Ballon d’Or 2017: Award Ceremony Date

Ballon d’Or 2017 will be at 4:30 PM – 8:30 PM on

Thursday
7 December
All times are in West Africa Standard Time

 

The Ballon d’Or, considered by many as the ultimate prize for an individual, is awarded to the best player Europe.

This year’s glitzy ceremony will take place in Paris, and ahead of the bash here is everything you need to know ahead of the event.

Cristiano Ronaldo is hoping to win the coveted prize for a fifth time

Kaka was the last player other than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to take home the Ballon d’Or, and the Brazilian playmaker won the coveted awarded way back in 2007.

For the last decade Messi and Ronaldo have monopolised the award, and it would be a huge surprise were that trend not to continue when the 2017 Ballon d’Or is handed out on Thursday in Paris.

Real Madrid’s Ronaldo is the front-runner to win football’s most coveted individual prize for the second year running after leading Los Blancos to La Liga and UEFA Champions League glory in the 2016-17 campaign.

Is Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi the favourite for the Ballon d’Or?

There are seven men from the Premier League in the running for this year’s award.

However, the winner is set to be out of old foes Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

The duo have dominated the award since 2008, with Barca star Messi winning five compared to the Portuguese forward’s four – the Real Madrid man winning it 12 months ago.

And after helping Los Blancos to the La Liga title and retaining the Champions League, Ronaldo is the favourite once again to claim the crown.

Here’s the shortlist in full for who is in the running this time:

However, Messi’s phenomenal form for Barcelona in the first part of the 2017-18 campaign, along with Ronaldo’s relatively slow start, could tip the scales in the Argentinian’s favour.

Neymar is third favourite to claim the gong, while Juventus’ veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Tottenham Hotspur forward Harry Kane are also among the 30 nominees:

Neymar – Paris Saint-Germain

N’Golo Kante – Chelsea

Luka Modric – Real Madrid

Paulo Dybala – Juventus

Marcelo – Real Madrid 

Edin Dzeko – Roma

Harry Kane – Tottenham

David De Gea – Manchester United

Robert Lewandowski – Bayern Munich

Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City

Karim Benzema – Real Madrid

Pierre-Emerick Aubemyang – Borussia Dortmund

Edinson Cavani – Paris Saint-Germain

Lionel Messi – Barcelona

Mats Hummels – Bayern Munich

Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool

Luis Suarez – Barcelona

Jan Oblak – Atletico Madrid

Sergio Ramos – Real Madrid

Dries Mertens – Napoli

Radamel Falcao – Monaco

Sadio Mane – Liverpool

Gianluigi Buffon – Juventus

Antoine Griezmann – Atletico Madrid

Toni Kroos – Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid

Eden Hazard – Chelsea 

Leonardo Bonucci – AC Milan

Isco – Real Madrid 

Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint-Germain

Who will host and present the Ballon d’Or award?

World Cup draw 2018, full schedule: Fixtures, matches, dates, kick-off time and news on each country.

The Russian time zones aren’t kind to Australian viewers, with kick-off times ranging from 8pm AEST to 5am AEST.

But to save you the hassle of converting time zones, we’ve got you set for the bumper month of World Cup action that will come from Friday 15 June onwards!

    World Cup draw 2018, full schedule: Fixtures, matches, dates, kick-off time

 News on each team  in world cup 2018

Group A

Russia

Stanislav Cherchesov became the manager after disappointing performances at Euro 2016 and the former goalkeeper has changed a lot, mainly in defence where he has brought in the youngsters Viktor Vasin (CSKA), Fedor Kudryashov (Rubin Kazan) and Georgi Dzhikiya (Spartak Moscow) to replace Sergei Ignashevich and Vasily Berezutski. He also plays three at the back instead of four. The biggest talking point has been the exclusion of Igor Denisov, who is arguably the best defensive midfielder but fell out with Cherchesov at Dynamo Moscow. Russia’s attack is impressive. Alan Dzagoev is still going strong and the strikers Fyodor Smolov and Aleksandr Kokorin scored a lot of goals in 2017. Special attention should be paid to the twins Aleksei and Anton Miranchuk from Lokomotiv Moscow and Aleksandr Golovin from CSKA. They are young technical midfielders who could have their breakthroughs at the World Cup

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia may be the lowest-ranked qualifiers but there is never a dull moment when the Green Falcons are around. Few managers last more than a year in the hottest of hot seats but Bert van Marwijk was in charge for two and led the team to a first World Cup since 2006. It was not always pretty but the side took maximum points from the weakest teams and did enough against Japan and Australia to squeeze into the second automatic spot. Days later Van Marwijk was heading home after a disagreement with the Saudi FA, replaced by Edgardo Bauza. The Argentinian lasted two months and five friendlies before getting the boot. Three days before the draw in Moscow, Juan Antonio Pizzi – who led Chile to the 2016 Copa América but could not take them to Russia – was appointed. His squad has some talent but lack international experience. There has been talk of arranging La Liga loans. It sounds impractical but who knows?

How they qualified Second in Asian Group B (round three) behind Japan Preferred system 4-3-3 (in qualification though new coach may change) Star Player Nawaf Al Abed (Al-Hilal) One to watch Fahad Al-Muwallad (Al-Ittihad) Manager Juan Antonio Pizzi Odds 1,000-1

Egypt

Happy to sit back and defend, Egypt are difficult to break down. Only once (in 30 games) ave the Pharaohs conceded more than one goal under Hector Cúper. But despite taking Egypt to the Afcon final and a 63% win rate, the Argentinian has been criticised for his defensive style. Egypt’s squad are a mixture of youth and experience, with the goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary set to become the oldest player at a World Cup at 45. In front of him Egypt have the solid defensive partnership of Rami Rabia and West Brom’s Ahmed Hegazi. The midfield is built around Mohamed Elneny and Al Ahly’s Abdallah Said, who at 32 will bring a creative spark. Egypt hope Mohamed Salah’s fine form continues and on the other wing can choose from Ramadan Sobhi, Kahraba and Mahmoud Hassan “Trézéguet”, one to watch for his direct runs into the box.

