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REPORT: AFC Fylde 0-0 Harrogate Town

AFC Fylde’s unbeaten run stretched to six games, as the Coasters were held at home by Harrogate Town in front of the BT Sport cameras.

Clear-cut chances were few and far between in the first half at Mill Farm, but the hosts did look more likely to break the deadlock in the early stages.

Dave Challinor’s men first looked like threatening the goal of newly-promoted Harrogate when Joe Cardle floated in a cross with seven minutes played, but it was just over the head of James Hardy and the away side cleared their lines.

Just before the quarter-hour mark, Cardle tested the Harrogate defence with a second testing cross, this time via a corner, but it was claimed by opposition goalkeeper James Belshaw.

Fylde’s first real opening of the first 45 came in the 19th minute. A second Cardle corner was swung in, and it was headed away, but only as far as Ryan Croasdale.

Unfortunately, Croasdale was off balance as he executed his half-volley just inside the box and it went over the bar and out for a Harrogate goal-kick.

Harrogate had their first shot on goal just two minutes later. Josh Falkingham intercepted a Croasdale pass in midfield before playing in George Thomson, who stung the palms of Jay Lynch with a long-range shot that was straight at the Coasters keeper.

An eventful period of the half continued when in-form Fylde forward Danny Rowe flicked the ball away from a Harrogate defender and looked odds-on to score, but he was held back, however no free-kick was awarded by the referee.

Fylde would next get a sight at goal in the 34th minute. Hardy worked some space for himself on the left-hand side of the box, and cut the ball back for captain Andrew Bond, but like Croasdale earlier, his effort would only succeed in clearing the bar.

A flurry of chances followed, with Harrogate being the team next to attempt to break the deadlock.

Joe Leesley rampaged down the left for the team in yellow and black, and his cross picked out George Thomson on the right-hand side of the area.

Thomson brought it down, and had a shot blocked by Zaine Francis-Angol, and then he fired the rebound over and out for a goal-kick.

Cardle then tried his luck with a left-footed curler from the edge of the box, only to see his shot blocked out for another Coasters corner.

Said corner almost brought out the opening goal though – Cardle again delivered brilliantly, Danny Kane controlled it brilliantly and his attempt from point-blank range was well kept out by Belshaw as Harrogate clung onto the 0-0 scoreline.

Fylde continued to press as the half drew to a close. Both Cardle and Rowe had shots blocked within a matter of the seconds, with the first one going behind for a corner.

Harrogate broke from the set-piece though and it looked like Simon Weaver’s side would get the lead against the run of play, but Lynch showed why he is Fylde’s number one with a superb stop.

Forward Dom Knowles was one-on-one with Lynch and it seemed for all the world that it was set to be 1-0 to Harrogate, however Lynch spread himself and superbly denied the Knowles effort and Fylde cleared their lines.

As the board for two minutes of added-on time was shown, Rowe had a go from long range and the opposition goalkeeper was equal to it, with the forward unable to add to his tally for the season which already stands at five.

Fylde started the second half as they ended the first, with a great chance.

Luke Burke teed up Hardy with a low ball into the box, which Hardy hit first time, and if it was not for a world-class save by Belshaw, the hosts would have taken the lead as it was driven towards the roof of the net.

Harrogate captain Kelvin Langmead rattled the crossbar with a header 25 minutes from time, as the majority of the second half became a niggly midfield battle, although Fylde still had time to produce one more top-notch save by Belshaw.

With 15 minutes of the contest remaining, a low right wing free-kick by Hardy picked out Rowe in the middle. His snap-shot effort looked set to nestle into the back of the net, and it would have done had Belshaw not got his fingertips on the effort to keep the game locked at 0-0.

Despite being unable to find the killer goal, the Coasters remain unbeaten from their last six matches and sit third in the National League table.

