Archive for category During the Week
Ahead of the men’s season ending ATP Tour Finals serving off next week in London, the women’s curtain call championship served off in Istanbul, Turkey during the week.
And despite stating her tiredness following her straight sets win over third seed Agnieszka Radwanska, women’s world number one player Serena Williams has nonetheless reached the semi-final of the season ending WTA Championships.
Playing in the Red Group, Williams overcame German Angelique Kerber in her opening match before going past Radwanska and, with the ‘tiredness’ on her, managed to beat Petra Kvitova 6-2 6-3 in her final group match.
But indeed, the American great has a case to be tired having played all three roundrobin matches in successive days unlike Kvitova, for instance, who had a day off ahead of her loss to Williams.
Czech fifth seed Kvitova can however join Williams in the semis if she defeats Kerber; also in with a chance of joining Williams with a win, in the group’s final match.
Third seed Radwanska on her part is out of the Championship having lost all her three roundrobin matches, and most disappointingly all in straight sets too.
Over in the White Group, fourth seed Li Na heads the group with two wins from two matches following a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 win over Jelena Jankovic. All Na needs is to win a set in her final group match against second seed Viktoria Azarenka to seal qualification.
A straight sets loss would however jeopardise her position greatly, see Azarenka go through to the last four and be joined there by Jankovic, who will qualify if she wins her final group match against already eliminated Sara Errani, regardless of the result from the Azarenka-Na match.
From coloured groups in Istanbul to matters of one race abusing people of a different race. Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has suggested quite a few actions against racism since accusing fans of CSKA Moscow of aiming monkey chants at him during a UEFA Champions League match on Wednesday.
Toure, who wore the captain’s armband which had ‘No to Racism’ printed on it, suggested after the match in Moscow that a lengthy stadium ban could be given to CSKA for the incident and that players of African descent could boycott the 2018 World Cup in Russia to drive home the ‘No to Racism’ point.
This way, according to Toure, he hoped that Russia would take responsibility and deal with such “unbelievable” behaviour ahead of the 2018 World Cup.
Interestingly, CSKA in a statement denied any racist chants were made by its fans during the match. ”Having carefully studied the video of the game, we found no racist insults from fans of CSKA.”
”In many occasions, especially during attacks on our goal, fans booed and whistled to put pressure on rival players, but regardless of their race (Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko). Why the Ivorian midfielder took it as all being directed at him is not clear.”
The Russian club even went further, and below the belt if you ask me, to release a statement from Toure’s fellow Ivorian Seydou Doumbia, who plays for CSKA.
”Yes, they’re always noisy in supporting the team, and try to put as much pressure as possible on our opponents, but they wouldn’t ever allow themselves to come out with racist chants. So my Ivory Coast colleague is clearly exaggerating.”
UEFA, which had declared this week a Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) Action Week, will have a disciplinary committee convene next Wednesday on the matter to find if CSKA is guilty of the accusation. A guilty verdict would lead to partial closure of the stadium next Champions League home match.
On the field, CSKA lost 2-1 to City with a Sergio Agüero brace cancelling CSKA’s lead and leaving them third in the group with three points, behind City in second with six points and leaders Bayern Munich with nine maximum points after the Germans eased to a 5-0 win over pointless Victoria Plzen.
Olympique Marseille of France is also pointless after three group matches, losing 2-1 at home to Napoli that joined top placed Arsenal and second placed Borussia Dortmund on six points, with Dortmund getting a 2-1 victory at Arsenal.
Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo scored his sixth and seventh goals of this season’s competition in Real Madrid’s 2-1 win over Juventus, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his third to sixth goals in PSG’s 5-0 demolition of Anderlecht in Brussels and Lionel Messi scored his fourth Champions League goal to help Barcelona come away from AC Milan with a 1-1 draw.
And in some other matches, Chelsea got an impressive 3-0 win at Schalke 04, Diego Costa – called up by Brazil for Nobember friendlies, which pretty much ends Spain’s chance of having him with La Roja – scored twice as Atletico Madrid won by the same score while Wayne Rooney’s effort off the post was lapped in by a Real Sociedad defender to give Manchester United a lone goal win.
The win helped to blow some cool wind at David Moyes and indeed all of Old Trafford following the disappointing draw with Southampton last Saturday and the press conference to announce the autobiography of Sir Alex Ferguson, My Autobiography (dead title) on Tuesday.
Revealing ‘excerpts’ from the book, which became available on Thursday, Sir Alex chronicled his sometimes feisty relationship with Rooney whom he says had been told to mind his business after asking for the club to sign Mesut Özil, who then was at Werder Bremen.
The book also chronicles Robin Judas Persie’s move from Arsenal, with Fergie apologising to the Dutch striker for not keeping his word on remaining at the club beyond last season.
Then there’s Pizzagate after United ended Arsenal’s 49 match unbeaten run, stating he didn’t know to this day who threw the pizza at him. Former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas would then like an instagram picture of a pizza posted by Arseblog soon after the conference. So ‘subliminal’.
Fergie also touched on the boot incident with David Beckham whom he accused of making it ”an ambition to be known outside the game”, expressed his spicy view on former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez and reiterated that Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is not a top top player and was perplexed as to why he was chosen ahead of Michael Carrick in the England set-up.
Former Man. United captain Roy Keane and his savage tongue, Rooney and his weight issues, Mark Bosnic’s weight issues too, Ruud van Nistelrooij and Rio Ferdinand were also ‘fondly’ mentioned in the book, while Fergie also suggested Michael Owen would’ve had a better career had he joined United instead of Liverpool.
Whether he would or wouldn’t would matter little to nothing to David Moyes, whose Man. United side will hope to build on the win over Sociedad when Stoke City visit on Saturday in a Premier League match.
Top of the table Arsenal kick the weekend off in their shot trip across town to face second from bottom Crystal Palace that parted ways with manager Ian Holloway.
The big match comes up on Sunday when second placed Chelsea host fourth placed Manchester City in the Premier League’s Clash of the Cash, preceded by the TyneWear derby between Sunderland and Newcastle United.
In Germany, second placed Dortmund visit Schalke in the Ruhr derby while leaders Bayern Munich host capital club Hertha Berlin in another Bundesliga match on Saturday.
The clash of the weekend comes from the Camp Nou where Barcelona host Real Madrid in this season’s first El Clasico. Messi will start, CR7 definitely will. Neymar is set for his first Clasico for Barça while Gareth Bale could feature as well having overcome injury problems.
Real Madrid head into that in confident mood, having cut the gap behind Barça to three points last weekend. One loss in the e
last eight Clasicos further boosts La Decima’s confidence ahead of the encounter.
Anticipation of that clash brings this post to a close. On this day, The Alchemist turns 36 today, The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales are remembered at the latter nation, Shaun Wright Phillips turns 32 and musicians Katy Perry, Ciara and Gyptian celebrate their birthdays as well.
Many happy returns to them and all else celebrating. And a pleasant weekend to the rest of us alive by the grace of God. Cheers!
When Sir Alex Ferguson handed the reign over to a new man, one must recall vividly the advise he gave cheering spectators at Old Trafford that day, ‘to stand behind the new man’. Barely two months into his debut season, the fans have gone from standing behind to being on the new man’s neck.
David Moyes has somehow managed to hand Manchester United their worst league start in two decades and some, spectacularly losing the Manchester derby while at it, although four points from two games in the Champions League isn’t bad.
But as the saying about just disliking whatever good or bad someone you don’t like does, United fans continue to show discontent at the Scot who replaced their favourite Scot at the end of last season.
Going on holiday right after being named successor didn’t help, neither did the exit of Mike Phelan, Rene Meulesteen and co from the backroom. Their replacements are not considered experienced enough, then there’s Ed Woodward when the club’s transfer market futility is brought up.
In all, Moyes seems content to avoid defeat at the moment and hasn’t really let his ‘style’ transcend to the team, or maybe he has. Moyes was content with avoiding defeat while at Everton and it was evident in his comments after the 1-1 Champions League draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
So United fans will grumble some more through the course of this season till that mentality changes. And while they grumble, watching Arsenal be the next best team in blistering form in Europe (after Bayern) amounts to a bit of torture.
