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Category Archives: Sport

LOOTING scum on the streets of England on Monday night (8 August) meant that England’s (6) match at Wembley against the Netherlands (2) on Wednesday (10 August) was cancelled.

But fortunately for me, there was still a full day of international football to look forward to.

There was one Euro 2012 Qualifier amongst all the friendlies, a Group C tie between Northern Ireland (62) and the Faroe Islands (112) at Windsor Park in Belfast.

Northern Ireland needed to win in order to stay in the race to get on the plane to Poland and the Ukraine, and win they did. A 4-0 victory for the Green and White Army sees them climb up to third in their group behind Slovenia, who are two points better off but have played one game more. The Faroes on the other hand (who drew 1-1 with Northern Ireland in the reverse fixture last October) cannot now make it to Euro 2012.

Japan (16) held onto their crown of Unofficial World Champions by beating rivals South Korea (28) 3-0, in their friendly at the Sapporo Dome.

Just in case you don’t know, the Unofficial World Championship is past around like a Title Belt in Boxing, and if you go back far enough, you will find yourself at the first ever international between Scotland and England in 1872.

Japan took the title away from Argentina on 8 October 2010 in a friendly they won 1-0, then defended it against: South Korea (0-0, friendly), Jordan (1-1), Syria (2-1), Saudi Arabia (5-0), Qatar (3-2), South Korea (2-2 a.e.t. 3-0 pens.) and Australia (1-0 a.e.t.) as they lifted the Asian Cup for a record fourth time, before drawing 0-0 in both their Kirin Cup matches against Peru and the Czech Republic before this 3-0 over South Korea.

The next defence of their title comes on 2 September in their first 2014 World Cup Qualifier against North Korea. Also in Japan’s group (Group C) are Syria and Uzbekistan.

Select International Friendly Results (World Ranking in Brackets)

Albania (59) 3 – 2 Montenegro (17)

Côte d’Ivoire (14) 4 – 3 Israel (32)

France (15) 1 – 1 Chile (11)

Germany (3) 3 – 2 Brazil (4), which I watched.

Germany is a young team now that looks like they can beat anybody. Brazil on the other hand seems a shadow of the side they were at the turn of the millennium.

Hungary (47) 4 – 0 Iceland (121)

Italy (8) 2 – 1 Spain (1)

The reining European and World champions suffer another defeat to a top-class nation – the others being Argentina (1-4) and arch-rivals Portugal (0-4).

Latvia (83) 0 – 2 Finland (75)

Liechtenstein (118) 1 – 2 Switzerland (30)

Norway (12) 3 – 0 Czech Republic (38)

Poland (69) 1 – 0 Georgia (57)

Portugal (7) 5 – 0 Luxembourg (128)

Republic of Ireland (33) 0 – 0 Croatia (9)

Russia (18) 1 – 0 Serbia (27)

Scotland (61) 2 – 1 Denmark (21) 😦

Turkey (24) 3 – 0 Estonia (79)

Ukraine (45) 0 – 1 Sweden (19)

Wales (112) 1 – 2 Australia (23) 🙂

U.S.A. (30) 1 – 1 Mexico (20)

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ENGLAND vs. India at Lord’s 2011 saw Test Match Cricket (the pure form of the game) celebrate a very special landmark, its 2,000th match.

The match was also the 100th Test Match between England and India, but all eyes were on one man…the Little Master Sachin Tendulkar.

Tendulkar went into this match on 99 international hundreds. You couldn’t have set it up better. Tendulkar scoring his 100th 100 in the 100th Test between England and India at Lord’s (the home of Cricket) in the 2,000th Test.

But Tendulkar’s highest score at Lord’s before this Test was only 37, and as fate would have it, 37 is still his highest score at Lord’s. He was caught in the slips by Graeme Swann off the bowling of Stuart Broad for 34 in India’s first innings, and was out L.B.W. to James Anderson in India’s
second innings for only 12.

The Man of the Match was Kevin Pietersen. After his slowest 50 in Test Cricket in England’s first innings, he powered his way to his third double hundred in 326 balls, hitting 21 fours and one six.

With this win, England go 1-0 up in the four Test series that the hosts must win by two clear Tests in order to become world No. 1, a title currently held by the tourists.

England vs. India

England vs. India 1st Test @ Lord’s, 21/07/2011 – The 2,000th Test Match and 100th between England and India

India won the toss and elected to bowl

England

vs.

India

474-8dec.

(131.4 overs @ 3.60 rpo)

1st Innings

286

(95.5 overs @ 2.98 rpo)

K.P. Pietersen 202*

R. Dravid 103*

P. Kumar 5-106

S.C.J. Broad 4-37

269-6dec.

(71.0 overs @ 3.79 rpo)

2nd Innings

261

(96.3 overs @ 2.70 rpo)

M.J. Prior 103*

S.K. Raina 78

I. Sharma 4-59

J.M. Anderson 5-65

Man of the Match – K.P. Pietersen (England)

England won by 196 Runs, England lead series 1-0 with three Tests remaining.

