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Should Chelsea Go All In on Erling Haaland?

In the age of football where utilizing extreme amounts of money is the norm for the world’s top clubs, it’s not surprising to hear that Chelsea — the defending UEFA Champions League winners — are in the market for another major spending spree less than a year after bringing in Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Edouard Mendy.

The Blues have been ambitious in the time that owner Roman Abramovich has owned the Premier League side, which has commonly included sacking managers despite winning titles and moving on from superstar players.

For the second time now in the past decade, Chelsea are European champions, which brings about a new level of pressure for a club that has cemented themselves in the upper echelon of not only the Premier League but all the top teams throughout the continent.

In their first season at Stamford Bridge, it’s easy to argue that Werner, Havertz and Ziyech didn’t fully live up to the billing that was anticipated for a trio of players that feature that much talent.

Now, Werner did finish the season with 12 goals to go along with 15 assists in all competitions and Havertz netted the winner in the UCL final that put the Blues past Manchester City. 

However, there’s a name potentially on the market that would be a game-changing addition to any club in the world.

That player is Erling Haaland.

The rumor mill has been churning with links between Chelsea and the Borussia Dortmund striker for some time now, and it appears that the Blues have made it their top priority to ensure they secure Haaland’s signature either this summer or next year. 

From the outside it seems like a no brainer for manager Thomas Tuchel and his side. They have the money. They have had the success to lure a player of his caliber. They play in a league widely considered to be the best in the world. 

From Haaland’s perspective it may be a little different. While he’s more than talented enough to play at a club like Chelsea, that very reason could make him leave his options open for the future.

The Blues certainly aren’t the only club monitoring Haaland’s future plans, with Man City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona just a few of the other major clubs that have the means necessary to bring in a talent as stellar as the Dortmund man.

It’s easy to argue though that Chelsea may be one of the few teams with the biggest need at striker though. Havertz began to establish himself towards the end of the season in a variety of roles, but Tuchel did employ him as a false 9 up front at times.

Meanwhile, Werner was most successful when played up top or on the right wing, but his production certainly wasn’t where the club needed it to be throughout the entire Premier League season. 

Olivier Giroud is nearing the end of his career and will likely finish up elsewhere, while Tammy Abraham has been out of favor since the arrival of Tuchel. Abraham, in particular, is still young and possesses a lot of transfer value so it’s quite possible that Chelsea could soon only have Werner available as the team’s striker. 

The need for a Haaland is absolutely warranted if you’re the Blues, and the connection between he and several of Chelsea’s current contingent from their time in the Bundesliga could be a major selling point to Haaland.

This past season, Haaland only trailed Robert Lewandowski in the Bundesliga race for Golden Boot after notching 27 goals and six assists in 28 matches.

His ability to stretch the pitch and drop into the midfield to collect the ball makes Haaland extremely difficult to contain in the attacking third. Meanwhile, his speed is nearly unmatched and allows him to separate himself from defenders in tight spaces.

Ultimately it appears the situation will come down to Dortmund, who have set Haaland’s transfer price tag at 150 million Euros this summer or if teams wait a year it could drastically fall to near half that price as his contract nears the end.

With money not being a major issue for the Stamford Bridge side, it’s hard to see any conceivable reason why Chelsea shouldn’t and won’t make a serious push to bring Haaland to London this summer.

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Sports Strength

Portugal’s Youth Will Smoothly Transition the Post-Ronaldo Era

When you think about the teams Portugal has produced over the years, past or present, your mind immediately turns to Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portguese captain has dominated for both club and country over the years, with the current group of players being some of the best Portugal has taken to a tournament for a very long time. 

The current depth of this Portguese National Team is quite remarkable. You have young talent after young talent, with a large majority playing top level football in Europe and almost all of them being major focal points for their respective teams. 

But it hasn’t always been like this. 

A young 19 year old CR7 made his Major Tournament debut for Portugal at the 2004 Euros, hosted on home soil. Inexperienced and heavily hyped after his move to Manchester United, Ronaldo was in a team considered to be the “Golden Generation” of Portuguese football, lead by none other than Luis Figo. 

Considering it was his debut tournament, leaving with two goals and two assists was nothing to be ashamed of, however his performance was overshadowed by the feel good story of Greece winning the tournament (unless you are a fan of Portugal of course). 

While the footage of Ronaldo crying after the full time loss in the Final will forever be remembered, you can look back and safely say the whole experience combined with that single result taught him a valuable lesson, and I have no doubt that it shaped him into the player and person he is today. 

A New Era

The changing of the guard didn’t exactly go as planned for the National Team. 

In 4 major tournaments (2010/14 WC and Euro 2008/12)  Portugal made a single Semi-Final appearance in this 6 year span, with the worst of it coming at the 2014 World Cup, where they failed to make it out of their group. 

For most nations, reaching the Semi-Final would be seen as a success, but for this country, with a man who many consider to be the GOAT, it’s simply not good enough. 

The obvious star player for Portugal was Ronaldo, but every one of these squads had quality players from top leagues around the world. Rui Patricio in goals, an elite centre back partnership consisting of Pepe and either Ricardo Carvalho or Bruno Alves, 

A midfield with Joao Moutinho And Raul Meireles, leaving Nani to assist the main man in attack. The best part about it was almost every one of them had played with at least one other at club level before or during this six year period.

You would think being familiar with the people around you is a good thing, but maybe the lack of fresh faces negatively impacted the team. Whether it was the coaching or indeed the players, the simple fact is the teams representing Portugal during this time should have produced a lot more than they did.

Euro 2016 Triumph And Euro 2020 Chances

Those that watched the 2016 final would no doubt have felt a sense of Deja Vu when Ronaldo got injured, but while the emotional scenes were identical to the 2004 final, the result this time around was positive. Credit has to be given to all of Portugal’s squad that day because even with Ronaldo, France had the better side both on paper and on the pitch. 

