Category Archives: Soccer

An incredible finish to the tournament, which had a deserved ending for two top players

By: Aeden Evenson-McDermott

Following the semifinal clash between Argentina and Croatia on December 13, Croatia would set their eyes on a piece of silverware to end the tournament with. This would be the 3rd place bronze medal.

On December 14, Morocco faced France and lost which matched them up to play Croatia for the third place game. It would ultimately be a rematch from the first group stage game as they tied 0-0 towards the beginning of the World Cup.

A big hats off to Morocco on being the first African team to make it this far in a World Cup. Most counted Croatia out before the tournament started but they once again persevered and showed they could medal in back to back World Cups.

On Saturday, December 17, the stage was set for a showdown at the Khalifa International Stadium which would compose itself of 44,000+ supporters in attendance.

It would kick off with the 10 first minutes being an absolute drama to see. A free kick early for the Croats had Modrić fake the kick with Majer following up to swing the ball over the top to Perišić who cocked his neck which headed it furthermore to the outstretched rising star and young talent center back, Joško Gvardiol, who would perfectly connect the force of the ball into the back of the net.

1-0 to Croatia! The lead wouldn’t last for long as Morocco would respond when the deflected ball went through the defenders and fell into Archaf Dari’s path and he headed it through the hands of Croatian goalkeeper Livaković. 1-1 and it was a game!

Later on though, in the first half, just before halftime, Croatia’s Mislav Orsić had an incredible first touch kick that was chipped over the keeper and dinked off the inner near post of the goal and it to the net. 2-1 to the Croatians!

The rest of the second half would be less entertaining with both sides each exchanging posessional turns but none resulting in a score. It was dramatic at times with both sides holding their breaths as each took chances on the counter attacks along the wings.

At the end of the 90 minutes of regulation, Croatia’s World Cup dreams would be fulfilled. They didn’t ultimately get first or second place like their World Cup in 2018, but they have much to be proud of. Modrić, who’s 37, is likely going to retire from international duty within the next year, so it was a nice send off for him as he has done so much for the team and country.

After Argentina beat Croatia and France beat Morocco their sights would be set on the ultimate prize. The World Cup trophy! The trophy touched by greats but revered for all could be Messi’s or it could be Mbappé’s. Who would achieve greater success?

The first half kicked off with Argentina being the more dominant side and exposing the French team near the goal. In the 23rd minute, Argentina’s Lionel Messi would convert the early penalty to give the Argentines the early lead. 1-0!

A little bit later, a second goal would be added as Angel Dí Maria would slot his goal and make it 2-0 Argentina. The excitefulness quieted down a bit but Argentina still remained in the driver’s seat.

France would show more quality as they picked up chances along the stretch. It would all turn in their favor when in the 80th minute, Mbappé would discreetly put the ball just through Martinez’s hands and into the net. 2-1.

The craziest turn of events would only be beginning and a minute later, Mbappé found himself on the end of another immaculate ball whipped in, and which he would convert through a sideways bicycle kick and into the back of the net! 2-2 and all was tied up.

This would prompt an additional 30 minutes of extra time at the end of the regulation 90 minutes. An early shout for a penalty, into extra time, on the edge of the box had many raising their eyebrows as to why that wasn’t a penalty for France?

Furthermore, Argentina would scramble down the field and Messi would score another decisive goal in the 108th minute to give Argentina the 3-2 advantage. If you didn’t think that put the nail in the coffin, you were in for a treat!

France wouldn’t go down without a fight and Mbappé would bag a hat trick of goals, when he bagged the third one, which again was another penalty in the 118th minute of extra time!

Now, since it was 3-3, and it would be the end of the 120 minutes total, it would be going to penalties!

Messi and Mbappé would each convert their first penalties of the shootout. Dybala of Argentina would convert his while Coman of France would miss his. This followed by Paredes scoring his and Tchouameni missing his. Muani of France would make his to keep his team alive but seconds later Montiel of Argentina would rise to the occasion and ultimately seal the fate of France, thus Argentina winning the World Cup!

A deep breath and sigh of relief after such an intense final match!

Messi is the GOAT and certainly deserves this after the incredible career he’s had. His brilliance never disappoints and alway shows how he has so much to prove and still has gas left in the tank for his aging legs.

Back to back medals for Croatia and France and a third World Cup trophy in the books for Argentina!

In terms of the play at The Qatar World Cup, it certainly didn’t disappoint. I would make the case that this was the best World Cup final ever, although I wouldn’t say it was the best World Cup.

Congrats to all the teams on making it a memorable World Cup to watch, and here’s to a good World Cup in North America in 2026, and it remains to be seen after that (the 2030 World Cup has yet to be announced).

With the World Cup coverage now ended, more articles will be coming out on transfers and the resuming of club football!

Croatia makes a good run but falls short in the semifinals

By: Aeden Evenson-McDermott

After narrowly escaping the Groups stages with the 0-0 tie with Belgium, Croatia would feature in the Round of 16 against Japan on December 5th. In the first half, Japan would be adventurous and have a more free flow approach. Just before halftime, Daizen Maeda scored a goal that was deflected and bounced through the Croatian defense for the 1-0 lead.

