Jash Vatsaraj

THE FIFA U-17 WORLD CUP

The FIFA U-17 World Cup is here, and it’s a special tournament for two reasons.

India is participating in its first ever World Cup at any level and is hosting it as well. It begins October 6, at 5pm, from the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in the capital, where Colombia will take on Ghana in the Group A match.

There are 6 cities that will host these 24 teams, which does not include Nigeria, the defending champions, who failed to qualify for this edition, the first time this has occurred since 2009, when Switzerland failed to qualify.

New Delhi kicks off the tournament, with Mumbai, Guwahati, Kochi, Margao and Kolkata the other cities decided as venues for the competition. Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata is the venue for the final, which will be played on October 28, and will hopefully feature India.

The 23 nations who earned their places in the tournament are Mexico, Brazil, USA, Ghana, Colombia, Niger, Spain, Japan, Iraq, Turkey, Honduras, Mali, Paraguay, Guinea, Chile, New Caledonia, England, New Zealand, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Costa Rica, France, Iran and Germany, with India, the host nation, making up the 24 teams who will fight for glory.

The draw has thrown up some interesting ties, details for all can be found on the FIFA website, but in poetic fashion, Group D, has been dubbed the Group of Death, with Niger, Brazil, DPRK and Spain set to battle it out, in what will be a group full of tense encounter.

Indian fans will get to see a glimpse of Vinicius Junior, the 17-year-old Brazilian whiz-kid who earned himself a mega money move to Real Madrid over the summer, but will continue his development at Flamengo for another year.

The England team has also named a very strong line up, with players from all of the top clubs in the country.

Future FC Vitesse players Marc Guéhi, Jonathan Panzo, Connor Gallagher, Callum Hudson Odoi and brother of former Chelsea player Joshua McEachran, George McEachran, make up the Chelsea quintet.

Manchester City’s promising youngster Phil Foden is in the squad as well, and will be one of the main attractions and should take his chances with both feet, given youth may not get too much of a chance at the Etihad a for a few years.

Photo – Getty Images

Manchester United’s Angel Gomes, who became the first player born in the 21st Century to play in the Premier League, after he came on for, in biblical fashion, for Wayne Rooney (his last appearance for the club), with a proper change of guard, is also in the squad and is the sole representative of the Red Devils.

Former Manchester City wonderkid Jordan Sancho, who now plays for Bourssia Dortmund was not in the squad, but was given permission to join up recently, just for the group stages, will also be looking for the limelight.

As far as the Indian National Team goes, goalkeeper Dheeraj Moirangthem looks like the real deal and has made more appearances for India than other keeper at this level, and will hopefully make a break out. Striker Aniket Jadhav will be the talisman and the one India look up to, to fire them until the very end, and the Pune FC youth player will be looking to prove a point. The team is well drilled, and well coached, with their Route One and crossing approach, it should be a good test for them and although the odds are stacked against them, it will be a very fulfilling experience for the Blues. A special mention to the North-East region of India, who have produced the most players who are part of the squad for the World Cup, making up nearly 50%; which is a good sign for the local clubs in that region. Maybe the other parts should be looking to their coaching infrastructure and routines to take us to the next level.

Chile and Brazil are favourites, and while the Young Lions of England are spurred on by their media as always, New Zealand seem to be the dark horses, with Germany, France, Spain and Costa Rica all looking to leave their mark on the tournament.

The matches will be live and telecast on the Sony Network, in Standard and High Definition quality and while it may not be the most extravagant and larger than life event, it is a giant leap for India and for the rise of the popular sport in the world, in the sub-continent and we should be proud of the boys and hope they do as well as they possibly can.

It is an emotional and important event for the sport in the country, we must go in supporting our team, and maybe the football level and quality might just surprise us.

The FIFA U-17 World Cup is the beginning of hopefully the initial steps in the right direction to help India compete and make a great mark for themselves in the football world. It is the first ever World Cup we are participating in and we must answer the call and be proud of our achievements and watch and support the country for how far it has come and enjoy the beautiful football we will witness over the next 3 weeks. #BackTheBlues

Jash VatsarajTHE FIFA U-17 WORLD CUP
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JURGEN KLOPP: HERO FOR THE KOP OR FLOPP?