The Gunners eased past Napoli largely with a first half display reminiscent of their 3-0 win over AC Milan few seasons ago, leaving them top of the Premier League and their Champions League group… rare but welcome.
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger will reportedly be offered a three year contract extension by the club and if his players, especially new record signing Mesut Özil keep to form, there’s little doubt that the Frenchman will extend his reign at the Emirates.
At the Etihad however, the start of Manuel Pellegrini’s reign there has not been fair sailing, with spectacular wins over Newcastle United, Wigan Athletic and city rivals United among others underwhelmed by the loss at Everton along with more recent ones at Aston Villa in the league and the brush aside by European champions Bayern Munich.
Those losses revealed a poor work ethic at the Etihad as the Bayern players never really exerted themselves and tame efforts from Robbery (or you prefer Ribben? Of course not) either side of Thomas Müller’s amusing goal – amusing thanks to Gäel Clichy’s belief that Müller should have been flagged offside – summed up the lax attitude in the City camp and the fall in quality of Joe Hart.
It is becoming more and more apparent that no matter the quality of manager at the helm, if the players remain with their pompous attitude (especially in Europe, personified in Clichy’s moment of gory) then the billions of Sheikh Mansour would have been largely for nothing.
Monsieur Khalifa at Paris on the contrary has put together a very driven set of players, a bunch whose desire to win remains sustained unlike at City where it waned right after winning a first league title in half a century.
At PSG, the league title was won in Khalifa’s second season after Montpellier ‘rudely’ won in his first season there by a point. They then went on to reach the last eight of the Champions League, losing out on away goals to Barcelona.
Now, they’re unbeaten at second place in Ligue 1, a point behind new billionaire clubs’ club member Monaco and have won their two group matches in the Champions League with relative ease.
But all isn’t rosy in Paris, Javier Pastore and Jeremy Menez are the latest of unsatisfied players after the likes of Kevin Gameiro and Mamadou Sakho who have since left. Neither is all rosy at Dortmund, where manager Jurgen Klopp has been handed a further match ban from the touchline off his face of rage in Dortmund’s opening day loss at Napoli in the Champions League.
His absence didn’t stop the Bundesliga leaders from whipping Olympique Marseille 3-0 with want away striker Robert Lewandowski scoring a brace as he bids his time till he can at least sign for another club (thought to be Bayern, in Gö.. Gotze’s footsteps) when the January window opens.
Gotze has only featured intermittently so far no thanks to an injury from last season, reducing him to Xherdan Shaqiri levels at Bavaria from the high esteem he enjoyed at Ruhr.
Gareth Bale is also dealing with an injury at Real Madrid from his Tottenham days, with the $100m Welshman on the sidelines till the end of October, ample time for Angel di Maria to keep sending him same message from the 4-0 win over FC Copenhagen where he got two goals and a rabona assist.
Being a World Cup year, Di Maria, Romelu Lukaku and other such players will do what’s needed to make the trip to Brazil. In a way, it’s what Özil did (by joining Arsenal). Writing of the World Cup, FIFA expects Brazil to deliver all stadia for next year’s mundial by December this year, around the same time draws for the group stage will be held.
It’s also about the same time, in 2022, that the World Cup could take place (from mid-January precisely) in Qatar, depending on what FIFA decides concerning that today. Whichever period is chosen, the Qataris will nonetheless live with nine years of criticism over scheduling and preparations.
Recently, it came to light that workers from Nepal at the World Cup sites don’t get paid and some, due to harsh working conditions, have died. The Supreme Committee (Qatar’s World Cup LOC) have expressed their shock at these revelations and promised to look into the matter.
Whether working conditions and weather conditions are made to the level that observers should find satisfactory, one just gets the feeling more will be heard, read and said in the eight more years before Qatar 2022, such that we’d have to remind ourselves that Russia will host the 2018 World Cup.
Still in the east of this world, Novak Djokovic kept up his resistance of Rafael Nadal’s surge at the world number one spot by making the last four of the ongoing China Open with victory over Sam Querrey today. Nadal however is in the semis too and inevitably on course for that number one spot, coming from a set down to beat Fabio Fognini earlier today as well.
All Nadal needs to do to become number one is reach the final; he plays Tomas Berdych in his semi-final. Djokovic however must win the Open while hoping Berdych stops his Spanish adversary in the last four. But in the form Nadal has been since returning from injury in February, he’s odds on to win the Open anyway.
Same sort of form Sebastien Vettel has been all season ahead of the Korean Grand Prix this weekend, where victory would see the Red Bull driver open a three race lead over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso with five races left on the calendar.
Elsewhere this weekend, Manchester City will look to bounce back from successive losses when they welcome unbeaten Everton to the Etihad in the Premier League’s early kickoff on Saturday, with neighbours Man. United visiting Sunderland in the day’s evening kickoff while Liverpool host Crystal Palace in one of four 4 o’clock kickoffs on Saturday.
Leaders Dortmund visit Borussia Monchengladbach in one of six matches on Saturday in the Bundesliga, though the match to look out for is second placed Bayern Munich’s trip to third placed Bayer Leverkusen… Bayer being the last team to beat Bayern in the Bundesliga, the only league loss suffered by Bayern last season in fact. Turn up Kießling!
Saturday football is capped with Serie A pacesetters Roma visiting a rejuvenated Inter Milan in fourth place, four points behind the Romans. Then on Sunday in the Serie A, Juve host AC Milan, Lazio host Fiorentina and in France, PSG travel to Marseille in Le Classique.
That’s pretty much it for the week. Happy birthday to my beautiful cousin Bolanle and to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Many happy returns to them and others celebrating today.
Have a pleasant weekend ahead.
For a tournament a good nine years from starting, football’s 2022 FIFA World Cup to be held in Qatar has generated a courier load of discussion all inspired by the dilemma of whether one of the world’s biggest sporting events should hold in the unusual winter period from January rather than the usual summer schedule from June.
The logic behind a winter World Cup is that temperatures above 50 degrees, which could be attained during a Qatari summer and would pose a danger to human health during the mundial, would be avoided by shifting the tournament to the Qatari winter.
Now, while a whole lot of a certain continent’s people probably aren’t bothered about under what weather the football would be played, Australia are not only bothered… the folks from down under are considering to seek about $43m in compensation having lost in the votes for the hosting rights to Qatar after spending some £25m on its bid.
According to a statement from Football Federation Australia’s chief Frank Lowy, “… with increasing speculation about a change that will impact on us as one of the bidding nations, and because our competition will be affected, we have made our position public.” adding that “just and fair compensation” be given to the nations that “invested many millions, and national prestige, in bidding for a summer event”.
The Qataris meanwhile, via the 2022 Supreme Committee, are saying there really is no need for the World Cup to be moved from summer and all should keep calm and observe as they go about “creating comfortable conditions for public areas, walkways, training pitches and stadia both during and after the World Cup, (which) means being able to play and watch football matches in summer throughout the country.”
The committee stated further that “cooling technology has existed at Jassim bin Hamad (Al Sadd) Stadium since 2008. This June, the stadium (in Doha) hosted a FIFA World Cup qualifier in cool and comfortable conditions. We are now in the process of developing and perfecting sustainable cooling technologies to ensure that our Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup stadia, training grounds and fan zones offer the optimal temperature for players and fans to enjoy the games.”
Putting aside potentially awesome cooling technologies along with alleged ‘politics’ and ‘pressure’ involved in awarding Qatar the hosting rights, the FFA’s position on the matter strays offside in my view based on the suggested compensation which leads to a few other subfactors.
£25m is a lot of money to spend on a bidding process, and lose, but that would require FIFA to be paying the nations that lose out in every bidding process from now on, which amounts to a lot of money considering that three other nations (Japan, South Korea and the United States) would also have to be compensated.
But I’m even thinking qualifying for the World Cup itself should serve as good enough compensation to be honest. For the 2010 World Cup for instance, countries that failed to qualify from the group stages received $8m for their participation, while those that fell in the second round and quarter final stages received $9m and $14m respectively from FIFA/LOC.
