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It’s been oh so close between the 5th v 6th/bottom two teams in the Northern Stars & Southern Steel to finish off Round 14 of the 2024 ANZ Premiership Season in Dunedin with one last regular season round remaining this weekend. Steel always off to a great start but it was the Stars who held them up throughout the first half where they were one goal up at half-time, 27-28.

Although Steel again rebounded as if the start repeated itself with some really good improvements that gave them a two-goal advantage at three quarter time (41-39), but just couldn’t hold on a bit longer towards the end there unfortunately. At the end of the day, it was Stars with the win once again by just a solitary goal to close the second last round of the 2024 season, 53-54.

First of all, skipper Maia Wilson had an amazing night as the main Northern Stars shooter. She netted a near perfect accuracy towards goal of 97%, having missed only one shot out of 39 attempts throughout the night v Steel. Yes, Stars may be low on possession but gotta credit her team’s defense on exposing the Steel’s isolated attack before Maia was able to get the job done with the net right in front of her off the back of a brilliant counter-attack feed through the channels. It led to a good few points lead at the half-time break followed by an excellent end with the win as although things may not be the same this year when it comes to the Top 3 down in 5th, but Maia is always going places including at International level for the Silver Ferns.

Here’s another standout Stars player this time in the back three tonight in Kate Burley at goal keeper who is flexible amongst multiple defensive roles along with her excellent physicality and athleticism to deflect one away from the net at her own danger zone. She had really great start actually that made the Steel front three so hesitant under pressure before Kate was able to throw onto the other side where goals coming her way for the most part including that crucial final few minutes with three rebounds of her own including three intercepts for the best of the Stars. When she came off, the Steel were a couple of goals ahead where the Stars began to slip away at one stage. However, glad she saved the day when she can back on to help steer victory once again for the Stars with unfinished business ahead in the hope of returning to its former glory in 2025.

Now it might not have taken that long to settle in for Serina Daunakamakama in the south when she was at the Northern Mystics as a training partner earlier this season but she had another great game though that reflects her progress within the senior level at Wing Attack. She picked up as many balls as possible with the most feeds of 36 in order to find her front two thanks to her team’s good start on top of a good defense as usual alongside skipper Kate Heffernan in the mid-court. That way, Georgia Heffernan and Grace Namama can help finish things off within the circle where the Steel were so close of winning this one again off the back of an improved 3rd quarter. But then the Stars’s scrambled defense proved so difficult for them in the end where mistakes were being made made under pressure before the Stars stole the show even if it’s by a small margin, particularly in the last few mins on what has been another difficult year to end up 6th & last once again for the Steel. 

And lastly, wishing Reigna Bloxam all the best ahead of her last game as the Steel head coach this weekend v the Magic after giving back for so long before she heads off overseas while a new era awaits in the hope the Steel can rejuvenate next season.

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In an arduous and fiercely contested match, typical of Copa America, Argentina was crowned champions once again, courtesy of Lautaro Martinez’s decisive goal in overtime.

Led by Lionel Scaloni, the reigning champions of America and the world, Argentina aimed to replicate the same triumph they did in 2021 when they beat bitter rivals Brazil in the final and hoisting the Copa America trophy at Maracanã.

This time around, Colombia, led by the forgotten man James Rodriguez, came to the final undefeated, driven to secure only its second continental trophy in history. Under the impressive direction of Argentine manager Nestor Lorenzo, Los Cafeteros, were aiming to shock the world in Miami.

After an unexpected delay of over an hour, caused by the disturbance outside the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium, the match kicked off with La Scaloneta – as the Argentinian team is known – going after the Colombia teams.

Just under a minute into the match, Manchester City striker Julian Alvarez took a shot inside the box at goalkeeper Camilo Vargas, but the ball narrowly missed the corner.

The Colombian team quickly ensure to dispel any notions that they would be intimidated by it, as they steadily up their lines, applied firm pressure on the Argentina defense, and through the pressure managed to steal the ball from the defenders, creating their first scoring opportunities.