How they qualified Winners of African Group E (round three) ahead of Uganda Preferred system 4-2-3-1 Star player Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) One to watch Mahmoud Hassan “Trézéguet” (Kasımpaşa, on loan from Anderlecht) Manager Héctor Cúper Odds 250-1

Uruguay

Óscar Tabárez’s team went through qualifying with unusual serenity. After four consecutive World Cup play-offs they finished second behind Brazil to qualify in style. Now, though, he has a big decision to make: will he continue to rely on the attacking approach that has served him so well or make changes? The answer seems to lie in the changing of the guard in midfield. Federico Valverde (Real Madrid, on loan at Deportivo La Coruña), Matías Vecino, (Internazionale), Nahitan Nández (Boca Juniors) and Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus) are young and attack-minded players who have earned a place in the team, leading to this increased focus on attack. However, the November friendlies ended with a 0-0 draw against Poland and a 2-1 defeat against Austria, so expect some tinkering before the World Cup.

How they qualified Second in the South American section behind Brazil Preferred system 4-4-2 Star player Luis Suárez (Barcelona) One to watch Federico Valverde (Deportivo La Coruña, on loan from Real Madrid) Manager Óscar Tabárez Odds 40-1

Group B

Portugal

“Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany and France are the favourites to win the World Cup,” says the Portugal coach, Fernando Santos, before adding: “Then we have other candidates, who want to get as far as possible, and win the tournament if possible, and Portugal are in this second group.” Santos is cautious, despite winning Euro 2016 but he is looking forward to the World Cup with optimism and does so with good reason: Portugal seem stronger now than a year and a half ago, having added creativity to the defensive organisation that underpinned the 2016 title. Bernardo Silva and André Silva have been important factors in this attacking upgrade and in general the team have more depth. The one area which is perhaps weaker is the defence, where it has been hard to find replacements for Pepe (who will be 35 next summer), José Fonte (34) and Bruno Alves (36).

How they qualified Winners of European Group B ahead of Switzerland Preferred system 4-4-2 Star player Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) One to watch Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) Manager Fernando Santos Odds 20-1

Spain

La Roja are still La Roja and crashing out at the group stage in Brazil 2014 and the disappointment of France 2016 were not at all cathartic in the end. At the age of 51, and without much experience as a coach at elite level, Julen Lopetegui has managed to conserve the essence of what made Spain so successful. The backbone of the team who qualified brilliantly for Russia 2018 are the same as those who failed in France a year and a half ago. Eight of the team who lost against Italy in Paris would start in Russia if the World Cup started now: David De Gea, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Andrés Iniesta, David Silva and Álvaro Morata. In addition, the wonderful Isco has found his feet with the senior squad, as have several of the under-21s who won the Euros with Spain and Lopetegui in 2013.

How they qualified Winners of European Group G ahead of Italy Preferred system 4-5-1 Star player David Silva (Manchehester City) One to watch Isco (Real Madrid) Manager Julen Lopetegui Odds 15-2

Morocco

The Atlas Lions are roaring again. Twenty years after a heartbreaking elimination from the group stage at France ’98, the first African team to reach the last 16 are back at the World Cup. Morocco, the only African team to qualify for Russia without conceding a goal, have built their game on solid defence and hard work. The experience of Karim El Ahmadi, M’barek Boussoufa and Juventus’s Mehdi Benatia fits well with the intelligence of Hakim Ziyech and the strength of Nordin Amrabat. Hervé Renard is in charge but the advice coming from one of his assistants, Patrice Beaumelle, is vital. The former Coventry City midfielder Mustapha Hadji is also key in the setup, sharing his experiences and acting as a role model for this generation. The team’s main weakness used to be on the left but Real Madrid’s Achraf Hakimi has filled the gap admirably since September.

How they qualified Winners African Group C (round three) ahead of Ivory Coast Preferred system 4-5-1 Star player Hakim Ziyech (Ajax) One to watch Sofiane Boufal (Southampton) Manager Hervé Renard Odds 250-1

ran

Team Melli are playing in a second successive World Cup for the first time. Carlos Queiroz’s men were the first Asian side to qualify for this tournament and did so with 12 consecutive clean sheets. The main aspect of Queiroz’s tactics is “reactive football” with a deep-lying defence and quick counterattacks. However, in recent friendlies against Russia, Panama and Venezuela, Iran played with a different tactic, pressing higher up the pitch and adopting a more aggressive approach. Queiroz, despite a temper and petulance that has caused many seemingly pointless controversies in recent years, is very popular in Iran because of the results and performances. Many believe he has given a real character to the national team. Iran have many Europe-based players this season and Queiroz tends to select those who play outside their homeland.

How they qualified Winners of Asian Group A (round three) ahead of South Korea Preferred system 4-2-3-1 Star player Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan) One to watch Saman Ghoddos (Ostersund) Manager Carlos Queiroz

Group C

France

“We are not at the same level as Germany, Spain and Brazil – yet,” says Didier Deschamps. “We may not control all our games with the same authority but still, we have a strong and competitive team with a great potential.” France blew hot and cold in qualifying, winning their group despite losing to Sweden and drawing against Belarus and Luxembourg. Deschamps has a thrilling and explosive attack of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé (if fit). There is a strong midfield built around Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté, lots of technical ability all around with such as Thomas Lemar and a sound defensive axis. Still, France appear more effective when playing on the break and using their speed. The weakest link? The left-back position if Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy does not recover from his knee injury.

