Category Archives: News & Features

Allianz Arena, Munich

Preview: Euro 2020 Group F

Next summer’s Euro 2020 will take place 60 years after the inaugural tournament, and to mark the anniversary, Uefa has decided to celebrate with “a party throughout Europe”. Matches will be played in 12 cities in a dozen countries across the continent.

For a month, beginning on 12th June, Amsterdam, Baku, Bilbao, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Glasgow, Munich, Rome, St Petersburg and London will host games, culminating in the semi-finals and final at Wembley Stadium.

The last time Wembley hosted a European Championship final (at the old stadium), Germany won their first title as a unified nation, beating Czechoslovakia 2-1 thanks to a ‘golden goal’.

Group F at Euro 2020 is made up of Portugal, France, Germany and the winner from play-off path A: Iceland, Bulgaria, Hungary or Romania. Games in this group will be played in Munich at the Allianz Arena and in Budapest at Puskás Arena. If Hungary qualifies, a draw will be made to decide which venue will host Germany and Hungary’s Group F encounter. 

Portugal are the defending champions, having beaten hosts France to win in 2016. They have always survived the first round of matches since 1984 and have reached the final four on five occasions. As hosts in 2004, they reached the final but lost to surprise package Greece.

France have won the European title twice, in 1984 and 2000, second only to Spain and Germany who have won three titles each. Led Ballon d’Or winner Michel Platini, France won their first title on home soil in 1984, and in 2000 won their second in Belgium, led by FIFA World Player of the Year Zinedine Zidane. They suffered first-round eliminations in 1992 and 2008. 

Germany competed in five tournaments as West Germany and, since 1990, have played in seven as a unified nation. They will be the hosts in 2024. The Germans have three European titles, in 1972 (Belgium), 1980 (Italy) and England (1996).

They have only finished outside of the tournament’s top eight on two occasions, in 2000 and 2004, but have appeared in a record nine finals.

The forth team in the group will only be known in March 2020 after the play-offs.

Iceland only reached their first European Championship in 2016. They came second in their group, winning against Austria and drawing against Portugal. In the round of 16, they beat England 2–1 in an historic victory, but then lost 5-2 to hosts France in the quarter-finals.

Bulgaria have qualified twice, in 1996 and in 2004, but failed on both occasions to make it beyond the first round. They lost all three matches in 2004, but achieved a victory and a draw in 1996.

Hungary have appeared at three Euro finals. In 1964, they finished third, and at Euro 1972 they placed fourth. Four years ago, they reached the round of 16.

Romania have played in five European Championships and are the more experienced team in this play-off path. They have played in every tournament since 1984, with their best performance coming in 2000, when they reached the quarter-finals, only to be eliminated by eventual runners-up Italy.

Group F schedule

Group stage:

In the group stage, the top two will go through automatically, plus the best four third-placed teams. 

16/6/20 17:00 X v Portugal 

16/6/20 20:00 France v Germany  

20/6/20 14:00 X v France 

20/6/20 17:00 Portugal v Germany 

24/6/20 20:00 Germany v X 

26/6/20 20:00 Portugal v France 

Round of 16:27/6/20 – 30/6/20 

Quarter finals: 3/7/20 – 4/7/20 

Semi finals: 7/7/20 – 8/7/20 

Final: 12/7/20 

Allianz Arena photo by Werner Kuntz via Flickr Creative Commons, licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Preview: Euro 2020 Group B

Denmark

After failing to qualify for the 2016 Euros, the Danes will be looking to impress this time around. All three of their group stage matches will be played at the 38,000 capacity Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, giving them an extra advantage.

Denmark went unbeaten during qualification, finishing second in their group behind Switzerland. Their star player is undoubtedly Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen. The midfielder has scored 31 goals in 95 appearances for his country so far and his form will play a major part in determining how successful their campaign will be.

Captain Simon Kjær is also a vital player for the Scandinavians. The Sevilla centre-back has spent the season so-far on loan at Atalanta, and is likely to reach the 100 cap milestone during the championships next summer.


Parken Stadium in Copenhagen

One of Denmark’s most underrated squad members is 28-year-old midfielder Thomas Delaney, who has been one of the Bundesliga’s stand-out players in recent seasons. He joined Borussia Dortmund from Werder Bremen in 2018 and is a regular in Die Schwarzgelben’s midfield.

As well as being packed with experience, Denmark also have plenty of youth to call upon. Kasper Dolberg joined Nice from Ajax in the summer and the 22-year-old has already amassed 17 appearances for the Danes. 21-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward Jacob Bruun Larsen made his debut last summer and will be pushing for a place in the squad, as will young Bournemouth midfielder Philip Billing, who is yet to win his maiden cap.

While Denmark’s recent record in the competition is not great, they famously won the Euros in 1992, despite failing to qualify. After Yugoslavia were kicked out, the Danes were selected to replace them, going on to beat Germany 2-0 in the final to create one of the most famous shocks in international football history.

Finland

Finland will compete at their first ever major tournament next summer, after finishing second behind Italy in their qualifying group. Considered the weakest side in the group, they will need to get off to a good start in their opening fixture, the Nordic derby against Denmark, to give themselves a chance of reaching the knockout stages.

Whilst their squad doesn’t contain many household names, one is Norwich striker Teemu Pukki. The 29-year-old was top scorer in the Championship last season as the Canaries won the title, and got off to a superb start in the Premier League, winning August’s Player of the Month award in a month which included him netting a hat-trick.

The Fins will be pinning much of their hopes upon Pukki to score the goals to bring them success at the tournament, but he is not the only talented player within their ranks. Former Arsenal midfielder Glen Kamara has impressed in Scotland since joining Rangers and will be a key part of their plans next summer.

Captain Tim Sparv is amongst their most experienced players, and the midfielder will face the country where he plays in their opening game, with the 32-year-old currently at Danish side Midtjylland. Goalkeeper Lukáš Hrádecký is another of their more accomplished players; he joined Bayer Leverkusen from Eintracht Frankfurt in 2018.

Belgium

Undoubtedly favourites to finish top of the group, and arguably to win the competition outright, Belgium have a squad stacked full of talent which they hope will help them improve on their previous European Championship performances.

