Johan Elmander Signs for Norwich City on Season-Long Loan from Galatasaray

Johan Elmander This summer, a number of high-quality players have joined what could be considered some of the Premier League’s smaller teams, such as Emmanuel Giaccherini, who joined Sunderland, and Wilfried Bony, who joined Swansea City. However, a high proportion of these players have joined Norwich City, and even after the beginning of their season, the Canaries are continuing to bring new players in, their latest being a season-long loan deal for Swedish striker Johan Elmander.

There’s no argument that says Chris Hughton’s men haven’t conducted good transfer business this summer, bringing in some very high quality players. Whilst names such as Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper have proved themselves already in their careers, the Yellows have also brought in some very good young players as well, like Leroy Fer and Nathan Redmond, who will have a very big effect at Carrow Road in the years to come. There have also been no complaints about the signings of Martin Olsson and Javier Garrido from Blackburn Rovers and Lazio respectively, and all together, these transfers have left a very happy Norwich support quietly confident about the upcoming season.

Now, the Norfolk side have added even more experience to their squad with the addition of Johan Elmander. Even after the purchase of Hooper last month, Norwich continued to be linked with moves for strikers. Juventus’ Fabio Quagliarella was a possibility, although that appeared to be just paper talk after they started their league season against Everton and finished with a 2-2 draw. After a point in their first game, Chris Hughton’s side have seen fit to bring in a new striker, and have brought in the 32-year-old Swede from Turkish side Galatasaray.

The player, who has been capped over 70 times for his country in the last 11 years, certainly has a lot of previous experience in the Premier League, having spent three years with Bolton Wanderers before joining their Turkish giants two years ago. This could help Norwich out a lot during the season, especially if they are miraculously embroiled in a relegation battle, as their newest signing certainly had experience of this with the Trotters.

Norwich City will certainly know this signing comes from a high-quality squad in Istanbul. Even upfront, Cimbom have talents such as former Chelsea man Didier Drogba in addition to Burak Yilmaz, who really caught the eye for the Turkish side last season. Going down the team, they also have players such as former Real Madrid and Internazionale midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who has been a target for many of Europe’s top clubs in recent years. This squad, packed full of talent, reached the latter stages of the Champions League last season, and has led to some of the big players linked with a move away from the Türk Telekom Arena, although they appear to have successfully kept their key men together.

Johan ElmanderHowever, with lots of talent particularly up front at Galatasary, this has limited Elmander’s game-time quite seriously, causing him to seek a temporary move back to the Premier League. This seems a reasonable request, and normally Norwich City would be the right choice, although perhaps not this season, thanks to new arrivals at Carrow Road like Ricky van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon and Gary Hooper from Celtic.

Ricky van Wolfswinkel has certainly had a coveted signature so far in his playing career, despite being just 24 years of age. The Dutch international has impressed in Holland’s Eredivisie and Portugal’s Liga ZON Sagres, and as such has earned a move to England after an impressive two seasons with Sporting Lisbon. With the talent he holds, the former Twente player will be wanting to play after joining from a poor Sporting side last season.

Gary Hooper is a very shrewd signing for the Canaries. He only cost around £5m, which is a very cheap price for the effect he could have in a yellow shirt. The 25 year-old has been devastating in the Scottish Premier League with Celtic in the last three years, and will now be looking to prove himself in England’s top flight as well. He has played in England before, but only in the lower leagues, and will be keen to face up to the challenge and try and win selection for Roy Hodgson’s England squad.

However, the problem with these two players is that they will limit the playing time that Elmander could get at Carrow Road, as both Hooper and Van Wolfswinkel will be fighting for the first-choice spot, and simply I just think they are better than the Swede. Elmander could kick himself by the end of the season, after leaving Turkey’s Premier Club in search of more football.

This signing could still prove to be a very good one for the Canaries. Not only has the 32-year-old got prior experience in this league, which could aid his new club during their season, but he could also come in and have a defining effect if one of the big names is either injured or unable to deliver. Norwich City fans have a right to be excited about the new season, and their newest acquisition should be relishing the challenge of trying to win them over.

