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Axel Witsel scores against Australia

Belgium's Axel Witsel tees the ball up with his right foot before volleying home with his left to score against Australia in Liege for World Soccer's goal of the day.
Mystic Pizza owner gets one year in prison for tax evasion

Mystic Pizza owner gets one year in prison for tax evasion “Details”

John Zelepos, owner of Mystic Pizza, the Connecticut pizzeria that inspired the 1988 film that launched Julia Roberts' career, was sentenced Monday to a year in federal prison for tax evasion. Federal authorities released financial data that depicts the famous...

Casey Stoney exclusive

England Women's star Casey Stoney has spoken out about the fight against homophobia in football in an exclusive interview with TheFA.com.

The defender has shown her support for The FA’s new season drive to encourage fans and players to report discrimination. Casey, who came out in February this year, is a key voice in the fight against discrimination.

“I have received massive support by The FA and my club since coming out,” she said.

“I had thousands of tweets in support too from fans. Coming out has made me feel more comfortable, happy and it’s showing in my performances.”

She added: “We've got a lot of work to do in terms of homophobia, to move the game forward. It’s all about educating - being gay isn't a choice it’s something that just happens. I realised when I was about 15 or 16 and I've lived my life accordingly since then.”

Players and clubs across the country will be backing the Rainbow Laces campaign this weekend. Stoney is a champion of initiatives like this, as well as the likes of Kick It Out and Football v Homophobia, and urges fans to keep their eye on the ball when it comes to reporting abuse.

“Campaigns like that raise the issue. It’s really important you report discrimination. If you don't how can we stop it from happening? You have to challenge behaviours because if you don't you can't stop it from continuing.”

Watch the interview in full below.

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Peacock: Development is key

John Peacock says it's the level his England U17s are at next summer that's the most important thing after watching them succumb to a late sucker punch against Portugal.

Layton Ndukwu had equalised Moreto's strike shortly after half-time, but a late goal from Tavares condemned England to a cruel defeat. 

The loss puts the Portuguese level at the top of the group with Italy on four points, with the Azzurrini next in store for Peacock's youngsters on Sunday. 

England 1-2 Portugal

The FA U17 International Tournament
Friday 29 August 2014
Proact Stadium, Chesterfield FC
Attendance: 1,073

With just the one point to their name, the head coach knows top spot may just be out of reach, but he believes the final standings are irrelevant when it comes to his players development. 

"Obviously we don’t have a lot to play for in terms of winning the tournament, but its not about that," Peacock explained to TheFA.com. 

"It’s a learning curve this week. The players are getting to know me a little bit and I’m getting to know them. 

"All 18 have been on the pitch, and we’ll rotate again on Sunday." 

He continued: "They are trying to do the right things and that is what’s most important. And it is not about where we finish this week, it is about where we are at the end of the season." 

England enjoyed the majority of possession at Chesterfield's Proact Stadium, and despite the loss, Peacock believes his squad will benefit from the test. 

England U17s v Portugal

Layton Ndukwu netted England's goal

"They are learning lessons, and we had a lot of possession like we did on Wednesday," he said. 

"Portugal scored two very good goals, but we were disappointed with how they got into those positions in the first place – but I can’t fault the finishes. 

"Overall it was another great experience for the players and I’m sure it is something they will learn from." 

England face Italy at 3pm on Sunday at Burton Albion's Pirelli Stadium.

Tickets cost £3 for adults and £1.50 for U16s per game and can be purchased from the Burton Albion Club Shop at the Pirelli Stadium, or by calling 01283 565938 between 8.30am and 5.30pm.

Elleray praise for Webb

“For me it recognises not just the contribution of the tens of thousands of referees who are vital to the fabric of our game, but also all those individuals and organisations, including The FA, The Referees’ Association and County FAs, who work so hard developing and supporting our referees.

“It also recognises the referees’ families and friends who support and make sacrifices so they can officiate.

“Finally, we should all be proud of the unequalled success of our international refereeing where across men’s, women’s and disability football and Futsal in the last four years England has had officials involved in two World Cup finals, two Euro finals, two Champions’ League finals and two Olympic andParalympic finals – a record no other country can come anywhere near.

David Elleray was awarded an MBE for services to football

“I am honoured and thrilled that refereeing in this country has been recognised in this way”, he added.

Four years after taking charge of the World Cup final in South Africa, Webb will oversee the Group C encounter between Colombia and Ivory Coast on Thursday evening in Brasilia.

The Rotherham official will be joined by assistants Mike Mullarkey and Darren Cann, who were also part of Webb’s team in 2010.

FA chairman Greg Dyke has also praised the ‘world class’ standard of English match officials.

He said: “Howard, Mike and Darren are rightly regarded as among the best in the world. 