Belgium reached the semi-finals in 1972 and the final in 1980, where they lost 2-1 to West Germany, but have only qualified for three tournaments between then and next summer’s competition. They will be looking to build upon both their performance in France 2016, where they reached the quarter-finals, and the 2018 World Cup where they secured a third placed finish.

Among the star names manager Roberto Martinez has to call upon are Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid forward Eden Hazard.

De Bruyne has been nothing short of sensational since joining City from Wolfsburg in 2015 and will be looking to continue that form at Euro 2020. He has already featured in three major tournaments for the Red Devils and was named in the 2018 World Cup team of the tournament.

Real Madrid’s Hazard is another big name certain to be included in their squad. The captain, who moved to Madrid last summer following seven seasons at Chelsea, has also featured in three major tournaments and won the World Cup Silver Ball in 2018. He has won over 100 caps for his country, scoring 32 goals in the process.

Romelu Lukaku is arguably Belgium’s third most influential player. The striker, who left Manchester United to join Inter Milan last summer, boasts an incredible goal record in international football, scoring 52 goals in just 84 games. He has similarly played in the last three major tournaments for Belgium and scored four goals at the 2018 World Cup.

Belgium also boast an impressive crop of young talent, with perhaps none as impressive as Leicester midfielder Youri Tielemans. He earned a permanent move to the Foxes for £40m last summer having impressed on a six-month loan spell from Monaco, and will surely have a big part to play in next summer’s tournament.

Belgium will open with a clash against Russia in St Petersburg; they also met in qualifying where Belgium won both their meetings en route to topping the group.

Russia

Russia, who qualified for the tournament after finishing second behind Belgium, will play two of their three group games at home in the 68,000 capacity Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg.

Competing as the Soviet Union, they won the first ever European Championships in France in 1960, which was followed by two final appearances and a semi-final. However, since competing as Russia, they have failed to get out of the group stage all bar once, when they reached the semi-finals in 2008.

Almost their entire squad play at home in the Russian Premier League, with just a few notable exceptions. One of these is Monaco midfielder Aleksandr Golovin, who joined the French side from CSKA Moscow in 2018. The 23-year-old is arguably Russia’s most talented player, and much of his nations hopes will rest upon his shoulders.

Golovin is not the only talent within the Russian squad, however. Valencia winger Denis Cheryshev was one of the stars of the 2018 World Cup, scoring four goals as Russia reached the quarter-final stages. The former Real Madrid player will be hoping to play another starring role and his goals will be crucial to determining how far they can go.

Russia’s main threat up front however will be 31-year-old striker Artem Dzyuba. The Zenit St Petersburg frontman has 24 goals in 42 appearances for his country, including three at the last World Cup and eight in qualification. While he might be getting on a bit, his physical presence will be no less of a threat next summer.

Group Fixtures:

June 13 – Denmark vs Finland – Copenhagen

June 13 – Belgium vs Russia – St Petersburg

June 17 – Denmark vs Belgium – Copenhagen

June 18 – Finland vs Russia – St Petersburg

June 22 – Russia vs Denmark – Copenhagen

June 22 – Finland vs Belgium – St Petersburg

Image Credits:

Featured image by Сергей Петров from Pixabay 

Copenhagen Stadium image by Валерий Дед for Creative Commons

Eriksen image by Дмитрий Неймырок/Dmitriy Neymyrok/Dmitrij Nejmyrok for Creative Commons

Sparv image by Petteri Lehtonen for Creative Commons

Belgium image by Эдгар Брещанов for Creative Commons

Russia image by Кирилл Венедиктов for Creative Commons

National Arena, Bucharest

Preview: Euro 2020 Group C

Group C consists of Austria, the Netherlands, Ukraine plus one team from the play-offs.

Austria

Ranking: 26th (Fifa); 16th (Uefa)

Head-to-head records:

Against the Netherlands: W-6 D-4 L-9 S-24 C-36

Against Ukraine: W-1 D-0 L-1 S-4 C-4

Key Player – Marcel Sabitzer: The attacking midfielder is one of several key contributors for Das Team, getting two goals and five assists in nine games for his country as they finished behind winners Poland in Euro qualifying Group G.

Next summer’s European Championship will only be the third time that Austria have made it to the Euros, the first being in 2008 when they co-hosted with Switzerland. The team, currently managed by Franco Foda, have never gone beyond the group stage.

In fact, they have only ever got one point from each of the other two Euros for which they have qualified. This time round, they sealed their spot at next summer’s tournament by beating Macedonia 2-1 in a must-win game, courtesy of goals from David Alaba and Stefan Lainer.

Netherlands

Amsterdam Arena
Amsterdam Arena will host the Netherlands’ three group games

Ranking: 14th (Fifa); 9th (Uefa)

Head-to-head records:

Against Ukraine: W-1 D-1 L-0 S-4 C-1

Against Austria: W-9 D-4 L-6 S-36 C-24

Key Player – Virgil Van Dijk: The Dutch skipper is one of three defenders to make the Ballon D’Or shortlist. He has been an important cog for club side Liverpool, helping them to win the Champions League last season, following a runners-up finish the year before.

Ronald Koeman’s Netherlands are favourites to win Group C, having been reinvigorated following their failure to reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia. This will be the 10th time they have featured in the Euro finals, with the Dutch winning the trophy in West Germany in 1988.

The one criticism of the Oranje is that they lack a top-level recognised striker, with the majority of their goals being supplied by Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay. The pair scored 24 in qualifying, including scoring six in the two matches against Germany, who topped the group.

Ukraine

Ranking: 24th (Fifa); 15th (Uefa)

Head-to-head records:

Against Austria: W-1 D-0 L-1 S-4 C-4

Against the Netherlands: W-0 D-1 L-1 S-1 C-4

Key Player – Andriy Pyatov: The 93-cap international is currently Ukraine’s captain. In their 2-2 draw with Serbia, he became the most-capped goalkeeper for his team. Pyatov is a legend of the game in Ukraine and has made 443 appearances for Shakhtar Donetsk, conceding just 370 goals and winning nine league titles with them.