Written by Ben Warner

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Chile U20 2-1 Egypt U20: Chilean Youngsters Defeat Junior Pharoahs in Group E Opener

Chile U20 2-1 Egypt U20While the pre-match focus would have been on Chile’s Bryan Rabello, Egypt’s Mamoud Kahraba was the one who caught everyone’s eye in this U20 World Cup Group E match-up. Persistently dangerous in behind, he thrived off the midfield industriousness of Ahmed Hassan Koka and Trezeguet. Egypt’s goal after 9 minutes was the result of some excellent connection play between Koka and Kahraba, as the former set in the latter to give Egypt the lead after nine minutes.

Chile never particularly got into full flow; luck was on their side when they found the equalizer through Nicolas Castillo after 25 minutes. A fortunate deflection off Rabia Ramy had the South American’s level. Chile’s key players never really had a say in the game; Angelo Henriquez remained quiet throughout and was substituted after 58 minutes, while Bryan Rabello could never get a foothold in the game.

There wasn’t a shortage of clear cut chances throughout the game; both sides had left their “shooting boots” at their teams’ hotels. Mamoud Kahraba was particularly wasteful. In the first half. he was presented two golden opportunities, which he squandered much to the annoyance of his head coach, Rabie Yasin. Like Egypt, Chile were wasteful. Angelo Henriquez’s mere contribution was narrowly missed one on one midway through the second half.

Chile took the victory with 13 minutes to spare. Christian Bravo shimmied and unleashed a fine strike past Mossad Awada to fulfill the name “super sub” and get Chile’s Under 20 World Cup off to an excellent start. Throughout the second half, Bravo had added some pace to the game, and his appearance was made worthy when he scored the winner.

Cristian Cuevas, who is set to join Chelsea, left in shame after being sent off after a disgraceful tackle on Saleh Gomaa with ten minutes to spare. The game didn’t provide any profound encouragement towards the youngster, and Chelsea fans will have to wait to see why their new signing is so highly rated in Chile.

Chile U20 2-1 Egypt U20Although defeat is disappointing for Egypt, the brightness shown in the first half shows that they have the potential to overcome both England and Iraq. For much of the game, they were without their key player, Saleh Gomaa, who is dubbed the “Egyptian Iniesta.” Despite not impressing when he came on, there is still a lot that Gomaa can offer in the latter games.

Chile were somewhat let off the hook with a largely unimpressive performance; Christian Bravo’s goal was the only action worthy of note from the Chilean performance. Chile do have a lot more to offer in this tournament, and like many great tournament teams, they could grow into it.

Egypt coach, Rabie Yassin, claimed Chile’s individual skill helped them overcome Egypt over the 90 minutes:

“We were better in terms of collective play, but the individual skills of Chile players made the difference.”

Indeed the winning goal from Chile’s Christian Bravo just showed how the individual skill of Chile had helped them overcome Egypt.

Chile boss Mario Salas believed overcoming the Africans in the opener was not an easy task:

“Opening matches are usually difficult and winning today will motivate us, especially that overcoming the African champions was not easy.”

In their next game, Chile face England, who are looking to revive their campaign after a 2-2 draw with Iraq. Meanwhile Egypt face Iraq, who are buoyed after snatching an equalizer against England at the death.

Written by Jimmy Cartwright

Who Will be Crowned Champions at the U20 World Cup in Turkey?

Spain U20With South American heavyweights Brazil and Argentina missing after shocking performances in the South American Youth Championship, can a European side claim the Under-20 title for the first time since 1999?

The side who lifted the last title for Europe when the tournament was hosted in Nigeria was Spain, and they are the most fancied to do so this time coming off a wave of success after winning the UEFA Under-19 Championship last summer. In the U19 Championship, they were a cut above the rest, as seems commonplace with Spain teams in international competition. The stars of that side, Gerard Deulofeu and Jese Rodriguez, have both had a year of great maturation as they both managed fourth and second in the scoring charts in the Spanish Segunda Division.