How they qualified Winners of European Group A ahead of Sweden Preferred system 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 Star player Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid) One to watch Kylian Mbappé (Paris St-Germain) Manager Didier Deschamps Odds 11-2

Australia

The 31st team to qualify worked harder than anyone else, with around 250,000km travelled and trips to far-flung destinations such as Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Iran, Japan, Malaysia and Honduras. The Socceroos’ place in Russia is secure but the identity of the manager who will lead them there remains a mystery after Ange Postecoglou quit following the play-off win over Honduras in November. As such, Australia present something of a challenge for opponents scouting them, and uncertainty hangs over whether Postecoglou’s preferred – and controversial – 3-2-4-1 will be retained, as well as over the names that will fill those starting slots. There is still an over-reliance on Tim Cahill – who will be 38 this month – for goals but with Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic and Massimo Luongo, there is talent elsewhere; how to get the best out of them and their team-mates will depend on who takes the job.

How they qualified Third in Asian Group B (round three) behind Japan and Saudi Arabia, then play-off wins against Syria and Honduras Preferred system 3-4-1-2 (but that may change when the new manager is appointed) Star player Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town) One to watch Mathew Leckie (Hertha Berlin) Manager none Odds 300-1

Peru

Peru are back at the World Cup after 36 years, having gone back to their roots. Ricardo Gareca has brought in new, young players and reintroduced a style that had been lost for some time. Short passes and possession are part of the football DNA of Peru again – with excellent results. They are a young side who have responded to tougher discipline with increased commitment. The spine is made up of a very confident goalkeeper in Pedro Gallese; the skilful leader Alberto Rodríguez in defence; the physical and intelligent Yoshimar Yotún, who runs the midfield; and Jefferson Farfán and Paolo Guerrero up front. The wing-backs Aldo Corzo and Miguel Trauco are tactically astute and important. For a bit of inspiration to unlock opposing defences, there is the talented Christian Cueva.

How they qualified Fifth in South American section, then play-off win over New Zealand Preferred system 4-2-3-1 Star player Jefferson Farfán (Lokomotiv Moscow) One to watch Christian Cueva (São Paulo) Manager Ricardo Gareca Odds 150-1

Denmark

Not only did a World Cup qualifying campaign end successfully for the first time since 2009 but the public fell back in love with the team. Denmark crushed Poland 4-0 and the Republic of Ireland 5-1 in the space of two months in the autumn, with Christian Eriksen reaching a Michael Laudrup-level of play, scoring 11 goals in 12 matches. “The World Cup deserves a star like him,” says the coach, Age Hareide. “We will be a danger to all teams because of him.” Denmark will continue with the direct style of play that Hareide turned to in the autumn, an approach that suited the box-to-box midfielder Thomas Delaney, who was the second-highest scorer for Denmark in qualifying. Up front Nicolai Jorgensen, Andreas Cornelius and Nicklas Bendtner fight for one place, while in central defence Brentford’s Andreas Bjelland and the captain Simon Kjær are picked ahead of Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen.

How they qualified Second in European Group E behind Poland, then play-off win against Republic of Ireland Preferred system 4-3-3 Star player Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur) One to watch Thomas Delaney (Werder Bremen) Manager Age Hareide Odds 80-1

Group D

Argentina

Argentina made it in the end and it will be a farewell party for a lot of senior players. Sergio Romero, Ángel Di María, Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín, Lucas Biglia and Éver Banega, among others, are almost certainly about to play in their final tournament. For Lionel Messi – the captain and main reason they reached Russia – it is also pretty much a case of now or never. With that in mind, Jorge Sampaoli is likely to go on the attack in his attempt to secure Argentina’s first World Cup since 1986. The team were unreliable in qualifying and it is up to Sampaoli to make them stronger in defence. Gabriel Mercado, Javier Mascherano and Nicolás Otamendi are likely to occupy the spots in the back three, with Biglia and Enzo Pérez expected to take the central midfield places.

How they qualified Third in South American section behind Brazil and Uruguay Preferred system 3-4-3 Star player Lionel Messi (Barcelona) One to watch Paulo Dybala (Juventus) Manager Jorge Sampaoli Odds 8-1

Iceland

Will supporters from the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup be able to support their team in Russia in the way they did in France? Almost 10% of the nation travelled to Euro 2016 and there could be similar levels next summer but Moscow and Saint Petersburg are obviously easier to reach than Ekaterinburg and Volgograd. Iceland had to overcome a series of problems to qualify: the loss of their main striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson to injury, Lars Lagerback’s departure and a draw that placed them with three teams who reached Euro 2016. However, they won their group and Heimir Hallgrimsson, who is now in sole charge, has shown more tactical flexibility than Lagerback did. Iceland still mainly play 4-4-2 but Hallgrimsson changes this to a 4-5-1 in certain games, to good effect. Apart from Sigthorsson, everybody from the starting lineup in France is expected to be in Russia.

How they qualified Winners of European Group I ahead of Croatia Preferred system 4-4-2 Star player Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton) One to watch Hordur Bjorgvin Magnusson (Bristol City) Manager Heimir Hallgrimsson

Croatia

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As usual, Croatia’s results became progressively worse during the qualifiers before, as usual, the manager was fired. The new man in charge, Zlatko Dalic, was appointed two days before the final – and decisive – group game but it was enough for a triumph of improvisation in Kiev, and then Croatia disposed of Greece with authority in the play-offs. Luka Modric is 32 and most of the other likely starters will be 29 or older – and the tournament may well be the last realistic shot at something big for this extraordinary generation, the best Croatia has had since the 1998 bronze-winning team. But the perennial dark horses have been caught in a web of internal divides involving key national federation men, the fans, the media and politics, decimating their support at home and making it difficult for them to focus.

