Guide For Parents to Choose the Best Children Educational Toys

Finding a balance between a toy that entertains and one that educates becomes every parent’s challenge. Toys need to be fun above all so that a child feels delighted when they’re playing and stays interested in the toy. Choosing a toy that stimulates a child in a positive way should also be part of the decision. Safety features, functionality and durability ensure a good purchase and one that lasts. There are a few key factors to consider that help make the choice easier.

What to Consider when Choosing a Toy

Child’s Age: It’s better to buy a toy that a child can grow with instead of one that’s babyish. Kids become bored in a hurry with a toy that fails to challenge their curiosity. Toys are usually rated for a particular age group but most children will appreciate a «big kid» toy if it’s safe for them and makes them feel grown up.

Child’s Preferences: Always think about the child first and what might appeal to them. If they seem to enjoy music, look for beginning level instruments. Active kids need sports oriented items and may not appreciate a book unless it’s filled with exciting images. Girls that love frilly things may be thrilled with princess dress-up clothes while her sister who loves to climb trees would enjoy a jump rope instead.

Appearance of the Toy: Younger children need toys that attract attention with bright colors and cheerful images. Make sure the toy is attractive once the packaging is removed. Action figures and characters from favorite movies inspire kids to start a collection of their own.

Durability and Maintenance: Buy toys that endure rough treatment so that children may play freely without concern. Consider whether batteries are required and can be conveniently changed. Toys manufactured by reputable makers may cost a little more but provide longer durability and the ability to be used by other children in the family.

Function of the Toy: Try to find toys that provide useful entertainment and allow the child to think on their own rather than one that just requires pushing buttons. Toys that allow creativity such as drawing, painting, sculpting with clay or gluing models may seem old fashioned but never go out of style. Kids will enjoy spending some quality time making something on their own. Sometimes simple toys such as soccer balls or a set of building blocks provide hours of fun especially if they are updated with trendy logos or new features.

Safety Issues: Toys made from small pieces may harm toddlers or the younger siblings of older children. Check the labels for components and potential harmful materials and don’t introduce anything into the home that can’t be carefully guarded.

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Looking For The Perfect Soccer Shoes?

Get familiar with the different categories first

Soccer is one of the most popular sports out there and players get excited rather than intimidated when they have a match. For every player to give their best during the match, they ought to have the right gear for the game. Apart from choosing the right clothes to suit all the running and sweating that comes with the game, you would also need to make the right choice of soccer shoes. The ones you choose may not add much to your playing skills, but they will indeed determine how possible it is to bring out your best skills. An uncomfortable one will not do you much justice and so is a boot designed for your play style.

Each player has a different playing style and the different positions should dictate what is most ideal. If you are a player who sticks to a specific position, then you should select the ones designed for that position in terms of performance. So who needs what when it comes to the shoes? Given below are some categories of fielders who play in different positions and need different types of shoes.

Goalkeepers – If you are a golly, then you need one with great traction and one that makes it possible for you to move quickly. One that has a strike zone that is well structured also makes the best one so kicking out and back passing is easy for you.

Midfielders – They need ones that offer them control and ability to easily run up and down the soccer pitch at maximum comfort.

Defenders – They face most assault in the pitch and they therefore need to check for ones that offer then the necessary foot protection. It should also help them achieve clean passes.

Knowing your position demands will definitely make it easier to choose the one that serves your needs. You can also make this process a success by making yourself familiar with the categories out there. With this information in mind, you will be able to narrow down your search for the most suitable type.

Control

These are designed with elements focused on control and pass zones. They are handy for players looking for quick control and passes that are solid enough.

Speed

This category of soccer shoes is generally lightweight. They incorporate synthetic uppers and minimal design on the overall so that they remain as lightweight as possible to aid speed.

Power

They are considered to have a brain because of the different technologies used on them to add some oomph in the play especially when hitting the balls. The concentration is usually on the strike zone.

Heritage

These are focused more on durability and comfort hence they have more leather and less technology.

