2022 Qatar World Cup

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After months of expectation, the Head of FIFA’s taskforce finally presented their recommendation that the 2022 Qatar World Cup should be held in November and December. The decision told the event away from the traditional Summer period had long been expected due to fears of the effect of extreme heat on player safety. Staging the event between January and February was rejected due to the Winter Olympics, whilst Sheikh bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa also ruled out other options of hostin the event between April and September due to Ramadan and excessive heat. To reflect the untimely staging of the event for many countries, the taskforce also proposed “reduced competition days schedule with the exact dates to be defined in line with the match schedule and number of venues to be used.

Whilst FIFA has spent a great deal of time and effort in an attempt to formulate an outcome that would reduce the stress on Football Federations across the globe, European heads and, in particular, England have expressed considerable angst at the taskforce’s decision. Richard Scudamore, Chief Executive of the Premier League, who was also a part of the taskforce, expressed his frustration at the “disappointing” decision that he believes would spoil the extremly busy Christmas programme in place in England. Meanwhile, Scudamore has not been alone in his criticism of the decision. The Association of European Professional Leagues has condemned the movement of the Qatar World Cup to November, explaining it will “cause great damage” to domestic and European competitions, whilst declaring its intention to maintain its battle against the decision. Its sister organisation, the European Club Association also called on the international football Federation to pay compensation to reflect the extreme disruption to the schedules of clubs across Europe who will have to release their players mid season. This request has since been rejected by FIFA with Jerome Valcke, FIFA Secretary stating that “its happening once we’re not destroying football.”

However, not all footballing quarters are opposed to the proposition put forward for the Qatar World Cup. Whilst reinforcing his ultimate defiance against Qatar staging the competition, Greg Dyke the FA Chairman, has voiced his support for the decision. Dyke explained that the change of date signalled “the best of the bad options,” pointing to the fact that the high temperatures meant that “it would be ridiculous” to play during the summer months. Jim Boyce, the FIFA Vice President expressed a similar view that it was important that the confusion regarding the date of the tournament had been put to bed to allow for preparation to commence, “if its going to be in Qatar then lets agree on a date in the winter and look forward to a wonderful World Cup.”

It should be noted that whilst such comments do not represent a glowing indictment of FIFA’s decision, certain analysts have commented that the task force’s decision may significantly benefit the chances of the English National Team. Phil Neville commented that the English often arrive at major tournaments on the back of a mentally and physically draining nine month season. For instance, in each of the last three world cups, Wayne Rooney has entered having played more than 50 games, far from an ideal preparation for an intense month long competition. However, in 2022, the average England player participating in the Champions League would have played 14 games before having to depart for their World Cup training camp. This illustrates that hosting the competition in November will allow the players to arrive at the tournament in prime condition.


Despite the varying opinions on the matter, it says much for the priorities of FIFA that the decision was made to hand the footballing centrepiece to Qatar with little consultation with the global footballing federations or promises for meaningful reform of their treatment of migrant labourers building the infrastructure to host the tournament.

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The Best North London Derby Matches

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Tottenham Hotspur host Arsenal in the latest North London Derby in the lunchtime kick off on Saturday, with both teams eager for three points to aid their challenge for Champions League qualification. Whilst an Arsenal win will solidify their position as they continue to flirt with the Top 4, a victory for Spurs will see them leapfrog their neighbours and may kickstart their season after a couple of questionable home results in recent weeks.

The encounter has produced some wonderful matches over the years. We have compiled a list of the best North London derbies in recent years.

November 2004: Tottenham Hotspur 4 – 5 Arsenal

With Arsenal still reeling over the loss of their unbeaten run and Spurs recovering from a disastrous spell under Jacques Santini, some had expected a low scoring, tight affair. However, the two sides played out an enthralling nine goal thriller. Nourreddine Naybet gave Spurs the lead before goals by Thierry Henry, Lauren and Patrick Vieira had seemingly wrapped up the game for the Gunners. Freddie Ljungberg had restored Arsenal’s two goal lead after Jermaine Defoe had given Spurs hope. Further goals by Ledley King, Robert Pires and Freddie Kanoute, respectively, ensured that the tie would live long in the memory of fans.

