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Thursday’s World Cup Wonders

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Yesterday saw some outstanding World Cup action, with victories for Colombia, Uruguay, and a goalless but nevertheless intriguing draw between Japan and Greece. There were plenty of good players on show, and some stood up more than others. Which three were the key performers for their side?

Luis Suarez

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A half-fit, match-deprived, recently-injured Luis Suarez was the best player on the pitch in Sao Paolo by a country mile. Approaching match-day, he was expected to start but without any match practice, surely he would cut a depleted figure? Far from it. What an absolutely phenomenal individual this Uruguayan is, running his heart out only a month to the day after knee surgery. Regardless of his physical capabilities, it was clear from very early on that his mind was as razor sharp as ever. He earned a corner in the opening minutes by playing a rapid one-two, and from the ensuing set piece, tested Joe Hart directly. Spotting the goalkeeper beginning to advance out of his goal, the little genius whipped the ball towards the near post and nearly struck an improbable goal.

Despite running at far from his peak fitness, he still broke down the channels and kept Cahill and Jagielka honest. Efforts were there for all to see, but his crucial contributions came in front of goal. When the ball found its way to Cavani in the left channel, Suarez made a fairly simple but exceptionally effective dart towards the back post. Such was his subtlety, Jagielka didn’t know whether to cut him off or drop deep and as a result did neither. It was a perfect cross into him, but the quality of the finish itself should not be underestimated as the lethal Uruguayan found the opposite corner of Joe Hart’s goal.

During England’s strong spell in the middle of the second half, Suarez inevitably took up a more withdrawn role in proceedings, but his mere presence was enough to instil fear into England’s defence. His second came as England were pushing for a winner but they had not over-committed at this point. A long goal kick up-field by Muslera caught England captain Gerrard under the ball and his header under pressure flicked back towards his own goal. While the Three Lions’ defenders were flat-footed and slow to react, Suarez had unbelievably anticipated such a mistake. He obviously possesses quite astounding talent, but this belief that the ball will come his way sets him apart from all others. Pouncing onto the bouncing ball and sprinting away as fast as he could, his legs looked as though they were set to give up on him. Outrageous desire and determination kept him upright however, and he was then able to summon sufficient reserves to thump an emphatic finish beyond Hart. Soon afterwards, his exertions did finally take their toll and he was withdrawn, but not before he had affected the game’s outcome without compare. As a proud Englishman, it sickened me to see what a half-fit superstar could do to our defence. I suppose we have to be thankful that he wasn’t fully fit, because who knows how many he could have scored.

James Rodriguez

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Colombia’s star man now that Radamel Falcao is absent from the squad is one of the most exciting players to watch in world football. James Rodriguez impressed in their first match in the World Cup group stages against Greece and if anything, raised his performance level even further yesterday afternoon. He used his cultured left foot to great effect in picking out team mates with great precision, and combining this with rapid acceleration over the first 10 yards or so, he was the greatest threat to the Ivorian goal.

Monaco’s playmaker has an outstanding ability to be able to pick up pockets of space between opposition players, giving himself the room to be able to perform to his maximum. Dropping slightly deeper, Rodriguez repeatedly found Cuadrado and Gutierrez in dangerous areas of the pitch, giving them the greatest opportunity to exploit any defensive frailty. Despite his best efforts, the score-line remained goalless at half time and so Rodriguez re-emerged in an invigorated manner, taking the task of goal scoring onto his own shoulders. He may not be known for his aerial prowess, but he certainly showed it just prior to the midpoint of the second half when he powered a header past a helpless Boubacar Barry who could only palm it into the roof of the net. An emphatic finish, followed by some silky dance moves with the rest of the team; outstanding in every aspect.

His contribution to the second goal was more recognisable, snapping away at the opposition in possession and using his quick speed of thought to anticipate a mistake. As the ball fell to Gutierrez following Rodriguez’s challenge, the Monaco man continued his run to draw away Ivorian defenders. So fearful were they of his goal threat that they left fellow attacking midfielder Quintero almost unmarked. The ball was indeed slipped through to the Porto youngster, and Rodriguez had yet again had a massive impact on proceedings.

