July 23rd, 2014 at 10:58 pm
BY JOHN GUBBA
What a brilliant idea by the organisers of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games to make the opening ceremony a spectacular fund raising event for children’s charity UNICEF.
In the unprecedented move, the countdown to the start of the ceremony was interrupted by a video plea broadcast on the 100-metre wide screen stretching across the stadium at Celtic Park.
“Right now thousands of world-class athletes are here in Glasgow. And over the next eleven days they’ll be doing their best to come first,” said the UNICEF ambassador.
“But tonight, they’re asking all of us watching to take a moment to think about the children in our Commonwealth who usually come last. Last to get healthcare. Last to get an education. Last to just get a fair chance in life.”
Money raised through the partnership between the Commonwealth and Unicef will be used to help to protect children from disease and exploitation, providing food and vaccines, and by giving children the chance to take part in sport.
To donate £5 to the Children Of The Commonwealth Fund text FIRST to 70333
Watched by a global audience of up to a billion and a crowd of 40,000 inside Celtic Park this was the biggest event staged in Glasgow’s proud history. And the opening ceremony was a glorious success.
Even a hilarious few moments that delayed the conclusion of the opening ceremony by Her Majesty the Queen did not detract. Sir Chris Hoy came to the rescue of Commonwealth Games Federation president Prince Imran from Malaysia when he struggled to open the ceremonial baton that contained the closing message.
Once the message was retrieved, the Queen said: ‘At Buckingham Palace last October I placed this message into the specially-crafted baton and passed it to the first of many thousands of baton-bearers. Over the past 288 days the baton has visited all the nations and territories of the Commonwealth, crossing every continent in a journey of more than 100,000 miles.
‘The baton relay represents a calling together of people from every part of the Commonwealth and serves as a reminder of our shared ideals and ambitions as a diverse, resourceful and cohesive family.
‘And now, that baton has arrived here in Glasgow, a city renowned for its dynamic cultural and sporting achievements and for the warmth of its people, for this opening ceremony of the Friendly Games.’
Can Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United stop City retaining the Premier League – or will it be Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea?
July 22nd, 2014 at 6:39 pm
With the World Cup over and the countdown to the new season fast approaching, all eyes are on the Premier League kick off on 16th August – and the big question is: ‘Who can stop defending champions Manchester City from making it two in a row?’
The summer transfer window has already seen plenty of activity among the leading contenders and who gets it right before the deadline will certainly boost their odds of winning the title. So here is our rundown of the top moves made so far by the leading contenders.
Manuel Pellegrini’s title holders have signed three new players and their focus has been on bringing in new signings that will make them even harder to beat. Despite mistakes at the back costing City a damaging defeat by Liverpool in the title run in last season, the Manchester club eventually squeezed home ahead of the Merseysiders by 86 points to 84. The new squad is strengthened by the addition of Fernando - £12m from Porto; Bacary Sagna - free from Arsenal; and Willy Caballero - £6m from Malaga
City’s switch around has already met with the approval of the bookmakers who currently have odds of 12/5 on City to retain the Premier League. But this looks like being another hugely competitive season with all the big guns keeping busy in the transfer market.
It is only 14 months since United were champions for a record 20th time in Sir Alex Ferguson’s farewell season. But can new manager Louis Van Gaal repair the spectacular demise last term under David Moyes? There is certainly huge expectation among Reds fans after watching their new boss guide the Netherlands to an impressive third place at the 2014 World Cup that included a Robin Van Persie assisted demolition of Spain in the group stages.
So far £58m has been spent on bringing in defender Luke Shaw from Southampton and midfielder Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao. But Van Gaal has raised expectations that more names will follow telling fans: “Watch this space.” With Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand already departed and Ryan Giggs retired, there is certainly a lot of room to add to the squad at Old Trafford. The optimism created by LVG’s appointment has lifted the Reds to third favourites for the title at 5-1.
Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has been notorious for not spending big money in the past. But the arrival of Alexis Sanchez for a cool £35 million looks like one of the buys of the summer. The Chilean forward was a big star at the World Cup and looks a class addition to the team that won the FA Cup. Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle United is the other big money signing at £12 million. Nonetheless, the Gunners remain fourth favourites at 6-1.
One manager who claims his club have already completed their summer spending is Jose Mourinho. The Blues have splashed out close to £80 million. The marquee signings have been teasing Cesc Fabregas away from Barcelona for £27 million and Diego Costa the much needed striker from Atlético Madrid costing £32 million.
Chelsea are strongly fancied at 7-4 to top the league.