In a brave performance by Nestor Lorenzo’s team, Colombia absolutely took command of the match in the initial 20 minutes, forcing Emi Martinez to work twice during this time.

Colombia absolutely dominated the first half, with James Rodriguez creating chances through the middle, Jhon Córdoba hitting the post with a short-range effort and defender Carlos Cuesta drawing a fine save from Dibu Martinez in a header inside the box.

Argentina struggled to find their footing on the pitch. After Lionel Messi got injured in the 37th minute, it felt like the Argentine team was desperately crying for the half. No changes on the first eleven for the second half for Scaloni, but a change in posture from Argentina was necessary.

A change in posture came in a rather topsy-turvy manner. To start the second half, Argentina started lifting balls into the penalty area, thus lifting their fans together.

However, In the 66th minute, Argentina suffered a big blow, Lionel Messi went off with an apparent ankle injury. Sat on the bench, tears streaming down his face, as he held an ice bag to his right foot, felt like this might be the last image of Messi with the Albiceleste.

A horrid second half, little to no creativity by both teams. By the 80th minutes, it was evident that neither team was willing to take any chances.

So, we went to overtime in Miami. Through an intense first half of overtime, both teams appeared to be exhausted, but what was striking was the high-paced South American style of play. When Juan Fernando Quintero entered the match; Colombia had a surge in physical vitality and creativity.

Scaloni answered with Lautaro Martínez, who made a fierce entrance and ultimately scored in the 112 minute to give Argentina the trophy.

The win over Colombia secured Argentina’s 16th continental trophy, surpassing Uruguay and establishing them as the most successful team in the tournament’s history. Lionel Scaloni once again leads Argentina to a championship, yet the spotlight also shines on Lionel Messi and Ángel Di María who might have done their last game ever with the national team.

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In a dramatic showdown at the Euro 2024 final, Spain secured an exclamation point win over England, thanks to the brilliance of underrated manager Luis De La Fuente.

The match kicked off as expected, with a visibly aggressive Spanish team dominating possession and actively seeking for their first scoring opportunities. In contrast, England relied on swift counterattacks, particularly through Bukayo Saka on the right wing. Saka, playing more as a right wing-back in Gareth Southgate’s cautious 3-4-2-1 system, took on more defensive responsibilities, supporting Kyle Walker in containing of Basque sprinter Nico Williams.

Under 25 minutes, Spain’s suffocating 85% possession set the tempo of the first half of the game, as they seemed to effortlessly control the midfield and win every rebound. It seemed like every second ball landed at Spanish feet.

As the match progressed to the 30-minute mark, it became apparent that the Spanish midfield was outclassing the English midfield, effectively neutralising the creative talents of Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden. Fabián Ruiz and Rodri seemed to have absolutely boxed in the English duo.

Despite the Spanish dominant possession, Gareth Southgate’s defensive system held strong in the first half, with Jordan Pickford making it through without soiling his kit.

In the first half, both teams struggled to create scoring opportunities, and it appeared that only one team was making an effort to actually play attacking football. Still, the match took a turn when news of Rodri’s injury reached the Spanish side.

The substitution of Rodri for Martín Zubimendi seemed to ignite a little momentum for the Three Lions. But, just two minutes into the second half, Nico Williams, the 22-year-old boy, from the Athletic Bilbao Academy, broke the deadlock with a score.

The score came as a big blow to the English team, who were nearly caught off guard again on the feet of Dani Olmo on the very next play.

Things were not coming together for England. Shades of Wembley 2021 against Italy. It seemed like another of one of those nights for the English team. Until the substitute, Cole Palmer, out of nowhere unleashed a spectacular long-range shot in the 73rd minute, leveling the score in Berlin.

Unfortunately for the white side of the Olympiastadion, English ecstasy did not last too long. England were facing another extra 30 minutes, until a superb late strike from Mikel Oyarzabal in the 86th minute, coming from the bench.

The deciding goal by Oyarzabal dealt a final blow to the English team, England seemed not to have the strength to mount a comeback. Once again, Spain is crowned champions of Europe, sending English football home.

During the tournament, amidst discussions about the impressive Spanish team, one name often goes unnoticed – Luis De La Fuente.