A combined goals total of 40, it is fair to say they are both clinical. What might stand in the way of Spain is that their group is arguably the hardest of the six, with it including France, USA, & Ghana. Atletico midfielder Oliver Torres is not fazed by the group:

“If you want to win a tournament, you have to take on the best. And I think it’ll be good for us to have the best in our group because if we get through this, we’ll come out the other side even stronger.”

One can hope Spain and France produce a game as memorable as that of UEFA U19 Championship Semi-Final of 2012, a game which ended with the dreaded spot kicks following a 3-3 draw. Tensions could be ordered to ride high in this years installment of Spain vs France, a final group game; a lot could be riding on the result.

France will be the closest challengers in the tournament, harboring potentially the best central midfield partnership in the seasoned pairing of Geoffrey Kondogbia and Paul Pogba. The two could be the linchpins in what seems like a well balanced French side. Besides both Kondogbia and Pogba, Florian Thauvin will have hopes pinned upon the creative spark in the French attack, after a successful season with Bastia on loan from Lille, he was highly regarded by many French football fans as “the next big thing.” Yet to make an appearance for Lille, the U20 World Cup could allow him to pin down a place in the next season’s starting line up.

Columbia U20From South America, the biggest challengers to the Under 20 crown are Colombia. Defending champions of both the South American Youth Championship and the Toulon Tournament, they certainly have the winning mentality. Three members of their squad have ventured out to European football, all playing their trade in Serie A.

Juan Fernando Quientero particularly impressed in a disappointing Pescara side, earning comparisons with Monaco’s James Rodriguez. The other two who play in Italy, Jherson Vergara Amu and Brayan Perea, have both yet to make their Serie A debuts due to the fact they were both signed ahead of the U20 World Cup.

Another side that could be worth a mention is South American Youth Championship runners up Chile. Competing in a group with England, Egpyt, and Iraq, they are arguably the strongest of the four. Manchester United’s Angelo Henriquez, Chelsea’s Cristian Cuevas, and Sevilla’s Bryan Rabello will be the key in Chile’s success. Henriquez, who has managed 14 goals in 10 games for Chile U20, should be the determiner between success and failure.

Spain seem the most equipped to win the competition, but there is a sense that the vigorous organisation that was made to bring success to senior side has brought a wave down their international set up. The huge amount of direction shown by the U21 side in their success in the U21 Championship will probably be followed by the U20 side in their pursuit of the Under 20 title. If again the same formula is carried out, there is no way in which Spain can fail.

Written by Jimmy Cartwright

Benfica 3-1 Fenerbahçe: Portuguese Side Erase Advantage to Reserve Final Spot

SL Benfica vs. Fenerbahce SK

Benfica 3-1 FenerbahçeAykut Kocaman and his men went into this game with the slight advantage they had gained in the first leg of this tie. Knowing they had struggled to score even the only goal that had put them in this position, however, Kocaman knew that it was way to early to start celebrating. Jorge Jesus hoped that the home support and the determination of his players would help deliver his side to the promised land which was, in this case, the Amsterdam Arena.

Contrary to the other semi-final between Chelsea and Basel, this game saw early goals. 9 minutes was all it took for Benfica to level the scores on aggregate! Nicolas Gaitan took advantage of Fenerbhace’s distractedness and finished well past the Turkish captain in goal. A good run by Lima provided the assist for the 25-year-old Argentine winger. Soon after came a chance for the visitors to equalize as they were awarded a penalty for Benfica’s Ezequiel Garay’s handling of the ball inside the area. Dirk Kuyt made no mistakes with this one, and Artur had no chance.

The Turks’ joy was short-lived, however. Just 12 minutes after Dirk Kuyt’s successful penalty, Oscar Cardozo put his side back in front with an excellent strike that was assisted by Enzo Perez. It still wasn’t enough, however, as Fenerbahce were still through on away goals were things to remain as they were at half time.

