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Arsenal Offer Fans A Voice Through ‘Fanshares’

As the English Premier League grew, it attracted many rich businessmen. The trouble however, with many such businessmen was the complete control of the club. Their money bought the club that was loved and  supported by many fans. Many of these businessmen like the Glazer family that bought Manchester United and Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett were not cash rich, just credit rich. The result is that both Manchester United and Liverpool despite being successful clubs are in debt and struggling much to the dismay of their supporters.

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In order to avoid the fans being left powerless and voiceless, Arsenal have come up with an interesting scheme. The London club has invited fans to buy shares in the club and play a role in its governance. Although with one Arsenal share trading at £10,250, not all Arsenal supporters could afford it. This is where the Arsenal Fanshare scheme which took  The Arsenal Supporters Trust five years to plan comes in handy. This scheme encourages supporters to buy an affordable portion of the share, a minimum of £100, either up front or in in £10 monthly contributions, to buy one fanshare, one hundredth of an actual share. This secures the supporter full shareholder’s rights: they get to attend the annual general meeting, ask questions of the directors and vote on policy.

Arsenal is majority-owned by four shareholders: US property and sports entrepreneur Stan Kroenke (30%); Alisher Usmanov (27%), the Uzbek-Russian mining and minerals billionaire; long-term shareholder Danny Fiszman (16%) and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith who is currently looking to sell her 16% stake which her family has owned for three-generations. Arsenal is valued at around £640m and each of its 62,000 shares trades at £10,250.

Arsenal Fanshare was a brainchild of The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, a body that opposes the club being bought by one rich individual and demands that supporters be represented in decision-making. The trust hopes that many of the Arsenal’s supporters here and overseas will subscribe, massing small contributions together to form an influential stake. The supporters’ trust spokesman, Tim Payton, said, “The aim is to increase supporter ownership and influence.”

Arsenal Fanshare is fully backed by the club and according to Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s chief executive, “In the club’s relationship with supporters, the important thing is that fans are valued and nurtured, not exploited. That’s not only good for the club’s soul; it is also ultimately good for the club overall, because engagement with our fans helps us to be healthier, more vibrant and successful.”

Even though the scheme allows a maximum monthly payment of a £100o which ensures that no one can build a significant holding quickly. The idea is refreshingly democratic especially in light of the recent wars between fans and the absolute owners at  the debt-ridden Manchester United and Liverpool.

Article first published as Arsenal Offer Fans A Voice Through ‘Fanshares’ on Technorati.


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World Cup Preview: Uruguay vs. Netherlands

When we talk about South American teams, we usually mean Argentina or Brazil. No one ever thinks about Uruguay even though Uruguay won the very first World Cup. This time Uruguay have made people sit up and pay attention. Their win over Ghana  which assured them a place in the Semi-Finals was undoubtedly the most dramatic of this World Cup. Since Uruguay have outlasted Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay in the tournament they are South America’s only hope to win the  2010 World Cup. No one could have guessed that La Celeste who qualified for this year’s competition after winning a play-off against Costa Rica would be only one win away from a place in the single biggest football match, the World Cup Final. Uruguay haven’t even made it to the final since 1950 and Oscar Tabarez’s team wants to change that. Netherlands on the other hand, like Spain,  have always had a talented team but failed to achieve real glory.  Oranje haven’t been past the semis in 32 years after having made it to consecutive finals in 1974 and 1978 where they lost to West Germany and Argentina respectively. Usually, its Brazil that bursts the Oranje bubble but this time the Dutch have already sent the Brazilians packing and will therefore feel this to be their best chance in a long time, to win the World Cup.

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Ranking: 16

Uruguay is a small nation steeped in football history. They play a game which is more scrappy and physical  and quite unlike the quintessential flamboyant South American ‘samba’ style of football. They qualified for the knockout stages as winners of Group A by drawing against France and beating South Africa and Mexico. It was in the knock-out stages in their game against Ghana where things took a turn for the dramatic for Uruguay. In the first half of stoppage time, Ghana scored and it looked like Uruguay were going back home. However,Diego Forlan had other ideas and leveled the score in the second half of stoppage time by netting one for the South Americans. In the last minute of added time however, Ghana struck again but this time, Luis Suarez handled the ball on the line but stopping a sure shot goal. Suarez was sent off and Ghana were awarded a penalty. Once again, it looked certain that the South Americans were on their way out. However, Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan missed and the game went to a penalty shoot with Uruguay still hanging on. And then, La Celeste  broke Ghanaian hearts and won 5-3 on penalty kicks.