With odds of 10/1 to end their 25 year wait to be champions, last season’s runners-up have been weakened by the loss of their talisman Luiz Suarez to Barcelona. In compensation the Anfield club have already recruited six new faces for around £60 million and appear to be in the market for at least one more big money signing. But will this prove to be too much surgery in one summer for Brendan Rodgers’ squad? The new arrivals so far include Adam Llallana (Southampton, £25m), Lazar Markovic (Benfica, £20m), Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen, £9.75m) and Ricky Lambert (Southampton, £4m). The betting at least suggests Liverpool’s chances of winning the Premier League for the first time have drifted.
Why Germany are Europe’s Greatest Ever World Cup winners – and James Rodrigues not Lionel Messi was player of tournament
July 13th, 2014 at 11:09 pm
How fitting that one of the most spectacular goals of the tournament has won the 2014 World Cup for THE outstanding team of the tournament.
When 22 year old Mario Götze struck the winner seven minutes from the end of extra time against Argentina he became a German legend.
The headline writers – in the UK at least – all agreed it was SUPER MARIO. Götze‘s goal landed the Germans their fourth World Cup – their first for 24 years – and made them the first ever European team to win the tournament in South America. Götze the youngest player ever to score in the final
This was billed as the match between the best team in the world against the team with the player many believe is the best player in the world . . . but Barcelona’s Lionel Messi failed to emulate Argentina’s greatest ever player Diego Maradona.
Messi was named player of the tournament. But this was travesty and a blatant compromise for the sponsors who all wanted to meet Argentina’s superstar skipper. For me the player of the tournament was Colombia’s James Rodriquez, who won the Golden Boot for top scoring with SIX goals despite only playing FIVE games. While Thomas Müller’s was one of several Germans who outshone Messi in Brazil.
The German keeper Manuel Neuer rightly won the Golden Glove – only USA’s Tim Howard came anywhere close to matching the Bayern Munich shot stopper.
From the immaculate Neuer in goal right through to match winning substitute Götze the Germans produced a superb team performance. Bastian Schweinsteiger was colossal in midfield and Philipp Lahm was again outstanding at right wing back as Germany dominated 60% of possession and had five more shots on target than Argentina.
But this was also a story of missed opportunities by the South Americans who had the better chances in normal time. A shocking miss by Gonzalo Higuain who shot wide when he broke clear on 20 minutes.Then Messi blew his big chances at the start of the second half with another golden chance that rolled wide of the far post.
The game was destined for extra time and the longer it went on the more Germany grew in superiority. When Gotze came off the bench to hit a spectacular winner served up by Chelsea’s André Schürrle it was no more than Joachim Löw‘s team deserved.
Germany are well deserved winners of the 2014 WorldCup – and they did it in style by beating both the pre-tournament favourites. Crushing host nation Brazil 7-1 in the semi-final before finishing off an immaculate campaign against Argentina.
The big question now is just how good is this German team?
Their acheivement in Brazil must rank as the greatest ever by a European nation – not just because they’re the first to win in South America. But the manner of their victory has been out of this world. The truth is the Spanish era of domination is over – and now the Germans have laid the foundations that could see them dominate for years to come.
July 13th, 2014 at 1:07 pm
The Netherlands are officially the third best team at World Cup 2014. And Brazil finish fourth. But there’s a huge gulf between these proud footballing nations.
For the host nation it was an opportunity to make amends for their humiliating 7-1 semi final defeat by Germany.
But the Dutch only made Brazil suffer further shame. Robin Van Persie despatched the opening goal from the penalty spot inside 3 minutes – after Arjen Robben was fouled by thiago silva. The Brazilian captain somehow avoiding a red card.
On 16 mins Daley Blind made it 2-0 .. the home fans falling silent in fear of another landslide.
In the end there was only one further strike deep into injury time from Georginio Wijnaldum
But this was too much for the Brazil fans who greeted the final whistle with boos for their fallen stars. Anyone who thinks this third place match does not matter can think again.
The sight of Dirk Kuyt at the side of the pitch having a cut on his head stapled confirmed just how much the Dutch players wanted to win this game.
Apart from their penalty shoot out defeat by Argentina in the semi final the Dutch finish unbeaten in this tournament. Louis Van Gaal proud of that achievement as he sets off for his new role as manager of Manchester United.
Meantime the biggest losers away from the World Cup are surely Paris St Germain. Did they really pay Chelsea 50 million pounds for David Luiz so they can play him in defence alongside Thiago Silva. Wow. Thats another Brazilian nightmare waiting to happen.
