• 1. Liga

    1. FC Bayern Munchen               77

    2. Borussia Dortmund                75

    3. Bayer 04 Leverkusen             72

    4. FC Schalke 04                       63

    5. TSG Hoffenheim                    60

    6. RB Leipzig                            57

    7. VfL Wolfsburg                       54

    8. FSV Mainz 05                        48

    9. Eintracht Frankfurt                46

    10. VfB Stuttgart                      45

    11. 1. FC Nurnberg                   41

    12. Hertha BSC Berlin               40

    13. Borussia Monchengladbach  38

    14. FC Augsburg                       36

    15. Hannover 96                       35

    16. Fortuna Dusseldorf              33

    17. SV Werder Bremen              31

    18. SC Freiburg                        25 

    2. Liga

    1. VfL Bochum                         75

    2. 1. FC Union Berlin                73

    3. 1. FC Koln                           69

    4. FC Ingolstadt                      67

    5. SC Paderborn                      62

    6. Jahn Regensburg                 58

    7. Hamburger SV                    56

    8. Dynamo Dresden                55

    9. MSV Duisburg                     50

    10. Arminia Bielefeld               48

    11. FC St. Pauli                       45

    12. SpVgg Greuter Furth          43

    13. 1. FC Magdeburg               42

    14. Holstein Kiel                      40

    15. SV Darmstadt                    38

    16. 1. FC Heidenheim               35

    17. SV Sandhausen                  28

    18. Erzgebirge Aue                   19

    3. Liga

    1. 1. FC Kaiserslautern              76

    2. SV Wehen Wiesbaden            71

    3. FC Energie Cottbus                67

    4. Hansa Rostock                       66

    5. TSV 1860 Munchen                63

    6. Karlsruher SC                        61

    7. Preussen Munster                  59

    8. Eintracht Braunschweig          58

    9. VfR Aalen                              56

    10. SC Fortuna Koln                   55

    11. Hallescher FC                       48

    12. Wurzburger Kickers              46

    13. VfL Osnabruck                     44

    14. KFC Uerdingen                     42

    15. SpVgg Unterhaching             41

    16. FC Carl Zeiss Jena                40

    17. Sportfreunde Lotte               38

    18. SG Sonnenhof Grossaspach   37

    19. SV Meppen                           31

    20. FSV Zwickau                         22

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    Here it is: My analysis of group H. It took me a lot of time to write down these descriptions. I'm not exactly sure whether I will be doing this again when the FIFA will be raising the number of participating nations from thirty-two to forty-eight. I hope you have liked my predictions and you're enjoying the World Cup. There have already been quite a few surprising results and great games which is a huge relief after a rather weak 2016 Euro. Leave a comment if you like and encourage your favorite team!

    Poland

    Team: Poland

    Strengths: Poland has a lot of strengths. Experienced head coach Adam Nawalka has been in charge of the national team for five years by now. Poland qualified impressively with eight victories, one draw and only one defeat, scoring twenty-eight goals but only conceding fourteen. Poland might have one of the world's very best strikers in its squad with Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski.

    Weaknesses: Poland has only won two of its last six exhibition matches, losing against teams like Mexico and Nigeria and getting draws against Chile and Uruguay.

    Prediction: Poland has an incredibly talented squad with strong goalkeepers, promising talents and experienced veterans and one of the world's greatest strikers. I predict Poland to surprise the world at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. I could imagine them going all the way to the semi-finals but can't see the squad going further yet and beating the world's greatest teams. Poland will finish the tournament in third position.

    Poland

    Senegal

    Team: Senegal

    Strengths: In the last year, Senegal has only lost three out of eighteen matches. The squad has seven players earning their money in England, six playing in France and three in Italy which shows how experienced this team is.

    Weaknesses: The team hasn't qualified for the previous three World Cups. The team has never won any important international tournament. Head coach Aliou Cissé has no significant experience and only coached Senegal's under twenty-three national team prior to becoming head coach of the senior squad.

    Prediction: Senegal doesn't have enough international experience to survive the group stage. They might have a chance at beating Japan but won't be able to compete with Colombia and Poland.

    Senegal

    Colombia

    Team: Colombia

    Strengths: Colombia has numerous international top players in its squad such as Arsenal F.C.'s goalkeeper David Ospina, Tottenham Hotspur F.C.'s defender Davinson Sanchez, Bayern Munich's skilled midfielder James Rodriguez as well as Juventus F.C.'s Juan Cuadrado and finally AS Monaco F.C.'s striker and the national team's captain Radamel Falcao. The mixture between experienced veterans and motivated youngsters seems to be particularly good. Argentinian head coach José Pékerman is one of the most experienced head coaches of the tournament, having been in charge of the national team for six years and being aged sixty-eight.

