The return of UEFA Champions League and the beginning of the knockout stages marks a joyous time for any soccer fan. This season’s Round of 16 promises to be one of the most exciting yet. Matchups like Real Madrid vs. PSG, Juventus vs. Tottenham and Chelsea vs. Barcelona would be amazing finals for the event, but we’re lucky enough to have them in February and March. You're not going to want to miss any of the action.
Real Madrid defender Dani Carvajal thought he was being clever. In the waning moments of a 6-0 victory over APOEL on Nov. 21, Carvajal decided to hold the ball instead of throwing it back into play. The referee didn’t like this time wasting and showed him a yellow card. It was Carvajal’s fifth yellow of the Champions League campaign, meaning he would be suspended for the Borussia Dortmund match, but he would be available for the knockout rounds, for which Real Madrid had already qualified.
Scoring a hat-trick in Europe’s premier club competition is no mean feat, especially so as an adolescent teenager between the ages of 13 and 19. The list of players to have accomplished the goalscoring achievement reads like a who’s who of the world’s greatest talent since the tournament’s adoption in 1992.
In fact, only 18 players have multiple Champions League hat-tricks to their name, with both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo having accomplished the task a staggering seven times. Nobody else has recorded more than three.
And so it’s settled. On November 15, Peru claimed the final spot in the 32-team field for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, bringing us to the final event before the June 14 kick off at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow: the draw to determine the eight groups of four for the finals.
The fallout from Italy’s shock elimination from the 2018 World Cup at the hands of Sweden has been largely centered around two things: the ongoing Italian footballing apocalypse and the minuscule possibility of 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to the fold for Zweden.
For a moment, it looked like plucky Ireland were going to qualify for the World Cup. Shane Duffy's silly goal put them up 1-0 on Denmark at home. All they had to do was see the game out without conceding. But then Christian Eriksen decided he had had enough, as only a handful of players in the world can do, and tore Ireland up on the way to a hat trick, a 5-1 win and World Cup qualification for Denmark.
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Anthony Martial did some bad, bad things to the Germany defense on Tuesday in Cologne. Alexandre Lacazette scored two goals. But, because this was still Germany, the home side scored late to earn a 2-2 draw in a friendly between two World Cup favorites.
Both teams are looking to build a little cohesion in the buildup to the 2018 World Cup and while much of the match was played with a relaxed demeanor, France will be disappointed to have given up the lead with a 93rd-minute equalizer.
People have started to write the obituaries for Italian football.
Italy is a young nation. It has old cities, even older cultures. But, as a country, it was only unified in 1861. That’s only slightly older than the form of codified football we know today. It should be no surprise that Italy has traditionally been so close to football: it’s simply a question of historical proximity.
This is the official end of an era for the Italy national team. After a 0-0 draw with Sweden on Monday, combined with a 1-0 defeat on Friday, Italy will not be at the 2018 World Cup, ending a run of 14 straight World Cup appearances. The dominoes are already falling in the aftermath of the Azzurri failing to qualify.