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Setting Brazil Alight – Top Players of the World Cup so far

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As has been the trend with top flight football across the domestic leagues in recent seasons, the art of defending seems to have been lost somewhat, leaving room for floods of goals. This summer’s World Cup has been no different, with many describing the tournament as the best in living memory purely for excitement. Therefore, there can be no surprise that my list of top five players of the World Cup so far is dominated by attackers.

Arjen Robben

Louis Van Gaal took a Dutch squad to the World Cup with not a great deal expected from them. After recent disappointments and a lack of togetherness within the tournament squads, it was not unreasonable to think that they would not even qualify from the group. However, here they are in the quarter finals and have dispatched Spanish juggernauts and Chilean over-achievers in the process. The main reason for that has quite simply been the form of Arjen Robben.

The Bayern Munich winger has an important role within the group and seems to have embraced this position where he is very much looked up to. Van Gaal’s formation choice and tactical decisions have allowed Robben to play where he causes the most damage. In an almost un-markable role, you can find him anywhere across the supportive attacking positions and occasionally even as the point man who plays on the shoulder of the last defender. While we always knew Robben had the ability to beat players at will, he would only show it relatively infrequently. Marvelling at his change of pace and close control is all very well, but he had to demonstrate it on a more consistent basis.

This World Cup, he has certainly managed that. 2 fantastic individual efforts in their own right in the first group game against the holders Spain set him up for a terrific tournament and he did not disappoint against Australia; grabbing another to his name. This sparkling vein of form continued against Chile where he was a constant threat throughout and was able to set up Memphis Depay for a tap-in to seal the victory. The way that Robben has been able to maintain his level of performance game after game has been vital for the Netherlands’ safe passage to the quarter finals and will be equally so should they wish to go even further. While Van Gaal is under pressure to turn away from the 3-5-2 formation he is currently employing, with Robben in his current form there is no reason to doubt that he should stick by his beliefs. Arjen Robben is performing at the peak of his powers and it is not unreasonable to think that he could be the Player of the Tournament should this continue.

Neymar

This young man has the weight of a nation on his diminutive shoulders, and so far it seems to have spurred him on to greater heights rather than crush his confidence. The entire Brazilian philosophy is built around maximising the time that Neymar can spend on the ball. Regardless of his less than impressive form he often exhibited for Barcelona in the past 12 months, he has almost always been at his dazzling best for Brazil. Before the tournament itself, Neymar had 49 international appearances and 31 Brazilian goals to his name, and all of this at the mere age of 22. What a superstar the boy is, and his World Cup form would have to continue in a similar pattern for Brazil to achieve their ambitions.

Lift off for the nation came when Neymar struck a left-footed equaliser in the first group match and then went on to grab another to spark an opening day victory for the hosts. We have seen him pop up all over the pitch to get involved in the play and as he has settled more into the position of talisman, confidence has grown further still. He would be a dangerous enough player if he just employed his lightning pace and exquisite close control, but now that he has truly begun to relax, we have seen some truly magical tricks added into the equation. The intelligence and vision required to pull off some of these manoeuvres is out of this world but Neymar doesn’t seem as though they even test him. Against Cameroon in particular, the global audience saw the Brazilian at his audacious best. While Chile did stifle him to a degree in their recent last 16 match, he was still the most obvious threat for large portions and even managed to convert an incredibly high pressure penalty without seeming to break sweat. If Brazil reach the World Cup final, you feel that it is inevitable that Neymar will have added to his 4 tournament goals so far, and it could well be the case that we are eulogising about some of his performances for years to come.

Lionel Messi

The best player of his generation has finally come to a World Cup party, having drastically underperformed at his 2 previous attendances. He had a great deal of pressure on him prior to the tournament because of this, partly put on him by the fans and media but there was also a portion that was self-induced. He knew that realistically, he would need to win a World Cup with Argentina to be universally regarded as a great alongside Pelé and Maradona, and certainly if he wished to be placed on a level all by himself. Argentina have had a crop of superstars in the same side for a while now, but this year they all seemed to have come together with Messi as their figurehead.

National captain has of course placed additional responsibility on his shoulders now but Barcelona’s star man has seemed to embrace it and grown to match the level. When his team mates have failed to perform at the required standard, it was he who stood up and delivered. Some of the desire we have seen to partner the skill this tournament has been incredible to watch. At moments when all seemed lost, Messi has produced the goods in ways we knew he had but were unsure if he would ever exhibit on the international stage.