 

So far ten nations and the ICC World XI have played a Test Match. Kenya were so close to gaining Test status in 2003 after their Semi-Final appearance in the World Cup, but lately Kenyan Cricket has gone through hard times. Ireland and Afghanistan have said that they want to want to have Test status bestowed upon them.

Nation

Test Debut

Matches

Wins

Draws

Loses

Ties

Australia

15/03/1877

730 (36.5%)

341

195

192

2

Bangladesh

10/11/2000

68 (3.4%)

3

6

59

0

England

15/03/1877

912 (45.6%)

323

328

261

0

ICC World XI

14/10/2005

1 (0.05%)

0

0

1

0

India

25/06/1932

452 (22.6%)

110

201

140

1

New Zealand

10/01/1930

364 (18.2%)

68

149

147

0

Pakistan

16/10/1952

358 (17.9%)

108

150

100

0

South Africa

12/03/1889

358 (17.9%)

125

109

124

0

Sri Lanka

17/02/1982

201 (10.05%)

61

69

71

0

West Indies

23/06/1928

473 (23.65%)

153

163

156

1

Zimbabwe

18/10/1992

83 (4.15%)

8

26

49

0

TOTAL

2,000

1,300 (65%)

698 (34.9%)

2 (0.1%)

THE 18th under-21 European Championship took
place in Denmark from 11-25 June 2011.

It was held without the participation of 2009 and reigning
champions Germany, as well as 2006 and 2007 champions the Netherlands and 2004 champions and five-time champions
Italy.

This meant that the tournament was well and truly up for
grabs between the eight teams participating. They were: hosts Denmark, Belarus,
2002 champions Czech Republic, 2009 losing finalists and ’82 and ’84 champions
England, Iceland, 1986 and ’96 champions Spain, current under-17 world
champions Switzerland and Ukraine.

Group A consisted of: Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and
Belarus; while Group B contained: Czech Republic, Spain, England and Ukraine.

Belarus’s 2-0 win over Iceland got the tournament underway. Switzerland
added to the Scandinavian misery later on in the second match of the group by
beating the hosts 1-0.

Switzerland caused more Nordic nightmares by inflicting
Iceland’s second straight 2-0 defeat in their second match. Fabian Frei opened
the scoring for the Swiss less than a minute while Innocent Emeghara (a
Nigerian born Swiss) scored the second on 40 minutes.

A crowd of over 18,000 (larger than the eventual Final)
watched Denmark go behind to Belarus after Dzmitry Baha netted 20 minutes in.
But just two minutes later Denmark were level thanks to Christian Eriksen
scoring his own rebounded penalty. He is the hottest thing in Danish football
by the way, and is certainly a name to watch out for in the future. Denmark
pressed hard for the winner, which came via a fabulous solo run from Nicolai Jørgensen
who then smashed the ball home from around 20-odd yards out.

Unfortunately Denmark couldn’t carry on their momentum into
the last group match against Iceland, who beat them 1-3. At the same time
Switzerland put three past Belarus without reply to win the group with nine
points out of nine and six goals for with none against.

However, the other three teams in the group had exactly the same record as each other:
one win, no draws, two defeats, three goals for with five against (thus a goal
difference of -2) and three points. In the 3-way tie-break between them it was
Belarus who came out on top with a goal difference of +1. Iceland’s goal
difference was zero while Denmark’s was -1.

So after all that, Switzerland topped the group with Belarus
advancing in second place. Iceland (third) and hosts Denmark (bottom) went out.

Group B kicked-off with a 2-1 Czech victory over Ukraine
before the two favourites for the crown (Spain and England) went into battle.
It was Spain who took the lead in the 14th minute with a goal from
Ander Herrera. Replays show that the young Spaniard may have used his hand to
put the ball in the net but I can’t be sure. England were dominated for most of
the match but crucially kept Spain at just a goal ahead. That was until the 88th
minute when Danny Welbeck coolly slotted the ball into Spain’s goal for
England’s equaliser. There was a hint
of offside in the goal, but after Spain’s goal I think everything was now even.
Even is how the match finished, 1-1.

Spain won 2-0 against the Czech Republic in their second
match, while England could only manage a boring 0-0 draw against Ukraine.
Daniel Sturridge pounded the crossbar and Welbeck missed when clean through but
that was about it. If England wanted to advance to the Semi-Finals, they needed
to beat the Czech Republic. Only
three points would do.

Both England and the Czech Republic had chances to take the
lead but they were all either wasted or saved. Yet with only 14 minutes of time
left, Welbeck headed England into a 1-0 lead. This would be enough to see the Young Lions into the last four. But fate
favoured the Czechs as in the 89th minute Jan Charmosta poked in the
equaliser, and in the fourth minute of added-time Tomáš Pekhart slotted the ball
into an empty net to give the Czech Republic a 2-1 win. Meanwhile, Spain
brushed aside Ukraine 3-0.

Spain won the group with seven points, followed by the Czech
Republic on six. England crashed out in third place, earning just two points
and no victories, while Ukraine propped up the group with just the single
point.