After Fernando Santos took over post 2014 World Cup, the team has played with confidence, knowing that almost every player on the pitch is capable of playing attacking football. They’ve won it before and they can do it again, but how good really is this squad Portugal have taken to Euro 2020.

The two starting 11s above are from the Euro 2016 final (left) and my expected starting 11 for Portugal in their first group game (right). Premier League Player Of The Year Ruben Dias along with his Man City team mate Joao Cancelo in defence are huge upgrades.

Diogo Jota has been a goalscoring machine for both club and country while Bernardo Silva is exceptional with the ball at his feet. 

The sheer amount of depth on the bench is a scary sight for any team playing Portugal.  Joao Felix hasn’t exactly lived up to his $136 million price tag, but the ability for him to most likely come off the bench and impact the game is a welcome sight. 

The likes of Andre Silva and Renato Sanches, once hyped youngsters and starters for the National Team have both had amazing seasons and will no doubt add to this team if called upon. 

The one player besides Ronaldo who’s impact for this team is vital is Bruno Fernandes. Whether it’s to do with the system or added pressure, he simply isn’t the same player at international level as he is for Man United. 

In his two previous seasons at United, Bruno has contributed 94 times in 108 games, whereas in his 29 appearances for Portugal, he has only just 9. The quality he possesses is obvious, but it’s time for Fernandes to show it on the world stage. 

So what exactly are Portugal’s chances of going back-to-back and how far can they really go? First, they will have to make it out of the “Group of Death” consisting of current World Cup champions France, Germany and Hungary. 

Realistically their chances of making it out are high. I have Portugal finishing 2nd behind France and if all things go to plan (which never happens in these tournaments) I have England winning their group to set up a tough Round Of 16 matchup between the two. 

With 2022 World Cup qualifying still in progress it’s unknown what will be Cristiano Ronaldo’s last major tournament, but sadly by the end of one of them, at 36 years old,  it will most likely be the end of the road for his international career. 

No one will ever be able to replace him in this team, but the new era of Portugal will be just as exciting as the old one.

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Sports Strength

Longest Unbeaten Runs in National Team History

The Italian National Team is on the brink of breaking into a very exclusive group, those to go 30 or more matches unbeaten in international competitions.

Roberto Mancini’s side currently sits at 28 games unbeaten and they are trying to chase down several squads that featured legends of the game, including Brazil’s team from the 1990s and Spain’s squad in the 2000s. 

When Italy won the 2006 World Cup in Germany after beating France on penalty kicks, the Azzurri were in the midst of a 25-game unbeaten streak.

Both of those squads would go on to win a World Cup within a year of their record-breaking streaks. Spain and Brazil sit atop the list at 35 matches without a loss, a simply astounding record when considering some of the teams they went up against.

Today, we’re looking at five national teams that this current Italian team are trying to chase down in the history books.

Italy National Team – 28 Matches
Oct. 10, 2018 – Current
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The Azzurri are in the midst of their second-best run to date at the international level, trailing only the Italy side in the 1930s that rattled off 30 straight matches unbeaten. Roberto Mancini’s group features Lorenzo Insigne, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Nicolo Barella, and the Azzurri have yet to concede a goal in their last nine matches.

Italy National Team – 30 Matches

Oct. 24, 1935 – July 20, 1939

It’s taken nearly 72 years for the current Italy team to come close to a record of this stature despite winning the World Cup in 2006 and reaching a final in 1994. The Italian teams of the 1930s were guided by Vittorio Pozzo, who helped lead the Azzurri to two consecutive World Cup wins in 1934 and 1938.

France National Team – 30 Matches
Feb. 16, 1994 – Nov. 30, 1996
Claudio Villa Archive

The timing of France’s run is quite surprising when considering the fact that Les Bleus actually missed out on the 1994 World Cup in the United States after failing to qualify. Les Bleus put together a tremendous run of form though over the better part of two-and-a-half years and it ultimately set them up for success in 1998 when they would hoist the World Cup on home soil.

Argentina National Team – 31 Matches

Feb. 19, 1991 – Aug. 8, 1993

It’s hard to remember a time in Argentina before Lionel Messi, but this was the case with the Albiceleste sides of the 1990s. While Diego Maradona played a minor role for Argentina, Gabriel Batistuta was the star of those Argentina teams, helping his country win back-to-back Copa America titles in 1991 and 1993.

Brazil National Team – 35 Matches
Feb. 16, 1993 – Jan. 18, 1996
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Brazil’s reign as one of the top footballing nations has been steady throughout its history, with very few periods where they lacked success. The Selecao’s play in the 1990s was quite impressive though, with teams that featured Ronaldo, Rivlado, Dunga and Cafu. Brazil would win the 1994 World Cup in the United States during the height of their streak, after progressing through the tournament allowing just three goals.

Spain National Team – 35 Matches

Feb. 7, 2007 – June 20, 2009

Xavi. Andres Iniesta. David Villa. Do we need to say more? This Spanish team was nothing short of incredible, and there’s a reason why they went on to win a World Cup — their first in the country’s history — in 2010. It would take a heroic performance from the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 2009 Confederations Cup for the Spanish to fall.

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Sports Strength

How Would the USMNT Fare in the Euros?

Few things get my sports adrenaline flowing quite like a debate of a sports scenario that would never happen. The age old question of “What if…?” is a tried and honored tradition, and with the 2020 European Championships finally getting underway after the Covid-19 outbreak halted the competition this summer, there’s no better question to ask than how would the USMNT do if they were thrusted into the Euro’s?

The Euro Qualifying process is a journey. To the average fan, it feels like it’s a nonstop whirlwind of international/European qualifying. There’s a plethora of games from the UEFA Nations League, World Cup Qualifying, and Euro Qualifications. Granted, many of these competitions are used to weed out the smaller European nations that aren’t as dominant as their larger neighbors. 