In Argentina’s first game against Bosnia, a tepid display in the first half was feared as a sign of things to come. However, a moment of magic from an otherwise frustrated Messi turned the match on its head and sent the South Americans on their way to a relatively comfortable victory. Iran were their next opponents and were proving a particularly tough nut to crack. That is of course, until Messi popped up with a minute remaining to curl in a beauty from outside the area. A third goal for the tournament came in his third game against Nigeria in what was all-round a more open affair. The extra space he was afforded really allowed him to have a greater influence on the game and you can’t imagine that future opponents will employ the same tactics. While he wasn’t able to continue his scoring streak in their World Cup last 16 tie against Switzerland, he did look to be the most reliable and consistent Argentinian threat for the 120 minutes. Somehow mustering the energy from somewhere, it was his speedy break and ability to ride a challenge that set up Di Maria for the winner. Argentina are finally seeing the Messi that has been at Barcelona for years, and if a few team mates were to step up and assist, then maybe his displays could help the nation win the trophy.

James Rodriguez

Perhaps the star of the World Cup to date, James Rodriguez has lit up the tournament with some dazzling displays of skill, pace, and finishing. The multi-million pound signing for Monaco last summer has more than filled the void left by the injured Radamel Falcao and has stood out in a Colombia team that has no shortage of ability. Rodriguez is undoubtedly the man they look for, their talisman, their star player, and he has stepped up in every game of the tournament so far.

The first match for Colombia at the finals was against Greece and they began as they meant to go on, cruising to a 3-0 victory with James Rodriguez at the forefront of everything positive. Although his goal was only the final one of this game in the 90th minute, his overall impact was too crucial to ignore. The intelligence he possesses and his ability on both sides made him nearly impossible to pick up, floating into pockets of space and being the architect of the Greek downfall. The South Americans made it two wins from two when they edged out Ivory Coast 2-1, however the score-line did flatter the Ivorians somewhat. A further asset to Rodriguez’s game that we were not aware he had was exhibited in this match; darting runs in close spaces to get in front of his man and power home a header. Again, his general play was what drew my attention and the combination of work ethic and ability promised to make him one of the stars of the World Cup. A 4-1 rout of Japan continued Colombia’s winning form in the final group game and yet again, Rodriguez found himself on the score sheet after netting a sumptuous chip past the keeper.

As impressive as his displays had been, the toughest test to date would come in the last 16 when Colombia and Uruguay matched up. In this all South American tussle, space would be at a premium and every challenge would be close-fought. Determined to stamp his authority on the game, Rodriguez somehow found room 25 yards from goal and seemingly with all the time in the world, took the ball down on his chest before smashing it home off Muslera’s cross bar. An absolutely unstoppable effort that is the goal of the tournament for me so far and I would be astounded if it was bettered this summer. He was not finished there however, and effectively had the game tied up by half time when an intelligent run that was timed to perfection allowed him to easily convert Cuadrado’s knock-down. Even if you discount his overall impact on matches; which has been hugely significant, and simply look at his statistics, he has been highly impressive. In four World Cup matches so far, Rodriguez has notched up 5 goals and 4 assists to lead the race for the Golden Boot. If Colombia pull off a shock and find a way past the mighty Brazil, you have to expect that Rodriguez will have played a huge part and quite possibly outfoxed Julio Cesar on the way.

Thomas Muller

Bayern’s lethal forward was the winner of the Golden Boot in the World Cup in South Africa and he has started off like a train in this summer’s competition. Employed as the primary striker in a 4-3-3 formation by Joachim Löw, he predominantly plays through the middle but is certainly not averse to popping up on either flank. His hard work in combination with the quality at his disposal is lethal for opponents, and his hat trick against Portugal in the opening game was testament of that. Muller is capable of all different types of goals making it a very difficult task for defenders to try and stop him. He is technically gifted enough to beat a man, has enough strength and speed to power past an opponent, and is not afraid to exert aerial dominance if a longer ball is hit up to him.

Thomas Muller’s goals are of vital importance to this German side, with the major criticism of the squad before the tournament being a lack of firepower. While he did not score in his nation’s next group match, his contribution remained up there with the top performers on the day and repaid every faith in the crucial final game in Group G, netting the only goal during the 90 minutes. This secured top spot for Germany and ensured a safe passage into the last 16. The goal itself was a very fine finish from the left corner of the area. Using a USA defender as the way-post, he unleashed a beautifully measured curling shot that nestled in the far corner of Tim Howard’s goal.

While we did not see him add to a goal tally of four in Germany’s first knock-out game against Algeria, we were able to observe another attribute more clearly than in any previous match. Muller’s outstanding stamina and drive really came to the fore as the tie entered a period of extra time and as others all around him were tiring significantly, Muller never ceased to work. This commitment to the cause brought about chances for Germany in the most important of moments and eventually was one of the deciding factors in their win. If Muller continues in this fine vein of form, he could be the difference when they line up against France and possibly going even deeper into the latter stages of the World Cup.

