Premier League Kits 2014/15

With only a few weeks left until the Premier League kicks off, we take a look at a selection of brand new kits for the 2014/15 season. All these are based on personal opinions and preferences so please don’t get offended. Leave us your views in the comments and take part in our poll! Let us know what your favourite kit and worst kits are.

 

Top 5 Best Kits

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Arsenal

After 20 years with Nike, Arsenal decided to break their ties and signed a deal with Puma worth an estimated £30 million. It will be strange seeing Arsenal without the famous Nike swoosh but this gives their kits a well needed revamp. The new refreshed look works well and keeps to the traditions of the Gunners. Arsenal fans should expect new kits each season from Puma and don’t worry if you’re not in shape, the replica’s comes in a tight or standard fitting.

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Everton – Home kit

After the controversy over the club badge last year, Everton supporters will be over the moon with the new redesigned badge. It compliments Everton’s return to Umbro with a very classy kit. Everton signed a new 5 year deal with Umbro after leaving Nike and this simple yet effective design shows they made the right decision. If the socks were white I reckon it would have looked even better. Overall a good kit.

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Manchester City

Nike have done a good job the new City kits. For the home kit they have moved away from the blue and white combination, which we have all come accustomed to. They’ve replaced the traditional white shorts with blue matching the top, which gives the Champions a fresh look ready for next season. Their away kit is one of my favourites. The kit features a spectacular colour gradient, creating a block gradient design. The Nike swoosh and Etihad sponsor in a vibrant yellow goes well with overall balance of the kit.

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Sunderland – Away kit

Based on the Adidas Condivo 14 template, the new blue Sunderland away kit is quite pleasing on the eyes. The vertical pinstripes going down the top give this kit a classy yet subtle look. The Adidas logo and the Bidvest sponsor logo blend in nicely with the feel of the kit. Even though Sunderland have no connections to the blue colour, it’s just the right tone of blue.

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West Ham United – Home kit

Very similar to the Sunderland template, only difference are the pinstripes which are at a horizontal angle. It is indeed a classy kit and easily in my top 3 kits. West Ham fans shouldn’t expect to see Andy Carroll wearing this too often next season!

 

Top 5 worst Kits

 

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Liverpool – Third kit

The Warriors have done it again. After some questionable designs last season, the American based company seemed to been on the right path after unveiling the 2014/15 Liverpool home and away kits. As for this third kit they undid all the previous hard work. It’s all simply down to the red slash that goes across the shirt, the mismatch effect with the black and grey simply doesn’t work. Take away that slash and you have a pretty decent kit. It might grow on me as the season goes by but not quite sure.

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Manchester United – Home kit

The design of this kit is actually really nice, it goes well with the traditions of what a United home kit should look like. It’s a much better template compared to the tartan effect used for the 2012/13 kit. The reason this kit is in the worst category is because of the new club sponsor’s. The Chevrolet logo doesn’t blend well with the overall look of the kit and ruins the contrast. If the Chevrolet logo was in all white or had a white stoke around the edge, it would vastly improve the look. This will be Man United’s last Nike designed kits, next season they will be sporting Adidas kits. The deal is said to be the biggest in the sporting history.

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Newcastle United – Away kit

Talk about yawn, not the most inspiring colours to put on a kit. Newcastle’s away kit sums up their last seasons performances! A club with such a tradition as Newcastle should be able to warrant better looking kits, Puma are usually reliable when it comes to fresh exciting kits. The design isn’t a problem its the dull grey colour and shiny texture.

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QPR – Third kit

This kit will most likely cost you £50+ and for what its worth.. It’s not fair. Basically a white t-shirt with a Nike swoosh, embroiled badge and Air Asia sponsor logo. Even though the kit has historical connotation to QPR’s  league cup triumph  in 1967, it does little to inspire. Fans deserve much more for their money and this is a poor attempt from Nike. I’m sure you’d be able to find a better replica in your local markets.

 

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Swansea City – Home/Away kits

Another case in which the sponsor ruins the kit. I don’t know what they were thinking when they proposed this logo. The diamond shape just doesn’t work with the kit. It looks even worse with the gold on the away strip. They should have stuck to last years logo which worked well and was pleasing on the eyes. The template may be a bit simple but with a better sponsor logo they would’ve been a decent pair of kits.