One goal was, at this point, all that was needed to take the hosts through to the final, and Oscar Cardozo ensured they got it with another beautiful goal in the 66th minute, well-provided by Luisao. The Portuguese side then managed to hang on for the remaining 24 minutes or so (despite attempts by their visitors), showing that they did, indeed, deserve to be in the Amsterdam Final.

Statistics
  • Benfica 3-1 FenerbahçeBenfica had 2 more attempts (11) over Fenerbahce (9)
  • Benfica were 54.54% on target and enjoyed a whole 69% possession, while Fenerbahce were 44.44% on target with the remaining 31% possession
  • Benfica were awarded 24 free-kicks on the night, while Fenerbahce were given only 11
  • 33 fouls were committed between the two teams during this match; Benfica committed 36.4% of those fouls (12), while Fenerbahce got themselves into more trouble having committed the remaining 63.6% (21) of the fouls
  • Benfica were awarded 3 corners compared to Fenerbahce’s 1
  • Artur Moraes made 2 saves as opposed to Volkan Demirel, who made 4
  • 5 substitutions were made during this match; 2 by Benfica and the remaining 3 by Fenerbahce
  • A total of 4 yellow cards (2-a-side) was awarded between the two sides by French referee, Stephane Lannoy
  • No players were sent off during this game

Jorge Jesus and Aykut Kocaman lined up the following squads:

Benfica Starting XI

Artur, Pereira, Garay, Luisao (c), Almeida, Matic, Gaitan, Lima, Perez, Salvio, Cardozo

Subs: Lopes, Melgarejo, Miranda, Aimar, Martins, Urreta, and Rodrigo

Fenerbahce Starting XI

Demirel (c), Gonul, Yobo, Korkmaz, Ziegler, Erkin, Sahin, Kuyt, Cristian, Ucan, Sow

Subs: Gunok, Irtegun, Kaldirim, Stoch, Topuz, Senturk, and Simsek

Final Score: SL Benfica* 3-1 Fenerbahce SK (Agg: 3-2)

Gaitan 9′, Oscar Cardozo 35′, 66′ | Kuyt 23′ (pen)

Goals and Assists
  • Nicolas Gaitan’s goal was a left-footed shot in the 9th minute of the first half, assisted by a Lima Dos Santos pass; this goal was Nicolas’ first in the tournament
  • Dirk Kuyt’s goal was a penalty, scored in the 23rd minute as a result of a handball by Benfica’s Ezequiel Garay in the penalty area; the resulting goal was Dirk’s fourth in the tournament
  • Oscar Cardozo’s first goal was a left-footed shot in the 35th minute, assisted by an Enzo Perez free-kick; this goal was Oscar’s fifth in the tournament
  • The second goal scored by Oscar Cardozo’s (which was, by the way, Benfica’s 600th goal in Europe) was yet again a left-footed shot in the 66th minute and assisted by a Luisao Da Silva pass. This brilliant goal to put his side into the Europa League final was Oscar’s sixth in the tournament
Europa League Final

Having eliminated Fenerbahce SK, SL Benfica are through to the final of the competition and will face Chelsea of England, who had managed to secure their place in the final against Basel of Switzerland just minutes earlier.

Written by Ange Marline

Fenerbahçe 1-0 Benfica: Turkish Side Take the Lead on Aggregate After Home Win

Fenerbahce SK vs. SL Benfica

Fenerbahçe SK 1-0 SL BenficaTo get to the semi-finals of this season’s Europa League, SK Fenerbahce had managed to eliminate Lazio, Viktoria Plzen, and BATE Borisov before themselves. In the same manner, Benfica had managed to eliminate Newcastle United, Girdondins de Bordeaux, and Bayer Leverkusen in previous Europa League match-ups. Fenerbahce had been in the competition longer than Benfica, however, and so they had played a few more teams than their opponents on the night. The Turkish side had emerged top in Group C and were, therefore, no underdogs to the Portuguese giants, who were thought to be the stronger team by the majority. Benfica hadn’t lost a single match in their Europa League campaign before this match. Despite having been goalless for a whole 72 minutes, this one turned out to be quite a match!