Ukraine’s form was lifted when their most famous former player, Andriy Shevchenko, finally took the manager’s role after refusing it several times previously. They failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, though only finished three points off of Croatia.

This time out in qualifying, Shevchenko’s men topped Group B with two games to spare after beating favourites Portugal 2-1. Roman Yaremchuk and Andriy Yarmolenko scored, before a late scare from Cristiano Ronaldo, ensuring a place in a major tournament for the third time.

In terms of who makes the knockout stages, it is likely to be a scrap between Ukraine and Austria for second place behind the Dutch. Both could make it through as one of the best third-placed teams, but both would be in the knockout phase for the first time.

The final team will be the Winner of Path D in the play-offs (Georgia; Belarus; North Macedonia; Kosovo) – unless Romania win Path A containing Iceland, Bulgaria and Hungary.

Rankings and key players for the possible other Group C team

Georgia: 91st (Fifa), 38th (Uefa); Belarus 87th (Fifa), 37th (Uefa); North Macedonia: 68th (Fifa), 36th (Uefa); Kosovo: 115th (Fifa), 46th (Uefa); Romania: 37th (Fifa), 22nd (Uefa).

Georgia – Jaba Kankava: Captain of his national team, the experienced defensive midfielder is currently is playing for Tobol in the Kazakhstan Premier League. He has played over 80 times for his country and he featured in Ligue 1 for Stade de Reims a couple of years ago.

Belarus – Syarhey Palitsevich: He is one of many experienced faces in the Belarusian camp, having been capped 31 times. Currently, the centre-back is playing for Kairat Almaty, recent runners-up in Kazakhstan Premier League.

North Macedonia – Goran Pandev: Pandev is a legend in his home country – not only is he the most-capped player with 108, he is also their all-time top scorer with 34 goals. Despite having turned 36, if his country made it through, he would likely be selected for one final hurrah.

Kosovo – Milot Rashica: The Werder Bremen star made the switch to featuring for Kosovo after playing twice for Albania. His debut for them came in August 2016 against Finland.

Romania – Ciprian Tătărușanu: The experienced ‘keeper is his team’s most capped star and has experience from featuring in 2016 European Championships in France. He has spent the last couple of years in the top flights of Italy and France.

Group Schedule:

Sunday 14 June (all kick-offs Central European Time):

Austria v Play-off winner D or A (18:00, Bucharest)

Netherlands v Ukraine (21:00, Amsterdam)

Thursday 18 June:

Ukraine v Play-off winner D or A (15:00, Bucharest)

Netherlands v Austria (21:00, Amsterdam)

Monday 22 June:

Play-off winner D or A v Netherlands (18:00, Amsterdam)

Ukraine v Austria (18:00, Bucharest)

Routes to the later stages:

Round of 16:

Saturday 27 June: 1A v 2C (21:00, London)

Sunday 28 June: 1C v 3D/E/F (18:00, Budapest)

Monday 29 June: 1F v 3A/B/C (21:00, Bucharest)

Tuesday 30 June: 1E v 3A/B/C/D (21:00, Glasgow)

Quarter-Finals:

Friday 3 July: Winner 6 v Winner 5 (18:00, Saint Petersburg); Winner 4 v Winner 2 (21:00, Munich)

Saturday 4 July: Winner 3 v Winner 1 (18:00, Baku); Winner 8 v Winner 7 (21:00, Rome)

Semi-Finals:

Tuesday 7 July: Winner QF2 v Winner QF1 (21:00, London)

Wednesday 8 July: Winner QF4 v Winner QF3 (21:00, London)

Final:

Sunday 12 July- Winner SF1 v Winner SF2 (21:00, London)

Key:W= Won; D= Draw; L= Lost; S= Scored; C= Conceded

National Arena, Bucharest, main photo by Carpathianland via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC 2.0.Amsterdam Arena photo by Javier Novo Rodriguez via Flickr Creative Commons, licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Preview: Man City v Chelsea (23/11/19)

Pep Guardiola’s side is currently fourth in there Premier League, one point behind their visitors, with both sides looking for their first win against a ‘big six’ club this season.

Man City defender Aymeric Laporte and striker Leroy Sane are still struggling with knee injuries, and goalkeeper Ederson is unlikely to return. Midfielder Bernardo Silva is serving a one-match ban because of his controversial tweet about his team-mate Benjamin Mendy.

Chelsea have three midfielders, Christian Pulisic, Ross Barkley, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, struggling with injuries. Defender Antonio Rudiger is still recovering after groin surgery.

The Blues have eight victories in their past 10 games, and Man City have seven. Guardiola’s side is more effective at scoring than their opponents – they have a league-leading 35 goals, compared to Chelsea’s 27.

Nevertheless, they went without a win in their most recent two matches: a 1-1 draw against Atalanta in Champions League, and a 3-1 loss before the international break. In contrast, Chelsea are unbeaten in November.

The hosts have won five out of six most recent meetings of these two teams, but this will be the first time Frank Lampard has faced the club where he spent a brief period at the end of his playing career.

Both sides are secure in the top four as fifth-placed Sheffield United are eight points below Man City. A home win tomorrow, coupled with Liverpool loss at Crystal Palace, will see the gap at the top reduced to six points.

If Chelsea win and the current top two, Liverpool and Leicester City, both lose, they will climb from third to second place, only five points off the top spot.

Etihad Stadium photo by Quay News via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

London Stadium

Preview: West Ham vs Tottenham (23/11/2019)

José Mourinho’s return to the Premier League starts as his Tottenham Hotspur side face Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham at the London Stadium.

The two are former foes and have faced off a total of 15 times already, with Mourinho being the more successful of the two, winning on eight occasions.

The last time they met was September 2018, when Pellegrini’s Hammers overcame the Portuguese’s Manchester United team 3-1 at home.

The London Stadium faithful are currently missing two of their key players with Lukasz Fabianski (thigh) and Manuel Lanzini (shoulder) unlikely to feature for the hosts.

However, Jack Wilshere, Michail Antonio and Mark Noble could all be match fit to face off against their bitter rivals.

As for Tottenham, Paulo Gazzaniga will have to assume regular duty in goal as both Hugo Lloris (arm) and Michel Vorm (calf) are currently out. Winger Erik Lamela (thigh) is also still yet to return.

