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Category Archives: Sport

THE draws for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 and Europa League Round of 32 and 16 were made at UEFA HQ in Nyon, Switzerland yesterday (17 December).

In the Champions League one of the eight group winners are drawn against one of the eight group runners-up, unless they were in the same group or come from the same country.

Note: Teams on the right (group winners) play the second leg at their home ground. Ties to be played on 15, 16, 22 and 23 February and 8, 9, 15 and 16 March 2011.

Roma (Ita)

vs.

Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukr)

AC Milan (Ita)

vs.

Tottenham Hotspur (Eng)

Valencia (Esp)

vs.

Schalke 04 (Ger)

Inter Milan (Ita)

vs.

Bayern Munich (Ger)

Lyon (Fra)

vs.

Real Madrid (Esp)

Arsenal (Eng)

vs.

Barcelona (Esp)

Marseille (Fra)

vs.

Man Utd (Eng)

Copenhagen (Den)

vs.

Chelsea (Eng)

There are some truly epic ties here. Inter Milan vs. Bayern Munich is a grudge match for Bayern, as Inter beat them in the last Final back in May. Arsenal will also be out for revenge against Barcelona. The Spanish club beat Arsenal in the 2006 Final and Lionel Messi scored four goals against Arsenal in the Camp Nou in last season’s competition and sent the Gunners crashing out.

Spurs will have their work cut out when they play AC Milan, who currently top the Serie A table by six points from Juventus and Napoli. Man Utd should have enough in the tank to overcome reigning French league Champions Marseille, and once again Chelsea get a really easy draw. No disrespect to Copenhagen but you guys haven’t got a chance. (But please prove me wrong).

Now to the Europa League.

In the Round of 32 one of the 12 group winners and the top four ranked third placed teams from the Champions League groups is drawn against one of the 12 group runners-up and the bottom four ranked third placed teams from the Champions League groups. Teams from the same group couldn’t be drawn against each other and neither could teams from the same country.

Note: Teams on the right (group winners and seeded third placed teams) play the second leg at their home ground. Ties to be played on 15 and 17 February and 22 and 24 February 2011.

Napoli (Ita)

vs. (1)

Villarreal (Esp)

Rangers (Sco)

vs. (2)

Sporting Lisbon (Por)

Sparta Prague (Cze)

vs. (3)

Liverpool (Eng)

Anderlecht (Bel)

vs. (4)

Ajax (Ned)

Lech Poznań (Pol)

vs. (5)

Braga (Por)

Beşiktaş (Tur)

vs. (6)

Dynamo Kyiv (Ukr)

Basel (Swi)

vs. (7)

Spartak Moscow (Rus)

Young Boys (Swi)

vs. (8)

Zenit St. Petersburg (Rus)

Aris (Gre)

vs. (9)

Man City (Eng)

PAOK (Gre)

vs. (10)

CSKA Moscow (Rus)

Sevilla (Esp)

vs. (11)

Porto (Por)

Rubin Kazan (Rus)

vs. (12)

Twente (Ned)

Lille (Fra)

vs. (13)

PSV (Ned)

Benfica (Por)

vs. (14)

Stuttgart (Ger)

BATE Borisov (Blr)

vs. (15)

PSG (Fra)

Metalist Kharkiv (Ukr)

vs. (16)

Bayer Leverkusen (Ger)

 

The draw for the Round of 16 was made immediately afterwards. Anybody could now be drawn against anybody else, as country protection no longer applies.

Note: Teams on the right play the second leg at home. The numbers below represent the winner of the corresponding tie in the Round of 32. Ties to be played on the 10th and 17th of March 2011.

14

vs.

15

6

vs.

9

12

vs.

8

10

vs.

11

13

vs.

2

16

vs.

1

4

vs.

7

3

vs.

5

 

There are some truly cracking ties in prospect in both rounds of matches. Liverpool should progress to the last eight, but unfortunately at the moment with the Reds you can never tell.