Ridiculed by the Spanish media when announced manager, the talent and contributions of De La Fuente seem to be overshadowed by this exceptional Spanish generation of players. Nonetheless, it is important to appreciate the exceptional work carried out by the 63-year-old coach during this competition.

While Luis De La Fuente may not have the charisma of Vincente Del Bosque or the tactical brilliance of Luis Enrique, his success in securing the European title is beginning to earn him a place among the great Spanish coaches.

Through adept management of the squad, extensive tactical knowledge, and the bold decision to field one of the youngest teams in the tournament, De La Fuente is starting to make a name for himself among the pantheon of Spanish coaching legends.

Throughout their terrific tournament run, the Spanish team left behind Italy in the group stage, Germany in the quarterfinals, France in the semi-finals, and finally, England in the grand final.

Spain now secures their position as the top champions of the European tournament with an impressive total of four titles.

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Oh so close from Canada who were almost there with a 2-1 lead off the back of Uruguay’s good start and that 80th minute breakthrough for the team’s 2nd goal. But the match isn’t even over just yet when veteran striker Luis Suarez held them back a bit longer  not only after 90 mins of normal time 2-2 all & even 2 x 15 mins extra time periods where the score remained unchanged, but Canada also eventually lost in the end to Uruguay via penalties for the best of third spot in Charlotte, 3-4.

It would’ve been awesome to see Canada close down with the win against one of the seasoned South America teams following their semis loss against Group A opponents Argentina – especially when they were the only North American team left remaining. They controlled the pitch really well on what has been a huge tug-o-war where both teams shared the pie at half-time 1-1 until Canada found a way to get on top of Uruguay in the 80th minute.  However, that turned out to be short lived and Canada eventually ran out of steam to make Uruguay pay. Not even the penalties have helped much in a sudden death drag race under pressure & Uruguay turned out to be the better 3rd placed team. Canada is at the right time right now with the World Cup after a 36 year wait two years ago followed by a 4th-placed Copa America finish & sure they can do even better to achieve from here – such as the next Gold Cup next year as well as 2026 World Cup across home soil, USA & Mexico.

Well, chasing a possible 16th title will have to wait next time for Uruguay come 2028 before looking to unseat the defending champs Argentina at some point. But the tournament isn’t 100% over yet until tomorrow and Uruguay will be hoping that Colombia can spoil Argentina’s unbeaten winning run in the Final tomorrow, so they can still share with Argentina as the joint most successful team in Copa America history of 16 winning trophies together.  Yes, Uruguay were nearly out of place for the most part when they had less ball following an early lead to the match. However, they well to turn things around thanks to Super Suarez at the last minute in normal time before Uruguay eventually found a way to escape the Canadians unscathed – which wasn’t easy to play but hey, they’ve done it after all!!  There’s still unfinished business ahead with the World Cup qualifications up next, so they can hopefully get back to their best following their early round exit in Qatar two years ago.

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Look who has made the Euros big dance again, it’s the mighty Three Lions from England, who are now one step closer to going one better this time v Spain this weekend, thanks to a game-winning goal by striker Ollie Watkins in the 90th minute. 

Netherlands fired off well from the start thanks to Xavi Simons while Harry Kane levelled up for England via a penalty kick not long later before things went quiet until very nearly towards full-time & Ollie has a way to get the England supporters go wild with the 2-1 win in Dortmund. Yes, you can criticise the manager all you want in Gareth Southgate but he knows how to put the best interests of heart for England when a few fresh faces off the bench helped saved the day. Let’s see if that back three formation would finally put Spain into bed in order to help him bring that Euros trophy home in a long time.

And heartbreak for the Netherlands as said with an excellent start to get the ball rolling, having had an excellent campaign up until the semis under Ronald Koeman in charge once again. But they just couldn’t find a way to stop England in its tracks or unable to capitalise the fightback England put in by Harry Kane, while they kept on hitting and missing these shots whenever they had the chance until it was too little, too late after Watkins confirmed their elimination last minute from the last 4. It’s going to be around 40 years now when the Oranje last won the Euros that goes back to 1988 v Soviet Union 2-0 also in Germany at Munich’s Olympiastadion as they will most likely return to try & end that long-running drought come 2028. 

