Best XI: FIFA World Cup Group A

Best XI Group A FIFA World Cup

The first of Under the Wall’s Best XI series takes a look at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and asks, “What if the best players from each group could be on the same squad?” How neat would it be if the standouts from less talented countries could join the powerhouses to create a megateam, and those teams had to join forces to compete with other groups in the World Cup?

The answer is pretty freakin’ neat.  Continue reading

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Leicester’s Rare Opportunity

If Leicester City had earned one point through two matches to start their 2015/16 Premier League campaign, the footballing universe would have shrugged saying, “that sounds about right,” and moved on with their lives. This was, of course, before the Foxes upended the natural order of the universe and improbably finished atop the premier league table. Leicester’s slow start to their 2016/17 campaign has instead invoked an entirely different reaction, with many calling the club’s recent success a fluke and going so far as to suggest they could be the first English top-flight champion to be relegated the following season since Manchester City were sent down in 1937/38.  Continue reading

Warm Takes from a Busy Day in American Soccer

March 29 was a mixed bag for American soccer, just as many predicted. The USMNT senior squad took care of business on a day that could have went down as the darkest moment in U.S. soccer history. Instead, a convincing 4-0 defeat of Guatemala left fans breathing easier and confident the USMNT will in fact play in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. More important than avoiding elimination though is the way this team came together when it most needed to the most. Not only did they get a result, but they did it in convincing fashion without some of their key players. It is no secret the national team has struggled over the past year, but Tuesday provided fans with some semblance of hope looking ahead to this summer’s Copa America Centenario.  Continue reading

International Breaks are the Worst

Outside of the summer’s widely popular continental competitions, international breaks in soccer are met with dread from fans everywhere.

Yes, there are some very important and entertaining fixtures that take place during each international break, such as this week’s Euro 2016 playoff rounds. Also, the break is a time where we might gain insights into a manager’s roster decisions for next summer and see promising new faces break into the squad.

Still, being deprived from a weekly full slate of competition in the top European leagues and world class matches in the Champions League, only to be served with a handful of interesting games over two weeks is like being promised three weeks of 70s and sunshine under the condition of having a week of wind and downpour.

As an American who grew up used to a 17 game NFL season with one bye week, these constant interruptions seem harder to grasp. For comparison, in the BPL, teams will enter week 13 effectively already having three “bye weeks.” It is worth noting that many of these teams also partake in mid-week European or domestic league tournaments, but most squads also have the depth and stamina to handle two games a week.

International breaks also seem to be a bane of both coaches and top players alike. No coach in their right mind wants to see their top players get hurt playing in some meaningless friendly and players desire to spend time training with their clubs (who sign the checks) rather than throwing off their form by sporadically leaving for national camps. Without a doubt, international competition is vital to the sport and immortalizes the stars who shine on that stage. Still, all of these breaks seem undesirable for fans, coaches and many players.

To be clear, I’m not calling for sweeping changes in world soccer’s scheduling structure. Rather, I’m simply observed today and was frustrated by the fact that my favorite part of the weekend was taken from me once again, leaving me with no other choice than to witness, from beginning to end, the dumpster fire that is my Cleveland Browns. Luckily, the reparations for this weekend will be worth the wait. (Man City v Liverpool, El Clásico, Juventus v Milan, FC Bayern v Schalke).