I am currently at university studying Mechanical Engineering, but in my spare time I'm into all things football. I'm an avid Liverpool fan but always try to remain impartial. My other interests include gaming and Formula One.

Ramblings

The never-ending thrill of sports

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Today, the world of sports is not just limited to the real ground and fields, but have moved on to the virtual world. One can enjoy watching their favourite sports such as football, cricket, rugby, tennis, cycling, and horse racing online. They can book their tickets for their favourite sports or watch them online right from within the comforts of their home. It is no surprise to see the mix of sports betting and casinos.

After all, it is hard to keep one segregated from the other. Browse NJ online casino to learn more about those popular sports and online betting. Many sports lovers love to make bets on sports to show their passion for the game.

The sports media

Sports journalists paly an essential role of maintaining the of press provision at the famous venues of the sports. The idea is to spread awareness regarding the high standards of sports and keep the buzz alive around them. Ever since the advent of the internet, the websites and now the smartphones, the sports media has taken off in a big way.

Now fans can enjoy their favorite games with just a few clicks or use social media apps to keep a tap on the current scores, almost anywhere at any time. There are Sports apps that provide updates, game schedules and much more. Sports fans can enjoy real-time results right when it happens. They need not be at the game or at home in front of their television to see how their favorite sports star is doing.

This is a good scenario for all the sports fans as they can now get regular updates on their favorite games and teams anytime. Online sports betting is not far behind and is fast gaining popularity. There are plenty of websites such as NJ online casino where one can enjoy casino games and bet on their favorite sports.

The experience takes their thrill to a whole new level. The gambling opportunities are quite abundant and comprise betting online sports and loads of others games. The software used for online sports and gambling are very easy to install. This is good news for all the novice gamblers out there.

Basketball and football have always enjoyed immense popularity across the world, and their total revenues are already breaking records. Football leagues around the world are raking in more money than ever before. N.B.A., the American sports league, is still one of the most popular brands in China and has more than 70 million followers. Spain’s biggest basketball teams are getting affiliated with their football counterparts.

However, it is the football that is the most heavily financed and dominant one. Popular sportsmen and international athletes get followed on social media. Cristiano Ronaldo leads with more than 127 million followers on Twitter and Facebook.

Do not miss out on any of those best sporting events happening across the world. Indulge your sporting passion and make sure that you get the best experience.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by kangkang300402

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The biggest fixing scandals in the history of football

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Of all the sports played across the globe, football has had some of the most spectacular match-fixing scandals ever seen.

Of course, football isn’t the only sport that is prone to fixing scandals. History’s top fixing incidents have occurred in horse racing, cricket, and even tennis, showing just how widespread the issue really is. FIFA’s Chris Eaton has described fixing as a crisis that threatens the entire integrity of the game, and when you take a look at history’s 7 most notorious football-fixing cases, you’ll see why.

Calciopoli (2006)

In May 2006, the Italian police cracked open the massive scandal that involved many of Italy’s top teams. Juventus, AC Milan, Reginna and Fiorentina were all involved, with the teams’ managers and referees having been caught conspiring to fix major league matches. Juve was relegated to Serie B and lost several league titles, while other team presidents were banned and fined.

Marseille (1993)

This French FC inspired outrage with its fixing involvement. The team apparently approached members of other local teams and asked them to throw games away, with former manager of Monaco Arsene Wenger dropping a big hint that uncovered the ordeal after losing to Marseille in the two years prior.

The Referee Robert Hoyzer Scandal (2005)

Referee Robert Hoyzer was banned and sentenced to two years in jail after he was caught accepting bribes to fix football matches for Croatian bar owner Ante Sapina. Hoyzer was convicted of fixing numerous matches in the 2nd and 3rd German tiers along with Bundesliga cup matches, in which he also awarded many controversial red cards and penalties to further his cause.

Plateau United Scores Too Many Goals (2013)

To earn a spot in Nigeria’s professional ranks, two teams fixed their matches, but their winning totals cast a spotlight on their plan and the Nigerian FA banned all 4 clubs involved for 10 years. The Plateau United Feeders scored an unbelievable 79-0 win, and the Police Machine FC won their match 67-0.

Belarusian Ghost Match (2015)

Two major betting agencies were caught offering bets and paying out on the results of a ‘ghost match’ in Belarus that never actually took place. The 2-1 result of FC Slutsk and Shakhter Soligorsk was confirmed by an official from the former team, only to have the story unravel later on. A former data collection company employee was found to be the brains behind the con.

SEA Games Fixing (2015)

Singaporean player Rajendran R. Kurusamny received the highest-ever prison term given to a fixer on a single charge when he was caught conspiring to fix 2015 SEA Games matches. The player received a 4-year sentence after his plot was ousted, having made over eight payments to Malaysian players to ensure they lost.

