TFN’s Piers Barber on the Premier League players who will be fighting desperately to make it into their national squads before the season is out.
The Spanish contingent
Spain, current defending World champions and winners of the last two European Championships, are extremely strong contenders for the title of Best Team To Have Ever Played Anywhere In The World Ever, or something like that. Their embarrassment of midfield riches has meant they are once again one of the favourites to walk away with football’s biggest prize in Brazil, yet their strength in depth has also laid on a substantial challenge for some of the nation’s most talented players to even make it on to the plane to South America. Juan Mata, who scored in the Euro 2012 final, felt his place in the national squad under such threat that he recently initiated a move from Chelsea to Manchester United in a quest to secure some playing time in the lead up to the tournament. Jesus Navas at Manchester City and Santi Cazorla at Arsenal, meanwhile, will have to ensure they are on top form throughout the rest of the season if they hope to figure in Brazil.
The suffering Man United players
It’s been a calamitous start to 2014 for Manchester United, who have lost five of their nine games since the turn of the year. Their dramatic post-Alex Ferguson slump has not only put the Old Trafford club in serious danger of failing to qualify for European football next year, but has also threatened to jeopardise several of their highest profile players’ international careers. Marouane Fellaini, for instance, desperately needs to find some form if he is to make the starting line-up for highly fancied Belgium, whilst Nani – who, through a combination of bad form and injury, has barely figured throughout 2013/14 – must also improve if he is to feature for Portugal. Elsewhere, whilst an excellent season last year put Michael Carrick in contention for a starting berth for England in Brazil, a dire first half to the current campaign has cast even his spot on the plane in substantial doubt. Continue reading →
Daily Mail journalist Rik Sharma profiles Ramires, Chelsea’s big-game Brazilian…
Ramires is a divisive midfielder. While all of us appreciate his willingness to run through walls for the shirt, others chastise him for his erratic passing and errant decision making.
For every glorious vignette – and who could forget that chip which sailed mere centimetres over the outstretched arm of Victor Valdes, before nestling sweetly in Barcelona’s net? – there is a head-in-hands moment waiting to happen.
Ramires’s entire performance against Aston Villa away last season (all 44 minutes of it before he was sent off) verged on unwatchable. Late tackles, high feet, being dispossessed too easily, it highlighted his worst traits. Indeed, for months after his arrival many Chelsea fans were unsure of him. His passing in particular stood out as weak for a centre-midfielder, and even his energy seemed dampened by the weight of trying to adjust to the English game.
The question is: Does Jose Mourinho believe Ramires’s strengths outweigh his weaknesses? Continue reading →
With the countdown well under way for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Rory Macdowall assesses the host’s chances of winning the tournament on home soil…
On 16th July 1950 in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana, Alcides Ghiggia completed a storming run to fire in a goal at the near post, securing a Uruguayan victory in that year’s World Cup. The goal was met with near silence in a primarily Brazilian crowd of 173,850, stunned into submission by one of the greatest upsets in football history. The loss burned in the hearts of the biggest footballing nation on the planet, their right to win thwarted by their tiny neighbour to the south.