This Weekend's Top Matches in England, Spain, Italy, and Romania - Scores and Full Match Highlights

Arsenal 2-1 Fulham - Nasri displaying his expertise with the ball



Chelsea 1-1 Everton - Beckford scoring a dramatic equalizer near the end and his second goal in the Premier League


Osasuna 0-3 Barcelona - Messi and Pedro hitting in goals for Barca in style


Fiorentina 1-0 Cagliari - Mutu, back from injury, scores a smashing header to give the Viola 3 points


Otelul Galati 1-0 Sportul Studentesc - Pena nets a fantastic goal for the Liga I leaders
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Russia wins the 2018 World Cup Bid and Qatar will host the WC in 2022

The Russian delegation celebrate their appointment as 2018 hosts in Zurich

The 2018 FIFA World Cup finals will be hosted by Russia. The decision was taken by the FIFA Executive Committee in a vote in Zurich today.
Four European candidates – Belgium/Netherlands, England, Portugal/Spain and Russia – were in the running, following a bidding process which began in January 2009. The last FIFA World Cup to be held in Europe took place in Germany in 2006.


Matches are scheduled to be played in: Ekaterinburg, Kaliningrad, Kazan, Krasnodar, Nizhny Novgorod, Podolsk, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Saransk, Sochi, St Petersburg, Volgograd, Yaroslavl and Moscow, where the final will be contested at the Luzhniki Stadium.


Europe was assured of welcoming the 2018 FIFA World Cup on its soil after the withdrawal of the last candidate committee from a non-European association was announced in mid-October. Brazil hosts the finals in 2014.

The 2022 edition will be staged in Qatar following a second vote by the FIFA Executive Committee. Australia, Japan, Korea Republic, Qatar and the United States were the five candidates.



"I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Russia," said UEFA president Michel Platini. "The choice was particularly difficult because all of the bids, without exception, were of exceptional quality, as were the presentations made today. It was really professional and we felt a genuine passion from each of the candidates. They would all have deserved to win and UEFA is proud of its six national associations.


"Now, we are all going to support and help Russia, to enable us to experience the finest of World Cups in Europe in 2018. Congratulations as well to Qatar. I am certain that they will also be equal to the task of organising an unforgettable World Cup in 2022."


What do you have to say about this? Share your thoughts with the world by posting a comment below!
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Europa League - Steaua and Liverpool share the points in Group K and the Reds go through to the round of 32

FC Steaua Bucureşti 1-1 Liverpool FCThe English side reached the round of 32 while their hosts remain best placed to join them after a draw in Bucharest.


Roy Hodgson enjoying the performance of his young Liverpool players in Bucharest

Liverpool FC edged into the round of 32 as Group K winners with a 1-1 draw at FC Steaua Bucureşti that kept them three points ahead of their closest challengers.

Milan Jovanović's first European goal for the Reds after 19 minutes broke the deadlock but the Army Men battled back with Éder Bonfim levelling after an error by Pepe Reina just past the hour as Steaua retained second spot in Group K, two points ahead of their final opponents, SSC Napoli.

Liverpool made ten changes from the side beaten by Tottenham Hotspur FC on Sunday and the unfamiliarity in their ranks doubtless contributed to a disjointed opening. The first chance arrived after 15 minutes and it was a fine one that Steaua spurned as Eric Bicfalvi headed over Romeo Surdu's cross from close range.

Roy Hodgson's men made them pay for that profligacy as Ryan Babel wrong-footed the home rearguard and crossed for Jovanović to head expertly into the corner. The visitors then appeared content to play on the counterattack and were comfortable until the stroke of half-time when Bogdan Stancu escaped the attentions of Sotiris Kyrgiakos only to slice wide from close range.

Marius Lacatus's charges were brighter early in the second half but only fashioned one opportunity of note when Cristian Tănase crossed and Geraldo Alves's header was smothered by an alert Reina. The goalkeeper was not so composed on 61 minutes, however, when substitute Stanislav Angelov's centre was nodded tamely towards goal by Bonfim only for the Spain custodian to allow it to slide between his legs.

Kyrgiakos nearly restored Liverpool's lead when he out-jumped Ciprian Tătăruşanu only for his header to clip the bar while Bănel Nicoliţă narrowly missed the near post for Steaua with a 20-metre drive and Stancu the top corner with a curling effort. But with a draw in the other group match maintaining the status quo, both sides settled for a share of the spoils.


Elsewhere in Europe...

Utrecht - Napoli 3-3
Edinson Cavani helped himself to a treble as SSC Napoli fought back from 3-1 down to both hold and eliminate FC Utrecht. Liverpool cannot be surpassed at the summit after drawing 1-1 away to an FC Steaua Bucureşti side who remain in second but need to avoid defeat in Italy to prevent being overtaken at the last by Napoli.

Dortmund 3-0 FC Karpaty Lviv
The Bundesliga leaders thrashed the Ukrainian underdogs in a spectacular match for the home team, giving the German club a chance to progress in the tournament if they win in Seville in two weeks time. Goal scorers were Shinji Kagawa (5'), Mats Hummels (49'), and Robert Lewandowski (89'). All were assisted by Nuri Sahin.