 

World Cup 2014 Review

It’s all over! After 64 games, 32 nations and 171 goals scored the greatest show on the World came to an end on the 13th of July. The Germans were crowned World Champions and have now won the famous trophy four times in their history. Argentina put up an impressive battle but just couldn’t take any of their chances. So much pressure was on Lionel Messi’s shoulders he unfortunately didn’t deliver on the biggest stage. These games have had everything from amazing goals, fantastic saves to broken-hearts.. We will be reviewing the last month and putting our views into perspective.

Team of the Tournament 

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Passionate Football’s team of the tournament.

Player of the Tournament

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James Rodriguez – Colombia

I for one was all too confused with the decision by FIFA to award the ‘Golden Ball’ to Messi after the final last night. Whilst i do partially agree with the view that the best player must come from the best team (or in this case, the second best), Messi did not live up to the expectations of many that Brazil 2014 would be his career defining tournament, and thus, crown him the greatest player to ever set foot on the pitch. Instead, he provided an unusually flickering light in a World Cup where many others shone so brightly – one of which, Colombia attacker James Rodriguez. For me, the undoubted player of the tournament, Rodriguez has demonstrated just why free-spending Monaco were willing to hand over £38m to capture his signature as a relatively unproven 21-year-old last summer. Not only did he pick up the Golden Boot award, scoring an impressive 6 goals in just 5 games, but he also had the world gazing on in awe as he churned out consistent man of the match worthy performances, leading dark horses Colombia to the Quarter-finals. Whist Monaco maintain that they are determined to keep hold of their prized asset, Rodriguez’ rise to prominence has alerted some of Europe’s biggest clubs and it will surely be only a matter of time before he makes a big-money move across the pond to – more than likely – join favoured club, Real Madrid.

Match of the Tournament

Ooh, difficult. We certainly haven’t been found wanting in our four-yearly (two if you include the Euro’s) quest for heart-stoppingly captivating international match-ups this year have we? Some of the most exhilarating football ever seen at a World Cup unraveled in front of our eyes in Brazil, and we all had the pleasure of witnessing some memorable clashes. Argentina vs Nigeria, Belgium vs USA, Netherlands vs Spain, and even Australia vs Netherlands will all undoubtedly be spoke of in years to come as demonstration of the roller-coaster of emotions and unpredictability this tournament has delivered. However, for the sheer ‘shock factor’, the capitulation of Brazil in the semi-final of a World Cup in their own ‘back yard’ has to be considered ‘Match of the Tournament’. 5-0 down before the half hour mark, the silence in the Estádio Mineirão was deafening. Some of the home fans sobbed into their Brazilian flags as their Neymar-less team – who had looked suspect in previous rounds – succumb to the merciless Germans and their notoriously efficient attacking play. Whilst the Germans may have eased-off after half-time, they managed to find time for two more and condemned Brazil to one of the biggest World Cup defeats in recent years and complete and utter humiliation.

Goal of the Tournament

James Rodriguez – Colombia vs Uruguay

What a great individual piece of skill! This goal will go down as one of the finest hits in the World Cup games. Before the ball drops to Rodriguez he takes a quick look at the keeper, controls it off his chest then swivels in position to hit it on the volley. He sends the shot thundering towards goal, it hits off the cross bar on its way in leaving the Uruguay keeper hopeless. James Rodriguez netted 6 goals and picked up the golden boot award.

Best Celebration

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Asamoah Gyan – Ghana vs Germany

In recent years the African teams have been well known for their exciting goal celebrations and dances. Ghana the land of the “azonto”, didn’t disappoint. When Asamoah Gyan a.k.a “Baby Jet” smashed in a goal against the Germans he ran off and celebrated with his team mates in fashion. Colombia also had a few interesting celebrations and brought through a salsa style of dancing, with some well choreographed moves.

Biggest overachievers and underachievers

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Biggest OverachieversCosta Rica

After having being written off after the groups were drawn. Costa Rica were massive underdogs in Group D. They exceeded all expectations and topped the group. Two impressive victories against Uruguay and Italy and a draw against England sent them into the last 16. They went on to beat Greece during the penalty shoot-out, with keeper Keylor Navas making understanding saves. They met the Netherlands in quarter finals and took them all the way into extra time and penalties, where they unfortunately lost. For a team ranked 28th they surprised everyone and certainly showed us their no pushovers.