While it’s no where near the $30m FFA spent on their failed bid, I reckon that by 2022, prize money for the above stages would be much higher than what obtains at present. Not to mention that for the World Cup winner, which was $30m when Spain broke Dutch hearts in 2010.
The Spanish and Dutch FAs meanwhile have submitted five cities to UEFA to be considered as a host city for the 2020 European Championship which will be ingeniously hosted by different cities across the continent in a bid to make the tournament a truly continental championship.
Spain, who submitted the cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and Valencia for consideration and the Netherlands who submitted Amsterdam, are among 32 nations that have submitted at least a city for consideration to host at least one match of the championship to UEFA whose president, Michel Platini stated at a meeting of European associations in Croatia that he would make a decision of running for FIFA presidency during or after next year’s World Cup.
Some of the other nations and their cities include the British nations who submitted London, Glasgow, Cardiff and Dublin for consideration, Italy with Rome and Milan, Portugal with Porto and Lisbon, Ukraine with Kyiv and Donetsk, Russia with St. Petersburg rather than Moscow (refreshingly in fact) and France very oddly with Lyon rather than Paris.
In the end, the UEFA Executive Committee will in September 2014 select 13 cities to host the 2020 Euros, which will be the 60th anniversary edition, with the package for chosen cities either being the standard package of hosting three group matches and a knockout round match or the showpiece package of hosting a semi-final match and the final.
Other nations and their cities include Germany with Munich, Israel with Jerusalem (aye!), Croatia with Zagreb, Finnish capital Helsinki, Prague in Czech Republic, Poland with Warsaw and Chorzow, Belarus with Minsk, Kazakhstan with Astana, Belgium with Brussels, Turkey with favoured city to be given the showpiece package Istanbul and from the nation where some of the world’s finest chocolate, wristwatches and bank accounts are found… Basel.
For the week, Switzerland also serves as the nation from which one of the world’s finest football clubs is found (little bit exaggeration yeah, but Kagawa-a-care none) after FC Basel came from behind to defeat reigning Europa League champions Chelsea in their opening match of this season’s UEFA Champions League.
Oscar had put the Blues ahead in Stamford Bridge just before half time before second half goals from Mohamed Selah and Marco Streller handed Basel a first win on English soil while also inflicting a first home defeat in 29 European matches on Chelsea on the heels of a lone goal loss at Everton last weekend.
Elsewhere, Lionel Messi became the second leading Champions League scorer of all time courtesy of a hattrick in Barcelona’s 4-0 thumping of Ajax on Wednesday, a day after Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated his new contract – that makes him the highest paid footballer – with a hattrick of his own in Real Madrid’s 6-1 drubbing of Galatasaray at Istanbul.
In other results, Aaron Ramsey continued his good form in Arsenal’s 2-1 win at Olympiqur Marseille, Borussia Dortmund had their manager and goalkeeper sent off in a dramatic 2-1 loss at Napoli, PSG humbled Olympiacos 4-1 in Greece, the Manchester clubs got wins over Bayer Leverkusen and Vitoria Plzen while Bayern Munich began their title defence with a 3-0 win over CSKA Moscow.
In the Europa League group stage which began on Thursday, Adil Rami got sent off after just nine minutes in Valencia’s 3-0 home loss to European debutantes Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur got same score in the win at home to Tromsø, Wigan Athletic commendably drew goalless at Zulte-Waregem and Kevin Gameiro scored with 13 minutes left in Sevilla’s 2-1 win at Estoril.
In some other matches, Sevilla’s neighbours Real Betis drew goalless with Olympique Lyon, Giuseppe Rossi’s resurgence continued as he scored his fourth in as many matches in Fiorentina’s 3-0 win over Pacos de Ferreira, PSV Eindhoven fell to a shock 2-0 home loss to Ludogorets Razgrad, Rubin Kazan won 5-2 at Maribor, Bordeaux lost 3-0 at Frankfurt and SS Lazio got a lone goal win at home to Legia Warsaw courtesy of a Hernanes goal.
The Roman side will now prepare to face second placed city rivals AS Roma in the Rome derby on Sunday in one of several high profile matches to be played across European leagues this weekend. League leaders Napoli travel to Milan to face AC Milan later on Sunday in another Serie A match.
In France, the big spending clubs face off in the capital when Ligue 1 leaders AS Monaco pay third placed PSG a visit on Sunday, Bayern Munich visit Schalke 04 in a Bundesliga match and champions Manchester United will be guests of Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday.
Finally in Nigeria, Enyimba followed up Sunday’s Federations Cup win with a 2-0 win over Wikki Tourists on Wednesday to go second on the league table with 52 points, two points behind league leaders and defending champions Kano Pillars that lost by a lone goal at Nembe City of Bayelsa.
Bayelsa United meanwhile dropped to third behind Enyimba on goal difference following a 2-1 loss at Nasarawa United, El-Kanemi Warriors remain fourth, three points behind Pillars following a 1-0 loss at Sunshine Stars while Kwara United replaced Warri Wolves in fifth place thanks to a 2-0 win over Gombe United in Ilorin coupled with Wolves’ goalless draw with Lobi Stars.
Wolves will visit leaders Kano Pillars on Saturday, Shooting Stars host Rangers in Ibadan, Dolphins and Kwara United meet in Port Harcourt, El-Kanemi host Gombe United in Maiduguri and Enyimba visit Bayelsa United in this weekend’s top match in matchday 33 of the Nigerian Professional Football League.
That’s the bit from here today. On this (yester)day in history, revered secondary school King’s College Lagos was founded in 1909.
Then on this day in 1937, JRR Tolkien’s ”The Hobbit” is published, in 1995 the Hindu milk miracle – in which statues of the Hindu god Ganesh began drinking milk when spoonfuls were placed near their mouths – occured. And in 2004, construction of Burj Khalifa (formerly called Burj Dubai), which is now the world’s tallest building since its completion and opening in 2010, began.
The Burj Khalifa cost $1.5billion to construct, is made up of 163 floors (the most in a building since New York’s World Trade Centre with 110 floors) and stands at 2,722ft tall from ground to tip though the top floor is only at a height of 1,918ft. Both heights however set other new records.
Today also marks the birthday of (my favourite) author Stephen King, comedian Bill Murray, rapper Wale and blogger Kemmiiii. Many happy returns to them and all others born today. And a good man, Robert Onyia, was buried last night. May he and others departed rest in peace, amen!
Have a pleasant weekend!
Not sure what should have me more pissed off, that the C in one of Apple’s two new iPhones – after the hype around it – does not stand for cheap apparently or that Cape Verde got themselves bundled out of the 2014 World Cup race by world football’s governing body FIFA?
The latter came about after it was found that the Islanders had fielded an ineligible player in what was an historic match at Tunisia, which Cape Verde had won 2-0 on the field but eventually lost 3-0 in the ‘boardroom’ no thanks to Fernando Varela.
Varela was given a straight red card in the 88th minute of an earlier qualifying match at Equatorial Guinea and was consequently punished with a four match ban; with the trip to Tunisia for that crucial qualifying match supposed to be the last match of that ban.
But all that is nothing to the great and amusing irony the football gods had in store in this dramatic episode… Varela was sent off in a match that was later awarded as a 3-0 win to Cape Verde, after it was found that Equatorial Guinea had fielded an ineligible player. Wherever realm it is these gods reside, the song of the day there was Justin Timberlake’s ”What Goes Around… ”.
The melodramatic mood of the song can be said to be same aura under which the penultimate round of World Cup qualifying in Africa ended. On other continents meanwhile, a number of countries sealed their passage to the World Cup including the Netherlands and Italy while Germany and Switzerland moved a step closer to doing just that.
A Robin van Persie brace helped the Dutch men to a 2-0 success at Andorra, Switzerland got a 2-0 win at Norway, goals from Arsenal duo Per Mertesacker and Mesut Özil as well as another from Bayern Munich’s Thomas Müller gave Germany a 3-0 win over Faroe Islands and Italy on their part were made to sweat a bit, coming from behind to subdue the Czech Republic 2-1.
