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Wales defeat to Ireland in World Cup qualifications.
Wales manager Chris Coleman said he would “let the dust settle” before deciding whether to continue after his side’s World Cup qualification hopes ended in a 1-0 defeat by Ireland on Monday.
Coleman led Wales to the semi-finals of the 2016 European Championships but his dream of taking the nation to their first World Cup finals since 1958 was crushed in the Cardiff City Stadium.
James McClean’s second-half goal meant Ireland claimed a playoff spot after they leapfrogged Wales into second place in Group D behind Serbia. It was Wales’ first defeat in a World Cup qualifier for 12 games and their first home defeat in a competitve fixture for four years — a record Coleman said he was proud of.
“All I can think about right now is the faces of the players in the dressing room and their disappointment,” Coleman, who took over in 2012 after the death of former coach Gary Speed, said. “They are inconsolable but they should be very proud.
“I will take some time to let the dust settle, we will sit down and have a chat and take it from there. This was our first defeat at home for four years. Four years ago we were playing against Macedonia in front of 8,000. It is different now.”
Coleman was generous in his praise for Ireland counterpart Martin O’Neill, whose side produced a textbook away display. “I thought on the balance of play we pretty much dominated the first half,” he said. “We knew Ireland would have a gameplan and they executed it very well. Fair play to them. Martin O’Neill has done a great job and good luck to them.”
Ireland will probably face one of the seeded nations in the playoffs, possibly Portugal or Italy, but showed in Cardiff that they will be no pushovers, whoever they draw next Tuesday.
“We are in the play-offs. Whenever the draw is made we will take our chance,” O’Neill said. “The impression of our campaign? Absolutely delighted. When the draw was made I thought we had a very difficult group. We have come through, fantastic.”
Three at the back is the way forward for England... even if it means good players missing out
England manager Gareth Southgate plans to head into the World Cup with a three-man back line, even if it means good players missing out.
Qualification for next summer's finals was straightforward enough, but the manner of recent performances produced more questions than answers.
Southgate is well aware that improvements are needed and, having sat down in the summer with assistant Steve Holland and made a 'very strong assessment of the squad', will now move to a three-man defence permanently.
Having dabbled with it in the friendlies at Germany and France, qualification with a game to spare allowed the Three Lions to try it again in Lithuania.
The upcoming friendlies with Germany and Brazil will be sterner tests of a formation Southgate believes could suit England, with the boss saying 'some consistency' was now needed in formation and philosophy in order to help perform under pressure.
"I think we have got to focus on a system and really try to hone it, work on it, improve it," the England manager said, having relied heavily on 4-2-3-1 in qualification. That might mean we might have to leave some good players out, but I think we have to start to make those decisions over the next couple of camps."
Asked if playing three at the back was the way forwards, he said: "Yes, I think for us it is. "For me, in terms of the way we'd want to play from the back, I think it's a better option.
"At the moment we turn the ball over too much and when we turn it over, we split into two centre-backs, we're wide open. We were still open (against Lithuania) with three, so it would be a benefit if we didn't keep turning the ball over.
"But I think it gives us good stability and it gives easier solutions for our midfield players as well. Then what we play in front of it, there is a possibility to switch, maybe get two strikers in certain games. We felt keep the system as we have used it before, because it is such a quick turnaround of games. But three in midfield with two forwards also becomes an option, but I think three at the back is what we ought to do."
Arda Turan back on Arsene Wenger's radar ahead of January window
Arsenal have made an approach for Arda Turan, according to reports in his native Turkey.
The Gunners were strongly linked with the Barcelona midfielder in the summer but decided against tabling an offer.
However, Arsene Wenger is said to have reignited his interest in the 30-year-old and has started work on a January deal.
Turan joined Barca for £24m back in July 2015 but has struggled to hold down a regular first-team place and is eager to move on when the transfer window re-opens.
According to CNN in Turkey, Arsenal have already been in contact with the player’s representatives about a potential switch to north London.