    Weaknesses: Colombia had some trouble qualifying for the tournament, finishing in fourth position behind Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. The team's recent exhibition games had rather mixed results with a surprising defeat against South Korea, draws against Australia and Egypt but a surprising victory against France as well as against China. 

    Prediction: Colombia reached the quarter-finals four years ago. I expect the Colombian squad to repeat this success as the team has stagnated on a high level. However, the team's recent results are too unstable to go all the way and win the tournament.

    Colombia

    Japan

    Team: Japan

    Strengths: Japan is a successful squad in Asia and has won four AFC Asian Cups, the last one in 2011. The team is known for its strong team spirit as it never gives up and Japanese players have had a lot of success abroad over the past one and a half decades. Unsurprisingly, the last AFC Champions League was also won by Japanese team with Urawa Red Diamonds.

    Weaknesses: Japan's recent exhibition matches haven't been too encouraging as the team lost against Ghana, Switzerland and Ukraine earlier this year and drawing against Mali. Current head coach Nishino Akira has only been in charge for two months after previous head coach Vahid Halilhodzic was unexpectedly sacked. Japan has a rather old squad. Key players like F.C. Metz's goalkeeper Kawashima Eiji (35 years old), Galatasaray S.K.'s defender Nagatomo Yuto (31 years old), C.F. Pachuca's midfielder Honda Keisuke (32 years old), Eintracht Frankfurt's midfielder and captain of the national squad Hasebe Makoto (34 years old) and Leicester City F.C.'s striker Okazaka Shinji (32 years old) might all be competing in their last World Cup already. 

    Prediction: Japan's squad is too old and the head coach change just before the tournament had a negative impact on the team. Japan might be an important team in Asia but won't be able to compete with the best international squads. The team won't survive the group stage and might even finish last in its group. 

    Japan

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    Here it is: My analysis of group H. It took me a lot of time to write down these descriptions. I'm not exactly sure whether I will be doing this again when the FIFA will be raising the number of participating nations from thirty-two to forty-eight. I hope you have liked my predictions and you're enjoying the World Cup. There have already been quite a few surprising results and great games which is a huge relief after a rather weak 2016 Euro. Leave a comment if you like and encourage your favorite team!

    Poland

    Team: Poland

    Strengths: Poland has a lot of strengths. Experienced head coach Adam Nawalka has been in charge of the national team for five years by now. Poland qualified impressively with eight victories, one draw and only one defeat, scoring twenty-eight goals but only conceding fourteen. Poland might have one of the world's very best strikers in its squad with Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski.

    Weaknesses: Poland has only won two of its last six exhibition matches, losing against teams like Mexico and Nigeria and getting draws against Chile and Uruguay.

    Prediction: Poland has an incredibly talented squad with strong goalkeepers, promising talents and experienced veterans and one of the world's greatest strikers. I predict Poland to surprise the world at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. I could imagine them going all the way to the semi-finals but can't see the squad going further yet and beating the world's greatest teams. Poland will finish the tournament in third position.

    Poland

    Senegal

    Team: Senegal

    Strengths: In the last year, Senegal has only lost three out of eighteen matches. The squad has seven players earning their money in England, six playing in France and three in Italy which shows how experienced this team is.

    Weaknesses: The team hasn't qualified for the previous three World Cups. The team has never won any important international tournament. Head coach Aliou Cissé has no significant experience and only coached Senegal's under twenty-three national team prior to becoming head coach of the senior squad.

    Prediction: Senegal doesn't have enough international experience to survive the group stage. They might have a chance at beating Japan but won't be able to compete with Colombia and Poland.

    Senegal

    Colombia

    Team: Colombia

    Strengths: Colombia has numerous international top players in its squad such as Arsenal F.C.'s goalkeeper David Ospina, Tottenham Hotspur F.C.'s defender Davinson Sanchez, Bayern Munich's skilled midfielder James Rodriguez as well as Juventus F.C.'s Juan Cuadrado and finally AS Monaco F.C.'s striker and the national team's captain Radamel Falcao. The mixture between experienced veterans and motivated youngsters seems to be particularly good. Argentinian head coach José Pékerman is one of the most experienced head coaches of the tournament, having been in charge of the national team for six years and being aged sixty-eight.

    Weaknesses: Colombia had some trouble qualifying for the tournament, finishing in fourth position behind Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. The team's recent exhibition games had rather mixed results with a surprising defeat against South Korea, draws against Australia and Egypt but a surprising victory against France as well as against China. 

    Prediction: Colombia reached the quarter-finals four years ago. I expect the Colombian squad to repeat this success as the team has stagnated on a high level. However, the team's recent results are too unstable to go all the way and win the tournament.

