Author Archives: World Cup Jamie

About World Cup Jamie

Every two years, I decide to obsess over an international football tournament. This is the result. Hope you enjoy your visit.

UEFA Launch Investigation After Liverpool v Arsenal Champions League Tie Described As ‘Decent’

UEFA chiefs today announced they would be conducting an inquiry to investigate claims that the Champions League Quarter-Final second leg between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on tuesday was “a decent game”.

The investigation was launched after an unusual amount of reaction to the game was found to be positive. One spectator was heard to summise that the game was “actually not all that bad“, whilst another observed that he found it to be “quite a decent game, really“.

Suspicions first arose that the game might actually be alright when someone reported that he had heard a raised voice on the TV commentary. The viewer, who is seen by UEFA as key to their inquiry, said “It took me completely by surprise and I can’t remember what it was all about, but I know I heard it. Clive Tyldesley definitely described an incident in a louder voice than he had the previous one. What’s more, I thought I heard an ‘oh!’ from Jim Beglin too, but I can’t be sure about that at the moment. I may have been getting carried away“.

A UEFA spokesman confirmed that they are taking the claims seriously: “Usually there are one or two who go over-the-top in their assessment of a match, but we can’t afford to ignore this. Many people seem convinced that this was a decent game, and it’s our duty to look into it. Fans can rest assured that our investigation will be most thorough“.

The spokesman was asked about further claims that TV pundit Andy Townsend had actually described the game as ‘exciting’ and ‘a thrilling spectacle’ but was quick to play the story down, saying: “This is clearly hysteria. It is one thing to say that this could have been a decent game, but to imagine that vulgar hyperbole such as this might apply to a Champions League match, especially one between two sides such as Liverpool and Arsenal, is just crazy talk. Andy Townsend has seen a great deal of Champions League football in his broadcasting career and he would know better than to make such claims. I’m confident that Andy has been misquoted, and we will be contacting him for confirmation of this“.

As the news broke after the match, many began to raise concerns about the possible knock-on effect that this allegedly decent game might have for the rest of the tournament. The spokesman addressed this also: “If it turns out that this was a decent game then we’ll have to take it on the chin and move on with the tournament, but I’m confident that this is an isolated incident. I would consider further decent games to be highly unlikely, and fans should not be concerned if planning to view future matches in this season’s Champions League. On a reassuring note, we can announce here and now that there will definitely be no repeat of this in the semi-final when Liverpool play Chelsea“.


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Filed under Arsenal FC, Arsene Wenger, Chelsea FC, Comment, Europe, Football, Soccer, Sport, UEFA, UEFA Champions League

Hundreds Protest In London As Talentless And Unheroic Get Their Hands On Olympic Torch

Controversy hit the streets of London yesterday as hundreds arrived to protest against the decision to let faceless celebrity numbskulls carry the Olympic torch on the British leg of its journey to Beijing for the 2008 games.

Crowds massed in order to question the wisdom of allowing barely-famous non-personalities who have failed to ever display the talent or heroism associated with the legendary torch, to represent the nation as bearers on the occasion of its arrival in the UK.

Vocal enquries reportedly made by the crowds included “Who Are Ya?” and “Who The F**kin ‘Ell Are You?”.

One confused protestor actually made an attempt to rescue the torch thinking that its bearer was a thief, so unrecognisable was she as an appropriate personification of what the torch represents. The protestor explained: “I travelled 400 miles to see the torch carried by my hero, 5 times Olympic gold medallist Sir Steven Redgrave. Then I looked up and saw some random bird out of the crowd making off with it. I thought she was half-inching the Olympic torch! I had to do something!”

The protestor’s actions were not the only instance of confusion on the day. The crowd’s emotions went through extreme highs and lows and they watched the Olympic torch relayed between an 80-strong line-up of the heroic, courageous, talented, inspiring, vacuous, fly-by-night, morally empty, and limelight-seeking type.