Kostas Manolas

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In what was in general, a much less tense affair than the other two games yesterday with quality more thinly spread out, Kostas Manolas stood out above the rest. The Greek centre half produced a towering display to guide his side to a clean sheet despite being down to ten men for the majority of the game. Japan have several players who are technically gifted on the ball and make intelligent runs. Manolas coped successfully with this form of attack in addition to aerial threats. It is a rare breed of defender that is equally equipped on all fronts, but that was certainly the case here. Steady as a rock on the ground, and an absolute giant in the air, the Japanese stars such as Keisuke Honda could simply not break through, and this was largely down to the expert marshalling of Kosta Manolas.

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.

Arsenal

Three Arsenal youngsters who could help England bring football home in 2022

The Gunners’ academy continues to develop some of the very best youngsters.

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Arsenal
Photo: Getty Images

After a successful tournament got the nation dreaming, England fell at the penultimate at the World Cup and may require Arsenal‘s help in 2022.

Gareth Southgate’s youthful squad exceeded pre-tournament expectations and suddenly Greg Dyke’s objectives for the 2022 World Cup seem within grasp – and the Three Lions now have four years to build towards glory in Qatar.

Come November 2022, when FIFA has confirmed the World Cup will commence, Southgate is likely to call upon a number of the players who starred for the Three Lions in Russia but changes to his squad are also inevitable.

“The two targets I have for the England team are – one, to at least reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and two, win the World Cup in 2022.”

– FA Chairman Greg Dyke reveals his ambitious plan in 2013.

Fortunately, English football is breaming with exciting young talent at the moment and Arsenal may hold the key to success with three of their most highly-rated prospects.

Eddie Nketiah

Bursting onto the scene in November 2017, Eddie Nketiah became an instant hit at the Emirates Stadium after netting twice against Norwich City in the Carabao Cup. Since then, the 19-year-old forward has gone on to make three Premier League appearances.

Competition for places at Arsenal is fierce, particularly following the captures of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the past 12 months, which means he may have to be patient to get his chance – but the situation is entirely different on the international stage.

In four England U21 appearances, Nketiah has scored two goals, per TransferMarkt stats, following on from eight goals in eight games at U18 level and four goals in two games for the U17 side. In just over a year, Nketiah rose to Aidy Boothroyd’s U21 ranks from the U17’s and shows no signs of stopping his rise.

(Photo by Bertrand Langlois/Getty Images)

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Becoming a regular for Arsenal in Arsene Wenger’s final season at the Emirates Stadium, Ainsley Maitland-Niles showed his versatility by catching the eye playing as a full-back. His natural position is in midfield though and this is where he could be of value to England.

It is fair to say that England’s options in the middle of the park sitting in front of the defence are extremely limited, with neither Jordan Henderson or Eric Dier doing enough to cement their spot in the position for the long-term.

Maitland-Niles could become the man England are looking for in the coming years and further first-team experience with Arsenal looks set to follow under Unai Emery, as the 20-year-old penned a new long-term deal with the Gunners last month.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Reiss Nelson

Arsenal fans have been excited about 18-year-old Reiss Nelson for a while now and saw the teenager break into the fringes of the first-team last term, as Whoscored data shows he finished the campaign with 15 appearances across all competitions.

Eight of those opportunities came as a starter, including two in the Premier League, and there is every chance Nelson could earn further action under the guidance of Unai Emery next term – especially as Alex Iwobi has not done enough to warrant continued action.

Should the Nigeria international continue to suffer with poor form, the eight-cap England U19 international could be Arsenal’s breakthrough star of the year – following in the footsteps of players like Maitland-Niles, Jack Wilshere and Hector Bellerin.

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England

Who will bring football home? England’s predicted World Cup 2022 squad

Players from Everton, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United and even Bristol City feature.

Mathew Nash

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England were desperately close to making it into the World Cup final, after defeat to Croatia in the semi-finals.

The Three Lions did however bring back some pride and promise from the long-suffering England fans.