There is some good news for Mourinho’s side, though, as both Jan Vertonghen and Tanguy Ndombele have made a full recovery and could feature for the first time under their new boss.

When the two London sides last met, the Hammers won 1-0 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium courtesy of a winner from Michail Antonio in the 67th minute.

The Hammers have failed to win any of their last seven matches in a streak that started with a 4-0 loss in the Carabao Cup to League One side Oxford United.

Conceding goals has been the issue this season as Pellegrini’s men have shipped two or more seven times this season with their goal difference sitting at -6.

Their Chilean boss knows that form has been an issue: “Of course it was very unexpected because we finished last season very well and we’re playing well this season also. For different reasons we must find why we didn’t continue playing in the same way and winning games. Especially against Palace and Sheffield United at home, there were games we deserved a better result.

“The Premier League this year is very tight – within three points there are eight teams. We must try to recover our performance, and I hope that this will be a good game to try to return to winning our home games.”

Tottenham have been underperforming hence the change in management, with Spurs currently sitting 14th, only six points above Watford in the drop zone. This is due to the London side failing to win in the league since September 28th, when they beat Southampton 2-1.

For Spurs, the Champions League has been a welcome distraction from Premier League football, with their last two wins being a 4-0 and 5-0 win over Red Star Belgrade.

The North London side’s mentality has been criticised in recent months, with them either losing or drawing from a winning position in six of their 17 games so far this season.

Mourinho came out backing his players who are in dire need of a win with the Portuguese boss announcing: “The best gift for me is that, I don’t need players, I am happy with the ones I have.

“I just need more time with them. I know them well from playing against them, but you never know them well enough.”

For West Ham, a loss could be disastrous and even though Pellegrini has been given the dreaded vote of confidence, failing to win could end with him out the job as there isn’t many more chances he can be given.

If Tottenham were to lose, it shouldn’t have a major effect with their manager easily being able to say that he’s not had enough time with his squad yet.

London Stadium photo by Dan Dyer via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Amex Stadium, Brighton

Preview: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Leicester City (23/11/19)

Leicester travel to the Amex Stadium at the weekend looking to pick up where they left off before the international break and hold onto second spot in the Premier League.

Brighton will also be hoping to continue their steady climb up the Premier League table and secure their fourth consecutive home win.

Brighton team news

Seagulls boss Graham Potter has a defensive dilemma on his hands heading into the weekend, with centre-back Adam Webster out injured and Lewis Dunk serving a one-match ban for picking up five yellow cards.

This might provide a rare opportunity to German-Nigerian defender Leon Balogun, who made just eight league appearances for Brighton last season and has only featured once this term, in the Carabao Cup.

A late fitness test will determine whether rising star Aaron Connolly has shaken off a groin injury in time to feature against the Foxes. Veteran attacker Glenn Murray will be waiting in the wings if the young Irishman doesn’t make it, hoping to end his scoring drought and bag his first league goal of the campaign.

The good news for Potter is that Belgian wideman Leandro Toussard has recovered from an ankle injury and is likely to come back into the matchday squad.

Leicester team news

Key man James Maddison picked up a knock whilst away on international duty with England, but according to Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers, he is expected to recover in time for the Foxes’ trip to the Amex.

Jonny Evans was hospitalised with a bad illness whilst away with Northern Ireland, but Rodgers confirmed that he is also expected to recover and play in this key match in the Premier League.

Manager quotes

Brighton manager Graham Potter: “[Rodgers’] teams play with intelligence and organisation and he’s a top coach and manager.

“Leicester have been in good form recently and Jamie Vardy has been very clinical.

“But he’d be the first to say that it’s as much about the team behind him too that are creating chances for him.”

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers: “We’ve got a tough schedule over the next couple of months and we’ll need the whole squad.

“We need to keep our focus. Football is difficult to forecast. I can only prepare our team, I can only focus on the next game.

“I learned when I was younger when I tried to think about how many points we will get over the next five games, it’s better to just focus on the next game.”

Form

Brighton & Hove Albion (11th): LWLWWL

Leicester City (2nd): LWWWWW

Past meetings

Brighton and Leicester have faced each other 33 times in their history. Leicester winning 14 of them, Brighton coming away the victors 13 times and neither side able to get the better of one another on six occasions.

The Seagulls have failed to overcome Leicester in their last four meetings, though. Goals from Demarai Gray and Jamie Vardy condemned Brighton to a 2-1 defeat the last time these two teams met in February earlier this year at the King Power Stadium.

The last time Brighton managed to defeat Leicester was back in 2014; goals from Stephen Ward and Jesse Lingard plus a Leonardo Ulloa brace condemned the Foxes to a 4-1 defeat when both sides were plying their trade in the Championship.

Amex Stadium image credit by JJ Hall via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Selhurst Park

Preview: Crystal Palace v Liverpool (23/11/19)

Liverpool will look to increase their eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League with victory at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

The Reds have dropped just two points this season, and head into the match on the back of a 3-0 victory over champions Manchester City before the international break.

Crystal Palace, meanwhile, sit 12th and have failed to score in three of their last four games, with their last win coming back in early October away at West Ham.

Jurgen Klopp’s side will have to do without the services of Mohamed Salah, with the Egypt forward suffering from an ankle injury and unlikely to be fit despite his return to training this week. Divock Origi, who played 10 minutes for Belgium in their 6-1 victory over Cyprus in midweek, will take his place in the side.

Left-back Andy Robertson is also dealing with an ankle knock meaning he too is set to miss this weekend’s fixture. James Milner is likely to deputise in the Scot’s absence.

Virgil van Dijk missed the Netherlands’ 5-0 win against Estonia for personal reasons, but the talismanic centre-back will be available to start in South London.

Jordan Henderson and Joe Gomez both missed England’s victory over Kosovo and the pair are doubts for trip down south. Xherdan Shaqiri returned to training this week but is unlikely to be involved.

Roy Hodgson will have the services of star man Wilfried Zaha available, despite the forward suffering a foot injury during their defeat at Chelsea two weeks ago. Zaha has yet to score in 12 appearances but will start alongside Palace’s top scorer Jordan Ayew, who has four goals this campaign.