Watching the Young Lions at this tournament was
exactly like watching the senior side. Loads of promise and potential to go the
distance, but humiliation is all we get. But these guys are young. Hopefully
this will be the last time this group of players disappoint like this.

Back to the four sides still in contention for the title
now, and the Semi-Final line-up saw Spain matched up against Belarus, while
Switzerland had to face the Czech Republic.

Belarus took a shock lead in the 38th minute of
their match against Spain after Andrey Varankow’s overhead kick went in off the
post. The young Belarusians almost
caused the upset of the tournament as they got to the 89th minute
still 1-0 up. But Adrián López levelled for Spain to take the game into
extra-time, then scored again to put Spain 2-1 up just before half-time in
extra-time. A 3-1 Spanish victory was secured when Jeffrén Suárez smashed the
ball home from distance.

Switzerland and the Czech Republic both failed to score in
90 minutes, meaning an extra 30 for them as well. Admir Mehmedi scored from
25-yards out for Switzerland in the 114th minute to see his side
into the Final.

But before the Final, a special match needed to be played.
This competition served as the qualifying competition for the Men’s Olympic
Football tournament in London next year, and three places were up for grabs. If
England (who qualified automatically as hosts (and as Great Britain)) made it
to the Semi-Finals then the other three teams would have qualified for the
Olympics no questions asked. But England didn’t get that far and four teams
were left fighting for three places.

Two of these places would go to finalists Spain and
Switzerland, so losing Semi-Finalists Belarus and the Czech Republic would
play-off for the last ticket to London.

The game was all square until the 88th minute
when Egor Filipenko scored for Belarus from the edge of the area to earn
Belarus’s first appearance as an independent nation in the Olympic Football
tournament.

However, that was just the warm-up for the main event, The Grand
Final. Spain and Switzerland both won their groups and had conceded only two
goals between them (both against Spain). Spain were also out to avenge the
senior side’s defeat to Switzerland in last summer’s World Cup in South Africa.

Ander Herrera headed Spain into the lead four minutes before
half-time, and nine minutes before full-time defender Thiago Alcântara scored a
free-kick from all of 40-yards out to give Spain a 2-0 and the title of European
Under-21 Champions.

Spanish football celebrates yet another championship.

The 16 matches in the tournament saw 36 goals scored at an
average of 2.25 per match. The total gate for the championships was 101,955,
and average of 6,372 per match. Spain’s Adrián López was the top goal scorer
with a total of five.

Adrián López with his Golden Boot.

So, Spain are now: World champions, European champions,
under-21 European champions and world
ranked #1. Can anybody stop their dominance of international football? We’ll
find out when Spain play in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup which kicks-off at the
end of this July in Colombia.

Sorry about the layout. I have no idea why it has done this.

THE 11th edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup was held in the United States of America from 5-25 June 2011. This was the 21st overall championships in the North and Central American and Caribbean confederation, which was also celebrating its Golden anniversary.

The 12 teams taking part in the competition where: hosts America, reigning champions Mexico and fellow automatic qualifier Canada, who are the only other nation to have won a Gold Cup besides Mexico and America.

Jamaica, non-FIFA member Guadeloupe, Cuba and Grenada qualified by finishing in the top four in the 2010 Caribbean Championship; while: Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador and Guatemala qualified courtesy of finishing in the top five of the 2011 Copa Centroamericana.

The tournament kicked-off with Group A games Costa Rica vs. Cuba and Mexico vs. El Salvador. Both matches were played in Cowboys Stadium, Arlington (Texas) and were both won 5-0 by Costa Rica and Mexico respectively. Man Utd’s Javier Hernández scored a second-half Hat-Trick for Mexico, who were soon involved in a drugs scandal.

Five Mexico squad members had tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol prior to the start of the tournament and were suspended. The Mexican FA said that the players had eaten contaminated meat but accepted the suspensions. CONCACAF allowed Mexico to replace the players, who’s ‘B’ samples all came back negative.

Mexico didn’t let their off-field problems affect them on the pitch and duly beat Cuba 5-0 and Costa Rica 4-1 to win the group with nine points and 14 goals to their name. Costa Rica just went though as group runners-up ahead of El Salvador on goal difference. El Salvador now had to wait to see if they were one of the two best third-placed teams. Cuba crashed out with a 1-6 defeat by El Salvador, having let in 16 goals and only scored one in their three defeats.

Group B was won by Jamaica who scored seven goals without reply in their three matches which all ended in victory for the Reggae Boyz. Last year’s World Cup participants Honduras finished second in the group on the same amount of points (four) as third placed Guatemala. Grenada proved to be the whipping boys of the group, only scoring once and conceding 15 times as they also lost all three games. They were smashed 1-7 by Honduras in their second game after going 1-0 up.

Hosts America opened with a 2-0 victory over northern neighbours Canada after Panama edged Guadeloupe 3-2 in the opening round of Group C games. The United States were stunned by Panama who beat them 1-2 in their second match, but beat Guadeloupe 1-0 in their last group game to advance in second place behind Panama. Canada were beating Panama 1-0 in their last game and this would have seen Canada into the Quarter-Finals as one of the two best third-placed teams. But Panama equalised in the first minute of stoppage-time through Luis Tejada to knock Canada out.