That loss all but ended the Czech’s hope of at least finishing in a playoff spot, falling four points behind second placed Bulgaria in Group B after the latter won 2-1 at Malta to remain a point ahead of third placed Denmark that won by a lone goal at Armenia.
Scandinavian neighbours Sweden also won by a lone goal scored after only 30 seconds by Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Kazakhstan and edge closer to claiming a playoff spot ahead of third placed Austria that trail by three points following a lone goal win at home to the Republic of Ireland.
In other groups, Russia defeated Israel 3-1 to go top of Group F, a point ahead of Portugal who were busy getting beat 3-1 by Brazil in a friendly match, Turkey began yet another reign under Fatih Terim with a crucial 2-0 win at Romania while Hungary went second in Group D, a point ahead of those two, courtesy of a 5-1 win over Estonia.
Then there was England’s bore draw at Ukraine, which put the Three Lions top of Group H with 16 points and – coupled with Poland’s 5-1 win at San Marino – meant the top four nations in that group are separated by three points and each now have a chance of picking the World Cup spot or settle for the playoff spot.
Four nations also are meanwhile vying for two World Cup spots while a further fifth nation remain outsiders to clinch a playoff spot from the South American section of qualifying. All of that would be none of Argentina’s business however, following a 5-2 win at bottom nation Paraguay.
PSG’s record signing striker Edinson Cavani meanwhile scored in Uruguay’s 2-0 win over Colombia, preventing Monaco’s record signing striker Radamel Falcao and compatriots from joining Argentina right away.
Uruguay now lie fifth with 22 points, behind Ecuador on goal difference while Chile is third with 24 points and travel to Colombia, who have 26 points, in the next round of qualifying matches next month.
By that time, a more likely destination of this season’s Nigeria Profesional Football League title would be clearer. For now, Kano Pillars remain on course to defend the league title after claiming a lone goal win at home to former champions Enyimba in a Matchday 31 encounter during the week.
The result left Enyimba trailing Pillars by five points with seven matches left in the season. El-Kanemi Warriors meanwhile remain in second spot with 52 points, two points behind Pillars, after a lone goal win over Kwara United while Bayelsa United stay third on goal difference following a lone goal win at home to Enugu Rangers.
Other results saw ABS beat Sunshine Stars 2-1 in Ilorin and Kaduna United lose 3-0 at Gombe United. Nembe City lost by same score as Kaduna United in their match at Lobi Stars, Nasarawa United beat Wikki Tourists by a lone goal and Warri Wolves lost 2-1 at Dolphins of Port Harcourt… far from ideal preparation for Wolves ahead of the Federations Cup final.
Wolves’ opponent in Sunday’s final also lost during the week but, being their fourth appearance in the last five finals of the Cup, Enyimba will head into the encounter a bit more confident. Wolves could gain some courage from the fact that Enyimba have lost two of the previous three final appearances.
In far away England meanwhile, Sunderland have won just one of their last nine home meetings with Arsenal in the league, making the Gunners favourites in this weekend’s Premier League match at the Stadium of Light; a match that could see record signing Özil make his highly anticipated debut for the visitors.
Elsewhere, Marouane Fellaini could make his Manchester United debut when Crystal Palace visit Old Trafford, Romelo Lukaku will be ‘team tied’ when Everton face his real employer Chelsea while Merseyside rivals and league leaders Liverpool travel to Wales to face that nation’s finest team Swansea City on Monday.
That country’s finest (in the financial and talent context) player meanwhile is set to make his debut in Spain for Real Madrid in a La Liga match at newly promoted Villarreal that have began the season on a high and lie in third place with nine points, ahead of Real on goal difference.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti confirmed this ahead of the match, despite Gareth Bale only just playing competitive football for the first time this season with a substitute’s appearance in Wales’ 3-0 home loss to Serbia in a World Cup qualifying match.
Elsewhere in Spain, Kevin Gameiro’s Sevilla embark on daunting trip to face Lionel Messi and Neymar at Barcelona while second placed Atletico Madrid, Falcao’s former club, host Almeria in another Liga match on Saturday.
Falcao on his part will be out to help his Monaco side regain top spot in Saturday’s Ligue 1 match at home to Lorient, after champions PSG went top of the league with a 2-0 win at Bordeaux on Friday night, courtesy of goals in each half from midfielders Blaise Matuidi and Lucas.
In Italy, the match of the weekend comes up on Saturday at the San Siro between champions Juventus and an Inter Milan side enjoying an early bloom in the Walter Mazzari era. Another Turin vs. Milan match will be played right after when AC Milan visit Torino.
Over in Formula 1, two big names will compete for same team from next season after Italian Formula 1 giants Ferrari announced Kimi Räikkönen will be driving the for the stallion from next season alongside Fernando Alonso, completing a return to the team where he won the drivers championship half a decade ago.
Räikkönen’s arrival also marked the end of Felipe Massa’s time with Ferrari, finally leaving having drove all his time there as second driver behind the great Michael Schumacher, Räikkönen and till the end of the season, Alonso. Admittedly, the accident he survived four seasons ago at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
It is hoped that with two former champions competing side by side; despite assertions that Räikkönen’s arrival would upset Alonso, Ferrari will be able to launch a real go at the drivers and constructors title next season, more so the former which has been dominated by RedBull’s German driver Sebastien Vettel who has won the last three championships and currently holds a two-race lead over Alonso with seven races left this season.
While a Spaniard and a Finn prepare to get acquaintted and upstage a German, Serbian tennis star and world number one Novak Djokovic is out helping his nation in the Davis Cup, handing Serbia the lead in their semifinal clash against Canada with a straight sets win before Janko Tipsarevic was beaten in five sets by Milos Raonic in the second rubber match to bring the Canadians back on level terms.
The second semifinal sees defending champions Czech Republic well on their way to another final after taking a 2-0 lead against Argentina thanks to wins by Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych over Juan Monaco and Leonardo Mayer respectively.
Hoping Djokovic is able to see Serbia through just as I’m looking forward to Özil’s debut more than Bale’s or Fellaini’s… or Eto’o’s… or James McCarthy’s… or whoever else is making a debut this weekend.
And… it’s a wrap from here. Happy birthday to American rapper Nas and every one else born on this day, including my cousin Tinuke. Best wished to them, and a pleasant weekend to us all. Cheers!
The thing about expectations sometimes… a lot of times actually, is that it is the unexpectant who truly relish the good that comes their way or otherwise tend to best manage a disappointment. And the week was full of both sides, from unexpected joy to the not so expected disappointments.
Ahead of the US Open, much talk was made about the possibility of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer meeting for the first time in the final grand slam of the at the quarterfinal stage. People also looked forward to how well defending champion Andy Murray would do at Flushing Meadows.
Following routine opening round wins, Roger Federer was first to go as the Swiss former world number one was beaten in straight sets by Tommy Robredo in only the fourth round, only for Robredo to get thrashed out in straight sets by a ruthless Nadal in the quarterfinals.
Federer’s defeat, which will likely see him drop even lower than his current low of seventh on the world rankings by Monday morning, drove home the point that the Swiss master is well past his dominating best days.
Andy Murray’s quarterfinal loss to the long upcoming Swiss ninth seed Stanslas Wawrinka, in brutal straight sets, set up a not so likely US Open semifinal clash with world number one Novak Djokovic who dropped a set against Mikhail Youzhny but was largely untroubled in a four set win over the Russian veteran.
The expectation would be for Djokovic to win and set up a potentially intriguing final against Nadal who faces eighth seed Richard Gasquet in the other semifinal. But from results in earlier rounds, the men’s draw has taught us all to be unexpectant and simply enjoy the sublime tennis on display.
In the women’s draw however, it’s all gone to plan as top seeds Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka powered through the rounds to set up the much expected final match which will be played much later today.
Azarenka went past Flavia Pennetta of Italy in her semifinal while world number one Serena lost only three games as she crushed China’s Li Na 6-0 6-3 before however being knocked out of the doubles event with her sister Venus.
Not much change would reflect on the women’s world ranking with Serena set to maintain top spot ahead of Azarenka. The men’s rankings however should witness a host of changes below Djokovic and Nadal, more so if both lose their semifinal matches.