Another protestor observed “I’ve never felt such mood swings in my life! One minute I’m watching Dame Kelly Holmes, and dreaming of one day emulating her double gold medal winning performance in Athens, then I’m daring to think that one day I too may become England’s greatest cricketer after seeing Kevin Pietersen. Just as I’m about to burst with all the inspiration on show, the torch gets passed to Denise Van Outen! Talk about being brought down to earth with a bump, I’m still feeling it this morning!”

This was to be a recurring theme throughout the torch’s journey, one moment in the hands of a champion, the next in those of a newsreader. The crowd’s failure to contain themselves quite understandable given the emotional rollercoaster ride they were given by the bizarre line-up.

When questioned about what the appearance of such wastes-of-space on this occasion meant for the London games in 2012, an official said: “The Olympic movement is about inclusion. We have to consider that not all young people out there may wish to achieve greatness in their lives. Some may wish to acquire wealth and fame by being a morally poisonous talent-vacuum, and doing a few magazine shoots.

“We in London think it’s very important to show the youngsters that there’s an achievable alternative to traditional ideas such as hard work. There may be those out there who are in agreement with Tina Turner that ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’. We must be seen to represent all views in society”.


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Filed under Athletics, Beijing 2008, Comment, IOC, Kelly Holmes, Olympics, Paralympics, Steven Redgrave

This is no National Lottery

It’s great to return The Sight Is In End with one of the truly great one-off sporting events imminent. Not much gets me more excited than a Grand National, in fact I don’t mind admitting I’m a bit of an obsessive when it comes to the world’s greatest steeplechase.

One thing annoys me terribly at this time of year, and that’s everyone referring to the Grand National as a ‘lottery’. Phrases such as ‘you’d have as much chance of picking the winner if you just stuck a pin in the newspaper’ become very common in the run up to a National, and it’s just not true! Sure, it’s tough to pick a winner, no one would argue otherwise, but you can certainly reduce the 40-strong field to a much more manageable number before you start getting your pins out.

And that’s what I’m going to attempt to do for you here in my Grand National preview, not so much advise you where to put your money, but steer you clear of the nags on which it would be thrown away.

As much as many ‘experts’ are loathe to admit it, there are some very common trends among Grand National winners which are impossible to ignore – and, importantly, these trends can expose big problems for some much-fancied runners.


The most major factor to look out for in the National is the horses weight. It’s at around 11 stone that the straw is placed that breaks a horses back in a National. Only one of the last 24 National winners have carried more than 11 stone – that was the exceptional Hedgehunter in 2005, and he was carrying 11st 1lb, just fractionally over. No more than about half a dozen 11 stone plus horses have even been placed (that a finish in the first 4) in a National in the last 10 years.

With each further pound of weight, the task becomes more impossible. There have only been 5 occasions on which the winner has carried more than 11st 5lbs in over 150 years of races, and two of those were Red Rum.

One thing you might hear mentioned this year is that the bigger weights have a better chance than usual due to a ‘compressed handicap’. What that means is the difference between the top and bottom weight is smaller, and as such the advantage to those with the smaller weights is not so great. They said this last year. In fact over the last 5 years or so, the handicap has become increasingly compressed, the number of horses carrying 11 stone plus has increased, as has the weight of the lowest ranked runner – and we are still yet to see it bring any advantage for the big weights.

If I was being conservative, I would say that 11st 3lb is the absolute maximum I would consider, and even then I’d still favour the runners carrying under 11st. Using 11st 3lbs as the cut off point, we can rule out the following horses for this years National:

Hedgehunter, Hi Cloy, Knowhere, Mr Pointment, Turko, Madison Du Berlais, Simon, Opera Mundi, Iron Man, Fundamentalist.


