as most people expected, finishing second best to Spain, but they have a few causes for genuine concern. Having picked up a solid 1-1 draw when the teams met in Turin for their first encounter in the group, Italy were utterly outclassed in the return fixture, losing 3-0 in Madrid, and they finished off the campaign with underwhelming performances, especially the 1-1 draw at home to Macedonia earlier this month. Gian Piero Ventura’s tactics have come under real scrutiny and the former Torino boss knows he is under pressure, having admitted it would be a “catastrophe”, “tragedy” and “the Apocalypse” if Italy do not go to the World Cup.There may be question marks over the coach, but Italy’s squad is incredibly promising. Andrea Belotti and the in-form Ciro Immobile, who has scored 15 goals already this season, represent a fearsome strike force, while getting the best from Lorenzo Insigne should be a real priority. The Napoli forward is 26 now, no longer the bright hope for the future, and must be given more responsibility. There’s no limit to how far Italy could go next summer if they get their tactics right. That, however, is a big if.First leg: Sweden v Italy, Friday 10 November, 19:45 GMTSecond leg: Italy v Sweden, Monday 13 November, 19:45 GMTPremier League team of the week Share on Messenger Croatia secured their place at the finals with a 2-0 win in Ukraine. Photograph: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters Ligue 1 team of the week Greece Facebook Switzerland Share on LinkedIn Twitter Share on Facebook Infographic:WhoScored Reuse this contentlast_img read more

20 days agoArsenal fullback Kieran Tierney not interested in London sightseeing

first_imgArsenal fullback Kieran Tierney not interested in London sightseeingby Paul Vegas20 days agoSend to a friendShare the loveArsenal fullback Kieran Tierney admits he’s never been to central London despite signing this summer.The full-back moved from boyhood club Celtic to join the Gunners and since then, has had to cope with the transition with moving from Glasgow to London.The defender said: “Coming to London has been a huge change for me.“I’m a home boy who has always stayed with my parents and now I’ve come to a new country and a massive city.“I’m living on my own for the first time and it’s not been great. I need to cook every night and I’m still learning how to do that. But I’ll get there.“People back home ask me ‘what’s London like?’ But I have no idea because I’ve never been into the city.“I train, I work hard, I go home to recover and I train the next day. It’s just a simple life and I put everything into football.” About the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your saylast_img read more

Minnesota’s QB Says Michigan State Has Big Ten’s Worst Visiting Locker Room

first_imgMichigan State's Spartan Stadium during the spring game.InstagramGoing on the road in the Big Ten is never a treat – between the travel, the team’s opposing fans and the shoddy facilities. But according to Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner, one program’s visiting locker room situation is worse than the rest.Leidner was asked which program has the worst locker room in the Big Ten, and his answer was Michigan State. He claims the stalls don’t have doors. Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press captured the quote.#Gophers QB Mitch Leidner was asked today about worst #B1G visiting locker room. Michigan State, he said. Reason: no doors on toilet stalls.— Andy Greder (@andygreder) July 26, 2016It’s hard to disagree with Leidner, if what he’s saying is true.Luckily for Leidner, he won’t have to deal with the situation again. He’s a senior, and Minnesota doesn’t play Michigan State in 2016.last_img read more

