The biggest footballing extravaganza on the globe – the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off on June 14 as 32 nations will face off to determine who will be crowned the world champion. The 32 teams will be divided into eight groups of four teams each, with hosts Russia placed in Group A and defending champions Germany in Group F.
The tournament features teams from five different continents – 14 from Europe, five from South America, five from Africa, five from Asia (including Australia, who are members of the Asian Football Confederation) and three from North America. And for the first time in the 88-year history of the competition, there will be one club that will have atleast one player in each of the groups.
This honour goes to none other than Spanish champions FC Barcelona, who under normal circumstances, are all set to have a minimum of one player in all the eight groups, thus becoming the first club to do so in the history of the sport, as pointed out by Reddit user u/malalatargaryen.
Here is the break-up of the eight groups and the Blaugrana players in each:
Group A: Luis Suarez (Uruguay)
Group B: Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Piqué, and Jordi Alba (Spain)
Group C: Samuel Umtiti and Ousmane Dembélé (France)
Group D: Lionel Messi (Argentina), Ivan Rakitić (Croatia)
Group E: Phillipe Coutinho and Paulinho (Brazil)
Group F: Marc-André ter Stegen (Germany)
Group G: Thomas Vermaelen (Belgium)
Group H: Yerry Mina (Colombia)
However, it can be said that under normal circumstances, all 14 players should feature at the World Cup and this unique feat is one that is likely to stand the test of time, given the impending expansion of the tournament.
Zinedine Zidane has quit as Real Madrid manager just days after becoming the first coach to win the Champions League in three consecutive seasons.
Zidane, 45, replaced Rafael Benitez in January 2016 and despite his European success has come under pressure for winning only one La Liga title during his two and a half years in charge.
In January this year, Zidane confirmed he signed a contract extension at Real to keep him at the club until 2020 but said "it does not mean anything".
A month later, Zidane said: "Being a coach is extremely tiring - more so at a club like Real Madrid, When I feel there is nothing more to give, I'll walk away".
Gareth Bale, who scored twice in Real's 3-1 win over Liverpool in Saturday' Champions League final, and Cristiano Ronaldo have both cast doubts on their future at the Bernabeu since lifting the trophy.
Frenchman, Arsene Wenger took charge of his final game ar Arsenal yesterday bowing out of the club after 22 years and and 1,235 games.
In his post-match interview after Arsenal’s win at Huddersfield, Wenger said: “I had an impact on the club as a whole because the club is in a strong position, it has a new stadium, a new training ground and new players. With the results, we won three Premier League titles, played 49 games unbeaten and I’m very proud to have won seven FA Cups too.”
He also expressed confidence that the new manager that will replace him will be inheriting a good side that can challenge for the league title next season. I see a bright future for my successor because the team has a good attitude and quality. The team needs some additions and if they get them I think they will compete for the Premier League title".
The 68 year old Frenchman added that “Of course it is very emotional after 1,235 games for the same club. To enjoy it we had to win it (the Huddersfield game), winning football games is what makes me happy and the boys did it. It was a good day for everyone with Huddersfield staying up too. Do I feel relief? Not really, I’m sad. At some stage it has to end, I wish everyone well, the fans have been great until the end and I wish the club well for the future. It will be hard to adjust of course but I will have to deal with that. I want to wish this group of players well and the staff coming in, I will remain an Arsenal fan above everything else.”
Asked whether he will continue to manage and also the standing ovation he got from both sets of Arsenal and Huddersfield fans, Wenger said: “I will stay in football for sure. Whether that is managing or not… I am addicted and I don’t think that can be cured".
OFFICIAL: Aresene Wenger will step down as Arsenal manager at the end of the season tip Viera to replace him at the helm.
Alan Pardew has been sacked as head coach of West Bromwich Albion after just one win in 18 Premier League games since he took charge last November.
The club’s hierarchy held talks following the latest defeat by Burnley on Saturday and parted company with the former Crystal Palace, Newcastle United and West Ham United manager.