One of the biggest no-no’s when selecting a National horse is to choose one that is not of the optimum age. It’s 67 years since the National winner did not fall between the ages of 8 and 12, on that occasion the winner was younger than 8 – you have to go back more than 80 years to find a winner older than 12. There are no real old-timers in this years race, but you can definitely rule out the following young pups, whose time may come one day, but not this year. These are all under 8 years of age:

Turko, Madison Du Berlais, Opera Mundi, Iron Man, No Full, Bob Hall, Milan Deux Mille, Nadover.

Generally, 9 and 10 year olds are much more successful in the race than anything else. 11 year olds have less success, but are definitely not to be ruled out. 8 and 12 year olds can win, but these are rarer occurrences. So 9-11 year olds are to be favoured ahead of 8 and 12 year olds. Interestingly, the hot favourite for this years race, Cloudy Lane, is an 8 year old. The 2002 winner Bindaree is the only 8 year old to win in the last 14 renewals.

The French

Horses which are bred or trained in France are cursed in the Grand National. There have been one or two recent French-bred runners up, but there has been no winner bred across the channel since 1909. There have been two National winners trained in France, and the last of these was in 1867.

So steer clear of the following gallic raiders:

Turko, Madison Du Berlais, Opera Mundi, Iron Man, Butlers Cabin, Vodka Bleu, L’Ami, No Full, Mon Mome, Kelami, Milan Deux Mille, Nadover.


You can never be completely sure if any horse will still be full of running after 4 and a half miles, because there aren’t that many races run over such a marathon distance. But you do at least want a horse who has proved itself to have some reserves of stamina. The accepted distance a horse needs to win over to prove himself a decent stayer is 3 miles. So any horse that has never won over that distance must surely be a major doubt for 4 and a half miles. This eliminates the following:

Madison Du Berlais, Iron Man, Fundamentalist, Contraband, No Full, Bob Hall, King John’s Castle, Tumbling Dice, Milan Deux Mille, Nadover.

Are you keeping up? Well so far we’ve got rid of 22 horses, leaving you with 18 to choose from. Still tough work, but not as bad – and there are yet more stats which can help us reduce the field still further.

Class, experience, form and preparation are all factors which have linked recent National winners. All of the last 10 National winners had won a chase worth £17000 or more, and had run in at least 10 chases in their career. Other common criteria include at least one win in the current season, and to have been given a preparative race over hurdles – this suggests a horse which has been prepared specifically with the National in mind, and all the last 5 National winners have had this last factor in their favour.

Based on all of the above, I have chosen the following half-dozen horses which have everything going for them to run a big race in this years Grand National:

Comply or Die – Of all the fancied horses, this is one who really justifies his support. A recent winner of a classy 4 mile plus chase at Newcastle when carrying top weight, he comes to the race at the perfect time, as a 9 year old, running off a nice weight of 10st 9lbs and has good form against the favourite, Cloudy Lane. He’s the leading chance of 5 from the top-drawer Pipe stable. Has the perfect National winner’s profile.

Point Barrow – Remember him? He was joint favourite for last years race, but got no further than the first. He is less fancied this year, and yet there would appear to be no more reason to oppose him. Falling in the National is no barrier to making up for it at a later stage – last year’s winner Silver Birch fell in the 2006 race – and falling at the first can often be down to the chaotic way in which the horses dash for this obstacle. The horse won the Irish National in 2006, and that is a race which has proved itself an excellent Grand National trial in the past. It also suggests he’s in his best form at this time of year. Currently available at around 20-1, he could be the value of the race.

McKelvey – Second last year, and running on like a train despite picking up an injury towards the end of the race. Has done everything to prove that he can win a National, and as a 9 year old he now reaches the peak time to prove it. Does have to carry an extra half stone compared to last year but at dead on 11st, it shouldn’t be enough to rule him out. If the luck is on his side it could be his day this time.