Biggest UnderachieversSpain

The Spaniards lifted the famous World Cup trophy four years ago in South Africa, they amazed the world with their tiki-taka football and have been pretty much unstoppable these past few years. Expectations were high coming into the games but after the first game in which they got manhandled by the Netherlands 5-1, it all went down hill. A humbling 2-0 defeat against Chile proved to be an end of an era for the golden generation of Spain. Questionable defending, terrible mistakes from Iker Casillas and a lack of attacking prowess ended Spain’s journey in the group stages.

Most Shocking Moment

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Luis Suarez “The Bite” – Italy vs Uruguay

Third time offender Luis Suarez caused major controversy when he sank his teeth into Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. It left the whole World shocked as to why he would repeat this behaviour again. After having  a good season with Liverpool many had thought Suarez left his bad behaviour behind. Was the bite planned? to somewhat manufacture a move to Spain? Who knows but what we do know is that Suarez needs some sort of mental help. FIFA acted promptly and slapped him with a fine and banned him from any footballing activity for four months. Having been banned twice before for Liverpool decided to cash in and Barcelona signed him for £75 million.. He wont be able to play or be inside the Nou Camp until November.

Passionate Football’s Outlook

Ashley Joseph – Brazil is my fourth real World Cup (too young to remember France ’98) to date and by far the best I’ve ever seen. I mean Brazil had more or less everything you could ask for from an international tournament. Records were broken, stars emerged, there were overachievers and underachievers, an abundance of last-gasp drama, plenty of shocking refereeing decisions and most importantly, more goals then you could possibly recollect. Whilst all credit must go to the winners of the competition, Germany, I really do believe that the real winners here are the Brazilian population, who despite feeling aggrieved at some of the politics behind the competition, demonstrated to the world what a great country Brazil really is – extraordinary hospitality and one hell of a show, well done Brazil!

Taku Mudzongo – This has to be one of the best World Cups I have witnessed. South Africa 2010 was good but Brazil 2012 was something else. Germany were outright champions and played as a solid unit throughout. Brazil had so much drama and pressure on their shoulders, even though the national team failed to live up to expectations they were credible hosts. Russia 2018 will have a lot to live up to as Brazil have set a high benchmark. I hope the political issues within Brazil get resolved, they should be proud of how they’ve staged the biggest show on the planet. I’m sad it’s all over but I have so many memories from this tournament.

Written by Ashley Joseph and Taku Mudzongo

Five things we’ve learnt from the World Cup (so far)

As we finally take a a moment to digest what has been (so far) the most exciting World Cup ever, we take a look at five things we’ve learnt from the World Cup to this point.

1.England won’t be winning the World Cup anytime soon (soon being in the next 20 years)Image

Wouldn’t say this is too surprising, but another underwhelming World Cup campaign from England has once again left the nation wondering if England will ever make a return to international football’s elite. The diagnosis is already underway: a shaky defence, an under performing Wayne Rooney, the manager – Roy Hodgson, the British Media, and just a general inability to effectively coach the game from the younger years, having been sounded out as possible reasons for the Three Lions’ failure in Brazil. What is apparent however, is England’s position in a group they were expected to see through – bottom of the pile with just a point to their name. For me, Hodgson’s exclusion of Ashley Cole and reluctance to reinstate John Terry has cost England dearly. Baines was unable to provide any of the attacking intent he demonstrated throughout the Premier League season and Jagielka looked shaky at the best of times. I’m not saying England would have qualified and won the World Cup if these mistakes were corrected, far from it. Merely, that a solid defence and natural leadership may have been the catalyst for better performances and more points. Fundamentally though, i believe the real problem is the way the game is taught from grass roots. As eluded to by many of the pundits, South American football is all taught purely with the ball from an early age; it doesn’t come down just to how athletic you are. The game is played with more passion, more freely, with room for expression. Until we can instil this passion in our young players, focus on ball skills rather than running laps of the field, and encourage expressive play over that which is rigid and structured, England will continue to flounder on the world stage as they did in Brazil.

2. Luis Suarez needs help

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After begin caught out biting an opponent twice in his career already, it was practically inconceivable that Luis Suarez would be found hungry on the world’s biggest stage, in his country’s most important game of the tournament so far, right? Wrong. Yet again the Uruguayan showed the world what a vile character he is, this time taking a chunk out of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini’s  shoulder after the Juventus man had kept him quiet throughout the game. Luckily for Suarez, Uruguay went on to win the game and qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament, but Suarez has now subsequently been banned from any form of football until November – and quite rightly so! No one knows what provoked the Uruguayan to sink his teeth into the Italian defender, or the two players before him for that matter, and it may just be about time the Liverpool striker seeks psychiatric help for his unhealthy yearn for defenders blood. Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers will surely be considering cutting his losses with the striker this time, especially after giving him every chance to win back the british public last year. I’ve heard the Masch-serrano ham is good in Spain this time of year (i’ll get my coat).