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We all love the joy of witnessing these fairy tale moments such as Canada who made it as far as the semis off the back of a undefeated performances bar the opening round defeat v Argentina including that Quarter-Final win the other day v Venezuela via penalties. However, facing a top side like the Argentinians again were never easy indeed with the likes of Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez following a 2-0 semi-finals loss earlier this afternoon at MetLife Stadium in New York. Although Canada’s unreal Copa America run isn’t over just yet with a third-place Playoff match coming up this weekend against the loser of the 2nd semi-final match as we turn our attention to Colombia v Uruguay in Charlotte, NC tomorrow morning.

First of all, Canada weren’t bad for the most part defensively other than a couple of mis-timed tackles and passes that led to two Argentina goals where it could’ve been 0-0 to give themselves a lifeline like another 30 mins of extra time and maybe penalty shootouts or even a successful goal or two would do it to stop Argentina from bothering them. They did have a couple of late chances though to try and hold back Argentina but then there was very little time left against the clock unfortunately as the game well and truly belongs to the Defending Champions. As said, they had a spectacular run as being the best North American side in this competition across the Americas & sure Canada will keep on grinding towards regular silverware like the future CONCACAF Gold Cup editions sooner rather than later. But it’s all about South America for now when Canada is now out of the tournament with three nations left in the running that will become two in less than 24 hours time.

Meanwhile, it’s great to see Argentina advance to the Final once again following an easy 2-0 win v Canada having dominated the pitch for most of the game. Yes, they could’ve done a bit better as if Argentina was using this semi as a practice match for the Final as no opponent will ever them a free run. However, they did profit the defensive errors Canada couldn’t capitalise at their own end where Argentina successfully found the net on both occasions by Alvarez and Messi before the clock ticks down ahead of full-time & Argentina are now step closer towards hopefully winning their record 16th title. At the moment, Argentina currently have 15 titles which is tied with potential finalists Uruguay who might be there to spoil their championship-winning celebrations come Sunday & maybe be the most successful team in Copa America history – if Uruguay can beat Colombia in the other semi tomorrow. Regardless of what happens, Argentina wouldn’t mind to come up against anyone whether if it’s Uruguay or Colombia as long as they can get the job done with goals to win them yet another trophy.

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Craig Bellamy has just made up his mind and he will be moving back closer to home in Wales where he will be replacing Rob Page with the national team job there. It will his be first big job as No.1 having been through a few backroom coaching stints such as Anderlecht in Belgium’s Pro League & most recently with Burnley in England whose side will be returning to the Championship for the new season. The timing is looking right now at 45 when he first couldn’t take over the Oxford United job back then while he was not selected for the previous Wales head coach vacancy at the time that all goes back to 2018 but sure he’s learned a lot from someone who’s been there and done that by winning many games and silverware in the past.

Plus, he is someone who is attack minded based on his previous coaching experiences including stints with the Cardiff City and Anderlecht youth teams and also willing to adapt to the modern game off the back of his playing days as a forward in spite of his managerial inexperience. Although it’s not exactly domestic/club level, but at least he will managing with pride for the heart of his country where he’s been there and done that many times as a player while getting to spend more time with family. Not only that, he will have the best squad available to him on occasions throughout the year in the hope of leading Wales towards another World Cup run in 2026 and a return to the Euros come 2028 – even though it will be in the UK/Ireland.

It’s been a wild last 2-3 months when Vincent Kompany left Burnley for Bayern Munich with Craig taking temporary charge of the club before Scott Parker replaced the Belgian for the full-time head coach position a few days ago and even though Scott wanted to keep him as one of his No.2 assistants, Craig wants to still test himself as the leading man in the dugout someday and that time begins now with Wales. Yes, it’s going to be a blow for Scott who wants to keep him around so he can help him get Burnley go straight back to the Premier League after he two promotions there with Fulham and Bournemouth. But there’s always another decent No.2 to replace Craig soon enough if possible as we wish Craig all the best with Wales as a head coach.