How they qualified Second in European Group I behind Iceland, then play-off win against Greece Preferred system 4-2-3-1 Star player Luka Modric (Real Madrid) One to watch Nikola Vlasic (Everton) Manager Zlatko Dalic Odds 25-1

Nigeria

Placed in a group with Algeria, Cameroon and the 2012 African champions Zambia, the Super Eagles qualified with a game to spare. The comeback victory over Argentina in a recent friendly in Russia further fed optimism regarding what the team can achieve under Gernot Rohr. The German manager has radically improved the side, infusing the freshness of youth into a team who failed to qualify for two consecutive Africa Cup of Nations tournaments before his appointment. Since he took over last year, the former Bordeaux manager has lost one game and knitted together a ruthless counterattacking side who feature the outstanding Alex Iwobi and with Chelsea’s wing-back Victor Moses playing as a dynamic, talismanic winger. The team are based on a sturdy defence, with energetic ball-winners at the base of midfield and the calming presence of Mikel John Obi to funnel balls to the attack.

How they qualified Winners of African Group B (round three) ahead of Zambia Preferred system 4-3-3 Star player Victor Moses (Chelsea) One to watch Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) Manager Gernot Rohr Odds 150-1

Group E

Brazil

Tite has not had 20 games in charge but Brazil’s transformation from a rudderless wreck to World Cup contenders has been astonishing. Tite has implemented a 4-1-4-1 and carefully navigated the lack of club playing time for some of his players. He has accommodated Neymar on the left, Casemiro in front of the backline, Gabriel Jesus in the centre of attack and has got the best from the full-backs Dani Alves and Marcelo. Renato Augusto is another performing at his peak, and Paulinho, one of Tite’s favourite players, has managed the transformation from the Chinese league to Barcelona remarkably well. The process has risks attached to it, too. Apart from the regulars in the starting XI there is not much depth – Willian and Roberto Firmino aside, Tite does not seem to have faith in many other players.

How they qualified Winners of the South American section ahead of Uruguay Preferred system 4-1-4-1 Star player Neymar (Paris St-Germain) One to watch Paulinho (Barcelona) Manager Tite Odds 5-1

Switzerland

People in Switzerland expect their team to reach major finals these days so there was no euphoria when the place in Russia was booked. The expectation is for Vladimir Petkovic’s squad to reach at least the last 16. “My team has a got an excellent team spirit and have a tremendous will to succeed,” says Petkovic. Granit Xhaka is at the heart, dictating the pace of the game. With creative and quick players such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Steven Zuber, Switzerland are always capable of creating something on the flanks, especially as the wingers have strong full-backs behind them in Juventus’s Stephan Lichtsteiner, right, and Milan’s Ricardo Rodríguez, left. With Fabian Schär and young Manuel Akanji there is also a solid central defence to lean on. The weakest part of the team is the centre-forward position, which is almost always occupied by Haris Seferović.

How they qualified Second in European Group B behind Portugal, then play-off win against Northern Ireland Preferred system 4-5-1 Star player Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) One to watch Denis Zakaria (Borussia Mönchengladbach) Manager Vladimir Petkovic Odds 66-1

Costa Rica

Costa Rica were a sensation four years ago, reaching the World Cup quarter-finals, and face the challenge of emulating that. The coach then, Jorge Luis Pinto, has been replaced by Óscar Ramírez and his team showed in qualifying they are the Concacaf team to beat, qualifying with two games to spare. Ramírez has continued to deploy the 4-5-1 that served Pinto so well. It asks a lot of Bryan Ruiz and Celso Borges; Ruiz is the main reference in attack and Borges gives balance in midfield. Keylor Navas is the star, with Marco Ureña, who plays for San Jose Earthquakes in the MLS, adding pace to the attack. Costa Rica may struggle to repeat a place in the last eight but they have the quality to reach the knockout phase.

How they qualified Second in Concacaf round five behind Mexico Preferred system 5-4-1 Star player Keylor Navas (Real Madrid) One to watch Marco Ureña (San Jose Earthquakes) Manager Óscar Ramírez Odds 400-1

Serbia

Serbia qualified for their first major tournament for seven years in comprehensive fashion. With only one defeat in 10 matches, they pipped the Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales and Republic of Ireland to first place in their group, but that was not enough for Slavoljub Muslin to keep his job. The 64-year-old’s conflict with the president of the Serbian FA, Slavisa Kokeza, over the style of play and squad selection – with the star midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic at the epicentre – resulted in Muslin being fired. Mladen Krstajic took over as caretaker and immediately brought Milinkovic-Savic into the team for the November friendlies. The Lazio man repaid the faith with superb performances and an assist, sending a message that he could be trusted to lead a star-studded but ageing Serbia side.

How they qualified Winners of Euopean Group D ahead of Republic of Ireland Preferred system 3-4-3 Star player Nemanja Matic (Manchester United) One to Watch Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio) Manager Mladen Krstajic (caretaker)

Group F

Germany

After Germany lost to France in the Euro 2016 semi-final plenty predicted the Joachim Löw era was slowly coming to an end. However, the team bounced back impressively and qualified for the World Cup with a perfect 10 wins out of 10 while scoring a joint European-record 43 goals. Die Mannschaft have not lost since that defeat against France and, rather frighteningly for their rivals, won the Confederations Cup in the summer without all of these missing players: Jérôme Boateng, Mats Hummels, Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos, Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, Mario Götze, Ilkay Gündogan, Marco Reus, Sami Khedira and Leroy Sané. New players (such as Timo Werner, Lars Stindl and – above all – Leon Goretzka) have staked their claim, meaning competition for places in the World Cup squad will be immense. Goretzka’s impressive displays for Schalke should see Löw pick him ahead of Khedira in central midfield.