Pardew’s contract included a break clause at the end of the season minimising the club’s potential pay-off. The first-team coach Darren Moore has been placed in caretaker charge for the game against Swansea City next Saturday.
English premier league side, Southampton Football has parted company with First Team Manager, Mauricio Pellegrino. Assistant Manager, Carlos Compagnucci and Assistant First Team Coach, Xavier Tamarit have also parted company with the club.
An official statement from the club says, 'we would like to place on record our thanks to Mauricio, Carlos and Xavier for their efforts during their time with Southampton, and wish them well for the future. The club will look to appoint a new management team as soon as possible, with the search for a replacement already underway'.
The playmaker hit the half-century in the eighth minute of the Emirates Stadium encounter, with his looping free-kick headed home by Shkodran Mustafi for Arsenal's 1,000th home goal of the Premier League era. Ozil beat the assists record previously held by Eric Cantona, who made it to 50 in 143 appearances for Leeds and Manchester United during the 1990s. In total, 35 players have reached the milestone. Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp was the third-quickest, achieving the feat in his 146th appearance, with Cesc Fabregas (165 appearances) and David Silva (166) making up the rest of the top five. Manchester United's Ashley Young (192) is the only other current player in the top 10, behind David Beckham (170), Thierry Henry (174) and Nolberto Solano (178) and ahead of former Liverpool man Steve McManaman (197).
Ozil's assist was his eighth of the season in the Premier League and came just a few days after he set up both goals in Arsenal's 2-0 win over AC Milan in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie at the San Siro. "He's a quality footballer," said Jamie Redknapp in the Sky Sports studio. "When the ball is at his feet you never know what's going to happen, but you always know he can find the right pass. "When he gets on it and you give him a little bit of time to play, he can manoeuvre the ball so well."
Kane left the stadium on crutches, wearing a protective boot, and there is concern he could be on the sidelines for a while. The England striker was taken off during Tottenham's 4-1 win over Bournemouth in the 34th minute after appearing to turn the ankle in a challenge by Cherries 'keeper Asmir Begovic, as he netted a goal which was disallowed for offside. Kane was replaced by Erik Lamela after receiving treatment, and he hobbled around the touchline to the changing rooms accompanied by a Spurs physio.
Tottenham travel to Swansea for an FA Cup quarter-final next Saturday, but their next Premier League game is not until April 1 when they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. England have two friendlies coming up, away to the Netherlands on March 23 and at home to Italy on March 27, and Kane must be a major doubt for those two matches.
Dermot Gallagher mounted a defence of the VAR system he says made the "right decisions" in disallowing a goal and awarding a penalty during Tottenham's 6-1 win over Rochdale in their FA Cup fifth-round replay on Wednesday. With the score 1-1 at the break, Spurs turned on the style after half-time scoring five goals without reply, but referee Paul Tierney had found himself at the centre of plenty of controversy before the interval. Fernando Llorente was penalised for an alleged foul on Harrison McGahey and led to Erik Lamela's sixth-minute goal being ruled out by VAR. The video referee then decided Matthew Done's foul on Kieran Trippier, which began outside the penalty area, continued inside the 18-yard box, and overruled Tierney who had originally given a free-kick.
Pep Guardiola's Man City won the Carabao Cup on Sunday evening following a marvelous 3-0 win over Arsenal at Wembley stadium. This is Guardiola's first trophy at the club since joining last season. Congrats to Man city .
The Brazilian derby between Vitoria and Bahia had to be abandoned after nine players were given red cards. An explosive end to the match saw the fixture abandoned with just 11 minutes remaining. Hosts Vitoria saw six of their players sent off as the game erupted into a mass punch-up between the two rival sides. The ugly scenes soon unfolded following Bahia celebrations after Vinicius levelled the scoreline at 1-1 with a penalty kick, cancelling out Denilson's earlier strike. A provocative dance in front of the Vitoria supporters led to fury from the home players and punches were thrown from both sides. Initially, five players were given red cards, three from Bahia and two from Vitoria. Two more players, one from each side, were sent off a couple of minutes later, as tempers frayed and trouble spread to the terraces. With 13 minutes remaining a fourth Vitoria player was sent off, prompting Bruno Bispo to kick the ball away and force the referee into awarding him his second yellow and a match-ending red. With teams requiring a minimum of seven players, the referee was forced to end the game. Brazil's sporting court will now decide what action to take over the indiscipline and the result.