TODAY (14 December 2010) marks the 50th anniversary of the first ever Tied Test match. Australia and the touring West Indies had both fought hard to win the first Test at The Gabba in Brisbane, and with just one more eight ball over remaining it was all still to play for.

Australia needed 6 runs to win; the West Indies needed 3 wickets. True nail-biting stuff eh?

Wes Hall was to bowl the final over of the match and wicketkeeper Wally Grout was on strike. The following is a ball-by-ball review of the final, fateful over.

  1. Grout is hit on the thigh and Captain Richey Benaud calls a single. The leg-bye is taken and Australia need 5 runs to win.
  2. Benaud attempts a hook shot but is caught behind by wicketkeeper Gerry Alexander for 52. 5 runs or 2 wickets to win in just 6 balls.
  3. New man in, Ian Meckiff, cuts the ball to mid-off but no run is scored. 5 runs or 2 wickets to win off of 5 balls.
  4. Hall sends the ball down the leg-side and everybody misses it. Grout calls for Meckiff to run the bye and they do. Alexander attempts to run Meckiff out but misses the stumps. 4 runs or 2 wickets needed off of 4 balls. Australia are now a boundary away from winning.
  5. Grout fends a bouncer away to square leg, and Rohan Kanhai goes for the catch. But Hall also attempts to take the catch in his follow-through, and in the resulting mix-up (with no catch taken) Grout and Meckiff take the single. 3 runs or 2 wickets from 3 balls needed.
  6. Meckiff sends the ball to the mid-wicket boundary. He and Grout run 2 but Conrad Hunte just prevents the boundary, and his return throw is so good that it lands straight into Alexander’s gloves and he runs out fellow wicketkeeper Grout for just 2. The scores are now level; 1 run or 1 wicket from 2 balls needed for victory.
  7. No. 11, Lindsay Kline, pushes the ball to square leg and he and Meckiff set off on what they hoped would be the winning run. But Joe Solomon scooped the ball up and with one stump to aim at, hit it directly from almost 40ft away and runs Meckiff out for 2 by a matter of inches. With the scores at 737 runs each and no more fourth innings wickets left to fall, the 84 year wait for the first tied Test was at an end.

There has only ever been one other tied Test in the history of Cricket. It was the first Test of the 1986/87 Australia tour of India. This means that only two out of the 1,983 Test matches that have ever been played have ended in a tie. Don’t you think we are due for another one soon?

West Indies in Australia 1960/61 1st Test – The Gabba, Brisbane

West Indies won the toss and elected to bat

West Indies

vs.

Australia

453 (100.6 overs @ 4.49 rpo)

1st Innings

505 (130.3 overs @ 3.87 rpo)

G.st A. Sobers 132

N.C. O’Neill 181

A.K. Davidson 5-135

W.W. Hall 4-140

284 (92.6 overs @ 3.05 rpo)

2nd Innings

232 (68.7 overs @ 3.35 rpo)

F.M.M. Worrell 65

A.K. Davidson 80

A.K. Davidson 6-87

W.W. Hall 5-63

Note: This was back when Australia had 8 ball overs in their home Tests

Match Tied – Series level at 0-0 with four matches left. Australia won the series 2-1.

YESTERDAY (2 December) the world found out that the 2018 FIFA World Cup was to be held in Russia, and the 2022 FIFA World Cup was to be held in Qatar.

They triumphed in the second round of voting by gaining the magic number of 13 votes. The joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Netherlands/Belgium received seven and two votes respectively. But England crashed out in the first round of voting, only gaining two votes (and one of those votes came from the English FIFA delegate).

How on God’s Earth can the strongest bid of them all get just two votes?! All we would need to do was to expand a couple of stadiums and we’d be laughing.  Earlier this week FIFA gave the England bid 100/100 in every one of their criteria. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said in the past that England could host a World Cup tomorrow.