January 2008: Tottenham Hotspur 5 – 1 Arsenal

The sides were once again involved in a pulsating clash when they met in the second leg of the Carling Cup Semi Final. After playing out a 1 – 1 draw at the Emirates Stadium, tensions were high as Spurs went into the clash in the knowledge that they had not registered a victory in a North London Derby since November 1999. However, Spurs took advantage of Arsene Wenger’s preference to field youngsters in the competition to overrun their opponents. From the moment Jermaine Jenas gave the home side an early lead, Spurs controlled the fame with a mixture of resolute defending and attacking football, starving Arsenal of any meaningful possession. Despite Wenger attempting to stem the tide by introducing the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Eduardo and Emmanuel Adebayor, Spurs continued to control proceedings. Ultimately, the result proved highly significant as Spurs went on to win the Carling Cup Final against Chelsea.

October 2008: Arsenal 4 – 4 Tottenham Hotspur

The two sides shared one of the most memorable matches of the season as they once again were involved in a high scoring encounter. In what was Harry Redknapp’s first game in charge having taken the helm from Juande Ramos, David Bentley had given the away side an early lead through a stunning 40 yard strike against his former club. However, strikes from Mikel Silvestre, William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor had seemingly ensure that Arsenal would take the three points. However, with Arsenal leading 4 -2 entering the final two minutes of the contest, Spurs staged a stunning fightback to shock the home side with strikes from Jermaine Jenas and, at the death, Aaron Lennon sending the away fans into delirium and left the Arsenal fans in disbelief.

November 2010: Arsenal 2 – 3 Tottenham Hotspur

The North London Derby witnessed one of the stunning comebacks in the history of the fixture as Spurs performed second half heroics to get the better of their rivals. After two goals in the opening thirty minutes, Arsenal were seemingly on course to register a victory over their counterparts that would send them top of the Premier League. However, Spurs came to live after half time, bringing themselves level within twenty minutes of the restart through a superb Gareth Bale finish and a Rafeal Van der Vart penalty. With the match entering its closing stages, some hapless Arsenal defending allowed Younès Kaboul to power a header past Lukas Fabianski to ensure the visiting fans were sent home whilst the home fans were left to face the prospect of another stuttering title challenge.

November 2012: Arsenal 5 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur

Nine months after Arsenal had inflicted a 5 – 2 defeat on their North London neighbours, the home side once again prevailed by the same scoreline in a highly entertaining affair. Despite Emmanuel Adebayor giving Spurs an early lead, his sending off for a high tackle on Santi Carzorla minutes later handed the initiative back to Arsenal who unduly took advantage of their extra man to score two quick fire goals as half time neared. Despite Spurs attempts to stem the tide of pressure in the second half in search of mounting an unlikely comeback, goals by Carzorla and Theo Walcott ensured that the home side left the Emirates celebrating another victory in the North London Derby.

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The Copa Del Rey Clash

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As Atletico Madrid and Barcelona prepare to face off in the Copa Del Rey quarter final, anticipation is rising amongst fans expecting to see another classic in a tie that has thrown some thrilling encounters in recent years. We look at the some of the most memorable matches the pair have shared in recent years.

1997: Barcelona 5 – 4 Atletico Madrid

The two sides shared one of the most memorable matches of the season when they met at the same stage of the Copa Del Rey. After sharing an enjoyable 2 – 2 draw in Madrid, Atletico seemed to be heading towards the next round thanks to a first half trick from Milinko Pantic. Ronaldo pulled two goals back soon after half time only for Pantic to add his fourth of the match to surely send Atletico through. However, Barcelona were to throw a spanner into the works. After Luis Figo reduced the deficit, Ronaldo added two goals to send the Nou Camp wild.

El Mundo Deportivo described the tie as “the most vibrant, emotional and spectacular match of recent years.”


1998: Atletico Madrid 5 – 2 Barcelona

Although Luis Van Gaal’s Barcelona had already been crowned La Liga Champions for the season, the vast majority of the crowd at the Vicente Calderón Stadium took great pleasure in righting the wrongs of the result in the Copa Del Rey from the previous season. Whilst the match was a high scoring affair, the game will mainly be remembered for Rivaldo’s the first goal, scored by Rivaldo. After picking up a loose ball just inside the Atletico half and spotting the opposition goalie off his line, the Brazilian struck a venomous shot over the goalie’s head into the back of the net. Barcelona won the battle, Atletico won the war.