Minimal Disruption in Patient Care in the West

first_img Professor McDonald, who was providing an update on the work of the Committee at a press briefing held today (August 2) at the New Kingston offices of the Ministry of Health, said the rehabilitation work should be completed by August 2019. Story Highlights The care of patients continues with minimal disruption at health facilities in western Jamaica, as rehabilitation work progresses on the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH), in Montego Bay, St. James.According to Chairman of the CRH Rehabilitation Oversight Committee, Professor Archibald McDonald, primary healthcare in the area where the hospital serves has seen an increase of 6.5 per cent since February, which suggests that some of the patients “were redirected to primary care facilities”.Professor McDonald, who was providing an update on the work of the Committee at a press briefing held today (August 2) at the New Kingston offices of the Ministry of Health, said the rehabilitation work should be completed by August 2019.“When this project is finished, the air-quality issue will be solved, and the hospital will be a better (facility) than it was before,” the Chairman said.Since establishment of the Committee in May, members have held five meetings, two each month, to ensure accountability in the restoration of the hospital.Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Sancia Bennett Templer, lauded the support staff at the various health institutions in the region, who are giving extensive service to ensure that “our population in the West is getting the best care that we can provide at this time”.The CRH is undergoing renovation to address the problem of noxious fumes emanating from an old ventilation system. In addition to addressing the vent system, the project also involves plumbing and electrical work, and rearranging of the facility to ensure a more efficient layout in order to administer better and more efficient patient care.The Committee’s mandate includes reviewing reports on the delivery of clinical services at the hospital, covering on-site and off-site locations to which services have been relocated, and providing recommendations to the Minister of Health on matters related to the execution of the project.Members also monitor compliance and progress in relation to the implementation of key project areas, and ensure that any required strategic changes are undertaken in a timely manner, so that the rehabilitation works are not delayed. According to Chairman of the CRH Rehabilitation Oversight Committee, Professor Archibald McDonald, primary healthcare in the area where the hospital serves has seen an increase of 6.5 per cent since February, which suggests that some of the patients “were redirected to primary care facilities”. The care of patients continues with minimal disruption at health facilities in western Jamaica, as rehabilitation work progresses on the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH), in Montego Bay, St. James.last_img read more

Ohio State mens soccer faces Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Sophomore defender Alex Nichols (15) advances the ball against Rutgers on Sept. 18. OSU won 3-1. Credit: Janaya Greene | Lantern photographerThe Ohio State men’s soccer team is coming off a tough 2-0 loss to Bowling Green over the weekend, remaining winless on the road this season.This Wednesday, the Buckeyes (3-6) return to Columbus to take on Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (1-4-2) at 7 p.m.Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium has been very kind to OSU as of late, with the Scarlet and Gray coming into the match riding a three game home win streak.“You always want to protect your house,” said senior defender Austin Bergstrom. “It’s good that we have been doing that so far, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.”After wins over Rutgers and Valparaiso a week ago, the Buckeyes took a step backward over the weekend, suffering a shutout against Bowling Green.Despite outshooting the Falcons 16-9, OSU again fell to the misfortune of its own mistakes, specifically turnovers.“Sometimes it is a little frustrating when you can’t put the ball in the back of the net or when another team only gets a few opportunities and they are able to score,” said senior forward Danny Jensen. “We let the pressure get to us a bit. I think we just have to cut down on the mistakes and we will start to see much better results.”Jensen was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after his performance against Valparaiso, where he recorded the first hat trick by an Ohio State player since 2012.“It is cool to get some individual recognition every now and then but our focus is on the team,” Jensen said. “Right now we just need some more wins.”The matchup with SIUE is a rare one, as both teams have only played each other once in school history, and played to a scoreless draw in Columbus in 2009.While the matchup between the two teams is unfamiliar, the faces involved are not. Cougars coach Mario Sanchez was a soccer player under now-Buckeyes head coach John Bluem during his time at Fresno State.“(Sanchez) was probably one of the top five players I’ve coached in my career,” Bluem said. “They are going to be really well organized and battle defensively. You are playing against a team that, much like us, is having trouble scoring.”Saying the Cougars are having trouble scoring is an understatement, as Sanchez’s squad has only found the back of the net three times through the first seven games. However, the defense has stood tough, allowing only seven goals thus far.SIUE’s junior goalkeeper Kyle Dal Santo has 13 career shutouts. This year, Dal Santo’s .788 save percentage ranks him 51st nationally.As the match signifies the halfway point in the season for the Buckeyes, Bluem feels the biggest improvement the team needs to make is in its mentality.“This group has to accept that we are not going to just show up and win games. If we don’t outwork the other team, if we don’t outhustle the other team, if we don’t play harder for longer than the other team, anybody on our schedule could beat us,” Bluem said. “On the flipside, if we do those things, we will be in every single game and chances are good that we win more of those games than we lose.”With a very important Big Ten matchup looming against Michigan State on Sunday, the Buckeyes will look to build momentum by grabbing a win against the Cougars. read more