How they qualified Winners of European Group C ahead of Northern Ireland Preferred system 4-2-3-1 Star player Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) One to watch Leon Goretzka (Schalke) Manager Joachim Löw Odds 5-1

Mexico

The team had no problem reaching the World Cup but Juan Carlos Osorio is still being questioned, because in more demanding fixtures, such as against Chile in the Copa América Centenario and Germany in the Confederations Cup, El Tri looked lost, being beaten 7-0 and 4-1 respectively. However, some of the players are in their prime. Guillermo Ochoa, Andrés Guardado, Héctor Moreno, Héctor Herrera and Javier Hernández have at least five years of experience in Europe and this could be the difference for Mexico to finally make it to a fifth game at the World Cup. Osorio’s system has been changing of late. When the Colombian took over he always used a 4-3-3 but in two recent friendlies he played with two midfield enforcers, something he may repeat (along with a five-man defence) in Russia.

How they qualified Winners of Concacaf round five ahead of Costa Rica and Panama Preferred system 4-3-3 Star player Javier “Chicharito” Hernández (West Ham United) One to watch Hirving “Chucky” Lozano (PSV Eindhoven) Manager Juan Carlos Osorio Odds 66-1

Sweden

Euro 2016 saw the end of the Zlatan Ibrahimovic era as well as that of the manager Erik Hamren. The new Sweden team, under Janne Andersson, are extremely hardworking and disciplined. The 4-4-2 and tactics are reminiscent of the successful period from Lars Lagerback’s days in the early 2000s – but with players from more anonymous clubs. The stars of the Lagerback-era played for teams such as Arsenal, Juventus and Barcelona – today they represent clubs in Denmark, Greece, Russia, Scotland and the United Arab Emirates (apart from Emil Forsberg at RB Leipzig and Victor Lindelof at Manchester United). The play-off win against Italy was deserved and the big talking point now is whether Ibrahimovic will come out of international retirement for the World Cup. If so, will he fit in the collective Andersson has created?

How they qualified Second in European Group A behind France, then play-off win against Italy Preferred system 4-4-2 Star player Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig) One to watch Viktor Claesson (Krasnodar) Manager Janne Andersson Odds 80-1

South Korea

They struggled throughout the qualifiers through being anemic in attack and defence and narrowly qualified after a poor run which resulted in the firing of Uli Stielike. Shin Tae-yong, who was the manager of the under-23s and under-20s, is not a master tactician but he is a good motivator. Only a few people in South Korea have high expectations and, surprisingly, most fans are waiting for the return of the former coach Guus Hiddink. With a team lacking world-class talent, the manager has to depend on two standout players: Son Heung-min from Tottenham Hotspur and Ki Sung-yueng from Swansea City. Shin often plays a 4-4-2 but seems obsessed with a fluid back-three system so it is not clear how South Korea will play.

How they qualified Second in Asian Group A behind Iran (round three) Preferred system 4-4-2 Star player Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur) One to watch Kwon Chang-hoon (Dijon) Manager Shin Tae-yong Odds 500-1

Group G

Belgium

Belgium broke all sorts of records in qualifying: they were unbeaten, they got 28 points from 10 games, they scored 43 goals and Romelu Lukaku became the country’s record goalscorer. However, the last two friendlies, and especially the 3-3 draw against Mexico, have left fans, pundits and players worried. True, Belgium were without Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Vincent Kompany against Mexico but the replacements could not fill the void. Kevin De Bruyne, for one, did not hold back. “Mexico were just better tactically,” he said. “Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were up against it in midfield – it was five against seven. If we don’t have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico. It’s a pity that we have not found a solution yet.” The main problem is that, after two years with Roberto Martínez, there is still no real defensive organisation.

How they qualified Winners of European Group H ahead of Greece Preferred system 3-4-2-1 Star player Eden Hazard (Chelsea) One to watch Thomas Meunier (Paris St-Germain) Manager Roberto Martínez Odds 12-1

Panama

“We’ll go to the World Cup to learn and compete. It’s an experience to enjoy,” said Hernán Darío Gómez, and he should know: the Colombian has led four teams at World Cup finals. His experience has been crucial in turning a mature squad who had performed well at age-group levels into the country’s first qualification. That feat owed much to the defensive colossus Román Torres, who scored the goal that took them to Russia, and the midfielder Gabriel Gómez, the brains of the operation. It is a team built on solidity, discipline and hitting on the break. Alberto Quintero’s creativity is the key source of chances for Gabriel Torres and Blas Pérez, the most-used forward pairing. Fidel Escobar, Michael Murillo (both of New York Red Bulls) and Deportivo La Coruña’s Ismael Díaz add youthful endeavour.

How they qualified Third in Concacaf round five behind Mexico and Costa Rica Preferred system 4-4-2 Star player Gabriel Gómez (Atlético Bucaramanga) One to watch Román Torres (Seattle Sounders) Manager Hernán Darío Gómez Odds 1,000-1

Tunisia

After a 12-year absence Tunisia are back at a World Cup but their path was not entirely straight. They sacked Henryk Kasperczak soon after losing in the last eight of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations. Nabil Maâloul was appointed in April and steered the country to the World Cup, mainly using a 4-2-3-1. The full-backs are encouraged to attack and on the left Ali Maâloul of Al Ahly is key because of how much he contributes going forward. The midfield are dominated by two hard-working ball-winners in Ferjani Sassi and Mohamed Amine Ben Amor, with the MKN trio of Youssef Msakni, Wahbi Khazri and Naïm Sliti adding flair. Msakni, who plays in Qatar, is a tremendous talent and often carries the team. The manager sometimes switches to 4-3-2-1, especially against attacking teams, incorporating the defensive midfilder Ghailene Chaalali instead of Khazri or Sliti.