Just after halftime, and in the 55th minute, Croatia’s Dejan Lovren crossed an on point ball which found its way to forward Ivan Perišić who excitingly got the breakthrough with a thrasher header, which was beautifully perfected and put into the bottom right corner of the goal. Both teams would go back and forth between possessions. Croatia would reclaim and take the midfield and be more physically dominant.

After the Croatia goal, Japan would rise to the occasion and wouldn’t go down too easily. Wataru Endo would test goalkeeper Dominik Livaković with a shot fired from way outside the box which for sure stung the hands of Livaković.

As the game drew to a close of the 90 minutes regulation, it would be sent to an additional 30 minutes of extra time. With no score in the additional 30 minutes it would be the first penalty shootout of the 2022 Qatar World Cup to decide the winner.

Following 2018’s World Cup, Croatia was pretty dominant when it came to a penalty shootout. The first two penalties for Japan were saved and Croatia came through and converted theirs. A clutch performance by Croatia’s keeper Livaković would send them on to the next round of the quarterfinals.

On December 9, Croatia would turn their attention to the epic finale of facing Brazil. With the odds stacked against them, and many counting the Croats out, it would have to be a spectacular performance to hold Brazil at bay.

Croatia came out ready to play with a refined passing game and the upper hand in the possession. Croatia wasn’t intimidated by the pace of Brazil and stood firm. The first half was pretty back and fourth but the second half would contain more drama.

When the ball came in and there were claims of a handball on right back Josip Juranović, VAR (video assistant referee) got involved but quickly shut the down the possibility of a penalty.

In the rest of the second half, Livaković would be busy as he would have to eliminate the ball getting to the back of the net. Croatia held their breath as the moments ticking down to the 90 minutes of regulation occurred.

It would be an additional 30 minutes of extra time. Both sides would exchange opportunities and go on the attack. Just before the end of the first period of extra time, Brazil’s Neymar dribbled his way and eloquently slotted the ball into Livaković’s net. 1-0 to Brazil.

Croatia would need to channel their inner belief to get the equalizer and take it to penalties. Croatia came out strong for the second period of extra time and would make Brazil play into Croatia’s hands and style of play.

With the inability of giving up hope and surrendering, Bruno Petković would have a powerful shot which took a deflection off a Brazilian defender, and went past goalkeeper Alisson in the 117 minute. 1-1!

It would send it to penalties once again and Croatia would need to stand tall.

Rodrygo would be denied on the first penalty kick by Livaković. Nikola Vlašić, Casemiro, Lovro Majer, Pedro, and Croatia captain Luka Modrić would all convert theirs with Croatia having the 3-2 lead.

Marquinhos of Brazil would need to step up in order to keep the Brazil dream alive. A poor run up would lead to Marquinhos hitting the front side of the post and the ball going out. Such a big missed opportunity which would cost them the game as Croatia’s Mislav Oršić got the deciseful winner!

Brazil would be kicking themselves and left asking themselves questions. Why didn’t Neymar step up to take the penalty? Following the game, Brazil’s manager Tite would resign and leave the team.

On December 13, Croatia played Argentina for the semi final clash. Modrić vs Messi. Two incredible players with much history. Croatia would again be the underdogs. After a successful run of the World Cup so far, Croatia would come out flat footed and discombobulated in many ways against Argentina. Croatia had much of the possession in the first half but Modrić was limited in his abilities by the play of Argentina.

An early penalty in the 34th minute would start the unraveling for them. The referee was quite poor with many calls but this, in my opinion, was not a penalty. Julián Alvarez of Argentina was going for the ball and actually initiated the contact by running into Livaković. The ref gave Livaković a yellow which was totally a joke, in many ways, because if you give a penalty you can’t do a card as well. Anyways, Messi of course would smash the ball into the upper part of the goal and give Argentina the lead.

A few minutes later, in the 39th minute Alvarez would dribble himself down the field and weave his way through the Croatian defense and score to make it 2-0 going into halftime.

The second half was a bit more composed for Croatia but Argentina was still quite dominant. In the 69th minute Messi would dribble Croatian sensation center back Joško Gvardiol down the field and dump the ball off to Alvarez with another great feed to ultimately make it 3-0. It was a costly defeat and unfortunate for such a great Croatian team through the World Cup.

Another great player, the captain, the heart and soul, the savior, of the team, Luka Modrić would have his last go at the World Cup but would fall short.

Congrats to Argentina and more importantly Messi! Argentina faces France for the World Cup final on Sunday the 18th, at 9 am on FOX, while Croatia will make a run for the bronze medal as they take on Morocco on Saturday the 17th, at 9 am on FOX as well. Should be an exciting weekend and hopefully a good roundup of the 2022 Qatar World Cup!

Be on the lookout for the recap of the final, and 3rd place game, of the World Cup as well!

The problems permeating Qatar’s World Cup

By: Jocelyn Knorr

Image taken from: Image from fifa.com

**For sake of consistency and international standardization, the word “football” here refers to the sport that the United States calls “soccer.”**

The FIFA World Cup is a quadrennial football competition, in which countries fight tooth and nail to even qualify. It’s an incredible honor to win, and even more of an honor to host—not to mention it’s incredibly profitable. So, it came as a shocking surprise when Qatar, a Middle Eastern country smaller than the state of Connecticut, was awarded the 2022 competition.

