Archive for May, 2010

The Curious Case of Nani

May 29, 2010 1 comment

Back in the summer of 2007 there was a lot of hype around a young winger at Sporting Lisbon. Cristiano Ronaldo had just had his breakthrough season at Manchester United and the hype suggested there was a ‘left sided Ronaldo’ at Sporting. The football world was abuzz and rumours abounded that many of Europe’s top clubs from Barcelona to Real Madrid to Tottenham Hotspur wanted to sign the young man. His name? Nani. In the end, Manchester United secured his services for the princely sum of £17.3 million (according to Sporting Lisbon). The comparisons with Ronaldo were inevitable as he was a winger, Portuguese and a product of the much vaunted Sporting youth academy, but they were also wide of the mark. After all, how can one measure up to the most naturally gifted player of his generation? Nevertheless, much was expected of Nani.

Nani’s first season in England was a successful one for Manchester United as they won the Premier League and Champions League. Nani’s season started promisingly with some fine performances and top drawer goals against Tottenham and Middlesbrough. The highlight of his season came in an FA Cup against Arsenal at Old Trafford in which he made a mockery of Arsene Wenger’s team, arrogantly showboating to the point where William Gallas wildly kicked out at him out of frustration. It was clear to see the young Portuguese had plenty of talent.

In the Champions League final he also showed a mental toughness as he stepped up in the penalty shootout. Not only did he take a penalty but he took the fifth penalty, one which Manchester United had to score to stay in the game. He did and John Terry will still be cursing him for doing so. It wasn’t all plain sailing though. The overriding feeling amongst the Manchester United fans and coaching staff was one of great frustration as Nani displayed a great deal of natural footballing ability, but very little in the way of a footballing brain as good play was often blighted by poor decision making.

Nani’s second season (2008-2009) was another successful one for Manchester United as they retained their Premiership crown and reached the final of the Champions League for a second consecutive season. Nani, however, regressed. If he was frustrating in his first season, he was hair-pullingly infuriating in his sophomore one. His decision making was poor, he seemed to lack confidence and he managed a solitary league goal. Again, there were flashes of brilliance as he used skill and pace to razzle dazzle defenders, but the feeling was again one of frustration and bemusement. The fans could see that he was not another Djemba-Djemba or Bellion, but the goods were not produced regularly enough. Would he come back better or had his confidence drained altogether?

Fortunately for United, it was to be the former as the Cape Verde born winger had his breakthrough season. He seemed to benefit mentally from Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure for Madrid, but at the start of the season, it looked as if he may be surplus to requirements. He was quite often consigned to the bench as Sir Alex Ferguson favoured new signing Luis Antonio Valencia and United stalwart Ryan Giggs on the wings. Nani did manage a goal from a free kick against Wigan Athletic but a patchy start to his season was symptomatic of United’s on the whole.

Nani: A star on the rise

We have to ask what Nani had for his Christmas dinner because the second half of the season was fantastic for him. He was again the bane of Arsene Wenger’s life as he took Gael Clichy to the cleaners and set up two goals at the Emirates and impressive performances and goals followed, including a sublime finish against Tottenham at Old Trafford. Defenders now seemed to fear his pace and his improved decision making was appreciated by the likes of Wayne Rooney as he assisted them on a regular basis.

After a two and a half year wait, the patience shown by Sir Alex Ferguson and the Old Trafford faithful has been rewarded as Nani has come of age, putting in top level performances on a regular basis and delivering on the talent that has for so long remained buried. The comparisons with Ronaldo are still wide of the mark, but Nani is playing well and enjoying his football at Old Trafford. He now feels that he belongs and if he can continue to play in the same manner, he will be an asset to United for many years to come.

His international career mirrors his club one as the Portuguese fans have been treated to glimpses of brilliance but they too, will hope for improved consistency. Carlos Queroz will be looking for him to deliver. If he does, Portugal will be a tough proposition at the World Cup.


Name: Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha

Place of Birth: Praia, Cape Verde

Nationality: Portuguese

Date of Birth: 17th November 1986

Career League Appearances: 120

Career League Goals: 17

Total Career Appearances: 173

Total Career Goals: 28

International Caps: 34

International Goals: 6

Categories: Football

Champions League Final Preview

May 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Later on today at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid José Mourinho’s Internazionale take on Louis van Gaal’s Bayern Munich for the biggest prize in club football. Both have beaten more fancied teams en route to the final and have earned the right to contest it. Who will win? Sport Report breaks it down.

Bayern Munich

At the beginning of the season, few would have bet on the Bavarian side making the Champions League final. A poor start to the campaign, coupled with an underwhelming first few games in the Bundesliga had many questioning van Gaal’s appointment and predicting another trophy-less season. How they have been proven wrong. Bayern won the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal (German FA Cup) playing an attractive brand of attacking football. Victory in the Champions League final would see Bayern complete a historic treble.