So where did it all go wrong? Well I think that FIFA has been exposed as the lying and fixed organisation that it is. The English press has exposed bribery and corruption amongst the FIFA executive committee and FIFA didn’t like it. I also think that these FIFA members don’t give a damn about who they stab in the back. At least five of the committee members ‘assured’ both David Beckham and PRINCE WILLIAM (of all people) that England had their votes. England’s presentation speech was also said to have been the best but it all counted for absolutely nothing.

Anyway, Russia will be hosting it’s (and Eastern Europe’s) first ever World Cup and travelling fans can look forward to the institutionalised racism that is in Russian football. Earlier in the year Lokomotiv Moscow fans unveiled a banner aimed at their former black player and now West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie. Said banner depicted a Banana. The head of the Russian bid, Alexey Sorokin said that: “To receive a Banana is a Russian way of saying ‘you’re a failure’.”

But (and you’ll love this) a Lokomotiv fan who I shall not name replied with this: “Sorokin has told the world that there was no racism in the banner. He described the message as the Russian saying ‘to receive a banana’ signifying a big failure but not racist. I never heard of this saying before.” He continued to say: “We drew the banana as a reference to Odemwingie’s African roots. Every black in Russia is often called ‘monkey’. I believe that Russian fans are racists deep in their souls.” Can you imagine the first game of the 2018 World Cup being Russia vs. somebody like Ghana or Cameroon? I’d be pretty shocked if we didn’t see banners in the same vain as below at that game.

To show you just how fixed I think this vote was; when David Beckham, PM David Cameron and HRH Prince William were in Zurich trying in vain to boost England’s chances, Russian PM Vladimir Putin was in a meeting about Russia’s health service. When Russia was announced as the winner he immediately flew to Zurich.  I have heard that he was told 24 hours in advance that Russia had won – but don’t take my word for it. Also, England’s bid was all over the news in the days before the vote, but on the day of the vote in Russia their bid and the vote was just an And Finally segment on their news agenda. And another thing, World Cup stadia are meant to be scattered all over the host country right, yet the people in Vladivostok wouldn’t be watching any matches in their city.

Anyway, 2018 rant over, now it’s time for the 2022 rant.

Qatar of all countries! What the hell was wrong with the U.S.A.’s bid?! The last time America hosted the World Cup in 1994 it smashed attendance records and made FIFA a huge sum of money (just as England would have done in 2018, well money wise anyway). Australia would have put on a great show, just look at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney or the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. Even Japan and South Korea could have put on a good World Cup even though it would have been just 20 years since they co-hosted it together.

But no, FIFA decided to pick a country that has never ever even qualified for a World Cup and has only ever reached the Quarter-Finals of the Asian Cup once back in 2000. Qatar has only ever hosted the Asian Cup once back in 1988, but are coincidently (ha ha yeah right) hosting the tournament next month (January 2011). The national side is ranked a lowly 113th in the world between the Central African Republic and Thailand. Qatar is also an Arab country (so no drinking or sleeping around westerners) and is just half the size of Wales and has a population of fewer than 1.7 million. With all the fans and teams and reporters coming to stay for a month will everybody be able to fit on the island?

Isn’t it funny how the two countries with the weakest (in my eyes) bids yet are rich in gas and oil win the rights to host the World Cup?

Although I will say this in support for Qatar. When the World Cup has finished they will demolish the new stadia and transport them piece by piece to countries in the developing world. A great gift to the footballing world, but I thought you were meant to leave a lasting legacy in your own country?

The sad thing about all this for England is that now the next chance we have of hosting the World Cup is in 2030. China have said that they would like to host the tournament in 2026, but don’t be surprised if it is award to the Principality of Sealand (the former WW2 Mansell Sea Fort six miles of the cost of Suffolk) in the name of expanding the global game.

But justice may be done. 2030 is the 100th anniversary of the first ever World Cup in Uruguay, and nothing would give me greater satisfaction than having England hosting the Centenary World Cup.

After all, we only gave the world the game it loves.

 

 

England

1

vs.