Before 1971, Qatar was a nation largely built off of pearl diving and trade. Then, oil and natural gas was found in the little peninsula, rocketing it to international wealth, a coup in 1972 cementing the monarchy. It’s 2008 bid for hosting was described by the country as an attempt to humanize it—get away from oil, sharia law, and its relationship with neighboring Iran. Because of this, Qatar has been accused of sportswashing.

The bid was off to a rocky start—in 2009, a delegate from FIFA, Harold Mayne-Nicholls, visited the country to inspect its infrastructure. His report was a resounding no—Qatar was too small, and was a sweltering 120ºF during the traditional World Cup window of June-July (an issue that has been “solved” by pushing it to the middle of the traditional football season, a massive upset to the schedule that has caused injury, disruption, and lost wages for those whose salaries depend upon the game). Not only did it lack a football stadium, but hotels, highways, and an airport too. Qatar countered with plans for stadiums and hotels, and a proposition to push the tournament back six months. The council was convinced, and in 2010 Qatar was confirmed as host for the 2022 World Cup. Al-Jazeera, a Qatari media company owned by the king, had started broadcasting news of the victory six hours earlier.

All was not well within FIFA, however; before the year was out, every single official who voted on the Qatar decision would be investigated for, or convicted of, corruption. 2 members had already been banned from voting because of an attempt to sell their votes; the US Justice department accused 3 South American officials of accepting 7-figure bribes from the Qatari government. Sepp Blattman, president of FIFA at the time, has been banned from ever holding an administration position within football for the rest of his life. 

Nevertheless, the decision held, and Qatar embarked on a massive nation-building project, the likes of which the country had never before seen. To achieve all this, Qatar began recruiting foreign workers; workers from places like Uruguay and Pakistan poured in by the thousands. Qatar has a population of over 2 million, but only 15% of those people are citizens. Instead, the country depends upon foreign labor to keep the economy moving.

Conditions are awful; workers sleep in cramped conditions, passports are held by employers, and they are forbidden to leave or change jobs without the consent of their employers. Many of these migrant workers are in construction, working for over 18 hours a day to build Qatar’s stadiums and hotels; they are making barely 13 USD an hour.

More than 6,500 of these workers have died in the sweltering heat, among them a man named Mosharraf Hossen. He moved from Bangladesh to Qatar in 2014, getting a job working on a stadium to support his family. He died in 2018, collapsing when temperatures reached upwards of 115º; the Qatari government has denied this, and has put ‘cardiac arrest’ on his death certificate. The family has now been left without a way to earn money.

Qatari officials have stated that, more often than not, compensation is received in labor disputes, and the country will not take “destructive criticism” from outside observers. “The World Cup is a stage that will end in [December], but our laws are ongoing and being developed and we don’t implement them [only] for the World Cup.” said Qatar’s Assistant Undersecretary of Labor, Mohamed al-Obaidly. 

There are other human rights issues to take into account, as well; namely the treatment of women and gay men. Female citizens of Qatar need to get permission from a male guardian for just about everything, even after a divorce. Pregnant attendees have been advised to be prepared to show a marriage certificate if medical care is necessary, and there have been repeated cases of sexual assaults on women going not only unpunished, but the women being penalized for “fornication outside of marriage.”

As for homosexuality, it’s punishable by jail time—and even the death penalty for Muslims. The Qatari officials have made attempts at sweeping these laws under the rug; despite this, Khalid Salmen, a Qatari football player turned FIFA ambassador, has been quoted as saying that “homosexuality is damage in the mind.” He has been defended fiercely, with Qatar stating that these laws are part of the country’s “conservative values.”

In light of these policies, female fans are being advised by human rights groups to proceed with extreme caution, and LGBTQ fans have been advised to cancel their tickets altogether.

The Qatari government has also been rumored to be using fake fans as a surveillance tactic; allegedly, these are paid plants meant to create atmosphere and hype up the crowd artificially. If this is true, they also serve the secondary function of sniffing out and reporting anti-Qatar sentiment on social media. Qatar has responded to these rumors with a statement from the Qatar World Cup 2022 Supreme Committee; “Fans from all over the world — many of whom have made Qatar their home — have contributed to the local atmosphere recently, organizing fan walks and parades throughout the country, and welcoming the various national teams at their hotels. Numerous journalists and commentators on social media have questioned whether these are ‘real’ fans. We thoroughly reject these assertions, which are both disappointing and unsurprising.”

Taken altogether, these issues with the World Cup have left many fans upset and disquieted. Miles Robinson, a freshman at Highland, and Mary Steffy, a teacher here, have been kind enough to speak to me about their feelings on the matter. 

Miles Robinson is a freshman here—the MVP and captain of the Highland freshman football team, this sport is a large part of his life. He’s supporting the Dutch team this year, with USA and France as a close second (allez les Bleus!) Outside of World Cup season, he follows almost every league imaginable—including USA’s MLS, the English Premier League, and Germany’s Bundesliga. 

“It shouldn’t be there. Honestly, FIFA was 100% bribed for it to be there. If you look at the infrastructure that was there before 2010, it was minimal at best; they had one major stadium, and had to build nine more. Close to 7,000 workers died building those stadiums. They had so few people in the country, they had to get thousands of migrant workers to build (them). They spent over 200 billion US dollars on infrastructure— they had to build cities, build railroads. They spent way, way too much money and time preparing.