Hybrid

They are a mix of different styles, hence they can offer control and speed at the same time. They may be lightweight too, but still come with a technology around pass zone to make the stand out.

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5 Things to Look For in Good Soccer Trainers – Choosing the Right Soccer Trainer

When looking for soccer lessons for your kid, group or team, make sure you know what kind of soccer trainer you're looking for. Those of you that do not know too much about soccer may fall prey to 'trainers' that do not know much (or do not care much) about making an impact on your kids' game. The following questions will give you an idea of ​​what to look for in soccer coaches / trainers:

1- Does s / he wear cleats?

As trivial as this may seem, it is an important question. Especially when working in individual training or small groups, soccer trainers should be involved in the drills rather than watching from the sidelines.

2- Is s / he licensed?

Having a license is not an absolute requirement to be a good soccer trainer. In fact, a terrible trainer may have a license, but the opposite does not occur that often. Seasoned, serious trainers will more than likely have a license. At the same time, one should not evaluate trainers by the number of licenses they have. At the end, it's not about the rank but the difference they can make in your players' game.

3- Does s / he come to practice with prepared lessons?

Beware of trainers that show up to practice and "wing it". A good soccer trainer will come to practice with a detailed plan of topic (s) of the day and drills of the day. As a parent, you can ask for it at the beginning of practice and see if the trainer did his / her homework.

4- What is his / her attitude like?

Your player (s) will learn more from an engaging, positive trainer rather than a distant one that is just going through the motions. Soccer is a game. The trainer, as well as the players, should be having fun with it. If you can tell the soccer trainer dreads being there, maybe it's time to move on.

5- Referrals, referrals, referrals …

Do ask for referrals before agreeing to anything. Testimonials on a website are OK, but you want to be able to speak with real parents / coaches who have worked somewhat recently with the soccer trainer.

I sure hope this helped! Let me know if you have any questions.

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The Features and Advantages of Indoor Soccer Shoes

If you play soccer indoor with tennis shoes on, you may have a common problem: you may not have control over the playing ball. What is the reason? Actually, the problem is that they are not meant for indoor games. Actually, indoor soccer shoes look like those used for the tennis game. However, the difference is that they come with harder soles giving you more control when you are on the playing field. Let’s know some features and advantages of these indoor soccer shoes.

Features

There are various manufacturers. These products feature a suede supper, kangaroo leather and a flat outside made of gum rubber. Moreover, the heel is connected to the strong upper. Aside from this, the tread pattern features a herringbone pattern or interlocking triangles for traction. The bottom of the metatarsal has a rotating disk.

Identification

The top brands of the product include Adidas, Puma, and Nike, just to name a few. Most of them come in black; however, you can also find some that are hot lime, bright silver, white, cherry and so on.

Aside from this, the weight can be between 9 ounces and 12 ounces. The indoor ones feature a shield pane. This is to give a quilted surface in order to add spin during the game play. The laces are exposed. They are either asymmetrical or centered or they can be hidden in the middle just below the extended tongue.

Function

You should be able to run forward with them on. For these movements, they offer a tread pattern that is different from that of regular running shoes. The fact of the matter is that they are designed in a way that they let you play indoors or on a turf indoor field.

The reason is that they don’t provide as much cushioning. For additional comfort, you can go for gel heels or shoe inserts.

Benefits

Actually, the greatest benefit of indoor soccer shoes is that they give you a lot better control over the ball. As a result, you can do sprints and cuts more easily. The rubber sole won’t leave any mark on the indoor surfaces since it complies with the rules and regulations of indoor soccer facility.

On the other hand, the metal or plastic cleats may cause a significant damage to the turf. Actually, the indoor surfaces are made of pile fibers and rubber granules.

Types

Manufacturers tweak indoor soccer shoes so that they can meet the preferences of the customers. For instance, Nike5 Elastico features a green or bright blue pattern. On the other hand, the Puma PowerCat features a powerful external heel counter. This is an additional layer of quality material that offers support.

