How Can Tottenham Take it to the Next Level?

The Spurs need to make radical changes if they want to compete for English football’s top prize.

Over the past few years, Tottenham have shown they are capable of competing in the top four of the league. In fact, in the last three seasons, they finished inside the top three and went as high as second in the 2016-17 campaign.

However, while they are at that level where they can be considered heavyweights, winning a trophy still seems to be out of reach. And if there’s one thing we learned about Tottenham in recent years, it is that they are still pretenders rather than contenders.

As the new season nears, us takes a look at the key players the Spurs need to sign and what else they must to do to elevate them among the few true elite clubs in England.

Key Players to Sign

Of course, the top priority for Tottenham is keeping Harry Kane a Spur for a long time. With Cristiano Ronaldo leaving Real Madrid, there’s a possibility that the La Liga giants could make a move for the England skipper.

Money talks in football, and the Lilywhites might not be able to retain the World Cup 2018 Golden Boot winner if Real Madrid come calling.

Besides Kane, though, the Spurs also need to improve the depth of their squad and add more scoring. Sure, they scored 74 times in the Premier League last season, but 30 of those goals came from Kane who finished second in scoring in the competition.

The Spurs must move on from being a one-man team and create a squad that can contend even when their best player is out.

Paulo Dybala is among the favourites to lift the betting odds of Spurs

Juventus’ Paulo Dybala celebrates after scoring the winning goal in a Serie A match

Anthony Martial and Paulo Dybala are interesting choices for the club should they choose to add more firepower.

Martial—according to recent Premier League news—wants to leave Manchester United, and it could be the perfect chance for Tottenham to pounce on the highly-rated striker.

The 22-year-old is a versatile attacker who mesmerized Red Devil fans with his dribbling skills, wonderful flicks and solid passing. He is not afraid to take on defenders, a quality perfect alongside a player like Kane who can easily draw defenders.

Dybala, on the other hand, is a mercurial talent who can change the flow of the game and even shift the Premier League betting odds for Tottenham. Ronaldo’s move to Juventus opened the door for a possible Dybala exit, and Tottenham should capitalise on the opportunity.

The Argentine, at 24 years old, is already a lethal scorer. He led Juventus with 22 goals last season as the Serie A giants won a seventh straight Scudetto.

At the back, World Cup standout performer Benjamin Pavard is a suitable replacement for Toby Alderweireld who is reportedly seeking a move out of the North London club.

The Frenchman drew the interest of Manchester City as well, thanks to his ability to move to the defensive midfield role. However, Tottenham could offer him the opportunity of playing a more significant role.

Other players that Tottenham should keep an eye on are Barcelona’s Andre Gomes and Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale. They may not be the best choices but both are talented pieces that could work well under the right system.

Change of Mindset

Well, we could talk all day about the players Tottenham should sign to turn them into a trophy-winning club. But that will all be useless if they don’t change their ways of playing it cheap, literally.

Tottenham don’t want to spend! And that’s a recipe for a mediocre and trophy-less team.

Last summer, the Spurs used just £61.4 million, putting them behind the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Everton and Liverpool in terms of spending. Nonetheless, in a time that the value of players is continuously rising, that won’t cut it.

If the Spurs want to win, they need to invest and fight other clubs in all fronts. Manchester City were the biggest spenders in 2017 with an outlay of £217.3 million, and they were rewarded with the Premier League title.

Winning comes with a price. Tottenham have to accept that fact and pay it.

Managerial shakeup

Aside from backing the club financially, another thing that the Tottenham brass should consider is changing their manager.

There’s no doubt Mauricio Pochettino did a great job with the Spurs, and he can be proud of the work he has done at Tottenham. He has been instrumental in the development of players like Kane, Eric Dier and Dele Alli to name a few.

However, no matter how good he is in developing players, he isn’t a winner. Since taking over the club in 2014, he is yet to win a trophy.

Mauricio Pochettino  headlines the Premier League news  as he is yet to deliver a trophy for Tottenham

Mauricio Pochettino reacts during the Champions League match between Juventus and Tottenham Hotspur

He could argue that the club lacks in financial support, but there are managers in other leagues who have guided their own spendthrift teams to cup trophies.

Zinedine Zidane and Diego Simeone are potential replacements for Pochettino. Zidane is a proven winner and will certainly be eager to prove his managerial abilities with a club like Tottenham where he can be credited for any success.

Simeone, meanwhile, is no longer new to managing a team against bigger-spending rivals. He has a proven track record at Atletico Madrid, having won the La Liga and Copa del Rey titles despite strong competition from Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid. Oh, and he has also won a Europa League title!

Pochettino is a very good coach, but being very good is not enough in a results business like football.

 

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Fans Fall Back in Love with England at World Cup 2018

England fans will look back at World Cup 2018 with great fondness, not only did the Three Lions reach the last four for the first time since 1990 but also did it with a smile and with a sparkle in their boots.

Gareth Southgate’s young team did more than enough to reignite the passion of a nation, whose fans have become more engaged by domestic matters than international in recent years. And their successful route to the semi-final should also lift them up from their current FIFA ranking of 12th.

England's accomplishment in World Cup 2018 has to be credited to Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate takes England football to new heights of greatness

Southgate has brought a professional air of calm to the head coaching job and has made the ‘impossible task’ look possible. And boy has he wowed us with his sartorial elegance, becoming so famous for his waistcoat that UK retailer Marks and Spencer has reported record sales of the garment—even Harry Potter star Emma Watson has taken inspiration from the gaffer!