AFC Fylde: Lynch, Francis-Angol, Byrne, Bond, Hardy (Hemmings 90), Croasdale, Rowe, Cardle (Tasdemir 45), Burke, Kane, Kellermann (Toure 71)

Subs not used: Tunnicliffe, Birch

Harrogate Town: Belshaw, Burrell, Kitching, Falkingham (Agnew 73), Howe, Langmead, Thomson (Beck 67), Kerry, Knowles (Williams 89), Muldoon, Leesley

Subs not used: Parker, Cracknell

Attendance: 1,709 (148)

Five Young Talents You Should Be Looking Out For At Euro 2016

Summer tournaments are generally considered to be the biggest shop window for players looking for their next destination, and no-one can exploit this more than the potential stars of the future. Here are the top five that could light up Euro 2016.

Hjortur Hermannsson (Centre Back: Iceland and PSV)

Whatever happens in the next month Iceland will make history and cherish every minute at a major tournament. This is the first time the country, which has an estimated population of just over 330,000, has had June and July booked with competitive international football and anyone could be a hero.

Being an underdog for every game they play in France will give their defenders more opportunity to impress than most and 21-year-old Hjortur Hermansson may just fit that bill.

Hermannsson has also shown somewhat of a talent for finding the back of the net in his showings for the Icelandic development teams so could also be a threat from set-pieces which could be vital in Iceland’s attempts to upset the apple cart in Group F.

(Hermannsson can be seen here scoring Iceland’s Under-21 side second goal in a 3-2 win over France)

Ante Coric (Centre Attacking Midfielder: Croatia and Dinamo Zagreb)

Croatia are not exactly short of midfield talent. Options such as Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric of Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively will be the envy of most sides at the Euros and Ante Coric is the latest play maker off the seemingly never-ending Croatian conveyor belt.

Coric has been around the national side since Under-15 level, and earned himself a spot in Croatia’s final 23-man squad based on his domestic and development performances alone.

The 19-year-old was handed his first senior cap in the 1-0 warm-up match against Moldova and he was in action again during the 10-0 victory over minnows San Marino.

For his club, Dinamo Zagreb, the diminutive centre attacking midfielder has 10 goals in his 67 matches for the Croatian champions.

Leroy Sane (Winger: Germany and Schalke)

Germany’s failure at Euro 2000, where they went out at the group stages without winning a match, led to a complete overhaul of how the country looked at football both domestically and internationally and it is now rare to see a tournament squad without some real gems of young talent.

The class of World Cup 2010 are now matured, experienced and, in some cases, world champions and it is now down a new batch of stars with Leroy Sane perhaps being the biggest hope.

Sane has already played over 50 times for Schalke just two years after making his debut for the Gelsenkirchen club and is a big transfer target for mega-rich Manchester City as they look to rebuild under the incoming Pep Guardiola.

It will not be easy for Sane to get into the starting 11 ahead of the likes of Andre Schurrle, Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil but if he is given the opportunity that youngsters before have then Germany may join the likes of France and Spain in winning the World Cup and then the Euros back-to-back.

Arkadiusz Milik (Striker: Poland and AFC Ajax) 

Poland possess one of Europe’s leading strikers going into the tournament in Robert Lewandowski and keeping him quiet will be difficult enough, but that might just open the door for an under-the-radar Arkadiusz Milik.

Milik, 22, is the latest in a long line of forwards to flourish in the open and expansive Eredivisie which regularly compliments strikers and the prolific Pole is currently up there with the best of the lot.

Ajax’s main man bagged 21 goals for the Dutch runners up last season and has been just as fruitful in-front of goal for his country with 10 strikes to his name in 24 matches.

In 2015 he was let go by Bayer Leverkusen for just 2.8 million Euros after failing to make a major impact in Germany, if he can do better in France then Leverkusen may rue dismissing him for such a paltry fee.

Breel Embolo (Striker: Switzerland and FC Basel)

He may be from Cameroon by birth, but Breel Embolo will be strutting his stuff for Switzerland in France thanks to being part of the set-up at the country’s top club, FC Basel, for the last six years.

Embolo made his professional debut at the tender age of 17 in March of 2014 and was already a first-team regular by the following season as he netted 10 goals in the 27 league games in which he featured for RotBlau. It made him the 10th top goalscorer in the Swiss Super League before he could legally buy a beer.