Mens Hockey No 5 Ohio State beats Michigan State 42 for sevenstraight

Junior Forward Dakota Joshua (8) gets ready to set off against Michigan’s Adam Winborg (5) tonight Jan. 26, 2018 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, OH. Credit: Ethan Clewell | For The LanternOhio State junior forward Dakota Joshua scored a pair of goals and redshirt junior goalie Sean Romeo made 25 saves on 27 shots en route to a 4-2 win against Michigan State (9-17-1, 3-13-1-1 Big Ten) Friday night at the Schottenstein Center to give the No. 5 Buckeyes (18-5-4, 11-5-1-0 Big Ten) their seventh-straight win at home. Joshua’s physical presence on the boards made him a difficult matchup for the Spartans. He led the team with five shots and he played with a bit more motivation going against his former coach.“I love playing Michigan State, chance to play Joe Exter, former coach of ours,” Joshua said. “We had a close relationship so it’s always good to get one over him. Definitely provides a little extra energy.”  Joe Exter was an assistant coach for Ohio State from 2011 to 2017. This is Exter’s first year as an assistant coach at Michigan State. After mentioning this week a desire to jump on the Spartans from the beginning, Ohio State scored its first two goals on its first two shots. On the Buckeyes’ first power-play chance four minutes into the game, sophomore forward Ronnie Hein took a pass from junior forward Mason Jobst and tucked the puck past the pads of sophomore goaltender John Lethemon for the game’s opening score. Junior forward Freddy Gerard added his 10th goal of the season off a give-and-go play with senior forward Matthew Weis two minutes later.  Romeo was only tested seven times in the first period, but faced 20 shots in the second and third periods combined from an aggressive Spartan attack. The goalie said he was fortunate his defense gave him a clear line of sight to make the saves he needed to and clear the traffic.“They’ve done a great job all year, they just did what they’ve been doing,” Romeo said. “Letting me have the first shot, kind of pushing everyone to the outside, let me see everything. It makes my night easier.”  In the early part of the third period, Joshua sped down the right side while driving to the net and used his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame for his first goal of the night. “It’s always good to be able to use my body,” Joshua said. “I feel like I have an advantage over most people, so yeah, the physical play doesn’t bother me. I like to think I can play anytime of hockey.” Michigan State scored a power-play goal to bring the score within one goal with eight minutes left in the game, but Joshua added the empty-net goal on a power play to ice the game. Weis’ two assists and sophomore forward Tanner Laczynski’s single helper extended their point streaks to 11 games each. Weis has 19 points and Laczynski has 17 points during the streak. Coming into Friday’s game against Michigan State, the Buckeyes were known to be a defensively stout team. Fourth in the nation in team defense with just 2.08 goals allowed per game and the nation’s top penalty kill, Ohio State would be comfortable entering the matchup playing a physical style of hockey, head coach Steve Rohlik said.“They brought it, and it was kind of the way the game was going there for a while,” Rohlik said. “We just wanted to stay with our structure and stay disciplined. At the end of the day, if that’s the way the game is going to go, we certainly will play that way.”   The Buckeyes will have a chance to sweep the season series against the Spartans at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Schottenstein Center. read more

Womens Hockey Ohio State eliminated from WCHA tournament by Minnesota in 20

Ohio State redshirt junior goalie Kassidy Sauve (32) goes for a save in the first period of the game against Minnesota on Jan. 19. Ohio State won 3-2. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorThe Ohio State women’s hockey team fell into a Golden Gopher hole Saturday at Ridder Arena, losing 2-0 to Minnesota in the WCHA semifinals to end its run for a conference title.The Buckeyes will wait for Sunday night’s NCAA selection show to learn of a potential at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.  Two minutes into the second period, Minnesota freshman forward Grace Zumwinkle scored the first goal of the night. Freshman forward Taylor Wente and freshman defender Olivia Knowles were credited with assists. With 2:25 remaining in the third period, Ohio State, which had not managed to put a goal past redshirt senior goaltender Sidney Peters, added extra pressure by pulling freshman goaltender Amanda Zeglen from the net. But it did not give the Buckeyes the desired game-tying goal.Minnesota freshman forward Grace Zumwinkle scored the final goal of the night on an empty net just 35 seconds before the final buzzer. She was credited with her 17th goal of the season. With Ohio State redshirt junior goaltender Kassidy Sauve still hurt, freshman goaltender Amanda Zeglen defended the net. She saved 25 of 27 shots. read more