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So there we have it, the Central Pulse have stole the show that was supposed to be the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic at Globox Arena in Hamilton by five goals, 48-53. It was a Magic first half who controlled the court very nicely despite some good moments from the Pulse off the back of an excellent start to the match where Pulse were four goals behind at half-time, 26-22. Now the 3rd quarter might still be under the Magic for a bit longer but a series of changes off the bench from the Pulse forced their hand with the win including two key players back from injury, such as Amelia Warmsley & Maddy Gordon. Not only that, the Pulse regained top spot ahead of the Mainland Tactix yet again on the ANZ Premiership ladder while Magic need to show something special now if they wish to play Finals netball this year as we go into Round 14 of 15 this weekend.

Whitney Souness has been working so hard throughout the full hour that got away with the Pulse win in Hamilton at wing attack. She’s got the athleticism and mobility to manufacture her team’s impressive start where goals were made there off her passing supply despite being a bit behind for the most part. However, gotta say the 2nd half got the best out of her game thanks to a few returning players off the bench from the treatment room including reserve goal shooter Amelia Warmsley while turning the tide from the Magic’s series of late errors. She knows what it takes to be at her best in a winning side and tonight was another of these matches Whitney took part in the starting 7 in the hope of holding off 1st with two rounds to go and then some extra preparation if possible would do it to sweep home towards the Grand Final and go all in for the win.

Then we’ve got another Pulse standout star this time in the back three in none other than goal defender Parris Mason, who as said kept the Magic attack quiet, particularly when she & her side were able to turn things around big time throughout the 2nd half. Every time the Magic felt hesitant or isolated, Parris read really well before she applied with excellent physical and multi-sport skills to keep that ball play going alongside her towering team-mate Kelly Jackson – which was job well done where goals and the eventual lead towards the finish line went her way. She’s doing the best she can now to finish off the regular season on a high as the No.1 ranked team by proving to the Tall Ferns (women’s b’ball) that Parris is indeed looking to win from somewhere that isn’t the Olympics after being left out a few months ago but with the ANZ Premiership crown.

And Magic goal shooter Saviour Tui did the best she can to put her team on the map where her side just couldn’t stay up front as the clock ticks down at goal shooter. As said, the Magic led the way for the most part thanks to a functioning back three defense of their own alongside a hard-working Claire O’Brien present to give Tui the shooting stuff she needs to get into the net. But what really lets her down is Magic benching her off the court later on while witnessing a series of mistakes that slipped away to the hands of the Pulse towards the end. It didn’t work unfortunately without Tui’s fun-loving goal scoring opportunities to finish off inside the circle. With two rounds to go, Tui needs her team’s support to wrestle back that 3rd and final spot for the elimination final & hope that Northern Mystics lose the last two games v Pulse & Northern Stars.

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With Scott Parker now in charge at Burnley for however long that might be depending on his performances this season in the EFL Championship, what does it mean for ex-Wales forward and seasoned first-team coach Craig Bellamy? He’s been at the club long enough having rejected the chance to follow Vincent Kompany following his move to Bayern Munich in Germany’s Bundesliga league last month after being around his corner for a couple of years in Belgium on top of coaching the Anderlecht youth U-21 team. Although he did take a year off back home for some time back in 2021-22 due to a toll on his mental health before he came back once Kompany moved to England a year later with Burnley following its straight relegation from the Premier League last time around at Championship level. According to some reports earlier this week, he is expected to stick around rather than being let go as one of Parker’s assistant coaches alongside Henrik Jensen – even though he is still on the radar when it comes to Wales’s head coaching position. It’s still up for grabs until at least September for their next set of matches after Rob Page was gone a few months back having failed to help them qualify for the Euros via Play-Offs v Poland.

At age 44/45 now, he would’ve at least liked to have one senior head coaching job under his belt when he was unsuccessful 1-2 times several years ago all within 2018 – such as the previous Wales Head Coach position to Ryan Giggs while he thought he was going to take over the Oxford United job in League 1 (now a Championship side via Play-Offs) but then that club had a change of owners at the time and he didn’t agree with the way the owner wanted to go in the end. Not even being the acting head coach for a while would count when Burnley needed to move on uninterrupted like taking charge of pre-season training.

