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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?
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.
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
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.”
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.
2014 World Cup | Super Chile were fantastic, but Spain were atrocious | Shock early exit for defending champions
Would you believe it – defending champions SPAIN are the first team eliminated from the 2014 World Cup. And I’m sorry to say my Spanish friends your boys simply weren’t good enough!
Crushed 5-1 by Holland in their opening match, Spain had to avoid a first ever defeat by Chile. And remarkably the South Americans were too strong for Vincente Del Bosque’s men.
An opening strike by Eduardo Vargas gave Chile the lead. And for the second time in less than a week Spain’s tippy tappy football was ineffective.
Charles Aránguiz made it 2-nil just before half-time – capitalising on another huge mistake by goalkeeper Iker Casillas. For me Spain paid the price for failing to go with the in-form David de Geay.
Also hugely disappointing was Diego Costa. In 126 minutes at this world cup the Spaniard had only 5 shots, none on target – touching the ball just 21 times. One wonders does Jose Mourinho still want to sign the Athletico Madrid striker?
Spain are only the fifth reigning champions to go out in the group stages – the first to fall after two just matches
So it’s the end of an era for Spain who’d won the three previous major tournaments. Two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup.
Meantime, it will be fascinating to see how Chile fare against Holland in the final match that will decide who finishes top of Group B
2014 World Cup | Mexico exposed Brazilian weaknesses | why host nation will not win record sixth World Cup
Six days gone at World Cup 2014 and pre-tournament favourites BRAZIL are struggling to live up to expectations . . . MEXICO the second team to expose Brazilian weaknesses.
A stand-out performance by Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was the highlight of a goal-less draw. Neymar gave everything in his efforts to lift the home nation who will need to find a new level if they’re to reach the final stages. It was a stalemate that could easily have resulted in Brazil losing a group match for only the second time in 44 years.
Meanwhile in the final round of opening matches, much fancied Belgium staged a thrilling second half fightback against Algeria.
BELGIUM 2-1 ALGERIA
Manchester United’s Marouane Fallaini came off the bench to land the equaliser. Fellow substitute Dries Mertens completed the comeback with a late winner.
It was Belgium’s first World Cup win since 2002.
KOREA 1-1 RUSSIA
In the other game in group H, a shocking mistake by the Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev sparked another dramatic finish against South Korea.
Alexander Kerzhakof made it 1-1 for Fabio Capello’s men.
GROUP H TABLE + MUSIC
Belgium out in front at the top but this is a group that still looks wide open.
Ronaldo’s Portugal Müller-ed by Germany
The big talking point on Day 5 of the World Cup in Brazil was Germany’s domination of Portugal. And Pepe’s red-card for his stupid attack on Thomas Muller.
The Germans were already leading 2-0 when Pepe destroyed Portugal’s hopes of topping Group G. Muller should have received a yellow card at least for his over-reaction to Pepe’s initial foul. But Pepe let his team-mates down badly. And Muller went on to score the first hat-trick of this World Cup.
Group G table
For Cristiano Ronaldo it was a humbling experience. The pressure now on the World’s No.1 player to rescue his team – defeat in the next match against the USA would mean an early exit for Portugal.
Meantime, who would bet against the Germans becoming the first European team to win a world cup in South America.
Frank Lampard right to blast media for negative Wayne Rooney fixation handicapping England’s 2014 World Cup bid
Just like David Beckham before him Wayne Rooney is an England hero who refuses to be written off by the British media.
The truth is that Roy Hodgson’s men have been affected by the negative comment targeted at their biggest star by the newspapers, radio and television back home.
Frank Lampard revealed the resentment within the England camp for the negative media attention when he said: “There has been a fixation with one player in every World Cup I’ve been involved in.
“It’s frustrating when you’re in a team group and that happens. There is a fixation on one player and rather than a debate. It becomes an agenda so I think we need to drop the agenda and look at the team, whoever plays.
“Rooney is determined at every tournament. A lot of furore has been built up around him but I see the same Wayne. He wants to play well and give everything for the team.
“It’s about a team performance. We didn’t win the other night, but the minute you start trying to focus on individuals again and again and again it can be detrimental. Behind closed doors, we’re trying to win games.”
No doubt Rooney will attract even more criticism for lashing out at the media abuse he has received from some so-called experts with a strongly worded statement on Facebook today that reads:
“Sometimes wonder what the press are getting at. I said from the start I want to do everything I can to make sure I’m ready for these World Cup games and as part of that I was doing extra training a week before the squad joined up. That’s exactly what I did yesterday, my own extra training because that’s what I wanted to do.”
The truth is that Rooney’s contribution in the narrow 2-1 defeat by Italy in their opening Group B match was a vital part of a performance Gary Neville has described as “the best England have played for 16 years.”
In my view there is absolutely zero chance of Hodgson not sticking with Rooney in the must not lose showdown with Uruguay on Thursday. How delicious will it be for the Manchester United star if he makes the critics eat their words when it really counts.