D’Argent – Don’t worry about the name, he’s not French. This is the only National runner from the bang in form Alan King stable, and he is a horse likely to give you a great run for your money. Fantastic 11 year old stayer with proven class and stamina. Has a style of his own when it comes to jumping, which may be a concern over these giant fences, but it usually proves effective for him. If he stays on his feet, he’ll be running all the way to the finish.

Philson Run – Age is not on his side as a 12 year old, but last year’s 4th is not to be ignored. He’s looking to emulate 2004 winner Amberleigh House as a 12 year old winning the race the year after being placed, and he’s just the type that might do it. You won’t find a more reliable jumper and stayer in the field, and although I think he’ll find one or two too quick again at the finish, he’s a fantastic each-way bet.

Backbeat – My favourite outsider in this years race. He perhaps needs to take a big step up in class to win this, but I can see no reason why he won’t be placed. Another horse at a good age and weight, and this one is regarded as one of the best jumpers around – not the type of talk to be ignored at Aintree, as anything likely to get around safely could have a chance. Currently at around 66-1, he represents fantastic each way value.

And why I don’t like some of the big fancies this year:

The reason that Cloudy Lane will go off a comfortable favourite for this race, is that he has had a couple of serious recent wins that came too late for the handicapper to get his hands on him – which means he’s carrying far less weight than he should be for his current rating. I oppose him because I don’t think he’s done nearly enough to justify such a short price. Favourites don’t have a great record in the National, and neither do 8 year olds. Those facts are enough for me to favour others ahead of him.

As for last years third, Slim Pickings, if he didn’t have enough up the run-in carrying a light weight to beat Silver Birch and the injured McKelvey last year, I can’t see how he won’t find at least a couple too quick for him again carrying 11st 3lbs this time. I think he ran the race of his life last year, and might have missed his chance. I see no value at the price of around 11-1.

Another big fancy is Bewley’s Berry, who was going like a dream last year when he hit the floor at Becher’s second time round. He’s proven he can jump all the fences by finishing 2nd in the Becher Chase twice, but he just strikes me as a bit of a bridesmaid. For such a fancied horse, he has never actually won anything approaching a top class chase. We also never got to see what he had left for the finish last year due to the fall, and his previous form suggests he just starts to run out of steam a bit in the real marathons. If he gets round he could be up there, but he won’t win.

So, to my idea of the winner of this years Grand National. Forced to pick one, it would have to be Comply Or Die.

Good luck to everyone, and feel free to leave comments after the race if I have proved myself to be talking rubbish!



Opera Mundi is now a non-runner for the race, (had no chance anyway, see above) and has been replaced by Ardaghey.

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Filed under BBC, Betfair, Betting, Grand National, Horse Racing, Opinion, Sport

Always let your conscience be your guide.

And the key word in Jiminy Cricket’s famous piece of advice, is ‘always’. Unlike Steven Spielberg, whose conscience, it would seem, is allowed to guide him at fairly random intervals.

For those who haven’t heard yet, Spielberg has resigned from his job as artistic adviser for the Beijing Olympics, on the grounds that China is not doing enough to prevent human rights atrocities in Sudan, of whom China is an “ally” (which means they buy lots of oil off them).

Spielberg’s astonishing declaration included the following:

“I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual

“At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur”

So, Spielberg has resigned on an issue of human rights, that much is abundantly clear. I am surely not the only one then, who is at this moment rather curious about the answer to the following question:


Care to clear that one up for us Stevie boy?


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Filed under Beijing 2008, Comment, IOC, News, Olympics, Opinion, Paralympics, Sport

Reality Bites

In a week where it seemed every discussion on football concerned off-field matters, it was nice to see the game come back yesterday with a healthy dose of realism. Whether it be lunatic plans to turn the Premiership into a U2 tour, or hyperbolic panic over whether lost legends would be appropriately commemorated, it seemed to have slipped everyone’s mind that it is what takes place on the field that keeps us, as fans, so attached.

