Tuesday, December 7, 2021
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Denmark Inspires At The Euros

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Earlier this month the entire footballing world held their breath as we watched Christian Eriksen fight for his life on the football pitch. We wrote an article earlier this month on the initial incident, but there has been a huge plot twist for Denmark!

In the first half of their opening Euro 2020 match against Finland, Eriksen collapsed on the field after going into apparent cardiac arrest.  After the heroic actions of Denmark Captain Simon Kjær, who secured his neck, cleared his airways, and started CPR, the in stadium medical staff were able to save his life after performing CPR and using a defibrillator on the pitch (while the Denmark players formed a wall to protect Eriksen from the cameras).  The latest reports have him in stable condition and in good spirits resting at home. He even facetimed his team shortly after the incident encouraging them to play on.

Despite his encouragement, Denmark was not able to get a result against Finland leaving them in a difficult spot to qualify for the knockout stages.  After they were denied any points against Belgium in their second game the Danes were given little to no shot of finishing in a guaranteed qualifying spot in the group.  Despite requiring a near miracle to qualify – needing to win against Russia in their final game and a loss from Finland against Belgium – Denmark were able to defeat Russia by 4 goals to 1 and jump into a guaranteed spot in the qualifying round!

There is no doubt that they have already been the story of the tournament and now with Denmark to face Wales in the round of 16, they have a great chance to move onto the next round.  If they manage to make a surprise run in the knockout stages, this team could go down as one of the most beloved in the history of the Competition.

Premier League To Introduce Thicker VAR Lines

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According to several reports, in the 2021-2022 season the Premier League will be using ‘thicker lines’ when determining an offside with VAR.  The decision was made at the Premier League shareholders meeting in response to heavy criticism from fans, players, club staff, and media alike.  Many were soured on VAR because of the many goals that were called off due to offside calls where it seemed the attacker had no clear advantage.  We are not alone in saying that it is not in the spirit of the law when a player is deemed offside by a fraction of a centimeter or by half of their armpit being beyond the last defender.  That is why we are so encouraged by this move from the Premier league, especially given that is in response to what the fans want!

Although there are still a few questions about the change: just how much thicker? Will both lines be thicker or only the defending player’s line, to give a ‘head start’ to attackers? At the New Generation Fan, we have suggested removing or limiting the impact of offside, so this move is an encouraging step in that direction.

However, we would caution that there are some points of worry when it comes to how the rule might play out in practice, what happens when someone is offside beyond the ‘thicker lines’ by just a millimeter? Will fans be more understanding given the line being more forgiving?  Or is this perhaps just a step towards a much more dramatic change in the offside rule, eliminating offside all together.  That all remains to be seen, but in terms of innovation you cannot fault the Premier League for adjusting based on what the fans want.  Hopefully, the league and others can continue to listen to the fans and apply the same responsiveness across all areas of the game.

The New Generation Fan will continue to push for innovation, and we hope that you will join us in the fight against the stagnation of the beautiful game by continue to read and engage with our content, let’s change the game!

What’s Next for Denmark

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Kjær captaining Denmark

This week the entire footballing world held their breath as we watched Christian Eriksen fight for his life on the football pitch.  We would be remiss to not mention Denmark’s story, it has captivated the world’s football fans in a way normally reserved for international finals or the worst kind of tragedies.

In the first half of their opening Euro 2020 game against Finland, Eriksen collapsed on the field after going into apparent cardiac arrest.  After the heroic actions of Denmark Captain Simon Kjær, who secured his neck, cleared his airways, and started CPR, the in stadium medical staff were able to save his life after performing CPR and using a defibrillator on the pitch (while the Denmark players formed a wall to protect Eriksen from the cameras).  The latest reports have him in stable condition and in good spirits. He even facetimed his team shortly after the incident encouraging them to play on.

Despite his encouragement, Denmark was not able to get a result against Finland leaving them in a difficult spot to qualify for the knockout stages.  Most are not giving them a chance to recover and qualify, given they are still to play powerhouse Belgium.  However, the Danes are full of hardnosed players like Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Kasper Schmeichel, who will not allow their team to give up on the competition.

If you ask us, this might be something Denmark can rally around to get results against Belgium and Russia to possibly qualify as one of the best 3rd place teams. With their focus on Eriksen’s health, the team will have far less pressure, and fans from around the world will all be behind them.  If we see them get a result against Belgium on Thursday, they will go into their last game against Russia as the ultimate Cinderella story.

The Pitch – What Could Be

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Since the launch of our website in 2020 we have written a few times about the pitch, looking at the history of the field of play, how the pitch evolved in different parts of the world, and the effects that different size fields have.