2009: Atletico Madrid 4 – 3 Barcelona

In a tie that once again pitted Madrid’s wits against a Pep Guardiola led Barcelona team that were running away with the title, Madrid once again prevailed with a positive outcome in a fast paced match. Although Barcelona twice led through goals from Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi, goals from Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero, including a stunning long range strike from the former gave Atletico all three points and continued Barcelona’s search for the title. Sid Lowe’s description of the match as a “fantastic, fun, breathless and brilliant” tie being appropriate to describe the affair.

2011: Barcelona 5 – 0 Atletico Madrid

The tie represents one of Pep Guardiola’s more memorable moments in his final season at the Nou Camp, as Barcelona lit up the stadium with a magical performance. Despite Atletico possessing the defensive and offensive talents of Diego Godin and Radamel Falcao respectively, the Madrid players were unable to contain the spellbinding performance of the Catalan side. Lionel Messi proved to be the stand out performer, wowing the both sets of fans with his unrivaled dribbling and finishing skills to finish the match with a hat trick. Messi’s striking partner, David Villa, also chipped in a goal of outstanding and noteworthy quality if his diminutive Argentine partner had not been on the pitch.

Fastest Live Scores provide reliable, accurate and affordable football/soccer data feeds and widgets covering the Copa Del Rey and leagues across the globe. Click here to find out more.

The Biggest FA Cup Upsets

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After one of the most memorable weekends in FA Cup history, with no less than 10 Premier League casualties, we take a look at the biggest cup shocks of recent times.

January 2010: Manchester United 0 – 1 Leeds:

When the giants of English football were drawn against the League One club that had fallen on hard times both on and off the field over the previous decade, not many observers expected anything less than a victory for the home side. Sir Alex Ferguson had previously never tasted defeat to a lower league side in the FA Cup and observers had not foreseen any result bar a home victory. However, the form book counted for little; as Jermaine Beckford escaped the shackles of the Manchester defence to beat Tomas Kusack midway through the first half. This not only ensured Leeds progressed to the next round but also ensured the club would forever have a place in FA Cup folklore.


February 2004: Tottenham 3 – 4 Manchester City:

Whilst not a traditional FA Cup giant killing tie, the circumstances surrounded the victory ensured the game will go down in Cup history. Trailing 3-0 and down to 10 men at half time following a Joey Barton sending off, the odds were stacked up against City to progress to the next round. However, the away side staged a spirited revival in the second half, scoring four goals to leave Spurs stunned and complete one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the competition.


February 2008: Liverpool 1 – 2 Barnsley:

In one of the most memorable matches in Barnsley’s history, the struggling Championship side knocked out the Premier League high flyers. Lead by their captain Brian Howard coupled with an inspired Luke Steel in goal, the minnows managed to overturn a Liverpool half time lead thanks to, firstly, a strike from Steven Foster before a rifled low shot by the captain sent the Barnsley fans into delirium and ensured Barnsley wrote themselves into FA Cup history.

The game spelled the beginning of a remarkable run for Barnsley in the Cup as the side reached the semi-finals, taking the scalp of a star studded Chelsea side in the process.


January 1992: Wrexham 2 – 1 Arsenal:

Arsenal travelled to Wales as reigning league champions for what many forecasted as a routine third round tie against a Wrexham side that were planted to the foot of the fourth division of English football. Everything seemed to be going according to plan when Alan Smith gave the Gunners the lead on the stroke of half time. However, the unfavoured welsh side refused to give up, with two goals in the last ten minutes by Thomas and Watkins ensuring the Arsenal side had an unsavoury trip home.


May 2013: Manchester City 0 – 1 Wigan

Entering into the final, the two sides were experiencing two widely contrasting fortunes in the Premier League, with Manchester fighting for the title and Wigan hoping to stave off relegation. Despite the gulf in class for much of the previous 9 months of the season, the final proved an experience not to forget for the Lancashire side. The tie was an extremely tight affair, with both sides sharing equal amounts of possession and shots on goal. However, as the game looked to be entering Extra Time, Ben Watson headed home a Shaun Maloney corner to send the 12,500 thousand Wigan fans into delirium and wrote the club into FA Cup history.