With England also the World Under-17 and Under-20 Champions, the future is brighter than ever.

So who will be at the World Cup in 2022?

It seems impossible to guess four years in advance. Not many would have suggested the likes of Jordan Pickford, Harry Maguire or Jesse Lingard four years ago.

(Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

The squad, hopefully, will not change much and the experienced players in the squad will likely still be around.

However, for the sake of the article and debate, anyone who will be over 30 in 2022 has been ignored. That leaves Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier, Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Jordan Henderson, Fabian Delph, Jamie Vardy and Danny Welbeck in the cold, even if some of them will likely be present.

Eric Dier also got nudged out, as his form recently has been a concern and Nick Pope has been replaced.

So who makes the XI and the overall squad of 23?

GOALKEEPERS

Jordan Pickford

The Everton stopper cemented his place as England’s new number one during the quarter-final triumph over Sweden. Highly-rated by club and country and with excellent distribution it will be no surprise if he remains England’s first-choice in 2022.

(Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

Jack Butland

What a deputy. The Stoke City goalkeeper could easily be our number one. The Potters relegation will hopefully not set him back and he should push Pickford for years to come.

Angus Gunn

The son of a Scotland international has so far rejected their international calls. Recently joined Southampton for £13.5 million and will hope to cement his place as a Premier League regular.

Honourable mentions: Nick Pope, Freddie Woodman, Dean Henderson.

DEFENDERS

John Stones

Despite one lapse of concentration which cost England crucially against Croatia the Manchester City man was excellent in Russia.

If he maintains a starting place at City and his career is not derailed, then Stones will be one of the leaders in Qatar.

Harry Maguire

Became a national hero this summer. A swashbuckling defender with an eye for a goal and a great meme. Should be a multi-cap England international.

Joe Gomez

Replacing Kyle Walker as the pace-man in a back three is Liverpool’s Gomez. If he can combat his recent injury troubles he will be a certain future England player. Remember how he shackled Neymar back in November.

Jamaal Lascelles

For many people, the Newcastle captain should have been in Russia ahead of Phil Jones or Gary Cahill.

Rightly so. A brilliant leader who would slot into a back three perfectly and deserves to be in the England fold for the next four years.

(during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St. James Park on April 15, 2018 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Dael Fry

The Middlesbrough defender is one inclusion that may cause derision. But this lad is extremely talented.

A reliable defender, good with the ball at his feet and a favourite at St George’s Park. Fry will hope to emerge as an England hopeful in the years to come.

Honourable mentions: Eric Dier, Alfie Mawson, Michael Keane, Ben Wilmot.

FULL-BACKS/WING-BACKS

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Already in the England picture and shone v Belgium. Will likely play in the ¾ play-off this weekend. In four years he might be playing in the final.

Jonjoe Kenny

A tough call this but the Everton defender is like the Kieran Trippier to Alexander-Arnold’s Walker-like characteristics.

Whilst the Liverpool man has the pace and the power Kenny is more deliberate and his crossing is fantastic.

A favourite with the England youth management and the eventual successor to Seamus Coleman at Goodison Park.

Honourable mentions: Kyle Walker-Peters, Dujon Sterling, Steven Sessegnon.

Ryan Sessegnon

A shoe-in for 2022 if he remains fit and healthy. The Fulham star is perhaps England’s most exciting prospect.

He might even be considered an attacker by 2022 but for now, he would be an excellent left wing-back and will hopefully make his England bow this season.

(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Joe Bryan

This might be the biggest swing and potential miss in the squad. The Bristol City star is wanted by a host of clubs this summer after his fantastic form at Ashton Gate.

But he is a hard-working and super-fit young man who, given the right opportunities, is easily capable of playing for his nation.

Honourable mentions: Lewis Gibson, Luke Shaw, Ben Chilwell

MIDFIELDERS

Lewis Cook

Absolutely adored by the England camp the Bournemouth man has already made his England debut. More positive in his passing than Jordan Henderson and more dynamic than Eric Dier, he is surely the future of England’s composed holding role.