So, this was a brief introduction to the features and advantages of indoor soccer shoes. If you have been looking to buy a pair, we recommend that you review the features and benefits that we have listed in this article. Hope this will help.

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Creditable or Calamitous? Reflections of a Derby Fan on a Season That Promised Promotion

As this 2014-15 Championship season races toward its conclusion, it’s hard to determine whether it represents success or failure for Derby County Football Club. Perhaps any individual assessment depends on one’s glass being generally half-full, or half-empty. As a Rams fan exiled in the Middle East, but able to see many of their games live or recorded in full afterwards, I haven’t made up my own mind on the matter just yet. This article is intended as a means toward that end.

Last season ended in play-off heartbreak. Derby were, of the play-off quartet, comfortably the form side going into the end-of-season event, and swept aside sixth-placed Brighton 6-2 over two legs. In the other semi-final, a dangerous Wigan side, who had earlier defeated eventual Premier League champions Manchester City in an astonishing FA Cup result, were edged out 2-1 by QPR, whose own form had been anything but convincing during the second half of the season. Derby controlled the Wembley final, and seemed almost certain to win when Rangers were reduced to ten men for a professional foul early in the second half; however, not for the first play-off final in their history, the Rams were defeated by a late winner, the product of two substandard pieces of defending and a wonderful finish by Bobby Zamora.

Such was Derby’s style and momentum, so impressive their individual performances – midfield starlet Will Hughes and prolific target man Chris Martin the most prominent among them – that the bookmakers installed the Rams as pre-season favourites this time around. Prospects were boosted still further when George Thorne, composed loan signing and Wembley man of the match, was signed permanently during the summer. Within days, however, Thorne – already no stranger to injuries in his short career – was ruled out for most of the season after damaging his knee in a friendly against Zenit St Petersburg. Appearing not to trust a whole season’s work to his natural replacement, the experienced John Eustace, Steve McClaren was delighted when the club’s player recruitment team snapped up Omar Mascarell, a stylish holding midfielder on the periphery of Real Madrid’s squad. It appeared to be a real coup, although all parties recognised that the Spaniard would need time to adapt to the greater speed and physicality of the Championship.

The season began with a 1-0 win over newly promoted Rotherham United, courtesy of a fine late strike from Irish midfielder Jeff Hendrick; a victory earned, in no small part, by the exciting contribution of new full-back Cyrus Christie, acquired from Coventry City to replace the solid, but now departed Liverpool loanee, Andre Wisdom. Christie’s defending was at least adequate (if not as impregnable as his predecessor), but it was the newcomer’s marauding runs that led many fans to feel hopeful that, far from the position being weakened, Derby might attain to greater attacking impetus from defence this season.

Of more concern, with Eustace out of favour, was the decision to play Hughes in the team’s apparently non-negotiable holding midfield role. While the player was undoubtedly good enough to play there, it was clear that neither of the more advanced players – Bryson, who many had expected to begin the season playing his football for a Premier League team, and Hendrick – could do exactly what Hughes was capable of further up the field. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the slight Hughes was not as comfortable with the physical side of the position as either the stocky Thorne or the guileful Eustace, and found himself almost sharing the position with substitute Mascarell from very early in the season. The Spaniard’s passing and energy did much to compensate for the evident weaknesses that many had predicted in his game: opponents gave him little time on the ball, and he quickly found himself on the receiving end of some rather combative challenges.

There were warning signs for Derby in a spirited but disjointed second league match at Sheffield Wednesday, which ended goalless. A first defeat followed in the next match, as stylish Charlton outplayed their more fancied guests, winning 3-2 and leaving many to wonder when the Rams would hit the performance levels of the previous season. They were encouraged by a merciless second-half display against Fulham, as Derby pummelled the plummeting Cottagers 5-1. Welcome to the Championship.