“Not to mention the fact that this World Cup had to be moved to November as opposed to the summer. If a World Cup has to be moved, should it be held in that country? The FIFA World Cup is a staple of the summers. Most professional leagues’ seasons go from August to May—holding this in the summer means that most of the teams’ best players are either going to be tired or injured. France are one of the favorites to win this year, and they have five starting players out with major injuries, because this is the middle of their season. This gives less talented teams an advantage.”

The news coming out of Qatar of human rights and climate problems has even driven some people to a boycott—people like Madame Mary Steffy, another person kind enough to speak to me about their views. She’s a French and AVID teacher here at Highland Park Senior High; not a football fan, as a rule, the one exception being the World Cup. This year, she would be supporting the French national team, famously nicknamed “les Bleus”—she’s Luxembourgish, but the country is too small to support a national team, or indeed a league at all. She found out about the human rights abuses largely via Francophone news sources. 

“Monsieur Curry and I follow a lot of online sites, and there was a lot shared—most of Paris and a lot of larger cities in France, for example, are not, on public television, showing any of the games. So we started reading all about it; I had heard some things, even, in the last couple of years about the construction going on in Qatar, and how so many young men had been dying and getting their bodies sent home with [death certificates] saying they had died of natural causes when that was not, in fact, true. The conditions were appalling—it was hot, there was no food or water, [employers] would take their passports, there were injuries; there were just a lot of human rights issues that I became aware of.

“I also became aware, in the past few months, of all the climate issues. When you host a large event like this—even the Olympics—it’s terrible for the planet in general, but Qatar had promised that this was going to be the ‘greenest’ World Cup ever. They really greenwashed it, and that has not happened.”

This is largely a France-based movement, but for Mme Steffy, it’s not a large group effort; it’s just about showing Qatar that they don’t want a World Cup that has been built by the blood of the workers. 

“I don’t want to give any of my time, money, energy or attention to a country that has such appalling abuses of people coming in—actually about 90% of their society—and their stance on the LGBTQ community, whom any association with is punishable by death, even for visitors there. I personally, refuse to give them my time, money, or attention; which is what they get when I watch.”

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Will the runners up at the 2018 World Cup make it out of the group stage?

By Aeden Evenson-McDermott

Image taken from: https://www.sportingnews.com/ca/soccer/news/croatia-vs-belgium-final-score-res ult-romelu-lukaku-misses-three-great-chances-red-devils-bow-out-world-cup-202 2/jfjccskoqbemm15kkzmdkut7?scrlybrkr=72a350cf

As the World Cup group stages got underway across Qatar, Croatia would be back on their path for the quest of World Cup glory following 2018’s heartbreak.

In their opening fixture on November 23, Croatia would be featured against their first opponent Morocco. They would combine for many chances as would Morocco, but none could find the back of the net. No exciting drama of many goals, but a good defensive battle put on.

Croatia’s Nikola Vlašić and Morocco’s Noussair Mazraoui would each share glorious opportunities in the first half especially. Croatian captain Luka Modrić at times was able to move freely but also at other times was limited in his ability to switch the field and dominate the midfield.

The second half would be much like the first half in many ways with both sides going back and forth up and down the field.

Croatia and Morocco would be held to a scoreless draw of 0-0 at the end of the 90 minutes earning each side a point going into the second match day.

On November 27, Croatia took on Canada in a thriller game. Canada’s Alphonso Davies scored an immaculate thumper of a header into Croatia’s net with just 68 seconds on the clock. It would be the fastest goal of this year’s World Cup. Canada’s brief joy spell would only last a short while until Croatia’s Andrej Kramarić would score a nice equalizer in the 36th minute! 1-1!

Both teams played quite competitively in the first half but signs showed Croatia was in the driver’s seat and was becoming more dominant in the control of the game. Just before half, Croatia’s Marko Livaja scored a beautiful goal too and Croatia would take the lead just before the halftime break!

In addition, it’s also important to note that going into this game, it was all or nothing for Canada, as if they lost they would be out of the World Cup. Canada’s coach John Herdman made some not so nice remarks about how they would beat Croatia but as you will see later in the article, his words reversed on him and Canada bared the words he said.

Into the second half, both teams came out strong and poised to go at it for the second 45 minutes of the match. Canada had some opportunities along the wings and were close to equalizing, but when Kramarić bagged his second goal in the 70th minute, it extinguished all hopes of a Canada survival.

In the closing stages of the game, a miscue by Canada allowed for Croatia’s Mislav Oršić to dish off the ball to Lovro Majer which essentially put the nail in the coffin when Majer slammed the ball under the crossbar through Milan Borjan’s arms.

An exciting game as Croatia would gather an additional 3 points which would bring them to 4 points in total going into match day 3!

On December 1, Croatia would match up against Belgium for the final group stage game. It would be the true test and final installment to see who would advance, or who would be leaving and be on their flight home, the following day.

The stage was set and both teams were focused on the match. Croatia had an early opportunity for a penalty but was reviewed by the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) and therefore was deemed offside because of the Croatia player’s hand being over the line.

In my honest opinion, I thought it was a takedown of the Croatia player for the penalty originally but now with FIFA’s advancement on VAR technology the player’s hand was offside but still a debatable topic.