Peerless Pirlo king of the jungle
In England’s showdown with Italy it was another masterclass from the peerless Pirlo. The 35 year old the undisputed king of the jungle in the Amazon.
Italy 2-1 England
Raheem Sterling was England’s star man in a positive display by Roy’s boys.
And Daniel Sturridge gave the Three Lions hope with his first World Cup goal.
But Italy were good value for their 2-1 win.
England had their chances and this was a big improvement on previous displays.
Meantime the biggest surprise saw Costa Rica reverse a 1-nil half time deficit.
Costa Rica 3-1 Uruguay
Three goals in the second half stunned Uruguay.
And that makes Thursday’s England-Uruguay match a must not lose game for both sides.
On what we’ve seen so far England definitely have the quality to beat Uruguay.
So long as they don’t lose on Thursday England can still quality for the knockout stages.
The future is orange! With Klopp again rejecting United, Van Gaal will be new supremo at Old Trafford and Giggs the apprentice!
There will be a genuine buzz of excitement at the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday when Ryan Giggs starts what I confidently predict will be another glittering chapter in his remarkable career at Manchester United.
It will be his first match as player manager and this is not good timing for visitors Norwich City who are in for a torrid afternoon because I have absolutely no doubt that the United stars who drastically underachieved under David Moyes will be bursting to prove themselves.
Following the inevitable sacking of Moyes four matches before the end of the club’s worst ever season in the Premier League, Giggs is a hugely popular choice to take charge – albeit in a caretaker role at this stage.
Twenty-four years ago Giggs was handed his first professional contract as a player in the week of his 17th birthday. The Welsh wizard has won every honour in the game and embodies everything the club stands for.
Along with the rest of the superstars born in that famous Class of 92, Giggsy has been mentored throughout by Sir Alex Ferguson, a pivotal father figure who gave all his proteges that burning desire to be the best and overcome all odds.
It is exactly those qualities and his proud Old Trafford pedigree that will make him a successful coach and a key figure in the upcoming era that looks destined to unfold under the new emperor Louis van Gaal.
There are those who believe Giggs already has the charisma and ability to grow into the role of United manager and success on his watch in the season’s four remaining matches against Norwich, Sunderland, Hull and Southampton would strengthen that argument.
But my belief is that future for the Reds is orange!
My sources tell me that Jurgen Klopp was offered the opportunity to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson as manager but turned the job down before it was offered to Moyes. Klopp in my view would be a perfect fit for United and now the opportunity is here again, if he could be persuaded to leave his beloved Borussia Dortmund, he would be a manager the fans adore.
His swashbuckling style and engaging persona, along with his proven track record at the highest level make him a dynamic manager who would be an irresistible force at Manchester’s top table. But his heart currently belongs in Dortmund and his statements today appear to rule him out of the reckoning.
“Man Utd is a great club and I feel very familiar with their wonderful fans,” Klopp was quoted as saying in the Guardian. ‘But my commitment to Borussia Dortmund and the people is not breakable.”
That leaves Van Gaal. who turns 63 in August, as the front runner. And clearly the prospect of the Dutchman taking charge after this summer’s World Cup in Brazil when his stewardship of the Netherlands team expires makes him perfectly placed to step in.
The fact that he has already made it known that he is “very keen” on the job at Old Trafford suggests he is confident of being given the nod, even if he has not officially had it already. And that is good news for Giggs because Van Gaal is a manager who always insists on having someone with the DNA of the club within his inner circle.
Like any top manager, Van Gaal will bring members of his preferred management team with him. But expect a role for Giggs. Just how prominent that will be will largely depend on how well he performs in his four matches as caretaker. A good showing will put United’s most decorated player in the rrame for being the new manager’s apprentice and eventual successor.
While United trumpeted Moyes’ appointment as being consistent with the club’s philosophy of long-term planning, turning to a manager in his sixties is not necessarily a short-term fix. Fergie of course remained in charge into his seventies and still has an importance voice in the boardroom. Giggs learning the ropes as a coach under a new manager with a long track record of success who may well take on the role of director of football could be a winning combination designed for longevity.
There will be many arguments put forward over the coming weeks for other candidates including Jose Mourinho and Roberto Martinez, both of whom would do outstanding jobs at Old Trafford. But life is all about timing. And much that I admire both Mourinho and Martinez, everything points to Van Gaal who can add the fact that he has rejuvenated the international career of United’s injured marksman Robin van Persie to his outstanding CV.
My only reservation about Van Gaal is that his management style and abrasive nature will not make him popular across the board. But that did not hold back Ferguson. And at this stage of proceedings Manchester United need a strong manager who will put the club back on their perch at the top of the English game. Not just winning trophies but playing football to be proud of.
Mourinho could have been that man if he had not returned to Stamford Bridge and declared his undying love for Chelsea. While Martinez, who previously turned down Liverpool because in my estimation he wanted the bigger job at United, has now committed himself to Everton. So my conclusion is that unless Klopp has a change of heart, Van Gaal is the man and Giggs will be his apprentice.