The Rams then embarked on an unbeaten run that spanned twelve games, including wins against expansive Bournemouth (2-0), Blackburn (3-2), Bolton (2-0) and Reading (3-0) (the latter three away from home); and resilient draws against early leaders and local rivals Nottingham Forest (1-1), and Cardiff (2-2) at home, a match in which the Rams had trailed by two goals. Derby’s comeback that day was begun by a debut goal from a new season-long loan signing from Liverpool: the fleet-footed and direct Jordon Ibe, whose contribution, with hindsight, seems as significant in Derby’s fortunes as was his premature return to Anfield in January.

That unbeaten run was curtailed by dogged Wigan, who belied their poor early season form by coming from behind to win 2-1 at the iPro Stadium. Derby then played two games in West London, hitting Fulham for five again (this time in the League Cup) before once again throwing away a lead against Brentford who, it seems, have never looked back since their last-minute win that day, courtesy of a fine goal from Stuart Dallas.

Derby needed to find their form – and find it they did, deservedly seeing off Huddersfield 3-2, before arguably their finest performance of the season in the annihilation of Wolves, 5-0 at the iPro. In the next match, Craig Bryson, who had so far struggled to reproduce his high standards of the two preceding seasons, scored a beauty to edge out Watford on their own turf. Suddenly Derby looked ready to seize their opportunity and run away with the league, just as their East Midlands rivals from Leicester had done the previous year.

It wasn’t to be so straightforward, unfortunately. The Rams went into their away match at Leeds, a team Derby had beaten for fun in recent seasons, seemingly unprepared for the grit and graft that would be needed to return with the points. They were outfought, and defeated, 0-2. But Steve McClaren prided himself on a team that could bounce back from disappointment, and Derby erupted out of the blocks against Brighton, winning the game with three first-half goals. In the opposing eleven that day was loanee Darren Bent, a wily, seasoned striker unable to convince then manager Paul Lambert of his right to a place in the Aston Villa side. Derby fans would be glad to see more of the discarded Bent very soon.

The following week, Derby were conquered at the summit by Middlesbrough, after a dour display in the North East demonstrated the worst they were capable of; Boro were organised and clinical, and undid Derby in their first attack, with former Rams loanee Patrick Bamford celebrating his opener gleefully – much to the annoyance of Derby fans, who had always had to overlook his affinity for their hated rivals, Forest. The Rams showed more fight and no little skill against a tidy and pressurising Norwich City side a week later, but were fairly denied a win when they conceded another late goal. The pattern of the previous season, in which Derby had become famed for their indefatigable spirit and late goalscoring, seemed to be shifting in the other direction.

The Rams began the festive period with a thumping win, 4-0 in the Birmingham snow. That was backed up with a revenge reversal of their 2-0 defeat at Leeds, and an excellent 1-0 win at Ipswich. John Eustace, hardly a fixture in the team, was immense in front of the back four, but his late dismissal and injury – from which he has yet to return despite two operations – would lead the Rams into the East Midlands derby once again relying on the unconvincing Mascarell. Even Forest fans approached the match fearfully. Their side had lost the previous season’s fixture 5-0, and the early season pacesetters now found themselves on a run of eight games without a win. Derby, fortuitously ahead but easily the better team before the break, gave a sickening validation of the phrase «game of two halves», and Forest exulted in a deserved shock win that would prolong the tenure of manager Stuart Pearce for a few more weeks. (This represented a bright side for many Rams fans, who were convinced their rivals’ progress would remain stagnant with the former England legend at the helm). Stunned at forfeiting local bragging rights, Derby fans demanded better, and were rewarded with three straight wins against Blackburn, Cardiff and Bolton.

The January transfer window had brought Bent in without a recall clause for his parent club, as well as Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard, and Hull City’s Tom Ince, who made an instant impact with a fabulous brace in the 4-1 destruction of Bolton. Leeds United captain Stephen Warnock, still not fit after being injured in the Rams’ 2-0 win over his side, came in to «add experience» to the squad, and presumably to spur the unspectacular Craig Forsyth to higher performance levels. An interesting further addition was the Spaniard Raul Albentosa, who Derby’s recruitment team appeared to have been stalking for some time, and who arrived in Derby having bought out his own contract with La Liga team Eibar, for whom he had offered some impressive performances throughout the season. Unfortunately, a niggling injury would delay Albentosa’s league debut for over a month.