He was awarded his first Switzerland call-up just a year after being introduced to the nation, and to date has one international goal from seven caps

RB’s Leipzig looked to have secured Embolo’s signature for next season until about a week ago but now Manchester United look like a more likely destination for the 19-year-old. An impressive Euros though could provide further competition for his services.

1,000 Word Match Report: England 2-0 France

Tonight we had a match that everyone watched, yet no-one really cared about how it finished, and that is not just because it was a warm-up encounter. The game at Wembley Stadium on November 17 2015, four days after a harrowing Friday the 13th in which 129 innocent people lost their lives in Paris, was a friendly by name and by nature and a non-competitive kick-a-bout that will go down in history.

The sporting world, and most probably a large section of people who never watch 22-men kick a ball around regularly, tuned in to see normally bitter rivals England and France join together and sing ‘La Marseillaise’, the national anthem of France, in unison to show that terror, no matter how hard it tries, will never win – and that sport will not be another unfortunate casualty.

While the French carried on their immense bravery from Friday to agree to play the game in the first place is an act that is incredibly commendable to say the least, it was also a sign of typical British spirit to say ‘no’ in the face of adversity while Germany’s match with their old enemy the Netherlands and world number one ranked Belgium’s contest with Spain were sadly affected by fear and terror threats.

Pre-match tributes were made by all involved – the players walked out behind a French flag bearing the country’s motto of “commitment, freedom, equality and brotherhood”, more flags were decorated with “we stand together” written in English and wreaths were carried and laid out by Prince William as well as the two managers – Roy Hodgson and World Cup winner Didier Deschamps before the anthems and the minute silence which was observed impeccably.

Ex-AC Milan, Chelsea and Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti once said that “Football is the most important of the non-important things in life” – and that is never more true than on nights such as this one, where, if only for a moment, people, whether in the stadium or not, were allowed to switch off their minds from fear, or worry, or anxiety, or grief, to lose themselves in ‘the beautiful game’ – even if the action did not end with points or prizes for either side whether they were wearing white or blue.

The result although just a formality, ended 2-0 to England with Dele Alli netting a stunner under the arch that displayed the Tri Color of the French flag while a security helicopter flew up above and was therefore, chillingly, the only thing that could be heard in the vicinity during the minute silence before kick-off. Out-of-form captain Wayne Rooney added a second for the Three Lions after half-time.

Alli broke the deadlock with his first England goal on only his fourth cap for Hodgson’s side with a long-range effort six minutes before the break that raised spirits for the home side, as the latest man on the ‘new England hope’ conveyor belt continues his moment in the spotlight. 

He has been in remarkable form for his club in recent weeks, both in the Premier League and the Europa League, and now the 19-year-old is performing on the world stage too as he attempts to get a place on the flight for Euro 2016 next summer, which coincidentally, and now controversially, will be held in France – with the final to be played in Paris at the Stade de France, the stadium just minutes away from the recent atrocities. Bombs could be heard during the friendly that was played on that dreaded day – as Deschamps’ men met, and beat world champions Germany.

Midfielder Alli was also instrumental in doubling England’s advantage three minutes into the second half too when he won the ball off Paul Pogba to lay off Raheem Sterling who crossed to the far post for England record scorer Rooney’s 51st international goal.

Pogba was a Serie A winner and Champions League finalist member last season with Italian giants Juventus while Alli was plying his trade and winning promotion in League One with Milton Keynes Dons, but last night you would not have been able to tell the difference between the man who was chased by the likes of Manchester City and Barcelona over the summer and the one that joined Tottenham Hotspur for £5 million the previous January.

Les Blues did threaten in glimpses, managing three shots on target to Joe Hart and then Jack Butland’s goal, but, understandably, minds did seem elsewhere. 

Two minds that were stronger than anyone else’s though were those of Lassana Diarra and Antoine Griezmann who were both personal victims of the Paris massacre.