Nadal’s country Spain meanwhile remain on course to qualify for the football World Cup next year in Brazil, with Vicente Del Bosque’s side now on 14 points from six matches and edging closer to sealing passage to the mundial following a 2-0 win at Finland in one of many qualifiers played last night.
France went three points behind the Spaniards in Group I after being held to a goalless draw at Georgia, leaving Les Bleus needing a big win at Belarus next week to replace Spain atop the group albeit having played a game more.
In Group F, a Cristiano Ronaldo hattrick helped Portugal come from behind to beat Northern Ireland 4-2 and remain top of with 17 points, two points ahead of Russia that beat Luxembourg 4-1 in Moscow.
Danny Welbeck scored twice and Rickie Lambert put in yet another commendable display as England eased to a 4-0 win over Moldova to go top of Group H with 15 points, ahead of Montenegro – that have played a game more – on difference, while Ukraine demolished San Marino 9-0 to stay in third place with 14 points.
Poland’s hopes of qualifying from the group remain faint as a Robert Lewandowski strike earned a 1-1 draw at home to Montengro and keep them in fourth place on 10 points, though an expected win at San Marino next week would boost their hopes, more so with England facing Ukraine in Kyiv in the group’s other match next week.
Elsewhere, the Netherlands needed a stoppage time Robin van Persie penalty to salvage a 2-2 draw from their trip to Estonia though a win from their final three matches would seal qualification to the World Cup. As would for Germany from Group C after beating neighbours Austria 3-0 in a match Miroslav Klose became the German national team’s joint all time leading goalscorer with 68 goals.
Italy edged closer to qualification with a hardfought 1-0 win at home to Bulgaria in Group B, goals from Steven Defour and Kevin Mirallas late on handed Belgium a 2-0 win at Scotland to leave the Red Devils a win from qualification from Group A while elsewhere in the group, Aaron Ramsey’s penalty was mere consolation as Wales, with €100m Gareth Bale left on the bench, fell 2-1 at Macedonia.
Bale was left out by Welsh boss Chris Coleman no thanks to ‘severely lacking match fitness’, largely brought about by his move to Real Madrid where he was unveiled on Monday. The unveiling would however get overshadowed by turn of events in the transfer market as clubs rushed to finalise deadline day deals.
And most prominent of all was Arsenal spending almost three times its previous transfer record to secure the signing of German midfielder Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for £42.4m, shocking fans and rivals to silence over the club breaking from their norm and, along with the arrival of Mathieu Flamini days ago and Emiliano Viviano hours before Ozil, making the Gunners title contenders all of a sudden.
Reigning Premier League champions Manchester United eventually completed the signing of Marouane Fellaini from Everton for £27.5m, after their chase of Ander Herrera ended in debacle while their loan move for Real Madrid’s Fabio Coentrao thought to have been finalised turned out otherwise.
Other significant transfers saw Kaka return to AC Milan on a free transfer from Real Madrid, Romelo Lukaku join Everton on loan from Chelsea, as did Gareth Barry from Manchester City while Merseyside neighbours Liverpool completed the signing of Mamadou Sakho from PSG.
The Reds are now considered as possible title contenders as well having started the campaign on a high with three wins from three, all without star player Luis Suarez who has three matches of his 10 match ban for biting left to serve.
Being on the sidelines for his club has however changed little about Suarez who grabbed all the attention for good and bad, scoring both goals in Uruguay’s 2-1 win at Peru in one of four World Cup qualifying matches played in South America, earning a penalty with a dive apparently before getting an opposition defender sent off minutes after.
The win made Suarez the all time leading scorer for Uruguay and brought his country within two points of fourth placed Ecuador that lost by a lone goal at Colombia. Ecuador remain on 21 points after 13 games, five points behind leaders Argentina and second placed Colombia while Chile rose to third on 24 points from 14 matches following a 3-0 win over Venezuela.
In Africa, Ghana reached the final round of World Cup qualification with a 2-1 win at home to second placed Zambia in a Group D match, joining Egypt, Algeria and Cote D’Ivoire that have all made it through with a game to spare.
Six more places in the final round will be filled this weekend from matches across the continent later today, including Malawi’s trip to face Nigeria in a Group F encounter and South Africa needing a win and another result to go their way to reach the final round.
Malawi, with seven points, need an outright win to qualify while the Super Eagles, with nine points, only need to avoid defeat to edge closer to Brazil 2014. A similar scenario to Group F is found in Group B where the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia, leading with 11 points, welcome Cape Verde with nine points to Tunis in the final group match there.
More drama however will come from Groups A and E where three countries each in both groups have solid chances of qualifying. In Group E, leaders Congo with 10 points travel to face bottom side Niger Republic while Gabon, with seven points in third place, must defeat second placed Burkina Faso that has nine points and then hope Congo lose at Niger to pick the sole qualifying ticket there.
And in Group A, Ethiopia will be out to seal qualification once and for all with a win at bottom of the table Central African Republic, having earlier sealed qualification with a 2-1 win over South Africa only to be found guilty of fielding an ineligible player in an earlier match against Botswana, thus handing the latter three points and three goals at the Ethiopians expense. Now Botswana and South Africa will both play for a win at Durban and hope Ethiopia lose at CAR.
Rounding off, on this day just last year Canada officially cut diplomatic ties with Iran by closing its embassy in Tehran and ordering the expulsion of Iranian diplomats from Ottawa, over support for Syria, nuclear plans and alleged rights abuses.
You’d have thought Assad got the hint back then but oh no, we’re on the brink of watching Syria get bombarded by the United States while Russia keenly observes the whole mess.
Here’s to a peaceful weekend to us all wherever we are. Hope Nigeria reaches the final World Cup qualifying round. Cheers!
If more people played Football Manager more often, the need for the media to stretch the slack rubber of explaining why Arsenal remains among the Pot 1 (top seeded) teams when drawing clubs into their respective UEFA Champions League groups would be more unnecessary than it already is (for those who know).
That written, Arsenal, which completed the signing of former midfielder Mathieu Flamini on Thursday, would probably wish it wasn’t a Pot 1 team afterall following being drawn with a trio of runners-up from competitive leagues; Olympique Marseille from Ligue 1, a league it currently leads, Napoli from the Serie A in a repeat of their dramatic Emirates Cup tie in preseason as well as enterprising German side Borussia Dortmund that also finished runner-up of last season’s Champions League.
Reigning champions Bayern Munich were drawn with Manchester City, CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen in Group D, a group Bayern should have little trouble qualifying from. Man. City meanwhile will fancy their qualification chance this time having crashed out of Europe altogether at the group stage of the last two seasons.
Russian side CSKA on paper will fancy making the knockout stage and upsetting City, however slim that chance is on paper, or at least finish third and drop to the Europa League. Plzen on their part will be buoyed by knocking Atletico Madrid out of last season’s Europa League when they go into matches in this group from next month.
In other groups, there’s Barcelona, that scrapped to the Spanish Super Cup title over Atletico, and AC Milan finding themselves drawn together again in Group H, with Ajax and Celtic the other teams in that group. Group G comprises winners of four of the last six Europa League titles as FC Porto, Atletico Madrid and Zenit St. Petersburg come up against each other along with Austria Vienna.
Then there’s Real Madrid and Italian champions Juventus in Group B alongside last season’s quarterfinalist Galatasaray and FC Copenhagen while PSG are firm favourites in Group C ahead of Benfica, Olympiakos and Anderlecht while English champions Man. United will come up against a supposedly weakened Shakhtar Donetsk side, German darkhorse Bayer Leverkusen and this season’s exciting prospect from La Liga, Real Sociedad in Group C.
And Europa League holders Chelsea will contest Group E with Kevin Prince Boateng’s new club Schalke, Steaua Bucharest of Romania and Swiss side FC Basel. Before then, Jose Mourinho’s side come up against Bayern in this season’s European Super Cup match at Prague tonight.
Both sides boast of strong first team squads filled with an abundance of midfielders and in Chelsea’s case, strikers, after the Blues completed the signing of Cameroun forward Samuel Eto’o from Anzhi days after completing the hijack of Willian. The spotlight however would shift from the duo to the opposing managers, espcially Mourinho who has a poor record of just three wins in 15 meetings against Pep Guardiola to mull on.