It all bodes pretty well for the future and England fans hope football will finally come home in two years time at Euro 20.

Not so great expectations

Few experts, pundit or even fans expected England to progress beyond the quarter-finals in Russia. The World Cup 2018 odds reflected that as well, pitching them in at around 15.00.

Talk among football fans in England was gloomily focused on whether they could be bothered to watch all the games. But as always, once the first whistle blew, the flames of patriotic fervour took hold, fanned by a surprisingly breezy football team.

Long-suffering England fans have become used to disappointment—the underachievement of the golden generation of Beckham, Gerrard, Terry, Ferdinand, Lampard and Rooney and the inevitable exit on penalties, usually to Germany!

But this time, it was different. The young Lions exceed expectations and even won a penalty shootout!

Brave new dawn

By the time this fantastic tournament neared its climax, the England coach, team and nation believed they could reach the final, and it looked a reality for the first hour of the semi-final with Croatia. But striker Mario Mandzukic put paid to that as the unlikely became impossible in extra time.

So how did such a huge transformation happen?

It looked like the same old story as injury time in the opening fixture against Tunisia approached. Having dominated the game, England were pegged back at 1-1 before Captain Marvel Harry Kane stepped up to nod home the winner. It was ecstasy and relief in equal measures and England were on the way.

Of course, skipper Kane has been big World Cup 2018 news as he’s picked up the Golden Boot with six goals. He’s the first Englishman to do this since Gary Lineker in 1986—owing much of his success to a manhandling defence as England hammered Panama 6-1 in the second game.

Kane bagged a hat-trick, two brilliantly struck penalties and a fluke deflection, and England could easily have had five as Panama bizarrely played more rugby than football.

Harry Kane carries England to the World Cup 2018 semi-finals

Harry Kane applauds English supporters after the World Cup 2018 semi-final match between England and Croatia

Even when a much-changed side lost to Belgium’s second string, the excitement didn’t wane. In fact, many believed it was a masterstroke by Southgate as the Three Lions landed on the apparently kinder half of the draw.

And so it seemed after penalty shoot-out delight against Colombia was followed by a superbly serene win against Sweden. However, an experienced and highly talented Croatia side was a step too far.

Losing to Belgium in the third-place play-off was no surprise and the England players can hold their heads up high. They were welcomed home as heroes but, as former player and respected pundit Gary Neville said, they were pretty close to becoming legends.

Kieran Trippier was the standout player for many. He defended with vigour and his raids down the right flank and brilliant deliveries were a constant source of assists and a delight to watch. The Spurs man capped off a fine tournament with a sublime free-kick goal in the semi-final.

Jordan Henderson was a colossus in midfield and keeper Jordan Pickford answered many of his critics with a string of spectacular saves.

But the players give the credit to their boss, a man who many of them have worked with for years, as Southgate grew with them through coaching the successful under-21 team.

And that makes a lot of sense.

What next for the young Lions?

It’s onwards and upwards for Gareth’s boys.

They may well feature more prominently in the us tips for Euro 2020, where they’ll have the advantage of playing some games in front of a passionate England support gloriously reconnected in Russia.

They’ll be two years older and that might help them against the likes of Belgium and Croatia.

But then the equally young champions France will be two years older too.

Maybe a final?

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Golden Awards: The Best of the Best of FIFA 2018

France are the new World Cup champions, but they are not the only ones honoured at the Luzhniki Stadium after Sunday’s final.

This year’s World Cup featured plenty of spectacular individual performances over the past four weeks, and FIFA made sure to acknowledge those players who stood out the most in their awards ceremony following the big finale.

us takes a look at all the FIFA 2018 winners, and runners-up, of the individual awards handed out at the end of the greatest show on earth.

Golden Ball Award: Luka Modric, Croatia

Silver Ball: Eden Hazard, Belgium |Bronze Ball: Antoine Griezmann, France

Nobody would have ever thought that Croatia would make it deep in the knockout rounds, more so the finals. But they defied the FIFA 2018 odds, and that’s thanks in large part to skipper Luka Modric who served as the heart and soul of the team.

Indeed, no other player deserved the tournament’s best player award than the 32-year-old Real Madrid playmaker who kept the Vatreni rolling with his incredible ability to expose and exploit the weaknesses of opposing defences.

He scored in their opening two games in the group stage and provided an assist in their match with Russia that ended in a shootout. He set up his team’s tempo in every game and was unarguably the most consistent player in the competition.

“He played a terrific tournament which is another commendation for the team which helped to bring about Luka’s success. He did the lion share of our play and he was a deserved winner of the Golden Ball,” Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic said of Modric.

Eden Hazard—whose three-goal, two-assist haul pales in comparison to his tireless work up front for Belgium—took home the Silver Ball after leading the Red Devils to a third-place finish, the nation’s best showing in a World Cup.

Meanwhile, Antoine Griezmann won the Bronze Ball award, though he could argue he deserves better after his display in the final.

Golden Boot: Harry Kane, England

Silver Boot: Antoine Griezmann, France | Bronze Boot: Romelu Lukaku, Belgium

England finished fourth but Harry Kane remain on top after bagging FIFA 2018 Golden Boot award

England star Harry Kane celebrates with fans after their 6-1 win over Panama in the 2018 World Cup

Harry Kane wasn’t the best striker in the World Cup, but he bagged the competition’s top-scorer prize after finishing with six goals. For what it’s worth, three of his goals came from the penalty area—a fact that makes the feat a little less impressive.