Ince found the net again in an encouraging 2-2 midweek draw at top-of-the-table Bournemouth, where the most significant moment of the match would prove the early replacement of nineteen-goal Chris Martin. He would not return for eleven games; suddenly Bent’s loan signing seemed very important indeed, although a slightly different system of attack was needed to accommodate the latter’s style. The Rams approached the following midweek match at struggling Rotherham knowing that a win would take them back to the summit. Yet, once again, they failed to take their chance, with only a spirited fightback earning them a 3-3 draw, having trailed 1-3. Inspired by the return of George Thorne after seven months on the sidelines, Derby then won back-to-back home games against Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton, and found themselves on top of the league for the third time this season. Despite having repeatedly failed to press home the advantages they had gained, the bookies still made McClaren’s dangerous Derby side favourites for the title. They were to be proved emphatically wrong.

What followed resembles the stuff of nightmares for Derby fans. It began with a lacklustre defeat at Fulham, in which now pivotal loan signing Bent limped off, forcing the industrious and vastly improved Johnny Russell to assume a central striking role that he would retain for the next four games, without once finding the net. In addition, Thorne was again out of action, replaced in West London by the still-misfiring Mascarell. Typically, after the Fulham defeat, McClaren demanded a response. He got one, but not a result; the Rams battered Brighton but somehow contrived to lose the match 0-2. The focus intensified on Derby’s defence, arguably culpable for both goals. A performance and a win were needed when Birmingham came to the iPro, and the Rams picked them off easily, strolling toward a 2-0 victory as the match entered the third of four added second-half minutes. A few hearts were aflutter when the unspectacular Blues won, and converted, a penalty; Rams fans redoubled their whistling for full-time, the match length having already surpassed the additional time indicated. Nevertheless, a team with pretensions of winning promotion would surely be able to see the game out. Birmingham equalised in the seventh minute of injury time. The day ended with four teams on 66 points, separated by goal difference. Derby were still «in the mix», but nobody was quite sure how they were going to stay there on current form. And the games were only getting harder.

Derby went to resurgent Norwich the following Saturday with assistant Paul Simpson vowing that it was time to «win ugly» if necessary. Realistically, most Derby fans would have taken a draw, and when debutant Jamie Hanson’s corner was spilled into his own net by England goalkeeper John Ruddy, that’s exactly what they got. Hanson retained his place for the crucial midweek home match against Middlesbrough. Derby were toothless, loanee Lingard missing the best chance to fall to a white shirt. Once again, Boro were resolute; once again, it was Patrick Bamford, object of fear and loathing in Derby, who settled the match with an excellent finish. Derby were rocking.

The final game before the latest international break would take them to Wolves, hapless victims of the Rams’ finest moment of the season to date. McClaren and Simpson warned that the returns of Thorne and Martin may not be risked before the international break, but Bent was back to take his place at the centre of a truly astonishing refereeing controversy. Through on goal, the returning striker was fouled by Wolves captain and last man Danny Batth. Ince swept the ball into the net. The referee, who had already whistled for the foul, disallowed the goal and awarded a free-kick just outside the area. Rams fans watched in horror as the official, smiling sickeningly, refused to find any card in his pocket for the offender, much less the red one he clearly deserved. In some sort of grotesque tribute to John Ruddy, the normally reliable Lee Grant punched the ball into his own net to help Wolves wrap up a 2-0 win and move to within two points of Derby, who were slipping further from automatic promotion with every match. Fans picked the team apart, looking for an XI who could win the next match at home to high-flying Watford, thereby dragging the Rams’ promotion wagon back on track. Full-backs came under fire most of all, and here it was difficult to make a case for the defence. Left-back Forsyth, far superior defensively than in attack (perhaps surprisingly for a former midfielder), had compounded the injustice at Wolves by facilitating their first goal, inexplicably passing the ball to an opponent in a dangerous position. It was by no means the first time the Scotsman’s distribution had been found wanting during the season.