3. It’s the year of the (under) dog.

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Granted there are always a few unfancied teams each tournament that surprise the world and reach the latter stages (think Turkey in 2002, Croatia in 1998, or Uruguay in 2010), but Brazil 2014 has truly demonstrated the power of team unity over individual talent. Minnows Costa Rica, who sit 28th in the official FIFA World Rankings just below Scotland, shocked everyone by topping a group containing no less than three former world champions, before booking a quarter-final date with the Netherlands. Algeria and USA also overshadowed pre-tournament favourites before eventually subsiding to the strength and depth of more established teams. Although not necessarily considered ‘underdogs’, Colombia too showed the strength of team play and are now considered by many as possible tournament winners. Though it remains to be seen whether a previously unfancied team such as Colombia or Costa Rica could go on and win this World Cup, the evidence is there to suggest Brazil 2014 will undoubtedly be won on the strength of the team over that of its individuals. Of course, Neymar, Messi, Van Persie and so forth have performed valiantly for their nations so far, but the preconceived expectations of the performances of their teams have not matched the billing so far this year.

4. Tika-taka is dead (2008-2014)

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A moment of silence please …Tiki-taka has unfortunately passed away after a long battle with ineffectiveness over the last few months. It seems quick, counter-attacking football will now step up and take the helm as the most efficient footballing philosophy in the modern game, after being employed, with success, at club and international level with various teams throughout the year. Tika-taka was born and raised in Spain – Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team to be specific – and has become synonymous with the national team’s extraordinary success over the last eight years – back to back European Championship wins (2008, 2012) and one World Cup (2010). However, Guardiola’s departure from Barcelona and the decline of some of the club’s star players such as Xavi and Iniesta, has coincided with the downfall of a philosophy which has dominated the modern game and been replicated by so many (not all successfully). The World Cup has all but confirmed the beliefs so many of us have had for months now, and a sluggish looking Spanish team faltered at the group stages and ultimately failed to progress to the knockout rounds for the first time since France ’98.

5. It’s probably going to be the greatest World Cup ever

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Whilst some of you may be old enough to think back to World Cup’s in 1994, 1986 or even 1970 – some of which is considered as the greatest World Cup’s of all-time – Brazil 2014 is on course to live long in the memory of all football fans. Drama, passion, excitement, shock results, dramatic last minute winners, nail-biting penalty shoot outs, this World Cup has had it all. Producing a staggering 154 goals from just 56 matches, the tournament is on course to break the current goal record for a World Cup competition held by France 1998 (171 goals). The competition has also seen a record low for group stage draws, testament to the free-flowing attacking football we have seen across the board in Brazil. What i think makes this World Cup so special is it’s unpredictability; no one seems like they want to win it. No team, no matter how small or inexperienced, has come along to make up the numbers – no, each team has done their utmost to produce the spectacle that this grandest of stages deserves, playing with passion and pride (excluding England). Whether or not Brazil continues to live-up to its billing remains to be seen, but it’s certainly already got a lot to be remembered for, and this beautiful country can be more than happy with the footballing extravaganza it’s produced for the world this year.

 

What are you thoughts on this year’s World Cup? Who do you think will be crowned World Champions? Leave you opinion in the comments section below or complete our poll:

 

World Cup 2014: Most Promising Players So Far

With the World Cup in full swing will be looking at the players that have left the biggest impression. With group stages finished, some of  these players have put in some exciting performances and raised a few eyebrows. Many top club scouts will be on the hunt for the next biggest thing, these players have surely attracted some admirers.

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Enner Valencia (Ecuador)

A goal in the first game against Switzerland then a match winning brace against Honduras which kept Ecuador’s qualification hopes intact. The 25-year-old striker who currently plays for Mexican side Pachuca and has been turning a few heads with his goals during the group stages. Valencia was naturally a winger but following the tragic death of Christian Benitez he was converted into a striker. He has picked up seven goals in his last six Ecuador appearances. Even though they share the same last name he has no relation to fellow team mate Antonio Valencia but they did play for the same youth team. A few clubs are said to be monitoring his progress.