"Howard has taken charge of the biggest games around – not least the 2010 World Cup Final, when he was ably assisted by Mike and Darren. It is no surprise that he was one of our most important ambassadors for The FA’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2013.

“Howard, Mike and Darren are rightly regarded as among the best in the world”

Greg Dyke 

“It is not only Howard. Mark Clattenburg just missed out on selection, having taken charge of the London 2012 Olympic men’s Final at Wembley along with Stephen Child and Simon Beck. There is a good depth to our leading referees’ list.

“Sian Massey’s emergence as a top Premier League assistant referee was furthered by her work at the FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup in March which followed her appointment for last year’s UEFA Women’s EURO final in Sweden.

“English refereeing is world class. And it is not just football, either. As a nation we may still be finding our feet in the small-sided world of futsal but Marc Birkett is one of the top officials on the planet. He was involved in February’s UEFA Futsal EURO Final after officiating in the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup showpiece.

“This refereeing excellence is not a new phenomenon. No country has had more men take charge of the World Cup final than The FA’s four while the first two UEFA European Championship finals had Englishmen in the middle.”

Brazil v Mexico – tactical guide

Hosts Brazil meet Mexico in Belo Horizonte in a match which should give us a much clearer idea as to their title credentials.


17 June 2014

Brazil v MexicoEstadio Castelao, Fortaleza, 20:00


The pieces in Brazil’s jigsaw started to come together when Luiz Gustavo was installed as the holding midfielder. It balanced out the side and stemmed the flow of goals being conceded from the space in front of the centre-backs Thiago Silva and David Luiz. Gustavo’s presence also frees Paulinho to launch his well-timed forward runs. The fact that he is left-footed makes
it easier for him to protect the weaker side of the defence. All good in theory, but against Croatia, in last Thursday’s opening match, there were large spell were Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic controlled the midfield.

Another change down the spine of the team introduced by Scolari was the return of a target-man centre-forward. Fred provides a reference point for a quick, dynamic midfield and his prowess with his back to goal helps bring Neymar into the game. Against Croatia, though, and notwithstanding his blatant dive for the penalty, he was largely anonymous.

The line of three behind Fred shows considerable mobility, with Neymar on the left usually the furthest forward. The all-round ability of Oscar enables him to drop deep to orchestrate the play in addition to ghosting into the box, although as we saw last week the Chelsea man was more effective surging down the right. Indeed in that opening match, he was arguably brazil’s best player and certainly their most inventive. The physical capacity of Hulk will see him bursting forward down the right flank. Hulk normally starts, but can be a useful impact sub. Again, like Fred, his impact in the first game was minimal.

Jo is an obvious direct alternative for Fred, while Willian can play across the attacking line. Hernanes could come in for Paulinho, while Fernandinho would be a slightly more defensive replacement.

There will be periods during matches where Scolari will seek to press the opposition high up the pitch, which is a relatively new concept for Brazil – and one which could add to the problems for referees. During the Confederations Cup the player who was most fouled was Neymar – a reflection both of his ability and of his capacity to draw challenges in areas from which his set-pieces can be so dangerous. But he – followed by Oscar – was also the player who committed most fouls as Brazil sought to stop their opponent’s counter-attacks at source. The officials will have lots of decisions to take, and with the home crowd howling for free-kicks, the pressure will be on. Neymar was booked in the Croatia game and was arguably fortunate to stay on the pitch when he elbowed Modric in the face.

Plan B?

Scolari’s principal tactical variation is to switch to 4-3-3, with Ramires coming in for Hulk. He will sit in alongside the two midfield holders, with Oscar and Neymar pushed up alongside Fred.


Herrera puts his faith in wingbacks and Liga MX players 

Herrera has adopted the attacking line-up used by former national coach Ricardo La Volpe in Germany 2006 to such an extent that he often seems to overlook the team’s stars in favour of those players that have already played under him at club level and who know his 5-3-2 system.

In their 1-0 victory over Cameroon, there was a fluidity to Mexico’s play that should have brought greater reward. Were it not for an incompetent linesman, the margin of victory would certainly have been greater.

In Herrera’s system the wingbacks play a big role and they are in charge of generating the side’s attacking thrust with well-timed forward runs. There’s only room for one anchorman and the other two midfielders are used more in box-to-box roles, recovering possession and offering support for the wide players. Of the two strikers, one usually operates as a pure centre-forward while the other takes up a more withdrawn position. The pair can, however, swap roles during the game.

It’s a very attack-minded system in which all the players have to be confident with the ball, but it is also one that can be very risky as up to seven players can be in the opposing side at the same time, leaving the anchorman and the three central defenders very exposed at the back.

Herrera has stated that he’s prepared to change his set-up if the need arises, but from what has been seen in this year’s friendlies that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s safe to assume that Mexico’s games in Brazil will feature plenty of goals, although it remains to be seen how many of them will be scored by “El Tri”.