Not to mention that Kane scored his first five goals in England’s first two matches (versus Tunisia and Panama) and failed to produce when it mattered most, particularly in the knockout games against Sweden and Croatia.

If there’s one thing Kane proved, though, it’s that he remains one of the best finishers in football. After all, it is not easy to score from the penalty area in a pressure-packed and high-stakes event like the World Cup. Remember, even the great Lionel Messi failed to convert from the spot against Iceland.

Kane joined Gary Lineker as the Three Lions’ only Golden Boot winners, with the 24-year-old equalling Lineker’s six-goal record in the 1986 edition of the FIFA men’s tournament.

Griezmann and Romelu Lukaku, perhaps the most entertaining striker in the contest, finished the race at second and third respectively.

Golden Glove Award: Thibaut Courtois

Courtois faced stiff competition from England’s Jordan Pickford, Croatia’s Danijel Subasic and France Hugo Lloris for the best goalkeeper award, but in the end, his consistent performance between the sticks for Belgium was difficult to ignore.

He kept only three clean sheets—two against England—but made 27 saves throughout which is the most by any keeper in the World Cup. He was pivotal for Belgium who only lost once in seven games despite considering defence of secondary importance.

The 26-year-old Chelsea man (for now) had his best performance against Brazil in which he made a total of nine amazing saves, including a clutch denial on Neymar that remains one of the top FIFA 2018 highlights.

FIFA Young Player Award: Kylian Mbappe

France young star Kylian Mbappe bags FIFA 2018 Young Player award

Kylian Mbappe in action during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final match between France and Croatia

There’s no doubt about this one, really.

There’s no other youngster in the World Cup that comes close to the memorable performance that the 19-year-old Mbappe put up in Russia.

Save for his annoying time-wasting tactics against Belgium in the semi-finals, the French forward undoubtedly impressed with his burst of speed and electric pace that made him nearly unstoppable.

He is the youngest player since Pele (1958) to ever score a brace in a World Cup knockout match, a feat he achieved against Argentina in the Round of 16. Mbappe was also a constant threat to opposing defences, and he made sure he’ll be remembered for a long time with his 65th-minute goal for France that effectively sealed the World Cup title.

 

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Belgium Finish With a Flourish at FIFA 2018

Belgium 2-0 England

If you had told these nations a month ago they would still both be in Russia during the final weekend of FIFA 2018, they would have bitten your hand off.

And certainly, England have surpassed and Belgium matched FIFA 2018 predictions and expectations by being here.

Yet while all that is true, their Russian odyssey finally ended with a match few wanted to play in.

The dead rubber of a third/fourth play-off which, after their respective semi-final defeats to Croatia and France, both probably felt unmotivated to play.

Highlights of the game

But play they did. And while the pace was a little lacking at times, the intention of both sides to gain the honour of third place was clear.

From the outset in St Petersburg, in fact.

It took only three minutes and 37 seconds for Belgium to open the scoring when Thomas Meunier, returning from a suspension which kept him out of the semi-final, poked home with pace after Romelu Lukaku and Nacer Chadli teamed up.

Both managers, Gareth Southgate and Robert Martinez, were as good as their word pre-match and named strong line-ups with Golden Boot favourite Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku (two goals behind) both starting.

After playing his part in the opener, Lukaku could have doubled the Belgian lead but mis-controlled while Kane hit the ball into the ground and narrowly wide after being teed up by Raheem Sterling.

A fine block by John Stones denied Eden Hazard a likely second. With tired minds and tired bodies understandable, Southgate rang the changes at half-time with the introduction of Man Utd duo Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford, making them look a more dangerous proposition.

us fans of Kane would have been thrilled when Belgium brought off Lukaku, his nearest challenger at the top of the scoring charts, to be replaced by Dries Mertens.

The future is bright for England in FIFA 2018

Harry Kane will be awarded the Golden Boot for the 2018 World Cup IF Kylian Mbappe or Antoine Griezmann failed to score a hatrick on Sunday

Unless Antoine Griezmann or Kylian Mbappe runs riot in Moscow, Kane seems set to get the gong and become the first English winner since Gary Lineker in 1986 (although not Kane’s fault, it should be tempered by the fact five of his six goals came against Panama and Tunisia).

It looked like the Three Lions would get the equaliser their pressure merited when Eric Dier beat his man and clipped the ball over Thibaut Courtois only for his Spurs team-mate at club level, Toby Alderweireld, to hook the ball to safety.

Dier and Harry Maguire both went close with headers, and Pickford produced a superb save to deny Meunier his second from a powerful volley.

Moments later, however, it was left to Hazard to provide the real quality as he teamed up with Kevin de Bruyne and, in scenes reminiscent of last season’s FA Cup Final, left Phil Jones in his wake before tucking the ball beyond Jordan Pickford.

Game over, bronze medal secured and tournament over for the best Belgian side ever, according to the statistics. A side which, even before today, had made a nation proud.

Hazard certainly would get my vote for player of the tournament, although that is likely to go to someone from the finalists.

England finish fourth, equalling their best ever achievement at an overseas World Cup (Italia 90) and rekindling the nation’s affection for the national team.

Euro 2020 is next, with the semi-finals and final due to be played at Wembley, but two years is a long time in football.

A new-look qualification campaign begins in March 2019.

So the World Cup ends for two countries who both did themselves proud but can be forgiven for wondering what might have been.

Key statistics

A FIFA 2018 news stat: Thomas Meunier’s goal was the fastest scored by a Belgium player in the history of the World Cup.