Croatia would have some glorious opportunities of their own with captain Luka Modrić racking up some shots on goal.

Belgium in the second half though would have many incredible opportunities to put Croatia out and Belgium through, but none could see the net. Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku was the main man on many of the chances.

Croatia would survive the pummeling of shots late and would be relieved when the final whistle was blown at the end of the 90 minutes!

Belgium and Canada would come up short and be eliminated from the World Cup as Croatia, and first place Morocco, would advance.

A lot to take in for Belgium’s supposed “Golden Generation” as they failed to compete and win a major trophy again. The coach, Roberto Martinez, would also resign and step down following the game.

Croatia plays Japan for the Round of 16 Match on December 5, while Morocco plays Spain the following day December 6.

The World Cup excitement is only just beginning and there will be plenty more content left to come!

A dramatic 2022 MLS Cup might go down in history as the best!

By: Aedon Evenson-McDermott

On the 5th of November, 2022, the eyes of America’s biggest soccer league turned their attention to the Banc of California Stadium. The teams were solid and quite evenly matched which made it to be an insightful affair between the squads.

LAFC came into the final as the Western Conference 1st seed, and champions, and likewise as Philadelphia Union was the Eastern Conference 1st spot, and champions. Bedoya for the Union was a big miss as he was one of their biggest leaders and a stud in the midfield.

For the first 25 minutes, both teams ran up and down the field as they searched for the early goal. Two minutes later, when the 27th minute came, LAFC’S Acosta struck the net with a thunderous hit which struck the back of the net. 1-0 LAFC and the supporters section went crazy!

The second half would be all a soccer fan would dream of. The Union’s Gazdag put the ball in the back of the net in the 59th minute. 1-1! The constant drama of the back and fourth would be a lead runner for the rest of the game.

LAFC would respond near the end of the 90 minutes in the 83rd minute with a goal from Murillo. When most thought it was over and LAFC would walk away with the Cup, Union’s Jack Elliot smashed the ball into the back of the net with his thunderous header two minutes later in the 85th minute. The very few Philadelphia Union faithful fans had a lifeline.

The end of the regular 90 minutes of regulation would end thus prompting the 30 minute layover of extra time. Both teams had chances and in the 116th minute a bad back pass from center back Murillo to LAFC’S goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau led to the horrific collision between Crepeau and the Union’s Cory Burke. Crepeau is Canada’s number 1 keeper but will unfournately miss the World Cup. Milan Borjan or Minnesota United’s Dayne St. Clair would get the start. Crepeau was carted off and unfortunately would break his leg. This would prompt substitute goalkeeper, and penalty specialist, John McCarthy to come in for the remaining extra time.

After the end of the additional 30 minutes, there would be an additional 9 minutes added on after the injury for stoppage time.
In the 124th minute, a second incredible goal from the Union’s Elliot went in and it was the first lead of the game for the Union. 3-2! Four minutes later, the storylines would be written as the almighty Welshman Gareth Bale bails them out with an incredible jump for the header. 3-3 in the 128th minute!

After both teams finished tied at 3 a piece, it would all come to a penalty shootout. John McCarthy who played before, for the Union, would be in goal as Crepeau’s replacement. Knowing a lot of where the guys put their shots on goal he would put his mind to the test. Andre Blake, one of the MLS’s best, would step up first as he would save the penalty. Philly would miss their second penalty as it skied over the bar. Bouanga converted for LAFC making it 1-0 on their second kick. Union would miss their second kick. Hollingshead for LAFC scored and made it 2-0 in the shootout. The Union would miss their third shot as well. IIie would step up and put the winning shot into the back of the net. No coming back for the Union as they missed their first three shots. McCarthy would be the hero of the game and go on to win MVP.

It couldn’t have been more of a Hollywood ending with a great effort put on by both teams! Congratulations to the champions LAFC and better times for the Union. It was a joy to experience such a great game and a nail biting ending. It should be an interesting offseason for both teams and it will be fun with the league resuming in later February and early March!

2022 World Cup preview 

By: Dylan Moore

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is only a couple of weeks away. The world’s biggest sporting event will go throughout the holiday season, lasting up until December 18th. This edition of the World Cup will be played in Qatar, which means most of the games will be at 7:00 or 10:00 AM CST. The prime time games will fortunately be a little later, with kickoff closer to 1:00 PM. 

Group A: Consisting of Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands, group A is quite exciting. Although Qatar did not qualify (the host nation doesn’t need to), the host nation has a historically good record in the opening match. Their quarter final appearance in the 2014 Cup seemed just as likely before that tournament, as a deep run does before this one, but anything can happen. Ecuador could prove to sneak into the knockouts, given their excellent showing at the recent Copa America. Senegal is one of the many exciting African nations of the tournament, with a core of superstars like Sadio Mane (may be injured) and Edouard Mendy expected to take them deep into the tournament. The Netherlands bring a fully fit team (unlike the Euros) to the World Cup, after missing out on the 2018 edition. With a captain like Virgil Van Dijk and midfield talent like Frenkie De Jong, the sky’s the limit for the Dutch. 