It seems that Herrera may well stick to his guns and use mostly local Liga MX players in his starting XI, with the only exceptions being Espanyol’s Hector Moreno and Porto pair Diego Reyes and Hector Herrera.

While there doesn’t seem to be a place in the starting line-up for talented players such as Giovani Dos Santos, the finals will give left-back Miguel Layun, box-to-box midfielder Carlos Pena and striker Oribe Peralta the chance to shine on the world stage. Peralta certainly managed that against Cameroon, scoring the only goal of the game and generally being the liveliest of Mexico’s forwards.

Plan B?

While Herrera is unlikely to be swayed from his 5-3-2 set-up, he could change the personnel. The most likely scenario will be to accommodate both Dos Santos and Peralta up front.

England out of World Cup

England's World Cup hopes ended on Friday as Costa Rica beat Italy 1-0 in Recife, thanks to Fulham forward Bryan Ruiz.

The decisive goal came from a header on the stroke of half-time and ensured the Three Lions' will be flying home from Brazil after their final group game on Tuesday.

Moments earlier, Joel Campbell had been taken down inside the box by Giorgio Chiellini, but the referee waved play on. 

However, the Central Americans scored a deserved opener through Ruiz's strike. 

And it was a lead they managed to protect, keeping Italy at bay, to go top of the table and secure their passage to the last-16.

England travel to Belo Horizonte to meet the Costa Ricans in their last match.

Rakitic on Suarez and Messi

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic has shrugged off suggestions that their success will depend only on attacking trio Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.

The 26-year-old said that one of the greatest attacking trios of the modern game will have to do their share of the legwork if the team is to win trophies this season.

Rakitic has also praised the “unbelievable” facilities on offer as Barcelona train at St. George’s Park this week, and admitted he could only dream of using such a venue with the Croatia national team.

“St. George's Park is unbelievable. I am so happy to be here”

Ivan Rakitic 

He said: “We are working so hard to be ready for the new season and to be somewhere like this – it’s great.

“St. George’s Park is unbelievable. It is the kind of place I dream about for the Croatia national team. It is a wonderful place to work and I am so happy to be here.”

Barcelona trained on Tuesday morning on the Wembley replica pitch under the watchful eye of head coach Luis Enrique – but although Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique were all put through their paces, Messi, Neymar and Suarez were not present.

Messi returns to full training after taking a break following the World Cup, Neymar is recovering from a back injury while Suarez will miss the start of the season due to suspension.

Rakitic and Hallilovic

Ivan Rakitic shares a joke with his Barca team-mates

Rakitic – who this summer joined from Sevilla – said he was relishing playing with the trio but that the team cannot prosper on their talent alone.

“They are the best players in the world. It is a privilege to play with them and we have to do our best to help them,” he said in St. George’s Park’s lecture theatre. 

“But Barcelona is not just about those three. We all have our role to play and if we work together they will do better too.”

Barca finished second in La Liga last season – a failure by their high standards – and Rakitic said: “We all have to work together to be a strong team – a harder team.

“When you play for the biggest team in the world you are under pressure to deliver trophies from day one. That’s why we’re here. If we keep working the trophies will come.”

And despite impressing for Croatia at the World Cup in Brazil, the Swiss-born midfielder admits he has to improve if he is to make the grade at Camp Nou.

On Monday Rakitic took part in Barca’s traditional rondo warm-up – a kind of football piggy-in-the-middle – and was given the run-around by pass-masters Xavi, Pedro and Iniesta.

Alen Hallilovic and Ivan Rakitic head out for training

Fellow Croats Alen Hallilovic and Ivan Rakitic head out for training

“I wasn’t used to it,” he laughed, “but I am determined to get better. At Barcelona the ball and possession is incredibly important – I know that and I realise I have more to do to get to the level where I am happy.

“It’s similar to how I found things with Sevilla – but the technical level is so much higher. We’re working very hard but I am enjoying it as much as I can.”

Rakitic also says that Xavi’s decision to stay with Barcelona for another season will be a big help as he settles in Catalonia. The Croat had been earmarked by many as an immediate successor to the 34-year-old playmaker who was expected to move away from Spain.

“I can learn so much from him and I enjoy every single moment that I train alongside him. I am very happy that he stays,” said Rakitic.

And Barcelona’s succession planning will not stop there; this summer marked the arrival of Alen Hallilovic, who turned 18 in June and yet already has three caps for Croatia’s senior team.

The gifted former Dinamo Zagreb midfeidler has travelled with Barca to St. George’s Park this week, and Rakitic is keen to play a part in the youngster’s development.

“I’m not surprised he’s at Barcelona. He’s very young but everyone in Croatia knows how good he is,” he said.

“I’m trying to help him like an older brother should because I know the language. I’m going to stay close to him so he can improve.”