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Champions League 2011/2012: Group Stage Preview

by Al 12. September 2011 11:12

The UEFA Champions League group stage gets underway this week. Read on for Icons preview of the four English team's groups, as well as Barcelona and Real Madrid's. Will Barca reclaim their title? We can't wait to find out!

Barcelona – Group H – AC Milan, BATE Borisov, Viktoria Plzen

Holders Barcelona kick off their Champions League defence against reigning Serie A champions AC Milan in the standout fixture of the group stages. No side has achieved back to back Champions League wins since Milan in 1990, but this year Barcelona are huge favourites to replicate that feat.

Seven-times Champions League winners Milan have outstanding European pedigree, and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic making a return to his old club, the battle for top spot in Group H promises to be an interesting one.

Two minnows make up the rest of the group. Serbia striker Mateja Kezman, formerly of Chelsea, is the biggest name on the books at BATE Borisov, whose home ground holds just 4,500. The Belarusian side reached the group stage in 2008/09, but this is completely unknown territory for Viktoria Plzen. The Czechs saw off Rosenborg and FC Copenhagen in qualifying, however, and could push BATE for 3rd-place Europa League qualification.

 

Manchester United – Group C – Benfica, Basel, Otelul Galati

Sir Alex Ferguson will have been pleased with this draw. With key players David Luiz and Fabio Coentrao recently departed to Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively, Benfica are not as strong as in recent seasons. Paraguayan striker Oscar Cardozo remains a threat for the Portuguese runners-up, but a rampant Manchester United, with 18 goals in their last four games and Wayne Rooney in irrepressible form, will be confident of overpowering them.

United new boys Ashley Young and Phil Jones will be making their Champions League bows, but Sir Alex's new look young team still has enough experience in its ranks to ensure that the transition is easy.

Swiss Champions Basel are the group's pot three representative, and unknown Romanians Otelul Galati make their debut appearance in the competition having won their first Romanian title last season.

 

Real Madrid – Group D – Lyon, Ajax, Dinamo Zagreb

Jose Mourinho was brought to the Bernabeu to overhaul Barcelona both domestically and in Europe. It's a tough ask, but Real Madrid's group draw shouldn't give him too much to worry about.

Although the summer passed without a marquee signing, Real Madrid have the resources to win this group without too much difficulty. Lyon have proved a testing opponent in the past, but depsite being unbeaten in Ligue 1 this season, they may not prove as dangerous as they once were. Eredivisie champions Ajax are capable of playing attractive football and, like Lyon, they will fancy their chances of finishing second in the group. Dinamo Zagreb - the club from which Spurs' Luka Modric and ex-Arsenal man Eduardo da Silva emerged - will be hostile hosts in Croatia, but they would do well to threaten the top two.

 

Chelsea – Group E – Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen, KCR Genk

In Group E Michael Ballack will make a return to Stamford Bridge with Bayer Leverkusen. Chelsea, who have won seven out of nine Champions League openers, will be hoping Fernando Torres can continue to build on his improved form this season, despite being dropped for their game against Sunderland at the weekend.

Unai Emery's Valencia will be their toughest opponent. The Spaniards have started strongly this term, taking six points from their opening two La Liga games. Their biggest threat is former Getafe striker Roberto Soldado, who scored 24 goals in his first season with Valencia. He has notched four in two games this time around, including an opening day hat-trick against Racing Santander. Juan Mata, meanwhile, will be returning to the Mestalla just weeks after departing for West London. Belgian side Genk are the fourth side in the group, meaning Chelsea have avoided any long distance away trips.

 

Manchester City – Group A – Bayern Munich, Villarreal, Napoli

With four wins from four in the Premier League and a debut Champions League campaign in the offing; these are exciting times for Manchester City. What's more, with six goals for his new club already, £38m signing Sergio Aguero has taken no time at all to settle in. As newcomers to the Champions League, however, they were placed in pot three for the draw, meaning a tricky group was always on the cards.

2009/2010 runners-up Bayern Munich have started the season under new manager Jupp Heynckes in unstoppable form, and their 7-0 demolition of Freiburg at the weekend made it four wins in a row for them too. Towering striker Mario Gomez has smashed an incredible seven goals in his last two games.

Villarreal and Napoli are the other teams in Group A, meaning there will be no easy games for City. For Spanish side Villarreal, former Manchester United striker Guiseppe Rossi continues to attract interest from Europe's top clubs with his excellent scoring record. Napoli's main threat, meanwhile, is Uruguay striker Edison Cavani.