2

France

Peter CROUCH 86’

Att. = 85,495

Karim BENZEMA 16’

Mathieu VALBUENA 55’

International Friendly

Ref = Claus BO LARSEN (DEN)

Wembley Stadium

ENGLAND suffered a sickening defeat to rivals France on Wednesday (17 November). This is the national side’s first home loss under coach Fabio Capello.

The home team almost scored after just two minutes; Steven Gerrard had his free-kick comfortably saved by French keeper and captain Hugo Lloris.

France then utterly dominated the next period of the game. England keeper Ben Foster almost spilt Florent Malouda’s shot before Karim Benzema scored at the near post after a lovely passing move between himself and Malouda. But England did have some chances in the first-half but they were few and far between. Gerrard blasted a shot over and debutant Andy Carroll could only provide Lloris with some catching practice.

The first real action of the second-half came ten minutes in. Bacary Sagna crosses the ball into the box and Mathieu Valbuena seemed to appear out of thin air to guide the ball into the back of the net for 0-2 to the visitors.

Gerrard almost pulled a goal back for England just after the hour mark, but his header from a free-kick landed on top of the crossbar. Seven minutes later Carroll again saw his attempt on the French goal saved by Lloris. With just 15 minutes left on the clock a game of pinball broke out on the edge of the French penalty area, but alas England couldn’t make the ball go in the hole.

The clock now said 80 minutes and England were getting desperate. Gerrard shot wide after Lloris spilt the ball, and France almost capitalised on England going forward but Samir Nasri hit the post.

With only five minutes left Steven Gerrard injured his hamstring and had to be replaced by Peter Crouch. It later emerged that the FA had told Liverpool that Gerrard would only play 60 minutes. Stuff was written and stuff was said in the heat of the moment and I hate to disagree with the club I support, but he was playing for a different (and more important) team when he got injured.

Less than a minute later England finally scored thanks to the long legs of Peter Crouch. The 6 ft 7 in striker arrowed the ball into the roof of the French net from a corner for his 22nd international goal in only his 42nd appearance.

Why is Crouch never started? He is a proven international goal scorer, so why is he left on the bench?

England almost equalised in the 92nd minute through new boy Jay Bothroyd but again Lloris caught the shot and secured his nation the win. Capello’s team had finished the stronger side, but over the whole 90 minutes France where the worthy victors.

Now, I was rather ill on Wednesday night (and missed school on Thursday and Friday because of it) and watching this made me feel even worse. The only consolidation England fans had at the World Cup in the summer was that we weren’t France. They publicly fell out with each other and brought shame to their nation in such a way that a government enquiry was launched into what the hell went wrong.  They also had to live with the shame of France being ranked as low as 27th in the world (no disrespect to Denmark who are currently ranked 27th in the world).

But the management was changed and the troublesome players were banned. The side is on the up and doubtlessly France’s time will come again. But England are just the same old team, the same old management, the same old high hopes, and the same old disappointment.

Going into this game England were ranked 6th in the world by FIFA, France were 21st. On the evidence of what I saw on Wednesday night I wonder if FIFA got their sums the wrong way around.

Some other friendly internationals from Wednesday night

Argentina 1 – 0 Brazil

Hong Kong 0 – 7 Paraguay

Netherlands 1 – 0 Turkey

Northern Ireland 1 – 1 Morocco

Portugal 4 – 0 Spain

Republic of Ireland 1 – 2 Norway

Romania 1 – 1 Italy

South Africa 0 – 1 U.S.A.

Sweden 0 – 0 Germany

(Tuesday) Scotland 3 – 0 Faroe Islands

Euro 2012 Qualifiers

Croatia 3 – 0 Malta GC

Finland 8 – 0 San Marino

ONE of England’s main rivals in the race to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup has withdrawn their bid.

The U.S.A. bid team have now switched their focus entirely to bidding for the 2022 World Cup. In return England has pulled out of the running to host the 2022 World Cup and will focus on the 2018 bid.

This means that Europe will host the World Cup in 2018, with: Belgium & Netherlands, Russia and Portugal & Spain being England’s opposition.