It is this kind of  ‘never-die-spirit’  that can once again be expected from Uruguay today. Oscar Tabarez has so far been able to select a steady team but today he will be without the suspended Luis Suarez and Jorge Fucile. Diego Lugano, who went off early in the game against Ghana with a knee problem is also unlikely to star in today’s game. However, defender Diego Godin has recovered from his injury and will be available for today’s match. Tabarez will most likely go with a 4-4-2 formation with Fernando Muslera in goal and Maximiliano Pereira, Diego Godin, Maurice Victorino and Martin Caceres forming Uruguay back four. In the midfield, Egidio Arévalo Ríos and Walter Gargano will hold the midfield and shield the back four. Alvaro Pereira  and Diego Perez will provide width when they can. Edinson Cavani  will partner Diego Forlan up front in leading Uruguay’s attack.

Uruguay want to win this game bad and they have a great defence and are dangerous up front. They will put up a great fight and cannot be taken lightly.
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Ranking: 4

Netherlands are yet to lose a game in South Africa and dutch striker Wesley Sneijder is the joint-highest scorer at the World Cup. Oranje beat favourites Brazil 2-1 in their last match to progress to the quarterfinals. All these stats point to a very strong World Cup campaign so far and yet many still feel that Netherlands are still not in top gear. They definitely seem to be the team that will peak at absolutely the right time. They go into this game as favourites and are expected to beat Uruguay. However,  the same was expected of the Dutch in their Euro 2008 quarter- final match against Russia which they lost in extra time. Today, Netherlands must avoid complacency or once again it could become their undoing.

The Netherlands manager Bert van Marwijk, has a formidable record of 13 wins from 13 games in competitive matches and will want to keep it that way. He will be without the suspended Gregory van der Wiel and Nigel de Jong and will most likely replace them with Khalid Boulahrouz and Demy de Zeeuw. Luckily for Netherlands, Robin Van Persie’s elbow injury wasn’t serious and neither was Joris Mathijsen’s knee-problem and both of the players are expected to star in today match. Marwijk will most likely go with his favourite 4-2-3-1 formation with Maarten Stekelenburg in goal and John Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Khalid Boulahrouz at the back. Demy De Zeeuw and Mark van Bommel will hold midfield for Holland. Robin Van Persie will play alone up-front with offensive midfielders Dirk Kuyt, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder behind him.

Netherlands will look to control the ball and the pace of the game with Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben making life very tough for the Uruguan defence while the Dutch defender John Heitinga will look to keep his former club mate from Athletico Madrid Diego Forlan from scoring for Uruguay.

Uruguay are without Luis Suarez and that tips the balance in Netherlands favour. However, Netherlands is without Nigel De Jong, whose tackles will be sorely (pun unintended!) missed. Netherlands must keep focus to win today.

Manager Speak

“We will certainly not throw in the towel before playing that match. Holland will be very difficult but not impossible.” – Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay manager

“Uruguay didn’t reach the final for nothing, so we have to really focus again and not think that we’re already there.”   – Bert van Warwijk, Netherlands manager

Stars to Watch Out For

Uruguay: Diego Forlan, Diego Perez, Edinson Cavani

Netherlands: Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Dirk Kuyt, Robin Van Persie

Go Figure!

These sides have met on four occasions in total, with Uruguay winning three matches and the Dutch one.

Three of Diego Forlán’s four goals in World Cup finals history have come from outside the box

Wesley Sneijder has now scored five goals in his last seven internationals

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World Cup Preview: Spain vs. Portugal

Two years ago, on this day, Spain beat Germany to break their major tournament jinx and lift the European Championship trophy. Today, they can continue on that tradition and take a very significant step towards breaking their World Cup hex by beating neighbours Portugal. The two teams have met 32 times in international football. Portugal have won just five matches, Spain 15 and there have been 12 draws. However, Spain have only beaten Portugal once in ten matches since 1958 and the last time the two teams met Portugal won 1-0, knocking Spain out of the 2004 Euro in the group stages.

