Iceland have made history by qualifying for there first major football tournament. On Sunday night they took on Kazakhstan in their latest European Qualifier and a nil-nil draw saw them take the point that they required to qualify for the finals in France during the summer of 2016.
Qualification for the European Championships is more than impressive with the island nation becoming the smallest nation to qualify for a Euros, with an estimated population of just 317,000.
Sitting top of group A they have fought off challenges from the far more experienced nations of Turkey and World Cup 3rd place finishers the Netherlands. The later have been beaten twice by this tiny nation during the qualification process.
Iceland rise to footballs top tier of world football was first noted during the 2014 World Cup qualification where they beat the likes of Slovenia and Norway to second in their group. Only a 2-0 aggregate defeat to Croatia prevented them from qualifying for Brazil. The continued development of this team has now seen them grow further and with the team now sitting in 23rd position in the World Rankings, above the likes of France, Ukraine and Russia they will surely be a team to keep an eye on as the build up to the European Championships continue.
This weekend sees the 6th round of the FA Cup. The teams remaining are surely looking ahead to an appearance at Wembley as for many this will now be the main focus of their season. The ties are split over two days. On Saturday we will see Everton v Sunderland and Tottenham v Bolton. Then on Sunday Chelsea host Leicester and last seasons runners-up Stoke travel to Liverpool.
Tottenham on paper look to be favourites in their match, riding high in the Premiership and Harry Redknapp at the helm you will have to think that they have too much ability for lowly Bolton to cause an upset. Bolton though,struggling at the wrong end of the table will come out all guns blazing and with on loan signing Ryo Miyaichi putting in some good performances and a win against fellow strugglers QPR last week they must surely believe they have an opportunity in this tie. Kick Off Sat 17:30 Prediction: Score Draw
In the other match Everton host Sunderland and again this match will be very close. Sunderland rejuvenated under the management of Martin O’Neil are moving up the Premiership table and last weekend defeated Liverpool. Following this result Liverpool then played Everton on Tuesday night and promptly dispatched them 3-0. Just based on these results you have to favour Sunderland. With nothing much more to play for this season both of these teams will be putting full focus on this game and I expect a cracker. Kick Off: Sat 12:45 Prediction: Sunderland Win 3-2
On Sunday the only Championship team left in the draw, Leicester take on a Chelsea team that are currently blowing hot and cold. I believe Chelsea will be far to dominant in this match despite their patchy form. Playing Napoli on Wednesday night this will either leave them either on top of the world after knocking Napoli out of the Champions League, or it will leave them with only the FA Cup to play for. Either way Chelsea will not be wanting to lose this match and will do anything to claim victory. I am sure Leicester will push Chelsea all the way but without the regular exposure of the Premiership they will surely come up short. Kick Off: Sun 14:05 Prediction: Chelsea Win 3-0
The final game will see Stoke travel to Liverpool. Last years runners-up will be aiming for a repeat visit to Wembley and will be the fresher of the two teams with not playing midweek. Liverpool could tire in this game following an enthralling Mersey derby win over Everton. Having previously been on a poor run of form I think this match is going to be very evenly fought. One big question for Liverpool fans is whether Steven Gerrard is capable of playing another 90mins following the derby match. Stoke put in a good performance against Chelsea at the weekend only losing 1-0 despite being down t 10 men for much of the game. Kick Off: Sun 16:00 Prediction: Stoke Win 1-0
What are your thoughts about this weekends matches?
In England this weekend we saw the FA Cup 6th round take place. With both Manchester United and Manchester City already eliminated from the competition it will allow other teams in the Premiership to look at the FA Cup as a realistic shot at winning a trophy.
On Saturday we saw both Arsenal and Chelsea struggle, while the biggest upset came in the game involving Premiership team Norwich.
Norwich at home in this tie were playing Championship side Leicester. The visitors got off to a great start as Sean St Ledger scored with a header in just the 5th minute. This goal was scored after a flurry of corners from Leicester resulted in St Ledger rising above Steve Morison at the near post to glance the ball into the Norwich goal. Following the goal Leicester continued to attack and had a call for a penalty turned down by referee Mike Dean. Soon after the game turned as Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel conceded a penalty. Schmeichel lived up to the name with a fantastic save from Wes Hoolahan but having dived to his left the ball spun straight back into the takers feet and Hoolahan tied the match.
