Brazil And Italy Conjure Up A Majestic Contest

21 03 2013

It might be nine games and 16 months since Italy last won a friendly but Cesare Prandelli will be proud of the spirit the Azzurri showed to turn a two goal deficit into a draw against the much fancied Brazil.

Italy are notorious for their nonchalant attitude towards friendlies, an opportunity to test new players and tactics but no reason to arduously seek a good result, but this performance will put them in good stead for their World Cup qualifier against Malta next week.

In these non-competitive games we have become accustomed to witnessing dour contests lacking both intensity and personality, however the match in Geneva showcased two teams with World Cup winning ambitions, and both will gain confidence from proceedings.

Mario Balotelli and Neymar exchange shirts after the friendly in Switzerland.

Mario Balotelli and Neymar exchange shirts after the friendly in Switzerland.

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The Highs And Lows Of Wayne Rooney’s Manchester United Career

7 03 2013

Rooney's Future Is In Doubt

Rooney’s Future Is In Doubt

Highs

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Is Racism Still Rife In English Football?

10 12 2012

December 2011

The idea of discrimination still persisting in today’s world is hard for anyone to comprehend. Over a process of time, education has been important to try and abolish prejudices which have stemmed down from the past to help establish equality. With its working class roots, football grounds have previously been the place in which people from ethnic minorities have suffered vile abuse. Most had felt those days were a thing of the past until the recent John Terry and Luis Suarez racism scandals, which has prodded the question ‘Is there still racism in football’?

Firstly, it is important to actually define what racism is and how it affects people. Hylton defines its mainstream definition (2009, p.10) ‘Racism is considered as a popular analytical concept that many imbue with little credibility in its potential to interrogate the social and historical reasons for the developed hierarchies and transhistorical advantages accruing to particular socio-economic groups.’ The process of this prejudice stems downs from ancestors and how the previous use of black people as slaves for example is still exemplified by some to perceive they are a ‘superior’ race. Tomlinson (2007, P.307) expressed how sport is important to bring people together ‘Sport has been a major factor in breaking down racial and religious barriers… Sport can bring about a situation of oneness regardless of colour’.

To try and understand the social problems, the critical race theory (CRT) (Hylton, 2009) has become a popular academic study to establish why there is inequality. The study has focused on white supremacy and the possibility of achieving racial liberation and anti-subordination. A brief summarisation by Hylton on CRT is a (2009, P.22) ‘ Framework from which to explore and examine the racism in society that privileges whiteness as it disadvantages others because of their ‘blackness’. The theory initiated in America and was used around the time of the civil rights movement, with the problem being far more contemporary and common over there than in England. Despite laws being in place, the theory points out that white people will do anything to bypass that regulation and discourage the involvement of somebody from an ethnic minority background.

Racism In Football Topic Was Rekindled After The Suarez And Evra Incident.

Racism In Football Topic Was Rekindled After The Suarez And Evra Incident.

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Chelsea’s Patience With Torres Is Wearing Thin

20 11 2012

Questions were asked when Chelsea decided to invest £50m in Fernando Torres. Yes he was a proven goalscorer, but he looked on the decline. Injuries had hampered his latter years at Liverpool, where he appeared as if he had lost a yard of pace. At his best, Torres was unstoppable; just ask Nemanja Vidic who he frequently tormented. A striker who would roam around the pitch, play on the last defender or cut in from out wide, and score goals with aplomb. In his first season alone he scored 33 goals and quashed the adage of foreigners needing time to adjust to the Premier League. Yet this seemed a signing from the owner Roman Abramovich, akin to when he invested £30m for Andriy Shevchenko four years previously who also looked a shadow of the player he once was.

Averaging a goal every four and a half games since his transfer down south, Torres seemed to have the role as no.9 nailed on this season, aided with the departure of Didier Drogba and Romelu Lukaku’s loan to West Brom. The club have supported him continually and suspension has been the only obstacle preventing him being involved in every game. However being relegated to the bench for the must win clash in Turin against Juventus has fuelled the rumour-mill once more that The Blues will be back in for a forward come January. With Daniel Sturridge the only serious competition for his position (despite being more effective on the right), Torres seems to have another six weeks to convince he still has the quality to lead the frontline for the European Champions.

The demise of Torres coincided with his injuries and the burden of such an overbearing transfer fee. Pressure was immediately upon him and at times during his spell in London it has seemed he has tried too hard. Bereft of confidence in front of goal, Torres has almost become a defensive forward at times, putting in a shift but not providing the goals. His overall game is arguably as strong as it was when at Anfield, but once he gets in a shooting position he lacks that predatory instinct which made him so prolific. Belief in him waned towards the end of the last campaign and Drogba got the nod in the Champions League and FA Cup finals.

Torres’s Position Is Under Threat

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From Back To Scrum: The Alteration Of Tom Youngs

10 11 2012

England kick-off of their autumn internationals this Saturday with a modest test against Fiji. The bruising encounter against the Flying Fijians will prove an initial examination for Stuart Lancaster to discover just how prepared his inexperienced side are before the triple-header against the world’s top three. These tests will not be encountered flippantly. World rankings in other sports might be farcical and maligned, but for England it is pivotal to ensure they remain in the top four before the 2015 World Cup seedings are formulated come the end of this year. This is to ensure their passage through the group stage is as feasible as possible, and avoiding the powerhouses such as New Zealand prematurely. England need to showcase to the fans that they have learnt from their mistakes from the Six Nations and South Africa. When Lancaster announced his team on Thursday morning, the name on the team sheet for the Fijian game which has caused most intrigue is that of Youngs. Not Ben, however, who has returned from injury quicker than expected; but his older brother Tom.