Change The Game Blog – The Pitch 2

 

Today we take a more proactive look, based on Peter Hoehne’s 2026 NORTH AMERICAN WORLD CUP: Capturing The New Generation Fan, and imagining what football might be in a world with a New Generation Fan size pitch.

With a smaller surface the New Generation Fan would be able to enjoy a faster game – more turnovers of possession, more shots, more chances to score – but most importantly more action would be near to the defending team’s goal.  With the decreased field length, a much higher percentage of the game will take place in and around the penalty area.  The New Generation Fans want to watch games with lots of scoring opportunities, and lots of scoring!

Having a smaller standard pitch size also has value in the fact that the pitch can fit in a variety of different type of stadiums.  Baseball stadiums in North America and Asia could be used for football as well if it were accepted to have a smaller playing surface, like NYC FC uses in New York City.  When events are in nations with a variety of sporting stadiums – like in North America in 2026 – a smaller pitch would make it far less costly to host the events.  In addition, youth facilities that have slightly smaller fields, or need more pitches could utilize the smaller standard field size to make room for an entire new pitch or eliminate the need to build expensive new fields.

Looking to other sports around the globe, sports that have evolved with the tastes of the new generation fans in their sport have continued to grow, where sports stuck in tradition have declined quickly in popularity.  Basketball has moved towards a much faster pace, American football towards a quick strike offense, baseball towards homeruns centric game, and cricket moving to the immensely popular T10 style of play.  All the biggest sports in the world are moving towards a faster more exciting game.  The traditions of football are fundamental to the sport and should certainly be protected, but there is a clear shift in sport and if football misses the boat, it might be left behind for good in some of these markets – or in America’s case never achieve its potential market share at all.

In our opinion a league that is the first to move to a smaller field size might experience a rise in popularity based on the unique fast style of play the smaller pitch would provide.  It offers many advantages in terms of how the game is played, but just the fact that any league that did this would be different and seen as progressive could represent a massive increase in viewership!

Ones To Watch – Sweden’s Women

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Last week we talked about Canada and their opponents on matchday 1, host team of the 2020 Olympics, Japan.  This week we look at Canada’s biggest rival, the #1 ranked women’s team in the World, the USA and their matchday 1 opponents, #5 ranked Sweden.

Rodrigogomesonetwo via Wikimedia Commons

Especially considering they are the fifth ranked team in the world, Sweden have had markedly little buzz as a favorite to win.  Really, they have not even been given much of a chance to compete with the USA to win group G.  In what some consider the ‘group of death’, the US Women and Sweden are joined by 9th ranked Australia and 22nd ranked New Zealand.  Despite what the international media is saying, Sweden knows from recent Olympic history that they can beat the Americans. They will hope to have a repeat performance of Rio in 2016, when Sweden knocked the USWNT out of the quarter finals, before going on to win the silver medal in the Olympic Competition.

The Americans will not have forgotten that heartbreak and will look to make a statement in their first Olympic match since Rio. The talent of the two sides and the history between them should make this one of the marquee matches of the group stage and if Sweden can get a good result, they certainly will be one of the teams to watch to win gold in Tokyo.

Timeouts – Part 2

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Ansprache des Trainers an die Mannschaft von 1. FSV Mainz 05; Achim Beierlorzer (Mainz, Cheftrainer, head coach); Teamkreis, Mannschaftskreis, Ansprache, Motivation

Last month we talked about the addition of timeouts and what that might look like for football, leaving you with some initial thoughts on the idea but leaving it largely up for interpretation. Today we are going to look at the main points from the book – break for tired players and opportunity for team talks – and a few more hidden benefits timeouts would provide the game.

Hydration Breaks

Timeouts would give managers a chance to give players a break when needed. Part of the focus of the New Generation Fan rules is giving the players the chance to play at their best for as much of the game as possible. During hot weather matches FIFA and other governing bodies have implemented hydration breaks for players to get some water. These breaks are in essence a forced timeout. Instead of doing this, it would be better to give power to the teams themselves to decide when they need a break. Temperature is not the only factor that exhausts players, yet the current rules only allow for breaks because of heat.

Team Talks

Perhaps the most obvious benefit is that timeouts will give managers an opportunity to talk to their team to make strategic changes. When a team cannot break down a stout defence, a m

ArtBrom, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

anager could take a moment to discuss options with their team. This will lead to a more dynamic attack, and exciting games for the fans. Likewise, a team defending a lead or a draw, exhausted from chasing a dominant opponent, might be able to catch their breath and devise a way to go forward for the winner or continue to deny their opponents.

There are endless benefits from the strategic point of view, but here are a few more of the most obvious we came up with: designing set pieces, adjusting after a red card, calming down a panicked team, or just adjusting shape to take advantage of the opponent’s weaknesses.