Jurgen Norbert Klopp, manager of Liverpool Football Club may not love any of his players the way Mauricio Pochettino loves Harry Kane, but is safe to say that in under 2 years of his reign, almost all of Liverpool’s supporters love him.

A new, exciting brand of attacking football; a system that allows flair players to thrive; a lot of passion and jumping on the bench, celebrating a tackle and a goal with the same exuberance, is a warming sight for any fan. Jurgen Klopp is always upbeat and honest, a good talker in the media, very charismatic, and he knows how to win, but if he does draw 2-2 vs West Bromwich Albion, he will ensure the fans savour the moment and the players appreciate them.

You have to love Klopp. He’s the best character Liverpool could have got after Brendan Rodgers and he’s made Liverpool fearsome again. Sure, he may have lost a cup final or two, but they did play Sevilla and Manchester City. He has made Liverpool look like the attacking force they used to be, albeit with his own energetic style. Every pundit calls him brave and praise him for having a system with Mane Firmino Salah Coutinho, and the African Steven Gerrard, Naby Keita next year.

His team scores goals, that is a guarantee. Yes, sometimes they may hit a few breaks, but performance issues are common, aren’t they Jurgen?

Photo – Sky Sports

He won the Bundesliga two years in a row with Bourssia Dortmind, in 2010-11 and 2011-12, along with a DFB Pokal and even made it to the Champions League final in 2013, where his side were unlucky on the night.

They played some tough teams on the way, and absolutely thrashed Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid 4-1 in the semis, bringing the arrogant bugger crashing back to earth. His Heavy Metal football and Gegenpressing style was revolutionary and it was working.

He had built a fearsome team then, with a strong goalkeeper, a high quality defensive backline, an enforcing midfield and some breath-taking attacking talent.

It all came crashing down in the 2014-15 season, when Bourssia Dortmund went into a major slump, not only playing in dismal fashion, but looking increasingly unlikely of improving. They finished 7th in the league, with 13 wins, 7 draws and 14 losses, with their Bavarian hero finally saying goodbye after 7 happy years.

They all loved Jurgen Klopp, he had put them back on the map, even if it ended in disaster.

He made Bourssia Dortmund relevant again, in his own way, and the fans will never forget it (Chelsea, listening?).

A hot prospect in Europe, and a charismatic manager now available. English clubs, swooning.

As per his own admission, Jurgen Klopp said that he was looking to manage in England, but not at one of the elite clubs, not a top top club, but a very good team. Names like Crystal Palace and West Ham United were floated, but with the exit of Rodgers, it all went well and Jurgen Klopp charged into Liverpool and announced himself as the “Normal One”.

The British media had a new hero and a messiah, who would change the game in his own way.

He inherited a Liverpool team that had the players to do a job, but he slowly started to put his own stamp on it.

Mane, Firmino, Can, Matip, Karius, Salah, and Wijnaldum being some quality players brought in, along with Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain, a stunning 40 million steal from Chelsea.

Almost 2 years in, Jurgen Klopp’s team are the ultimate entertainers, winning 4-0 versus Arsenal and losing 5-0 vs Manchester City. Never a dull moment.

When we compare Liverpool to his Dortmund team, the only similarities we see are that of a breath-taking attack. Goalkeeper issues remain, the midfield lacks any sort of defensive discipline and control, and the less we say about the defence, the better.

The simple fact is, Jurgen Klopp says fancy things, and dances about looking happy, but he cannot hide behind his words anymore. If he is sick of his team conceding stupid goals, he has to stop moaning and fix it. If Virgil Van Dijk is not coming, there has to be a Plan B. He treats the transfer market like a game of football, assuming he will get the result he wants with one approach and looks hilariously stupid when it doesn’t work out for him.

Winning the “best record against the top 6” trophy is not good enough for Liverpool and for Jurgen Klopp, and something needs to change. As a player, a defender who made over 300 appearances for FSV Mainz, he needs to understand that an attack wins you games, but a defence wins you titles. Especially in the Premier League, where in the last 3 seasons, Antonio Conte, Claudio Ranieri and Jose Mourinho all won it by building from a very solid defence.