Galatasaray are also reported to be keen to re-sign Turan, who won his 100th cap for Turkey last week, but the player is said to be eager to try his luck in the Premier League.
Now he could get his chance at Arsenal as Wenger looks to add to his midfield options in the New Year.
Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane included on shortlist for 2017 Ballon d'Or
Tottenham striker Harry Kane has been named on a 30-man shortlist to win the 2017 Ballon d'Or. Kane has enjoyed a superb year, scoring 43 times in 37 appearances for club and country, to help Spurs qualify for the Champions League and England next year's World Cup.
His two goals as captain also secured England successive victories against Slovenia and Lithuania over the international break. The 24-year-old joins the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar on the Ballon d'Or shortlist.
Kane's club-mate Luka Modric is also on the list, along with Chelsea's N'Golo Kante, Manchester Untied's David de Gea, Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne and Liverpool pair Philippe Coutinho, and David de Gea.
The Ballon d'Or, which is judged by a panel of journalists, ran in conjunction with FIFA from 2010 until 2015, when the governing body split to create its own Best Player award.
Cristiano Ronaldo is favourite to retain the crown, which would see the Real Madrid and Portugal forward pull level with Messi in winning it five times. The winner will be announced in December.
The full 30-man 2017 Ballon d'Or shortlist:
Neymar, Luka Modric, Paulo Dybala, Marcelo, N'Golo Kante, Luis Suarez, Sergio Ramos, Jan Oblak, Philippe Coutinho, Dries Mertens, Kevin De Bruyne, Robert Lewandowski, David De Gea, Harry Kane, Edin Dzeko, Antoine Griezmann, Toni Kroos, Gianluigi Buffon, Sadio Mane, Radamel Falcao, Lionel Messi, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Edinson Cavani, Mats Hummels, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard, Leonardo Bonucci, Isco, Kylian Mbappe
IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR WEST BROM AFTER LEICESTER HUMILIATION?
Having now lost their last six league games, West Brom are on an abysmal run of form which has left them on the
brink of relegation to the Championship after eight years in the top-flight.
The nature of their latest reversal, a 4-1 home defeat to Leicester City, is a hugely damaging blow for confidence
and morale among the fans and players. The result leaves Alan Pardew’s side eight points off safety ahead of Stoke
versus Manchester City on Monday evening.
If the Baggies are to mount any hopes of survival against the odds, then their next three games away to Bournemouth
followed by home games against Burnley and Swansea are crucial.
Fail to take at least six points from these pivotal fixtures, and it is surely curtains for the Midlands club. This is given
the fact that West Brom have to play Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United in their final five games, a testing
With games against Crystal Palace and Newcastle also to come during the final five games, there are opportunities
to collect points, but both teams will also be fighting hard for survival.
Having only won three games all season, the last being a 2-0 home win over Brighton in mid-January, the Baggies
have certainly left themselves in the quagmire, and it is a steep uphill task for them to pull off a great escape.
Inspiration may be taken from the club’s heroics during the 2004-05 season in which West Brom stayed up on the
final day of the season after beating Portsmouth 2-0 at The Hawthorns. In doing so, the Baggies became the first side
to survive in the Premier League having been bottom at Christmas.
Therefore, it is in the DNA of the club to keep on fighting until the last ball is kicked. Whether they can achieve
something equally spectacular this season is questionable though given their form of eight games without a win.
Goal scoring has been a major area of concern for Pardew’s side. Having opened the scoring against Leicester,
Salomon Rondon took his league tally up to five goals. No player has more, which is simply not enough.
Centre-backs Craig Dawson and Jonny Evans are joint-third in the club’s scoring charts this season, a huge indicator
of how poor the club has been in front of goal.
Six clubs have conceded an equal amount of goals or more than West Brom so it is in an attacking sense that fingers really
have to be pointed. 23 goals as a team must be urgently improved on or it will be Championship football at the Hawthorns