He was also the 10th player to score for them at this tournament. Belgium have the joint-most different scorers for a team at a single World Cup (matching France in 1982 and Italy in 2006).

Belgium held the record for the most knockout games at a World Cup without a clean sheet (14). No other side has played more than seven knockout matches without at least one shut-out. They have got one now!

This was the first time since the 2002 World Cup (Brazil and Turkey) that two nations had met each other twice in the same tournament.

What’s next?

Belgium secured a third place finish in FIFA 2018 with a 2-0 win over England in Saturday's play-off game

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez watches England head coach Gareth Southgate during the third place match

It’s homeward bound for both these nations after a long but successful World Cup.

Both can be proud of their progress.

The key question now is can they take it to the next level and reach the final of a major tournament.

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Croatia vs England: A Battle of the Overachievers!

Croatia vs England

Seriously, who would have predicted a Croatia vs England semi-final in the World Cup 2018?

Ahead of the tournament, neither of the two teams were heavily favoured to make it deep in the quadrennial affair, with many even predicting that they would be eliminated early in the knockout rounds.

However, thanks to a string of impressive performances and favourable draws, they are now in the last four…and man oh man, it couldn’t get any better than this!

England are certainly brimming with confidence right now, and there’s renewed optimism in the land where the Beautiful Game originated as the belief that “football’s coming home” continues to grow.

Croatia, nonetheless, will be keen to spoil the party for the Three Lions and make history of their own by reaching their first-ever World Cup final and possibly lifting the trophy itself in Moscow.

Talking Points

England loves England again, that’s for sure. After their humiliation in the Euro 2016, the Three Lions seem to have a renaissance under Gareth Southgate and have impressed so far as they continue to wreak havoc with their deadly offence.

Harry Kane top scored the Englishmen with six markers and England remain as the second-highest scoring nation in the World Cup with 11 goals, only behind Belgium (14) who defeated them in the group stage.

Southgate’s side is coming off a convincing 2-0 victory over the defensive-minded Sweden, showing a more direct and fearless approach. They were not afraid of attacking the Swedish defence and it paid off big time as they pulled off what could be described as their best performance in the tournament.

Sure enough, such a win won’t be possible without Jordan Pickford’s heroics between the sticks. After playing an instrumental role in giving England their first ever World Cup penalty shootout victory, the Everton keeper produced another epic performance to keep the Swedes at bay.

Now, England head to the semi-finals with confidence at an all-time high, knowing for a fact that they can beat any team with their depth and quality.

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Rakitic and Modric rated as best midfielders
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Croatia, on the other hand, won’t be a walk in the park for England. Not with Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic forming unarguably the best midfield in football.

They were the surprise winners of Group D, beating Nigeria, Argentia and Iceland to secure their spot in the knockout stages.

The Croats have not won a knockout game in regulation time, needing a penalty shootout in both of their games against Denmark and Russia to make it to the last four. While that showed they have some frailties on the defensive end, it also displayed their nerves of steel that should come handy in a World Cup game of such gravity.

It’s also worth noting that they have eight different scorers this World Cup and have been consistent on the offensive end.

Unlike England who had a six-goal outing against Panama in the group stage, Croatia have scored 10 goals already despite their highest scoreline being a 3-0 win over the Lionel Messi-led Argentina.

One pressing concern for Croatia, though, is the fitness of first-choice goalkeeper Danijel Subasic who picked up a leg injury in the final moments of the second half of the quarter-finals. The 33-year-old Monaco star went on to play and made three saves to propel Croatia past Russia in the shootout, but he remains a doubt heading to the semis at Luzhniki Stadium.

History

The past Croatia-England results saw the Englishmen win four out of seven games, with two ending in a Croatia victory and the other a draw.

England have won their last two meetings, beating Croatia—5-1 (2009) and 4-1 (2008)—in the Europe qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup.

Nevertheless, breaking the hearts of England fans is no longer new to Croatia. They beat the Three Lions 2-0 in the Euro 2008 qualifiers at Zagreb in October 2006, then made sure England wouldn’t qualify for the event by taking them down 3-2 in the return fixture at Wembley the following year.

It remains to be seen if England will continue their domination against Croatia or if the Croats will give another international heartbreak to the Three Lions. But one thing’s for sure: the two teams are up to the challenge!

What are the odds?

Gareth Southgate is optimistic that his squad will be the better team in Croatia vs England clash

Manager Gareth Southgate talks to his players during extra time in England’s World Cup match against Colombia

us has England winning the game with 1X2 odds that pay out at 2.35. Croatia, on the other hand, are a little bit behind at 3.05.

A draw, however, isn’t far-fetched considering that a Draw No Bet on England is at 1.61, with Croatia at 1.67 with Asian Handicap +0.50.

The other Croatia vs England betting odds also point to a tight affair and probably a low-scoring one. Over 1.75 goals is at 1.65 while Under 2.25 is at 1.70. Furthermore, a Correct Score 1-1 pays at 5.40 while a 1-0 England win is at 5.80.

Betting Tip

??
Croatia vs England England Asian Handicap -0.50 @ 2.36
June 12, 02:00 (GMT+8)

Croatia will be tough to beat for sure. They have shown the composure necessary to win on the big stage and actually produced positive results.

However, they have been weak when it comes to high balls in their recent games, something which should play right for England who have already scored five goals through headers.

In their game against Denmark, Croatia conceded a goal after a long throw caused chaos inside the box. Moreover, against Russia, they allowed the home team to equalise through a header off a free kick.