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The Curious Case of Lionel Messi

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The future of Lionel Messi has become the subject of much scrutiny in recent weeks, with speculation reaching fever pitch level at a preliminary news conference for the Ballon d’Or ceremony, where he revealed that “I don’t know where I’ll be next year.” Despite subsequent attempts to downplay his comments, putting it down to “just a way of speaking,” there is a growing sense that the Lionel Messi love affair with Barcelona has begun to sour. We examine the possible reasons for the player’s growing displeasure with life at the Camp Nou.

Messi’s discontent may stem from his displeasure with the members of the current board. Under the previous President, Joan Laporta, Messi was made to feel like the Prince, receiving annual contract renewals accompanied by bumper pay rises. However, in an attempt to impose a new rule, the current Barcelona board have taken the position that contract renewals will be based solely on player performance. Messi’s displeasure at the change of stance has been all too clear. In response to Vice President Javier Faus’s comments that there was no obligation to review Messi’s contract in December 2013, the player angrily snapped that the chief “doesn’t know anything about football.”


Furthermore, the player’s dissatisfaction has also spread to manager Luis Enrique. Despite repeated attempts by the latter to downplay any possible rifts within the Barcelona Camp, tensions are reported to have risen to an irreparable level following Messi’s demotion to the bench against Real Sociedad. A broadcaster reporting during the Ballon d’Or ceremony quipped that, after listening through a video message by Enrique, Messi would then have to sit through a message from his mother in law and orthodontist, such was the pained looked on the player’s face. It may also be noted that Messi’s anger may stem from the coach’s insistence to adopt a style of play centred around Messi which had welcomed the club a high degree of success over the past half a decade. For a player so accustomed to be leading goalscorer in La Liga for much of his career, Messi has scored 8 fewer goals than his main rival Cristiano Ronaldo, an ode to the Barcelona’s attempts to reduce their reliance on the player.


Whilst Messi’s frustrations may have led him to question his future at Barcelona, Financial Fair Play severely limit the prospect of a potential exit. Under FFP regulations, if a club exceeds losses of £23.5 million over a duration of three years, they will face Uefa sanctions. Therefore, only Real Madrid and Manchester United will be able to afford the £195 million buyout clause placed on Messi’s head. However, with the player’s contract not expiring for another 4 years, Barcelona will not agree to a succession of staggered payments from United whilst Madrid will be unwilling to replicate an unsavoury situation created by the transfer of Luis Figo in 2000.  Furthermore, with the club operating under the constraints of a transfer embargo for 2015, the club will be unwilling to sell its prized asset. Therefore, Lionel Messi will find that his path to pastures new is paved with uncertainty.

Whilst Lionel Messi is undoubtedly unhappy at numerous aspects of the club, recent murmurous from his camp are most likely a strategy for player to earn a new contract. The example of Wayne Rooney, where the player twice insisting he will leave Manchester United only to perform a U-turn when offered a pay rise, illustrates the modern day player is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to force a club to reward them financially.

Fastest Live Scores provide reliable, accurate and affordable football/soccer data feeds and widgets covering La Liga and leagues across the globe. Click here to find out more.

January Transfer Window News

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With the January transfer window well and truly open in England, the level of anticipation is steadily growing amongst fans waiting for any sign that their clubs have signed any player to plug the deficiencies in their squad.

We’ll take a look at the the potential transfers that could take place before the close of the January transfer window.

Winston Reid: West Ham to Arsenal

Sam Allardyce’s recent admission that he does not expect the defender, who only has 6 months to run on his contract, to sign a new deal to stay at the Hammers has opened the possibility of the player leaving this month. With Arsenal’s deficiencies in the central defensive positions having a hugely negative impact on the club’s form during the first half of the season, it seems reasonable to expect Arsene Wenger may be prepared to snatch the defender from their London Rivals this January.


 Fabio Coentrao: Real Madrid to Manchester United

Despite his undeniable talent and the astronomical fee for which he arrived at the Bernabeau, Coentrao has often found a long term residency in the Madrid team hard to come by. United unsuccessfully attempted to buy the defender 18 months ago. However, with the club’s injury crisis continuing, the signing of Coentrao will provide both much needed cover as well as invaluable experience for the young trio of Luke Shaw, Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair.