Group B: It doesn’t get more politically charged than group B. Consisting of England, Wales, The United States and Iran. Soccer ability aside, you could write up 2 articles worth of narratives between these countries. With that being said, it is an equally interesting group as far as soccer goes. The US and England play their first World Cup game against each other since 1950. While England are favorites to qualify, given their finals appearance in the Euros, the second spot is seemingly up for grabs. The US sees their first World Cup with their golden generation, led by talent such as Christian Pulisic, Weston Mckennie and Gio Reyna. Wales makes their first World Cup appearance in 64 years, given a masterclass from waning superstar Gareth Bale. Which leaves Iran, who have dominated Asian competition in the qualifiers and in friendlies leading up to this tournament. Safe to say the world will have its eyes on this group. 

Group C: Group C consists of some of the most in form players in the world. Argentina is a heavy favorite coming into the tournament. Messi’s team enters the tournament a few short games behind the record unbeaten run recently set by Italy. This will be Messi’s last World Cup. Poland’s Robert Lewandowski has acclimated to life in Barcelona quite well, setting LaLiga on fire. Lewandowski and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny look to get revenge for their poor performance in the Euros. Similar to Iran, Saudi Arabia have torched their Asian competition, and are impossible to count out in this group. 

Group D: Just by looking at group D, there appears to be 2 clear favorites. The 2018 winners, France, will look to exact revenge for their early exit in the recent Euros. They enter the tournament as a favorite, given their deep squad, but will face the World Cup curse (no team who has won a World Cup has made it out of the group stage since 2006). The second team most think will qualify is Denmark, who recently made the semifinals of the Euros. Now that star man Christian Eriksen is back to form, most think they will continue to ride the momentum from the Euros to success in the knockouts. Australia and Tunisia, 2 teams who barely qualified in a weaker qualifying path, have a lot to prove in these group stage matches. 

Group E: Consisting of Spain, Costa Rica, Germany and Japan, group A will very quickly grab the attention of many. On paper, it should be very clear that Spain and Germany, 2 of the nations considered able to win the entire tournament, will be the 2 from the group to advance in the competition. That being said, it’s impossible to count Japan out. In the recent international break, they beat the US, considered to be a much better side, in dominating fashion. Expect Daichi Kamada and Takefusa Kubo, both in flying form, to put on performances that will keep their nation in every game. As for Costa Rica, a team with a goalie like Keylor Navas can never be counted out, with his famous efforts in the 2014 World Cup getting him signed to the biggest club in the world, Real Madrid. Their quarter final appearance seemed just as likely before that tournament as a deep run does before this one, but anything can happen. 

Group F: Similar to group B, group F is one of the more balanced groups in the competition, with no clear favorites and no team that is lacking compared to their competition. Belgium faces the end of their golden generation, with Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku among others looking to have more to show for their cumulative talent than a measly third place at the 2018 World cCup. Canada returns to the competition after qualifying in dominant fashion. Unlike Canadian teams of the past, they have household names, like striker Jonathan David and speedy defender Alphonso Davies to lead them in this competition. Croatia, runners-up in 2018, look to ageless wonder Luka Modric yet again to produce some magic in this competition, now knowing there are no limits to how far the red and white checkered team can go. Morocco, a surprise qualifier, brought Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi to the world’s biggest stage with the hope of shocking the globe in this surprisingly stacked group. Nothing is guaranteed in group F but steep competition. 

Group G: Group G has everything, from powerhouses to dark horses to new faces and perennial knockout stage qualifiers. To start, the hype behind Brazil is real. A nation still healing from their devastating 7-1 loss to Germany in the semi finals of the 2014 World Cup that they themselves hosted, Neymar has confirmed this is his last dance. If a nation could play 11 forwards, they certainly would. In my opinion, I believe that no one is more likely to qualify for the knockouts than Brazil. Switzerland, fresh off of eliminating France in the recent Euros, have a whole host of players in amazing form. With that being said, they will go as far as goalkeeper Yann Sommer takes them, as we saw in the Euros. If you asked someone even 5 years ago if Serbia were any good at soccer, they would laugh in your face. Nobody is laughing now, as they boast superstars like Filip Kostic, Dusan Vlahovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic, the latter 2 being some of the most in-form strikers in the world. Whether or not Serbia performs is more or less entirely up to if Vlahovic and Mitrovic can score the way they have been in the Premier League and Serie A, respectively. Cameroon look to phenomenal goalkeeper André Onana, along with midfielder André-Frank Zambo Anguissa to help them through this tough group. Although most are quite sure Brazil will qualify, who will claim the second spot is far less certain. 

Group H: The final group consists of Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea. The Cristiano Ronaldo effect can really be felt in Portugal. Always having been a nation carried by 1 or maybe 2 outstanding players at a time, Portugal comes into the 2022 World Cup with a load of young players at their first tournament, who all grew up idolizing Ronaldo, who will captain his nation in his fifth (yes, fifth) World Cup. Electrifying talents such as Nuno Mendes, Joao Felix and Rafael Leao enter their first World Cup hungry to win their hero his first World Cup in what will almost certainly be his last tournament. As for Ghana, the “Black Stars” enter the 2022 World Cup with the smell of revenge in the air. In the group stage, they will play Uruguay, and (more importantly) Luis Suarez. He is the man who hand balled a header off of the goal line, saving what would have surely been a goal in the last minute, after he got sent off, the penalty kick went off the crossbar, and Ghana wert on to lose in heartbreaking fashion, sending Uruguay instead into the semifinals. 12 years later, nobody has forgotten what Suarez did to them, and they will be hungry to win, at all costs. Speaking of Suarez, his Uruguayan side look to be the strongest since their 2010 semi finals appearance. New star striker Darwin Nunez looks to take some of the workload of off Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani’s shoulders in their collective old age. Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde finds the form of his life, seeming to become one of the best and most adaptable players in the world, seeing as he can play just about any position and thrive. As for South Korea, they look to the Tottenham sensation Son Heung-min, fresh off winning a golden boot in the Premier League, to lead them to upset this group full of powerhouses. 