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Divock Origi (Belgium)

Relatively unknown to the World football scene, Origi was a shock inclusion in Marc Wilmots 23 man squad. The 19-year-old made his senior international debut coming on for Romelu Lukaku against Algeria. He went on to score his first senior goal against Russia which sent Belgium into the knock-out stages. His direct running and pace was pleasing on the eye and made an instant impression coming off the bench. The Kenyan born striker only managed to score one goal in 21 appearances for Lille in the French league last season. Despite that he does seem to have the right ingredients to be a potential star. With Premier league teams fighting for his signature, Liverpool have been reported to be close to agreeing a deal.

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Guillerme Ochoa (Mexico)

Ochoa who is currently a free agent after being released from the French club AC Ajaccio. After arguably making one of the best saves of the tournament against Brazil. His performance kept the hosts out as Mexico held out for a 0-0 draw. His impressive save was compared to Gordon Banks’ famous save against Pelé in 1970. With him being a free agent a few Premier League clubs have been said to be interested in signing him. His match performance earned him much praise, including from the Brazilian head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. Ochoa even suggested “It was the match of his life”. Expect some European clubs to come sniffing.

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Memphis Depay (Netherlands)

Young Dutch winger Memphis Depay is currently one of Europe’s hottest talents. The 20-year-old has made a name for him self during the World Cup. Scoring his first international goal for the senior side, becoming the youngest Dutchman to score at the World Cup. He has been a breath of fresh air for the Dutch linking up with Arjen Robben against Chile to score his second goal. He plays his football for PSV, and has established himself as a first team player. Capable of playing on both wings and through the middle it wont be long until he makes a big money move. An exciting talent and one to keep your eye on.

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James Rodriguez (Colombia)

Colombia ‘s most exciting prospect has been turning heads with his performances in Brazil. At 22 years old James Rodriguez has lit up the World Cup and has played a massive part in Colombia’s progression into the knock-out stages. Scoring a goal in each game and assisting three goals for his team mates. We suggested he would be the main player for the South American Nation and he hasn’t disappointed. Blessed with amazing technical ability Rodriguez is what you consider a perfect playmaker and no wonder why AS Monaco paid €45 million for his services.  He will surely become a World star player and at this rate I can see him reaching that level pretty soon.

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Joel Campbell (Costa Rica)

Another player we touted as a star player. Joel Campbell has been fantastic for Costa Rica during this World Cup. Helping the underdogs prove all doubters wrong by qualifying top of group D. Raw pace, a powerful strike and quick feet, young Joel Campbell is developing into a fine player. After his performances he will be welcomed back to Arsenal with open arms. Capable of playing as a winger or as a striker he will be able to give Arsene Wenger options. Can he inspire his country to reaching the later stages of the World Cup? I’m sure he can.

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Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast)

The Toulouse defender was unable to prevent Ivory Coast crashing out of the World Cup but his solid performances will have drawn attention from admiring cubs. the 21-year-old right back provided two important assists which helped Ivory Coast overcome Japan, 2-1. An athletic and physical right back he would suit a team who primarily attack down the wings. Arsenal have been leading the race to sign him, after losing Sagna to Man City, Aurier would be a more than capable replacement. Arsenal fans will be hoping to wrap up a deal pretty soon.

 

Other stars to keep your eye on include: Ahmed Musa (Nigeria), Fabian Johnson (USA),  Charles Aránguiz (Chile), José María Giménez (Uruguay) and Kostas Manolas (Greece).

Future Stars #8 – Raheem Sterling

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Name: Raheem Shaquille Sterling 

Age: 19 

Nationality: English

Club: Liverpool

Position: Winger/Attacking Midfielder

Height: 1.70m (5 ft 7)

Raheem Sterling was born in Kingston, Jamaica and lived there until the age of 5 before emigrating to England. Raheem grow up in the North West London, Wembley. From a young boy his talent was apparent playing in the local youth leagues and gaining a reputation for himself. QPR saw his potential and snapped him up fighting off competition from Arsenal. Raheem spent 7 years with the QPR youth squad before alerting Liverpool scouts of his skills in 2010. Rafa Benitez made early movements and a deal was agreed for an initial fee off £600k raising to £5 Million depending on future incentives.