Joel Ward was also forced off at Stamford Bridge, with the right-back set to be replaced by Martin Kelly in the eleven. Long-term absentees Mamadou Sakho and Connor Wickham remain sidelined.

Former Liverpool striker Christian Benteke will be looking to kick-start his season against his old side; the Belgian is yet to find the net but could play a role coming off the bench.

Hodgson will also be facing his former club, having spent five months in charge of the Reds in 2010, and will be looking to add to his three previous wins against them in his managerial career.

Liverpool have won their last four meetings with the Eagles, including a 2-0 victory at Selhurst Park early last season. Palace were the last club to win a league match at Anfield, defeating the Reds 2-1 in April 2017, but last won the reverse fixture back in November 2014, two second half goals securing a 3-1 win.

Perhaps their most famous meeting came in May of that same year, when Palace, then managed by Tony Pulis, fought back from three goals down to earn a 3-3 draw, with Dwight Gayle scoring a late brace.

Klopp’s Reds will be hoping to avoid a similar outcome this time as they look to lay down a marker ahead of the weekend’s big game between Manchester City and Chelsea, which kicks off at 5.30pm on the same day.

Selhurst Park photo by Patrick via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC 2.0.

England’s 100 Club – Three Lions most loyal servants

A total of 1,244 players have earned at least one cap for the England men’s international football team. However, only nine have reached 100 or more. Elephant Sport takes a look back of the careers of those history makers.

Peter Shilton – 125 caps

England’s record appearance maker, the goalkeeper made his debut in a 3-1 victory over East Germany in November 1970. He spent two years as understudy to arguably England’s greatest ever shot-stopper, Gordon Banks, before the World Cup winner lost his sight in one eye following a car crash in 1972.

England failed to qualify for either the 1974 or 1978 World Cups, so it was not until 1982 in Spain when Shilton made his debut in the Finals, playing every game as the Three Lions remained unbeaten but were knocked out in the second round.

He started every match in both Mexico 86 and Italia 90, helping England reach the quarter-finals in Mexico, where they lost to Argentina, before finishing fourth in Italy following a semi-final loss on penalties to Germany.

Of Shilton’s 125 caps, 17 of those came during his three World Cup appearances, while three came in European Championships. He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

Wayne Rooney – 120 caps

England’s most-capped outfield player, the former Manchester United and Everton forward is also his country’s leading goalscorer with 53, ahead of Sir Bobby Charlton in scored on 49.

His international debut came as a second-half substitute in a 3-1 loss to Australia, and he later became the youngest England goalscorer at 17 years and 317 days in a 2-1 win over Macedonia.

It was Euro 2004 when Rooney truly burst onto the international stage. He scored four goals and was named in Uefa’s team of the tournament. Were it not for an injury suffered during England’s quarter-final loss to hosts Portugal, many pundits believed he could have led his country to glory.

He struggled, however, at both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, failing to score in either and was sent-off during England’s quarter-final defeat to Portugal in ’06. His World Cup record overall is disappointing, with just one goal – against Uruguay in 2014 – from his 11 appearances.

He has a much better record in European Championships, netting six in his 10 appearances in the tournament. He was appointed England captain by manager Roy Hodgson in 2014.

Rooney’s record-breaking goal came from the penalty spot at Wembley in a qualifier against Switzerland in September 2015, and he retired from international football in August 2017, before returning for a farewell match against the USA in November 2018.

David Beckham – 115 caps

Perhaps England’s most famous player worldwide, Beckham made his debut in a 3-0 victory over Moldova in September 1996. He was picked for the 1998 World Cup in France and scored his first England goal in their final group match against Colombia, which the Three Lions won 2-0.

However, he was infamously sent-off in their last-16 clash with Argentina, after kicking out at Diego Simeone. England went on to lose the match on penalties.

Beckham featured in all three of England’s Euro 2000 games as they crashed out in the group stage, but scored perhaps the most famous of his 17 goals for his country a year later. With England needing a point to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, they trailed 2-1 to Greece before Beckham scored a sensational free-kick in stoppage time to secure their ticket to the finals.

He scored the winner in a group-stage victory over Argentina at the tournament, before they were knocked out by eventual champions Brazil in the quarter-finals. He had been appointed captain by then-caretaker boss Peter Taylor towards the end of 2000.

Beckham played a star role in England’s Euro 2004 campaign, before scoring once in his final international tournament as England exited the 2006 World Cup at the quarter-final stage. He played his final England match in October 2009 against Belarus, before injury ruled him out of the upcoming World Cup. Of Beckham’s 115 caps, 20 came at major tournaments.

Steven Gerrard – 114 caps

A key figure in England’s “Golden Generation”, his debut came in May 2000, a 2-0 victory over Ukraine, and he was included in their Euro 2000 squad, making a solitary substitute appearance.

The first of his 21 international goals came in England’s famous 2001 qualifying victory over Germany, a 5-1 thrashing in Munich. After missing out on the 2002 World Cup squad, Gerrard started every game at Euro 2004, scoring once.

The Liverpool legend was England’s top scorer at the 2006 World Cup, scoring twice in five matches, but did miss his penalty in England’s shootout loss to Portugal. After failing to qualify for Euro 2008, his next tournament appearance came in the 2010 World Cup. Gerrard scored in England’s opening group-stage draw with the USA as they went on to crash out to Germany in the last 16.

Gerrard was named captain by Roy Hodgson ahead of Euro 2012, where the midfielder excelled, being named in the team of the tournament despite England losing on penalties to Italy in the last eight.

His England career ended in bitter disappointment, as the Three Lions were eliminated from the 2014 World Cup at the group stage, with Gerrard’s final cap coming in a dead rubber against Costa Rica. He played 21 times overall in major tournaments for England, scoring four goals.

Bobby Moore – 108 caps

Bobby Moore statue outside Wembley

An icon of English sport, Moore captained England to their only World Cup victory in 1966. His debut came in a 7-1 win over Israel in September 1961, and the central defender started every game at the back for his country in the 1962 World Cup, where they were beaten by Brazil in the quarters.