Nigeria’s basketball national team have much to mull on concerning the way forward after first losing to Senegal by a point at the quarterfinal stage on Wednesday before falling to another shock 79-76 loss to Cape Verde in a 5th-8th place semifinal playoff on Thursday.
D’Tigers however recovered to thrash Morocco 105-87 in a 7th-8th playoff and complete a gruelling three matches in as many days in Abidjan, finishing a disappointing seventh having placed third at the last Championship in 2011.
Favourites Angola meanwhile are through to the last four there along with hosts Cote D’Ivoire whom they face in a semifinal tonight, with Egypt to face Senegal in the second semifinal as the last four battle for three World Championship spots available.
While the Basketball Nations Cup ends this weekend, the US Open, which began on Monday, truly begins as most of the top seeds have eased through the opening rounds and are now preparing for the third round.
One wee bit of a shock was however recorded when British player… no, not Andy Murray, he’s still on course to defend the title, but Dan Evans who came from a set down to defeat Australia’s Bernard Tomic and set up a third round tie against 19th seed Tommy Robredo. Women’s 5th seed Sara Errani was also knocked out in the second round by compatriot Flavia Penneta in straight sets.
Champion Murray will only just play his second round match against birthday mate Leonardo Mayer of Argentina, while the other usual suspects – Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Li Na – are already through to round three which serves off this weekend.
Major highlight of this weekend though will come from football in the Premier League where archrivals Liverpool and Manchester United face off in Sunday’s lunchtime kickoff at Anfield before Tottenham Hotspur visit Arsenal in the north London derby later on Sunday.
Tottenham, conveniently drawn in Group K of the Europa League with Anzhi Makhachkala earlier today, head into the derby feeling better than this time last week when their deal for Willian was hijacked, having completed the signings of Erik Lamela from AS Roma and Romanian defender Vlad Chiriches while Ajax playmaker Christian Eriksen is close to agreeing a deal with the Lilywhites.
Other matches in the Premier League this weekend sees Hull City travelling to face Man. City in Saturday’s early kickoff followed by Cardiff City aiming to add another scalp in Man. United-£36m bid-rejecting Everton, Newcastle United hosting Fulham and Sunderland away at Crystal Palace in the evening kickoff.
In France, league leaders Marseille face second placed big spenders Monaco, while champions PSG welcome Guingamp to the Parc Des Princes and Olympique Lyon will look to put behind their Champions League exit at Real Sociedad when they visit Evian on Saturday.
Sociedad welcome Atletico Madrid to San Sebastien in a potentially thrilling La Liga match on Sunday, champions Barcelona visit Valencia afterwards while Real Madrid host Athletic Bilbao in Sunday’s (rather very) early kickoff.
Real’s Champions League group adversary Juventus will be at home to Lazio in a Serie A match on Saturday evening a fortnight after beating the Romans 4-0 to win the Italian Super Cup. Before that match, Napoli will pay Chievo Verona a visit.
And in Germany, Dortmund have the chance to regain top spot from Bayern (that drew 1-1 with Freiburg on Tuesday) if they pick a win from their trip to Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday.
Before then, Bayern could have dropped to fourth place even should Bayer Leverkusen, FSV Mainz and Hertha Berlin win their respective matches away at fumbling Schalke, Hannover 96 and Wolfsburg.
Finally from the home front, Enyimba went top of the league with 46 points after 28 matches, ahead of Bayelsa United on goal difference, following a 3-0 win at home to Gombe United in midweek.
Bayelsa drew goalless at Sunshine Stars while champions Kano Pillars dropped to third, a point behind the leading two, after a 2-0 loss at Heartland, with Kwara United a further point behind in fourth place following a 2-0 loss as well at Nembe City.
With that, it’s a wrap from here. Billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffet turns 83 on this day, actor Mark Strong turns 50, Charlie’s Angel Cameron Diaz and legendary former Czech midfielder Pavel Nedvěd turn 41 today as well and American tennis player Andy Roddick is 31 today.
To them and everyone else celebrating, best wishes of the day. And here’s to a pleasant weekend to you all. Cheers!
While the country remains grappled in deadlocked dialogue between the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Federal Government, sustained poor power supply, uncertainty over the status of Shekau’s heartbeat or lack of, a couple of errant pastors and what not, some of her sportsmen have provided a good bit of reprieve from those… at least for me.
At Cote D’ivoire, the African Basketball Championships (Afrobasket 2013) dunked/tipped off on Tuesday with the host nation easing to a 64-47 win over Algeria in Group A while Senegal came through a close encounter against Egypt 72-70 winners.
Nigeria’s campaign began on Wednesday with a 74-59 win over Mali in Group D while neighbours Cameroun fared even better, defeating Congo 74-43 in the group’s other match. Defending champions Tunisia meanwhile edged Morocco 56-54 in Group B and favourites Angola opened their account with a 75-50 win over Cape Verde in Group C.
Nigeria then recorded a convincing 93-75 win over Congo on Friday night to seal qualification from the group stage for D’Tigers. Cote D’Ivoire and Angolan are pretty much through following wins in their respective second matches on Thursday, with the Ivorians beating Senegal 74-46 while Angola got a 91-73 win over Mozambique.
Also on Thursday, back home, in football, Warri Wolves qualified for the final of the Federations Cup courtesy of a 2-1 win over Akwa United in a replayed semi-final encounter after the initial match on Wednesday was halted due to bad weather with scores level at 1-1.
Wolves will now face Enyimba of Aba that had earlier reached the final thanks to a lone goal win over Lobi Stars, making it the fifth time in eight seasons the Aba Elephants have reached the final of the competition.
Enyimba’s focus however returns to the league, where they travel to face fourth placed Kwara United in Ilorin in one of this weekend’s matches, as both sides hope to sustain their contention for the league title.
Two other teams in direct contention too; champions Kano Pillars and Bayelsa United, come up against Sharks of Port Harcourt and ABS of Ilorin respectively, aiming to take advantage of the result from Ilorin and consolidate their title charge.
Beaten Fed. Cup semifinalists Akwa United and Lobi Stars will also be home this weekend, with Akwa Utd taking on Shooting Stars while Naze Millionaires Heartland will be Lobi’s guests at Makurdi.
Other matches will have Dolphins at home to Rangers in Port Harcourt, Sunshine Stars visiting relegation threatened Wikki Tourists in Bauchi, Elkanemi Warriors hosting Warri Wolves in Maiduguri and Nembe City making the short trip to face Kaduna United.
In England, Manchester City got their season underway in emphatic fashion, handing Newcastle United a 4-0 thumping at the Etihad to go top of the league ahead of city rivals Man. United. And City will look to build on Monday’s thrashing when they pay Welsh newcomers Cardiff City a visit on Sunday.
Before then, Arsenal will get the weekend’s Premier League programme going when they visit Fulham in a London affair on Saturday. The Gunners go into that encounter with fragile confidence following a 3-0 win at Istanbul against Fenerbahçe in a Champions League playoff match.
While Laurent Koscielny’s early injury looked to be the start of another miserable evening, an inspired second half (especially from Aaron Ramsey) saw the Gunners virtually book their place in the group stage with the margin of victory, which came through goals from Kieran Gibbs, Ramsey and a Giroud penalty.
In other first leg UEFA Champions League playoff matches played in midweek, two spectacular, better-after-every-view goals gave Real Sociedad a commanding 2-0 win at the Gerland against Olympique Lyon, PSV Eindhoven and AC Milan played out a 1-1 draw as did Greek club PAOK Thessaloniki at Schalke 04.
Zenit eased to a 4-1 win at Pacos Ferreira of Portugal and Switzerland’s FC Basel won 4-2 at Ludogorets Razgrad but the biggest result came from Kazakhstan where Scottish champions Celtic got shocked in a 2-0 loss to Shakhter Karagandy… that had a sheep ‘sacrificed’ before kickoff.