Rapid Vienna 1-3 FC Porto
Thanks to the prolific Colombian striker, Falcao, Porto defeated Rapid Vienna in Austria by 2 goal margin. The Colombian star scored a hat-trick (42', 86', 88') and put in a marvelous performance for his Portuguese side and the whole club and the fans are delighted with him. The home side's Christopher Tremmel put Rapid Vienna in the lead in the 39th minute but just 3 minutes later Falcao began his team's incredible comeback.

PSG 4-2 Sevilla

CSKA Sofia 1-2 Besiktas

CSKA Moskva 5-1 FC Lausanne

Villareal 3-0 Dinamo Zagreb

Sheriff Tiraspol 1-1 AZ Alkmaar

PAOK 1-1 Club Brugge

Palermo 2-2 Sparta Prague

BATE 1-4 Dinamo Kiev

Atletico Madrid 2-3 Aris
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Europa League - Man City qualifies thanks to Balotelli and Johnson

Manchester City 3-0 Salzburg

Balotelli Nets Brace To Secure Qualification For Mancini’s Side

Manchester City are one of the final 32 clubs to remain in the Europa League following the group stage after they defeated Austrian club FC RB Salzburg 3-0 at the City of Manchester Stadium.

With Juventus drawing 1-1 against Lech Poznan, Roberto Mancini’s side have qualified with a game to spare and are now at the top of Group A before their final match against the Italian club based in Torino.

The home team started well, dominating the game in possession and passing, while the attacking pair of Mario Balotelli and Jo were creating many goal scoring opportunities early on (and throughout the rest of the game as well).

Balotelli spurned a glorious chance early on, following a wonderful through pass by Patrick Vieira. The Italian burst forward towards goal but instead of slipping in Jo, which would have given the Brazilian striker an easy finish, the ex-Inter striker had a go at the opposing keeper (Gerhard Tremmel) but it was easily saved.


Mario Balotelli celebrating with Jo after scoring a goal

Just minutes later, Balotelli displayed the brilliance which prompted City to pay a reported £24 million for him in the summer as he opened the scoring. Another piece of prolonged build-up play by the hosts gave Pablo Zabaleta space on the left wing to cross, and his ball found the Italian who effortlessly guided his volley past Tremmel.

Salzburg offered little in attack and the visitors were reduced to speculative pot shots for the majority of the opening half, which barely troubled Shay Given, who had been given a rare outing by Mancini.

Balotelli began to show his temperament as the half progressed and frustratingly for Mancini, the 20-year-old’s antics were affecting City’s chances to extend the scoreline.

After an excellent chipped pass from Adam Johnson, the Italian raced through and showed natural strength in brushing off Franz Schiemer but as he got closer to goal, the Italian went without any hint of a challenge in a bid to win a penalty. The referee wasn’t conned and Balotelli spurned the opportunity to grab a brace before the interval.

City’s midfield barely had to move out of second gear and the tenacity of James Milner, combined with the vision and execution of Vieira’s passing ability, created plenty of attacking opportunities for the hosts.

Shaun Wright-Phillips was also given the opportunity to shine and whilst proving long spells on the sidelines will not decrease your pace, his crossing was erratic. As a stark contrast, Adam Johnson had little of the ball but his delivery was consistently accurate.

The last chance of the half fell to Milner as the midfielder showed a rare burst of pace and raced through on goal but screwed his shot narrowly wide.

City resumed proceedings in a similar fashion to the opening half, and immediately Wright-Phillips, who had switched flanks with Johnson, burst down the left but once again his final ball was disappointing as the England international failed to pick out Balotelli with his cutback.

It continued to become one-way traffic and even the visitors struggled to take control of the game with a man advantage, after Johnson slipped off the pitch for a few minutes.

The pressure finally amounted to City doubling their advantage after Johnson slipped in Vieira, whose scuffed shot fell nicely into the path of Balotelli and the striker, whose subsequent celebrations were strangely muted, was left with a simple side-footed finish past Tremmel.

Salburg responded by prompting Given to make his first save of the evening, albeit after 70 minutes of play. Stefan Hierlander's 30-yard shot skimmed across the fine Eastlands surface but the Irish goalkeeper was a match to the effort and was able to tip the ball around the post.

As City continued their snowy stroll, the home fans turned their attentions to Salzburg substitute Alan, and the Brazilian was subject to cheers every time he touched the ball and chants of ‘Alan, give us a wave’ rendered the midfielder bemused.

But the City fans were given one final cheer as Johnson wrapped up the game thirteen minutes from time in exquisite fashion. After jinking in from the left touchline, the midfielder breezed past two players and his right-footed finish curled sublimely past the Salzburg goalkeeper.

The hosts comfortably regained control of possession and managed to see out the match without any further drama. The ease of victory, as well as ensuring progression to the next round, will undoubtedly place City as one of the favorites to lift the trophy in challenge to the current holders (Atletico Madrid).
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Having another look at the Romanian national team...

