Could a Catalan Team Win A World Cup?

Could a Catalan Team Win A World Cup?

The recent Catalan referendum has seen incredible amounts of political intrigue for months now, which has only been intensified after the result, with the vast majority of those who voted wanting to secede from Spain and form their own independent nation. It’s an incredibly complex situation spanning politics, economics and the whole of society.

But on this blog, we’re going to examine an aspect that doesn’t really matter at all. Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has said that he would retire from the Spanish team if his teammates and fans did not want him there, which brings up a mildly interesting point on the possibility of him playing for Catalonia, along with various other Spanish players and internationals. But how good would a Catalonia side really be? Would they be capable of winning an international tournament? Let’s examine the potential players and find out!

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Failure to Qualify a Blow To US Soccer

Failure to Qualify a Blow To US Soccer

With a 2-1 loss to group whipping boys Trinidad & Tobago, the USA are officially not going to next year’s World Cup in Russia. Finishing a disastrous fifth in their group, below Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and Honduras, it’s the first time they’ve failed to qualify since 1986, ending a pretty good run for a nation in which football is arguably the fourth biggest sport. But this defeat spells an extremely low point, especially considering the USA only needed to avoid defeat to at least seal a playoff place. Instead, there will be no United States presence next summer, with Honduras instead going on to a playoff against Australia.

This is an enormous blow to football’s reputation in the USA. While it may not be the most supported sport in the States, football is still huge. It’s one of the most popular sports at youth level, and the 2014 World Cup saw a massive surge in support for the ‘USMNT’ (US Men’s National Team) when a gutsy performance against Belgium in the round of 16 saw them narrowly knocked out after extra time. Nevertheless, the likes of Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey became national heroes, and there was perhaps for the first time a genuine possibility that soccer was on for a meteoric rise. Slight disappointment followed at the 2015 Gold Cup, where the USA finished fourth, their worst performance since 2000. However more success was found at the Copa America in 2016, also finishing fourth, but this was instead seen as a good performance, in fact their joint-best ever at the tournament. The fans also had a new favourite to rally around in Borussia Dortmund’s wonderkid Christian Pulisic, who currently has nine goals in his twenty appearances for his country at just nineteen years old and could be a real star in the making. MLS too has seen an improvement, no longer a retirement home for the stars, instead capable of attracting players of real quality in their prime, like Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco and Los Angeles’ Giovanni Dos Santos.

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The USA’s success at the 2014 World Cup feels like a long time ago now

Yet this qualifying campaign has been nothing short of a disaster for the USMNT. Jurgen Klinsmann was sacked in November, with the team bottom of their World Cup group. Fans saw it as an opportunity to get a new style to the team, someone more exciting. But the higher-ups disagreed, seeking a stable pair of hands in Bruce Arena, who has coached the side previously. While results improved, playstyle arguably did not, with Pulisic often carrying his side to victory, bearing a lot of responsibility on his young shoulders, while the rest of the players laboured to match his quality.

The failure to qualify could well be hard felt for years to come. The 2014 World Cup was a catalyst for support, a monumental national event for the USA which was hardly expected. That momentum has carried on through to now, but with no major tournament next summer the USMNT may be in crisis once more. There is no doubt that they should be beating Trinidad and Tobago comfortably, especially under circumstances which meant that this match was of vital importance to the USA and their opponents had nothing to play for. Surely major changes are needed to ensure that the upcoming generation of the side is not wasted.

Lara Croft Go

Lara Croft Go

Lara Croft Go is a 2015 game developed by Square Enix Montreal, and not an attempt to cash in on the success of last year’s Pokémon Go as I thought it was to start with. Instead of running around with your phone battling snakes and raiding tombs (ok, somebody make that), it’s a pretty simple app that’s also available on your PC through Steam.

Unlike the Lara Croft games you’re probably more familiar with, Go doesn’t really focus on the story or constant action. Instead, it’s a top-down turn-based puzzle game, where you have to navigate Lara through various bits of tomb, with increasingly difficult challenges as you go. To begin with you’ll just be dodging snakes, but before long you’ll have to avoid mad lizards that chase you through the map, classic rotating spikes, and giant rolling boulders. It all comes together well, with a challenge that is tough but never gets irritating. Less Super Meat Boy and more Portal, but without the storyline. In fact it probably has even less storyline than Super Meat Boy, since the basic premise of “raid the tomb and don’t get killed” pretty much takes you through the entire thing.

However, this is fully understandable considering it was originally developed as an app rather than as a game for your PC. This aspect is most noticeable in the controls, with the swiping of your finger that you would use on your phone, replaced with a click-and-drag system which is a little awkward to get used to, especially as the Steam port doesn’t tell you how to do it. However, once you get used to it, it’s fine and you soon ignore it as you’re thrust into the experience.

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And what an experience it provides! The design of the game is terrific, with the blocky style of the main areas you explore complemented by the mystery of the vague areas in the background. The sound is also pretty great, with the main sounds during levels being the movements of Lara and the obstacles in her path, and the music at the end of levels provides an oddly satisfying sense of achievement. The challenge is also well balanced, with some critics calling it too hard and some calling it too easy, which usually indicates that it’s done pretty well. The enemies are enough of a threat to keep you on your toes and the puzzles range from a little bit easy to ones that you really have to think hard about to solve. There’s also a slightly infuriating collection game that takes place alongside the puzzles, where you have to spot and click on vases which contain jewels or parts of relics, which can be pretty difficult to find. It gives you a good reason to replay the game as it’ll tell you that you’ve missed, inevitably, one piece of the relic.

Overall, Lara Croft Go is an entertaining and charming puzzle game which is absolutely worth its low cost. While it is perhaps a little bit short, the DLC should go some way to remedying this, and it’s enjoyable enough even without it. Pick it up in a sale and you’ll have no regrets.

De Boer Deserved Better Despite Dreadful Beginning

De Boer Deserved Better Despite Dreadful Beginning

After less than three months and only four competitive matches as Crystal Palace manager, Frank De Boer has been removed from his position at the club. Now the shortest Premier League managerial spell of all time, De Boer leaves with the unwanted record of four losses and zero goals in the league during his spell. It appears that the 1-0 loss at Burnley was enough for chairman Steve Parish to sack the Dutchman, after rumours had been swirling that he had one game left to save his Palace career. However, despite the poor performances, there has been significant outcry from both Palace fans and the general footballing community, with some seeing the decision as far too hasty and another casualty of the results-driven modern football. But did the performances justify the club’s decision?

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Jamie Recommends: American Gods

Jamie Recommends: American Gods

This week’s recommendation is the superb genre-bending 2001 novel American Gods from renowned British writer Neil Gaiman. The book has been made into a TV series which is set to air at the end of April this year so now would be the perfect time to find out what all the fuss is about before the show begins.

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Jamie Recommends: Zootopia

Jamie Recommends: Zootopia

Welcome to a new series of posts! Jamie Recommends will be a hopefully-weekly post where, as the title suggests, I’ll be recommending movies, TV shows, music, video games, books, and any other bits of pop culture that take my fancy. These will be shorter reviews than some of my previous posts (cough 1700 words on The Last Five Years cough). Hope you enjoy them!

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