It was 1966 where Moore made his name, playing every minute as he led his country to World Cup glory on home soil. After beginning the tournament with a goalless draw against Uruguay, England beat Mexico and France before victory over Argentina in the quarter-finals.

A 2-1 semi-final win against Portugal was followed by England’s most famous match; a 4-2 extra-time win over Germany to seal World Cup glory. Moore was even able to provide an assist alongside his defensive work to help his country become world champions.

Moore’s final World Cup was in 1970, where they again faced extra-time against the Germans, this time losing 3-2 at the quarter-final stage. Moore managed two goals during his international career and was in 1994 named in Fifa’s all-time World Cup XI.

Ashley Cole – 107 caps

Regarded by many as England’s greatest ever left-back, Cole’s 107 caps include 22 appearances across five major tournaments. His international debut came in a 3-1 victory against Albania in March 2001, and he went on to start all five games at the 2002 World Cup.

He also started all four of England’s Euro 2004 matches, scoring his penalty in their shootout defeat by Portugal. He played every minute in the 2006 World Cup, this time not taking a penalty as England again lost to Portugal in a shootout. He was again ever-present in both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, but this time missed his spot-kick in England’s 2012 loss to Italy.

Cole earned his 100th cap against Brazil at Wembley in February 2013, helping his country to a 2-1 win. The former Arsenal and Chelsea defender’s last cap came in a friendly defeat to Germany in November later that year, as he was controversially left out of the 2014 World Cup squad by boss Roy Hodgson, prompting him to announce his international retirement. Cole was named England’s Player of the Year in 2010.

Bobby Charlton – 106 caps

The second World Cup winner to earn over 100 caps, the Manchester United legend was handed his debut by boss Walter Winterbottom in 1958, scoring in a 4-0 win against Scotland. He was selected in the squad for the World Cup that year but didn’t play, with his debut in the competition coming four years later; he played every game as England were knocked out by Brazil in the quarters, scoring once.

Charlton played every minute of England’s victorious 1966 campaign, scoring three goals in the process, and registering an assist in the final. He went on to feature in Euro 1968, scoring in England’s third place play-off win against the USSR, before his final World Cup came in 1970, where he featured in every match as England lost to Germany in the quarter-finals.

This match proved to be his last for his country, as he retired at the age of 32. Charlton won many awards during his career, including the Golden Ball at the 1966 World Cup and the Ballon d’Or in that same year. He was named alongside Moore in FIFA’s all-time World Cup team in 1994 and knighted in that same year.

Frank Lampard – 106 caps

Another of England’s famous “Golden Generation”, Lampard was handed his Three Lions debut by Kevin Keegan in October 1999, a 2-1 win against Belgium. He did not play again for England until a friendly against Spain in February 2001, playing 45 minutes of a 3-0 victory.

After failing to be picked for the 2002 World Cup, his first major tournament came at Euro 2004, where he impressed, scoring three goals. He also converted his penalty in England’s shootout defeat by Portugal and was named in the team of the tournament.

The Chelsea legend played every minute of England’s 2006 World Cup campaign, seeing his penalty saved as the Three Lions crashed out once again to Portugal on spot-kicks.

After England’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008, his next major tournament came in South Africa, where he started every match. He was involved in arguably one of the most controversial moments in the history of the tournament, when with England trailing 2-1 to Germany in their last 16 clash, his shot from distance hit the bar and bounced over the line, but was not spotted by the linesman. With no goal-line technology, it wasn’t given, and Lampard’s side went on to lose 4-1.

A thigh injury ruled him out of Euro 2012, and he returned to major tournament action in 2014, which proved to be a very unsatisfactory end to what had been a fantastic international career.

He was forced to watch from the sidelines as Roy Hodgson’s men lost their first two group games, returning to captain his country in their final match, a 0-0 draw with Costa Rica. He announced his retirement following the game. Overall, Lampard scored 29 goals in his 106 games, 14 of those coming in major tournaments.

Billy Wright – 105 caps

Billy Wright statue outside Molineux

Wright featured in an era when England played fewer games, so to reach 100-plus caps is quite an achievement.

The centre-back spent his entire career at Wolves, making 490 appearances for the club, and went on to manage Arsenal for four years.

His international debut came against Belgium in January 1946, England’s third game since the war and one of several ‘Victory Internationals’.

He was the first footballer to earn 100 caps for his country, and he never received a yellow or red card throughout his long Three Lions career.

Wright also scored three goals, and captained England a record 90 times, including at the 1950, 1954 and 1958 World Cup finals. His retired in 1958 following a 5-0 victory over the USSR. In 1957, he was the Ballon d’Or runner-up and was inducted into the England Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

Featured image by Rogelio A. Galaviz C. via flickr.com

Wayne Rooney photo by Rogelio A. Galaviz C. via flickr.com

Steven Gerrard photo by http://football.ua/galleries/ for Wikimedia Commons

Bobby Moore photo by OttoKristensen is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Frank Lampard photo by BikeMike for Wikimedia Commons

Billy Wright photo by Jaggery and licensed under Creative Commons license cc-by-sa/2.0

Wembley Stadium

How many grounds have England called home?

As England prepare to play their 1,000th international against Montenegro on November 14th at Wembley Stadium, Elephant Sport looks back at the many stadia that have hosted their home games down the years.

The home stadium for the England national team is Wembley, right? Sort of…

Over the last 147 years, England have led a nomadic existence when it comes to hosting games. In total, they have actually played at over 50 different grounds all around the country since their first match against Scotland in 1872.

That encounter – the world’s first football international fixture – took place at the West Scotland Cricket Club, and England staged their first home game against the Scots on March 30, 1872 at another cricket ground – The Oval in Kennington, London, which they won 4-2. 

The original Wembley Stadium, originally known as the Empire Stadium, opened in 1923, and up to that point (and even beyond it), the England team were on the road for their home matches.

Between the 1873 and 1924 they played nearly 70 home games at venues including Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane, Anfield and Goodison Park in Liverpool, Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park and Villa Park in Birmingham. In total, England played in 19 nineteen different cities and 35 stadia in that era. 