Harry Winks

Set for a big break at Tottenham this season he has the potential to be an England star. If he can overcome his current injury trouble he would seem like being a shoe-in for 2022.

Phil Foden

England lacked a midfielder who could pick the locks of the Croatia defence in the semi-finals. This is the young man to do just that. The Manchester City youngster needs to break into the first-team fold but given what he has already achieved that should not be a problem.

(Photo credit should read DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Ruben Loftus-Cheek

A lot depends on his next move, as Chelsea does not seem to be the right place for RLC to develop.

Showed in all his England performances that he is a talent to keep an eye on for the future and England will surely nurture him.

Dele Alli

May not have set the world alight in Russia, but the Tottenham star’s talent cannot be overlooked.

If he can get to the level he is capable of, then Alli is a 100-cap man with ease.

Jesse Lingard

Can he continue to prove people wrong for another four years?

Excellent at the World Cup and been in fine form for Manchester United. If he continues to progress in this way, then he should still be in the England set-up four years from now.

James Maddison

A tough choice considering the wealth of attacking midfield talent but the Leicester newbie seems the most likely to reach the levels necessary to play at a World Cup.

The £24 million talent can play a number of positions and is a special talent the Premier League will enjoy watching next term.

Honourable mentions: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nathaniel Chalobah, Ross Barkley, Jack Grealish, Kieran Dowell,

FORWARDS

Raheem Sterling

He divided opinion among some at this summer’s World Cup. But under the guidance of Pep Guardiola he will continue to improve.

Whether out wide or through the middle, England will surely stick by the attacker.

(Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Harry Kane

The nation’s current captain and front-runner for the Golden Boot award at this summer’s tournament it is hard to see how he won’t lead the line again in four years time.

If he keeps going at his current rate, Kane will surely take Wayne Rooney’s goal-scoring record for England.

Ademola Lookman

Some felt the Everton attacker was unlucky not to go this summer. After thriving on loan at RB Leipzig it seemed he might make a late lunge.

This summer is big for Lookman. He needs to decide where is best to carry on his career which could be key to a future England career.

Marcus Rashford

The Manchester United talent can surely only get better. If he can become a regular starter, wherever he happens to play his club football then the teenager will hope to secure a place in Qatar.

Honourable mentions: Dominic Solanke, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Eddie Nketiah.

Who did we miss? Can England bring football home in 2022?

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England

Three Everton players who could help England bring football home in 2022

Everton have a long list of top talents coming through that could make it into the England team.

Mathew Nash

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England are out of the World Cup following defeat against Croatia in the semi-finals last night. But the future looks bright for England. They had the second youngest team in the tournament and are the current under-20 and under-17 World Champions.

So who could help them bring football home at Qatar 2022?

When looking at Everton’s current crop, it is hard to pick just one.

Ademola Lookman is an excellent attacker, although could be on his way. Callum Connolly’s versatility makes him a manager’s dream whilst Tom Davies had a brilliant 2016-17 season, even if last term was less impressive.

But here are the three Everton players who might have a chance of heading to Qatar in four years time.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Like England’s summer hero Harry Maguire the 21-year-old came through the ranks at Sheffield United. Since joining Everton his progress has been astonishing.

He is already a hero for England. He scored the winner for England’s under-20s last summer as they won the World Cup.

With striking positions set to be up for grabs in four years time, DCL will no doubt be in the running.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Kieran Dowell

The spindly playmaker is adored in the England and Everton set-ups for his God-given natural talent.

Stormed into a loan spell at Nottingham Forest last season, which admittedly dwindled toward the end.

But with his dexterity and ability, only injury and himself could hold Dowell back from making it to Qatar.

(during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Everton at The King Power Stadium on October 29, 2017 in Leicester, England.

Jonjoe Kenny

Dowell’s best mate and England’s trusted right-back at youth level. His cross-city rival Trent Alexander-Arnold may be catching the eye but Kenny is no slouch.

An exquisite crosser of the ball and defensively sound he is the Trippier if Alexander-Arnold is the Walker of England’s future right-back choices.

Like Dowell, eligible for Ireland, so England, must ensure the Everton pair are aware of their pathway.

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