Over the last 5 seasons, Liverpool have conceded an average of 1.27 goals a game, which is roughly 48 goals a season. To put that into perspective, the last time a side won the league conceding over 40 goals in a season, was in 2012-13, when Manchester United conceded 43 goals. Sir Alex Ferguson and Robin Van Persie romped to the league by April 23rd and they conceded 5 goals to West Brom in a 10-goal thriller in Sir Alex’s final game at the club, with a certain Belgian scoring genius called Lukaku netting a hat-trick, which of course skews statistics.

To put into more perspective, in 2004-05 Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea won the league with a record 95 points (still stands today) and conceded a meagre 15 goals, around 0.39 a game.
Liverpool in 6 PL games this season have conceded 11 goals already, just under 2 goals a game.

Photo – Sky Sports

Jurgen Klopp lacks a Plan B and expects his attack to do a job each time. A few weeks ago, in 3 games they had some 80 shots resulting in 3 goals, which is simply not good enough, given they conceded 5 in those games, versus all relatively lesser oppositions.

2 points in 2 games in the Champions League, off pace in the PL and out of the esteemed Carabao Cup, the pressure is on when they play Newcastle United this weekend, especially because Benitez is the exact opposite of Klopp and will set up just to beat him.

Jurgen Klopp needs to address his defensive problems and sort out his midfield 3, otherwise, just like Arsene Wenger 2.0, he will never win anything. It’s okay to play well versus a midfield of Ramsey and Xhaka, but not against a more defensively organized midfield.

Arsene Wenger lacks a Plan B, is too proud to change his style, has attacking flair players, no midfield spine and a leaky defence, just like Jurgen Klopp. Surely the manager saw that when he set up and humiliated Arsenal, so why does he not go back to basics and fix things.

Henderson, Can and Coutinho will never be the Hamann, Gerrard and Alonso from Istanbul and Jurgen Klopp knows that, so why insist in playing in a way that helps the opponent and then cry about it later?

Liverpool have maybe 2 world class players in their team; so, signing a left back from a relegated Hull City and Chamberlain from Arsenal, while Chelsea buy Morata and Bakayoko, Man City buy Mendy and Silva and Man United buy Pogba and Lukaku, it just shows where Liverpool are, not where they want to be.

Charisma will take you to the top 4, but in today’s world, money will get you titles.

His obsession with “beautiful football” is great, but he won’t win anything if he is not willing to bend his ideas and be a bit more pragmatic, unless he can spend the way the Manchester clubs do. He clearly needs a Plan B, and a central defender who can be a leader and actually defend; but until then work with what he has and make it better.

Jurgen Klopp is a fine manager, but just like Liverpool, he’s not world class yet, and like Rafa Benitez said in his meltdown during the 2008-09 season, “I think it is important to talk about the facts,”, and the facts are that Jurgen Klopp has won only 3 major trophies in a 16-year career as a manager and has bottled 5 major cup finals in a row, which shows his lack of pragmatism.

He has a solid team at Liverpool, with a loyal board and a strong fan base. He is capable of getting his teams into great winning positions. He is a good human being and manager, he just needs to fine tune his philosophy before it is dubbed to Gegendepressing.

Jash VatsarajJURGEN KLOPP: HERO FOR THE KOP OR FLOPP?
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A Manchester Story: The Second Coming

The Premier League Season is well and truly underway and the 2 North-West giants of England are firmly running ahead of the pack.

They have scored the most goals, conceded the least, kept the most number of clean sheets, created the most chances, but their football is on two ends of a spectrum.

One team relies on enforcing and imposing themselves, physically and technically, over the opposition, finding new ways to score with each hurdle. Corners, free kicks, counter attacks and patient build up play, all feature.

They have a grandiose bully in attack; dynamism in creativity; a silky midfield enforcer and a big awkward weapon; with an astute defense, full of athleticism, converted wingers and strange faces; and probably the most technically gifted goalkeeper the club has ever seen.

This is of course, Manchester United, last season’s “Mickey Mouse treble” winners, who have equalled their best ever start to a season, with 16 in 6, grinding out victories with flattering scorelines and a manager who continues to remain prickly, arrogant, charming and always in the mix of it.