What other strategic considerations do you think managers could make mid game, let us know in the comments!

Other Benefits

Currently when a manager needs a team talk during a half there is no option within the rules to do so. Often, what happens is a player will fake an injury. This gives their manager an opportunity to give instructions, for players to get a break, and to waste time. Giving coaches a chance to take timeouts would eliminate the need for players to do this, which is one of the things that turns off new fans to the game.

Secondly, we are seeing some great strides made when it comes to concussion protocol in many leagues and competitions, but the addition of timeouts could act as another way to ensure injured players are properly treated. There are many times when a team is unsure whether a player will recover from an injury, so they are forced to substitute them to avoid playing a man down. If teams had timeouts, they could stop play for a short period to treat the player without being penalized by playing a player down.

The Shot Clock – Part 2

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Last month we went through some of the most interesting ideas in Peter Hoehne’s book 2026 NORTH AMERICAN WORLD CUP Capturing the New Generation Fan.  We challenged you – the reader – to imagine a game with those rules. This month we will look at the New Generation Fan rules and how the game might look with them.

This week we are talking shot clock; if you are unfamiliar with the concept or missed the introduction piece, check out our article from last month on the topic HERE.

There is no question that implementing a shot clock would represent a massive shift in how the game is played.  No longer will teams leading by a goal be able to endlessly hold possession to run down the remaining minutes in the game. They will be forced to attack every time they have the ball.  There be more attacking, but in addition, the teams who are behind in the game will have more opportunities to gain possession themselves and score an equalizer.

What might a shot clock do for a league that was first to implement it? This is one of the most interesting parts of rule changes, especially radical ones; who will be the first to try it?

Well, if a league is brave enough to be the first, they may gain a massive advantage in terms of on field product and give them a chance to acquire new sets of fans.  Fans who are more interested in goals and shots (over traditional possession heavy football) might flock to be fans of this league, abandoning their old clubs to seek out a club to follow in the New Generation rules league.  The league could also market themselves as the fastest paced league in the world and leverage the idea that they are innovative and will continue to innovate in the name of improving the fans’ experience.

The possibilities are endless and that is why we always put it back on our readers to comment and let us know what you think!  How do you see a shot clock working in football, how might fans of the game react to the change?

The Kylian Mbappe Story

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Kylian Mbappe will undoubtedly be one of the stars in any International competition France is in, but how did the French phenom end up at PSG and where might he play next year? Let’s take a look.

At just 22 years old Mbappe has been tearing apart defenses since he started playing football at 6 years old. One of his coaches had this to say about Kylian’s talent at a young age:

“The first time I coached him was when he was six years old…He was the best player I’ve ever seen in 15 years coaching here. In Paris, there are many talents but I’d never seen a talent like him. He was what we call a ‘crack’ (the best).”

– Antonio Riccardi from AS Bondy –

Since his move to the Clairfontaine from AS Bondy Mbappe had the attention of the entire footballing world. He had trials at Real Madrid and Chelsea along with several French clubs. After all the attention from clubs around Europe, he decided to stay in France with one of the best youth academies in the world, AS Monaco.

In 2015 Kylian signed with Monaco and wasted no time climbing the ranks within the club making his first team debut only two months after signing his first professional contract. It was then just a week before his 18th birthday that he scored his first professional hat-trick against Stade Rennais in the Coupe De la Ligue. It was during this season that he really broke onto the scene as a star – 26 goals in 44 matches, a UEFA Champions League semi-final, and League-1 title – and unfortunately for Monaco, there was almost no way they could afford to keep him.

In 2017, despite always dreaming of playing in the Real Madrid shirt, Kylian and the Mbappe’s were all convinced by Unai Emery to stay in France and come to Paris Saint-Germain on a loan that was sure to turn into a permanent move. The eventual permanent move cost the French giant a rumored 180 Million Euros, making him the second most expensive player ever behind his teammate Neymar. Since moving to the club Kylian has cemented himself as one of the biggest sports stars in the world, but now it seems like his time with the club is over and before long he will fulfill his childhood ambition of playing for the Spanish royalty, Real Madrid.

According to prominent French football agent Bruno Satin, Mbappe and his family have reached an agreement for personal terms for him to join Real. Still trying to fill a hole from the departing Cristiano Ronaldo and having pursued him since bringing him on trial at just 11 years old, it seems the Santiago Bernabeu might be the place Kylian Mbappe calls home in 2022.

 

Top 5 League Wrap up

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With the domestic campaigns coming to an end over the last week in Europe, this week we have a special edition of the blog wrapping up the top 5 European competitions and the biggest stories in each league.  There were plenty of stories to be had from Lille OSC winning Ligue 1 to Harry Kane winning the goals AND assists titles in the English Premier League, it was anything but a boring final week!

