Ronaldo is a Striker

Ronaldo was well-known for his flair on the wing, but he considers himself a fox-in-the-box nowadays.
Ronaldo was well-known for his flair on the wing, but he considers himself a fox-in-the-box nowadays.

In a recent interview with Spanish sporting news outlet Marca, Cristiano Ronaldo has admitted that he sees himself a striker rather than a winger nowadays. After scoring 48 goals league goals last season and claiming his fourth successive Golden Shoe, it is hard to disagree with the 30-year-old Portugal captain. “I’m more a penalty-box player, not so much on the wing,” claims Ronaldo, “You score more goals from there so I changed my position slightly.”

“I want to continue for five or six more years. I plan to continue [with the same] games and goals average. I feel good and useful at Madrid, I want to keep winning here.” he told Marca. After admitting that he is now a striker and wants to play at Real Madrid for a few more years yet, it is hard to bet against him winning at least another Golden Boot; he most definitely has the talent, and his passion for scoring for Los Blancos is certainly undisputed.

How The Mighty Fall

Last Summer, Louis Van Gaal’s Netherlands found themselves finishing in 3rd place at the FIFA World Cup. Fast forward 15 months, and the same team has ended up crashing out of the European Championships before the tournament has even started.

Robin Van Persie feels the despair after scoring the Own Goal which contributed to the destruction of the Dutch.
Robin Van Persie feels the despair after scoring the Own Goal which contributed to the destruction of the Dutch.

After losing their final group game, 3-2 to Czech Republic, the Oranje find themselves in fourth place of Group A, on 13 points, 5 points behind 3rd placed Turkey and 9 points off their Czech counterparts who found themselves in 1st place. For the first time since 1984, the colour Orange will not be proudly displayed at the European Championships. For a country with such a distinguished footballing history, with many well-respected players (both former and current), and a European title to their name, it is a travesty that they will not be represented in France next Summer.

10 Outta 10 For England

hi-res-b2bc015188898b28a16764c10f88705b_crop_northLast night, England won their 10th European Championships qualifier in a row, meaning they managed to gain the maximum amount of points (30), becoming only the sixth team in history to do so. Is securing top-spot is such dominant fashion a good omen for the Euros? Or is there absolutely no correlation between European qualification and European success? Here we look at the other five teams to have aced their qualifying groups in the past and see where they finished in the finals of the European Championship.

France (1992)
Qualifying – 
Joining France in Group 1 for qualification for the 1992 Euros held in Sweden were Czechoslovakia, Spain, Iceland and Albania. Not one of these teams managed to best the French over two legs, and Michel’s Platini’s men topped the group comfortably.
[table id=1 /]

Finals –
France were drawn in the same group as hosts Sweden, England and Denmark. Despite having a perfect score in qualifying, France could not replicate this during the finals, only managing to finish third in the group stage, behind Sweden and eventual winners Denmark.
[table id=2 /]

Result: Group Stage.

Czech Republic (2000)
Qualifying –
After being drawn in the same group as Scotland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania, Estonia and Faroe Islands, Czech Republic managed to win every single game of qualifying, clearing second-place Scotland by a margin of 12 points.
[table id=3 /]

Finals –
After having such a prosperous qualifying campaign, Czech Republic looked like one of the stronger teams in the Euros. However, after being drawn in a group with a strong Netherlands, eventual winners France, and previous winners, Denmark, the dream came crashing down for Czech Republic, who could only finish third and did not make it out of the group stage.
[table id=4 /]

Result: Group Stage.

France (2004)
Qualifying –
France are the only team in history to have managed to gain maximum points in qualifying for the European Championships. In the qualifying for the 2004 tournament held in Portugal, France managed to win every game against Slovenia, Israel, Cyprus and Malta.
[table id=5 /]

Finals –
Holders France went into the finals of the European Championships in 2004 full of confidence, and rightly so, having gained maximum points in the group stages. Drawn in the same group as England, Croatia and Switzerland, the French managed to win the group unbeaten, having only lost points in a 2-2 draw with Croatia. The quarter finals, however, were as far as France made it, bowing out 1-0 to eventual winners, Greece.
[table id=6 /]

Result: Quarter Finals.

Germany (2012)
Qualifying –
Germany were one of two teams in the Euro 2012 Qualifiers who managed to win every one of their group matches. Turkey, Belgium, Austria, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan all tried, and failed, to stop the Germans from completing a perfect group stage and qualifying with ease for the 2012 European Championships.
[table id=7 /]

Finals –
The might of the German national team carried on into the group stage of the finals. Portugal, Denmark and the Netherlands all fell to Joachim Löw’s team, with the Germans again gaining maximum points. The Quarter Finals were a breeze for the Germans too, beating previous winners Greece, 4-2. However, the Germans eventually lost 2-1 to Italy in the Semi Finals with Mario Balotelli scoring 2 goals for the Azzurri.
[table id=8 /]

Result: Semi Finals.