 

Arsenal – Group F – Marseille, Olympiakos, Borussia Dortmund

For all the negativity that currently surrounds Arsenal, it should be noted that this is their 14th year in a row in the Champions League group stage. Only Real Madrid and Manchester United boast better records.

Group F provides some tricky away games for Arsenal's young squad, but with new signings Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker adding some experience and know-how, the Gunners will be confident of progressing to the knock-out stages.

Arsenal travel to Bundesliga champions Dortmund for their first game, where 19-year-old German prodigy Mario Goetze pulls the strings in midfield, and Neven Subotic and Mads Hummels keep it tight at the back. Didier Deschamps' Marseille will be another difficult away test. The Velodrome is renowned as one of Europe's most intimidating grounds, but as a connoisseur of French football, Arsene Wenger will be aware of the threat posed by L'OM. Greek champions Olympiakos, despite being drawn in pot three, are the weakest team in Group F.

Icons - always first with the new superstars

by Dan 28. July 2011 07:00
We predicted that Sergio Aguero was going to be one of the biggest names in world football when we did a signing with him way back in April 2010. Icons, as ever, was first, undertaking signings with the best players in the world.

We did Lionel Messi when he was 18 before he'd play 30 times for Barcelona...

...we did Cristiano Ronaldo when he was 20 and had just arrived from Portugal...

..and we did the first signing with Fernando Torres as soon as he arrived in England.

As each of these players has grown into a global superstar they've regularly signed with Icons, partly out of a sense of loyalty to a company that showed faith in them from an early age.

As for Sergio and his arrival in England, probably the best parallel we can draw is with his predecessor at Atletico, Fernando Torres. Before El Nino arrived, he was well-known in Spanish football but not that well-known in world terms. Within a year or so he was biggest Premier League shirt seller in the world. Aguero has the package to do the same: he plays the beautiful game in his own unique way - think Zola, mixed with Dalglish and a hint of Romario - and with his movie-star looks, Japanese nickname and Diego Maradona as a father-in-law, he is going to be a sensation over here.

We have Argentina and Atletico shirts and photos as well as Nike boots which can be framed with a Manchester City background for any fan of the Citizens. Sign up to the icons newsletter too as we're sure to make an announcement of his first UK signing soon.

Icons, signed by the world's best, spotted early by the world's best signed football site.

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Guest Post: Argentina's Lacklustre Copa America: Part Two

by Finbarr 22. July 2011 06:55

 

In the second in a series of guest blogs for Icons, Daniel Colasimone, editor of the excellent Argentina Football World, gets to the root of Argentina's Copa America failure. 

There was little improvement to be noted in Argentina’s second game against Colombia. I had bussed it up to the city of Santa Fe the previous day with my ‘Hand of Pod’ colleague Dan Edwards, not knowing whether we would be allowed into the game or not.

Even accredited journalists are required by tournament organisers to apply for tickets to each game, and we often do not find out whether we’re in or not until the day before – which has caused quite a lot of inconvenience for those of us travelling around for games. Being (relatively) young and (allegedly) reckless, we decided to risk it, and in on every occasion we have ended up with match tickets.    

The Selección once again lacked cohesion against a promising young Colombian team in the atmospheric stadium known as ‘The Elephant’s Graveyard’. Again, Messi probed, the strikers missed chances and Batista switched between his two stock formations. In the end, Argentina were lucky to escape with a 0-0 draw, with Colombia looking more likely to score in the second half.

Notably, the Santa Fe crowd, who had been so supportive to begin with, began to turn on their own team. Messi’s head dropped noticeably as he was well marshalled by the excellent Colombians, especially defensive midfielder Carlos Sanchez.

The roadshow of mediocrity moved on to Cordoba, the blondest city in Argentina due to a high proportion of families with German blood. ‘Che’ Guevara spent most of his childhood there, and perhaps Batista was overwhelmed by a similar revolutionary zeal when he decided to drop Tevez, Lavezzi, Cambiasso and Banega for Agüero, Di Maria, Gago and Higuain and fully embrace the least worst of his two plans, the 4-2-1-3 attacking formation, for the must-win match against Costa Rica.