The countries in the running for the 2022 tournament are: Australia, Japan, Qatar, South Korea and U.S.A.

Indonesia and Mexico pulled out of both races some time ago.

Personally, I’d award England the 2018 World Cup (even if I wasn’t English) and award the U.S.A. the 2022 World Cup. The last time the United States held the World Cup in 1994, the whole thing was a huge success.

FIFA will announce both the 2018 and 2022 winning bids on 2 December.

Looking even further into the future, I’d award the 2026 World Cup (if they bid and deserved it) to either China or Australia, and the 2030 World Cup (the 100th anniversary edition) to the 1930 hosts Uruguay. Why not?

RAFAEL NADAL, 24, became only the seventh man to complete the Tennis Career Grand Slam with his 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-2 win over Novak Djokovic in yesterday’s (13 September) US Open Men’s Final at Flushing Meadows, New York City (New York).

World No. 1 - Rafael Nadal

He joins: Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi and his arch-rival Roger Federer as the only male Tennis players to have won the: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles.

The Spaniard won his first of so far five French Open titles in 2005 aged just 19. He then defended his title in: 2006, 2007 and in 2008. He lost his title in 2009 to Roger Federer – this win earned Federer his Career Grand Slam – but The King of Clay regained his French Open crown this year.

His first Wimbledon title came in 2008 after finally ending Federer’s reign of five years in one of the greatest matches of all time. His second Wimbledon came this year after missing out in 2009 through injury.

His only Australian Open title came last year, beating Federer in yet another five set epic.

The left-hander is also the reigning Olympic Champion from Beijing. He has been in 11 Grand Slam Finals and lost just two – both to Federer at Wimbledon in 2006 and 2007.

His trademark is biting the trophy he has just won in front of the worlds press, and I believe that we will see plenty more bite marks in Tennis silverware for years to come.

YESTERDAY (30 August) a piece of footballing history faded out of living memory with the death of the last surviving player from the very first World Cup in 1930.

Francisco Varallo passed away at the grand old age of 100 in La Plata, Argentina – the capital city of the province of Buenos Aires and the place of his birth.

Francisco Varallo

He was nicknamed ‘Canoncito’ or ‘Little Canon’ for his power shots, and with said powerful shot scored 181 goals for his club Boca Juniors. This record was only broken this year by Martin Palermo.

As an Argentina international he played 16 matches and scored seven goals. His only World Cup finals goal came in his country’s 6-3 win over Mexico. Varallo played in the very first World Cup Final against arch rivals and host nation Uruguay.

His side lost the match 2-4, and he said that the loss made him angry a full 80 years after the event.

But he did enjoy winning four Argentina league titles. One with Gimnasia de La Plata in 1929, and three with Boca Juniors in: 1931, 1934 and 1935. Varallo also won the 1937 South American Championship with Argentina in 1937.

He retired from football in 1940 at the age of 30, still feeling the effects of a bad knee injury which saw him miss virtually the whole of the 1938 season.

Varallo later became a coach in the lower divisions in Argentina, and in 1994 became only the second player to be awarded the FIFA Order of Merit.

A sad day for World Cup enthusiasts the world over.

R.I.P.

REMEMBER last week when I reported on Kenya’s David Rudisha, 21, setting a new World Record for the Men’s 800m with a time of 1:41.09 in Berlin? Well he only went and ran an even faster time yesterday (29 Augustus) in Rieti (Italy)!

The new World Record – pending ratification by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) – is now a time of 1:41.01.

There can be no doubt about it now; Rudisha will go under 1:41. It is just a matter of time.

David Rudisha - The Fastest Man over half a Mile.

DAVID RUDISHA of Kenya broke the men’s 800m World Record last night (22 August) at an IAAF World Challenge meeting in Berlin.

David Rudisha

The 21 year-olds’ time of 1:41.09 bettered the previous record by just 0.02 seconds. The World Record had been held for two days shy of 13 years by Kenyan born Danish athlete Wilson Kipketer. It was Kipketer who took the World Record away from Lord Sebastian Coe in 1997, only to go faster still just 11 day later.