Into the second half Norwich started to dominate the game and Leicester were pushed all the way in defence. Both Wellens and Koncheskey had to make some good blocks to stop Norwich from taking the lead. However, with 19 minutes remaining former England International David Nugent showed some class by collecting the ball in the Norwich half, he evaded a challenge from Barnett and skipped into the area before applying a cool finish for his third goal in two games – and his 13th of the campaign. This goal sealed the match for Leicester as they hung on to victory and move into the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup.
For both Arsene Wenger and Andre Villas-Boas there positions as manager were put under even more pressure. Aresnal were sent packing out of the cup by Sunderland. Resurgent under manager Martin O’Neil Sunderland have been on a very good run of form. With a goal in each half Sunderland now progress to the next round, leaving Arsene Wenger and Arsenal looking at a 7th successive trophy less year. Richardson put the hosts ahead just before half time. His shot taking a deflection leaving Arsenal goalkeeper Fabianski with no chance. As the second half progressed Arsenal pressed for a goal but it was Sunderland who grabbed a second Sebastian Larsson’s shot was put into his own net by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It was an unfortunate moment for the 18-year-old, who was one of Arsenal’s more impressive performers on a dark day for the club. Coming just a few days after the 4-0 defeat by AC Milan in the Champions League Arsene Wenger will now be under immense pressure to turn the fortune of club around.
Chelsea meanwhile struggled against Championship side Birmingham to heap pressure on AVB. A poor season that seems likely to indicate Chelsea have fallen behind the Manchester clubs will not have got much better over the weekend. Chelsea, below par in the first half, went behind to a close range strike from David Murphy. Moments later Chelsea were awarded a penalty but Birmingham goaly Colin Doyle saved superbly from Juan Mata. In the second half Chelsea pushed for parity and youngster Daniel Sturridge scored just after the hour when his beautifully guided header, from Ivanovic’s cross, nestled in the far corner of the Birmingham net.
In other ties of the FA Cup 6th round, Bolton scored a comfortable 2-0 win against Millwall, and Everton defeated Blackpool with the same scoreline. On Sunday Stoke defeated League 2 Crawley with yet another 2-0 victory. Stoke led by manager Tony Pulis will b looking to go one step further in the competition after finishing as runner-up in last years final. Tottenham struggled to find any rhythm as they were held to a goalless draw by League 1 Stevenage. The final math of the round saw Liverpool claim a 6-1 victory over Brighton. Brighton creating a bit of history by being the first team in the FA Cup to score 3 own goals in a single match. The match also saw Andy Caroll score again as he looks to find the form that brought him the big money move to Liverpool.
The draw for the Quarter Finals was made on Sunday evening:
FA Cup quarter-finals draw
Liverpool v Stoke City
Chelsea/Birmingham City v Leicester City
Stevenage/Tottenham Hotspur v Bolton Wanderers
Everton v Sunderland
Today we have heard the surprising news that Huddersfield have parted company with Lee Clark. Currently sat in 4th place in League One and having reached the play-off final last year you would think that Lee Clark would have a job for the next few years. In fact others have thought that he has been succesful enough to link him with top jobs at Leeds and Wolverhampton Wanderers. But after three successive defeats the former Newcastle United midfielder has been shown the door.
So often managers these days can lose their job for the most trivial of reasons. Some fall foul to take overs from foreign owners. Sam Allardyce, a successful manager with Bolton, was sacked by Blackburn following a takeover from the Venky family. The reason given was that they didn’t think that he could help maintain Blackburn’s survival in the Premiership. Everyone was in turn expecting a big managerial name to step into the gap, but instead, little known Steve Kean ended up as manager.
Sven Goran Eriksson had a successful time at Manchester City and led them to their highest league position in years, but this was not good enough. The owners had sights much higher, and Sven was shown the door.
Managers up and down the country must live in fear for their job every time they lose a game. In a cut throat business it seems that managers are getting less and less time to make it work. But does it work? Well look at the longest serving managers, Sir Alex, Arsene Wenger and David Moyes. Sir Alex hs led Manchester United into the history books forever, he is and always will be the manager that every other will look up to. Arsene Wenger was given time and in turn delivered Arsenal an undefeated season in the Premiership as they won the title. Then there is David Moyes. Often having to work within a strict budget he led Everton to the Champions League, he has often taken them to positions in the league that no one would have predicted but after 10 seasons in charge he is widely thought of as a highly succesful and talented manager.
So owners, fans and the like. Give your managers respect, give them time, let them bring success. A manager shouldnt have to fear for his job but these days a manager’s job is never truly safe. A couple of defeats and fans will start calling for your head. To drop out of a league or not gaining promotion can cost so much money financially an owner can not take the risk.