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Ranking: 2

Spain entered the World Cup as favourites for the first time. They have always had a talented, entertaining team but since they always underachieved at major tournaments, no one really ever thought of them as favourites. All that changed however,with their 2008 win at the European Championships and now Spain have to live with the pressure of expectation every time they get on the pitch. It is probably this pressure to perform which saw Spain unable to score against Switzerland and also concede a very sloppy goal which made their last game in the group stages a must-win game. The European champions, however, have gotten over that shock dealt to them by the Swiss and have looked good against Honduras and Chile but that defeat showed other teams how to beat Spain.

Spain manager, Vincente Del Bosque will most likely play a 4-2-3-1 formation with Iker Casillas in goal. Sergio Ramos, Gerrard Pique, Carles Puyol, Joan Capdevilla will form Spain’s back four. Xabi Alonso who sprained his ankle during Spain’s 2-1 win over Chile, will most likely be replaced by Xavi Martinez who will play alongside Sergio Busquets in defensive mid-field. Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and David Villa will make up Spain’s attacking midfield and support Fernando Torres in front.

Portugal have great wingers who pose a massive threat to Spain on the counter and Sergio Ramos and Joan Capdevilla will have to be extra sharp today.

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Ranking: 3

Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo. That is all that most people seem to relate with Portugal. Cristiano is definitely one of those players that can change the complexion of any game and since Cristiano hasn’t been extremely effective for his national side, many people wrote off Portugal’s chances. However, Portugal have proved that although they may not play the prettiest of football at times, they have found a way of staying in the competition and getting results. They managed a very good albeit dull draw against Ivory Coast and then held Brazil. Anyone who can keep Brazil from scoring is dangerous in their own way. Portugal have transformed themselves in to a very good defensive side. They are yet to concede a goal in the World Cup and have kept 22 clean sheets in their last 26 matches. Furthermore, they have gone 19 games unbeaten under coach Carlos Queiroz. Portugal’s only weakness it seems is their inability to score goals and that they lack an out and out striker. However, they do have incredibly talented wingers in Cristiano Ronaldo and Simao Sabrosa who can catch any team on the counter. So even though, it seems impossible for any team to keep the very talented Spanish squad from scoring, Portugal just might. Also, if Cristiano Ronaldo can tame the Jabulani, Portugal would have a great advantage from set pieces especially since Iker Casillas and Spain are not the best, at defending set-pieces.

Portugal manager, Carlos Queiroz will most likely play a 4-3-3 formation with Eduardo in goal. Paulo Ferreira, Bruno Alves, Ricardo Carvalho, Fabio Coentrao will form ‘the great wall of Portugal’. Although Deco has recovered from the hip injury that forced him to miss Portugal’s final Group G game against Brazil, he is unlikely to be in the starting line-up as Tiago has done very well so far. Another player sure to miss out is the injured midfielder Danny. Pepe will most likely retain his position in Portugal’s midfield alongside Tiago and Raul Meireles and Portugal’s attack will be lead by Simao Sabrosa and Cristiano Ronaldo playing on the wing on either side of Liedson.

Although, Spain have to be the favourites going in to this match considering the quality they have in their team, Portugal cannot be counted out especially since they have a very good defence and have players that can be lethal on counter-attacks. The match bound to be a very close one and if it goes to extra time, then Portugal will win.

Manager Speak

“Portugal are going to be a very tough side. I take no satisfaction from the fact we’re up against Portugal instead of Brazil. They are both great national teams.”- Vincente Del Bosque, Spain manager

“We want to win this game from the very first minute.” – Carlos Queiroz, Portugal manager

Stars to Watch Out For

Spain: David Villa, Andres Iniesta,Xavi Hernandez, Fernando Torres

Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul Meireles, Tiago, Simão Sabrosa

Go Figure!

David Villa has scored six goals in six starts at the World Cup and is now the all-time top scorer for Spain at the tournament.

Portugal have failed to score in their last two World Cup knockout matches – 0-0 (aet) against England in the quarter-final and a 1-0 defeat to France in the semi-final in 2006.

Spain have kept clean sheets in 26% of their World Cup games (nine out of 34) since the start of the 1982 tournament

Portugal have conceded just one goal in their last 12 internationals.

Spain were the first team since Hungary in 1986 not to collect a single card in the group stages of a World Cup tournament

If Portugal avoid defeat in this match they will set a new national team record of 20 games unbeaten in all competitions

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World Cup Preview: Paraguay vs. Japan

Japan are to Asia what Ghana are to Africa i.e. the last nation left standing at the World Cup from the continent. They play Paraguay in today’s knock out match and whoever wins, makes history as neither of these sides have made it to the quarter-finals of a World Cup before.