I experienced a slight feeling of surprise that a match actually took place at all in yesterday’s Manchester derby, such was the speculation surrounding it’s unique preamble. Yet once the whistle went, it didn’t take long before I, as a football fan, and a neutral on this most partizan of occasions, was back in the place I know best, a place I could feel comfortable again.

Having taken in the parades, the mascots, the adapted kits, and the wonderfully observed (much to my surprise, I must admit) minute’s silence, this match, far from being weighed down by any emotional baggage, instantly became a classic tactical battle that could have been played out in any era of the game – one that was won, hands down, by Manchester City’s Sven Goran Eriksson.

Manchester United could probably have been forgiven for believing that things would go their way in this match, given the massive wave of sympathy that flowed in their favour, but City turned up with a spot-on attitude and a classic underdog’s gameplan, and upset both the script and the odds.

It took around ten minutes for the game to settle into a pattern that was never really broken. All of a sudden, Manchester United found themselves banging their heads against the brick wall that was City’s five-man midfield, expertly marshalled by man-of-the-match Dietmar Hamann, a realist’s footballer if ever there was one. Any thoughts of the occasion were lost, as suddenly United found three crucial points in the Championship race drifting away from them.

Immediately afterwards, over at Stamford Bridge, the worldwide audience got a timely taste of just what could be coming in their direction in 2011. If they’ve got any sense or taste, they’ll be writing their letters of opposition in Kuala Lumpur right now.

Quite why Chelsea and Liverpool even bother to fulfil this fixture is a mystery to me, neither of them ever has any inclination to win it, so they might as well just take a point each and save us all the misery of sitting through the worst 90 minutes of the season. As dull, turgid, pointless, meaningless 0-0 draws go, this was up there with the best of them.

Between them the two sides mustered one solitary goalbound effort in the entire match – and that was a Peter Crouch header so tame that the big man could have picked himself up, made his way to the goal and saved it himself if he so wished.

My initial thought was that new rules ought to be brought in to enable these two to be docked points for this display. My second thought was that if some yank wants to walk on at the end of this, and insist the game be settled by a session of “added-time Multiball!”, then I for one would be in favour. Bring it on, it would actually be better than this.

Then I paused for a third thought. I realised that this was great. I had endured 90 minutes of total crap, but in a silly way that only hardened football fans can understand I had thoroughly enjoyed it. This was football reality, the game brought down to it’s bare bones, and a match that will bring absolutely no new converts to the game.

After this week’s insane proposals, it was exactly the sort of game that needed to be showcased to a worldwide audience. After all, if you’re going to market a product, then you must be honest with your customers about exactly what they’ll be letting themselves in for, so well done Premier League for not keeping the truth locked away.

Anyone watching Chelsea v Liverpool in one of the exotic locations the Premier League has lined up will surely now feel feel far more threatened by English Football coming their way than we feel by the idea of losing it.

A day that, if Sky Sports and the Premier League had had their way, was meant to be full of emotion, passion, and excitement ended up being dominated by arch-professionalism and heavy strategy. Good. It reassured me that you can take the football out of England, but you’ll never take England out of the football.


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Filed under Barclays Premier League, Chelsea FC, Comment, England, English Premier League, FA, Football, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Munich Air Disaster, Opinion, Sky, Soccer, Sport, Sven Goran Eriksson, Television

Football’s oldest rivalry must be resumed

When the newest managers of the two oldest international football teams both made their first squad selections this week, the thing that occurred to me was how exciting it would be if they were due to play each other in their first match.

Think about it, as if there isn’t already enough on an England v Scotland match, this would be the tastiest friendly in years; a new England era looking to lay fresh foundations after the unceremonious crumbling of the old empire, and Burley’s Scotland, with the new man under the unusual pressure of having to be as good as his two predecessors.

As it turns out, there was such a match in the pipeline this summer, with both sides apparently at a loose end. This has been cancelled however, because many Scotland players would have been unavailable due to the much more vital business of going on pre-season tours with their clubs.