Guatemala, El Salvador and Canada all finished third in their groups with four points. But Guatemala had a goal difference of +2, El Salvador’s goal difference was zero, whereas Canada’s was -1.

This meant the Quarter-Final line up looked like this: Costa Rica vs. Honduras, Mexico vs. Guatemala, Jamaica vs. U.S.A. and Panama vs. El Salvador.

Costa Rica and Honduras played out a 1-1 draw after extra-time in the first knock-out match. Honduras held their nerve and won the penalty-shoot out 4-2, scoring all of their spot-kicks.

Mexico went behind early against Guatemala thanks to a Carlos Ruiz goal five minutes in. They held on until just after half-time when Aldo de Nigris equalised for the defending champions. Mexico’s winner came from Javier Hernández in the 66th minute.

The United States beat Jamaica 2-0 win in Washington D.C. to book their place in the last four.

Panama again left it late to equalise in their match against El Salvador, who had taken the lead from the penalty spot with only 12 minutes to go. But Tejada scored in the last minute to take the match into extra-time, in which there were no more goals. Dennis Alas missed El Salvador’s first penalty in the shoot-out. This proved to be the only miss of the shoot-out that was won by Panama 5-3. That man Tejada scoring the winner.

The Semi-Finals would see America taking on Panama (who had beaten America in their group match remember) while Honduras had to face Mexico.

Fulham’s Clint Dempsey scored America’s winner against Panama in the 76th minute of their Semi, while Mexico were taken to extra-time by Honduras before de Nigris and Hernández scored in the 93rd and 99th minute respectively to see Mexico into the Final with a 2-0 win.

The Final would see the two highest ranked CONCACAF teams – America and Mexico – taking part in the championship deciding match for the third straight tournament. America won the 2007 Final (2-1) while Mexico won the last Final in 2009 (5-0). This was the fifth time the two would meet in the Final, with Mexico 3-1 up in the head-to-head battle. This would also be America’s eighth Gold Cup Final while this was Mexico’s seventh.

America raced into a 2-0 lead thanks to a an eighth minute header by Aston Villa load signing Michael Bradley (son of the head coach Bob) and a 23rd minute goal by all-time leading U.S. goal scorer Landon Donovan. The crowd of 93,420 inside the Rose Bowl, Pasadena (California) could sense a U.S. victory.

But Mexico had other ideas.

Pablo Barrera got one back for Mexico just before the half-hour. Andrés Guardado equalised on 36 minutes and Barrera scored his second and Mexico’s third five minutes after half-time to give Mexico a 3-2 lead! Mexico’s fourth came after a stunning piece of skill from 22-year-old Giovani dos Santos with 14 minutes left. He dribbled inside the box against five U.S. defenders (including the goalkeeper) before chipping the ball into the top-left corner of the goal over the head of Eric Lichaj. This was later named goal of the tournament, and was the last goal of the tournament as well, as Mexico won the Final 4-2.

 

So, Mexico are champions of the North and Central America and Caribbean zone for the ninth time. This was their sixth Gold Cup and second consecutive title. They won all six of their matches, scored 22 goals and conceded just four (half of these in the Final itself).

Mexico have now moved up 19 places to ninth in the FIFA World Rankings.

The tournaments’ 25 matches saw 80 goals scored at an average of 3.2 per match. The total attendance was 1,125,120, an average gate of 45,005 per match.

Mexico’s Javier Hernández ‘The Little Pea‘ finished as top goal scorer with seven goals to his name, and was also named player of the tournament.

The Little Pea.

Honduras’s goalkeeper Noel Valladares was named the best goalkeeper of the tournament. Mexico also collected the Fair Play Award for receiving the least amount of cards.

Mexico have now qualified for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil as the CONCACAF representative. They join hosts Brazil, World (and current European champions) Spain and Asian champions Japan.

El Tricolor will now travel to Argentina to take part in the Copa América as one of two invitee teams (the other being Costa Rica). Could Mexico become champions of all the Americas? We’ll find out by 24 July.

  

Denmark

1

vs.

2

England

Daniel AGGER 7’

 

Att = 21,523

Darren BENT 10’

Ashley YOUNG 68’

International Friendly

Ref = Jonas ERIKSSON (SWE)

Parken Stadion – COPENHAGEN

ENGLAND won their first match of 2011 by two goals to one at the expense of Denmark in Copenhagen last Wednesday (9 February).

The match saw Arsenal’s midfielder Jack Wilshere make his first England start, while Chelsea’s Frank Lampard led the team out as captain for the very first time in place of regular skipper (Rio Ferdinand) and vice-captain (Steven Gerrard) who were both injured. This was Lampard’s 84th England cap, just three behind his Chelsea team-mate Ashley Cole who is now England’s most capped full-back.