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Ranking: 31

Paraguay were the surprise winners of Group F  which also had the defending champions Italy in it. They are the minnows of South America and won their group by winning one match and scoring  just 3 goals. Their strength lies is their defence which has seen then concede only 1 goal in South Africa. Another thing working to the South American’s advantage against Japan will be their large forwards.

Paraguay manager, Gerardo Martino will most likely go with a 4-3-3 formation with Justo Villar in goal and Carlos Bonet, Antolin Alcaraz, Paulo Da Silva, Claudio Morel at the back. Paraguay’s 3-man midfield made up of Enrique Vera, Cristian Riveros and Victor Caceres has been a crucial factor in their success at this  World Cup. However, Victor Caceres is suspended for today’s match, having picked up 2 yellow cards and will be replaced by Edgar Barreto. Paraguay have quality strikers in their line-up but have struggled to score in their last matches. They will look to Roque Santa Cruz, Lucas Barrios and Nelson Valdez to change that today.

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Ranking: 45

Many considered the possiblity of the Japan manager Takeshi Okada having lost his mind when he announced that Japan could reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.  Japan, the minnows of Asia, were considered anything but a threat by teams at the start of the World Cup. They were dismissed as being a very defensive team with absolutely no attacking skills lead by a crazily optimistic manager whose tactics were outdated. However, Japan have surprised everyone. The Blue Samurai seem to know exactly how to handle the moody Jabulani perfectly and became the first team to score a goal from a free-kick.

They have great spirit and defend like a team. Their manager will most likely not make any changes to the team and will play a 4-5-1 formation with Eiji Kawashima in goal and Yuichi Komano, Yuji Nakazawa, Marcus Tulio Tanaka and Yuto Nagatomo at the back. Keisuke Honda will play upfront on his own and will be supported by Daisuke Matsui, Yuki Abe, Makoto Hasebe, Yasuhito Endo, Yoshito Okubo. Although the headlines have been dominated by Honda’s goals, Daisuke Matsuito and Yasuhito Endo have been brilliant for Japan in the last matches. Yuki Abe is key to Japan’s formation as he shields the defence while allowing the creative players a bit of freedom.

It is interesting to note that Japan have very bad passing and of all the teams remaining, Japan have completed the least amount of passes (709) with a completion rate of only 62%. However, Japan proved with their 3-1 win over Denmark, of which 2 goals game from free kicks that they have tamed the Jabulani. This gives Japan an edge over Paraguay today.

The game will be a cagey affair with a very crowded midfield. Both these teams have already performed above expectations at the World Cup and neither will want to go home today. They both have good defenses and the game might end up going in to extra-time or penalties.

A Paraguay win will mean four South American teams in the the quarter-finals (along with Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay), while a Japan will see an Asian team beat a South American one to reach the quarter finals.

Manager Speak

“If we don’t go through nobody will remember us but if we turn in our best ever showing then they will talk about us for a while.” – Gerardo Martino, Paraguay manager

“I think we’ve to play with extra pride as we are now the only Asian representatives. My desire to beat Paraguay is even more resolute.” -Takeshi Okada, Japan manager

Players to Watch Out For

Paraguay: Enrique Vera, Nelson Valdez, Lucas Barrios

Japan: Keisuke Honda, Yasuhito Endo, Daisuke Matsui

Go Figure!

Paraguay have lost all three of their second-round matches in World Cup history, failing to score on each occasion

Japan have lost both of their World Cup matches against South American sides, losing 4-1 to Brazil in 2006 and 1-0 to Argentina in 1998

Paraguay are unbeaten in four World Cup matches. Only once have they gone five matches unbeaten, with that run straddling the 1958 and 1986 World Cups

Japan have won on the six occasions that Keisuke Honda has scored and on the 11 occasions that Shinji Okazaki has found the net for them

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World Cup Preview: England vs. Germany

It is the moment of truth for Fabio Capello and England as they take on Germany in what can only be described as 90 minutes of nail-biting for England fans. That doesn’t in any way mean that the game isn’t equally scary for a Germany fan, just that England fans seem to believe more in the so-called great historic rivalry between the two teams. The bragging rights that an England win bestows upon us are just so mouth-watering, that I for one am very happy that if we go on to  win this World Cup, it will by beating Germany on the way.