What kind of killjoys are running football these days? Cancelling an England v Scotland match because of pre-season tours? Who’s wearing the trousers here? More to the point though, why on earth hasn’t the annual meeting of the auld enemy been restored?

Had this planned fixture gone ahead, it would have been the first time the two sides had met in a ‘friendly’ international since 1989 – the last instance of the Rous Cup fixture which was played for on five occasions after the annual British Championships were curtailed in 1984. Since then only two meetings have taken place, both the result of tournament draws; Euro ’96, and the two-legged Euro 2000 qualification play-off.

The reason the England-Scotland fixture was brought to an end was recurring crowd trouble. However, the 1989 fixture was played only six weeks after the Hillsborough disaster; since then football stadia have changed beyond recognition, and these changes have virtually eradicated hooliganism from inside grounds, so why hasn’t it been brought back?

One could argue that that the Home Internationals should return too, but the England-Scotland fixture is one that deserves special recognition, and in fact should be played each year independently of any other tournament. We are talking, after all, about the two teams who contested football’s very first international back in 1872 – the year of the Football Association’s formation, and the first FA Cup tournament. The annual renewal of this fixture ought to mark the anniversary of what was effectively the birth of competitive football, and quite frankly, a revolutionary world event.

Yet we have been robbed of this annual celebration by those at the FA and SFA who seemingly just can’t be bothered to pick up the phone and book the fixture, and when they can, the smallest excuse is found to call the whole thing off. This shouldn’t be allowed. There ought to be a preservation order slapped on it; in the way that no bulldozer is allowed within 100 miles of a UNESCO world heritage site, no possessor of a grey suit should be allowed to faff about with the England-Scotland game.

So next week, when you’re watching the new England or the new Scotland doing their best to get a game out of barely interested opponents far more concerned with self-preservation before the Euro 2008 finals, have a think about the game you could be watching, and drop the FA and SFA a line.


Since yesterday, the SFA and Burley have come out and said that Scotland want to preserve the gravitas of the fixture by making sure the game is played where both sides can field strong starting XIs. Whether this is definitely the case remains to be seen.

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Filed under Comment, England, Euro 2008, FA, FA Cup, Fabio Capello, Football, Opinion, Scotland, Scottish Premier League, SFA, Soccer, Sport

Tough decision

It seems likely that Dundee United skipper Barry Robson is going to be on the move today. United have confirmed that they have accepted £1 million-plus bids from Celtic and Nottingham Forest. That’s SPL champions, and champions league knockout stage qualifiers, Celtic. And League One play-off prospects Nottingham Forest.

So now Robson just has to choose where to make that next career step. Boy do I not envy him this decision! Anyone reckon he’s asked for thinking time?


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Filed under Celtic, FA, Football, Football League, News, Nottingham Forest, Scotland, Scottish Premier League, SPL, Sport, Transfers

In a nutshell

Here it is – the nutterdom of transfer deadline day summed up to perfection. Taken from the BBC’s transfer deadline day live text commentary :

“Juan Roman Riquelme has just arrived at John Lennon airport to be met by Everton chief exec Keith Wyness.”

Expect more like this over the coming hours.


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Filed under Barclays Premier League, England, English Premier League, Everton, FA, Football, Football League, News, Sport, Transfers

A Substitute For Class

The reason that Justine Henin is able to dominate the rankings in women’s tennis is that she’s just the best player in the world. Simple as that. She has more strengths and less weaknesses than any other player, allowing her to play with greater variety, and thus she is better equipped to deal with more match situations and on different surfaces. That’s why she is the most consistent player in the game, and a comfortable world no.1.

Henin went into yesterday’s Australian Open quarter-final against Maria Sharapova on a winning streak stretching back 32 matches to last years Wimbledon semi-final. Sharapova came into the match as world no.5, the lowest position she’s held for some time, mainly as a result of a 2007 season dogged by injury and inconsistency. Despite the fact that Sharapova has two grand slam titles, and was until recently ranked in the no.2 position, she was a comfortable second favourite for this match. And the main reason why? Everyone knows that Justine Henin is simply the better tennis player.