If he was to take over the Wales head coach job at last, then good for him. He will bring a lot of Welshness alongside some excellent coaching experience that he studied and taught across Belgium and England’s top 2 leagues into the squad where he’s been there & done that so many times as a player – which will translate well for these players who have plenty of International caps between them while some will benefit from his coaching methods for those who are new into the setup.

Not only that, he will always be at home for the most part with his family in the heart of Wales while getting the chance to lead them Internationally on a few occasions throughout the year including training sessions to cover as well. They have some unfinished business such as qualifying for the World Cup again in 2026 before he might get the chance to lead them for the home next Euros tournament in 2028 across the UK and Ireland depending on the next Euros qualification process as they will either have to go through it manually or win the automatic berth since it’s been hosted by several different UK & Irish nations.

But having been out and about for so long where the shipped has sailed when it comes to being the No.1 in a coaching side while currently living around the North of England in Manchester, continuing to be second in charge would be best for him since Parker needs him whom they know each other well from his playing days at West Ham back in 2007-2009. Now he might not be with Kompany anymore when the Belgian is now in Germany but at least he will be working with someone – who shares the same attacking football philosophies including some Belgium Pro League combined experiences too – which they’ve done it many times before on their own, although Parker’s one was short-lived with Club Brugge though for 67 days.

If he was to move again, then it will have to be somewhere within the UK unless Parker gets sacked again at Turf Moor unexpectedly and he will finally be No.1 there. Other than that, the choice is his to take whichever way it might be. But having experienced some mental toll after being away from the UK, it seems he will rather stay at Turf Moor as No.2 to Parker to help support for himself and his family – see Mark Hudson for reference when he was sacked at clubs every now and then when his family was really worried about him not being able to continue to work when Football moves so fast with coaching nowadays.

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Colombia absolutely too good on what has been an excellent team showing that ended Panama’s good run up until the Quarter-Finals with a 5-0 win just now as they will either take on Uruguay or Brazil for the 2nd Copa America semi-final match on 10am Thursday morning at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. So that leaves Canada now as the only North American team in the running alongside three other South American sides including their semi opponents Argentina which is going to be incredibly difficult since they’re the current champs. However, they have the team spirit to hopefully give them a tough time having made excellent progress over the last few years – even with Jesse Marsch in charge now who is doing well.

All good things has to end at some point unfortunately when Panama had a great group stage campaign such as wins against the USA and Bolivia off the back of a deep CONCACAF Gold Cup run to the Final last year (Finished 2nd to Mexico with a 1-0 loss) despite losing to Uruguay in the opening match. This is a team Panama should be proud of as there’s unfinished business ahead that would make them stronger as one of the North American teams out there alongside Canada, Mexico and the USA like qualifying for the 2nd time since 2018 to compete in the next World Cup in two years time across North America as well as another excellent next Gold Cup and Copa America showing if possible would be their next two targets. For now, it’s been a disappointing end when they so vulnerable defensively for the most part. Although they did had some ball on occasions with a bit more progress later on where 1- 2 goals could’ve been theirs, but then the match was already over way before full-time.

Meanwhile, Colombians including the some of its huge supporters groups all over the US have been partying all match to see them advance into the semi-finals yet again & this time it won’t be a semis rematch after all unless they make it into the Final with Argentina in it. They were simply destructive mainly in attack with so much possession to put themselves ahead of the game including an excellent 3-0 first-half performance. Yes, things might have slowed things down a bit as the game goes on but they were still way comfortable up front despite some improved Panama ball before a few changes off the bench helped Colombia finished off the match on a high including their 5th and final goal off a successful quick penalty kick past the keeper & into the net. Whatever that is, Colombia needs their full strong support worldwide in the hope of advancing to their 3rd Copa America Final and the last time they’ve done it was back in 2001 with the one and only triumph v Mexico 1-0 at home.

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