The renamed and revamped Mario Alberto Kempes stadium proved to be a booming stronghold, with the boisterous locals expressing their support for Argentina, and Messi especially. ‘Messi, we believe in you’ and ‘Messi: They talk a lot, but they know little’ were two of the banners displayed by fans, after the Barcelona man had once again unfairly been allotted much of the blame for Argentina’s shoddy performances so far by certain clueless factions of the local media.

And the little genius repaid the people of Cordoba in kind. He turned in an astounding performance, setting up a dozen gilt-edged goalscoring opportunities for his strikers. If they had not been so wasteful, the game could have finished 8-0. As it was, Argentina won by three clear goals, and qualified for the quarter finals.

Their inability to finish first in Group A meant that instead of staying in Cordoba for the quarter finals, Edwards and I had to roadtrip it back to Santa Fe where Argentina would take on fellow Copa America heavy hitters Uruguay. 

Tomorrow, the final part of Daniel's analysis will offer 5 simple reasons why Argentina failed. You can read Part One here.

Guest Post: Argentina's Lacklustre Copa America: Part One

by Finbarr 22. July 2011 06:30

 

In the first of a series of guest blogs for Icons, Daniel Colasimone, editor of the excellent Argentina Football World, gets to the root of Argentina's Copa America failure. 

Having travelled around to watch Argentina’s four games in this Copa America the recurring theme surrounding their insipid campaign seems to have been not so much the lack of a game plan but the lack of tactical flexibility required to discover an effective game plan.

Coach Sergio Batista, after a honeymoon period lasting several months, was on the receiving end of heavy criticism from the local press leading into the tournament. Some of it was justified.

Batista failed badly on the man-management side of things, especially regarding the Carlos Tevez affair. After insisting for months that Tevez was surplus to requirements, on the eve of the tournament, Batista did a complete about face and named the Manchester City forward in his squad. He even went so far as to select him in his starting line-up for the opening two games.

Hollow press conferences where he spoke without conveying any actual information and a penchant for posting kitschy pictures on Twitter further estranged Batista from the Argentine media. Going into the tournament, Batista's ideas for the national team did not seem too outrageous at all, at least in my mind. He spoke of exploiting Argentina's greatest asset, Lionel Messi, to his full potential.

He spoke of a Barcelona-style formation, designed to allow Messi to feel most comfortable and to take advantage of Argentina’s abundance of adept passing midfielders and skilful forwards. Batista’s ‘Plan B’, should the Barcelona-cloned 4-3-3 fail to function, would be to switch to a 4-2-1-3, with Messi as enganche (playmaker) behind three forwards. Well and good.

The Selección’s first match was against supposed whipping boys Bolivia in the shiny, roofed La Plata stadium. It’s a newly improved stadium, unique in Argentina that it is not rundown and exposed to the elements, but also in that it lacks much of the atmosphere of most grounds here.

Batista made his first tactical mistake before the match started by, as I’ve already mentioned, shoehorning the people’s choice, Carlos Tevez into the starting XI in place of Angel Di Maria, who had started on the left side of attack in recent friendlies. His midfield three was Javier Mascherano, Ever Banega and Esteban Cambiasso; all ‘number fives’ ostensibly – defensive midfielders with passing ability – with Messi in the ‘false 9’ role in the centre of the front three.

Cambiasso was curiously the midfielder usually found furthest forward, however, rather than the player expected to combine most with Messi, Banega. It didn’t work, and Argentina looked just as lacking in team fluidity as during last year’s World Cup.

Messi left defenders for dead but found nobody to link up with. Tevez went on solo runs that were easily halted by well-positioned defenders. There was no overriding thought pattern linking everything together.

At half time Batista switched to Plan B, bringing on Di Maria for Cambiasso, but Bolivia had scored within minutes of the restart. Argentina at least looked more dangerous, and eventually levelled through substitute Kun Agüero who volleyed in superbly. Bolivia, however, held on for the draw.

Perhaps Bolivia had come to this Copa America with a newfound resolve? Perhaps they would be the surprise packets of the tournament? We would find out in later group games that it was in fact a very limited Bolivian outfit, further damning Argentina’s performance in retrospect.

A post-match interview with one of the Argentine players may have taken the edge of the freezing polar winds that could be felt in all corners of the Estadio Único, but the mixed zone turned out to be an unregulated zoo. Short of crowd surfing my way to the front, there was no way of getting a word with Mascherano, Agüero and co. 

Stay tuned next week for Parts Two and Three of Daniel's assessment of Argentina's Copa America shambles...