On the other side, Cyrus Christie was a nerve-shredded shadow of his early-season self. His first-half gift to Watford’s Vydra was cancelled out on the stroke of half-time by a Bent penalty, as the Rams’ opponents were reduced to ten men. Christie would not re-emerge after the break. Sadly, nor would George Thorne, attempting his second comeback of the season but lasting little more than twenty minutes. Once again, Derby contrived to throw away a winning position; Watford celebrated their 2-2 draw with delight, strengthening their own push for automatic promotion, while Derby retained their play-off place only on goal difference. The solitary silver lining seemed now to be the brief substitute appearance of Chris Martin, to whose absence so many had attributed the Rams’ slump.

On Easter Monday, with over four thousand Rams fans roaring them on, Derby finally picked up their first win in eight matches, as the talismanic Martin came off the bench to sweep them ahead at lowly Wigan. A typically opportunistic strike from Bent wrapped up the victory, leaving the Rams fascinatingly poised before the following weekend’s home match with Brentford. On paper, it seems the most difficult of the Rams’ remaining five fixtures, of which three are to be played at the iPro. However, with second-placed Norwich already five points ahead, and Watford and Middlesbrough much better placed to take advantage of any slip by the Canaries or leaders Bournemouth, only the most optimistic of Derby fans could reasonably expect automatic promotion at this stage. On the contrary, with Wolves in the best form of the current play-off place occupants, and Brentford able to overhaul the Rams with a win in their head-to-head, Derby still face a fierce battle to ensure their own place in the end-of-season competition that has already caused them so much heartache.

How has it come to this? And does the season represent a success or a failure for the Rams?

On reflection, it is important to consider the weight of expectation that has hung over the team all season. It is true that Derby were formidable during the latter part of the 2013-14 season, playing some scintillating football, and with an embarrassment of (injury-free) riches among their playing personnel. Yet arguably only Hughes and Russell have improved on their performances of the previous season; the immaculate Thorne has managed only three starts; Martin’s contribution has been blunted by the disastrous timing and duration of his injury; and the likes of Hendrick and Bryson have failed by some distance to match their performance levels of the previous season. Some loan signings have contributed much – particularly Ibe – while others have offered mixed fortunes: the injury-hit but prolific Bent; the frequently fantastic but oft-frustrating Ince, whose ball retention has been disappointing but who has scored some wonderful goals; and Mascarell, possessing all the vision and passing prowess one would expect of a Madrid graduate, but without ever providing a satisfactory solution for the role he was brought in to play.

Most attention has centred around the defence. In stark contrast to last season, during which the names of Andre Wisdom, Richard Keogh, Jake Buxton and Craig Forsyth seldom left the team sheet, McClaren has constantly tinkered with his defensive personnel this time around. Some fans have shown little patience with captain Keogh – possibly something of a hangover from his Wembley shocker – but in reality, the full-backs have proved a weaker link for most of the season. Christie, especially, seems particularly low on confidence, while the more self-assured Forsyth perhaps remains optimistic that his own form is solid enough and will improve still further; however, those who have endured his substandard performances throughout the season will likely have been glad of Warnock’s competent league debut at left-back in the victory at Wigan.

Another bone of contention relates to formation. While Derby have been more than a little unfortunate to experience long-term injuries to three holding midfield players (Thorne, Eustace and Mascarell), the lack of alternative playing styles and formations have also been mooted by fans as sources of frustration and failure to overturn teams that have set up defensively against the Rams and gained their rewards by doing so. The recent switch, through necessity, to a 4-2-3-1 has only added weight to this argument, not least because the defensive contribution of Mascarell has been questionable all season, and has almost certainly exacerbated any problems among the defence personnel. The use of Chris Martin behind Darren Bent has been used only fleetingly (albeit injuries have undoubtedly reduced the scope for this), while there is also a strong case for positioning the incisive passing of Hughes behind the front man, a move that has not been tried at all. This is not to suggest that the fans know better than McClaren; yet fans are certainly in a position to recognise what has not been working for long periods of the season. Managers, like players, can be «lucky» – not just in what they and their teams do, but in how they are perceived. Most things McClaren touched last season turned to gold. Such has been the man’s redemption since his ignominious England denouement, perhaps supporters had become over-confident in his ability. His true managerial performance, perhaps, lies somewhere between those two extremes of appraisal.

