Sterling and Lingard hold the key for England

It all started as a joke.

Disappointed and disillusioned following their team’s chronic lack of success on the international stage, the England supporters had little faith in Gareth Southgate’s team and the ‘It’s Coming Home’ shout was their way to fight the disappointment that was expected to ensue.

Successive wins over Tunisia and Panama sparked a newfound hope and the catchphrase from the Lightning Seeds hit song “Three Lions” slowly started shaping into a genuine possibility as England stands in front of it’s first World Cup semi-final since 1990.

The Three Lions have struggled to go past the quarter-finals ever since Italy and all the supporters initially wanted to do was to be lighthearted about another probable disappointment in Russia.

Gareth Southgate had different ideas, however. Never truly given managerial recognition and the credit he obviously deserves, the former England international is doing wonders with a young and exciting side.

Waistcoat Revolution

There are a couple of parallels to be drawn between the Velvet Revolution from Czechoslovakia in 1989 and the unobtrusive manner with which Gareth Southgate led his England side back to global prominence.

The waistcoat-wearing tactician reshaped the way England defend and go forward, their off-ball movement and – most importantly – he instilled a winning mentality the Three Lions lacked in the past.

England’s quarter-final success against Sweden might have been all about Jordans – and Harry Maguire’s masculine maturity – but as England stands in front of it’s biggest challenge yet in the tournament, it is to be argued that Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard hold the key to the final.

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Hosts Retain Respect as Russian World Cup Fairy Tale Ends

Vassiliy from Vladivostok got up at 4:00 in the morning to watch his team lock horns with Croatia in the quarter-final of the World Cup. More than two hours of gruelling battle later as Russia were waving their goodbyes following a penalty shootout heartbreak, Vassiliy returned to bed feeling proud.

There wasn’t a single reason for him to feel disappointed or angry as the team he wholeheartedly cheered throughout the World Cup fairy tale in one of Russia’s 11 time zones reached the end of the road. Read More

Spain 1-1 Russia (3-4 pens): Form Loses to Essence as Hosts Shock La Roja

If football is more than merely a sport – art or even a way of life – then a philosophical description of the match at Luzhniki between Spain and Russia is befitting.  

Aristotle and Plato were the first ones to touch on the subject of essence, which in philosophical terms is the property that makes substance what it is in it’s fundamental core, compared to form which in the simplest of terms is a reflection of essence.

Apply it to the match in which the host nation of the World Cup successfully eliminated one of the remaining favourites to lift the title and you’ll see a victory of essence over form in a dramatic penalty shootout. Read More

Serbia Bow Out, Emotionally Sucker Punched and Disgraced

My late grandma was a grounded, hard-working woman who had little belief in emotion.

“Dreaming is free of charge”, she would often tell my high school self, just to remind me that a wish upon a star is actually an earned achievement and a result of effort, work and commitment.

So where did it all go wrong with Serbia’s World Cup dream when all of my granny’s prerequisites seemed to be there?

Mladen Krstajic’s men fell victim to an emotional trick – a sucker punch – which led them to believe they are worth more than they actually are. And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with believing in yourself but, at a competition such as the World Cup, identifying your own limitations is a more significant component in relation to achieving success.

With a managerial novice holding the reins of a talented squad – a mixture of exciting World Cup winning youth and seasoned stars – Serbia failed to identify it’s flaws and repair them.

One such problem was leaving Nikola Milenkovic too exposed in the heart of defence against Brazil.

Mladen Krstajic decided to go with Antonio Rukavina instead of Branislav Ivanovic – speed over strength and stamina – deploying the Villarreal defender to chase down Neymar.

By pushing Sergej Milinkovic-Savic further to the back and slotting him into the defensive midfield position he wanted to help the Fiorentina youngster Milenkovic guard the goal. But at the same time, Serbia lost that cutting edge as Lazio hotshot SMS was forced to cover great distances in order to engage himself in going forward from behind, to help Adem Ljajic break Brazil’s backline.

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Serbia 1-2 Switzerland: Swiss Win Battle of the Eagles

After a hard-fought point against the tournament favourites Brazil, Switzerland all but secured promotion to the World Cup knockouts by beating Serbia 2-1 in an emotional match in Kaliningrad on Friday night.

Mladen Krstajic’s men took the lead through Aleksandar Mitrovic’s header five minutes into the clash but the Swiss made a great comeback in the second half thanks to Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri.

The Arsenal midfielder curled in a wonderful shot from outside the box to level the score eight minutes from the hour mark. The in-demand Stoke City winger Xherdan Shaqiri then broke free of Serbia’s offside trap in the dying minutes of the game to slide the ball beneath Vladimir Stojkovic and claim a huge three points for his team.

The Partizan shot stopper topped the Serbian Twelve rankings with 1,711 points despite conceding twice. That’s more than enough evidence to paint an illustrative portrait of the decline his teammates inexplicably went through after taking the lead early on.

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Costa Rica 0-1 Serbia: the day the world met Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

Serbia kicked off its 2018 World Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica. What would have been an intriguing encounter anyway, as the 2014 World Cup quarter-finalists took on a side back at the global stage for the first time in eight years, turned into a nerve-wrecking affair which could have gone either way.

Both Costa Rica and Serbia created chances but it all came down to a moment of brilliance from the Eagles captain Aleksandar Kolarov, who curled in a wonderful free kick four minutes shy of the hour mark.

A punch to the air and a loud roar as the Serbia captain rushed towards his teammates in celebration is a clear indication of what the goal meant to Serbs. With baggage from tournaments past dragging behind them, the Serbian team is determined to harness their individual talents and wrap them up in a commendable team spirit and a sense of unity.

And that’s exactly the kind of a message their – at times cautious but still courageous – display against Costa Rica sent.

The importance of the 1-0 victory grew hours later when mighty Brazil were held to a 1-1 stalemate by resilient Switzerland, and with the soaring Eagles now topping Group E in Russia, here are three things we learned.

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Costa Rica vs Serbia Preview: Helping Mladen Krstajic Solve Selection Dilemmas

There is a football-related saying in Serbia which is a neat illustration of how the beautiful game we all love and cherish is perceived in this Balkan country from an international standpoint.

“Serbia boasts a population of 7 million people and the same number of national team managers.”

With such a grandiose managerial pool getting ready to pelt Mladen Krstajic with rotten tomatoes at the slightest notion of a selection hiccup against Costa Rica, I am glad Twelve is here to provide me with a strong argument to support my own managerial credentials.

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