England’s first home game not at The Oval came in 1881, when they were beaten 1-0 by Wales at the East Lancashire Cricket Club in Blackburn. By 1890, all their matches were being played at football stadia (although Bramall Lane was also used for cricket by Yorkshire until 1973).

From 1883-84 onwards, England hosted games in the British Home Championship against Scotland, Wales and Ireland (and then Northern Ireland are Irish independence). The competition last for 100 years.

Twin Towers

Another venue which hosted home matches in the early years of the 20th century was the White City Stadium, built for the 1908 Olympics in London. Only eight nations took part in the football competition, and 12 other sports were staged at the west London location during the Games.

A postcard of the original Wembley Stadium

After Wembley Stadium opened its turnstiles in 1923, England’s first match beneath the famous Twin Towers came in 1924 against the Auld Enemy, Scotland. Until 1951, Wembley only saw matches between England and Scotland but in that year the first big international game against Argentina was held at the stadium, with England winning 2-1.

Even after Wembley came into use, England still played many of their matches in other locations. Goodison Park in Liverpool was one of their favorites, playing seven games in total, winning four and drawing two. White Hart Lane was another lucky ground, with England winning all four of their internationals at Tottenham’s home.

After World War II, England’s games continued to be a moveable feast, and it wasn’t until the early-mid 1950s that the team really settled at Wembley. It was, of course, the scene of the first – and to date only – World Cup triumph, in 1966. The Three Lions played all their games during the tournament at Wembley, and stayed in north London 30 years later as England hosted Euro 96 and reached the semi-finals.

Wembley continued to host England games into the 21st century, but by then the old venue was starting to show its age, and was eventually deemed as unfit to be the home of English football. A decision was taken to demolish it and build a new stadium on the same site, meaning England had to go on their travels against between 2001 and 2007.

During that time, they played in 15 different stadia, eight of which had never hosted England internationals. Some 34 matches were spread around the country, bringing England closer to supporters outside of London.

England on tour

Given its size, Old Trafford in Manchester was the most used stadium during this time, hosting more than a dozen matches, including 2002 and 2006 World Cup qualifiers, and Euro 2004 and 2008 qualifying games.

The tour saw England team return to several cities for the first time in 5- years or more, and was considered a success, not only because it kept the money rolling in for the FA but also because the team engaged with fans all over the country.  

The new Wembley Stadium is a multipurpose venue

After several delays, the new Wembley Stadium was finally finished in 2007, and England’s inaugural match there on June 1st, ended in a 1-1 draw against Brazil.

Since then, England have definitely called Wembley home, but during the build-up to Euro 2016, they played two games outside of London; against Turkey at the Etihad Stadium and Australia at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light. 

Ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, England beat Costa Rica 2-0 in a friendly at Elland Road, Leeds, and after the tournament, Leicester City’s King Power Stadium hosted another friendly: a 1-0 win over Switzerland.

In September 2019, England staged a World Cup qualifier against Kosovo at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium, winning 5-3, but expect the vast majority of their matches to be played at the National Stadium – as Wembley is known these days – for the foreseeable future.

Here is a list of all of the grounds England have called home the past 147 years, with some interesting peculiarities:  

Alexandra Meadows, Blackburn – played in 1881; also was a cricket ground.

Leamington Road, Blackburn – played in 1885 and 1887; ground closed in 1890.

Ewood Park, Blackburn – played in 1891 and 1924; held three Women’s Uefa Championship games in 2005. 

Wellington Road, Birmingham – played in 1893; ground closed in 1897. 

Turf Moor, Burnley – played in 1927; one of the oldest football grounds still in use in the United Kingdom, second only to Deepdale and Bramall Lane. 

Bloomfield Road, Blackpool – played in 1932. 

Park Avenue, Bradford – played in 1909; also a cricket ground. 

Ashton Gate, Bristol – 1899 and 1913; also a rugby ground. 

Cricket Ground, Derby – played in 1895; hosted the first-ever FA cup final played outside London. 

Baseball Ground, Derby – played in 1911; demolished 2003.

Pride Park, Derby – played in 2001; fourth newest stadium to host England. 

Leeds Road, Huddersfield – played in 1946; since demolished, also a rugby league ground. 

Portman Road, Ipswich – played in 2003. 

Elland Road, Leeds – played in 1995, 2002 and 2018 – being one of the oldest in the country to still be in use, also a rugby league venue. 

King Power Stadium, Leicester – played in 2003 and 2018; newest stadium in the Premier League along the Etihad Stadium. 

Liverpool Cricket Ground, Liverpool – played in 1883; also a cricket ground. 

Anfield, Liverpool – played in 1889, 1905, 1922, 1926, 1931, 2001, 2002 and 2006.

Goodison Park, Liverpool – played in 1895, 1907, 1911, 1924, 1928, 1935, 1947, 1949, 1951, 1953 and 1966 – held three games in the 1966 World Cup. 

The Oval Kennington, London – played during 1873 to 1889 – first stadium England called home; their original home ground. 

Athletic Ground Richmond, London – played in 1893; a rugby field. 

Queen’s Club, West Kensington, London – played in 1895; now famous as a tennis venue. 

Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace, London – played in 1897, 1901, 1905, 1909 and 1926. 

Craven Cottage, Fulham, London – played in 1907. 

The Den, New Cross, London – played in 1911; demolished in 1993 and rebuilt 2010. 

Stamford Bridge, London – played in 1913, 1929 and 1932; also staged cricket, rugby, baseball, speedway, boxing, American football and greyhound racing. 

Arsenal Stadium, Highbury London – played in 1920, 1923, 1931, 1936, 1938, 1947, 1948, 1950 and 1951 – held 1962 FIFA World Cup qualification; demolished in 2006. 

White Hart Lane, Tottenham, London – played in 1933, 1935, 1937 and 1949; demolished in 2017. 

Boleyn Ground, Upton Park, London – played in 2003; demolished in 2017. 

White City Stadium, London – played in 1909; demolished in 1985. 

Wembley Stadium, London – played in since 2007 and current home.

Whalley Range, Manchester – played in 1885.

Old Trafford, Manchester – played in 1926, 1938, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007 – second biggest capacity in the United Kingdom. Has held FA Cup semi-finals, World Cup games, Champions League final, Euro Cup games.