Gonzalo Higuain: Napoli to Liverpool

Liverpool have undoubtedly struggled with the loss of Luis Suarez to Barcelona and Daniel Sturridge to chronic injury, leaving them 7 positions and 13 points worse off compared to last January. Despite Higuain’s success at Napoli, it has been rumoured that the arrival of Manolo Gabbiadini coupled with the team’s poor showing in the league may signal an exit for the striker. With Liverpool’s continued struggles in front of goal, a move to the merseyside team may not be beyond Higuain.


Jermaine Defoe : Toronto FC to QPR
After starting life in the MLS well with 11 goals in his first 16 games, Defoe has become unsettled with life in Toronto and is openly seeking a move from the states back to home shores. With staying in the Premier League of paramount importance to QPR, a move for the striker is likely for Harry Redknapp as he looks to be reunited with the player for an unprecedented fourth time. However, wages may be sticking point, with QPR reluctant to break their wage structure. Based on past experiences, this transfer is likely to go to the wire.


Scott Sinclair: Manchester City to Aston Villa

Sinclair’s move to Manchester in 2012 was supposed to spell the completion of a transformation from Chelsea reject to Premier League champion. However, the player has spent much of the past two and a half years as a bench warmer, only making a handful of appearances for the club. However, Sinclair’s may soon end his terrible experience at the Ethihad with a permenanant move to Paul Lambert’s Villa. The club has severely struggled with a lack of creativity and goals in recent months and the move is much needed for both parties to get their seasons back on track.


Best Of The Rest: 

Martin Odegaard: Stromsgodset IF to Real Madrid

After making his national team debut last year at the tender age of 15 years, Odegaard has become the hottest property in world football. Having taken tours across the biggest European clubs during the last quarter of 2014, the player may be changing the sleepy hollows of Norwegian football for the bright lights of Madrid during the January transfer window. With Madrid already have an array of riches to choose from in the Attacking Midfield position, the club ‘s decision to sign the youngster may signal the club’s attempts and guaranteeing future success as well as ensuring their European rivals do not get their hands on the next potential footballing star.


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Chinese Asian Cup Success Rooted In Evergrande Football School

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With the Asian Cup starting in a week, 16 nations are finalising their preparations for the region’s footballing centre piece. Whilst much attention will be placed on 2011 finalists Japan and Australia, much focus will not be placed on the Chinese national team. The side has a less than complementary record in the competition, with an unsuccessful appearance in the 2004 final serving as a mere blip in a hugely unspectacular run over the past 20 years. Such results have left the national side often facing a barrage of criticism from their own supporters. After losing to Uzbekistan and Holland last year, the Beijing Evening News commented that “the national football team has written a new chapter once again in its ‘history of shame’ of repeated defeats.”

However, China’s poor performances in the Asian Cup may soon change owing to the recent opening of the Evergrande International Football School, situated in Guangdong province in southern China. The brainchild of Chinese billionaire and football enthusiast Xu Jiayin and costing a reported £115 million, the youth academy opened in 2012 as part of China’s plan to rule both the global economic and sporting rankings. The complex resembles a miniature city with no expense having been spared to provide the optimum environment for academic and sporting education of the youngsters. In addition to 50 football pitches and halls of residences for students and full time staff, the compound also houses supermarkets, cinemas and an Entertainment Centre to ensure children are as comfortable as possible.

Whilst the grandiose nature of infrastructural design is fast becoming China’s trademark, Evergrande’s greatest achievement has been its openness to adopt new values for benefit of the students. Whilst China advocate teaching methods of drilling youngsters resembling military precision, Liu Jiangnan, the academy principal, soon recognised that such techniques may not be conducive for footballing development and sought the advice of foreign coaches to help proceedings. As part of a multi million euro deal with Real Madrid, foreign coaches were imported in an to educate both children and fellow coaches to promote creativity amongst students that were more accustomed to fearing constant criticism. A number of coaches explained that “when we arrived, we found that the Chinese coaches trained the kids in a military way….[but] football is supposed to be fun. It’s a sport but the way to learn is by having fun.”

Evergrande is also tackling an issue that is often overlooked in traditional western academies; education. Whilst the school is primarily utilised for footballing development, a great emphasis is placed upon academic education for the attendees. Housed within the complex are primary and secondary teaching buildings as well as a library and auditorium. Therefore, outside of four 90 minute weekly training sessions, students spend the remainder of their time in the classroom learning the traditional curriculum. Furthermore, the large community of Spanish coaches has positively impacted students as they are able to learn an extra language with relative ease. Shouts of “hola” are often heard around the complex, with one coach commenting that “when we leave the school in a few years all the players will speak Spanish.” The hope remains that the school’s attempt to balance students academic and footballing development will breed youngsters with an instilled belief of hard work, perseverance and flair that will serve them well for the future.