Which Player Would You Like to See Playing in the Premier League Next Season?

by Finbarr 20. July 2011 10:46

 

We, like you, can't wait for the new season. The transfer window brings with it some modicum of excitement, but there are only so many "Xavi Loves Fabregas" headlines we can digest before we start pining for some footy.

But since it is the speculation season, we've decided to embrace the rumour mill. After all, it pays to know who you want to see Icons secure the signatures of, so we did a bit of our own scouting and found out which players have been linked with the top English clubs. Last week, we posted a poll on our Facebook page to find out who our followers would like to see gracing our shores come August. 

The results were interesting, but hardly surprising. The most in demand player amongst fans this summer is Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder. He's been linked with a big money move to Manchester United as a replacement for this week's Icons Legend of the Week, Paul Scholes.

Sir Alex Ferguson has since tried to distance himself from the reports, but we all know that means nothing. Don't be surprised if the Dutch midfielder is plying his trade at Old Trafford next season.

Here is the top ten:

1. Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan and Holland)

2. Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid and Argentina)

3. Neymar Santos (Santos and Brazil)

4. Juan Mata (Valencia and Spain)

5. Eden Hazard (Lille and Belgium)

6. Radamel Falcao (Porto and Colombia)

7. Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid and Uruguay)

8. Sergio Canales (Real Madrid and Spain)

9. Kaká (Real Madrid and Brazil)

10. Javier Pastore (Palermo and Argentina)

Keep looking out for more polls and fun giveaways on our Facebook and Twitter feeds!

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The Great Icons Summer Sale 2011: Viva España!

by Finbarr 11. July 2011 11:47

 

Not only is it a great time to be a fan of Spanish football, it's also bloody hard not to be. Having spent the best part of fifty years as perennial bottlers, the national side have established themselves as the best in the world, patenting their thrilling, incomparable brand of tiki-taka, to the delight of all and sundry.

The emergence of La Furia Roja has coincided with the dominance of Barcelona, who many commentators have described as the "greatest team ever." So taken with what they've seen emanating from the Iberian Peninsula, the English media have demanded that the FA do everything in their power to emulate what the Spanish have done at a grassroots level, but whether we'll ever see Englishman grace a field with such elegance is questionable. 

We at Icons have championed the Spanish game and the finest purveyors of it for many years. Given the current zeitgeist for Spanish memorabilia, we thought there would be no better way to kick off The Great Icons Summer Sale by slashing prices on some of our favourite pieces from some of our favourite Spanish or Spanish based players.

There can be little doubting the fact that La Liga plays host to the best players in the world. For the past four seasons, the top three players of the FIFA World Player of the Year either ply or have plied their trade in the Spanish top flight. Last year, the top three were all based in La Liga, a statistic reflected in the inaugural FIFA Ballon d'Or results. 

We're delighted to present discounted goods from many of those featured. We've got some beautiful, signed action photos of 2008's World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo (many going at half price) playing for Real Madrid.

From last year's Ballon D'Or runner up, Andres Iniesta, we've got a signed picture of his thrilling last minute winner for Barcelona against Chelsea in the Champions League a few years back (again, 50% off).

From the 2007 World Player of the Year Kaká, we have a fantastic signed and numbered Real Madrid shirt and signed boots. Alongside Kaká, Sergio 'Kun' Aguero has also established himself as one of the best foreign imports to La Liga and we've got a range of his shirts and goodies to give away at a big discount. 

But the Spanish revolution of the past five years isn't just about individual awards. Lest we forget, this is one of the only sides in history to win successive major international tournaments.

To mark their dominance, we've assembled a range of cut-price merchandise from some of the stars of their all-conquering squad, including a Real Madrid shirt signed by Iker Casillas, an amazing signed photo of Cesc Fabregas lifting the World Cup, signed photos of Xabi Alonso and Pepe Reina in their pomp for both Spain and Liverpool and their erstwhile Merseyside teammate Fernando Torres, also in his Liverpool heyday. 

We'll be running the sale for a number of weeks, with a new theme every seven days. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a Spainophile, then, this is your chance to pick up some great stuff at a fraction of the retail price. 