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He made his first appearance for Liverpool during a pre-season friendly against Borussia Monchengladbach. It took Raheem until 2012 to make his first senior debut, coming on as a substitute against Wigan. He became Liverpool’s second youngest player coming on at the age of 17 and 101 days old. He went on to feature off the bench for a few more games in the 2011-2012 season. Brendan Rodgers took over as boss in 2012 and instantly put his trust into the youngster, giving him his first Premier League and Europa League starts. He scored his first competitive goal against Reading and went to feature in 36 games during the 2012-2013 season. His form earned him his first international cap for England towards the end of 2012. The 2013-2014 season started slowly for Raheem, it wasn’t until December where Raheem broke into the first team where he netted 3 goals. His incredible form continued with 9 goals in the league and forming a deadly partnership with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. His development during last season was rapid.

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We all know what Raheem’s best quality is, and that’s his pace. Being born in Jamaica the land of World class sprinters.. Raheem is one of the fastest players in the Premier League with a quick change of speed it spells danger for any defender. Direct with his runs and dribbles he can play his way out of any tight spaces. Last season we saw something many doubted from the 19-year-old… An end product, he upped his game and improved on a number of key aspects of his game (crossing, shooting, passing and defensive contribution). From being traditionally a winger Rodgers has moved him into the attacking midfield role just behind the strikers and it paid off. Many doubted his structure but this is also an area he improved on last season, putting in hours in the gym building his strength. 19-years-old is something you have to consistently remind yourself off. He has many years to still develop and mature but it’s amazing how far he has come in such a small time. After an impressive first World Cup performance against Italy, Sterling will hopefully become an important player for England offering pace and excitement. He has all the talent in the World but it’s all down to how he applies it. Keeping his personal life in check will be a priority and it will determine how successful he’ll become.

World Cup 2014: Your Guide To Group H

Whilst Group H may not contain any former world champions or look the most interesting group on paper, it may well prove to be the most exciting group of the World Cup. Featuring the highly-fancied Belgium; Fabio Capello’s Russia; unpredictable Algeria; and former semi-finalists South Korea, Group H is one not to be missed.

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Belgium

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World Cup History: Despite not qualifying for the past two World Cup campaigns, Belgium managed six straight qualifications from 1982 through to 2002 – a record bettered only by Spain. During this time they made it past the group stage on all but one occasion (France ’98 – where they were actually unbeaten), and even managed a national best fourth placed finish in 1986, before losing to eventual Champions Argentina.

Journey to the World Cup: Undefeated, and conceding just four goals throughout the qualification campaign, it is no wonder that Belgium have been labelled as ‘dark horses’ to win the World Cup this year. It wasn’t an easy group either, comprising of established European nations such as Serbia and Croatia, the Red Devils’ young squad swept aside the other teams in group, sharing 18 goals evenly amongst their talented stars. A comfortable 3-0 away win over Serbia perhaps the highlight of Marc Wilmots’ team’s impressive campaign, that is sure to only boost their confidence ahead of Brazil.

Star Player: Belgium’s golden generation oozes class from front to back, but talisman Eden Hazard will without doubt be central to a challenge in Brazil. Off the back of an excellent season for Chelsea which saw him pick up the PFA Young Player of the Year award, Hazard will be keen to test his skills on the world’s biggest stage in Brazil. Hazard is a match winner.  No matter how his, or his team’s game is going, he is capable of turning their fortunes around with one swift move – exactly why he’ll be key for Belgium this summer.

How far can they go: They’re not labelled ‘dark horses’ for nothing. Prevent the pressure and occasion from affecting them and Marc Wilmots’ team have every chance of sealing an extended stay in Brazil. They’ve qualified well and boast one of the strongest squads in the tournament, perform to the peak of their powers and they will be very hard to stop.

Algeria

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World Cup History: Algeria have only ever competed in three tournaments and are without a World Cup win since 1982, when they defeated both Chile and West Germany in Group 2 (they finished third however and failed to qualify). In recent years they’ve given the Algerian people little to shout about, and only a 0-0 draw against an under-performing England in South Africa 2010 rests well within the memory. They will be looking to turn their fortunes around in Brazil however, and make history by qualifying for the knock-out stages for the first time ever.

Journey to the World Cup: Despite a disappointing African Cup of Nations campaign, Algeria qualified strongly for the World Cup, topping their group with 15 points before defeating Burkina Faso in a tight two-legged playoff. Vahid Halilhodzic’s side continued their good form into their World Cup preparation, winning all three of their warm-up matches comfortably.