In an eventful opening few minutes Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner (Denmark) and Wayne Rooney (England) almost scored as a result of defensive errors. The first goal of the night followed not long afterwards. Christian Eriksen – the 18 year-old wonder kid of Danish football – provided a pin-point cross from a free kick onto the head of Liverpool defender Daniel Agger who gave England goalkeeper Joe Hart little chance of saving the header. It is strange seeing players from the club you support on the side you want to beat isn’t it?

But England hit back just three minutes later courtesy of Darren Bent being in the right place at the right time. Theo Walcott fended off the challenges from Simon Poulsen to fizz the ball across the six yard box and directly into the path of Bent who made no mistake with the finish. It then became apparent that Walcott had been cut just below his left eye by Poulsen. Replays showed the Dane was clawing at Walcott’s face, but fortunately a nasty injury was avoided. 

Bent (9) equalises for England. Walcott (background) has just realised he has been cut by S. Poulsen (red shirt centre).

Bent nearly scored a second for England ten minutes later.

With ten minutes of the half to go young Eriksen hit the post from around 20 yards out to keep England honest. Four minutes later England were thankful to Heart who saved a tight angle shot from Dennis Rommedahl with his feet. The last meaningful action of the first half was Lampard putting the ball in the back of the Danish net with a cheeky back flick. However the goal was correctly ruled out for offside.

The visitors came out the more aggressive side in the second half and Bent almost scored with a close range header but his effort was smothered by Denmark’s keeper Thomas Sørensen of Stoke City. Sørensen caught half-time substitute Ashley Young’s headed shot just a minute later to keep the score level.

Bent almost scored yet again on 56 minutes but his shot just skimmed the side netting. At this point I was beginning to wonder if these misses would come back to haunt England. My nerves jangled even more so when Hart made a low save from Rommedahl with just under 25 minutes to play.

But Ashley Young became the hero of the night when with just over 20 minutes to go, he latched onto a pass by Glen Jonson on the edge of the box and coolly slotted the ball past Sørensen at the near post to put England 2-1 up. This was Young’s first goal for England in his 12th match for the Three Lions.

The next 20 minutes passed by without much incident. Young had another shot on goal but it was blocked in the area. Denmark had the last attack of the match from a free-kick and the resulting corner but these came to no avail and England put to rest the ghost of their last trip to Denmark when we lost 1-4.

All in all this was a good game of football. England played well but I still get the impression that when it eventually comes to playing one of the higher ranked teams, we will still be lacking that vital edge.

England’s next match is a Euro 2012 qualifier away to Wales on 26 March. Then three days later England host Ghana in what will be the first ever match between the Three Lions and the Black Stars.

Some other friendly result from around the world

Spain 1 – 0 Colombia

Netherlands 3 – 1 Austria

Germany 1 – 1 Italy

France 1 – 0 Brazil – Brazil have not beaten France since 1981.

Argentina 2 – 1 Portugal (played in Switzerland)

Croatia 4 – 2 Czech Republic

Greece 1 – 0 Canada

Iran 1 – 0 Russia

Luxembourg 2 – 1 Slovakia 🙂

Malta GC 0 – 0 Switzerland 🙂

Poland 1 – 0 Norway

San Marino 0 – 1 Liechtenstein 😀

South Africa 2 – 0 Kenya

Turkey 0 – 0 South Korea

WHAT a weekend this has been.

England won their opening Six Nations match in Wales 26-19. Ireland needed a late score to beat Italy in Rome 13-11, and reigning champions France beat Scotland at home 34-21.

The Premier League saw a whopping 43 goals in the ten fixtures this weekend. Results included: Everton 5-3 Blackpool, Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal (Arsenal were 4-0 up after 26 minutes), Wigan 4-3 Blackburn, Wolves 2-1 Man Utd (this ends Man Utd’s 29 match unbeaten run).

But the best result of all was Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool! Fernando Torres (JUDAS!) making his debut for €hel$ea couldn’t prevent Liverpool from doing the double over the defending league champions thanks to a second half strike from Raul Meireles. 😀

In Cricket, Australia completed a 6-1 O.D.I. series win over England by taking victory at the WACA Ground in Perth by 57 runs. This series has been to drawn out in my opinion. The two Twenty20 games should have been played on the same day and there should only have been three O.D.I. games. Now England have injures and tiredness to cope with before the World Cup in India/Sir Lanka/Bangladesh. A World Cup preview blog will appear on this site soon.

On the ugly side of the game now; three Pakistani cricketers have been handed down lengthy bans by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for last Augusts’ spot-fixing scandal at Lord’s. Former Captain Salman Butt has been banned for 10 years (five suspended) and bowlers Mohammads Asif and Amir have been banned for seven years (two suspended) and five years respectively for agreeing to bowl no-balls at a certain point in the match against England in exchange for money. All three have the right to appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Formula 1’s Robert Kubica may well have ended his F1 career after crashing heavily in a Rally in Genoa, Italy. The Pole hit a church wall at high speed and suffered fractures to his right arm, leg and hand. It is almost certain that he will miss the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix on 13 March. This means that his seat at Renault will now be filled by either former HRT driver Bruno Senna or 2009 Renault driver Romain Grosjean. Get well soon Robert.