With that said, I expect England to dominate the set-pieces and use their strength to force their way to victory.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

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Strong Offence or Stingy Defence? An Epic FIFA 2018 Match is Upon Us!

Sweden vs England

The Three Lions may be roaring in Russia, but the fight is far from over as they now face a strong and unpredictable Sweden side.

England have made a great impression on their way to the quarter-finals. Despite being one of the top five favourites to win FIFA 2018, expectations aren’t really high on the young team headed by a relatively unproven coach in Gareth Southgate.

Yet, here they are, three wins away from the title they crave so much. The inventors of the Beautiful Game haven’t tasted World Cup glory for 52 years, but they undoubtedly have the best shot at ending that drought this year.

However, Southgate and his boys know they can’t look too far ahead and be overconfident heading to the last eight. Not against Sweden who have proven they can bite despite being underrated.

England aren’t the first higher-ranked team that Sweden will face in the competition, and Janne Andersson will certainly hope they won’t be the last.

Talking Points

These two nations couldn’t be more opposite when it comes to style of play. England have a powerful frontline headed by the ever-outstanding Harry Kane, while Sweden are defensively sound and are always tough to break as Mexico and Switzerland learned in recent days.

The Three Lions have already scored nine goals in the competition, six of which came from their game against Panama. Kane has scored six for the team and is currently leading the chase for the World Cup Golden Boot award.

Nevertheless, England’s defence remains suspect and it’s worth noting that they have conceded in all of their matches in this edition of the World Cup. In fact, fans don’t have to look further than the Three Lions’ round-of-16 match with Colombia to see how vulnerable their defence is.

Southgate’s side did well holding their ground against the Cafeteros, but they eventually collapsed and allowed Colombia to hit an equaliser in stoppage time and send the game into a shoot-out.

Sure, England have a strong offence, but they could be in great danger if they don’t buckle up at the back.

Harry Kane is spearheading England to victory when they face Sweden at their FIFA 2018 quarter-final match

Harry Kane hits a goal during England’s Round of 16 match against Colombia in FIFA 2018

In contrast, Sweden’s strength is their defence. They smothered sixth-ranked Switzerland with their formidable defensive wall, and that alone could pose plenty of problems for England’s offensive unit.

The Swedes already have three clean sheets in the tournament and could have produced one of the best FIFA 2018 highlights had they pulled off a draw with Germany in their second game in the group stage.

Of course, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic long gone, Sweden no longer possess a threat on the offensive end. However, their players are well-organised and know their roles, allowing them to win games amid their attacking on-field limitations.

The Swedes lack a true star but make up for it by working hard and efficiently. They have also been consistent and have established themselves as legitimate threats on the counter-attack.

The pressure is on England to live up to expectations, and the burden couldn’t be any bigger considering that it’s already the quarters of a World Cup.

For Sweden, they remain ambitious but would gladly embrace the underdog label. After all, it doesn’t really matter considering that they only have one thing in mind.

“It’s just full steam ahead and, God dammit, we are going to put in a bloody good match,” Andersson said after Sweden’s victory of Switzerland. “We are not satisfied with this. We want to win the next match.”

History

While England are favourites, history tells us that this match-up could go either way.

In their 24 meetings overall, the Englishmen have won eight to Sweden’s seven, while the other nine ended in a draw.

Their last encounter, though, was in a friendly in 2012. The Swedes thrashed England back then, scoring four goals to the Three Lions’ two. Nonetheless, that was a far different time as Ibrahimovic was still with Sweden and, in fact, scored all their goals in the game.

Furthermore, the two nations have faced each other two times in a World Cup before. And as fate would have it, both games ended in a draw!

What are the odds?

Emil Forsberg is up to surprise England and lead Sweden to FIFA 2018 semi-final round

Emil Forsberg celebrates after scoring a goal during Sweden’s Round of 16 match against Switzerland

Despite what they have shown so far, Sweden are overwhelming underdogs with 1X2 odds at 3.95. A draw is a more likely result at 3.20!

England are at 1X2 @ 1.99, with us Asian Handicap sports betting giving them a -0.25 handicap that pays out at 1.70.

Meanwhile, considering that it is expected to be a game of few clear-cut chances, our FIFA 2018 betting odds have Under 2.25 paying out at 1.67 and a Total Goal 2-3 at 1.96.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

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England win on penalties at Fifa 2018 – would you believe it!

Colombia 1-1 (3-4 on penalties) England

A gripping, compelling two hours of football. Of limited quality but absorbed with tension for three quarters of the contest.

If you supported either nation at FIFA 2018 it was one to endure, not enjoy.

But England will not care one jot!

Highlights of the game

That’s because for the first time in four attempts, they have won a World Cup penalty shoot-out.

Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Kieran Trippier, Eric Dier and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford were the England’s heroes as they put aside years of heartache to defeat Colombia in the South American’s first ever shoot-out in the tournament.

The shoot-out was just the latest in a catalogue of Fifa 2018 highlights we us users are being spoilt with.

Two nations evenly matched and there could only be one winner.

There was no doubt the absence of James Rodriguez, who wasn’t even fit enough to be named on the substitutes bench, was a massive blow to Colombia and an equally massive lift for the Three Lions.

After all, this was their star man. Someone who had scored six times and provided four assists in seven and a half World Cup games and his country’s joint third top scorer with 21 goals.

Much of a nation’s expectations rested on his shoulders but, even without him, a close call with goals was expected.

Pockets of England fans in a Spartak Stadium dominated by Colombian yellow urged their nation to continue their own tournament history against the South Americans.