How they qualified Winners of African Group A (round three) Preferred system 4-2-3-1 Star player Youssef Msakni (Al-Duhail) One to watch Naïm Sliti (Dijon, on loan from Lille) Manager Nabil Maâloul Odds 400-1

England

The most amazing statistic about England is that they have not lost a qualifying match for any major competition since October 2009. It is an incredible run, covering 39 games, with three different managers in place since the team, then led by Fabio Capello, went down 1-0 to Ukraine. Gareth Southgate has certainly had an eventful year since being promoted from his role as the manager of England’s under-21s. Southgate has moved out Wayne Rooney and overseen a period of change that now has England operating with a younger, more experimental team in a 3-4-2-1 formation. Yet there are lingering questions about whether they have improved since the ordeal of being eliminated by Iceland at Euro 2016. England fans even staged a walkout at the qualifying match in Malta.

How they qualified Winners of European Group F ahead of Slovakia Preferred system 3-4-2-1 Star player Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) One to watch Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) Manager Gareth Southgate Odds 16-1

Group H

Poland

Adam Nawalka’s side always looked certain of qualifying and won eight of their 10 games. The captain, Robert Lewandowski, hit a record-breaking 16 goals and his leadership was crucial as Poland returned to the biggest stage after a 12-year absence but they are not a one-man team: other players also contributed heavily to ensure that Poland ended up in pot one for the draw. The defence is a concern (Poland conceded 14 goals – the most of all groups winners) but Nawalka is capable of sorting it out with Poland having the second-best defence at Euro 2016 until the quarter-finals. He has six months to fine-tune his plans, which include working on a formation with three central defenders. Poland have a strong backbone of Wojciech Szczesny-Kamil Glik-Grzegorz Krychowiak-Robert Lewandowski with Hull City’s Kamil Grosicki another key player with his pace on the left flank.

How they qualified Winners of European Group E ahead of Denmark Preferred system 4-2-3-1 Star player Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) One to watch Piotr Zielinski (Napoli) Manager Adam Nawalka Odds 40-1

Senegal

This will be Senegal’s second World Cup finals after Aliou Cissé, who was the captain of the 2002 side under the late Bruno Metsu, guided his team through a difficult qualification group containing Burkina Faso, South Africa and Cape Verde. Cissé has moulded a team strong in all areas. The addition of M’Baye Niang to a forward line who include Keita Baldé of Monaco and Liverpool’s Sadio Mané has allowed Cissé to play 4-3-3, although in the crucial victory over South Africa West Ham’s Diafra Sakho started in a 4-4-2. Much will be expected of Mané, who has been the star man for several years and has been compared to El Hadji Diouf, the talisman for the 2002 side. His injury problems have slowed down a brilliant start to life at Liverpool and he will need to be at his best in Russia.

How they qualified Winners of African Group D (round three) ahead of Burkina Faso Preferred system 4-3-3 Star player Sadio Mané (Liverpool) One to watch M’Baye Niang (Torino, on loan from Milan) Manager Aliou Cissé Odds 150-1

Colombia

Colombia will aim to repeat their performance from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when they reached the quarter-finals but it will be harder as they are not among the top seeds. That is an indication of the fact qualifying was not straightforward. “Qualifying was really hard,” says the coach, José Pékerman. “We’ve never experienced a situation where so few points separated so many teams.” Three factors explain the difficulties Colombia had: the need to inject youth in defence, the lack of playing time for the stars (James Rodríguez at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, Radamel Falcao at Monaco and David Ospina at Arsenal) and the lack of options going forward. Pékerman often plays 4-2-3-1 but has tried 4-3-2-1 away from home. Colombia had their best results when they were more defensive and compact between the lines, hitting on the counter with speed and very few passes.

How they qualified Fourth in the South American section behind Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina Preferred system 4-2-3-1 Star player James Rodríguez (Bayern Munich, on loan from Real Madrid) One to watch Davinson Sánchez (Tottenham Hotpsur) Manager José Pékerman Odds 50-1

Japan

Japan have traditionally preferred a possession-based style but Vahid Halilhodzic demands his side look to play on the counter. His drastic reforms have seen Japan’s two biggest stars, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, dropped from the squad as they failed to fit into this philosophy – or, in other words, preferred Japan’s traditional approach. There is also no room for Shinji Okazaki of Leicester City, because Halilhodzic opts for a lone forward capable of holding up the play. These choices, and the manager’s overall style, have been the subject of fierce debate in Japan. Halilhodzic has vast experience of international football and took Ivory Coast to the 2010 World Cup (although he was dismissed before the tournament) and Nigeria to the 2014 tournament.

How they qualified Winners of Asian Group B (round three) ahead of Saudi Arabia Preferred system 4-3-3 Star player Maya Yoshida (Southampton) One to watch Yosuke Ideguchi (Gamba Osaka) Manager Vahid Halilhodzic Odds 250-1

Anyone have a crystal ball I can borrow? Predicting the Emmys has never been harder — with the incumbents out of contention (see …

Emmy Predictions: Who Will Win? Who

Anyone have a crystal ball I can borrow?