Christian Atsu aims high with Newcastle

first_imgThe Ghana National Team footballer believes he can has his “best season yet” with The MagpiesWith two years already with Newcastle. And having been transferred to The Magpies last season.Ghana international Christian Atsu believes the 2018-2019 season could be the best one with his club.The winger started playing professionally with Porto in 2011. But was loaned six times.Two seasons ago he managed to be loaned to Newcastle and made such an impression that the team bought him.Jose Mourinho is sold on Lampard succeeding at Chelsea Tomás Pavel Ibarra Meda – September 14, 2019 Jose Mourinho wanted to give his two cents on Frank Lampard’s odds as the new Chelsea FC manager, he thinks he will succeed.There really…Now he has to demonstrate why the team had so much faith in him.“I want to be more consistent in the games I play, score more goals and assist more,” he told ESPN.“Last season was the first time in many years that I started a season knowing I was here long term and it helped,” he added.“This will be a big season for me and I have a feeling it will be my best season yet too”, he said.last_img read more

Pogba needs captaincy to emulate United legends Giggs

first_imgPaul Pogba has the potential to become a World class midfielder and become a Manchester United great if he retains the captaincy, says Ryan Giggs.Pogba led the Red Devils to victory in the opening Premier League encounter against the Foxes in the absence of Antonio Valencia.The French midfielder will lead the Red Devils out again at Brighton on Sunday, having been branded a “monster” by his boss in the wake of a goal-scoring showing in a season opener against Leicester.Giggs believes the 25-year-old needs to be given greater responsibility in order to produce his best on a more consistent basis, with the stage now set for a man who has been heavily linked with Barcelona to prove that there really is no rift between him and Mourinho at Old Trafford.Harry Maguire, Manchester UnitedSolskjaer praises Harry Maguire after Man United’s 1-0 win Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Ole Gunnar Solskjaer singled out Harry Maguire for praise after helping Manchester United keep a clean sheet in their 1-0 win over Leicester City.The United legend told Sky Sports: “I think everyone recognizes the quality Paul Pogba has and he had an excellent World Cup, so after winning that it was recognition of what he can bring to the team.“From the outside, he looks like a leader but what we haven’t seen is the consistency of the likes of Bryan Robson and Roy Keane, so that extra responsibility will hopefully help him maintain his levels.“The captains I played under really had that consistency and would still contribute on their bad days and I’ve got no doubts that he will reach those levels of consistency for United and be a top, top player.”last_img read more

Gattuso says Milan is aiming higher

first_imgThe Italian Lega Serie A club is currently in fourth place in the standings and might be able to get to third in the next weeksItalian Lega Serie A team AC Milan is currently in fourth place in the table.And for manager Gennaro Gattuso, the aim is high, but they got to focus game by game.“Are we pushing for third place? I’m not sure, it seems that more than a year has passed since we’ve been here,” he told Gianluca Di Marzio.Cristiano Ronaldo, JuventusSerie A Betting: Match-day 3 Stuart Heath – September 14, 2019 Considering there is a number of perfect starts so early in the Serie A season, as well as a few surprisingly not-so perfect ones….“If there have been improvements it’s because we need to stay on this path forward, with the desire to grow and improve. I’ve noticed this in many players, I want to see that desire, this venom.”“The pitch will tell us if we can play with everything the same, tomorrow we’ll have a difficult challenge,” he explained.“We must pay attention, I think that we’re on the right road mentally and as a group. It’s normal to have to grow a lot, but we have leadership who wants to do the important things.”“If we put everything together and stay on the same path forward, great things could happen,” he added.last_img read more