Diarra, who once played for English clubs Chelsea, Arsenal, and Portsmouth as well as Real Madrid and is currently at Marseille, tragically lost his cousin Asta Diakite but showed his strength and did his loved one proud by entering the fold after 57 minutes and performed admirably.

Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann has a similar, but more fortunate story. His sister was one of the 1,500 people that attended the Eagles of Death Metal rock concert at the Bataclan theatre and thankfully lived to tell the tale where 87 could not, and again, Griezmann found terrific inner spirit to play his part in his country’s 2-0 loss with a 23-minute role off the bench.

Anthony Martial had their best chance when he combined well with Pogba, but his tame effort was straight at Butland who is arguably the Premier League’s goalkeeper of the season so far, but no player for the away side could put a smile on their travelling supporters’ faces.

France captain Hugo Lloris thanked the English fans for their support as the mutual respect continued after the final whistle and the Spurs keeper conceded the encounter was “not easy” for him and his team mates.

He continued that he thought the match-up was “about solidarity, about character and life is still carrying on, so (they) need to carry on” – and carry on they did, exquisitely. 

Everything about the 2022 Qatar World Cup is a complete and utter disgrace

A FIFA taskforce today recommended that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar should take place in November and December, unlike every other World Cup which is held in the summer. This is not a new possibility, but this morning’s news tells us that FIFA seem to have made their minds up.

The statement released by football’s governing body read “the only remaining effective option is the November/December window.”

Oh no FIFA, oh no it is not. Everything about this tournament is fundamentally wrong, in a football sense, and most importantly, in a human sense.

1) The timing of the tournament:

Summer temperatures in Qatar reach, and exceed, the 40 degree Centigrade mark and can go up to around 155 Fahrenheit, which for anyone who knows the slightest thing about weather will understand that that would be nothing short of torture to play football in, never mind the highest level of football with the added pressure all that brings.

Put it in winter then! No, because that means every single one of Europe’s domestic leagues will be interrupted. (Europe take up 12 of the 32 teams in World Cups, more than any other continent).

2) Qatar Law:

Qatar’s attitudes towards homosexuality are…queer? Steady, don’t want to annoy them, do we?

Being gay in Qatar is an arrestable offence, with both male and female homosexuals being sentenced for up to five years in jail, with this being applicable to non-Qatari residents too.

Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s head honcho, responded to this by suggesting “I’d say they [gay fans] should refrain from any sexual activities.” Nice bloke.

Not quite so much Qatar being held in winter of 2022, but winter of the stone ages.

Not the moment of truth, the moment of lies: Qatar announced as 2022 hosts.

Not the moment of truth, the moment of lies: Qatar announced as 2022 hosts

3) Working conditions:

Amnesty International published a 2013 report into the working conditions of Qatar. Said report suggested that workers were “being treated like cattle” in the run up to the tournament, with thousands enduring abuse when building stadiums etc.

The Guardian newspaper also did some analysis and calculated that around 4000 people would have died due to work related incidents by the time the World Cup is under way. The beautiful game.

FIFA investigated Qatar to improve working conditions. No action has been taken as yet.

4) The bidding process:

All of this makes you wonder why FIFA would give Qatar the World Cup. I’ll tell you why.

In 2011, The Sunday Times reported that committee members Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma were paid $1.5 million in exchange for their votes in favour of Qatar for the 2022 World Cup.

FIFA requested evidence of this, it was provided to them, and Blatter rejected it. Odd.

Jack Warner, then vice president of FIFA, meanwhile leaked an email from FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke that suggested Qatar had “bought” the rights to host the 2022 World Cup.

German FA President Theo Zwanziger ordered FIFA to have another look at the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar, to which Blatter replied Spanish and Qatari bid teams did try to buy votes, but were unsuccessful.

This whole sorry mess has brought FIFA, and the sport, into more disrepute than ever before. 500 words from me can perhaps be best summed up by comedian David Schneider’s image.

DS

World Cup Preview: Uruguay

2010 put Uruguay back on the map, the two time winners (1930 and 1950) had dropped off since their latest win, the last time the World Cup was hosted in Brazil.