The game would have started so well for the Portuguese visitors had it not been for a smart save by Volkan Demirel on the 5th minute. Salvio had a decent chance, but it wasn’t meant to be. Aimar then had another chance to put his side ahead just 8 minutes from Salvio’s attempt, but just missed the target. Fenerbahce were able to dominate from then on, coming close more than once and even hitting the woodwork once. Fenerbahce were awarded a good chance to take a well-deserved lead on the brink of half-time when they were awarded a penalty from a foul by John on Gokhan Gonul inside the area. Cristian took the penalty but, once again, just hit the woodwork despite defeating Artur. The home players were frustrated for having missed a chance like this as the half-time whistle was blown. Benfica were, more than anything, relieved that they have survived the threat of the Turks as they went into their dressing room at half-time.

At half-time, Fenerbahce looked more like the team to win, as Benfica had been clearly outplayed. Fenerbahce started on a high, with their fans cheering even louder as the game got more intense. A good attempt in the early minutes of the second half inspired the Turkish side even more as they looked to break the deadlock. Unfortunately, however, Dirk Kuyt’s shot hit the woodwork once again! How very frustrating for the Turks! Benfica were gifted a good chance just 9 minutes into the second 45 as well but, just as their opponents had done thrice already, they hit the woodwork. Benfica were just unlucky, as a goal would have certainly changed their game.

The woodwork had been Fenerbahce’s biggest enemy on the night but, as it turned out to be, the woodwork was instrumental in what would be the only goal of the game. After a goalless 71 minutes on the pitch, Egemen Korkmaz finally managed to break the deadlock with a header just off the post and into the net from a Cristian corner, a well-deserved goal for the home side.

The last 20 or so minutes were intense, but Fenerbahce managed to prevent their visitors from getting an equalizer, and it ended 1-0 to the home side after what had been a very, very frustratingly long search for the goal that would separate the sides ahead of their second-leg clash.

Statistics
  • Fenerbahçe SK 1-0 SL BenficaFenerbahce had 2 more attempts (9) over Benfica (5)
  • Fenerbahce were 66.66% on target and enjoyed a whole 62% of the possession, while Benfica were 40% on target and had the remaining 38% possession
  • Fenerbahce were awarded 19 free-kicks on the night, while Benfica got 16
  • 25 fouls were committed between the two teams on the night; Fenerbahce committed 32% of those fouls (8 fouls), while Benfica committed the remaining 68% (17 fouls).
  • Fenerbahce got 8 corners, while Benfica only received 4
  • Volkan Demirel made 2 saves compared to Artur’s 4
  • Fenerbahce hit the woodwork 3 times, while Benfica did so once
  • 6 substitutions (3-a-side) were made during this match; Aycut Kocaman and Jorge Jesus replaced two midfielders and one striker each.
  • 7 yellow cards (3 to Fenerbahce and 4 to Benfica) were issued by referee on the night, Milorad Mazic
  • No players were sent off during this game

Aycut Kocaman and Jorge Jesus lined up the following squads:

Fenerbahce Starting XI

Demirel, Korkmaz, Yobo, Ziegler, Gonul, Topal, Meireles, Cristian, Sow, Kuyt, Webo

Subs: Gunok, Irtegun, Sahin, Krasic, Topuz, Ucan, and Senturk

Benfica Starting XI

Artur, Pereira, Garay, Jardel, Melgarejo, Matic, Gomes, Aimar, John, Salvio, Cardozo

Subs: Lopes, Roderick, Martins, Gaitan, Urreta, Lima, and Rodrigo

Final Score: Fenerbahce SK 1-0 SL Benfica

Korkmaz 72′

Goals and Assists
  • Egemen Korkmaz’s goal was a header on the 71st minute, assisted by a Cristian corner via a little deflection and off the woodwork; this goal was Egemen’s 2nd in the competition

Written by Ange Marline