Down in the Europa League, Marko Marin scored twice either side of a Kevin Gameiro goal for temporal club Sevilla, as the Spaniards came from a goal down to slaughter Slask Wroclaw 4-1 in one of several first leg qualifying matches played on Thursday.
Fomer Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez began competitive life as a Fiorentina striker in good form, scoring in la Viola’s 2-1 win at Grasshoppers while Wilfried Bony continued his in like manner as Swansea City recorded a 5-1 win at home to Petrolul Ploiesti of Romania.
Elsewhere, Udinese lost 3-1 at home Sloban Liberec, Spartak Moscow drew 1-1 at St. Gallen and Roberto Soldado made it three goals in two appearances for Tottenham Hotspur in the 5-0 win at Dinamo Tbilisi, scoring twice for the Londoners on the night.
That win should’ve been the cake on which Willian’s £30m arrival would be the icing. Spurs looked set to land the attacker, weeks after usurping Liverpool for him, until Roman Abramovich whistled by with an extra £2m to hijack that and ensure the Brazilian attacker would now join Chelsea instead, even after having his medical at Spurs; something Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho implied should have been kept secret in an amusing press conference.
Now everyone’s wondering why Chelsea would move for Willian when there’re Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Kevin de Bruyne, Andre Schürrle and dear Victor Moses already choking in that department… I already wrote about that here. Besides, the Brazilian made quite an impression on Chelsea while with Shakhtar Donetsk.
Willian’s imminent arrival at the Bridge, coupled with Mourinho saying the club could bid for Wayne Rooney again afterwards, fills Monday night’s league clash between the Blues and champions Manchester United at Old Trafford with even more expectation than already anticipated.
For Daniel Levy and Andre Villas-Boas, the sentiment would be different, whatever the outcome of their home match against Swansea on Sunday is. With Gareth Bale set to join Real Madrid, Willian would have been an ideal replacement though the Lillywhites will now pursue a deal to bring in Erik Lamela from AS Roma.
The Italian side; that has already parted with Marquinhos and Pablo Osvaldo but brought in Gervinho and Kevin Strootman, begin their league campaign away at Livorno on Sunday while the Serie A season kicks off on Saturday at Verona where last season’s third placed side AC Milan are visitors of newly promoted Hellas Verona.
Champions Juventus, on a high after claiming the Super Cup in emphatic manner, then play at Sampdoria later on Saturday while Napoli host Bologna, Genoa visit Inter Milan and Lazio host Udinese in some of Sunday’s matches there.
In Spain, champions Barcelona visit Malaga on Sunday without Lionel Messi who went off injured in the 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Super Cup. Atletico host Rayo Vallecano on Saturday while city rivals Real visit Granada on Monday.
In France, Monaco went top of the league for the moment after being held to a goalless draw by Toulouse on Friday night, thus failing to equal a record of a newly promoted side winning the opening three Ligue 1 matches, a record held by Toulouse.
Lyon can now regain top spot with a win at home to Reims, while Olympique Marseille or St. Etienne could also go top if they win respective matches against Valenciennes and Lille and other results go their way. Elsewhere, PSG visit newly promoted Nantes in search of a first win this season following two draws so far.
Penultimately in Tennis, draws for the last grand slam of the year sees third seed Andy Murray begin his title defence against Michaël Llodra, well ahead of a potential semifinal against top seed Novak Djokovic; whom Murray beat to win last year’s title.
And unlike before when a Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer match would’ve been the potential second semifinal, both men could potentially face each other a round earlier in the quarterfinal instead; owing largely to Federer dropping to seventh in the lastest world rankings, his lowest rank since 2002.
The women’s draw sees too seed and defending champion Serena Williams starting off her US Open defence against veteran Francesca Schiavone. And barring any upsets, Serena would face second seed Victoria Azarenka in the final in a fortnight.
The US Open will serve off on Monday without world number three Maria Sharapova who withdrew from the slam due to an ‘inflamation’ in her shoulder. Probably what happens when you consider changing your name to ‘Sugarpova’ for the duration of the grand slam.
Finally on this day after Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced he’ll retire next year, Thomas Edison patented the motion picture camera in 1891 while in 1981, Mark David Chapman is sentenced 20 years to life in prison for the murder of Beatles singer John Lennon.
And happy birthday to everyone celebrating their birthday today, including Nigerian football striker Joseph Akpala, Portuguese fullback Jose Bosingwa, American comedian Dave Chappelle, Dutch swimmer Inge de Bruijn and Swedish midfielder Kim Kallstrom. Deceased former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would have been 84 today as well.
Now I’m off to sort my fantasy league team. Have yourself a great weekend then.
The week started on a low for Nigeria after Blessing Okagbare made a slow start in the 100m final at the IAAF World Championship in Moscow and never recovered from that, finishing in sixth place very well behind Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (rare name make up) who clocked a world leading time of 10.71 seconds.
The Jamaican sprinter would later claim gold in the 200m event and complete a double-double; winning her events consecutively at an Olympic and the following World Championship, same feat British long distance runner Mo Farah achieved when he won the 5000m event in Moscow to add to the wins over 10000m last week and at both events at the London Olympics last year.
Okagbare meanwhile performed much better in the 200m final, settling for third place and a bronze medal to add to the silver she won in the long jump at the start of the Championship; Nigeria’s first medals in the Athletics World Championship since 1999.
In Durban, South Africa, Nigeria’s Super Eagles put in a good perfomance to defeat South Africa 2-0 to claim the Mandela Challenge title courtesy of two second half goals by halftime substitute Uche Nwofor, earning only his second cap on Wednesday night.
Other friendly matches were played worldwide, Barcelona defender Dani Alves heading in a peach of an own goal to hand Switzerland a lone goal win over Brazil, ending an 11 match unbeaten run for the 2014 FIFA World Cup host. Reigning world champions Spain meanwhile laboured to a 2-0 win at Ecuador while England came from behind twice to defeat archrivals Scotland 3-2 at Wembley, with Ricky Lambert heading home England’s winner minutes after coming on for his first cap. Dreamy!
Elsewhere, Uruguay won 4-2 at Japan, Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal salvaged a 1-1 draw for Portugal against the Netherlands, Belgium and France played out a goalless draw in Brussels, Germany came from behind to draw 3-3 with Paraguay and sure-to-join-Arsenal-for-long-only-to-sign-for-Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain gave Argentina the lead in a 2-1 win over Italy in Rome, with Higuain’s Napoli teammate Lorenzo Insigne netting Italy’s solitary goal late on.
All that ahead of this weekend when the European league season will fully come alive, with the Premier League and Primera Liga kicking off while the German Budesliga and Ligue 1 enter their second week of matches.
In England, Arsenal’s quest to not go a ninth season without a trophy kicks off today when Aston Villa visit the Emirates in one of seven opening day matches of the 2013/14 Premier League season, which starts off at Anfield where Liverpool host Stoke City now managed by Mark ‘Sparky’ Hughes.
A new era starts for defending champions Manchester United in a daunting trip to the Liberty Stadium to face Swansea City, with all eyes on David Moyes whose eyes will likely be on Robin van Persie to help in quelling the doubts hovering over him since being handed the task to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s replacement.
Over at Stamford Bridge, great expectation is what hovers over returning manager Jose Mourinho whose Chelsea side welcome newly promoted Hull City (Tigers) on Sunday afternoon, a match preceded by Tottenham Hotspur’s London affair with Crystal Palace, another newly promoted side, at Selhurst Park.
In Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid begin another power tussle for the Primera Liga title on Sunday, both sides under new management, with Barça hosting Levante and Real also starting at home against Real Betis.
Also under new management is Bayern Munich that began the season last weekend with a 3-1 win at home to Borussia Monchengladbach. Pep Guardiola’s Bavarian (bully of a) side visit Eintract Frankfurt this weekend, the host team looking to recover from a heavy opening day defeat at the capital.
Hertha Berlin, that crushed Frankfurt 6-1 then, visit Bayern’s local rivals Nurnberg on Sunday, with 2011 and 2012 champions Borussia Dortmund playing right after at home to newly promoted Braunschweig.
