Deadline Day Difficulties: Addressing the issues with the Premier League’s summer transfer window

Deadline Day Difficulties: Addressing the issues with the Premier League’s summer transfer window

Featured in the Raumdeuter Online Magazine – Edition #15

Premier League clubs are widely expected to debate the current Premier League summer transfer window when they host their first meeting of the season, with change being sought to when the off-season window closes.

Currently, the English top-flight sees its transfer window shut the Thursday prior to the new season beginning. In essence, it makes sense in securing squad stability among clubs. If all transfers have to be completed before a ball is kicked, no team is going to be left in the lurch by some late business from rivals stealing away their star players.

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Why Mike Riley’s VAR admission is no surprise, yet remains equally worrying for football

Why Mike Riley’s VAR admission is no surprise, yet remains equally worrying for football

Featured in the Raumdeuter Online Magazine – Edition #15

Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has been a talking point all throughout the summer leading into the Premier League campaign, and since the football kicked off seemingly a headline-grabber each and every week. Brought in to eradicate doubt and controversy, it seems to have generated more than it has solved.

As such, it comes as little surprise when Premier League referee chief Mike Riley admitted that there already have been four VAR mistakes in the top flight already. That’s the equivalent to one VAR error in every single game week.

Continue reading “Why Mike Riley’s VAR admission is no surprise, yet remains equally worrying for football”

England 5-3 Kosovo: England struggle past spirited Kosovo to win in Southampton

England 5-3 Kosovo: England struggle past spirited Kosovo to win in Southampton

Featured in the Raumdeuter Online Magazine – Edition #15

Kosovo head coach Bernard Challandes stole much of the pre-match spotlight with his animated press conference, dramatically urging his players to attack from the first whistle. His passion was electric, and it clearly translated onto the turf at Southampton’s St. Mary’s Stadium.

Within just 34 seconds, a lackadaisical England defence invited pressure onto themselves, before Michael Keane passed a suicide ball across defence – directly into the path of a black Kosovo shirt.

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Yerry Mina fined £10,000 for breaching Football Association betting rules

Yerry Mina fined £10,000 for breaching Football Association betting rules

Featured in the Raumdeuter Online Magazine – Edition #15

Everton centre back Yerry Mina has been fined £10,000 by the Football Association, and warned over future conduct, after admitting a breach of the FA’s betting rules.

The 24-year-old Colombian international had appeared in a TV advert for betting company Betjuego back in his home country.

Continue reading “Yerry Mina fined £10,000 for breaching Football Association betting rules”

England 4-0 Bulgaria: Kane hat-trick does little to lighten the mood in dull win

England 4-0 Bulgaria: Kane hat-trick does little to lighten the mood in dull win

Featured in the Raumdeuter Online Magazine – Edition #14

England were in no danger of ever jeopardising their 100% record in Euro 2020 qualifying when they came up against a Bulgaria side rooted to the bottom of the Group A table.

Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions cruised to victory in a game full of goals, and yet somehow seeming to lack the excitement a 4-0 win would typically bring about. It was all very routine, training ground stuff on display at Wembley.

England captain Harry Kane netted a hat-trick in the game, while Raheem Sterling provided the other, as the attacking pair proved simply too much for their Bulgarian opponents, brushing them aside without ever really leaving a canter.

Continue reading “England 4-0 Bulgaria: Kane hat-trick does little to lighten the mood in dull win”

Switzerland 0-0 England (5-6 PENS); Pickford penalty heroics secure the Three Lions the effectively meaningless Nations League third place

Switzerland 0-0 England (5-6 PENS); Pickford penalty heroics secure the Three Lions the effectively meaningless Nations League third place

It took some penalty shootout heroics from England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, scoring one spot kick before then saving another, to earn the Three Lions victory in the UEFA Nations League third-place playoff.

In truth, it was an accomplishment – and a match in general – that few cared about, myself included in that crowd.

It’s something I’ve never understood the desire for in international football – the meaningless third-place playoff. Teams are already spent, they’ve already endured the ignominy of being knocked out of the respective tournament, any yet are somehow expected to rally back around to care for a match that means so incredibly little to anyone.

I understand the format’s existence in just one footballing competition – the Olympic Games. That is because the third-place playoff takes the form of a bronze medal match. This is important for countries as the medals table is ultimately how nations are separated and ranked on performance, and therefore competing over the bronze can matter to teams (even though a number of sports with knockout tournaments actually just share the bronze between those knocked out in the semi-finals, and football so easily also could too).

Yet, despite this, FIFA and UEFA both seem to still have a burning love for the third-place match, leading to the drab spectacle that was on display in Portugal early on Sunday afternoon.

That feeling of pointless football was for all to see in Guimaraes, as the England and Switzerland camps lined up ahead of a match few even cared was going on. Just as easily as staging it, both sides could have instead shrugged off their shortcomings in the semi-finals and been on flights back home to enjoy the start of a summer break.

Instead, by decree of the UEFA higher-ups, they were forced to play out a slow, meaningless pre-amble to the actual final – played with all the disinterest and fatigue that you’d have anticipated in a third-place playoff that didn’t need to exist.

The match itself, a real low-key affair, saw England boss the chances, with Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling both hitting the woodwork. Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer pulled off a superb save to deny Dele Alli.

Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson thought he’d won the game for England late into the second half when he turned the ball home, only to see his goal chalked off by VAR – with the video assistant referee ruling him to have fouled Manuel Akanji in the build up of the goal.

Ending goalless at the full time whistle, and failing to find any form of breakthrough in extra time, the game dragged its way through to penalties, where Pickford stepped up to perform – much like he did in last summer’s World Cup Round of 16 match against Colombia.

Harry Maguire, Ross Barkley, Jadon Sancho and Sterling all hit the mark for England, before Pickford himself stepped up to score England’s fifth penalty (the fact alone that the goalkeeper was taking traditionally significant, and potentially deciding, penalty number five probably tells all it needs to about the third-place playoff).

At that stage, the scores remained level heading into sudden death. Switzerland had been on target with all five of their strikes so far, seeing Steven Zuber, Granit Xhaka, Akanji, Kevin Mbabu and Fabian Schar all convert from the penalty spot.

Eric Dier then converted England’s sixth spot kick to put the Three Lions in the driving seat.

To respond, up stepped Swiss forward Josip Drmic but the Borussia Monchengladbach man saw his effort saved by Pickford, giving victory and third place in the Nations League to Gareth Southgate’s England.

It remains an utterly meaningless game, and one that everyone could have likely done without playing, but I suppose at least for the annuls of history Southgate’s tenure as England manager has another minor success on its record (even if the final, overall tournament win still eludes him so far).

Australia 1-2 Italy; Stoppage time winner earns Italy surprise victory

Australia 1-2 Italy; Stoppage time winner earns Italy surprise victory

Italy scored a last-gasp winner to complete a fight back from a goal behind against Australia, coming out 2-1 winners in their opening 2019 Women’s World Cup match in Valenciennes.

In one of the tournament’s finest contests so far, Australia took the lead through a penalty – Sam Kerr missed the initial spot kick, but was on hand to sweep home the rebound.

However, Italy showed their resilience and fought back in the second half, with Juventus star Barbara Bonansea scoring both goals. Either side of Bonansea’s equaliser, Italy also saw two more goals disallowed – correctly – for offside by VAR.

Italy went into the match having not played a game at a Women’s World Cup finals since their group stage elimination back in 1999 in the United States.

Now ranked 15th in the women’s world rankings, they went into the match against an Australia side that sat nine places above them and who were hotly-tipped to be a powerful force in this year’s competition. Many saw them as being within a good chance of progressing to the final in Lyon. Italy were seen as a difficult hurdle, but one the Australians should have been able to overcome with relative ease.

Unsurprisingly, then, there were joyous scenes among the Italian camp at the full time whistle in Valenciennes’ Stade du Hainaut in northeastern France.

Italy thought they’d initially opened the scoring when Bonansea was threaded through courtesy of a beautifully-weighted ball, and the Juventus star held off the challenge of two defenders. Forcing her way into the box, she managed to squeeze the ball into the back of the net.

However, as has been a regular theme at these Women’s World Cup finals, VAR had the final say and ruled the goal out. Bonansea, on the replays, had been ever so marginally offside – and extremely harsh call, personally, but the system at least showed its reasoning for the decision.

While the scores remained level, the goal did imbue the Italians with confidence, which they needed not long after when Australia were awarded a golden opportunity to wrestle control of the game back.

Initially it looked like they had achieved just that, when Kerr was brought down in the box by Italy captain Sara Gama.

Kerr, and all-time record goalscorer in the top professional leagues in both her native Australia and the United States, stepped up to take it, and despite the initial penalty being saved by Laura Giuliani, she was able to fire home the rebound.

It was her first goal at the Women’s World Cup finals, in her ninth appearance across three tournaments. A huge moment, not just for Australia in the match, but personally, Kerr celebrated with something quite familiar to Australian football fans; boxing the corner flag much like Australian men’s team legend Tim Cahill.

Italy weren’t to be denied, however.

As the second half kicked off, Italy pressed the Australian repeatedly and finally got their just rewards.

A mistake at the back from Australia centre back Clare Polkinghorne gifted possession to Italy, and Bonansea took full advantage to pounce. Italy’s star performer in the match weaved her way into the penalty area before rounding the remaining Australia defender Alanna Kennedy and slotting home a cool finish.

It gave Italy the belief they needed, and soon they were the side in the ascendancy.

They thought they’d won the game too late on, when Daniela Sabatino was played in and managed to squeeze her effort past Lydia Williams in the Australia goal. The effort rebounded back off the upright, but Sabatino was quickest to react and slot home into the open net despite the tight angle.

However, in yet another cruel twist of fate against the Europeans, the offside flag once again ruled out the goal. VAR confirmed the decision, but replays showed Sabatino much more clearly offside than the earlier disallowed one.

Italy would have had all right to feel hard done by had the game finished 1-1, and it looked certain to be going that way right until the dying seconds.

In the fifth minute of stoppage time, Italy won a corner and fired it in, only to spark wild, jubilant celebrations when Bonansea, naturally, was on hand to head down and into the back of the net.

The underdogs in the match had snatched an incredible late point, and provided the first real shock of this Women’s World Cup finals in a highly entertaining game.

Heading into their next games, Italy will be thrilled to have already secured points on the board and be relatively confident of potentially securing a way out of the group stage.

For Australia, however, this result will have been a real knock for them. Favourites of many to go far in this tournament, it was not the result they needed, especially with a tough game against Brazil still to go in the group stage.

In the end, they’ll need to rally around and move forward, but losing the game will have hurt. Losing the game in the last few seconds, especially so, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can pick themselves back up and continue in the form they were expected to have, or if they may be one of the first major casualties at these finals.