The boys grew up on a farm in Norfolk and were always destined to play rugby. Their father Nick played scrum-half and represented the Red Roses on six occasions. Ben Youngs told fond anecdotes at the team’s hotel in Surrey on Thursday how the two brothers would play ‘attack vs. defence’ out in the fields. Tom’s younger brother happily admitted he did not have the farming endeavour of his sibling, and how this grit and fortitude drove him to make it as a professional. Tom recollects how his first game at hooker went “I remember playing my first 90 minutes for Nottingham and just running around like a headless chicken. I wanted to become the best hooker in the Championship, and making sure I set little goals has been important in my career.”

Remarkably, his career has not followed the archetypal rugby path because Youngs converted from playing as a centre to the front-row. After the suggestion from former Leicester Tigers Coach Heyneke Meyer’s that both he and the club would have faith in him if he made the move, Youngs was given a few weeks to deliberate the decision “My dad said: ‘It’s your career, your life. Go ahead and do it if you want to give it a shot.” A move to Nottingham on dual registration allowed him the freedom to learn the arts in the lower division. “It was a matter of setting small targets and taking small steps. I had my head shoved up my arse on more than one occasion, but I was always able to go back to Leicester and talk things through with the top players there.” He also ensured his coaches reviewed tapes of his games and were analytical on his performance; keen to seek out where he was making mistakes. Was there much hesitation in his decision to alter position? “I was a hard-running centre who enjoyed tackling and knew how to pick a decent line, but I couldn’t kick. I didn’t have the skills to really make the grade in midfield. I’m glad I made the switch, although I wouldn’t say it’s been easy.” His first outing as a number two was actually against his parent club in a friendly; an occasion he is not likely to forget in a hurry “The Leicester front row that day was Marcos Ayerza, George Chuter and Martin Castrogiovanni, all of them internationals. I was on painkillers for a week.”

Brothers In Arms – Ben and Tom Youngs.

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Time For Michael Schumacher To Finally Call It Quits?

6 09 2012

Last weekend was one of reflection, affection and nostalgia for Michael Schumacher. Circuit de Spa-Franchorchamps is one of fond memories for the German. As a precarious talent, he was handed his F1 debut here by Eddie Jordan in 1991 to replace the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot, with the Frenchman being sentenced to two months in jail after an altercation with a taxi driver. A year later for Benetton he notched up his first victory in the premier class, beating the Williams duo of Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese. In fourth position for the majority of the race, Schumacher pushed hard once the rain came, setting a new lap record, and managed to pass Mansell for the lead at the end of the race, aided by the Brits troubled exhaust.

Last weekend was also one of pride for the seven time world champion. Not only was this his 300th Grand Prix weekend, but he was also made an honorary citizen of Spa to commemorate his anniversary; a worthy accolade for the six time Belgian GP winner. Pre-race weekend Schumacher spoke about how special the track in the Ardennes forest is to him “It all happened to me here in Spa. First race, first victory, some beautiful victories and interesting races and in 2004 the seventh title, last year the 20th anniversary and now number 300 and being honoured. So it’s a full package. Spa has always meant a lot to me. I always called it my living room – now I can officially call it my living room. “During the drivers parade he still commanded the largest cheer from the diverse crowd. Yet since his return in 2010, it is fair to say the legend has struggled to replicate his former greatness.

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Is It Only Downhill Now For Athletic Bilbao?

4 09 2012

The journey witnessed last season where Athletic Bilbao – under the stewardship of Marcelo Bielsa – reached two cup finals, helped restore some faith in the Spanish league and reminded a few naïve people that La Liga actually contains other competitive sides; despite the duopoly by Real Madrid and Barcelona. The way in which they tormented the likes of Schalke and Manchester United in the Europa League helped establish them as everyone’s second favourite team, not only for their playing style, but also their policies.

Athletic have a unique viewpoint in the way they run as a club. The notion of the squad only consisting of players with Basque heritage helps connect themselves with the fans and keep regional identity alive. This was a policy mirrored by their rivals Real Sociedad, who eventually adopted the traditionalist format after become furious with Athletic for buying their players. Notably John Aldridge was the first non-Basque player to represent Los Txuri-urdin. Despite the policy being admirable, albeit slightly more flexible nowadays, it has not always been successful. As recently as five years ago the club only stayed up with a last matchday victory over Levante. A trophy has not been paraded around San Mamés for 28 years, since their domestic double in 1984. Historically, Los Leones are one of the greatest teams in Spain. Throughout the 1930’s they amassed seven trophies, including three league titles. They also hold the prestigious award, along with Real Madrid and Barcelona, of competing in every top flight season since the inauguration of the league in 1929.

The style Bielsa has imposed on his team is a mitigating factor in the popularity for Athletic. El Loco, before taking the rein in Bilbao, had used a 3-3-1-3 formation in the World Cup with Chile, which provided an exciting tactical deviation from the norm of 4-2-3-1. The Argentine was hired at La Catedral to enthral everyone with an offensive philosophy. Previous coach Joaquín Caparrós had a more pragmatic approach and despite the stabilisation he instilled, he did not show enough to promise he could progress the team.

A Lot Depends On Whether Bilbao Can Retain Llorente

A Lot Depends On Whether Bilbao Can Retain Llorente

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