It’s impossible to predict how the USMNT would do throughout the grueling qualifying process, but it’s a bit easier to see how they’d perform with an automatic bid to the Euros.

The lads in the Stars & Stripes aren’t going to replace any of the major players in European soccer, so for the sake of this hypothetical debate we’ll replace the lowest ranked team in each group according to FIFA World Rankings with the USMNT.

Every team has already played a match in the tournament so far, but for the sake of not being a revisionist, we are going to block out any moments of the actual tournament that have already happened.

The United States is the 20th ranked team. Don’t take the FIFA rankings as the end all be all for how a team is. France, the defending World Cup winners, are ranked 2nd behind a Belgium team who they beat in the 2018 World Cup Semifinals.

These FIFA rankings are a little skewed. About half of the teams have already played games, but for the sake of not being a revisionist, we are going to block out any moments of the actual tournament that have already happened.

At the end of the day, you can chuck all the past out the window. It’s the Euro’s… anything can happen. 

Group A
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Country Replaced: Turkey

Going off of FIFA rankings alone, this is a tough group. Italy is ranked 7th, Switzerland is 13th, Wales is 18th, and Turkey, who is going to be replaced by the United States in this group, are 29th in the world according to FIFA. It’s a shame that Turkey has to be eliminated for this exercise because they have been a joy to watch as of late.

They play an exciting style of soccer, and they’d be a much better watch than a Wales side so reliant on Gareth Bale. Once you factor in recent form from these squads, this group becomes an even harder challenge to analyze.

Italy is clearly the group favorites, and will be one of the favorites to win the entire tournament. The Azzurri haven’t dropped points in any competition since October 14th in a 1-1 with the Netherlands during a Nations League match. Despite all this dominance, from a stylistic aspect, the Americans should like their chances of making this game a memorable one. 

Italy isn’t the defensive minded team that we’re used to seeing. Yes they are still defensively sound, but Roberto Mancini has utilized all the offensive talent at his disposal in a way that Italy hasn’t seen in recent years. This offensive mindset could leave them vulnerable if they turn the ball over in the midfield. A player like Weston McKennie could create offense quickly, and although the Italian defense is talented, they are on the other side of the hill in terms of being in their prime.

Despite my American bias, the Italians are poised to make a deep run this year. Italy win in a high scoring 3-2 match. 

Moving onto Switzerland is a different analysis because these two actually played a friendly back on May 30th that resulted in a 2-1 Swiss victory. The USMNT did not look good. They lacked any identity and the lack of chemistry was clearly on display.

At the end of the day, it’s still just a friendly and without Tyler Adams, who is this teams X-Factor, the defensive accountability was nonexistent. If the Yanks have a healthy squad they’ll be too much for a Swiss team that can be suspect at the back. A 2-1 American win in the rematch would be my prediction.

The last opponent in the group stage is another squad that has faced the American’s in recent international friendlies, Wales. These two played to a scoreless draw back in November, although the USMNT had some roster limitations due to Covid-19 protocols. Wales is a stubborn team to play against. Like all the teams from the British Isle, they play good defense, and they don’t make many unforced errors despite not being overly talented with the exception of Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale. 

A fully integrated USMNT squad should take care of Wales in an ugly, but hard fought 1-0 win. There is too much going forward offensively for America, and not enough talent around Gareth Bale to make the Welsh a real threat in this match.

Group Finish: 2nd in Group, Italy wins the group.

Group B
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Country Replaced: Finland

On paper, Group B doesn’t look as sexy as some of the other groups with the exception of Belgium, but don’t sleep on Group B. Denmark is a popular dark horse, and Russia is never a pushover in international competition.

The cream of the crop in this group is Belgium. The number 1 ranked team in the world lost in the 2018 World Cup Semi-finals to eventual winner France. Since the 2010 World Cup, the soccer world has been in admiration of Belgium’s “Golden Generation”. That’s a term that is going to be thrown around this piece frequently. Many countries in this tournament are experiencing a boom of talented players rising through the national team ranks.

One could make the argument that the Belgians have the best player in the world at their respective position in the starting XI with Romelu Lukaku at striker, Kevin De Bruyne running the middle of the park, and Thibaut Courtois between the ivory panel. 

There’s few countries that have the overbearing talent to embarrass the USMNT, but the Belgians are one of the few teams that could put a beat down on the young American team. 

De Bruyne, Hazard, and Lukkaku are going to expose the American backline, and that’s including Serginio Dest if he gets involved in the offensive rush. America will hang in there for a little, but I see it being dominated in possession by Belgium. 2-0 win for the Belgians. 

Denmark is my personal darkhorse for the Euro’s, and I think they’ll give the American’s trouble throughout the game. The Danes don’t have the athletes that the Americans possess, but one thing they do have is chemistry, and a system that has proven to work throughout their World Cup and Euro Qualifying stretch the last 8 years. 

This Danish squad has slowly, and rather quietly, risen up to become a Top 10 team in the world. This won’t come as a shock to those who are close to this Danish team. They are in their own “Golden Generation” of soccer, but they have been overshadowed by more notable soccer countries. The usual star suspects of goalkeeper Kasper Schmiechel and offensive focal point Christian Erksen are going to garner attention, but the Danish supporting cast can play with the best of the world. 

It will be interesting to see how the USMNT decides to handle Eriksen. Do they give him space in the middle and just focus on their game? Or do they have Tyler Adams, or another defensive midfielder, tail him for the entire match? 

Both teams will get points in this match in a thrilling 1-1 draw. 

The last match in this group is a Cold War match with Russia, and despite Russia being the least talented team in terms of star power, this game has all the makings of a classic. 