Copa America Review: The First Round of Fixtures

by Finbarr 5. July 2011 11:06

 

Well, we did ask for it. After spending last week previewing the Copa America, eulogising the South American game and salivating over the array of talent that was going on display, it was inevitable that the first round of fixtures would turn up with a touch of the damp squibs. But whilst none of the 'Big 3' showed up, there's still plenty to talk, moan and speculate about, which is what we'll be doing in our round up. Don't forget, we're running a Copa America competition on the blog and also have a whole range of Copa goodies in our online store

Group A

In a tournament that has traditionally been very kind to the hosts, we were expecting Argentina to cruise through a group that looks straightforward on paper. Since their 1-1 draw with minnows Bolivia, though, there have been calls for the head of coach Sergio Batista. Argentina have often been slow starters (Cameroon 1990, anyone?) and fans could do well to remember that Bolivia trounced them 6-1 in the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup and although Batista doesn't curry favour like Diego, they should still bounce back. Icons' own Sergio Aguero looked brilliant after coming off the bench, scoring a fantastic equalising volley. With the first choice triumvirate of Messi, Lavezzi and Tevez coming in for particular criticism back home (Messi unluckily so), he could force his way into the starting line-up. Bolivia, on the other hand, were fantastic. They had a gameplan to stifle the hosts and stuck to it, seeking out Marcelo Martins on the break and eventually getting lucky when Edvaldo Rojas' flick was deflected into his own net by Ever Banega. They should take heart from an encouraging opening performance.

In the other game, Colombia defeated a severely depleted Costa Rica side by a single goal. Again, though, the headlines were all about the poor show put on by the supposed star players. Coming off the back of an extraordinary season with Porto, Rademal Falcao was expected to take the tournament by storm, but looked subdued throughout before being withdrawn in the second half. Indeed, Costa Rica looked the more likely to score until Randall Brenes was sent off on the half hour mark. Adrian Ramos scored soon after to seal the points and provisional top spot in the group for the Colombians, but they'll have to improve if they're to see make a real impact on the tournament.

Group B

If Argentina being held to a 1-1 draw was a surprise, then the sight of Brazil failing to score against Venezuela, traditionally the continent's weakest side, was stupifying. The defending champions certainly had chances. Alexandre Pato hit the bar and Mano Menezes' side could have had a penalty for handball close to half time. Despite some good link up play between Neymar and Pato, the Brazilians were frustrating and as Venezuela grew in confidence, they stretched their illustrious opponents in the second half and had several half chances to secure the victory themselves. As it was, neither side could break the deadlock and Menezes has since faced similar criticism to Batista from his homeland. The Brazilian press are insistent that despite wholesale changes to the lineup, the side has not progressed since the Dunga era. Anything but a victory in their next game against Paraguay is unthinkable.

Paraguay, too, are desperate for the points after their 0-0 draw with Ecuador left Group B still seeking its first goal. The game was arguably the worst of the six played, with little in the way of quality shown by either side. 

Group C

Uruguay were fancied by many before the tournament's kick off, but they too struggled to get out of the blocks, drawing 1-1 with a spirited Peru side. The goals came from Luis Suarez (Uruguay) and Jose Paolo Guerrero (Peru), both of whom we tipped to shine last week. In what was perhaps the liveliest of all the drawn games, Peru struck first when Hamburg's Guerrero slotted home a through ball in the 23rd minute. Suarez stepped up to convert a fantastic pass from Nicolás Lodeiro (our One to Watch) to even things up, but neither side were able to step on and seize the three points. 

It was down to Chile, then, to provide the best entertainment of the opening exchanges. Shorn of the gung ho managerial stylings of Marcelo Bielsa, we were unsure what to expect from the 2011 edition, but their neat passing and tidy movement was at times a joy to behold. It was the Mexicans, though, who took the lead. Having triumphed in the Gold Cup earlier this summer, they let most of their star players go on holiday and fielded an experimental, inexperienced lineup. Nestor Araujo gave them the advantage against the run of play in the first half after Chile (most notably star striker Humberto Suazo) had missed a host of chances. It was left for substitute Esteban Paredes and Arturo Vidal to score the two second half goals Chile deserved, but they will need to improve their finishing if they have real designs on causing an upset. 

As for our predictions...well, Icons' own Dan Jamieson is leading the chase. Our MD tipped Chile to win and Luis Suarez to top score and whilst it's still early days, they are looking like sage choices indeed. Here's hoping for an exponential increase in quality when we get to round two.

Copa America Preview Day One: Group A

by Finbarr 28. June 2011 10:58

It wouldn't be summer without an international tournament and after the relative let down that was the 2010 World Cup, the lense is coming into focus over the continent of South America. The Copa America 2011 is almost here and it promises to be one of the best in living memory.