Predicting the Emmys has never been harder — with the incumbents out of contention (see you next year, “Game of Thrones”), many of the top races are legitimately toss-ups. Complicating matters, too, are the new voting rules: Last year the Academy replaced the ranking system with a winner-take-all system — which led to delightfully surprising winners like Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”) and Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”).

Does this mean that the Academy has finally shed its legacy habit of rewarding old standbys and new winners will be crowned yet again? We’ll find out for sure when the envelopes are opened on Sept. 17, but in the meantime, here are our predictions for who will win, who should win — and who’s poised to play spoiler.

BEST DRAMA

Will win: “This Is Us” (NBC)
Should win: “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
Spoiler: “Stranger Things” (Netflix)

It’s a tough call — you could make a reasonable argument for nearly all of the nominees taking the night’s top prize. Will popularity win out over prestige? When it first debuted, for example, Netflix’s “The Crown” seemed like a lock, dripping with top-notch production values and lavish attention to period detail. But then Hulu delivered “The Handmaid’s Tale,” with its perfectly timed, pointed political commentary. Members looking to make a political statement may well vote for the dystopian drama, but NBC’s “This Is Us” offers a more populist alternative, with its impressive broadcast reach and award-worthy auspices. Not to mention those tear-jerking plot twists. But lurking in the shadows is Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” The sci-fi thriller already claimed top prizes from the Producers Guild as well as the SAG Awards, which proves its awards bonafides, and crowds have flocked to the series’ FYC screenings in record numbers.

BEST COMEDY

Will win: “Veep” (HBO)
Should win: “Atlanta” (FX)
Spoiler: “Black-ish” (ABC)

This season saw a renaissance of half-hours, with a bevy of auteur-driven efforts — but none more resonant than Donald Glover’s “Atlanta.” The Globes rightfully saw fit to anoint the series, but winning among that small pool may not quite translate to the Academy’s 20,000-plus member voting body. With politics dominating the headlines, members may want to elect “Veep” yet again. (The news that it will be ending its storied run broke after voting ended, so that won’t be a factor either way.) Still, don’t count out Kenya Barris’ “Black-ish” — as razor-sharp as ever in its third season, and more than slyly political.

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA

Will win: Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us” (NBC)
Should win: Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us” (NBC)
Spoiler: Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul” (AMC)

Sterling K. Brown is already an Emmy favorite, winning last year for his role on FX’s “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson.” His performance as anxiety-riddled Randall on the NBC crowd-pleaser (that breakdown scene on his office floor!) is the stuff awards are made for. But should he somehow split the vote with his castmate, Milo Ventimiglia, who’s also nommed, “Better Call Saul” star Bob Odenkirk could sneak in for his always stellar work on the AMC hit.

Will win: Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
Should win: Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
Spoiler: Claire Foy, “The Crown” (Netflix)

There aren’t many sure things going into Emmy night, but no single performance has been talked about more this season than Moss’ bravura turn in Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s classic novel. From those makeup-free closeups to the chilling voiceovers, Moss proved that she’s an acting force to be reckoned with. This is an opportunity to reward not just this star turn, but also rectify the grievous error that she somehow never won for “Mad Men.” Still, the voters do love their British period pieces (witness “Downton Abbey”) and Foy brought quiet intelligence to a monarch we all thought we knew.

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY

Will win: Donald Glover, “Atlanta” (FX)
Should win: Donald Glover, “Atlanta” (FX)
Spoiler: Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish” (ABC)

Jeffrey Tambor has deservedly won this trophy for the last two years for his work on “Transparent,” but chances are he’ll have to sit this one out in favor of Glover. Should voters fail to recognize the show for best comedy, they can reward him here instead. But the third time could be the charm for Anthony Anderson, whose performance as harried father Dre anchors the hit sitcom. Don’t underestimate the power of broadcast: Long neglected at the Emmys, shows from the Big Four could well finally break through this year.

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY

Will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” (HBO)
Should win: Pamela Adlon, “Better Things” (FX)
Spoiler: Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish” (ABC)

Should Julia Louis-Dreyfus win for the sixth time, she’ll set a record for the number of wins by a performer for the same role — and tie Cloris Leachman’s record of eight Emmy wins as a performer overall. That’s likely incentive enough for the Academy to elect her again to the stage. But for a performance that truly broke the rules this season, look no further than Pamela Adlon, who brazenly, unapologetically shattered all the tired tropes of the sitcom mother. For that matter, so did Tracee Ellis Ross. With a season-long baby bump.

BEST LIMITED SERIES

Will win: “Big Little Lies” (HBO)
Should win: “Big Little Lies” (HBO)
Spoiler: “Feud” (FX)

When “The Night Of” debuted last summer, it seemed like a lock: what with its powerful subject matter and nuanced turns from movie-star talent (John Turturro, Riz Ahmed). But then came the flood of competition, from its network mate “Big Little Lies” to FX’s “Feud” and “Fargo,” among others. It comes down, ultimately, to Ryan Murphy’s excavation of sexism in Hollywood and the star-studded “Big Little Lies,” brought to the small screen by none less than Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. Both projects featured indelible performances — but the edge goes to “Lies.”

BEST ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE

Will win: Robert De Niro, “The Wizard of Lies” (HBO)
Should win: Riz Ahmed, “The Night Of” (HBO)
Spoiler: Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock: The Lying Detective” (PBS)

The Academy loves to reward movie stars for their TV efforts, and Robert De Niro certainly delivered as the scheming Bernie Madoff. But Ahmed made his mark as a seemingly good kid convicted of a terrible murder who completely transforms himself to survive in jail. Still, never count out Benedict Cumberbatch, who already has a track record of swiping the trophy. (He nabbed it from Billy Bob Thornton in the first season of “Fargo.”)