Javier Mascherano outstanding as Argentina end Dutch dream for Louis Van Gaal and Sergio Romero is spot kick hero
July 10th, 2014 at 10:57 am
In the end even master tactician Louis Van Gaal could not stop pre-tournament favourites Argentina reaching the final. It was heartbreak for Holland in a penalty shoot out. And joy for the South Americans, who for once did not rely on Lionel Messi to get them through.
This was a team effort by Argentina. Goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the hero in the penalty shoot out and man-of-the-match Javier Mascherano was outstanding in driving his team forward. Barcelona’s defensive midfielder produced one of the performances of the tournament.
The return of Nigel de Jong, and Robin van Persie passed fit to play was a pre-match boost for the Dutch. And unlike the previous night’s semi-final this was a real contest. A remarkable last ditch tackle from Masherano denied Arjen Robben in the last minute of normal time. And it remained goal-less in extra time too.
The Dutch had the lion’s share of possession. But Argentina had more shots and more on target. This was a match that always looked like it was heading for penalties.
In the nerve jangling penalty shoot out Romero was the hero saving two of Holland’s first three penalties. The Dutch keeper Jasper Cillesson has never saved a spot kick and when he couldn’t stop Maxi Rodriguez making it 4-2 Argentina were through.
In the final, Germany will be strongly fancied after that 7-1 win in the semi-final. But we still haven’t seen the best of Argentina.
July 8th, 2014 at 10:11 pm
Germany 7, Brazil 1
– Muller 11, Klose 23, Kroos 25, 26, Khedira 29, Schurrle 69, 79
– Oscar 90
Wow! Wow! Wow! Where do I start?
This has been an unbelievable World Cup on so many levels – but this was an extraordinary match the likes of which we have never seen before.
In the yellow corner, without their injured hero Neymar and suspended skipper Thiago Silva, this was the worst Brazilian team we have seen in the history of this proud nation.
But take nothing away from the Germans because they were awesome. Ruthless in their demolition of opponents who collapsed in embarrassment. Take nothing away from Joachim Loew’s side who in one six minute spell smashed home four glorious goals.
This was the biggest humiliation Brazil have ever experienced. Even more humbling than the the shame of the “Maracanasa” when they were beaten in the final by South American rivals Uruguay when they last hosted the world cup 54 years ago.
But how good is this German team? Only after Sunday’s final against Holland or Argentina will we truly be able to judge this team. Meantime this was the day a Brazilian dream was exposed as pure fantasy by the most spectacular win in German history.
Tour de France 2014 | Why cycling is challenging to become Britain’s most popular sport and Cavendish threatens to sue
July 8th, 2014 at 1:24 pm
British sport is so often a roller coaster of highs and lows. From winning and losing the Ashes, to Champions League triumphs for Manchester United and Chelsea, to the latest disastrous showing by Roy Hodgson’s England at the 2014 World Cup.
Two years ago at London 2012 we hit so many highs across the board it was almost unbelievable. At the weekend Mark Cavendish, who for so long was recognised around the world as “the fastest man on two wheels” crashed out of the Tour de France when he was the great British hope to win the first leg from Leeds to Harrogate. It was another devastating disappointment for the Manxman who failed to claim his anticipated Olympic road race gold two years ago.
But single out one sport that has gone from strength to strength over the past decade and you have to pick cycling. While Cavendish is now embroiled in a bitter exchange with Norwegian rider Alexander Kristoff who has accused him of “crashing on purpose” at the climax of Saturday’s stage one of the Tour de France, his sport and his own profile in the UK has sky rocketed.
Cavendish, anonymous not so long ago in public consciousness in the UK, has become one of our most recognised sportsmen with huge earning capacity. That’s why he must defend his reputation and his image, responding to the slur from Kristoff by insisting: ”I would normally say it’s best just to let some things go, but this is libellous and we are considering legal action.”
Meantime, cycling continues to grow in popularity with ever increasing numbers taking to the streets the length and bredth of the British Isles. The last time the TDF took place on English soil was 2007 when membership of British Cycling was hovering around the 20,000 mark. Seven years later that figure has soared to 93,000, with 3,000 new members signing up every month.
It is a surge in popularity inspired by unprecedented success for Team GB at successive Olympic Games and beyond. For the last two years the world’s most gruelling cycling race has been dominated by the Brits with back to back wins of the TDF by Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. Both have been well supported by the impressive Team Sky, the professional outfit Cavendish also used to race for that is managed by Sir Dave Brailsford, the brains behind much of our cycling success.