They needed no reminding England’s record in knockout games has been pretty woeful over the past three decades.

Talk of England misery, no disappointment will ever quite resonate like that faced by Colombia in 1994 when much more than football was at play in a story with a tragic ending. It remains one of the country’s blackest hours.

While the English support may have been outnumbered, and certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, they were heard throughout the catcalls and whistles of Colombia fans as their team were pressed back in the first half.

In an encouraging early tempo from both nations, the interplay between Jesse Lingard and Trippier caused some brief uncertainty inside the first 20 minutes, while John Stones reacted quickly to stop Radamel Falcao from lining up a shot.

Chances were at a premium, plenty of energy, no end product.

Niggling fouls peppered the end of the half, particularly when Wilmar Barrios pushed his head into Jordan Henderson and was perhaps fortunate to only receive a yellow card.

Harry Kane scored his sixth goal at FIFA 2018

Harry Kane celebrates at the end of the round of 16 match between Colombia and England

It suggested a lively second half and 12 minutes after the restart, Carlos Sanchez rugby-tackled Kane at a corner right in front of the referee.

The awarding of a penalty was obvious and Colombia’s lengthy protests seemed as laughable as the spot kick was legitimate.

If designed to put him off – the goal arrived three and a half minutes after the penalty had been awarded – it didn’t as Kane despatched his third penalty of the tournament and his sixth goal to cement his place as the competition’s leading scorer.

He has scored in every England game he has started as captain.

He is the leading marksman so far and many Fifa 2018 predictions will expect it to stay that way – no wonder they call him King Harry!

As tempers rose, so the yellow cards kept coming and Harry Maguire was lucky to escape a booking after going to ground in the Colombian penalty area.

A key Colombia chance arrived nine minutes from time after a rare mistake from Kyle Walker let them in and, eventually, Juan Cuadrado blazed over and let England off the hook.

That seemed that but in the second minute of stoppage time Pickford tipped over superbly to deny Mateus Uribe a wonder goal.

From the resulting corner, with Colombian keeper David Ospina an extra attacker, Yerry Mina powered home a textbook header – his third goal of the tournament – to force extra-time.

England suddenly looked mentally tired and short of ideas, Colombia refreshed and looking dangerous without being sharp. Chances came and went on both sides but, while it turned around slightly with England on top in the closing stages of extra-time, it always seemed destined for penalties.

England have won a World Cup penalty shoot-out – and you’re not misreading it!

Key statistics

England are now unbeaten against Colombia in six previous meetings.

The Three Lions beat Colombia 2-0 in their only previous World Cup encounter thanks to goals from Darren Anderton and David Beckham in the group stage of the 1998 tournament.

Los Cafeteros have scored in each of their last nine World Cup games since losing that encounter.

None of Colombia’s 22 matches at the World Cup have ended goalless. Only the USA (33) and Austria (29) have played more games in the competition without registering a 0-0 draw.

Kane has now become the first player to score in six consecutive appearances for England since Tommy Lawton back in 1939.

In equalising in the 93rd minute, Yerry Mina became the first player to score three or more headers at a World Cup since Miroslav Klose netted five for eventual runners-up Germany in 2002.

What’s next?

England will now face Sweden in Samara in the third quarter-final.

Colombia head home and next are in action next season. A September 7 meeting with Venezuela.

Colombian fans extremely disappointed in FIFA 2018

Colombian fans disappointed after England defeated Colombia in a penalty shoot out in the Spartak Stadium

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World Cup 2018: Can the Three Lions Devour the Colombians?

Colombia vs England

The World Cup 2018 has been nothing short of a thrilling rollercoaster for many football fans in the world. Plenty of upsets have been made in this World Cup 2018, proving that not even the strongest team in the world is safe from elimination.

Knowing this fact, the Three Lions will be hard-pressed to win this match. Meanwhile, Los Cafeteros also hope to repeat their quarter-final run in 2014, but the questionable condition of their star man might make things a little tricky.

Many World Cup 2018 odds see England as the side that will come out of this group and face either Sweden or Switzerland. However, Colombia will be a tough team for them to contain.

Will these young Lions reach the quarter-finals and end their frustrating rut at major tournaments? Or will break the hearts of many England fans and leave them disappointed for another four years?

Talking Points

Can Colombia upset World Cup 2018 odds?

James and Harry Kane are expected to clash

It’s hard not to talk about this game without considering what happened in England’s game against Belgium in order to put things into perspective. Yes, England were slightly disappointing after being beaten up by Manchester United reject Adnan Januzaj, but Gareth Southgate seems to have had a reason behind his decision against Belgium.

Belgium have a fairly easy Round-of-16 game when they square off against Japan, but their next match in the tournament could be the heavy favourites in Brazil. Moreover, prior World Cup 2018 results would have made finishing first in Group G an extremely difficult proposition. Uruguay and France have also performed brilliantly and will be concerning threats for the Red Devils.

Meanwhile, England have a more reasonable route to the World Cup final if they were able to beat the Colombians. Spain were the only country posing a real threat to them on the other side of the bracket. However, Russia pulled off a dramatic victory against the Spaniards via a penalty shootout.

With the bracket looking more open than ever, the England manager’s decision to rest many of his key players not only kept them fully fit for this match but also gives them an opportunity to make a run for the World Cup trophy.

However, England fans should definitely not count their chickens before they have even hatched. Southgate knows that Colombia are a tricky side that must be dealt with carefully. Harry Kane, the former Arsenal fan that has become the talisman of Tottenham and English football, will be the key Englishman in this game.