Star Player: Valencia winger Sofiane Feghouli may not have lived up to the early hype surrounding his undoubted talent, but he’s a key man for the north African team. Quick across the ground, superb vision and an immaculate first touch are just a few of Feghouli’s assets which have led to him gaining several keen admirers across the world. Deployed in a more central role for Algeria, Feghouli will be looking to use his incisive passing to supply his fellow countrymen in Brazil.

How far can they go: Despite their limited World Cup pedigree, Algeria will fancy their chances in Group H. On the back of some good form, and boasting some exciting young players, they will believe they have every chance of reach their first knock-out stage in their short World Cup history. I see it being a tight battle for second place behind Belgium, the Russians though may have just a little bit too much strength and depth for this inexperienced Algerian side.

Russia

Russia's players line-up for a team photo before their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Azerbaijan in Baku

 

World Cup History: Since splitting – and become independent from – the USSR in 1991, Russia have competed in just two World Cup competitions. Failing to progress in both 1994 and 2002, Fabio Capello will be hoping to steer his promising Russian side to their first knockout stage participation since their former alias, USSR, advanced in 1986.

Journey to the World Cup: We all know of Fabio Capello’s credentials at club level, but after a torrid time with England the Italian is keen to prove his worth with Russia and their World Cup charge. So far, so good; qualifying comfortably ahead of Portugal in qualification Group F, Russia conceded just five goals and lost two games (to Portugal and Northern Ireland) en route to topping the group. Capello has instilled a strong defensive mentality amongst the Russians, as well as bringing out the best in striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov who scored 5 goals during the qualification phase.

Star Player: Unless you are a keen Russian football follower, not many will have heard of Dynamo Moscow forward Alexander Kokorin. Capable of playing as a lone striker or, more favourably, anywhere across the three attacking midfield slots, Kokorin has been labelled ‘the future of Russian football’ and has revelled under Fabio Capello’s stewardship. Capable of both scoring and creating goals, be sure to watch out for both Kokorin and fellow future star Alan Dzagoev in Brazil.

How far can they go:  They’ll fancy their chances of progressing out of the group, for sure. Russia posses a young and exciting squad, of which a large majority play for domestic teams. Capello will be hoping that this will give Russia the element of surprise that they may need when facing some of the bigger teams , potentially, in the latter rounds. Personally, i think Russia will make it no further than the first round of knockout matches – a sizeable achievement by a team yet to make it past the group stages.

South Korea

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World Cup History: Although they’ve just qualified  for their 8th consecutive World Cup finals, South Korea have yet to really establish themselves on the world stage, surpassing the group stage just twice (they reached the semi-finals when they co-hosted in 2002). Despite a good start in the previous World Cup in South Africa – which saw them progress to the second round –  South Korea lost out to semi-finalists Uruguay in a hard fought encounter to which they eventually went down 2-1.

Journey to the World Cup: Not the best qualifying campaign by all means. Drawn in qualifying Group A alongside Iran, Uzbekistan, Qatar and Lebanon, South Korea finished second in the group – narrowly avoiding a possible play-off on goal difference. Disappointing defeats to Iran, along with score draws with minnows Uzbekistan and Lebanon, won’t fill the South Korean fans with optimism going into Brazil, however qualifying coach Choi Kang-hee was swiftly replaced after their place in Brazil was secured.

Star Player: New coach, and national hero, Hong Myung-Bo will be eager to get the best out of 21 year-old Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Son Heung Min this summer if his side are to progress into the latter stages. A record signing for Leverkusen, Heung Min has caught the attention of some of Europe’s elite with a string of impressive performances which led his Bundesliga side to a dramatic fourth placed finish, and Champions League qualification, this season. Defender Kim Young-Gwon will be another player keen to catch the eye in Brazil, the centre-back has been highly praised by club manager Marcelo Lippi and will play a key role at the heart of the South Korean defence.

How far can they go: Considered lucky to even have qualified, much of South Korea’s fortunes will rest on just how new coach Hong Myung-Bo rejuvenates the team. Myung-Bo will no doubt me optimistic with the group they’ve drawn, but i think Russia and Algeria may prove to be too strong for South Korea, and as their record suggests, they will once again fail to make it past the group stage.

 

How do you think Group H will pan out? Leave your predictions in the comments section below.