In the run up to Friday's kick off, we're going to be giving you a daily dose of previews, providing team by team guides. We'll be offering tips and suggestions as to who to watch out for and telling you who we think the Icons of Copa America 2011 are going to be. Today, we start with Group A.

Argentina

 

The history: Alongside Uruguay, Argentina are the most successful team in Copa America history with 14 wins. Their last victory, though, was Ecuador '93 when a side inspired by all time greats Batistuta and Redondo defeated Mexico in the final. Defeated finalists last time out, La Albiceleste will be hoping substance trumps style on the big stage, having flattered to deceive in major tournaments of late.

The star players: Where to start with this current crop? The conveyer belt of Argentinian playmakers has been in overdrive of late... you can take your pick from Icons' own Leo Messi and Kun Aguero (above), Carlos Tevez and Angel Di Maria,  Diego Milito and Javier Pastore.

One to watch: Ever Banega has been pulling up trees in La Liga with Valencia this season. This is a chance for the classy midfielder to make his mark on the international stage.

Impress your mates:The great Fernando Redondo missed Argentina's 1998 finals campaign because he refused to obey coach Daniel Passarella's instructions to cut his hair.

Colombia

 

The history: The Colombians have a surprisingly poor record in the Copa America, despite churning out some of the continent's finest exports over the years. Their sole victory came on home soil in 2001, when they beat Mexico 1-0 in the final. Perhaps one of their most notorious contributions to the tournament's history was when eccentric, goalscoring 'keeper Jorge Campos threw a hilarious hissy fit after scoring an own goal against Venezuela in 1995.

The star players: Since the appointment of Andre Villas Boas as Chelsea boss, Radamel Falcao (above) of Porto has been strongly linked with the London club. Alongside Brazilian Hulk, he has been prolific in front of goal over the past season, firing a record 18 goals in the Europa League.

One to watch: Premier League fans will be interested to see how Wigan's Hugo Rodallega cuts it on the international stage, whilst there has been some clamour for the signature of Udinese defender Cristian Zapata over recent weeks.

Impress your mates: Colombia were involved in the highest scoring draw in World Cup history: a 4-4 tie with the Soviet Union way back in 1962.

Bolivia

 

The history: Bolivia are traditionally one of the weakest of the South American nations and are currently on an unenviable run of not winning a game since 1997. They have, however, lifted the trophy - way back in 1963 and it's no coincidence that their best performances have been on the extreme altitude of home soil. 

The star players: The majority of the Bolivian players ply their trade within the country, meaning outside South America they are something of an unknown quantity. Again, fans of Wigan may recognise the striker Marcelo Martins (above), who played on loan for them last season. Bolivia's highest profile player, he's been on the books of Shakhtar Donetsk since 2008 without really making a breakthrough.

One to watch: As one of the youngest players of the tournament, it might be worth keeping your eye on Juan Carlos Arce.

Impress your mates: In 2007, a physiotherapist admitted prescribing Viagra to the Bolivian national team to help them play at high altitude in the capital of La Paz.

Costa Rica

 

The history: Costa Rica are taking part in their fourth Copa America, having been invited to replace Japan following the earthquake and tsunami tragedies earlier this year. Despite being outsiders, their record is respectable and the Central Americans have twice been quarter finalists.

The star players: ... are all at home. Having competed in the Gold Cup earlier this summer, the squad taken by Ricardo La Volpe is young and experimental, with no household names. Randall Brenes (pictured) is the squad's top scorer with four international goals, but this should be a learning curve for all involved.

One to watch: Take your pick. There are nine uncapped players in the squad and only three have reached double figures for appearances. 

Impress your mates: The worst turnout for a Football World Cup qualifier was recorded in Costa Rica in 2006, when no one at all turned up to watch Costa Rica play Panama in a CONCACAF qualifier.

Don't forget to visit tomorrow to get your Group B Preview. Also, check out our fantastic range of Copa America merchandise, featuring Maradona, Messi, Kaka, Aguero, Suarez and Passarella.

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About Icons Memorabilia

Welcome to the icons blog, we'll be regularly posting here about what's going on with our star signings and what new products have arrived

We love what we do so we'll also be talking about what's going on in the world of football and sport in general.

We'd really appreciate your feedback and comments too.

Cheers - The icons.com team.

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