As long as he makes his impact known on the field, his team-mates have a chance at cracking through a Colombian defence led by Davinson Sanchez, Kane’s team-mate at Tottenham.

Sanchez’s team had quite a trek to the World Cup. They started the campaign on the back foot after being thumped by Japan, they powered through Poland with a dominant 3-0 display. They secured the top spot by beating a challenging Senegal side to a 1-0 victory.

However, their top spot came at a high cost. James Rodriguez, Colombia’s key star, limped off the Samara Arena pitch only 31 minutes into their game against Senegal. Many a Colombia supporter are still anxious regarding the Bayern Munich man’s condition: if he is deemed unfit for their clash against England, they would have lost a dangerous attacking option.

However, scans on James’ calf showed that there was no muscle tear. While his condition for the coming match is still a huge question mark, Jose Pekerman hopes that his ace will be able to return to full fitness in time for this game.

Meanwhile, he would have to rely on Juan Cuadrado and Radamel Falcao to break through the English defence and try to mount an upset.

History

These two nations have met five times, the first one being an international friendly in 1970. The Three Lions have the bragging rights when it comes to their head-to-head history, as England won three and drew two.

These two countries have previously played each other in the 1998 World Cup’s group stage, where England easily won 2-0. England then had a frightening amount of quality in their team, with Paul Ince, Paul Scholes, Michael Owen, Alan Shearer and David Seaman then donning the England crest.

However, recent history hasn’t been kind to England. Not only did they exit the 2014 World Cup in the group stage, they also went out of the Euros in the Round of 16 to Iceland. There are plenty of demons to exorcise for England, and Gareth Southgate has to be careful his team doesn’t crack under the pressure.

Meanwhile, Colombia will be hoping to repeat the historic run they have mounted in 2014. While their match history with England doesn’t bring encouraging results, they did defeat European heavyweights France in a pre-World Cup friendly in March.

What are the odds?

FIFA 2018: England aims satisfy us odds

Gareth Southgate aims a victory with this men against Colombia

England are the easy favourites to win the match, given the quality of the players and their form coming into the match. England’s 1X2 odds come at 2.11, but the Asian Handicap market at us offer better odds. England -0.75 @ 2.51 is an intriguing punt to make.

Colombia are not far behind on the odds, and that is a testament to the quality of players they have. Their 1X2 odds of 3.55 is a punt you should make if you believe in the clutch ability of Falcao, Rodriguez and Cuadrado.

Of course, this could also head to penalties. If you think these two sides are evenly matched, a Draw offers 1X2 odds of 3.20.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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Magnificent England Go Crazy at FIFA 2018

England 6-1 Panama

England stormed into the last 16 of the World Cup with a blistering first-half performance to blow Panama away, and Captain Marvel Harry Kane bagged a hat-trick!

We had a strong inkling here at us that England would make hay at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium as the two teams walked out in 30 degrees heat. But we didn’t quite expect what actually happened, and we’re still rubbing our eyes!

Harry Kane’s late goal against Tunisia got England off to a flying start to FIFA 2018 and now, for the moment, they are absolutely soaring.

There was just one change in the line-ups as Ruben Loftus-Cheek came in for the injured Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling keeping his place; while Hernan Dario Gomez kept faith with the 11 fighters who lost 3-0 to Belgium.

He may regret it after this performance, but one thing’s for sure: the FIFA 2018 odds on the Three Lions are on the fall.

Highlights

Panama survived for just eight minutes before the carnage began. England struck after Kieran Trippier won a corner down the right flank. Panama defend with some conviction, with their own rules at times. And while Gabriel Gomez held on to Harry Maguire with both arms, his team-mates had forgotten about John Stones who headed Trippier’s corner in with a powerful header into the bottom corner.

FIFA 2018: keeper Jaime Penedo conceded 6 goals vs England although it's more on the whole Panama team

Panama keeper Jaime Penedo tried to stop Harry Kane’s first penalty but failed

Trippier made a great start to World Cup life, crossing with menace against Tunisia is fast becoming a fixture in this young England team.

And on 20 minutes, it was Trippier who started the move which brought England’s second. He lofted a beautiful ball through to Jesse Lingard who was brought down by Fidel Escobar as he prepared to shoot, and the ref had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. As the Panama players delayed and attempted to put Kane off, the England skipper kept his steely gaze on Jaime Penedo in the goal. When the time came, he almost broke the net with a blistering strike into the top left-hand corner. You won’t see a better penalty than that this summer…unstoppable.

Jesse Lingard was a livewire in the first half, and it was a beauty when he got his reward on 36 minutes. The Manchester United man exchanged passes with Sterling and then curled an absolute cracker into the corner of the net, giving Penedo no chance. And poor Penedo was beaten again soon after when he saved from a Sterling effort at point-blank range, only to see Stones follow up for the fourth and his second.

It seems Panama are slow learners, and Anibal Godoy couldn’t keep his hands off Kane when another corner flew in. When the England skipper was presented with another penalty chance, he hammered it into the exact same spot. It was 5-0 and it was only half-time! It was exactly what England and Panama deserved.

The second half began relatively quietly and, this time, Panama survived for a quarter of an hour. The sixth was Harry Kane’s third, but this time there was a huge slice of luck attached. Loftus-Cheek cut inside and his shot bounced off Kane’s heel to wrong-foot Penedo and bounce into the net. That was enough for Gareth Southgate and he took his captain off to a standing ovation.