And finally, I have just heard of the extremely sad news that legendary rock guitarist Gary Moore has died at the age of 58. 😦 He was found dead in the early hours of Sunday (6 February) morning while on holiday in Spain. During his musical career he released a number of solo albums and was once a member of Thin Lizzy and played with Greg Lake on one of my all time favorite albums. He will be sorely missed.

RIP Gary.

JAPAN won their fourth AFC Asian football championship yesterday (29 January) after a tense final against Australia in Qatar’s Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

The competition began back on 7 January with the hosts Qatar losing 0-2 to Uzbekistan in the opening match of Group A. However Qatar made up for their opening loss by beating China 2-0 and Kuwait 3-0, which assured their passage into the Quarter-Finals as group runners-up. Uzbekistan won the group while China and Kuwait went home.

Japan almost lost their opening match in Group B against Jordan. It took a 92nd minute first ever international goal by centre back Maya Yoshida to earn a 1-1 draw to save their blushes. Japan picked themselves up just like Qatar in their next two games, beating Syria 2-1 with ten men and thrashing the surprisingly hopeless Saudi Arabia 5-0. Saudi Arabia (three times Asian champions) lost all three of their games in Qatar and only scored one goal. They came bottom of Group B with Syria also going out, with Japan winning the group and advancing alongside Jordan.

Group C consisted of two of the favourites to take the title, Australia and South Korea. The other two teams in the group, Bahrain and in particular lowly ranked India never really stood a chance and in the case of the latter, got well and truly hammered. India suffered 0-4, 2-5 and 1-4 defeats to Australia, Bahrain (Ismaeel Abdullatif scoring four goals) and South Korea respectively. Bahrain lost both of their games against the big two in the group, who drew 1-1 when it came to their match against each other. Australia won the group on goal difference from South Korea.

Group D was the ‘Group of Death’ in my eyes as it consisted of: the U.A.E., Iran, North Korea and reigning Asian champions Iraq. Iran won all three of their games (the only side to do this in the group stage) and advanced as group winners along with Iraq. North Korea and U.A.E. finished third and fourth respectively and didn’t score a single goal between them. 😦

The Quarter-Final line up looked like this: Uzbekistan vs. Jordan, Australia vs. Iraq, Japan vs. Qatar and Iran vs. South Korea.

Qatar looked to be heading into the last four when they were 2-1 up and a man up against Japan with just 20 minutes to go. Unfortunately for the host nation Japan levelled the match through Shinji Kagawa, and won it in the 90th minute thanks to Masahiko Inoha scoring his first goal for Japan in just his second match for his country. Uzbekistan knocked-out Jordan by beating them 2-1, and Australia ended Iraq’s quest to defend their title with a 1-0 extra-time victory coming courtesy of a 118th minute goal from former Leeds Utd and Liverpool winger Harry Kewell. South Korea beat Iran in the last Quarter-Final, also 1-0 after extra-time.

Thus the Semi-Final line up was complete with Japan vs. their footballing nemesis South Korea, while surprise package Uzbekistan would take on Australia.

Japan and South Korea were level at 1-1 after 90 minutes and South Korea once again went into extra-time. They fell behind in the 97th minute, but Hwang Jae-Won scored his first goal for South Korea in the very last minute of extra-time to take the match to a penalty shoot-out. Sadly there was to be no fairy tale ending for the Taegeuk Jeonsa (Warriors) as Japan held their nerve to win the shoot-out 3-0. In stark contrast Australia’s match against Uzbekistan was a stroll in the park for the Socceroos who won 6-0! 😮

Uzbekistan’s luck didn’t change in the third place Play-Off match either. South Korea took the bronze medal with a 3-2 win.

And so we came to The Final, Australia vs. Japan. Australia were looking to become the first team ever to win two different continental championships and to become Asian champions at just the second time of asking in the country that was (wrongly) awarded the 2022 World Cup instead of them. Australia is hosting the 2015 Asian Cup as well, so to go into their own tournament as reigning champions would be a huge boost. Japan on the other hand were out to win a record fourth Asian championship. They were currently level on three championships with Saudi Arabia and Iran. Japan also wanted to keep their 100% success rate in Asian Cup finals.

The match itself was a really tense, nail biting affair with chances galore – especially for Australia – but after 90 minutes nobody had broken the deadlock, so to extra-time (again for Japan) we went. Extra-time was just as gripping as the previous 90 minutes, but Japan finally made Australia pay dearly for all their missed chances with just 11 minutes to go. Making just his second senior appearance for Japan, Tadanari Lee found himself unmarked in the middle of the Australian penalty area and hit one of the sweetest and coolest left-footed volleys that I have ever seen. Aussie goalkeeper and now their most capped player, Mark Schwarzer (Fulham’s keeper) could only watch the ball fly into his net. This was Lee’s first goal for Japan and he had only been on the pitch for nine minutes when he scored! It is not every day that a footballers boyhood dream comes true is it?

Super-sub Lee celebrates the most important goal he will probably ever score.