Rudisha took only 48.65sec to reach 400m (with the help of a pacesetter) and maintained his pace with a second lap of 52.44sec. After his record breaking run he told the BBC World Service: “I feel great but I am also dreaming of becoming the first to run under 1:41.

His form hasn’t come out of the blue either. Although he could only manage to reach the Semi-Finals in last year’s World Championship in Berlin, he won the recent African Championships and set a time of 1:41.51 in Heusden, Belgium, in July. This was the closest anybody had come to the now old WR.  

I really do hope he does go under 1:41 (and that I see it). It’s been one of the main milestones in athletics that just hasn’t been reached yet, like a 9m Long Jump on the men’s side and a 2.10m High Jump for the women.

FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, has said that he is considering scrapping draws in the group stages of future World Cups. Under these new proposals, all group matches that end in a draw after 90 minutes will go straight to penalties, assuring a winner in every match.

Now I’m not Blatter’s biggest fan, but I’m going to have to side with him on this one. During the World Cup in South Africa we saw the fear of losing outweighing the will to win. Managers would quite happily settle for a draw in their opening or last group game if that is all that was needed.

In the 48 group matches in South Africa there were 14 draws (29% of matches). Of these 14 draws there were: six 0-0s, six 1-1s and two 2-2s.

2006 saw just 11 group games ending all square, 2002 had 14 draws (but Uruguay came from 0-3 down to draw 3-3 with Senegal) and 1998 saw 16 draws. Just think, with penalties at the end of these matches some teams that didn’t advance form their groups may have done so with the extra points.

FIFA do already use a similar no draws rule in the Beach Soccer World Cup. If a group game ends with the scores the same after the full-time whistle both teams play a period of extra-time, and if the scores are still tied they play a sudden-death penalty shoot-out. The winner is awarded two points instead of three and everybody except the losing team goes home happy.

This wouldn’t be first time that FIFA have played about the group stages in the World Cup. There most recognisable piece of tinkering came in Switzerland ’54. Each group consisted of four teams – two seeded and two non-seeded. But the two seeds didn’t play each other and neither did the two non-seeds, meaning each country only played two group games instead of the normal three. Also, any of these games ending level after 90 minutes were followed by 30 minutes of extra-time. Only then if the scores remained level did each side take away a point. This actually happened in the England vs. Belgium game in the 1954 World Cup. The score at the end of normal time was 3-3, and the match ended 4-4.

As I’ve said earlier, I’m all for the idea of penalties at the end of a drawn group match because the fans don’t want to watch a dull 0-0 – Brazil vs. Portugal for example, and because the law of averages states that England will win on penalties again eventually.

But what I am not a fan of is Blatter’s plan of bringing back the awful ‘Golden Goal’. This rule states that the first goal in extra-time wins the match for the scoring team. But could you imagine the outcry if the ‘Golden Goal’ rule had been used in the 1966 Final? Geoff Hurst’s crossbar goal would have won the World Cup, and we never would have heard those immortal words from commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme: “And here comes Hurst. He’s got… some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. It is now! It’s four!

We also would have not witnessed what has been dubbed: ‘The Game of the Century’. This was a 1970 World Cup Semi-Final between Italy and West Germany at the Azteca Stadium (Mexico City) in front of a crowd of 102,444 people. Italy took the lead after just eight minutes, and West Germany equalized in injury-time at the end of the second half. West Germany then took the lead in the 94th minute and the win if the match had the ‘Golden Goal’ rule. But Italy scored on 98 and 104 minutes to take a 3-2 lead, only for West Germany to score in the 110th minute to make it 3-3. But Italy scored just a minute later whilst the TV cameras still showed replays of West Germany’s third goal. Italy won the ‘Game of the Century’ 4-3 after extra-time.

So, to sum up. It’s a ‘yes’ for no more draws in the group stages, but a ‘no’ for the return of the ‘Golden Goal’.