 

Group A | Group B | Group C Group D | Group E | Group F | Group G| Group H

World Cup 2014: Your Guide to Group G

This has been labelled as the “group of death” by a few supporters. This could be the most competitive groups this World Cup. Group G features Germany, Portugal, Ghana and U.S.A. With Germany main favourites, second place could be up for grabs! GROUP G

 

 

 

 

 

Germany

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World Cup history: The Germans have qualified for every World Cup games expect one, Brazil 1950. They have claimed the great trophy three times and alongside Brazil they have featured in seven finals. They’ve been well known for their industrious work rate and in major tournaments are usually guaranteed to reach the later stages. Germany have always produced amazing players and this trend doesn’t stop with this years batch of stars.

Journey to the World Cup: They blitzed their qualification scoring 36 goals. They scored a minimal of 3 goals per game for eight straight matches. Joachim Loew’s side have also been unbeaten in 23 World Cup Qualifying matches. They come into this tournament in good form.

Star player: Miroslav Klose. Many are wondering why I’ve chosen the 36-year-old striker as a star player. With the amount of talented midfielders within this German squad, there needs to be an outlet to convert them in to goals. Look no further, Klose is just one goal away from being the World Cup’s top goalscorer ever. He is sure to achieve this record this year.

How far can they go: They could go all the way. The Germans will be top favourites alongside the Brazilians, Spanish and Argentines. I expect them to ease through the group stages, the only team who could prove difficult is Portugal.

Portugal

Portugal-14-15-NIKE-home-kit-red-red-red-group-photo World Cup history: This will be Portugal’s fourth consecutive World Cup. Their best finish came in 1966 when they finished third. They were able to reach the semi-finals in 2006 finishing in fourth spot. Portugal hold the joint record of coming back from three goals down to win a World Cup match.

Journey to the World Cup: Portugal had to take the play-off route in which they faced Sweden. They couldn’t have done it without Cristiano Ronaldo’s two hat-tricks. It just went to show how reliant they are on the Real Madrid winger. Without his goals they wouldn’t have made it.

Star player: Cristiano Ronaldo. Who else? Without Ronaldo, Portugal are nothing special but they have arguably the best player in the World right now. Still buzzing from winning the Champions League, it’s a race against time to get the captain fit for the first group games. He will have the whole counties pressure on his shoulders and I’m sure his used to it.

How far can they go: As far as they want, depending on Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness. It’s as simple as that, If Ronaldo performs, Portugal go through. They’ll be favourites to finish second in this group but with doubts over the star players fitness it could get difficult for Paulo Bento’s team.

Ghana

000_Par7686720 World Cup history: The Black Stars are competing in their third consecutive World Cup. They got beyond the group stages twice in 2006 and 2010. Most famously in the quarter-final game against Uruguay in 2010. When Luis Suarez made controversial headlines when he hand balled a certain goal off the line, resulting in him getting sent off, giving Ghana a penalty in which Asamoah Gyan Missed in the last-minute of extra time! They went on to lose it on penalties.

Journey to the World Cup: Ghana were the most prolific team during the African preliminaries, netting 25 goals in 8 matches. Asamoah Gyan was the joint top scorer with 6 goals during the qualifying stages.

Star player: Kevin-Prince Boateng. Will face his younger half-brother Jerome Boateng (Germany) for the second time in the World Cup. KPB will be Ghana’s number 10 linking up the play from midfield and attack. The 27-year-old has made only 10 appearances for Ghana but came out of international retirement in 2013.

How far can they go: Been assigned a hard group they’ll be hoping for a massive performance against Portugal and U.S.A to stand a chance of reaching the knock-out stages. An unfit Ronaldo will boost Ghana’s chance when they face off.

U.S.A.

USA Starting 11 World Cup history: This will be America’s tenth World Cup games and their seventh in a row since 1990. Their best finish was in 1930 when they reached the semi-finals. In recent years they reached the quarter finals in 2002. The first hat-trick in the World Cup games was scored by an America back in 1930, Bert Patenaude was the man who struck all three goals.

Journey to the World Cup: They breezed through the qualifying, winning a total of 11 games on their way to Brazil 2014. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan were instrumental to their campaign.

Star player: Clint Dempsey. America’s captain and one of the most experienced players in the squad. Dempsey is a player well known to Premier League fans after spending five years at Fulham and one at Tottenham Hotspurs. He will be the leading man linking up attacks.

How far can they go: With them considered major underdogs they have no pressure on them. This could play as an advantage for the Americans, potentially having nothing to play for could cause other opponents problems. They’ll be looking to pick up points off Ghana and maybe Portugal.

Group A | Group B | Group C Group D | Group E | Group F | Group G | Group H