There are times however, when an opponent’s greater talent can be overcome by the sheer force of determination, self-belief, and will to win. Maria Sharapova has made a career out of this knowledge. Tennis purists may knock her for having a one-dimensional game, but Sharapova isn’t listening. She’s locked inside her zone, building her game around a fierce mental toughness forged during an upbringing scattered with triumphs over adversity.

Yesterday’s encounter in Melbourne was a classic example of a finely-honed talent being given a ruthless battering by a warrior-like competitor showing no respect for reputation. Sharapova gave one of the most awesome displays of single-mindedness I’ve ever witnessed in a sporting arena. Most players would have prepared some kind of plan to try and overcome Henin’s game; Sharapova’s triumph was grounded in a policy of forgetting that the world no.1 was even out there, and focussing with complete intensity on playing at the highest level she could possibly achieve.

The most impressive thing about Sharapova’s outstanding display was the fact that she sustained such a level right through to the final point. Many players would have had an attack of the wobbles when approaching the finish line against a player like Henin, but Sharapova did the exact opposite; her game only improved the nearer she got to achieving her goal.

So much did Sharapova sustain her performance that she ended up wiping Henin off the court completely in the second set. The world no.1 just does not get ‘bagelled’ (that’s losing a set 6-0, to you non-speakers of tennis lingo) in the latter stages of a grand slam. To see the greatest player in women’s tennis crumble in this way was shocking, even against an opponent as tough as the Russian star.

Sharapova definitely seems to have come to this grand slam to prove a point to the many who were doubting her future at the very top of the game after last year. She must now stand as the favourite to take the title, despite the fact that two of the other three semi-finalists are ranked higher than her. If she takes the same kind of tunnel vision into the last two matches, it’s very hard to see an opponent coming up with answers. Justine Henin after all, had none.

The semi-final line up in the women’s event has given us the chance to see tennis’ finest young talents prove their worth, having brushed aside the more experienced likes of Henin and the Williams sisters. It has also provided the photographers with a day sent from heaven, with probably the four most snapped players in the world having made it through. Along with the A-list superstar Sharapova, we have the two enormously popular young Serbs, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic, and the Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova. All four will grace as many fashion rag covers as they will tennis publications in 2008.

It is also an all Eastern-European line up – a most significant breakthrough for what is undoubtedly the world’s major breeding ground for tennis talent at the moment. And whilst we have yet to see a player come through from Eastern Europe with the kind of talent possessed by Justine Henin, the one thing none of these players seem to lack is the self-belief to overcome the most daunting odds. It can sometimes be all you need.


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Filed under Ana Ivanovic, Australian Open, Daniela Hantuchova, Jelena Jankovic, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, Opinion, Serena Williams, Sport, Tennis, Venus Williams, Williams Sisters

Award Nomination

In the first, and almost certainly last, of a new series, I would like to make a nomination for the award of stupidest booking of the season.

My nomination goes to Julian Bennett of Nottingham Forest.

During his side’s 2-1 defeat at Swindon yesterday, Bennett received a yellow card for inciting the opposition fans, a punishment given almost exclusively to players indulging in over-exuberant goal celebrations.

What actually happened was that a goalbound Swindon shot was prevented from crossing the line by a muddy patch in the six-yard box. Forest cleared it, but the referee’s attention became drawn to a rumpus behind the goal. Bennett, one of the Forest substitutes, had curtailed his warm-up routine to energetically celebrate Swindon’s misfortune infront of their own fans, thus causing a fight to break out.

Perhaps he thought he’d get away with it because the referee would be watching the game. Silly boy.


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Filed under Football, Football League, Nottingham Forest, Soccer, Swindon Town