Spiked Water Bottles in Italy (2010)

Players in an Italian 3rd division match began to feel very lethargic and disorientated – only to find out goalkeeper Marco Paolini had spiked his team’s water bottles to fix the match in an attempt to pay off gambling debts. Paolini was banned for 5 years, and some believe the scam was linked to notorious fixing mogul Dan Tan.

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Four international football tournaments you’ve probably never heard of…

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We all know the big boys get all the glory in football – well, nine times out of ten they do. Tournaments like the World Cup, Premier League, Champions League and Euros may be the most lucrative and widely broadcast tournaments, but that doesn’t mean they’re the “biggest”.

There’s no shortage of other international tournaments to tickle your fancy! And they’re well worth watching – with thousands of players and thousands of goals – they can be some of the most entertaining football tournaments to watch. Here are four to get you started:

1) The Norway Cup

Running every year bar one since 1972, the Norway Cup is more like a football festival – and the whole world is invited.

Held on the green expanse of Ekebergsletta in Oslo, the week-long 2016 tournament broke new ground with 2,199 teams competing over the course of 6,000 games – all aimed at crowning the best youth outfits in the world.

From hosting 10-19-year-old footballers, the cup has expanded to include three-a-side football so those from the age of six can join in the fun.

So not only is it the world’s largest youth football tournament, it’s already got more than three decades of history behind it. In fact, the only reason it probably doesn’t get more coverage is the work it would take to cover the 6,000 games taking place in one week!

It’s certainly not because it doesn’t deserve it. There are great stories of success and even the occasional bit of controversy to keep things interesting during the brief interludes between games: this year, the Russian team were thrown out after its players were said to have “gone berserk” on the field, violently attacking their rivals.

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2) The Gothia Cup – otherwise known as The World Youth Cup

So Norway has the biggest youth football tournament but did you know it has a neighbourly rival called the World Youth Cup?

The Gothia Cup in Sweden runs every July and caps its entry at 1,600 teams – be them school teams based either locally or abroad. It started back in 1975 – yet that first tournament included girls’ teams; a huge success and far from the norm.

Over the years, more than a million – yes, a million! – players from 141 countries have participated. It’s well worth watching too: in an “average” year more than 22,000 goals are scored, more than five per match!

As if the goal bonanza wasn’t enough, it’s heritage is first class. It’s featured some of the world’s most famous players who played at the 2006 World Cup including: Xabi Alonso (Spain), Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Ze Roberto (Brazil), José Montiel (Paraguay), Kim Källström and Teddy Lucic (Sweden).

If you didn’t catch it this year on TV, head over to the website. It carries its own live coverage for a subscription charge – but you can’t help feel it deserves a bit more. Especially that opening ceremony.

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3) The Conifa World Football Cup

Conifa – the acronym – sounds like one of the fir trees you might expect to see in Sweden – where its first “world football cup” was held in June 2014, in Ostersund. But it stands for the Confederation of Independent Football Associations – also known as a different world for the beautiful game to thrive, and the result is something quite remarkable.

Conifa puts on its tournament for a veritable feast of states and stateless people, regions and minorities unaffiliated with Fifa such as Greenland, Tibet and Western Armenia – Conifa gives them a chance to show the world exactly what they can do.

“Our main goal is to give football outsiders overseen by Fifa or left behind by their mother country’s FA the chance to win their place on a global stage and advance, football-wise and personally,” said Conifa general secretary Sascha Düerkop.

It’s more than a noble cause. It’s essential. And it’s competitive. Occitania top the current rankings from Panjab and Northern Cyprus – yet it was hosts Abkhazia who won the 2016 tournament in June. The Conifa World Football Cup feels like it’s about something more than just glory hunting – a stark contrast to Fifa’s World Cup.

It’s growing in popularity too with four new members joining in 2016. Two from Africa: Western Sahara and Matabeleland, and two from Europe, Délvidék and Karpatalya.

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4) The Gulf Cup of Nations

Sure, the Euros and Copa America fire up football imaginations across the world – the best nations in Europe and South American respectively doing football battle on an epic stage. But there is something captivating about a little-covered equivalent in the Gulf.

Also known as the Arabian Gulf Cup, the four-yearly tournament is not sanctioned by Fifa – which probably adds to the charm, as some of the world’s wealthiest states thrash it out on the pitch.

On the calendar since 1970, Kuwait is by some way the most successful nation with 10 titles – not bad for a country with a population of approaching 4,000,000. Saudi Arabia, for contrast, is second place with three titles to their name.

It’s Qatar’s turn in 2017 – five years before the state will host the Fifa World Cup. The eyes of the world should be on how they perform and with improving TV coverage in recent years, it may be the world is about to experience more of the Arabian Gulf Cup.

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