Their neighbours, tell a different story.

Overloaded with a wealth of attacking talents, and Raheem Sterling; they overpower teams by making them submit by sheer exhaustion, with wave and wave of attack, from left to right, all the way down to Fabian Delph scoring worldlies, Manchester City do it their way.

If Jose Mourinho is Batman, a morally wounded hero who will do whatever it takes to reach his goal, his Catalan nemesis, is Iron Man- a genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist, who has just one plan of attack- To Attack!

Manchester City are in scintillating form, swatting teams away for fun, with Aguero constantly scoring goals, Pep’s lord and saviour Jesus doing what he was bought for, Leroy Sane terrorizing the flanks, and Silva and De Bruyne being just unplayable.

That is the kind of performance you expect when you have put together the wealthiest squad in English football, but Pep is doing the job. If he wins the league, the money won’t be talked about.

Jose Mourinho on the other hand, has also spent that kind of money, where he has no excuses if he cannot win. Nemanja Matic was a steal, and Romelu Lukaku looks every bit the player United fans wanted Morata to be (they can deny it, but the fans were excited for Morata, and he is brilliant, no question).

A solid defense, and an enforcing midfield, give United the edge in the long run. But City have a far more talented squad, and a more energetic trio of wing backs, which will help bolster their charge.

United haven’t really been tested yet, and their visit to Anfield mid-October will give us a glimpse of what Jose Mourinho has in mind. Will he revert to type and park the bus, or will he play into Jurgen Klopp’s hands and go all-out attack? Anybody who is familiar with Jose Mourinho, knows it will be the former, and try and go for the ultimate smash and grab.

Machester City looked suspect when it was 11 v 11 against Liverpool, but their weekend clash versus the Defending Champions will be more telling of their credentials.

The Red Devils have the mercurial Zlatan Ibrahimovic to return, while City’s Bernardo Bubblegum Silva hasn’t even got a look in yet. City have a stronger, and a better squad, with more talent, but Manchester United have the better spine and more numbers when it counts.

David De Gea v Ederson will be an interesting sub-plot as the season goes on, with De Gea winning 5-3 in Clean sheets this season, and both will be key to their teams.

It is going to be a long season for both clubs, and managing 4 competitions will be tough, but if anyone can do it, it’s Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.

We were promised a battle of gargantuan proportions last season, but it seems like The Second Coming of The Bad Boy and The Darling, is finally before us.

If Manchester United are crowned champions for the 21st time come May 2018, it’ll be a testament to their revival, and of their manager, who has been written off countless times as boring and defensive. The simple fact is- Jose Mourinho is a unique man, and a bloody good manager, who knows how to win, and has been given the platform to do just that. Put Manchester United back on the map. There are no excuses if he fails now.

If Man City do win the league, it’ll be the first time a team has won the league playing this brand of total football (not Arsene Wenger), and it will be a remarkable achievement, but not an unexpected one all the same. Pep Guardiola will continue to further his legacy, albeit this time with a cushion of oil money to fall back on. Either way, win is a win, and a title is a title.

Jose Mourinho may be a bad guy, but he has mellowed and embraced the culture at Manchester United, and looks slightly classier than usual (Mark Hughes cringes in the background), but he still has to get his behaviour in check, and really fix some issues in his squad, which can only happen on the training pitch and not the transfer market.

Mr. Guardiola has lost his charisma and charm, for developing youngsters from his own academy, for which he was renowned during his time at Barcelona. He now resorts to buying superstars and giving them a platform to thrive. There is nothing wrong in being a “chequebook manager”, but to give us the illusion that the Pep Guradiola project at Manchester City with their massive youth academy spending was to further the club, then all I say is:

130 million pounds sterling on full backs, is insane and laughable, but hey, at least he entertains us.

If Pep Guardiola wins the league, and he probably will, he will be the first bald manager to win the EPL (Conte did get a hair transplant), and he will add another success to his impressive CV.
He will go down as a fine coach, just not a unique one.

Jash VatsarajA Manchester Story: The Second Coming
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