Whilst the school may be seen as a feat of both infrastructural and practical brilliance, scepticism remains over the project. Analysts point to the source of the school’s funding as a reason of concern. Yan Qiang, a journalist who has extensively covered Chinese football, expressed his doubt in the success of the project owing to the fact that the school only receives about £6 milllion annual funding. Furthermore, since the country is experiencing a severe slowdown in its economy, critics suggest that the parties involved may be less inclined to invest in a complex that is unlikely to yield significant results for another decade in favour of protecting their capital during such uncertain economic times. Critics have also questioned the lastingness of the school if immediate success is not delivered, pointing to the example of the closure of 4,000 football schools in the 1990s upon China’s failure to win an Asian Cup.

Despite scepticism surrounding both the longevity of the academy and football as a whole in China, the creation of such a facility represents a step in the right direction for the country’s attempts to boost its chances in competitions as the Asian Cup. With such a comprehensive system currently in place in Guangdong coupled with plans to build 100 new football pitches will be built by 2016 in Guangzhou, the nation’s youth should have the support to reach their dreams to one day play football at the highest level.

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Thierry Henry And The MLS

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Thierry Henry retired last week, bringing the curtains down on an illustrious career spanning twenty years, amassing over twenty trophies in the process. Henry’s career in Europe can only be considered a resounding success with the player often considered to be the best player ever to grace the Premier League. However, his four year tenure in the MLS may be looked at more with a sense of what could have been; rather than what was.

Upon Henry’s arrival to the New York Red Bulls in December 2010, the player stated that his sole aim was to “to help win the club its first championship.” It was generally accepted that Henry and his teammates should be afforded the rarely-allowed luxury of time before expecting a great deal of success. At the time, the Red Bulls were more accustomed to fighting relegation and mid-table mediocrity than for silverware in the MLS. However, when David Beckham departed the MLS two years later, leaving Henry the highest paid player in the league, a sense of expectation was rising that it was time for the player to repay the faith shown by the club with a piece of major silverware. Unfortunately, whilst Beckham final act as a LA Galaxy player was winning the prestigious MLS Cup, Henry left the Red Bulls with a solitary MLS Supporters Shield.

Whilst Henry’s trophy haul in New York may not be lauded, arguably the greatest disappointment during his time in the MLS was his impact on those that surrounded him. Much like LA Galaxy in 2007, the Red Bulls had hoped that Henry’s introduction would positively impact the style and quality of play of the entire team whilst providing a great opportunity to breed the next generation of skillful youngsters talented enough of plying their trade in the MLS. Whilst Beckham undoubtedly helped his teammates fortunes, with Landon Donovan posting a career best 20 goals in the season immediately following Beckham’s arrival, Henry often proved to be a hinderance for the club. The rap sheet stands tall of the players Red Bulls introduced in an attempt to amalgamate Henry’s skill with the club’s overall ambitions. Although certain players such as Bradley Wright Phillips undoubtedly benefited from Henry’s presence on and off the pitch, players such as Dax Maccarthy, Kebby Cooper and Peguy Luyindula have not fared so well.

It should be noted that whilst Henry’s career stateside may not have hit the dizzying heights of his exertions in Europe, efforts in the MLS should not be considered to have been entirely fruitless. Henry’s provided countless displays of brilliance, with goals against Montreal Impact and Sporting KC reminding fans and critics alike of his unique ability. His tally of 51 goals and 42 assists in addition to driving the Red Bulls to the playoffs in each of his four years represents a strong return for the club.

Despite flashes of true brilliance in addition to his occasional on pitch achievement and many personal accolades, MLS and Red Bull fans may be left wondering that there was more to be gained from “The Thierry Henry Show”.

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USA Soccer – 2014 the year of Soccer

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Since the launch of the North American Soccer League in 1968, people outside of the USA expected football, or “soccer” to become one of the more popular spectator and participation sports in North America. Importing some of the world superstars: Beckenbauer, Alberto, Pele, Cruyff & Best further increased the expectation from onlookers – bring the stars and the crowds should follow.