Starting on November 20th, people around the world prepare for the endless entertainment the World Cup is sure to bring during the holiday season. As the stars of this generation like Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo, Lewandowsi and Suarez play in their last World Cup, look for an exciting team full of youngsters to stake their claim as the prominent figures of the future of this sport for many years to come. 

MNUFC vs Dallas recap of playoff game, plus offseason preview

By: Aeden Evenson-McDermott

Image taken from: https://www.startribune.com/minnesota-united-extends-fc-dallas-to-pe nalty-kicks-before-losing-in-playoffs/600216665/

Following the last regular season game against Vancouver, the Loons were able to find momentum going into the Dallas game. The Loons would be asking themselves for more as it was a tough ask to win against FC Dallas. The first half started with the teams feeling each other out.

Both sides were evenly matched with Dallas and Minnesota each exchanging shots on net. Dallas maintained 60% of the possession but the Loons were able to hold their own thanks to a strong back line presence and incredible saves by goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair.

The first half ended in a 0-0 draw with both teams asking for more. It was certainly an entertainer for fans to take in.

In the second half, both teams would exchange chances near the goal. The combination of higher intensity and aggressiveness would be key to the rest of the match. This would lead to the greatest opportunity of the game in the 53rd minute when Bongi Hlongwane dribbled into the box and dished the ball off to Emanuel Reynoso for an incredible left foot finish into the bottom of the net.

But in the 64th minute, Dallas was able to get a goal of their own off the corner kick from Matt Hedges to be headed into the goal by Facundo Quignon, 1-1.

Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair played quite well and made numerous saves throughout the game. After the 90 minutes of full time, the match would head to 30 minutes of extra time. Both sides did a few substitutions in order to get fresh legs into the game. Both teams went back and forth and none could break the deadlock.

With the end of the additional 30 minutes of extra time, the game would be decided by penalty kicks. This would ultimately determine the fate of the Loons 2022 season. Dallas converted all five of their penalties while the Loons got four out of the five and Captain Will Trapp missed his shot.

Another disappointing end to the season as the Loons appeared to have fallen short again. Hopefully next year will be better!

As for the postseason, the guys are off for a short period of time and will resume training in early January before the season starts in late February or early March.

With the FIFA World Cup coming up in late November, Dayne St. Clair will be with the Canadian national team but it remains to be seen if he will actually get any playing time.

As for the Loons, The off-season will come with new changes to the team personnel. A decent amount of players that were on the bench predominately will leave and begin new chapters. Many of the top players with the likes of Reynoso, Lod, and St. Clair will stay.

The new changes I expect to see will be a younger center back, more strikers as we need attacking ability, and more strength in depth for midfield as well, possible goalkeeper changes if Tyler Miller leaves the club too.

Looking forward to the next season and seeing how the club makes changes to further improve our team as we once again start over to make our playoff push.

Systematic abuse in USA women’s soccer:

By: Mia David

On Monday, October 3rd, 2022, a report was released by former Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates. It showed the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and U.S. Soccer Federation’s (USSF) inability to provide a safe environment for their players.

This report includes 200 interviews that investigators conducted. This investigation started long before this month. About a year ago, NWSL players Sinead Farralley and Mana Shim came forward about inappropriate behavior from former coach Paul Riley.

Paul Riley was let go by the Portland Thorns and was able to get a new coaching position five months later for the team Flash. Riley is not the only coach to be passed around the organization with little to no punishment for their actions.

According to CBS News, the report focuses on Riley, Christy Holly of Racing Louisville, and Rory Dames of the Chicago Red Stars. It goes into depth regarding the coaches’ actions and what their individual teams did in response.

This report talks in depth about how these coaches and other coaches are allowed to move from one team to another. They do this without any repercussions regarding their past behavior on other teams.

“Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer, beginning in youth leagues, that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players,” the report reads.

The report goes on to highlight the steps that U.S. Soccer will take to address the recommendations in the report. These recommendations end up being a total of 172 pages.

According to ESPN, these recommendations include implementing an office of participant safety to oversee the USSF’s conduct policies, publishing soccer records from SafeSport, mandating a background check of all employees, and more.

The NWSL and USSF have had problems with systematic abuse since they were first formed. However, this report coming out is being seen as a turning point. These organizations and abusive coaches are being forced to face the consequences.