    Colombia

    Japan

    Team: Japan

    Strengths: Japan is a successful squad in Asia and has won four AFC Asian Cups, the last one in 2011. The team is known for its strong team spirit as it never gives up and Japanese players have had a lot of success abroad over the past one and a half decades. Unsurprisingly, the last AFC Champions League was also won by Japanese team with Urawa Red Diamonds.

    Weaknesses: Japan's recent exhibition matches haven't been too encouraging as the team lost against Ghana, Switzerland and Ukraine earlier this year and drawing against Mali. Current head coach Nishino Akira has only been in charge for two months after previous head coach Vahid Halilhodzic was unexpectedly sacked. Japan has a rather old squad. Key players like F.C. Metz's goalkeeper Kawashima Eiji (35 years old), Galatasaray S.K.'s defender Nagatomo Yuto (31 years old), C.F. Pachuca's midfielder Honda Keisuke (32 years old), Eintracht Frankfurt's midfielder and captain of the national squad Hasebe Makoto (34 years old) and Leicester City F.C.'s striker Okazaka Shinji (32 years old) might all be competing in their last World Cup already. 

    Prediction: Japan's squad is too old and the head coach change just before the tournament had a negative impact on the team. Japan might be an important team in Asia but won't be able to compete with the best international squads. The team won't survive the group stage and might even finish last in its group. 

    Japan

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  • Unlucky Morpheus - Live 2017 (2017)

    Unlucky Morpheus is a band whose discography mostly consists of Touhou arrangement albums. In the past few years, the band has however started writing some original material as well and has also increased tour activities. This brilliant live album is testament to the group's positive development over the past few years.

    Unlucky Morpheus plays melodic symphonic metal which doesn't come as a surprise knowing that some of the seven band members play in bands like Japanese power metal institution Galneryus, defunct female-fronted power metal band Light Bringer and brand new power metal quartet Allegiance Reign that one should keep an eye on. However, there are numerous elements that make Unlucky Morpheus stand out. 

    First of all, the band uses a lot of classical instruments to make its sound more cinematic, emotional and epic which works particularly well in calmer tracks like the extraordinary ballad ''Imagimak''. 

    One must point female lead vocalist Fuki who has a melodic but extremely powerful voice that doesn't sound fragile at all and adds a lot of energy to the ballads while keeping the vivacity of the band's metal foundation in faster tracks like ''Dead Leaves Rising'' that tears your head off with energetic vocals, incredibly fast and melodic guitar leads and a powerful drum solo. 

    The band also doesn't shy away from mixing other genres into its own fast paced power metal sound. The fast symphonic power metal track ''Black Pentagram'' is such a great example when additional black metal vocals add some atmosphere and energy to the band sound.

    A particularly successful highlight among these thirteen live cuts is the incredibly diversified closer ''Fantasy Lover'' where the septet collaborates with metalcore band Undead Corporation that adds some additional oomph to the band's already powerful sound.

    In the end, this brilliant live album is an excellent introduction to one of Japan's most enthusiastic power metal band. You have to take this genre definition literally here because Unlucky Morpheus has a whole lot of creativity, energy and passion. Listening to this record is like an electric shock that lasts for fifty-seven exciting minutes. And if you don't get a heart attack, you will feel like listening to this release over and over again once this highly recommended wild ride is over.

    Final rating: 97%

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  • 迷魂殿 - 根河 (2018)

    Ecstasy Temple's second album Gen River reduces the neofolk influences and increases the metal passages. The gloomy black metal vocals are more present than before. Most songs have a mid-paced tempo and are overall faster than the tracks from the first output. The songs are also slightly shorter and more concise. Despite the same number of songs, this record is five minutes shorter than the debut.The guitar riffs are more present and often galloping, recalling traditional heavy metal and thrash metal influences.

    Still, the project around multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Enchantenka has kept some of the elements that made the first strike so unique. The lyrics still deal with Chinese legends and tales. Smooth atmospheric passages carried by melodic guitar solos and precisely employed keyboard sounds can still be found in every song. ''It's the Same'' even recalls symphonic power metal elements in the instrumental bridge due to the dominant use of keyboards. The wonderful instrumental ''Crescent Bay'' impresses with soft keyboard sounds, enchanting piano melodies, the chirping and singing of birds, cleverly employed chimes and dreamy guitar melodies. This song sounds closest to the debut's strongest moments.

    On one side, it's positive that Ecstasy Temple decided to develop its sound instead of repeating its first record. However, the first album sounded much more unique in its profound connection to Asian folklore than the second output that might be more vivid but less distinguishable in my book. In the end, it certainly is a matter of taste and more traditional black or blackened folk metal fans might find this second output more accessible but I preferred the more creative, melodic and unique first strike. Still, Ecstasy Temple is one of the most creative blackened folk metal bands I have discovered over the past few years and I will certainly keep an eye and ear on Enchantenka's project.

    Final rating: 75%

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