BEST ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE

Will win: Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies” (HBO)
Should win: Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies” (HBO)
Spoiler: Jessica Lange, “Feud” (FX)

Some argue the women of “Big Little Lies” could split the vote; ditto the stars of “Feud.” I’d give the edge to Kidman, given how she navigated the complex portrayal of an abused wife. Still, just watch the Oscars episode of “Feud,” and you’ll want to award Jessica Lange a trophy of her own.

Liverpool news and transfer latest LIVE – Coutinho latest as Champions League squad named

Joe Rimmer and the rest of the team will be with you today from 7am to ensure constant coverage of all things LFC, including news, great photos, nostalgia, live interviews and much more.

The ECHO will also provide you with the very latest transfer news as it happens throughout the summer, with every rumour and story digested and analysed each day with updates from full-time LFC reporter James Pearce, as well as LFC editor Andy Kelly, Ian Doyle, Neil Jones, Kristian Walsh and more.

There will be all the latest team news before games, plus every one of Jurgen Klopp’s press conferences live and with video.

We want you to get involved too – tell us your thoughts on what’s happening at Anfield by tweeting @JoeRimmer88 or @LivEchoLFC  Read More

Transfer News LIVE updates: Coutinho upset at Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal latest

Dembele wanted Real Madrid move

14.50: Ousmane Dembele ‘went crazy’ when he found out Real Madrid wanted to sign him, reports say.

Barcelona signed Dembele from Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund following Neymar’s decision to join Paris Saint-Germain last month.

The 20-year-old rejected a Nou Camp move 12 months ago but has signed on the dotted line for a fee of £97million – making him the world’s second most-expensive player.

Yet Spanish outlet Don Balon claims Dembele was not always so optimistic about a move to Ernesto Valverde’s team.

Instead, he was in favour of a move to Barcelona’s fierce La Liga rivals Real Madrid.

It is said Dembele entered talks with Los Blancos about a Bernabeu transfer.

But, in a crushing blow, Zinedine Zidane pulled out of a move.

Arsenal statement of ambtion

12.30: Ivan Gazidis claims keeping Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil was a clear statement of Arsenal’s ambitions.

The duo remain at Arsenal despite their contracts running out at the end of the season – making both likely to leave for free or for a cut price in January.

But the chief executive says: “It was a clear statement of our ambitions and should help refute suggestions we are just about the money.

“That is simply nonsense.”

Although Arsenal sold Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for £35m to Liverpool, Gazidis believes the club is in great shape.

He said: “At the end of the window, reviewing all activity, we have once again improved the quality and depth of our squad.” Read more

Coutinho mess a fitting end to Barca’s shambolic summer as Real remain stronger & Fikayo Tomori joins Hull City on loan from Chelsea

The 19-year-old defender joins the Tigers on a season long loan from the Blues

Fikayo Tomori joins Hull City on a season long loan deal from Chelsea.

The Anglo-Nigerian defender who has been at Stamford Bridge since 2005 spent last season on loan at the Brighton and Hove Albion making nine making appearances.

He becomes the 12th summer signing of KC Stadium outfit joining Nigerian Ola Aina and Malian striker Nouha Dicko in the squad

Transfer deadline day came and went for Barcelona. The Blaugrana had seemed certain to bring in at least one more forward before the end of the window, but their pursuit of Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho was a mess in the end – and it sums up a shambolic summer for the Catalan club.

Coutinho mess a fitting end to Barca’s shambolic summer as Real remain stronger

Barca were rocked by the departure of Neymar at the beginning of August, when the Brazil forward moved to Paris Saint-Germain for €222 million. Nevertheless, there was still time to strengthen the squad and straight away the plan was clear: not one signing, but two – Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho.

Unfortunately for Barca, everyone in Europe knew about the €222m burning a hole in their pockets and Neymar’s move served only to further inflate prices in an already overpriced market.

Super Eagles for victory over Cameroon President Buhari congratulates

A statement released by the presidency reads: “The President joins millions of football-loving Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora in applauding the senior men’s football team for their disciplined, skillful and entertaining display against the defending African champions. President Buhari congratulates Super Eagles for victory over Cameroon
“The President enjoins Nigerians who always see football as a unifying platform, to continue to pray and support the team to guarantee victory next week and make qualification doubly sure.
“President Buhari, while noting that with the exhilarating victory, Nigeria is on the verge of qualification for the World Cup in Russia 2018, urges the players to sustain the momentum as they approach the crucial second leg of the tie in Yaounde, on Monday.
Goals from Odion Ighalo, John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses and Kelechi Iheanacho gave Nigeria the win.

Real Madrid Transfer News: Man Utd make £92m Gareth Bale offer – report in Spain

MANCHESTER UNITED have launched a £92million bid for Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, according to reports in Spain

Manchester United have spent the summer courting Bale amid uncertainty over his Real Madrid future.

Jose Mourinho appeared to rule out a deal after the Red Devils’ 2-1 European Super Cup defeat this month, saying it was ‘game over’ in their pursuit.

But Spanish outlet Don Balon claims Manchester United have launched a new bid for Bale despite their previous comments.

It is said they have contacted the La Liga giants and informed them they are willing to pay £92m to bring the player to Old Trafford.

Manchester United starting XI Gareth Bale

And with Cristiano Ronaldo undroppable, Bale’s chances of regaining his place in the team are 50/50.

Don Balon adds Real see United’s new bid as a great chance to make a healthy profit on the winger.

Los Blancos paid £86million to sign him four years ago and, with injuries hampering the 28-year-old in recent years, United’s offer could be too good to turn down.

Should a deal go through he will become the third most-expensive player in world football, ranking behind Neymar and Ousmane Dembele.