Steve Davies' brilliant injury-time finish secured Rochdale an FA Cup replay at Wembley after a pulsating 2-2 draw with Tottenham at Spotland. Davies took a touch and fired past Michel Vorm at the far post to cap an excellent performance from the League One side which saw them take the lead just before the break before fighting back following Spurs' second-half recovery. Ian Henderson (45) gave the hosts a deserved lead, slotting home after a slick counter-attack having earlier missed two fine chances.
The European champions had trailed to Adrien Rabiot's 33rd-minute strike at the Bernabeu, only for Ronaldo to equalise on the stroke of half-time from the penalty spot. That goal meant Ronaldo became the first player to hit a century of goals for one team in Europe's elite club competition, with the Portugal international then putting his side ahead seven minutes from time. "It was very important," said Ronaldo. "When you score goals and the team wins, it is always special. "Today, I stood out, I helped the team to win by scoring two goals, but we know that the tie is not finished yet. "We need to go over there and try to win and score goals to be able to ease any pressure and qualify for the next round." Meanwhile, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane felt his team were worthy winners on the night. "We can be happy with the way we played," Zidane said. "We kept going to the end. It is a good result and the team deserve to be congratulated. "It was a good evening, we completely deserved our victory. Everything was good and everyone played an important role. "We have to be happy with what we did against a very good side who can make things difficult for you. We are very proud of the whole team."
Arsene Wenger has criticised the "nonsensical" UEFA ruling stopping Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from playing for Arsenal in the Europa League.Arsenal were without Aubameyang or injured striker Alexandre Lacazette as they arrived in snowy Sweden on Wednesday ahead of facing Ostersunds in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.
UEFA rules stipulate players are ineligible if they have appeared in the same competition for another club or, as in Aubameyang's case, they have played for another club that is currently in the same competition. Aubameyang is cup-tied due to Borussia Dortmund's involvement in the competition, despite having only represented the German club in the Champions League this season prior to his £60m move to Arsenal. "Unanimously, I believe that all the clubs agree now this rule has to disappear in Europe," Wenger said in his pre-match press conference. "Especially because, for example, he played Dortmund, Dortmund has been reversed in the Europa League and he cannot play. "When you look at the transfer amounts you spend now, that you have to spend £50, 60, 70m in the middle of the season, that the players cannot play doesn't make sense. "Unanimously everywhere in Europe now the clubs are against this rule." Dortmund could still face Arsenal later this season after dropping into the Europa League following their third-place finish in the Champions League group stage. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is available for selection after his move from Manchester United because Jose Mourinho's side are still in the Champions League.
A special tribute to Claudio Ranieri
The former Leicester City Football Club gaffer a.k.a The Tinker-man, who was sacked by the management of the club as a result of the recent poor performances by the team. I guess it was a mistake on his path for putting Leicester city on the map of top flight football by winning the league the season after their promotion from the lower division. When I heard this breaking news, I was caught up with mixed feelings as I felt bad for him but hey, let's not forget that this is 'football'. Just as I was about to get caught up in my emotions, I was quick to snap back to the ugly reality of the 'beautiful game'. Job security for both players and managers are extremely slim these days and with the kind of investments being made in the game today, we can only expect many more sackings to happen.
It takes me back to 2012 when I experienced the greatest joy of being a Chelsea fan when Roberto Di Matteo won Chelsea's first and only UEFA Champions League trophy but was sacked imminently. I'm pretty sure it's not an 'Italian syndrome' in the English game.
Well, it's no doubt that Ranieri was exceptional and is still exceptional, whichever way you choose to look at it but let's be realistic enough to accept that this is
This same concept applies