Minnesota United final regular season game plus preview of the playoffs

By: Aeden Evenson-McDermott

Image taken from: https://www.mlssoccer.com/news/minnesota-united-bullish-on-playoff- chances-this-group-can-win-games-anywhere

On Decision Day in MLS, the Loons hosted the Vancouver Whitecaps at home at Allianz Field. Coming into this game, there were high expectations and a good amount of pressure on the Loons to finally win a game after not winning a game in the previous six fixtures. If the Loons won they would be into the playoffs! A loss would be the end of the season and a tie would get them over the line but only receiving the seventh spot. As for Vancouver, they would have to win the game outright.

The final game of the season at home would be crucial in order for the Loons to have the home team momentum. The record setting number of fans echoing voices boosted the Loons momentum and would help the team through the match.

Vancouver would be off to the start early with a few beautiful opportunities to score against the Loons, especially in the 6th minute when Vancouver was in front of the goal and almost scored. They would also have a few other chances but none could reach the back net. Loon’s goalkeeper, Dayne St. Clair had glorious saves and made sure the ball stayed out of the net.

After a nerving start, the Loons got composed and in the 17th minute, Argentine midfielder Franco Fragapane rolled the ball into the bottom right corner. 1-0 loons!

Throughout the remaining time of the first half and even into the second half, both the Loons and the Whitecaps showed their progressive attacking chances going forward.

An All Star performance by goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, who also received the Man of the Match, helped the Loons keep a clean sheet (not since July 16) and not concede a goal vs Vancouver.

The end of Vancouver’s season would be when newly arrived midfielder Jonathan González slammed the ball into the back of the net in the 77th minute!

The Loons showed their character after some unfortunate matches in order to book their spot in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. They would receive the 6th spot and would make the playoffs for the 4th straight year!

Looking to Monday October 17th, the Loons will travel to Dallas to take on the 3rd spot team, FC Dallas, at 8:30 pm for the first round of the playoffs. Dallas is a strong team but results have not been the best for them as of late. T

he Loons will have to prove once again how they can play anybody day in day out in order for a victory. It should be a good game and a true test for both teams. The MLS Playoffs should be exciting and best of luck to all teams!

UEFA Champion’s League group stage review (so far)

By: Dylan Moore

Group A: Looking at the standings in this group, you would be initially surprised. But anyone who has watched this group knows Napoli’s undefeated record is no fluke. After a 3-0 thrashing of Liverpool, Napoli showed their true intent in this group stage. The Italian team has taken Europe by storm, along with their new star Georgian player, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. 

As for the rest of the group, things are going as expected. Aside from the previously mentioned loss to Napoli, Liverpool has dominated the ties as expected. Meanwhile, Ajax and Rangers have scrambled for the leftover points, Ajax obtaining the lone win in a 4-0 destruction on Rangers. 

Group A standings pictured above 

Group B: On the note of surprising group standings, here we have group B. Perennial bottom 3rd & 4th place CL group finishers Club Brugge have put in a great shift this UCL season, topping their group with 10 points. 

To the surprise of many, it’s Porto and not Atletico Madrid that are in second place. Not surprising to anyone, is Leverkusen’s last place standing, given their poor form all season. New manager Xabi Alonso hopes to change the seemingly doomed fate of the German side. As things stand, second place is anyone’s game.

Group B standings pictured above

Group C:  This year’s group of death has been fascinating yet unsurprising, as these groups always seem to be. The ever unfortunate Viktoria Plzen is yet to even get a point, as European juggernauts Bayern Munchen are yet to drop any. 

The only surprising result thus far is Barcelona’s underperformance. They have been unable to get a win against Inter, regardless of their impressive additions in the recent transfer window. Inter looks to hang on to the 2nd spot as Barcelona faces the daunting task of playing Bayern yet again. 

Group C standings above 

Group D: This group has been in utter chaos. With the amount of games left, any team could end up in any position. Aside from Tottenham coming out to lead the group after a rocky start, there are yet to be many storylines besides the even-matched teams thus far.

Group D standings above

Group E: On the note of close groups, we have group E. The 2020 champions sit atop the group with 7 points, but RB Salzburg are very close behind. This is yet another group where any team could finish anywhere. This is surprising, considering the reputation of both Salzburg and Zagreb to finish in the lower 2 spots of the group regularly. 

Group E standings above

Group F: The last UCL group is seemingly set up for reigning champions Real Madrid to easily qualify for the round of 16. Whether or not you believe this, they are certainly taking advantage of their easier group. Although this group is rather bland, Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk had an electric game this last matchday, with a bloodied-up Antonio Rudiger scoring a last minute header. 

Group F standings pictured above 

Group G: The story from this group has been Erling Haaland playing his old team. His wonder goal against Borussia Dortmund has propelled City to a much-expected first place in the group. Rounding out this rather uneven group is Sevilla and Copenhagen, who have both underwhelmed as expected. 

Group G standings above

Group H: This group raises many eyebrows. Initially, you are attracted to fallen giant Juventus with a measly 3 points sitting in 3rd. But the team that really deserves credit is Maccabi Haifa. The Israeli team managed to win 2-0 against Juventus in the most recent match.

All this being said, all credit to Benefica, who have really made this group competitive, due to powerhouse PSG’s mediocre performance.

Group H standings above

In the vast majority groups, plenty is still at stake in these last 2 match weeks. Lots to look forward to as a fan of the game, with many surprise teams popping up to take advantage of their group, and many teams looking to surprise us still. Expect an article reviewing the group stage in the weeks to come.  

All images taken from: