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Is CONMEBOL Joining UEFA Nations League?

The opposition to FIFA’s biennial World Cup plans have been loud and clear, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger and some of the organization’s masterminds from pushing forward with it.

Today though, there’s news of other plans, ones that could throw a major wrench into the international football schedule.

ESPN’s Dale Johnson is reporting that the UEFA Nations League could see major reforms starting in 2024, including major additions with the arrival of all 10 CONMEBOL nations.

South American countries, as well as other confederations, have been previously left out of the competition as UEFA continues to expand its massive reach over football.

CONMEBOL hosted Copa America this summer as Lionel Messi and Argentina won the trophy, but an alliance with UEFA would be a huge win for the South American countries.

Below, ONE37pm will dive a little further into the reported plans and detail what it means for FIFA – who’s current ideas differ drastically from what’s being proposed.

What is UEFA’s latest plan?

UEFA recently held its draw for the 2022/23 Nations League, but this new reform wouldn’t take place until 2024 with the arrival of CONMEBOL countries.

“This is the last UEFA Nations League in this format,” UEFA vice president Zbigniew Boniek said. “We had a meeting with CONMEBOL, an organization of South American countries. From 2024, teams from this continent will join the competition.

“As many as 22 teams will play in League A, in which 16 teams are currently competing. Six of them will be from the CONMEBOL zone. The remaining four teams will be added to League B.”

The 10 South American countries would be broken with Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Peru and Chile currently the top six nations and then the bottom four countries as Paraguay, Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia.

For context, this is how the upcoming Nations League setup looks for 2022/23.

UEFA

With Leagues A and B currently featuring 16 teams in each pathway, the addition of CONMEBOL nations would bring League A up to 22 teams and League B to 20.

All the matches for the updated competition are anticipated to be played in Europe.

How does this affect FIFA’s biennial World Cup plan?

FIFA surely won’t be thrilled will this development given their strong push towards a biennial World Cup — held every two years instead of the tradition four-year pattern.

With UEFA and CONMEBOL signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) until June 2028, the two biggest confederations in football have made their opinions clear as to what they think of FIFA’s proposal.

While some of the proposed reforms are needed, such as a clean up of the international calendar and reduced travel for players throughout the year, it’s been a common theme that most outside of FIFA circles don’t want to see an increased frequency for the World Cup.

Today’s development also comes on the heels of UEFA and CONMEBOL announcing the Finalissima, a mini final that will start this summer with Argentina and Italy meeting as the winners of Copa America and Euro 2020, respectively.

What’s the outlook for football?

While the combined presence of UEFA and CONMEBOL strengthens the two confederations that have historically dominated football, it’s not necessarily the best thing for outsiders like CONCACAF, AFC and CAF, which represent North/Central America, Asia and Africa, respectively.

The UEFA Nations League has already made it more difficult for teams outside of Europe to schedule friendlies and prepare properly for the world’s biggest tournaments, such as the World Cup, but now the addition of elite South American nations widens the gap at the top.

The U.S. Men’s National Team under Jurgen Klinsmann, for example, was regularly scheduling friendlies against Netherlands, Italy, Germany and other top teams from around the globe.

Over the past three years, the only top 25-ranked side the USMNT has faced outside of CONCACAF rivals Mexico are Switzerland and Chile.

The outrage across Europe when it came to the European Super League was felt globally, but when it comes to the subject of international football nobody blinks an eye for the teams that don’t reside within Europe despite the fact that some of the world’s best talents didn’t come from the UEFA region.

There’s surely a lot more that needs to play out in this story, but for now, the ball is in FIFA’s court as they plan their next move.

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Cristiano Ronaldo Masks Manchester United’s Major Flaws

When Cristiano Ronaldo moved back to Manchester United late in the summer transfer window it came as a surprise to many given the direction of the Premier League side.

Ronaldo is clearly still one of the top players on the planet, despite being 36 years old, but United is littered with youth in their attack with starlets like Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Jadon Sancho.

Three months into the season though, Ronaldo is carrying this Red Devils side and single handedly ensuring Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s job as manager. 

Tuesday was yet another perfect display of the Portuguese attacker’s greatness. There may be long portions of the match where Ronaldo is darting around the pitch the way he did in his 20s, but ultimately everyone knows he’s out there and lurking.

United trailed not just once, but twice against Atalanta. The common theme on both occasions? Ronaldo was able to rescue United from an uncomfortable position.

The discussions around the Old Trafford side have been dominated by the team’s manager, and supporters are largely desperate for a change in that department, however, those talks only gloss over the major issues that linger in the squad.

Harry Maguire has underwhelmed greatly since returning from injury last month and is now a huge liability at the heart of the United defense. 

The club also struggles mightily in the midfield as Solskjær regularly struggles to find consistency with players like Fred, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba when it comes to providing cover for the back line.

These issues aren’t hidden very well, and in fact, they’re on display almost every match at one point or another.

United’s greatest blessing, and perhaps curse though, remains Ronaldo. When the team was thrashed in a 5-0 beatdown at the hands of Liverpool recently, it appeared there was no coming back for Solskjær.

That wasn’t the case. The Norwegian was quickly able to turn the tide with a convincing 3-0 win over Tottenham, followed by Ronaldo’s heroics against Atalanta a day ago.

With the Manchester Derby looming on a date with Pep Guardiola and City, Solskjær and his boys could be right back under the microscope if the team underperforms. 

That’s the life of being a top club in the European landscape. It’s a challenge. Never forgiving and always begging the question; what have you done for me lately?

Although that question may be a bleak one for United to address at this time, Ronaldo is certainly doing his part and that means the attention is on the Portuguese superstar.

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s Return Doesn’t Fit Manchester United’s Vision

After a tumultuous few days in the lead up to Cristiano Ronaldo rejoining the Old Trafford side speculation around Europe was that Ronaldo would actually join United’s direct rivals Manchester City. That wasn’t the final outcome though and the Red Devils ultimately were able to bring back their man for two more seasons.

Is Ronaldo the right fit for United at this given time though?

Since the Portuguese international’s departure over a decade ago there have been some issues with consistency in Manchester, especially following Sir Alex Ferguson’s leave in 2013. 

Since that time, United has finished outside the top four in the Premier League on four occasions and haven’t hoisted the top-flight trophy during that span.

However, after a second-place finish last season and a trip to the Europa League final, United finally appears to be in a position where the club isn’t just seeking to be competitive. The club has plenty of reason for excitement not just domestically but for Europe as well after receiving a favorable Champions League draw.

Bringing back a player of Ronaldo’s caliber obviously adds a layer of creativity and experience to a squad that is largely young and developing its big-match experience. The same could be said about the team’s addition of Raphael Varane from Real Madrid this summer. 

However, the rest of United’s squad, with the exceptions of goalkeeper David De Gea and striker Edinson Cavani, are young. In fact, the Red Devils boast a team that currently has 15 players aged 25 or younger, making it one of the youngest in the Premier League.

Where does Ronaldo fit into that? The Portuguese international is the second-oldest at the club, only trailing goalkeeper Lee Grant.

To many, age is just a number and in Ronaldo’s case that may be true in a lot of ways. He finished last season as Juventus’ leading scorer and won the Serie A Golden Boot award for his troubles.

That being said though, there’s a new age at United with a wide variety of attacking talent led by the marquee summer signing of Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund. Sancho, like many of United’s top attacking weapons, are all largely in that 25 and under group, with the exception being Bruno Fernandes (26) and Paul Pogba (27).

Ronaldo is a focal point no matter which team he has played on throughout his career. During his first stint at United, a young Ronaldo dazzled English football with his flair and tremendous golazos. 

The same was true during his time in La Liga.

When Ronaldo completed his move to Real Madrid in 2009 the Portuguese superstar was undoubtedly on pace to fulfill his legacy as one of the greatest players to ever grace the pitch, but what the forward was able to accomplish during that time was almost unrivaled.

Four Ballon d’Or wins. Four UEFA Champions League titles. Three Club World Cup victories. Two La Liga trophies.

The accolades that Ronaldo was able to rack up during his time in Spain were simply incredible, but it became evident towards the end of his time at the Santiago Bernabeu that the all-time great wasn’t enjoying himself as much with Madrid.

Ronaldo had won nearly everything possible during his time at Real and that’s what pushed him towards leaving. Just three seasons later after joining Juventus, the 36-year-old has forced yet another move after his growing displeasure in Italy.

Despite winning two Serie A trophies his first two seasons at Juventus, there wasn’t much to show for Ronaldo’s time in Turin. The goals came flooding in as was expected upon signing, but Juve were knocked out of Champions League well before many anticipated and now that’s led Ronaldo towards a second act at Manchester United.

Ronaldo’s reunion at United doesn’t present the same opportunity that his first go around did in the 2000s though.

At the time, Ronaldo was a young player breaking into one of the best leagues in the world and establishing himself as one of the world’s best.

Now, that could be said about players like Greenwood, Rashford and Sancho, all of whom have massive expectations for their respective futures at the club and with the England national team.

Ronaldo’s role will need to be significantly different in 2021 and beyond than his previous stint at United or else these players could certainly see a dip in their trajectory.

With the amount of serious attacking talent United possesses it’s not possible for Ole Gunnar Solskjær to play every one of his players in critical matches.

Ronaldo’s big-game value is certainly worth the risk of bringing to United, but in order for him to be best utilized the Red Devils must first reach the pinnacle of the league and Europe, something the club hasn’t been able to achieve in quite some time.

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Top 20 International Goalscorers in Football History

Suiting up at the international level is the ultimate goal for players aiming to solidify their legacies for their respective countries, and with Cristiano Ronaldo on the precipice of becoming the all-time leader in goals it’s fitting that we take a look at some of the other greats.

While Lionel Messi has a ways to go to work himself into the mix for the top five in this category, Messi’s international career was recently validated with Argentina’s first Copa America title during their captain’s tenure with the Albiceleste.

The beauty of football though is the great unknowns, particularly those that come from nations that fans wouldn’t normally follow.

The current all-time leader in goals is Ali Daei, whose career with Iran was revered by many because of the country’s limited success on the international stage.

Meanwhile, players like Hungary’s Sándor Kocsis boasted an incredible career of his own, and in fact, is the only player in the top 20 all-time that averaged over a goal per game during his career with the European nation.

Below, we take a closer look at the 20 best international goal scorers in the history of football.

20. Robert Lewandowski
Poland
Getty Images

69 goals

122 appearances

19. Stern John – Trinidad & Tobago

70 goals

115 appearances

18. Piyapong Pue-on – Thailand

70 goals

100 appearances

17. Miroslav Klose – Germany

71 goals

137 appearances

16. Kiatisuk Senamuang – Thailand

71 goals

134 appearances

15. Kinnah Phiri
Malawi
ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images

71 goals

117 appearances

14. Majed Abdullah – Saudi Arabia

72 goals

117 appearances

13. Sunil Chhetri – India

74 goals

118 appearances

12. Bashar Abdullah – Kuwait

75 goals

134 appearances

11. Kunishige Kamamoto – Japan

75 goals

76 appearances

10. Sándor Kocsis
Hungary
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

75 goals

68 appearances

9. Lionel Messi – Argentina

76 goals

151 appearances

8. Ali Mabkhout – United Arab Emirates

76 goals

92 appearances

7. Pele – Brazil

77 goals

92 appearances

6. Hussein Saeed – Iraq

78 goals

137 appearances

5. Godfrey Chitalu – Zambia

79 goals

111 appearances

4. Ferenc Puskás
Hungary
Barratts/PA Images via Getty Image

84 goals

85 appearances

3. Mokhtar Dahari – Malaysia

89 goals

142 appearances

2. Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal

109 goals

179 appearances

1. Ali Daei – Iran

109 goals

149 appearances

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s Latest Record Might Be His Most Impressive

It might be preemptive but Cristiano Ronaldo is on the precipice of breaking yet another massive goal scoring record; this time on the international stage.

For those that may not have tuned in to Portugal’s match against France — arguably one of the biggest games thus far at Euro 2020 — Ronaldo scored twice to equal former Iran striker Ali Daei’s record of 109 international goals.

This isn’t a surprise to many given Ronaldo’s goal scoring pedigree, and in many ways we’ve expected this day to come for years now considering the Portuguese’s ability to score at will in the games that matter most.

At this year’s Euros, Ronaldo has five goals in three matches thus far, and with Portugal progressing to the Round of 16 and potentially further there’s more opportunities ahead for him to move into sole possession of first all-time.

The Lionel Messi versus Ronaldo debate would be a long and drawn out one, so we’re not touching that today. Instead, let’s take a look at why Ronaldo’s latest feat is so impressive.

When looking at the current list of the top 10 all-time goal scorers, there will be a few names that casual football fans recognize, but many of the names are obscure and date back to a different era and continent.

Daei and many others inside the top 10 played in AFC — Asian Football Confederation — where the level of play simply is a different animal than that of South America or Europe. That’s not to diminish any player’s accomplishments but instead to help further the narrative of how impressive Ronaldo has been.

He’s played against the best in Europe for over a decade-and-a-half, including regular encounters with the likes of France, Italy, Netherlands and Germany.

His entire career has been played against the best teams in the world, and in fact, Ronaldo’s first-ever international goal came against Greece at Euro 2004 on Portugal’s home soil. Although the Portuguese didn’t win the match, it was clear early on that Ronaldo had the makings of an all-star talent.

To this point, Ronaldo has scored in five consecutive European Championships and four straight World Cups, something that no other player in the history of the sport has managed to accomplish.

Outside of his first year competing internationally (2003) Ronaldo has scored a goal in 18 straight years competing with Portugal, showing the longevity of his career and the fact that he’s always strived to be in the best shape possible to avoid missing time through injuries.

It’s not to say that nobody will ever break Ronaldo’s record once he secures 110 goals, but given the state of the game and ongoing competitiveness that lies with the best players in Europe and South America, it’s hard to imagine it happening any time soon.

Lionel Messi’s 73 international goals has him ranked 13th all-time, while Robert Lewandowski is sitting on 69 goals in his career with Poland. Neymar and Romelu Lukaku aren’t far behind either, with 68 and 63 goals, respectively, but those totals still feel miles away from what Ronaldo has achieved.

For now, Ronaldo is on the brink of not only breaking but probably shattering another record, and for that he deserves the praise that comes with being one of the greatest footballers the game has ever witnessed.

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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.