Lee’s goal proved to be the winner meaning that Japan had won the 2011 Asian Cup, their third triumph in the last four tournaments and record fourth in the last six. What makes their achievement even more remarkable is the fact that Japan’s first Asian Cup appearance wasn’t until 1988 when they didn’t even score a goal. But next time around in 1992 they won the title at home and added the 2000 and 2004 titles to the trophy cabinet before their triumph yesterday.

Japan’s Keisuke Honda was awarded ‘Most Valuable Player’, while South Korea won the ‘Fair Play’ award and their midfielder Koo Ja-Cheol top scored after netting five goals in the tournament.

The Blue Samurai (Japan) have well and truly earned their title back and will represent Asian in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil. But before that they have a chance of winning the Copa América (the South American championship) later this year in Argentina. They along with Mexico have been invited to be the 11th and 12th teams in the tournament alongside all of the South American nations. Surly Japan can’t hold both the Asian and South American titles at the same time? Watch this space.

Japan – Worthy champions indeed.

THE nephew of former Indian opening batsman Wasim Jaffer, Armaan Jaffer, 13, has broken the record for the highest individual Cricket score made in India.

Whilst playing for Rizvi Springfield School against IES Raja Shivaji Vidyalaya in an under-14 Giles Shield match in Mumbai, Jaffer smashed a behemothic 498 runs of just 490 balls in an innings which lasted two days. He hit 77 fours and played in a free-flowing manner. After his innings was over he said: “I had decided not to play any aerial shots. I knew as long as I occupy the crease, the runs will keep flowing.

Jaffer added: “It would have been better if I had got 500, but there is no grudge.

A very pleased Jaffer next to his score.

The previous record was 461 and was held by Ali Zorain Khan of Nagpur.

Now if I’m not mistaken young Jaffer’s 498 is the eighth highest individual score that I have ever come across. The only other scores higher than this that I can find are these listed below.

  • 499 – Hanif Mohammad for Karachi against Bahawalpur in 1958/59.
  • 501* – Brian Lara for Warwickshire against Durham in 1994.
  • 502* – Malhotra Chamanlal for Mehandra Coll, Patiala against Government Coll, Rupar in 1956/57.
  • 506* – JC Sharp for Melbourne Grammar School against Geelong Collage in 1914/15.
  • 515 – Dadabhoy Havewala for B.B & C.I Railways against St Xavier’s in 1933/34.
  • 566 – CJ Eady for Break-o’-Day against Wellington in 1901/02.

And finally the highest score ever recorded in the history of Cricket:

  • 628* – AEJ Collins for Clark’s House against North Town in 1899.

Remarkably, both Collins and Jaffer have made their possibly career defining totals at the age of just 13. Coincidently I also made my highest ever score when I was around Collins and Jaffer’s age, but 120 fades away into nothingness when you start talking about scores like the above.

I was in a real purple patch in the spring/summer of 2007 wasn’t I?

NORTHERN IRISH Jockey Tony ‘A.P.’ McCoy was voted 2010 BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) last night (19 December) by the Great British public in a lavish ceremony at the LG Arena in Birmingham.

McCoy with his wife Chanelle.

This year McCoy finally won the Grand National at his 15th attempted on Don’t Push It, and in his long and often painful career has won over 3,300 races. He has won everything in his sport and fully deserves his title of SPOTY, becoming the very first Jump Jockey to receive the prestigious honour.

15 times World Darts Champion Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor was voted into second place and became the first Darts player to come in the top three. Reigning World Heptathlon Champion and this summer’s European Heptathlon Champion Jessica Ennis came third for the second year in a row.

The rest of the shortlist was made up of:

  • Mark Cavendish, who won five stages of the Tour de France plus the Sprint Jersey in the Vuelta (Tour of Spain).
  • Tom Daley, double Commonwealth Diving Champion.
  • David Haye, for his WBA World Heavyweight Championship belt defences.
  • Graeme McDowell, winner of the Golfing US Open – the first European in 40 years to take the title.
  • Graeme Swann, who’s’ spin bowling helped England win this summer’s series against Bangladesh and Pakistan as well as the Twenty20 World Cup.
  • Lee Westwood, who replaced Tiger Woods as the #1 Golfer in the world this year.
  • Amy Williams, Skeleton Bobsleigh Olympic Champion.

 I voted for Amy Williams, making this year the fifth year in a row that I have failed to pick the winner.

Whilst I’ll admit that everybody above deserved their nomination, there is in my eyes one glaring admission. European 5,000m and 10,000m Champion Mo Farah. Can’t the shortlist be extended to 12 people for next year so people like Farah aren’t overlooked in future please?

Overseas SPOTY was awarded to Spanish Tennis ace Rafael Nadal who won the: French Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles to complete the Career Grand Slam at the age of 24. A rightful winner.

The European Ryder Cup team received the Team of the Year award in recognition of regaining the Ryder Cup from the U.S.A. Team Captain Colin Montgomerie also won Coach of the Year. Again spot on.

16 year-old Tom Daley became the first person ever to win three Young SPOTY awards. The double Commonwealth, European and World Champion battled against injury to stun the Delhi crowd by producing a perfect 10 dive that even the reigning Olympic Champion Matthew Mitcham couldn’t beat. No contest.

