Last Saturday saw the European domestic season come to a close with Liverpool collecting their sixth Champions League trophy, officially making them the third-most successful club in the history of the competition (Real Madrid have 13 titles). Even though the game itself was nothing to shout about, the scenes at the final whistle were incredible. All of it was topped off with Liverpool players and fans singing the lyrics that the club is famous for…”You’ll never walk alone.”
One of those moments where as a sport’s fan, you can just sit-back, relax and enjoy the moment.
This final was preceded earlier on in the week by a much-better one between Chelsea and Arsenal. The game ended 4-1 to Chelsea and Eden Hazard put in a man-of-the-match performance in what was potentially his last game for the blues.
Now our attentions can turn to the international side of the English summer and that means the Nation’s League, and the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Nation’s League (June 5th – 9th)
The inaugural season of the Nation’s League will come to an end this week. The first semi-final will be between the host nation Portugal, and Switzerland on Wednesday. The day after will see the Dutch play England. The two losing teams will compete in the 3rd/4th playoff while the two winners will be aiming to become the first ever winner. Both of those games will be played on Sunday.
FIFA World Ranking of Finalists:
- England 4th
- Portugal 7th
- Switzerland 8th
- Netherlands 16th
Now, anyone who knows about the ranking system, knows it’s not worth the paper it is written on, but in this case, with these four teams, it’s pretty accurate.
Yet, for many people, hosts Portugal will go into the finals as favourite. Not for me, though. Portugal had the easiest of the groups to qualify from, eliminating Poland and Italy. England had to surpass Spain and World Cup finalists Croatia. Switzerland eliminated Belgium and Iceland, while The Netherlands were the unlikely winners of a group containing World Champions France and Germany.
Funnily enough, what started as another money making scheme by yet another governing body in football – UEFA – has turned out to be quite a success. There are no longer that many boring friendly games where the coaches end up substituting the entire team at half-time. However, the demand on the players has grown.
But…they get paid a ton of money, so can’t feel too bad for them.
So who will win?
It’s a bit of a cliche, but any of the four nations could go down in history as the first winners. Switzerland, on their day can be a bit of a banana skin team to play. Portugal have the inform Bernardo Silva (Man City), Impressive youngster, Joao Felix (Benfica), and wait, I’m missing someone…
The enigmatic, irreplaceable and magnificent Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus).
Yes, I like Cristiano a lot.
Traditionally, Portugal play well defensively, and that gives the attacking players a chance to win the game with a piece of brilliance.
In the two most recent games played between Portugal and Switzerland, the home side ended up winning 2-0 on both occasions. in 2016, Switzerland took the victory, while a year later Portugal was triumphant.
Portugal have only lost once in the last 15 games – to Uruguay in the World Cup quarter-final – while Switzerland’s form is not so convincing with four defeats in the last nine games played.
The second semi-final will likely be the more entertaining one between England and The Netherlands. The last three games involving the Dutch has seen 13 goals scored, with England scoring five times in each of the last two games they’ve played.
Obviously we should all expect a goalless draw.
I genuinely think England will not only beat the Dutch, but go on to take the title, as long as they don’t crumble under the pressure as per usual. I have never tipped the English for anything in the past, but under coach Gareth Southgate, there’s a new found confidence, belief and togetherness amongst this group of young players. Something which was visible during World Cup and beyond.
FIFA Women’s World Cup (June 7th – July 7th)
When it comes to the topic of women’s football, there’s never a lack of ridiculous comments about how they’re not as good as the men.
Yes, maybe not as quick or strong, but the quality is there.
The be all and end all is that these ladies can play.
The month long tournament will give the home nation, France, a decent chance of replicating what the men’s team did a year ago in Russia. Historically, the French haven’t done very well in the World Cup (Semi-final once), and it’s unlikely that it will change this time round either, despite them being favourites.
Reigning Champions USA will once again be a force to be reckoned with the likes of Julie Ertz, Ashley Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and the experienced Carli Lloyd, who all won the tournament four years ago. Ertz is one of my favourite players to watch because of her ability to enforce her will on the opposition. She is tough, hard-working and very efficient once she has the ball. With her around, the team works well.
If world rankings are anything to go by then Germany – world ranking: 2 – have a chance. You see, the Germans have always performed well. They have reached the final three times; winning twice. In Dzsenifer Marozsan, they will have a player with the ability to dominate games and provide the kind of momentum that the forwards can live off.
Can England add to the summer of success?
This is definitely the most unlikely chance the English have of celebrating a full-sweep. England, ranked 3rd in the world, have some greatly talented players. Fran Kirby is the most dangerous Lioness. She will be supported by Tony Duggan, Karen Carney and Jill Scott in attack, with Lucy Bronze and Steph Houghton providing the experience defence.
Unfortunately for England, the last few warm-up games prior to the tournament have not really filled their fans with confidence. Unless they start to turn it around, the chances of them getting past the quarter finals will be a hard task.
So there you have it, an English summer is definitely upon us, starting with the Europa League last week, and ending with the Cricket World Cup final on July 14th. By that date, I expect many trophies to be coming home.
Not just football…