The South Americans were fantastic in South Africa four years ago, first getting past a group that included France and hosts South Africa, as well as Mexico before going as far as the Semi Finals where they were dumped out by Holland. Germany defeated the Sky Blues in the 3rd/4th place playoff.

Uruguay didn’t make any friends in South Africa after Luis Suarez’s handball against Ghana with the Liverpool man saying afterwards “The hand of God now belongs to me”.

This summer, Uruguay are tipped for more great things but there is more than a little bit of doubt in thecamp.

La Celeste only made it to Brazil thanks to a play-off win against Jordan after finishing fifth in qualifying behind the likes of Ecuador, Chile and Colombia as well as Argentina.

Star man Suarez is also unfit while Edinson Cavani can be largely wasteful at times, something he cannot afford to be with the limited chances that traditionally fall to strikers on the International stage.

Defence is also a problem with Captain Diego Lugano recently released by West Brom, a club who only survived in the Premier League in the latter stages.

 

World Cup Preview: Chile

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chile are this World Cup’s dark horses for a few. A group of Australia, Holland and Spain is the ultimate way for the South Americans to prove themselves.

Jorge Sampaoli’s men have had a strong influx of talent in recent years with the emergence of Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez (above) and Arturo Vidal of Juventus bringing real star quality to the side.

Gary Medel has also had a good campaign despite Cardiff’s relegation from the Premiership and Jean Beasejour will bring in his FA Cup winning experience to the side.

La Roja have a solid foundation of players and could well dump out one of the major nations in what looks like a weak Holland side. 

What works in Chile’s favour is that they open the group stage against the weakest side Australia which should get them three points before facing Spain which with their morale could lead to a shock result. If not, they have their do-or-die clash against the Netherlands in their last game.

Should Chile make it past the group stages, hosts Brazil will be likely opponents in the last 16 for the second World Cup in a row which could equal elimination again but this summer will provide further experience for a side still looking to establish itself on the world stage.

 

World Cup Preview: Holland

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Times have changed at Holland. This is a very different Dutch side that lost the last World Cup final, can they go one better this time around?

Most signs point to no. Many of the stars of 2010 are either past their best or have left the squad. Only five of the 11 that started the 2010 final in Johannesburg have made the 23 man squad this time around with all members of the back five being new faces.

Robin Van Persie is one man who is still around but he has not had the best season, scoring just 12 whereas he scored over double that last season. 

His new Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal may also be distracted by his impending role in England, something Sven Goran Eriksson admitted in his autobiography he had a problem with in 2006 when he knew he was leaving after the World Cup.

Arjen Robben will fly to Brazil in top form, he scored 11 goals in 28 games for Bayern Munich this season and will be the catalyst of any opportunities the Netherlands create.

The Dutch defense is cause for concern however, the most experienced member being Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar with 24 caps and none of the selected defenders have been to a World Cup.

World Cup Preview: Spain

 

 

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The 2014 World Cup in Brazil has the potential to be the most historic. Spain could become the first team to win four major International tournaments in succession, surely sealing their place as the best ever team to grace the game.

If Spain had a weakness in that they had few recognized strikers (Vicente Del Bosque played Fabregas as a lone striker at Euro 2012) then that problem is now sorted.

Chelsea bound Diego Costa has elected to play for the European and world champions instead of his native Brazil which will anger the home crowds and Fernando Torres provides back up, forcing out Alvaro Negredo of Manchester City.

The perception of La Roja is that this is an aging side with Xavi playing in his last World Cup and in fact only six members of the 23 man squad are under the age of 25.

Spain’s reality however is that a lot of these players will be hitting peak form and the Iberian gene pool does not look like evaporating any time soon.

One problem Spain do have is that teams have shown how the threat of Tiki-Taka can be neutralized they have adapted their play too. Delicate Spain could be a thing of the past, Costa will bully defenders while Javi Martinez provides physicality in midfield.

Del Bosque’s side should qualify from Group B with relative ease, opening up with Holland who are not as strong as four years ago, Chile who are very much a work in progress and Australia who shouldn’t cause any teams many problems.