Of the 27 times that the two teams have met, England have won 12 times, Germany 10 times while 5 of those meetings ended in a draw. However, this is only the fifth time that the two are meeting in the World Cup with their last encounter in the 1990 Semifinals ending in a win for West Germany.

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Ranking: 8

England’s World Cup seemed all but over when they drew their first two group matches, however a win in their last match against Slovenia saw them qualify for the last 16 as runners’ up of Group C. The confidence in the England squad will be somewhat restored after their last performance. However, if past performances are anything to go by, it is easy to see that England seem to have a strange phobia of playing Germany or any big European nation. They have failed to reach the final of  the World Cup and the only teams England have manged to beat in the knockout stages  in the last 44 years are Paraguay, Belgium, Cameroon, Ecuador and Denmark. Today, England need to forget about the past, the historic significance of the collision, their wretched record against the Germans and just go play their game.

Fabio Capello will most likely go with 4-4-2 formation with Wayne Rooney and Jermaine Defoe leading England’s attack. England will put out an almost unchanged side with Matthew Upson expected to retain his place at centre-half, despite Jamie Carragher’s return from suspension, with Ledley King on the bench. David James will once again start in goal for England with John Terry, Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole making up the rest of England’s defense. Capello will depend on the creativity of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, James Milner and Gareth Barry in midfield.

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Ranking: 6

Germany started off their World Cup campaign in great form with a 4-0 win over Australia. They seem to have lost their form in the last 2 matches and will be desperate to fire on all engines against England. They welcome back Miroslav Klose who was suspended for their last game but have lost Cacau  to an abdominal muscle tear. Germany also have injury concerns with Bastian Schweinsteiger(hamstring) and Jerome Boateng (calf), however both the players did train with the team yesterday and will most likely feature in today’s game.

Germany lost their first choice goal-keeper René Adler, first-choice centre-back Heiko Westermann, the two holding midfielders from the Euro 2008 final, Simon Rolfes  and Thomas Hitzlsperger  and their captain Michael Ballack to injuries ahead of the World Cup. This lead to the Germany manager Joachim Loew coming to the 2010 World Cup with Germany’s youngest squad since 1935, with an average age of just under 25.  The German team is almost unrecognisable from  the one that  lost to Spain in Euro 2008 and of them  only Lucas Podolski, Miroslav Klose and Per Mertesacker keep their original positions. Many of the new comers in the team like Thomas Muller and Sami Khedira were second or third choice even at their clubs.

Joachim Loew will most likely go with a 4-3-3 formation with Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller up front. Bastian Schweinsteiger will control Germany’s midfield with Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira. Manuel Neuer, who is in fact a third-choice keeper (after Adler and Robert Enke) for Germany will be supported by Phillip Lahm, Arne Friedrich, Per Mertesacker and Holger Badstuber at the back.

Joachim Loew’s team lacks experience, with only 40 caps between Mesut Ozil, Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira and Thomas Muller while England’s two youngest starters today in James Milner and Wayne Rooney, have 73 caps between them. If England ever had a chance of beating Germany, it is today.

Insanity or Fact?

Fans being fans have their own way of predicting whether their team will win. In Germany, they have a psychic octopus who predicts Germany’s results eating a mussel from one of two jars, one with a Germany flag in it and the the other with the opposition flag. The octopus predicted  70% of Germany’s results during the 2008 European Championship  and it looks like he has improved on his skills this World Cup. The eight-legged genius predicted Germany’s win over Australia and Ghana and get this, Germany’s loss to Serbia!

His call for today’s game is a harsh Germany win, even harsher considering the Octopus was born in England.

England fans don’t want to leave the prediction to the whims and fancies of an Octopus and instead try and gauge who will win the match through the more-reliable, more efficient means – a  computer. The Mirror have a computer which uses world-renowned databases and the most accurate match engine to simulate  games. The computer says, England will win 3-2 with a goal from Wayne Rooney and a brace from Steven Gerrard of England. According to this computer, Thomas Mueller and Bastian Schweinsteiger will find the net for Germany.

So, today is not just a contest between England and Germany but also the day an Octopus takes on a Computer!

Manager Speak

“Both teams go into the game with a certain amount of respect. There will be no fear from us and not from the English.” – Joachim Loew, Germany manager

“We have to beat the big teams, and Germany are one of those.” – Fabio Capello, England manager

Stars to Watch Out For

England: Jermaine Defoe, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard

Germany: Miroslav Klose, Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger

Go Figure!