The mantra from the club, and the local press, remains that a Derby side returning to their best form are capable of ensnaring a promotion place this season. Some will fear that the likes of Will Hughes will be heading to the Premier League very soon, irrespective of how the Rams fare from now until the end of May.

It is never an easy ride being a Derby fan; one cannot sit back and get comfortable.

Derby have never been about coasting, but the rollercoaster.

1999 FIFA World Youth Championship – Flying Eagles Wobble and Fumble At Home

In 1999, Nigeria won the right to host the 12th edition of the FIFA World Youth Championship. That was the year; the Flying Eagles were tagged «wobbling and fumbling». They started their World Cup campaign on home soil on a rather embarrassing note, with a 1-1 draw against lowly rated Costa Rica with Julius Aghahowa scoring the opener in the 20th minutes of play, before picking up their act against Germany, whom they defeated 2-0. The goals were scored by Ganiyu Shittu and Hashimu Garba in the 69th and 81st Minutes respectively.

Their last group match was against Paraguay, and they fumbled before a capacity crowd that had come to cheer them to victory. The game against Paraguay ended in favor of Paraguay 2-1 with Ganiyu Shittu scoring the consolation goal in the 38th Minutes of play. The Flying Eagles however managed to qualify for the round of 16 by the skin of their teeth.

In the round of 16, the Flying Eagles labored to secure a 1-1 draw against Ireland with the equalizing goal coming from diminutive striker Pius Ikedia in the 70th Minute. The game then went into penalty shoot out, and millions of Nigerians had their heart in their mouth throughout the duration of the kicks. It eventually went in the way of the Flying Eagles who scrapped through 5-3. Pius Ikedia, Gbenga Okunowo, John Aranka, Eddy Dombraye and Ganiyu Shittu all converted their spot kicks. Thomas Heary of the Republic of Ireland missed his spot kick to set a Quarter final pairing between Nigeria and Mali.

The Flying Eagles had their work cut out, as found the Malians too hot to handle in the quarterfinal clash played at the Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium in Enugu eastern Nigeria. The Malians were so ruthless in the quarterfinal clash, that they inflicted a 3-1 defeat on the hapless Eagles who could not fly when it mattered most. The chief tormentor of the Flying Eagles was Malian enterprising midfielder Seydou Keita who later emerges as the Adidas Golden ball award winner.

The defeat of the hapless Flying Eagles caused a lot of uproar in the sporting circle, with the eventual sack of Dutch Coach Thijs Libregts from the technical crew of the Nigeria U-20 National team. The team had a lot of potentials, but they could not fully utilize their full potential. Some notable players from that team include: Joseph Yobo, Rabiu Afolabi, Julius Aghahowa, Haruna Babangida and Late goalkeeper Sam Okoye.

Chelsea Set to Dominate European Football

There is a new heavyweight force in European football, they are being bankrolled apparently by the Russian economy, they mean business, and their name is Chelsea FC Chelsea Football Club has always been a decent club in the second strata of English clubs. In London alone Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have invariably been ahead of the Chelsea Blues, even West Ham have often put Chelsea in the shade. But no longer, for in the season 2004-2005, Chelsea won the English Premier League title for the first time in fifty years, their only previous winning season.

But they have not stopped there, in the new season 2005-2006 they are already well clear in the title race leaving all their rivals gasping, and now they have set their sights on the pinnacle of all the club trophys, the European Champions League . Chelsea have never won the Champions League, indeed no London club ever has. And it is clear that their charismatic manager Jose Mourinho is intent on winning the Champions League again, he did so with his previous club Porto, of Portugal.

