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Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands flex tactical superiority to outlast USA

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Every time the United States reach the knockout stages of the World Cup, there’s a feeling that this is the time where the sport really takes off in America.

There was good reason to think that 2022 was a different case. Gregg Berhalter has a lot of young talent at his disposal and the next World Cup will be stateside. This is merely the prelude to their homecoming.

After deservedly advancing undefeated from a group featuring England, Iran and Wales, the Stars and Stripes got their hopes up again about their latest batch of heroes. Could they topple a Netherlands outfit who were stuck in a malaise, who came unstuck against a similarly youthful and energetic side in Ecuador?

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Well, as it turns out, they couldn’t.

Louis van Gaal’s Oranje came to Qatar as outsiders to go all the way, but at the same time you wouldn’t want to bet against them losing. The last time the Netherlands lost by more than the odd goal at a World Cup came in the 1978 final after all.

They tried to stay true to their ‘Total Football’ roots in the face of push-and-run soccer in Saturday’s 3-1 win, even if that meant surrendering possession because they weren’t in much danger without it (Haji Wright’s freak goal perfectly symbolic of that). Their old head at the helm successfully identified where the US’s weak points were – notably the space left behind their advancing full-backs – and took advantage.

Harry Symeou hosts Andy Headspeath, Toby Cudworth & La Liga TV presenter Semra Hunter to look back on the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa – join us!

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If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

The Netherlands’ first goal – a 21-pass move from back to front finished by Memphis Depay – was as Dutch a goal as you could imagine, luring the US into a false sense of security before popping the ball around them like they were training cones. It wasn’t a coincidence that their second featured similar patterns of play and the third exploited those clear weakness once more.

Van Gaal spoke pre-match about how he has been blessed with the squad at his disposal for one last hurrah. He has the chance to leave a lasting legacy as a new era of Dutch football takes shape, and this last 16 tie was proof that old tactical habits still have a place in the modern game, even when up against sides superior physically.

In Cody Gakpo, they have one of the tournament’s breakout stars. In Frenkie de Jong, a unique midfielder who starts for pretty much any team in world football. In Virgil van Dijk, one of the game’s leading defenders even when he’s in a slump.

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We’re back at the place we started with. How would the Netherlands win the World Cup? But equally, why couldn’t they?



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EPL

Nottingham Forest announce signing of Andre Ayew

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Nottingham Forest have confirmed the signing of free agent Andre Ayew despite interest from Everton.

The forward has been heavily linked with a move to the Toffees in recent days, but Forest have swooped in to sign the Ghanian.

Speaking to the club’s official website after finalising the move, the forward said:  “It’s a great feeling to sign for Nottingham Forest.

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“I know how big the club is and I know how much the club means to the city and the fanbase. It’s always been difficult whenever I’ve played against Forest and at The City Ground and I love the stadium.

“Steve Cooper is someone who knows me very well and knows how to work with me both on and off the pitch. We have a strong relationship, he’s a special coach and a special human being and someone who I really look up to.”

“I know what I can bring to the team, I’m ready to give my all and make sure that we are able to stay in the Premier League.”



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EPL

Wolves vs Liverpool – Premier League: TV channel, team news, lineups & prediction

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Liverpool will be looking to make a statement with a Premier League trip to Wolves this weekend, having been dumped out of the FA Cup by Brighton last Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are without a league win in their last three attempts and have slipped as low as ninth in the table. Depending on what Chelsea do against Fulham on Friday night, the Reds could be 10th by the time they kick-off at Wolves.

Wolves are still yet to really find their groove under Julen Lopetegui, although at least remain out of the relegation zone on goal difference for the time being.

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Wolves team news

Wolves have no new injury concerns ahead of this one, with Pedro Neto, Boubacar Traore, Sasa Kalajdzic and Chiquinho all still sidelined.

Wolves predicted lineup (4-2-3-1): Sa; Semedo, Collins, Kilman, Bueno; Neves, Nunes; Traore, Sarabia, Hwang; Jimenez.

Liverpool team news

Centre-back Ibrahima Konate is the latest Liverpool player to join the injury list, ruled out until at least mid-February with a hamstring problem.

Virgil van Dijk is also still out, as are Roberto Firmino, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota. Arthur Melo is making progress but is a couple of weeks away from resuming training.

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Liverpool predicted lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Gomez, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Nunez, Gakpo.

It’s certainly feasible that Wolves could continue to pile the misery on Liverpool.

The Reds had beaten Wolves in seven consecutive meetings until a recent FA Cup tie ended in 2-2 draw at Anfield. It was then only a single goal that decided the replay in the Merseysiders’ favour.

Prediction: Wolves 1-1 Liverpool

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Mason Greenwood releases statement after Greater Manchester Police drop all charges

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Mason Greenwood has released a short statement stating that he is ‘relieved’ after the Greater Manchester Police dropped all charges against the Man Utd forward.

Greenwood was charged with attempted rape, engaging in controlling and coercive behaviour and assault, allegations relating to the same woman last year and, following an investigation, GMP have confirmed that all charges have been dropped.

The GMP confirmed the news in a statement earlier on Thursday: “Given the significant media coverage of this case, it is only fair that we share the news that the 21-year-old man, who had been arrested and charged in connection with an investigation opened in January 2022, no longer faces criminal proceedings in relation to this.

“The investigation team has remained in regular contact with the legal team, providing any updates of note, and so understand the rationale for the discontinuation of proceedings at this stage, and that this decision has not been taken lightly.

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“Despite the media and public’s interest in this case, we have decided not to comment on it in any further detail.

“I would, however, like to use this opportunity to reiterate GMP’s commitment to investigating allegations of violence against women and girls and supporting those affected, regardless of their circumstances, throughout what can be a hard and upsetting time for them. An ever increasing number of officers are receiving specialist training and the force is more consistently utilising tools, available via the criminal justice system, to keep people safe and care for victims.”

Greenwood has now responded with a statement of his own, writing: “I am relieved that this matter is now over and I would like to thank my family, loved ones and friends for their support. There will be no further comment at this time.”

Manchester United are due to conducted their own internal investigation on the matter.

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