England have taken 29 corners from their opening three matches, the most by any team in the tournament so far.

Germany’s defeat by Serbia in the group stage was their first in the opening round of a World Cup since 1986.

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World Cup Preview: USA vs. Ghana

The knockout stages of the World Cup start today. No team can afford to mess up now, unless they want to be back home in front of a telly to watch the single biggest match in football, the World Cup Final. USA finished top of Group C, ahead of England by beating  Algeria 1-0 with a dramatic last minute goal from Landon Donovan. As a prize, the Stars and Stripes get to avoid playing Germany in this round and instead play the only African team left standing in the 2010 World Cup, Ghana.

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Ranking: 14

Many like CNN’s Roland Martins believe that the USA’s interest in the World Cup and in soccer is similar to their interest in the Olympics, in that it comes around once every four years. However, all that could change, if USA continue their successful run at the World Cup. With each successive game that the United States Men’s National Soccer Team wins, they win over more support for soccer in their country. It may be a cliche to say that the US loves winners, but that doesn’t make it untrue. So, quite literally, the future of soccer will get a major boast were USA to beat Ghana today and get to the quarter-finals. Another little incentive for topping Group C, which I am sure the USA will be thrilled about it that they get the opportunity to exact revenge on Ghana who had eliminated USA from the 2006 World Cup.

USA manager Bob Bradley will most likely go with a 4-4-2 formation with the giant defender Oguchi Onyewut, Steven Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra  at the back. USA’s midfield has is made up of incredible players like Landon Donovan who scored the goal that got the USA to this round, Clint Dempsey who always gives a 110% and is probably the most fouled against player in the World Cup, Maurice Edu who came in for Jose Francisco Torres but is sure to retain his spot in the starting line-up and the coach’s son Michael Bradley, who has silenced critics first by scoring a crucial goal against Slovenia and then by putting in an extraordinary performance against Algeria which one him the man of the match. The US attack will be lead by Jozy Altidore and Robbie Findley.

USA have strength going forward and whatever they lack in defense, they make up with their grit and hard-work.

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Ranking: 32

Ghana are the only African team left in the World Cup. Not only do they have the hopes of a country riding on them, they have the hopes of an entire continent to worry about. This could be a major advantage, since they are now practically the home team and will have the support of th crowd. However, hopes of an entire continent can be a burden, and if they go a goal or two down early in the game and the pressure could become too much for them to handle. Ghana, however made USA miserable  in the past and will feel sure that they can do it again.

In the last World Cup, USA would have qualified for the knockout stages if they had won against Ghana in their final group game but Ghana’s Haminu Draman and Stephen Appiah scored, leading Ghana to a 2-1 victory and condemning the USA to an early exit.  Of the players that played in that match in Nuremberg in 2006, 9 players remain in the Ghana squad.

Ghana have a strong defensive set-up and have made it to the round of 16, they are without their key player Michael Essien and have been finding it very hard to score goals . So far, Ghana have only scored 3 goals in the competition and two of those have come as a result of penalties converted by Asamoah Gyan.

Milovan Rajevac will most likely go with a 4-3-3 formation with Kingson in goal and John Pantsil, John Mensah, Lee Addy and Hans Sarpei at the back. Kevin-Prince Boateng, Anthony Annan, Kwadwo Asamoah will make up the midfield with Prince Tagoe, Asamoah Gyan, Andre Ayew up front. However, Milovan Rajevac’s might hand a first start of the tournament to promising striker Dominic Adiyiah who was named Africa’s young player of the year in 2009 to combat Ghana’s goal drought. Mensah who wasn’t successful in keeping Landon Donovan from scoring against his club Sunderland last season will be hoping he can keep the USA player at bay for his country today. Another interesting battle will be the one between Fulham teammates John Pantsil who will play at right-back for Ghana and Clint Dempsey who is most likely to play wide on the left for USA.

Manager Speak

“I think there are six (players) on both sides from the match in 2006 so there is some element of that, but now, four years later, things have changed. And, speaking for ourselves, we are looking ahead to 90 minutes or more, and to doing it — and moving along. We want to go far in this tournament and that is what our focus is on.” – Bob Bradley, USA manager

“We have created wonderful opportunities to score but we have had a bit of bad luck. Perhaps we were missing a bit of concentration. We can’t finish it off so hopefully going forward we will score proper, real goals and I’d be very happy to see this in the last 16.” -Milovan Rajevac, Ghana manager

Presidential Talks!