Maine Road, Manchester – played in 1946 and 1949 – demolished in 2004. When opened, it was the biggest stadium in England and the second largest after Wembley. 

City of Manchester Stadium (Etihad Stadium), Manchester – played in 2004 and 2016 – Newest Stadium along with the King Power Stadium. Used for the 2002 Commonwealth Games then reconfigured for football. 

Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough – played in 1905, 1914 and 1937; demolished in 1996; a venue for games at the 1966 World Cup.  

Riverside, Middlesbrough – played in 2003; record of attendance (35,000) for England v Slovakia. 

St James’ Park, Newcastle – played in 1901, 1907, 1933, 1938, 2001, 2004 and 2005; held 2002 and 2006 World Cup qualification games.

Trent Bridge, Nottingham – played in 1897; famous as a cricket ground. 

City Ground, Nottingham – played in 1909; hosted Euro 96 games. 

Fratton Park, Portsmouth – played in 1903; an Olympic venue in 1948.

Bramall Lane, Sheffield – played in 1883, 1887, 1897, 1903 and 1930; considered to be the oldest football stadium in the world.

Hillborough, Sheffield – played in 1920 and 1962. 

The Dell, Southampton – played in 1901; closed in 2001. The first ground to have permanent floodlighting installed. 

St. Mary’s, Southampton – played 2002 and 2019.

Victoria Ground, Stoke-on-Trent – played in 1889, 1893 and 1936; demolished in 1997. 

Newcastle Road, Sunderland – played in 1891; closed in 1998. 

Roker Park, Sunderland – played in 1899, 1920 and 1950; closed and demolished in 1998 but then remade. 

Stadium of Light, Sunderland – played in 1999, 2003 and 2016; replaced Roker Park as Sunderland’s home.

Molineux, Wolverhampton – played in 1891, 1903, 1936 and 1956 – it has a long story and was one of the first stadiums to install artificial lights. Also first to host European Cup matches in 1950. 

The Hawthorns, West Bromwich – played in 1922 and 1924. 

Feature image by Michael Day via Flickr Creative Commons under licence CC BY-NC 2.0. Old Wembley postcard by ca1951rr under licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Panoramic shot of Wembley by AKinsey Foto under licence CC BY-NC 2.0.

Three Lions badge

Before 1,000: every hundredth game of the Three Lions

England’s men’s football team will play their 1,000th international on November 14th when they face Montenegro in a Europe Championship qualifier at the Wembley Stadium.

In the long history of the Three Lions, every hundredth game in the past 147 years is worthy of marking. They are milestones of this team’s history, glories, and span the memories of fans from across the generations.

1st game: Scotland 0-0 England, 30 November 1872


The first game that England played dates back to 147 years ago. The Three Lions’s 0-0 draw against Scotland was also the first-ever official international football match in the world. This historic game was hosted at Hamilton Crescent in Partick, Scotland, which was actually the home of the West of Scotland Cricket Club.

100th game: England 2-0 Wales, 15 March 1909

It took England 27 years to reach the milestone of their 100th game, and it came against Wales in the 1908-09 Home International Championship. The Three Lions won 2-0 won against the Dragons at Nottingham Forest’s home stadium, the City Ground.

200th game: England 3-0 Germany, 4 December 1935

England’s 200th game was a friendly versus Germany at White Hart Lane, the home of Tottenham Hotspur in north London. England beat their opponent from the continent with a 3-0 scoreline.

300th game: England 3-0 Northern Ireland, 2 November 1955

By the time England’s 300th match came around – with a long interruption due to World War II – the national team’s established home was the original Wembley Stadium, which opened in 1923.

The hosts defeated Northern Ireland 3-0 in 1955-56 Home International Championship, but the competition ended with all four teams sharing the trophy after they finished level on points (goal difference was not used at the time).

400th game: Finland 0-3 England, 26 June 1966

The 400th game for Three Lions was a World Cup warm-up against Finland at Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium. Ian Callaghan, the record holder of most appearances for Liverpool, made his debut for England in this match.

The visitors’ goals came from Martin Peters, Roger Hunt and Jack Charlton as England geared up for the winning the World Cup on home soil the following month.

500th game: Scotland 2-1 England, 15 May 1976

England’s 500th match did not have a happy ending. In the last game of 1975/76 Home International Championship, the Three Lions were defeated by the Auld Enemy at Hampden Park in Glasgow; a result which saw the delighted hosts lift the trophy.

600th game: Scotland 1-0 England, 25 May 1985

There are many similarities between England’s 600th game and 500th game: the same opponent, the same stadium (Hampden Park, Glasgow), and the same result—the Three Lions lost again and allowed Scotland to win the first Rous Cup.

This short-lived competition initially included just England and Scotland, but from 1987-89 also featured a guest nation from South America. Brazil, Colombia and Chile all took part before the tournament was ended.

700th game: England 3-0 Poland, 8 September 1993

The Three Lions defeated Poland in their 700th game in a qualifier for the 1994 Fifa World Cup at Wembley Stadium. It was a crucial game for the hosts as they had failed to win their previous three matches, threatening their hopes of reaching the World Cup Finals the following year.

Les Ferdinand, Paul Gascoigne and Stuart Pearce netted for England, but the qualifying campaign was ultimately unsuccessful. Graham Taylor’s team finished third in Group 2 of the European Zone and failed to reach USA 94, ending Taylor’s three-year reign as manager.

800th game: Liechtenstein 0-2 England, 29 March 2003

England got a victory in their 800th match in a 2004 European Championship qualifier at the Rheinpark Stadium in Vaduz, courtesy of goals from by Michael Owen and David Beckham. This is also the first time that England had played against Liechtenstein.

900th game: Montenegro 2-2 England, 7 October 2011

The Three Lions could only managed a draw in their 900th game at the Podgorica City Stadium in Podgorica. Wayne Rooney’s red card in the 73rd minute made him become the second England player to get two red cards in his international career. Coincidently, Montenegro will be England’s opponents again in the upcoming 1,000th game.

Feature image of England Three Lions badge courtesy of Ben Terrett via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0