What makes Russia interesting is that they have talent, but the world doesn’t get to witness it because the majority of players stay in Russia and don’t get much exposure from European soccer media. This team is disciplined, tough, and will make it tough on teams not accustomed to their physicality. 

Ultimately the USMNT is too talented and will rise to the occasion. Russia can only hold a 0-0 draw for so long. America gets a goal early in the second half, and then gets one late for a 2-0 win for the Stars & Stripes. 

Group Finish: 3rd Place, Advances to Knockout Round.

Group C
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Country Replaced: North Macedonia

American supporters are crossing their fingers that their USMNT lands in Group C. The USA would replace 62nd FIFA ranked North Macedonia, who in reality is making their first major tournament appearance. 

The group favorite is the Netherlands, who come in this year’s tournament as the team with the most amount of pressure from domestic media. Specifically about whether Frank de Boer is the right fit as coach of his home country..

The biggest competitor to the Yanks is the Dutch despite the uncertainty that has surrounded them since Frank de Boer took over. However, I think the USMNT has all the pieces needed to pull off the upset. The Netherlands are without captain, and defensive backbone, Virgil Van Dyke, and they lack the supporting pieces needed to let Memphis Depay shine. Georginio Wijnaldum is a nice piece in addition to Depay, but the rest of the squad is littered with question marks.

The soccer world is used to seeing the Orangmen play a high attacking style complemented by elite talent like Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie, but that golden generation of Dutch talent has gone by the wayside. 

The change of formation right before a major tournament is a major red flag, and the Ammericans will take advantage of that. Taking the Americans in a thrilling 2-1 victory.    

I hate to bash any team, but I think Austria is poised to disappoint this year. David Alaba is the keystone of the Austrian team. He creates offense from the back, but he’s in for a tough match. The American firepower may end up exposing his defensive partners the whole match, and Gregg Berhalter could afford to do that thanks to the offensive prowess he has in the squad. 

Technically speaking, Austria will be sufficient. Unfortunately for them, the Americans will get the three points in this match with a 2-0 win. 

If you don’t have a team to cheer for this tournament, I suggest rooting for Ukraine. For all my FIFA players and older fans, they are coached by the best player to ever strap on a pair of boots for Ukraine, Andriy Shevchenko. They sneakily have a creative midfield powered by Man City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko and Atalanta’s Ruslan Malinovskyi that will have to impress on the world stage if Ukraine has any chance of getting past the Americans, and the group stage as a whole.

The midfield duo won’t be enough to give Ukraine any edge against the USMNT. Expect a tight first half, but the Americans should pull away with this win in a 2-0 fashion. 

Group Finish: Wins Group

Group D
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Country Replaced: Scotland

I think  I speak for American soccer fans everywhere when I say that this is the group I’d want the USMNT to land in if this concept was real. Why this group you ask? The same reason why we speak the language we do: the English.

The last time we matched up with the Three Lions in a major tournament it ended in a 1-1 draw. However, the draw felt like a win for America, and a massive defeat for our English speaking rivals across the pond. England started the game off strong with a 4th minute goal from Steven Gerrard, but thanks to a blunder from goalkeeper Robert Green, Clint Dempsey was able to equalize in the 40th minute. The draw felt like a win for America, and felt like an embarrassing loss for the English.

This time around it won’t be as friendly of a result for the Americans. This England team is extremely deep, and they are the 2nd favorites to win the tournament according to bookmakers. As much as it hurts my patriotic pride, the Three Lions are for real this year. Expect England’s golden generation to shine through in a 2-0 win in this Revolutionary War rematch. 

The second match in this group is against the defending World Cup Finalists Croatia, a team that punched well above their weight on their way to almost becoming champions of world soccer. Four members of that 2018 team have retired, including offensive spark plugs Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitić. This leaves big shoes to fill for the youngsters replacing these Croatian legends, and with Luka Modric not getting any younger, it makes that void even greater of a challenge to fill. 

This is another match-up that is going to ask Tyler Adams to step up and shut down the opposition’s focal point. Modric is a craft veteran, and Adams is the young buck still gaining international experience. 

The Americans will squeak out a draw against Croatia in a game where they do not look great, but a draw is better than a loss. 

The last game in this group is against the Czech Republic who is one of the biggest wild cards of the tournament. For a lack of a better term, they are a mundane team. No real star power with their most recognizable player being West Ham’s Tomas Soucek, so I think the American’s shouldn’t have trouble getting the three points in this match.

Group Finish: 3rd place on goal differential. Advances to the Knockout Round. 

Group E
Joan Gosa/Xinhua via Getty Images

Country Replaced: Slovakia

This group is closest to America in terms of FIFA World Rankings. Sweden are 18th, Poland are 21st, and Spain are the group leaders at 6th in the world according to FIFA. Spain are the heavy favorites to win the group at -350. 

Spain is always going to be a presence at a major tournament and a group like this is favorable for them. Along with Poland, the USMNT is their biggest competition.The Spain/USA game would be a track meet. Thiago, Ferran Torres, and Alvaro Morata on the attack for Spain with Tyler Adams, Sergino Dest, and Antonee Robinson defending them would be a hell of a watch. 

The reverse of that is equally as enticing. An American offensive press of Christain Pulisic, Gio Reyna, and Yunush Musah battling it out with the Spanish defense of  Rodri in the midfield,  and on the back line with Jordi Alba and new Spanish resident Laporte,

Spain is too talented and will outlast the USMNT. I see Spain spreading out the American backline, which will open holes for penetrating runs for Morata. Spain win this in a 3-2 goalfest. 

Poland is an open book. The entire world knows that they are trying to get the ball to Lewandowksi. They will go as far as the Bayern Munich star takes them. Berrhalter could mark him with a guy like Tyler Adams dropping back more in defense, or give full responsibility to John Brooks, who is very familiar with Lewandoski from their Bundesliga clashes. 

Teams that rely on one player rarely end up doing well in major tournaments. The Americans will do enough to shut down Lewandowski and the Poles in a scrappy 2-1 win.

Sweden dropped in pre-tournament banter due to the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The 39 year old AC Milan star was ruled out of the tournament due to a knee injury he suffered during the Milan season. Sweden has Alexander Isak, who has set La Liga ablaze offensively with Real Soceidad. 

Unfortunately for Isak, he’ll have a tough time dealing with Sergino Dest, and for that reason among others, the American’s will win this game in a 1-0 game with minimal chances.  

Group Finish: 2nd Place. Advances to Knockout Round. 

Group F
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Country Replaced: Hungary

The “Group of Death” is not something new for the USMNT, who were in the 2014 World Cup group of death. Every major tournament has one, and this group is that for these Euro’s. Defending World Cup winners, and tournament favorites, France. They lead the way in terms of being the Group betting favorite, and to  top it all off, they now welcome back Karim Benzema onto the national team since his departure in 2015. As much as it crushes my unwavering American bias, the French should have no problem dispatching the USA. 

Pogba and company will terrorize the inexperienced American side in a smooth 2-0 victory.

Group F also has the popular dark horse pick of Portugal, a side that is much more than Cristiano Ronaldo surrounded by 10 other players. The Portugese are as deep as any team in the tournament, and they’ll be relying heavily on Bruno Fernandes and Joao Moutinho to step up on the world stage for their country. 

The last time we saw these two face-off in a major tournament was the 2014 World Cup in the Group Stage where the Portugese tied the game after a 94th minute goal. That goal was the latest World Cup goal scored in regular time. 

This time around might not be as kind to the States, and a 3-1 loss to the Portugese delivers a major blow to the Yanks chances of advancing out of the group.

The last match of this group of death against Germany is where I think America will show the world that we are now a country to be respected on the global soccer platform. The Germans are looking to send coach Joachim Low out on a high note before Hansi Flick takes over. 

They have been crawling into this competition after suspect performances in Nation’s League and World Cup Qualifying games, and that form is going to be hard to break in this group. 

The Americans get their only win in a roller coaster 1-0 courtesy of a late game winning goal

Group Finish: 4th place. A very unfortunate group drawing for America.

Tournament Prediction

The worries with the USMNT are their offensive chemistry coming together and having accountability on the back end. 

This USMNT squad isn’t afraid of anyone though. Their style is going to benefit them in this tournament, but they have to be careful not to get caught on the counter attack after a turnover. 

It’s been stated that Tyler Adams is my x-factor for this team, but Zack Steffen has to show why he’s on Manchester City, and why he’s set to be more than just Ederson’s backup. 

He’s an excellent shot stopper, but he has to be more vocal and decisive on set pieces to keep America in safe hands between the pipes. 

The Knockout Round is like any American playoff game. Anything can happen. It’s hard to say how the Americans would do because different groups lead to different paths. Do I like the USMNT’s chances in a Knockout Round game against France? No. But I love their chances in a one-off against a team like the Netherlands or Croatia.

All paths to the final are extremely difficult, but getting in the right group can be the difference between a Knockout Round exit or a Quarterfinal exit. 

Any prediction of this American team making it to the semifinals of the Euros would be a script that even Hollywood couldn’t write. 

This American team does have the talent to compete for a World Cup in the next coming years, but it’s not their time right now. The Americans will look to continue their CONCACAF success in the Gold Cup starting in July, followed by the most important World Cup Qualifying process in USMNT history in the fall.

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What Are Germany’s Expectations at Euro 2020?

Teams placed in the Group of Death at any competition are usually the best of the best, and at Euro 2020 we’re about to witness several of the top nations in the world competing against one another.

Portugal and France are both riding major highs into the tournament after respective wins at Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018, but what about Germany?

The Germans have had a ton of success historically, but with manager Joachim Low on the brink of leaving his post with the national team after the Euros the squad is in a very difficult position.

The talent is absolutely there for Germany throughout the squad, despite Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s noted absences for this edition of the Euros.

Kai Havertz, Antonio Rudiger and Timo Werner are coming off a Champions League-winning campaign for Chelsea, while Joshua Kimmich, Serge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka boast a strong Bayern Munich contingent.

Talent isn’t the question when it comes to Germany at this stage of their national team, but instead the cohesion throughout the squad.

The Germans are just three months removed from a loss to North Macedonia in World Cup qualifying that magnified their issues, especially in the attacking end of the pitch.

In a match where Germany held nearly 70 percent possession in the North Macedonia half of the field, they still struggled mightily to get going when it mattered most. Werner missed a number of chances in front of goal despite being the national team’s clear No. 9 up front.

Defensively, Germany will need to be aligned throughout the back in order to contain potent attacks from Portugal and France, which feature Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe, as well as a host of other tremendous talents from around Europe’s top leagues.

Channeling their country’s previous success at the Euros will be vital for a team that has won the competition three times and only failed to advance out of the group stage on an additional three occasions. 

Low’s track record of getting the best of his players is well documented, so giving him the benefit of the doubt during his final ride with Germany should probably be the route that German fans take, however, with expectations always significant for one of the best footballing nations in the world that’s easier said than done.

Germany kicks off Group F play against France, which will truly dictate how their group stage evolves. A win or draw puts the Germans in a fantastic position moving forward, while a loss could immediately have them thinking about one of the four third-place teams to advance to the next round.

Realistically there’s still no reason to think that the Germans won’t qualify for the knockout phase, but the question becomes, who do they face once they get there?

Outside of the top five teams in the competition — France, England, Portugal, Belgium and Italy — there’s no reason to believe that Germany cannot beat any of the remaining teams in the Round of 16. That’s if they’re not even playing up to their full potential.

The expectation should remain that Germany can reach a semifinal in this type of competition and give Low something positive to hang his hat on as he steps out of the limelight with the national team.

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Christian Eriksen’s Collapse Created Unity in the Face of Adversity

For nearly 43 minutes of Saturday’s Denmark-Finland meeting at Euro 2020 it was a normal football match. A scoreless draw nearly taking the two teams into halftime, the unexpected that followed not only delayed the match but put a sickening feeling in the guts of many around the world that looked on.

When Christian Eriksen collapsed just prior to the first half whistle blowing there was uncertainty and tension inside the Parken Stadium and for everyone that consumed that match in person and via their televisions. 

Life can be fleeting and taken for granted, especially in sports. Athletes are seen as larger-than-life figures that mirror more superheroes than those that may work a 9 to 5 job on a regular basis.

Eriksen, who plays his club football at Inter Milan in Serie A, is believed to be in the prime of his professional career. A seemingly healthy 29-year-old midfielder that helped his club team win their first domestic title in nearly a decade last month.

The power of sports is quite incredible when you break it down to its core. On most days there are winners and losers, but regardless of the result supporters have the opportunity to delve into something that can take their minds off of the monotony of their daily lives.

On Saturday, it wasn’t about the result of the match. The only thing that mattered was Eriksen’s health and providing assurance that he would live to see his longtime partner Sabrina Kvist Jensen and their two children once more.

Christopher Lee – UEFA / Contributor

As Jensen ran onto the pitch and stood near midfield, she was consoled by two of the heroes of the day, teammates of Eriksen’s — Simon Kjaer and Kasper Schmeichel. In that moment, the trio could only pray that their loved one would pull through as medical staff did their jobs at a time where sheer silence ripped through the stadium.

Kjaer was confirmed to be the first person to alert medical staff and even began to perform CPR on his teammate before they could rush onto the pitch to continue the attempts to save Eriksen’s life.

The rest of Eriksen’s Denmark teammates formed a wall around him to ensure privacy during a sequence that was anything but private. 

It was the most-discussed event in the world on social media and sports networks for hours to come, and yet those Dannish players had to put on a brave face and protect those around them from witnessing something horrifying.

As Eriksen was carried off the pitch after what felt like hours of work by the medical professionals — which was in reality less than 20 minutes — photographs began to surface of the midfielder awake and holding his hand on his head.

Until the authenticity was confirmed by news outlets on location, it was a guessing game as to whether or not Eriksen was actually awake. 

Then, Eriksen’s agent Maarten Schoots released a statement on a Dutch radio station regarding his client.

“I just spoke to Christian’s father, and he told me that he is breathing, and that he is able to speak,” Schoots said.

It was the assurance that everyone around the football world needed to hear in a moment where everything was on pause. 

When players ultimately made the decision to come back onto the pitch less than two hours after the horrifying event, they were greeted with “Christian Eriksen” chants between the Dannish and Finnish supporters.

Humanity won on that day and it’s important to remember that there are more vital aspects of life than sports. As fans, we cheer and will go to the ends of the earth to support the teams that we love, but ultimately there wouldn’t be anything to cheer for without the men and women that make up the beautiful game.

The players. The coaches. The training and medical staff. The broadcasters. There were so many figures involved in this event that had to hold their wits together when most would crumble under the burden that was bestowed upon them.

This wasn’t about the result of the match — which Finland would win 1-0 — but instead the restoration of humanity and proving that people from different walks of life can unite in the face of adversity.

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Sports Strength

Christian Fuchs on Charlotte FC, NFL Ambition And Family

Christian Fuchs grew up watching the Premier League as a Manchester United supporter. He was drawn to greats of the game like Eric Cantona and Sir Alex Ferguson who exhibited excellence every time they stepped on the pitch.

Although Fuchs would never play for his childhood dream team, the defender would go on to accomplish great things at another Premier League club; an unexpected one in Leicester City.

Most know Leicester City now as the club that defied all odds and captured the 2015/16 Premier League trophy, beating out the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and United to accomplish one of the greatest underdog dethronements in sports history.

The names that have since solidified themselves outside of the King Power Stadium such as N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez have shown that Leicester’s miraculous run wasn’t a fluke. Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel continue to have their own success with the Foxes to this very day.

However, Fuchs, now 35, is readying himself for a new chapter in his storybook career; one in Major League Soccer with Charlotte FC.

The club won’t debut until 2022, but there’s already plenty of buzz around one of MLS’ newest clubs. 

Charlotte FC

In the heart of the south, Fuchs, who’s lived part-time in New York City for the better part of half a decade as he bounced back and forth between the U.S. and England, is acclimating himself to a new life and a new journey he’s excited to tackle.

“It’s no secret that I was trying to go to Major League Soccer for quite some time now,” Fuchs told ONE37pm. “Obviously my family’s based in New York so it was only a matter of time until I came back here on a more permanent basis.

“I had no desire to stop playing football, so this to me was a huge opportunity to not only continue my career but also get closer to my family, which is extremely important to me.

“Nine years of traveling back and forth across continents was a lot for not only myself, but my wife and kids as well,” Fuchs said. “I just felt it was time for us to be closer and give back to them for all the sacrifices they’ve made over the years.”

Fuchs isn’t the first well-recognized player to complete a move to MLS, following in the footsteps of big names before him like David Villa, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Robbie Keane.

He is, however, been one of the more outspoken when it comes to his desire to come to the United States and compete in a league that continues to pick up steam as MLS grows in its 26th season of play.

When Fuchs arrived at Leicester in 2015 from Bundesliga side Schalke 04 former Foxes scout Steve Walsh was credited with bringing the Austrian and various players to the King Power Stadium which led the club on their historic campaign.

During his time at Leicester, Walsh was crucial in helping bring Kante, Mahrez and Vardy, along with others ahead of the 2015/16 season.

Walsh, who now serves as a special advisor to Charlotte, has held a close relationship with Fuchs for a number of years.

Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

The recommendation from Walsh certainly paid off for all parties, with Fuchs going on to have a stellar six-year career in England that included various trophies, widespread recognition for his off-field service and international call ups.

“Steve [Walsh] was one of the big figures that backed me for Leicester back in 2015, so when he and I started talking about this new project in Charlotte it seemed like a no brainer to me,” Fuchs said.

“I didn’t really need any more details. After what he did for me to come to Leicester was unbelievable and unexpected as well.

“Then I actually had the chance to get to know the people in charge in Charlotte myself and traveled there over the weekend and it only reaffirmed my position. There’s been great investments by the owner and I want to be a big part of what they’re doing.”

With Charlotte’s ambitions clearly setting the club up for early success starting with owner Dvaid Tepper at the top, Fuchs recognizes the opportunity he has to put a stamp on the upstart project.

Upon arriving at Leicester, the Foxes had never seen steady Premier League success the way they have since winning the title in May 2016, with an FA Cup title and an appearance in the UEFA Champions League to their name.

Charlotte, like the various MLS teams that have gone through the expansion route over the years, will look to imprint their own positivity on the league similar to other markets like Atlanta United, the Seattle Sounders and Los Angeles FC.

Christian Fuchs

My time at Leicester instilled this incredible winning mentality, but I’ve always been the type of person that’s hungry for more. I want to come into Charlotte and communicate especially with the young players how good it feels to have success and the hunger that you need in order to be successful.

“I believe I bring a vast amount of experience and that’s one thing I know I’ll certainly bring to our club. Bringing that right mentality from the start is something that’s very important because we want to have that professionalism and success from the very beginning.”

For Fuchs, his move to the U.S. isn’t solely about football though, at least not proper football. 

For years, the left-sided defender has envisioned himself plying his trade in the NFL once his lengthy career on the pitch came to an end. 

Fuchs isn’t the first footballer to discuss the prospect of becoming a kicker in America’s biggest sports league, with Tottenham’s Harry Kane and U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Carli Lloyd just two stars to make their intentions known.

The Austria international will soon share a field with the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium, and Fuchs hopes he could throw a helmet on someday while out on that very same ground.

“I mean we’re sharing the stadium with the Panthers so it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Fuchs said with a smile. “It’s something I would like to pursue. I will definitely give it a try.

“I’ve done some work with NFL coaches and I wasn’t that bad they told me. One out of three from 60 yards isn’t that bad without having proper training. Why not? That’s how I pursue my life by giving it a try and even if it’s a no at least I can say I made an effort.”

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Sports Strength

Five Best Bets to Win Euro 2020

With Euro 2020 kicking off Friday afternoon, it’s time to start taking a look at the most serious contenders in the tournament.

Defending World Cup champions France and Euro 2016 winners Portugal each feature among the elite nations in this year’s competition, while England, Belgium and Italy are also in the mix, according to oddsmakers.

Without further ado, here’s a deeper dive into five teams that could be worth betting on for this summer’s European Championships.

(NOTE: All odds are via DraftKings Sportsbook at the time of publishing the article)

France +475

This one is pretty self explanatory given the world champions are once again the odds on favorites to win the Euros after winning the 2018 World Cup in Russia. It’s easy to argue this Les Bleus squad has even more depth than three years ago, particularly with the infusion of striker Karim Benzema.

Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann will feature in the French attack, which is undoubtedly one of the best front three trios in the competition. Meanwhile, N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba’s presence in the midfield offers an incredible stability for Didier Deschamps’ group.

England +600

The Three Lions have all the skill and talent to make you believe they’re legitimate title contenders, but Gareth Southgate’s squad will have to shake off their defeat to Croatia three years ago at the 2018 World Cup.

A deep lineup in the front gives England a massive advantage against most sides, and Harry Kane is easily one of the favorites to win the Golden Boot. England’s biggest test will be how they handle strong attacking nations and if Harry Maguire and John Stones can hold up at the heart of the team’s defense.

Portugal +800

It’s easy to argue this Portugal team is even deeper than the one that took home Euro 2016, especially with the emergence of two key players for Cristiano Ronaldo’s side. 

Bruno Fernandes and Ruben Dias have made names for themselves in the Premier League at their respective Manchester clubs, and now it’s their turn to carry that form over to the international stage. Portugal will be pitted in the Group of Death — Group F — but everyone expects this team to make a run at another major title.

Italy +800

This may be the most exciting Italy team we’ve seen in over a decade when considering their current form and the squad at the disposal of Roberto Mancini.

The Azzurri are riding a 27-game unbeaten run heading into Friday’s opener against Turkey and Italy has a very complete team from front to back. It starts with newly-named PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma in net, while Ciro Immobile, Jorginho and Nicolo Barella are all expected to play huge roles as well.

Turkey +5000

If there’s a real sleeper to look at in this tournament it’s definitely Turkey. This team features one of the top goalscorers from Ligue 1 this past season in captain Burak Yilmaz, who helped guide Lille to a domestic title.

Meanwhile, the Turkish backline may end up being one of the strongest in this field with Caglar Soyuncu and Merih Demiral manning the central positions. Group A won’t be an easy task with Italy, Switzerland and Wales to contend with, but if Turkey can outlast those three watch out for them in the knockout rounds.

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Sports Strength

2021 Copa America Breakdown: Neymar, Brazil Lead Group B

South America’s best side features in Group B at the 2021 Copa America, with Brazil being the country every team is chasing in their pursuit to win the title.

The Selecao feature Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Richarlison and a host of other incredible talents that will take the pitch on their home soil in Brazil after the tournament was moved from Colombia and Argentina.

While the Brazilian team is the clear favorite to not only win Group B but also the entire competition, this group features a number of successful teams that have the chance to knock off the star-studded squad. 

Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela round out the five-team group, which kicks off play on June 13.

Yesterday, we examined Group A, which features Lionel Messi and Argentina.

Here’s a closer look at the five nations that will battle it out in Group B at this summer’s Copa America.

Brazil
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Key Players: Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Richarlison (Everton), Ederson (Manchester City)

Manager: Tite 

Copa America history: 9-time champions; Won 2019 Copa America

The Brazilians host Copa America after winning the competition two years prior and boasting arguably the strongest squad in the tournament.

Tite’s side currently sits atop South America in the World Cup qualifying table as one of two teams unbeaten through six games. Brazil, led by Neymar, is looking to set the tone over the next year-and-a-half as they seek a major trophy once again ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

With a number of incredible talents playing across Europe’s top five leagues, it’s hard to envision the Selecao not winning Group B and making a play at winning back-to-back Copa America titles.

Colombia
RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP via Getty Images

Key Players: James Rodriguez (Real Madrid), Luis Muriel (Atalanta), Yerry Mina (Everton)

Manager: Reinaldo Rueda

Copa America history: Won 2001 Copa America; Reached quarterfinals in 2019

Colombia heads into this edition of Copa America with plenty of questions. 

James Rodriguez’s availability is a major concern as their top playmaker recovers from an injury, while Radamel Falcao is out of the national team mix.

Although the Cafeteros have experience throughout the squad, goals have been hard to come by throughout recent matches. They’ll rely heavily on Atalanta duo Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata to contribute in that department and lead Colombia on a deep run.

Ecuador
Franklin Jacome/Getty Images

Key Players: Enner Valencia (Fenerbahce), Moises Caicedo (Brighton), Fidel Martinez (Tijuana)

Manager: Gustavo Alfaro

Copa America history: Finished fourth in 1993; Exited in 2019 group stage 

Ecuador started their World Cup qualifying campaign on an incredibly hot streak, but have since cooled off steadily and now there’s concerns about this team heading into Copa America.

Recent losses to Brazil and Peru, both of whom are in Group B, will need to serve as wake-up calls for Ecuador — who have reached the knockout stage just once in their last eight appearances at Copa America.

Peru
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Key Players: Pedro Gallese (Orlando City), Raul Ruidiaz (Seattle Sounders), Paolo Guerreiro (Internacional)

Manager: Ricardo Gareca

Copa America history: 2-time champions; Reached 2019 final

For those that follow Major League Soccer there’s a lot of familiarity with this Peru squad, which features U.S.-based players throughout the squad. 

Raul Ruidiaz is one of the top attackers in MLS, while Alexander Callens of New York City FC and Pedro Gallese of Orlando City will aim to anchor things for the Peruvians at the back end.

After reaching the 2019 Copa America final, there’s a lot ot reason to believe Peru can accomplish something similar two years later. The second spot in Group B is wide open and once the group stage is over all bets are off in terms of which team they could meet in the following round.

Venezuela
Nelson Almeida-Pool/Getty Images

Key Players: Josef Martinez (Atlanta United), Junior Moreno (D.C.United), Cristian Casseres Jr. (New York Red Bulls)

Manager: José Peseiro

Copa America history: 15-time champions; Reached quarterfinals in 2019

Similar to Peru, Venezuela features a host of MLS players and will look to lean on talisman Josef Martinez up front.

The Atlanta United man has been one of MLS’ top strikers since joining the club in 2017 and will need his teammates to provide service in order for Venezuela to have any shot at advancing out of their group.

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How Greece Pulled Off A Great Upset At Euro 2004

It’s not exactly every year that we have an extraordinary upset in football, but when these rare occurrences happen it’s something spectacular and fully deserves your attention.

With Euro 2020 right around the corner, it’s only fitting to discuss what happened 17 years ago at the 2004 edition of the tournament which was played in Portugal.

Greece was ranked 35th in the world heading into Euro 2004. They were nearly a longshot, boasting the second-worst odds in the competition behind only Latvia, and especially so when considering big teams like France, Italy, Germany and Portugal were always the biggest challengers for a European Championship.

The Greeks were made up of mostly a domestic squad, outside of well-recognized players such as Thodoris Zagorakis and Giorgos Karagounis, making them a nation that many looked past heading into the tournament.

Group A was where Greece was drawn, being pitted against hosts Portugal, Spain and Russia. The road was always going to be difficult for Greece, and they were immediately thrown into the fire in Game 1 against Portugal, which featured a young Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Ricardo Carvalho.

To many onlookers’ surprise, Greece won the match 2-1 and set the tone for the rest of their tournament. Ronaldo scored a late goal in stoppage time, but it wasn’t enough to give the hosts a win in their opening match.

While Greece’s path to the knockout round wasn’t easy by any stretch, they advanced by finishing second in Group A based on superior goals scored in comparison to Spain. La Furia Roja also finished on four points, but only scored two goals in three matches and they were sent packing.

The Greeks then faced a mighty encounter in the quarterfinals when they met the defending champions France. It was an all-time squad of sorts that needed no introduction.

Les Bleus boasted a lineup full of world-class stars all over the pitch, most notably Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry. Despite the starpower and previous success in the group stage, France was held scoreless and fell 1-0 to the underdogs.

The Czech Republic stood in the way of Greece and a rematch with Portugal in the final, and unfortunately for the Czechs they weren’t much of a match for the Greeks, who held them scoreless once again.

What made Greece’s run all the more impressive was the concept that they had to meet Portugal twice in the competition and particularly on their home turf. Upon meeting in the final for the second time in Euro 2004, the Greeks held their opponents scoreless and won their third consecutive game by a score of 1-0 to capture their first and only European Championship trophy in the country’s history.