Premier League

The Premier League campaign came to an end last Sunday, with West Brom, Fulham, Sheffield United all relegated and with the league race wrapped up a few weeks ago by Manchester City. All the drama was to be found in the race for the guaranteed European Competition places.  Liverpool FC and Chelsea qualified for the UCL with Leicester and West Ham taking the Europa League places.

The final day also had a couple great individual stories as well, Kane became only the 3rd player in history to lead the league in both goals and assists, silencing the doubters and raising suspicion he will be out of Tottenham by the time next season begins.  Sergio Aguero will be leaving City during the summer and marked his final appearance with a brace, for the final time putting a smile on faces in the blue side of Manchester.

 

 


 

Bundesliga

Bayern Munich has once again won the Bundesliga, and frankly it was not even close.  Just look at the gaps in points and goal difference, they have almost double the goal difference of anyone else in the league. Also, a big story in the league are the two relegated teams, Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen, both clubs would consider the season a total catastrophe for clubs of their size. The story of the last weekend was Robert Lewandowski scoring his 41st goal of the year, breaking Gerd Müller’s 30 year old scoring record in the Bundesliga.  Even that, however, could not overcome Erling Haaland’s hold on the football world, He won the fan voted Player of the Year award for the league over Lewandowski despite his record shattering season.

 


 

Ligue 1

Lille OSC are the champions of France! The underdog side beat out French giants PSG, Monaco, Lyon, and Marseille to win their first Ligue 1 championship since 2010-2011.  Even without their captain Jose Fonte, Lille were able to ride the excellent performances of Burak Yilmaz, Jonathan David, and Renato Sanches to a win over Angers that clinched the title by a single point over PSG.  With Nimes and Dijon already relegated it was only the relegation playoff spot that was to be decided with Nantes finishing one point behind Brest to be put into the playoff against Toulouse FC.

 


La Liga  

It took until the final day for Atletico Madrid to secure the club’s second title since being promoted back to La Liga in 2003.  The biggest stories on the final day being Diego Simeone’s impressive run of nine straight seasons inside La Liga’s top three, and most of all the dramatic redemption of Luis Suarez since leaving Barcelona.  Outside of the champions, there is immense intrigue surrounding the league especially with so many players rumoured to be coming and going; Aguero to Barcelona, will Messi stay, Mbappe to Madrid, will Real and Barcelona continue pursuing the European Super League? It is all happing in Spain right now, we will keep you updated as the summer progresses.    


Serie A

With extraordinarily little drama Juventus’s nine year run of Serie A titles has come to a crashing halt.  Inter Milan are Champions of Italy once again.

 It was Inter’s first title in eleven seasons and was only their third time in the top three spots after having won the league five straight seasons from 2005-2010.  Relegated from the league were Benevento, Crotone, and Parma, all of which were relegated before the last day of the season.  Really the only drama on the final day was seeing if Juventus could fend off Napoli to keep their UEFA Champions League place, they did, but only scrapping by them by a point.  Let’s hope next season the Serie A will keep us guessing as much as this one did, it has been anything but dull.

via MilanoPE on www.shutterstock.com

Chituru Odunze – 2026 Ones To Watch

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Chituru Odunze is a 6-foot-8 goalkeeper that – until recently – was one of the can’t miss talents at the youth level in Canada.  Born in North Carolina Chituru moved with his family to England at a young age where he spent his early years playing at the Chelsea Academy.  His time in England was successful and by all accounts and he was headed to continue his youth career at the highest levels, but when he was 11 years old Chituru and his family moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 

Despite moving away from one of the footballing capitals of the world, Odunze was able to continue impressing scouts in Europe.  When he was just fourteen years old, Chituru was given a chance to train with Cardiff city’s first team during a trial.  Though that trail would of course have a huge positive impact on his career, it was with local clubs Calgary Blizzards, Foothills FC, Calgary Villians, where he impressed enough to get that trial, and eventually to join, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Youth setup.  Once there it took only 19 appearances with the Vancouver side, and some youth appearances for the United States, to earn a trip back across the Atlantic and a trial with Leicester City. 

via Vancouver Whitcaps FC YouTube

Odunze has managed to stick with the club and is playing in their youth teams while getting opportunities to train with the first team.  An interesting journey to be certain but what still remains unclear is maybe the most intriguing part of the story.  There is no doubt in my mind that one day will see Odunze’s presence in goal during a World Cup Finals, but for who? He is eligible to play for the United States, Canada, Nigeria, and England.  Although he has made appearances for a few USA youth team sides it remains up in the air who he will play his men’s international football for, keep an eye out for this guy, he will be One To Watch whoever he plays for in 2026.