So what of the traditional English giants? Manchester United, often described as the world's richest football club, have fallen into the hands of the Glazer family of Tampa Bay fame, but they reportedly needed to borrow half a billion pounds to buy United, a debt the club now shoulders. Spending on new players has so far been thin on the ground and United's brusque Glaswegian manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has admitted that United, for so long England's most successful club, can not compete with Chelsea when it comes to buying players. The hordes of United fans are not amused, the natives are growing restless.

Arsenal, London's biggest and most successful club, lost their skipper and driving force Patrick Vieira last summer, he moved to Juventus in Italy for £ 12 million pounds and with their star striker Thierry Henry suffering fitness problems, they picked up some uncharacteristic defeats at unfashionable clubs like West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough. This is their last season at their famous old Highbury Stadium before they move to their new purpose built Emirates stadium almost next door. The increased capacity of 60,000 will unduly give their French manager Arsene Wenger more money to spend next year, but of course they have to pay for that new ground too. Far from challenging Chelsea again, it would seem that Arsenal are more likely to fall further behind.

That leaves Liverpool and Newcastle. News comes through just today that the American Kraft Company and family are interested in investing in Liverpool FC, possibly even buying the club outright just like Manchester United fifty miles up the road, but that is some way down the line. And they too are seeking to build a brand new stadium on Stanley Park and of course that all costs big money. Despite last year's freakish win in the Champions League, Liverpool's league form this season has again been patchy, and that included a 4-1 walloping by Chelsea on their own Anfield pitch. The idea that Liverpool might challenge Chelsea for the title remains a far-fetched one. Newcastle, England's second best supported club are gradually improving, and they have signed England's center forward Michael Owen, but they still remain unconvincing at the top level. They have not won the title since Noah was seen building his ark, or so it sees, and they are not going to do so this season either.

So although it is very popular for foreign investors to snap up the leading English (and Scottish) football clubs, it appears that only Roman Abramovich at Chelsea has the muscle to buy the best players around. He is the only one to put unlimited funds on the table. Top class players now command a transfer fee of £ 40 million each and whereas Manchester United may afford one of them a season, Chelsea's purse looks bottomless. They have already spent £ 220 + million and are still in the market to buy again when the transfer window re-opens in January.

They have already achieved success by winning at home, now the European Champion's League is the Holy Grail for them, a trophy they are now the outright favorites to win with the odds layers. And astonishingly they have achieved their success to date with an array of strikers who have not really cut the mustard. Mutu the Romanian, was promptly sacked for drug taking, Crespo the Argentinian, was sent out to Milan on loan last season, and though he is back now he is hardly setting the world afire, or even playing that often, Gudjohnson an Icelander, plays more often than not, the muscular Drogba from the Ivory Coast, seems to have finally claimed the number nine shirt as his own, yet many blues followers still remain unconvinced about him, so it would seem that Chelsea may still be looking for another proven goal scorer come January, especially after a recent rare defeat at Manchester United.

It would take a brave man to back against Chelsea in any competition at the moment. But if you'd like to, you can still have a free $ 30 dollar bet at Betfair.com by entering the code 6CHE3VPWJ when prompted. But one thing is for sure; no one would be surprised if this time next year the Premier League trophy AND the Champions League trophy were both on display in the Chelsea boardroom. It seems that only the Italian giants Milan and Juventus, and the Spanish top two, Real Madrid, and most especially Barcelona with their Brazilian superstar, are obviously soon to be the world player of the year, Ronaldinho, might stop the London blues. It really does seem as if we have entered a new era in European and world football, or if you prefer the ridiculous name that no one ever uses, Soccer. Chelsea fans have never had it so good while everyone else is left gasping in their wake, for it is a fact that Chelsea Football Club has raised the bar for everyone else to follow. Time will tell if anyone can.

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