Looking at the players selected for the vital game versus France, it’s fair to say that Lucescu Jr. has bigger problems than who should wear the number 10 shirt, an artificial issue which kept the media occupied for days. With Sapunaru and Radu back in the squad, Romania looks solid enough at the back to worry “only” about the rest of the team.


  • Goalkeepers: Costel Pantilimon (Poli Timisoara), Bogdan Lobont (AS Roma), Ciprian Tatarusanu (Steaua)
Being friends with the captain always helps. Photo from prosport.ro.
 Lobont will definitely start in goal, in spite of his obvious fear to catch a ball, with both reserve keepers inconsistent and, in my opinion, in mediocre form. Rapid’s Bornescu had a string of top performances, is mature enough and very confident, and I wonder why an ex-goalie like Lucescu overlooked him.
  • Defenders: Cristian Sapunaru (FC Porto), Vasile Maftei (Unirea Urziceni), Gabriel Tamas (WBA), Cristian Chivu (Internazionale Milano), Marius Constantin (Rapid), Stefan Radu (Lazio), Razvan Rat (Shakthar Donetsk), Mihai Nesu (FC Utrecht) 
The ultra-deserved call-up by Rapid’s Marius Constantin, who’s having the season of his life so far, won’t change the central defensive pair, formed by Tamas and Chivu – who’s been playing only at left back under Rafa Benitez! -, while Rat should keep his place on the left, in spite of Radu’s return. The Lazio left footed defender will be on the bench (so Constantin just earned a trip to Paris!), given his ability to play both at left back and in central defense, which also raises the question about Nesu’s call-up, a third, even fourth choice at left back, a player with no future and who has never impressed at club level. On the right, there will be a fair battle between Maftei – used in central defense at club level, this season – and Sapunaru, the FC Porto defender having the type of physique that would help a lot on the set plays that have the biggest chances to hurt Romania on Stade de France.

 

  • Midfielders: Mihai Roman (Rapid), Razvan Cocis (Al Nassr), Costin Lazar (Rapid), Iulian Apostol (Steaua), Mirel Radoi (Al Hilal), George Florescu (Alania), Ciprian Deac (Schalke 04), Ianis Zicu (Poli Timisoara) 

  • 
    
    Lucescu is dreaming of a win, would be happy with a draw and will settle for a narrow defeat
    
    When I was drawing the possible first eleven, I had to stop and think things through in midfield. Radoi is sure of his place, although he’s been playing poorly lately, so I would have dropped him. On the other hand, I’d be glad to see Florescu replaced with Lazar, Rapid’s skipper, who is a complete box-to-box midfielder, skilled with better technique and vision, the kind of midfielder that could help the team retain possession when under pressure, but also organize the build-up. He’s been in top shape this season, which can’t be said about Steaua’s Apostol, who’s still working on his match fitness. Moving on to the flanks, now. On the left, Timisoara’s Zicu earned a call-up and, judging by the way he’s been playing, he should start ahead of Deac, who failed to feature in Schalke’s last four matches, confirming my expectations. Still, Deac has been a regular in Lucescu’s team, knows the game plan, works harder than Zicu, so I won’t be surprised to see him in the first eleven. The choice for the right midfielder spot isn’t easier. Roman made a nice impression last time he featured against France, with his brave, direct attacking style, but he’s been playing within himself lately, struggling to add quality to his service from the flank and looking like a blonde Banel Nicolita. Hard working, but inefficient with his delivery. But Cocis isn’t a natural winger and either his appearance on the right or the “surprising” use of a left footed player there, wouldn’t make much sense, with Maftei and Sapunaru too defensive to take advantage of the free space for overlapping runs…
    • Forwards: Bogdan Stancu (Steaua), Marius Bilasco (Steaua), Daniel Niculae (AS Monaco), Ciprian Marica (VFB Stuttgart)
    
    One thing is for sure: Daniel Niculae deserves to start. He’s been in top form for Monaco, scoring goals, working for the team, and I would have seen him as a surprise solution on the right wing, but I doubt Lucescu will have the guts to field three natural forwards on the pitch at the same time even when he’s trailing by three goals. And, yes, it would be strange to move away from the goal your most in-form striker, but Stancu, Steaua’s prodigy, isn’t a good partner for Niculae and produces the best results when he’s having a centre-forward beside him. Putting Bilasco in the first eleven would make sense, given the fact that he and Stancu had enough time to gel at club level and keeping in mind that Bilasco makes Lucescu’s gameplan (organized deep defending, with direct balls on the front men) have a bit of logic, as too often we’ve seen the Niculae-Marica pair struggling to get win a ball in the air or connect with one thrown behind the opposition’s defense.

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    The Football Critic - The world of football at your fingertips

    Welcome to TFC!

    I have experience with football blogging, and decided to start a new and more global soccer news site.

    I hope you all enjoy our articles and come by every day for your daily rush of footy!

     We will begin by covering football in England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Romania, Russia, Portugal,  USA, South America, international competitions, and much more. This will include transfer rumours and confirmed/completed transfers, national teams, clubs, cups, prediction leagues and fantasy games, forums, and more.

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