In France, Olympique Lyon got a 3-1 win at Sochaux on Friday night to maintain its perfect start atop the standings after two matches. Olymique Marseille and Monaco could join them with wins over Evian and Montpellier respectively, while reigning champions PSG will be out for a first win when Ajaccio visit the Parc Des Princes on Sunday night.
The big match on Sunday night takes place in Italy where back to back Scudetto winners Juventus face Coppa Italia holders Lazio in the SuperCoppa. Lazio would be without its captain Stefano Mauri whose appeal of a six match ban slammed on him for his involvement in matchfixing was delayed.
In Nigeria, Kano Pillars, with a game in hand, regained top spot in the Premier League with a 3-0 win over ABS of Ilorin while Warri Wolves slipped to second spot following a goalless draw at homd to fifth placed Enyimba of Aba.
Bayelsa United rose to third place with a 4-1 win over Akwa United, Kwara United built on their lone goal win at Heartland last weekend with another lone goal win at home to Enugu Rangers, a win that takes them up to fourth spot with two matches in hand.
This weekend, Kwara United travel to Lafia to face relegation threatened Nasarawa United, Enyimba play at home against Kaduna United, leaders Kano Pillars go on a tricky trip to face Sunshine Stars in Akure and Rangers host Gombe United in some of the league matches.
No more dull weekends with all the football available now… at least for the majority. And fortunately for IAAF, the World Championship comes to a conclusion this weekend as would the Cincinnati Masters where Maria Sharapova was beaten by American Sloane Stephens in only the second round.
Obviously this post should’ve come up Friday night or Saturday morning but some how, was unable to put it up. Now done, for righteousness’ sake.
‘Over the Weekend’ roundup will be up on Monday. Cheers!
In a week that witnessed more withdrawals from it than bank customers at an ATM (please don’t sue me), Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer must be wondering how it would have been better to be on the withdrawal bandwagon rather than suffering rare and embarrassing defeats.
First was world number five Nadal, brimming with a champion’s confidence having just won his favourite Grand Slam, the French Open, a record eighth time on the back of losing just two matches since making a return from a long term knee injury, fell to a player ranked 130 places below him at that point… worse still, in straight sets.
Steve Darcis’ shock 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 win in the first round paved way for an equally shocking defeat in the second round as world number two Roger Federer, after winning the first set, ended up losing 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 7-6 to 116th ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky.
And to make their losses as frustrating as humanly possible, Darcis withdrew from Wimbledon with a shoulder problem (side effects of beating a hard hitter like Nadal) while Stakhovsky, in the very next round after beating Federer, lost 6-2 2-6 7-5 6-3 to Jurgen Melzer. Would Melzer have beaten Federer? We’ll never know.
The shock losses spilled into the women’s section with third seed Maria Sharapova losing in straight sets of 6-3 6-4 to Michelle Larcher De Brito while French Open semifinalist Sara Errani was bundled out earlier in the first round.
Those shock exits, coupled with the withdrawals of Jo Wilfred Tsonga (who was down two sets to one when he did, go figure), Marin Cilic, Radek Stepanek and John Isner in the male section as well as Viktoria Azarenka in the female means that – much as they would want you to believe otherwise – the path to the final is much less perilous than originally would have been (at least on paper) for top seeds Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams as well as Britain’s shining hope Andy Murray… maybe David Ferrer too.
As to claims that the playing surface is to blame for the diluge of withdrawals, organisers of the third slam on the calendar stated “The factual evidence, which is independently checked, is that the courts are almost identical to last year, as dry and firm as they should be, and we expect them to continue to play to their usual high quality”. Simply put, ‘quit whining and get on with it’.
So we move on from the grass surface of SW19 to the grass at Brazil where Spain will face the host nation in the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup after edging out the Italians 7-6 on (well taken) penalties following a goalless 120 mnutes; much better than last time both met at the final of the Euros last year where the Spaniards ran out 4-0 winners.
This final, which is the very fixture anticipated by all from the start of the Confederations Cup, will be a major test of how good or otherwise the Brazilian team is ahead of next summer’s World Cup just as it would inevitably serve as a stage to see what Neymar can pull off against pretty much the players he will play with and against when La Liga kicks off for the 2013/14 season.
As for Spain, it’s a chance to fare much better than the third place finish they managed at the last Confederations Cup in South Africa as well as extend an unbeaten run of matches that has been since November 2011 when England beat them in a friendly.
Spanish fans will also be looking out for their U20 national side vying for the World Youth Championship in Turkey, having just made the first knockout round there by finishing top of Group A with nine maximum points ahead of France, Ghana (who have a slim chance of qualifying as one of the best third placed countries) and the United States.
Nigeria’s Flying Eagles are also through to the knockout round after finishing Group B in second place with six points, a point behind Portugal, after beating South Korea by a lone goal in their final group match on Thursday. And as it stands, Nigeria may well be the only African nation left competing after the final round of group matches in Groups E and F are played later today.
For one, Egypt, without a point, need a big win against England in Group E to either qualify or at least keep England from doing so for Ghana’s sake, just as Uruguay must be beaten by table topping Uzbekistan in Group F to aid Ghana’s cause while also sealing their (the Uzbek’s) qualification.
Murky, twisted situation that but no where as murky as Silvio Berlusconi’s situation with the law in Italy, after a ruling by three judges in a case of sleeping with an underaged girl found him guilty, sentenced him to seven years in prison and also banned him from partaking in politics… but there’s a catch.
Apparently, Berlusconi, who is the owner of Serie A giants AC Milan, was sentenced to four years in prison last year after being convicted of tax evasion but hasn’t served a minute in prison. Why? An appeal process must be completed in both cases (yes, the man has appealed) and due to the multiple stages involved in the appeal process, it could take years before being settled.
Hence, Berlusconi may well never serve jail time for his convictions. Lionel Messi on his part, would also likely not serve jail time over the tax evasion allegations levelled against him recently in Spanish court after agreeing to pay an amount between €15m and €21m to the tax authorities there. So not only are the Spaniards winning on the field of play, they also are in the court and more so against a No. 10 touted as the best ever. Tough world.
Likely tougher for those who will face Juventus next season, especially in the Serie A, after the league champions completed the deal to bring Argentine forward Carlos Tevez over from oil rich Manchester City in a £7.6m steal that could rise to £12m… still a steal of a deal for Juve.
Other players that have or will be moving include Andrei Arshavin who returned to Zenit St. Petersburg after the expiration of his contract at Arsenal, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet who joined Liverpool from Sunderland, Chelsea’s Marko Marin who will spend next season on loan at Sevilla, Lille’s Dimitri Payet who will sign for Olympique Marseille next week and Isco who will be Carlo Ancelotti’s first signing (per se) from sorry Malaga.
Malaga have now lost manager Manuel Pellegrini to Manchester City and Isco to Real right after losing Santi Cazorla and Nacho Monreal to Arsenal in the last year. Heap on the ban from UEFA competitions due to not meeting certain Financial Fair Play regulations and you can’t but feel sorry for a modest side that made the Champions League quarterfinals last season.
A bit of sympathy too for Red Bull driver Mark Webber who announced during the week that he would quit Formula 1 at the end of this season to join Porsche’s new sportscar programme and will compete at the LeMans 24 hour race with them.
Webber had been in the midst of a controversial team ‘bust-up’ this season, when teammate and world champion Sebastien Vettel ignored team orders and overtook Webber at the Malaysian grand prix. Vettel apologised soon after, only to then state that he would do same if both drivers were in the same situation again.
While Webber would deny that incident isn’t responsible for his decision to quit the sport, all indications point to it really, more so after it was confirmed that he received offers from at least one top team to join them next season. For the moment, that’s about it with the roundup from the week.
On this day in 1880, France annexed Tahiti and probably annexed every ounce of the latter’s footballing talents along. And in 2007, Apple Inc. released its first mobile phone, the iPhone.
Happy birthday to gospel singer Don Moen (63), pop singer Nicole Scherzinger (35), Argentine football midfielder Ever Banega (25), French football midfielder Yann M’Vila (23) and the young doctor Obinna Nnewuihe (20-I really can’t tell you). Best wishes to him and everyone else celebrating today.
Have a pleasant day wherever this post meets you.