In Sir Chris Hoy – who won a sixth Olympic gold medal in London – we boast the the most successful British Olympian of all time.
It is a success story that extends from the track to the road and now to staging the first three legs of the world’s most famous cycling event. Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has pledged that the race will return.
Prudhomme said pleas had already been made for a fifth visit of cycling’s most prestigious race – previously hosted here in 1974, 1994 and 2007.“The question is not if but when, although I don’t have the answer for the second part,” he said. “We have many requests to host the Tour from Holland, Belgium, Italy and Spain.”
July 6th, 2014 at 3:35 pm
Louis Van Gaal is the new king of the mind games. That’s my verdict on another remarkable twist at this fascinating World Cup.
Holland’s elimination of brave Costa Rica in a Krul penalty shoot out will go down in football folklore as a dose of Dutch courage.
With the final place in the final four at stake this was the match to decide who plays Argentina in the semi final.
And underdogs Costa ignored all the odds with another incredible performance that denied the Dutch . . . Wesley Sneijder twice hit the woodwork and goalkeeper Kelvor Navas had the game of his life.
There was even a crucial save from Dutch keeper Jasper Cillessen to keep out Udena in a pulsating final few minutes of extra time.
Then came the real drama when van Gaal sent on substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul right at the end – purely for the penalty shoot out.
The Costa Ricans remember had scored 5 out 5 penalties to beat Greece in a shoot out in the previous round.
But this was a master stroke by the Dutch manager that clearly unsettled the opposition – and Krul joined in the mindgames by telling each penalty taker he knew where they would be aiming . . .
It worked as Krul made two saves and guessed right with all 5 penalties.
This has already been an unbelievable World Cup – but we’ve never seen anything like this before.
And Manchester United fans have joined the Dutch celebrations as they relish the prospects when Van Gaal takes over the Old Trafford hot seat in a few days time.
Argentine overcame the challenge of Belgium in the night’s other quarter-final.
Higuain scored the only goal when he struck early. And for once the South Americans did not rely on their no.1 Messi to get them over the line.
That means both semi finals will be Europe against South America.
Argentina against Brazil was the final the bookmakers predicted
- but can Germany or the Dutch make history and become the first European side to win the tournament in South America.
The Dutch certainly believe if anyone can mastermind that Van Gaal can.
July 5th, 2014 at 11:19 pm
When Tim Krul saved twice in a sensational penalty shoot out win that eliminated brave Costa Rica and earned Holland a semi-final showdown with Argentina, this remarkable World Cup hit another unbelievable high.
It was also confirmation if any was needed that Manchester United have found a worthy manager to fill the hot seat at Old Trafford.
Has any national team boss ever made a bigger call than the one LVG made when he sent Krul on as a substitute seconds before the end of a pulsating extra time that finished goal-less.
It was a master stroke that unsettled the Costa Ricans who scored a flawless 5 out of 5 in their previous round’s penalty shoot out win over Greece.
Well done Krul who had only made two previous saves from spot kicks for Newcastle United. And well done Van Gaal for proving he is both a master tactician and a master of mind games.
July 2nd, 2014 at 12:30 am
Well thank heavens for Lionel Messi – that’s all I can say about Switzerland parking the bus and holding out for two minutes short of two hours against Argentina.
The irony was the Swiss created more excitement in the final seconds than they’d done for the rest of the match. But ultimately they paid the price for negativity.
Thrashed 5-2 in their opening match by France, you can credit the Swiss for not rolling over against the favourites.Their tactics were simple – plenty of men behind the ball at all times. And they almost made it to a penalty shoot out.
But then came a moment of magic from Messi that released Di Maria on the right – and the Argentine who’d been well below par until that point found a glorious match winning strike.
It sparked a frantic final few minutes that saw the Swiss almost save themselves. Dzemali hitting the post with a header and then stumbling into the rebound and sending it wide.
Argentina go through. But this match only confirmed the notion that if you stop Lionel Messi you stop the South Americans. Meantime in the final round of 16 showdown we had a real thriller between Belgium and the USA.
Amazingly it finished goal-less after 90 minutes – thanks largely to American goalkeeper Tim Howard.
Then came another inspired substitution by Marc Wilmots . . . Romelu Lukaku off the bench to create the havoc that ended with Kevin De Bruyne breaking the deadlock.
Lukaku made it 2-nil . . . but we weren’t finished. A superb strike by Julian Green made it 2-1 and took the game to the wire and a breathtaking finish.
In the end an heroic effort by the Americans fell agonising short and Belgium complete the final eight. But let’s salute the USA for their part in one of the game’s of the tournament.