Bringing South America and Europe’s elite (slightly ageing) players to boost the popularity had a short-term impact increasing the attendance at games but this was short lived:

Fluctuating attendance in the NASL.

Fluctuating attendance in the NASL.

While Pele alone would draw in tens of thousands of fans in every other continent, the North Americans still pined for Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hugh (Shorty) Ray and Clyde (Bulldog) Turner.

Fast forward nearly 50 years, and we’re still led to believe that soccer still doesn’t register on the radar of most American citizens, lagging well behind the popular mainstays of American Football, Basketball & Baseball.

Soccer still struggles to compete with American Football, Basketball & Baseball

Soccer still struggles to compete with American Football, Basketball & Baseball

Fastest Live Scores work with news organisations, web publishers and App developers in the USA and we’re experiencing a huge hike in interest coming from that part of the World. Google recently released their trending searches of the year in 2014 where its clear to see that the success of this summer’s World Cup will help the sport continue it’s new exponential growth pattern.

Google's most searched gif's of 2014 in the USA

Google’s most searched gif’s of 2014 in the USA




Just like gif's, Google's most searched memes in USA in 2014

Just like gif’s, Google’s most searched memes in USA in 2014

Despite the resurgence of interest in Soccer the post Beckham MLS still doesn’t attract the attention of their European counterparts, which currently dominate the USA’s searches for Soccer Teams.

Google's top soccer team searches in the USA from 2014

Google’s top soccer team searches in the USA from 2014

Fastest Live Scores provide reliable, accurate and affordable football/soccer data feeds and widgets covering leagues across the globe. Click here to find out more.

Football fans & social media. Will Twitter replace traditional media?

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Plenty of baseball fans and lower league football stattos have been collating their own stats for years. These ‘anoraks’ do it simply from their love of the game. Opta have taken this stat analysis within football to a whole new level and now there is a much larger market for statistics covering every facet of any game.

Fans have already begun to use media such as Twitter and Facebook to share events as they happen. Opta and Football Data Co make a lot of money from providing real-time live scores as well as intricate statistical analysis on Premier League and Champions League games amongst others. The biggest market for this data has traditionally been bookmakers who need the fastest and most accurate data from games in order to adjust their live in play betting odds as well as ensuring that their odds are as accurate as possible the rest of the time. Now, even news organisations such as the BBC are using Opta for their live scores and stats.

To date Perform, the parent company of Opta,  have had a monopoly on the market. They pay a large sums of money to be allowed to provide this data, in turn they make a decent profit on the data that they do provide.

By crossing the social media platforms of Facebook and Twitter with the traditional stattos and anoraks it may be that their reign is about to come to a sudden end.

Twitter has made it apparent that fans want a dedicated medium to enable them to share the scores. It has even become a contest to see who can share the goals as they go in fastest.

Popular Twitter account "Livescore Football"

Popular Twitter account “Livescore Football”

This crowd-sourced data is especially valuable at a lower league level where it is not in the interest of large media companies to cover the games in detail. But a community of fans combined with a sharing platform is enabling the coverage of even the ninth tier of English football to vastly improve. It is now possible to follow games in such leagues as they happen on Twitter with score updates as fast if not faster than the BBC offer for the Premier league.

With such data being shared for lower league teams on sites such as Twitter freely, how much longer will Opta and Perform be able to continue to charge people to feature this data. It is another unintended consequence of having fans at the games: they are able and keen to share the score from the ground.

This seems to be something that Twitter are beginning to latch onto. If you look at what they did during the World Cup they created special tweet lists all the games which would include every tweet sent about that game. It created a unique live match commentary which coincidentally was also faster than the BBC and other established media.

Of course covering the games to the level of depth is no mean feat and they will undoubtedly always be a role for a room full of analysts who will pour over every aspect of the game and record every touch, pass, shot, cross etc and then draw conclusions.

All of this raises questions as to just how long live score data can be ‘licensed’. Indeed the mass media organsations have had to embrace Twitter, often looking to it to find breaking stories and then using their own accounts to share them. Of course sport is a more organised and everyone knows when the event will be happening. But it would appear that bureaucracy gets in the way of raw speed from companies such as the BBC and Sky. After all, surely every fan wants to be kept right up to date, not 2 minutes behind the action.

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