Lance Haggith received the Unsung Hero Award. Mr Haggith, 50, has been helping young people of all abilities and circumstances play Basketball for the last 30 years. 😉

David Beckham was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Now I apologise to any Beckham fans out there but why on Earth has he been given this award now? He is only 35, is still playing for L.A. Galaxy and his award was presented to him by World Cup winner Sir Bobby Charlton, who only received this award two years ago. I also got very bored very quickly with the director constantly cutting to his wife and kids in the front row. I want to see great sports people honoured, and not some washed up Pop Star and ultra-fortunate fully Americanised boys. I can only think of one good thing David Beckham did in an England shirt, and that was scoring that last-minute free-kick against Greece to get England into the 2002 World Cup. In several years time Beckham I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at this award, but at this moment in time I can only think that the BBC got a bit desperate this year.

Now onto somebody who truly deserved their award. Sir Frank Williams was awarded the Helen Rollason Award for overcoming great adversity. Sir Frank was permanently paralysed after a car crash in 1986, but still led his Williams F1 team onto great and often unrivalled success in the follow years. This along with the tribute to the sporting people we have lost in the past year brought tears to my eyes. Many, many congratulations Sir Frank.

My very own personal award for Sporting Moment of the Year goes to South African footballer Siphiwe Tshabalala for his wonder goal against Mexico in the opening game of this summer’s World Cup. It is a goal that I will never forget and feel privileged to have seen it live.

I would also like to honour legendary Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar. This year he has become the most caped Test Cricketer of all time, surpassed 14,500 Test runs, become the first player ever to score a double century in an O.D.I., and just yesterday became the first batsman to score 50 Test centuries (which I was lucky enough to witness as well).

Let’s hope that 2011 gives us more fantastic sport!

INTER MILAN have won the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup which was held between 8 and 18 December in the United Arab Emirates.

The tournament kicked-off with the Quarter-Final Play-Off between U.A.E. league Champions Al-Wahda and Oceania Champions Hekari Utd from Papua New Guinea. Al-Wahda won 3-0.

The Quarter-Final line was now confirmed. African Champions TP Mazembe of Congo DR would play North American Champions Pachuca of Mexico, and Al-Wahda would face Asian Champions Seongnam Ilhwa of South Korea. TP Mazembe and Seongnam Ilhwa won their matches 1-0 and 4-1 respectively.

Now in the Semi-Final stage the two big guns entered the fray. South American Champions and 2006 World Champions Internacional of Brazil were drawn against TP Mazembe, whereas European Champions Inter Milan of Italy would face Seongnam Ilhwa.

In the every single one of these tournaments since its rebranding in 2005 the Final has been the champions of South America against the champions of Europe. But not this year! TP Mazembe pulled of one of the biggest international football upsets that I can remember by beating Internacional 2-0 and put themselves into the Final against Inter Milan who beat their South Korean opponents 3-0. 😮

But before The Final we had to know who would be placed third, fourth, fifth and sixth (Hekari Utd came seventh).

The two losing Quarter-Finalists, Pachuca and Al-Wahda drew 2-2 after 90 minutes and with no Extra-Time went straight to a Penalty-Shoot-Out which the Mexicans won 4-2 and earned themselves fifth place.

Losing Semi-Finalists, Internacional and Seongnam Ilhwa provided the warm-up act before The Final in their battle for third place. No prizes for guessing the winner here; Internacional won 4-2.

But now it was The Grand Final. Could TP Mazembe do the unthinkable and beat Inter Milan to bring the World Club Cup to Africa in the very same year the continent hosted its first World Cup? The whole footballing World (apart from the Italians) were behind TP Mazembe.

Unfortunately Inter hadn’t bothered to read the script and ran out 3-0 winners to become World Champions for the third time (1964 and 1965 being the years of their other triumphs). 😦

Mauricio Molina of Colombia won the Golden Boot as top goal scorer, netting three for Seongnam Ilhwa. Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon) of Inter Milan won the Golden Ball (player of the tournament), while Dioko Kaluyituka (Congo DR) of TP Mazembe and Andrés D’Alessandro (Argentina) of Internacional won the Silver and Bronze Balls respectively. Inter Milan won the Fair Play award as well.

Inter Milan now join a select group of clubs who have won this competition since it became a permanent FIFA event in 2005. The list of champions now reads: 2005 – São Paulo (Brazil), 2006 – Internacional (Brazil), 2007 – AC Milan (Italy), 2008 – Man Utd (England), 2009 – Barcelona (Spain) and 2010 – Inter Milan (Italy).

Now I think that having a Club World Cup is a great idea, but not in its current format. How the hell can a club like Inter Milan fly out to the Middle East, play just two matches and call themselves World Champions for a year? Surly there should be 16 or 24 clubs in such a competition? You could have it in the summer when there isn’t a World Cup, European Championship or Confederations Cup and make a really big deal over it. Obviously you would have to give plenty of warning to the clubs who might be taking part, say around seven years so that everybody knows it is going to happen and people can plan their holidays and such around it.

England could host it…seriously we could.