If you had any doubts about the importance of this game to the respective countries, the fact that the President Barack Obama called the US team to congratulate them on winning Group C and former President Bill Clinton attended their game against Algeria shows just how much a place in the quarter-finals means to USA.

Stars to Watch Out For

USA: Bob Bradley, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey

Ghana: Andre Ayew, Prince Tagoe, Kevin-Prince Boateng

Go Figure!

If USA beat Ghana it would be the first time since 1930 that the American team have won two consecutive World Cup matches

Ghana are only the second African team to reach the knockout stages in two consecutive World Cups – Nigeria were the first team to achieve that feat in 1998

If he plays, Landon Donovan will beat the USA’s all-time record of 11 finals appearances, currently held by Cobi Jones and Earnest Stewart

The Black Stars’ last three World Cup goals all came from the penalty spot

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World Cup Preview: Spain vs. Honduras

This is a must win game for tournament favourites and European Champions Spain. No one could have predicted that Spain would lose to Switzerland 1-0 in their World Cup opener leaving them not top of Group H but sharing space at the bottom with Honduras making today’s game crucial to their World Cup campaign.

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Ranking: 2

Spain have top-class players and they did very little wrong in their match against Switzerland except that they couldn’t score and conceded a cheap goal to Switzerland due to a miscommunication between the defenders and Iker Casillas in goal. La Roja would have sorted that out and will be raring to go against the Honduras. Vincente Del Bosque’s team knows that this is a must win game for them and they will put their shocking defeat behind them. Also, unlike Switzerland, Honduras cannot afford to draw this match either and therefore cannot sit back and just defend. They will have to go forward and attack which will leave space to the Spanish and everyone know what happens when you give the Spanish team space to play their game… they score plenty of goals. Vincete Del Bosque will probably go with a 4-4-2 formation, with both strikers David Villa and Fernando Torres starting for Spain. This means Sergio Busquets is most likely to be dropped. Another change could be the incorporation of Jesus Navas on the right wing rather than David Silva in attacking midfield. Cesc Fabregas might once again find himself on the bench, awaiting to make his World Cup 2010 debut. Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Joan Capdevila  will retain their positions at the back. Andres Iniesta who suffered an injury during the Switzerland match  is still not a 100% fit and will most likely not start for Spain.

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Ranking: 38

Honduras are the weakest link in Group H. They lost only by a goal to Chile and are level on points with Spain as they go into this match. Theoretically they have as much of a chance as Spain to qualify for the knock-stages of the tournament. In reality, Chile’s 1-0 scoreline over them does not tell the entire story of a match where Honduras did not create any chances and in fact they managed only one touch  inside the Chilean opposition penalty area over the entire duration of the game. Secondly, Chile have very limited resources and are struggling with injuries, it would be impossible for them to beat a top-class team like Spain. However, one can never underestimate confidence and belief in football and the Spainiards loss to Switzerland must have boosted the Hondurans in to believing that anything was possible. Reinaldo Rueda’s team are without striker David Suazo and midfielder Julio Cesar Leon who suffered an injury before the Chile match and is still recovering. He will be replaced by Jerry Palacios, who has set of a record of sorts by playing in the same World Cup with two of his brothers Johnny and Wilson. Spain are one of the scariest of all attack minded teams and the Honduran defense lead goalkeeper Noel Valladares will have to remain very focusedor else risk finding out just why their opponents are nicknamed La Furia Roja.

Manager Speak

“They are going to play football, it will not be easy to beat Honduras. We will play our game, take the initiative.” -Vincente Del Bosque, Spain manager

“We know we can give more. We have the strength to withstand the demands of Spain.” – Reinaldo Rueda, Honduras manager

Stars to Watch Out For

Spain: David Villa, Fernando Torres, Xavi Hernandez

Honduras: Noel Valladares, Jerry Palacios

Go Figure!

Honduras are winless in their last six matches, failing to score in five of them.

Spain had won 45 games out of 48 prior to their opening group defeat by Switzerland.

Honduras have only ever beaten two European nations – Slovenia and Latvia – in 14 attempts.

Spain’s only loss in 14 matches against a north and central American nation came a year ago at the hands of the USA in Bloemfontein.

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