Spain (2012)
Qualifying – 
The second team to finish the Euro 2012 qualifying winning every game was World and European Champions, Spain. After beating Czech Republic, Scotland, Lithuania and Liechtenstein home and away, the Spanish easily claimed top spot in Group I.
[table id=9 /]

Finals – 
Drawn in the same group as Italy, Croatia and Republic of Ireland, it looked like the Spanish would have a tough time on their hands. However, after only dropping points when drawing with the Italians, Spain topped their group unbeaten. The Quarter Finals saw Spain matched up against the French, who were swiftly cast aside, with the World Champions winning 2-0. The Semi Finals were not quite as easy, with Spain being drawn against local rivals, Portugal. After a tense 0-0 draw, the match was taken to a Penalty Shootout, where Spain bested the Portuguese 4-0. The final saw Spain matched up against group compatriots, Italy, with whom they had drew 1-1 with earlier in the tournament. The result was not the same this time, with Spain hammering the Italians 4-0 and claiming back-to-back European Championship titles and becoming the first team in history to successfully defend their title.
[table id=10 /]

Result: Champions.

England (2016)
Qualifying – 
England do not typically do well in the European Championships, therefore we never expect much from them. However, after being drawn in a relatively ‘easy’ group, consisting of Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino, the nation expected the team to qualify. Roy Hodgson’s men had to deliver, and they delivered in style. After only letting in 3 goals, and scoring 31, England ended up on 30 points, 9 ahead of second-place Switzerland. However, it remains to be see whether England can finally overcome their European nightmare and win a piece of silverware.
[table id=11 /]

So, as we can see, only one team, Spain, has gone on to win the tournament after winning every one of their qualifying games. Germany came close, bowing out in the Semi-Finals, and France, in 2004 made it to the Quarter Finals, however, they also did not make it out of the Group Stages in 1992, like Czech Republic in 2000. So, in terms of England being successful in the finals of the tournament, it doesn’t exact bode well, however, there is of course always hope, especially with Spain completing the feat; although they were the World Cup and European Championship holders at the time.

Anthony Martial – Can He Keep This Up?

On 1st September 2015, it was announced that Manchester United had signed a 19-year-old French striker from Monaco for £36million, possibly rising to £58million. Of course, the footballing world went into meltdown. The most expensive teenager ever had only scored 11 goals in his 49 appearances for Monaco, yet Louis Van Gaal deemed it appropriate to splash an extortionate amount of cash on a relatively unknown prospect. 11 days later, the young Frenchman came on as a substitute for Juan Mata in the 65th-minute against bitter rivals Liverpool and scored United’s third goal with a beautiful run and finish past Simon Mignolet. Martial’s debut goal was not only voted as United’s goal of the month for September, but was also the catalyst for a red-hot start to his career in a Red Devils shirt.

Anthony Martial has been on fire since his £36million move to United.
Anthony Martial has been on fire since his £36million move to United.

Eight days later, after being given the nod for his first Premier League start, Martial scored twice against Southampton at St. Mary’s to yet again prove to his doubters that he has the ability to tear-up Premier League defences. After getting his fourth goal in four starts for United against Ipswich Town in the League Cup, Sir Alex Ferguson praised him by stating that he “can do anything”; this should not be taken lightly, Fergie does not throw compliments for players around freely.

Martial received the man-of-the-match award after his brilliant full team debut against Denmark.
Martial received the man-of-the-match award after his brilliant full team debut against Denmark.

After making his first full team debut for the France national team, Martial was given the man-of-the-match award after setting up Olivier Giroud for his goal in the fourth minute with a perfectly-balanced, seemingly-effortless through ball and impressing throughout with a great display of attacking football from the left-wing. Despite spurring some relatively simple chances from inside the box, Martial gave his doubters something to think about, and he has certainly done no harm to his appeal for a regular starting berth both at Manchester United and France, especially with the European Championships coming up next Summer.

Although he showed such promise and maturity in his game, it is important to remember that the boy is only 19-years-old, therefore we cannot expect this form to continue for the whole season. Memphis Depay is in a similar situation to Martial (a young prospect coming from a foreign league with a lot to prove), yet hasn’t made the same impact as the Frenchman after recently admitting that he is struggling with the physicality of the Premier League. Surely Martial cannot keep up with the strenuous nature of the Premier League, and with the European Championships just around the corner, there is real danger that he could burn out, much like Javier Hernandez did at the start of his United career after playing almost non-stop for the first 2 seasons.

However, if he can keep up his impressive goalscoring record and committed attacking football, Martial has a real chance of making the number 9 shirt his own. With Wayne Rooney struggling to find any form in recent weeks, he is the man United are relying on to bring them goals. Although that is a lot of pressure for a young Frenchman a foreign country, he clearly has the support of his manager and after his goal against bitter rivals Liverpool, he has most certainly has won many fans over. United fans will be hoping he can keep up his blistering start to the Premier League and continue it for years to come; there will of course always be doubts about his price tag, but as long as he his scoring and playing well, it is a mere minor detail.

Agüer-oh no! Sergio’s Injury Woes Continue

It seems as though the injury woes keep coming for Sergio Agüero. After overcoming a knee injury earlier in the season, the Argentine had been suffering from a bit of a goal drought. However, after his incredible 5-goal haul last weekend against an astonished Newcastle, it looked as though the 27-year-old was going to yet again take the Premier League by storm.

Injured again! Agüero may miss out on the Manchester Derby on October 25th
Injured again! Agüero may miss out on the Manchester Derby on October 25th

Whilst on international duty with Argentina, Agüero was forced off after 22 minutes against Ecuador with a hamstring injury which reportedly left the Manchester City striker in tears in the changing room. Just as it seemed everything was falling into place for him to get his season up and running. With the Manchester Derby coming up in just over 2 weeks, Agüero has found himself racing against time to be fit yet again.