Roman Torres missed a sitter at the far post, and then Panama got their goal on 77 minutes when Felipe Baloy was given all the space he needed to latch on to a forward ball and poke the ball home. The Panama fans went mad to their credit, but there was little that could spoil England’s day.

Key statistics

Well, where do we start? It’s the first time England have scored four or more in the World Cup since the Three Lions won it in 1966. Is it too early for England fans to start dreaming? Probably!

And it’s only the fifth time in World Cup history that any team has scored five in the first half, the last occasion being Germany’s destruction of Brazil at World Cup 2014.

FIFA 2018: Harry Kane and England march to 6-1 win over Panama, lead by his hat-trick

Harry Kane celebrates second goal in World Cup 2018 match against Panama

Harry Kane has scored in a fifth successive game for the Three Lions and in all the matches he has started as captain, ever since he first took the armband against Scotland in June 2017.

He’s also the first England player to score four or more in the group stages of the World Cup and is now in the lead for the Golden Boot with five.

What a player!

What’s next?

Qualification in Group G is well and truly settled now, and England face Belgium next Thursday at the Kaliningrad Stadium to decide the top spot. At the same time, Panama will play Tunisia in Saransk for the prize of avoiding bottom place.

The way FIFA 2018 results are going elsewhere, finishing second in the group may bring the perceived advantage of avoiding Brazil or Germany in the quarter-final. By the time they meet on Thursday, Belgium and England will both know if that’s the case, and that might make for an interesting match.

But the way they’ve attacked their opening games, I think they’ll both go for the win.

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FIFA 2018 and the Unlikely Lads

England vs Panama

It’s England vs Panama, and the us odds are most emphatic.

The Three Lions are expected to win by many in the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.

Clashes like this should be one-way and, with the utmost respect for Panama, usually only travel in one direction.

Deep down, even some of their followers will admit it would be an achievement to avoid heavy defeats and thrashings at the FIFA 2018 – something they just about managed in their opening game (a 3-0 reverse to Belgium).

Talking Points

It’s possible we’ve already had a glimpse of the side Gareth Southgate expects to field in this one.

The sight of assistant manager Steve Holland’s notepad has caused a minor stir in recent days and may have hit a nerve given Southgate’s subsequent comments about the media.

The England boss certainly had a point, mind, in an era in which the British media have been more of a hindrance than a help to England national teams in recent campaigns.

That aside, and the likely absence of Dele Alli due to a thigh injury sustained against Tunisia, the other main focus will be on what England can expect against the underdogs.

For an hour against Belgium, until they were tired, Panama proved they are not only well-organised but can frustrate superior nations and play a physical game.

Indeed, that physicality prompted Belgium boss Roberto Martinez earlier this week to suggest referees needed to clamp down on what he called ‘cheap and unnecessary tackles’.

Personally, I watched the game and didn’t see dirty fouls, even if the five yellow cards they totted up in an hour were the most by a country since the World Cup Final of 2010 when Holland were criticised for the way they went about trying to stop eventual world champions Spain.

Panama will look to upset England in their FIFA 2018 clash

Panama boss Hernan Gomez celebrates with Roman Torres on their World Cup qualifying clash against Costa Rica

However, for all the qualifying achievements of manager Hernan Dario Gomez – this is his fifth World Cup with a third different nation after Colombia (1998) and Ecuador (2002) – and players led by likable captain Roman Torres; for all the experience in their ranks – the 24 players picked for pre-tournament spring friendlies had an average 59 caps each – it is inexperience at this level of the game.

Panama are World Cup debutants and, respectfully, have a lack of top-class quality, pace and mobility. We’re not even mentioning the ageing defence and their limited attacking threat. Their limitations are understandable and for many, the Central American nation, whose population only stands at around four million people, is just delighted to be at Russia 2018.

Gomez eloquently summed up their presence when he said: “When you get there you can grow but you can shrink too. A World Cup is the greatest party. You see the most beautiful woman and you can dance with her. Your legs tremble.”

On paper, if not the FIFA rankings, Panama are probably the weakest team in the World Cup. An early England goal could open the floodgates and make them weak at the knees.

While England’s attacking pace alone should see them off, Southgate’s side will have to be wary of the searing heat, given the match kicks-off at 3 pm Russian time.

A second Group G win would set up a clash with Belgium to potentially determine who wins the group and, on paper at least, get a more straightforward last 16 tie.

England should win, and Panama should lose by a few. Anything else and there will be more than trembles in both countries! Even Gomez would acknowledge that.

History

History will be created. This is the first-ever meeting between the two nations ranked 12th and 55th in the world.

What are the odds?

Given that last statistic, it should be no surprise the FIFA 2018 betting odds for this game are as one-sided as they come.

England 1X2 are priced @ 1.24 with Panama out at 15.00. even the draw is generous towards the Panamanians @ 5.20.

Asian Handicap betting is good value with England -2.00 @ 2.44, likewise over 2.75 goals @ 2.29 seems a cert, or how about what some would deem a safe bet at total goals 4-6 @ 3.55?

For a repeat of Belgium’s victory over Panama, you can get odds on the match finishing 3-0 of 6.60.

A three-goal winning margin for Gareth Southgate’s side comes in at 4.80.

Looking at the bigger picture, after his double against Tunisia, Harry Kane will be hopeful of adding more to his tally in this one.

As it stands, you can get odds of 8.00 of him being the top goalscorer overall and claiming the Golden Boot in the tournament.

For all the latest FIFA 2018 updates, you know where to go.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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