Route to the final: Second in Group A

Beat Fiorentina 4-4 aggregate (Bayern won on Away Goals)

Beat Manchester United 4-4 aggregate (Bayern won on Away Goals)

Beat Olympique Lyonnais 4-0 aggregate

It has not been the smoothest path to the final for the new German champions. They scraped through the group stage behind Bordeaux courtesy of a Matchday 6 win at Juventus. They then required a Robben rocket in Florence to knock out Fiorentina on away goals and this was after Miroslav Klose scored a goal when he was at least two yards offside that was allowed to stand in the first leg. Robben was the hero again as the disposed of Manchester United despite going 3-0 down at Old Trafford. Again, luck played a role as the referee seemingly changed his mind and sent off Rafael after a foul on Franck Ribéry. It was however, much more straightforward in the semi-final against Lyon with the tournament’s second top scorer Ivica Olic doing the damage.

Key Player: Bayern is a well organised, well-balanced team with quality all over the pitch. There is, however, no doubt that Arjen Robben is the star man. A string of stellar performances in this season’s Champions League and Bundesliga have seen the flying Dutchman rejuvenated, scoring goals for fun. Can he upset his former boss José Mourinho?

Manager: Louis van Gaal. The experienced Dutchman has been there, seen it and done it. He won the Champions League in 1995 with a young Ajax side before leaving for Barcelona, where his assistant was none other than José Mourinho. An astute tactician and renowned disciplinarian, van Gaal will not be overawed by the occasion. Made interesting comments yesterday when he said that Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea are all better sides than Bayern Munich and Internazionale, but make no mistake about it, he believes in his team.

Team News: Franck Ribéry misses out through suspension after the Court of Arbitration for Sport turned down the club’s appeal, but Martin Demichelis has been passed fit to partner Daniel van Buyten in the centre of defence.


José Mourinho made a bold move last summer when he sold the club’s star player Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Barcelona as he looked to mould a more balanced side. In came Diego Milito, Samuel Eto’o, Lucio and Wesley Sneijder and it has paid off as the Nerazzurri won the Coppa Italia and a fifth straight Serie A title. As is the case for Bayern, victory in Madrid will complete a historic treble.

Route to the final: Second in Group F

Beat Chelsea 3-1 aggregate

Beat CSKA Moscow 2-0 aggregate

Beat Barcelona 3-2 aggregate

Internazionale made it through the group stage despite winning only two games, but from there on in, it has been impressive. Mourinho put the pain on former club Chelsea and were particularly impressive at Stamford Bridge. They then eliminated CSKA Moscow with few problems in the quarter final before meeting defending champions and tournament favourites Barcelona in the semi final. Mourinho’s men outplayed the Catalan side at the San Siro before pure rearguard action at the Camp Nou made it very difficult for Barcelona to break them down.

Key Player: Difficult to pick one in a quality all round team. Lucio, Esteban Cambiasso and Diego Milito have all had good tournaments, but Wesley Sneijder has been the main man. He has more assists than any other player in this year’s tournament and has also chipped in with valuable goals. He ran the show against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and if Bayern are to have any chance of winning tonight, they will need to stifle the influential Dutchman.

Manager: José Mourinho. The Special One has been there and done it before, winning the Champions League with Porto in 2004 and just about everything else since. It could be his last game at Inter and he would love to sign off by giving the fans their first European Cup triumph since 1965.

Team News: Lucio was a slight concern with a calf injury but is fit to play. Wesley Sneijder caused some concern yesterday when he pulled up holding his foot in training. It does, however, look like he will be fit.

Final Verdict: They are both excellent, well-balanced sides with quality all over the pitch and top, experienced managers. Both have had fantastic seasons domestically and it is tough to pick a winner. Bayern have, however, had luck on their side in this season’s competition and so Bayern in a close one.

Bayern Munich 2-1 Internazionale

Categories: Football

Floyd Landis: Bringing down the house

May 21, 2010 Leave a comment

If truth be told, cycling does not receive too much press. When it does, it is almost invariably negative and involves the use of performance enhancing drugs. This article is a case in point.

Floyd Landis shot to fame in 2006 by winning the world’s most prestigious cycling event, the Tour de France, but within days it had turned to infamy as he was stripped of the title having failed a blood test. It was just the latest in a long line of substance abuse stories to dog the sport. Landis has always vehemently denied the claims that he is a drugs cheat and vowed to clear his name. Indeed, he has reportedly spent north of $1.5 million trying to do so. Opinion amongst experts and fans has been divided.

Yesterday, Landis finally decided enough was enough and admitted using so-called blood boosters, such as EPO, whilst riding for the US Postal team. “I made some misjudgements and want to clear my conscience. I don’t want to be a part of the problem anymore.”

Such a revelation is, in all honesty, surprising only in its timing. Why now after four years and more than $1.5 million spent? The bigger story to come out of Landis’s admission is his apparent determination to take others down with him, including the biggest name in the sport. It is believed that Landis sent e-mails to USA Cycling and the Union Cycliste Internationale (a governing body) in which he explicitly names other riders he claims have doped.

Lance Armstrong is by far the most high profile name implicated in the scandal. It is not the first time the seven times Tour de France winner has been accused of taking performance enhancing drugs. However, as yet, nobody has been able to provide conclusive evidence that this is true and so Armstrong must be seen as innocent. Landis’s revelation is however slightly different as he was a friend and teammate of Armstrong when they both rode for the US Postal team. Landis alleges that Armstrong regularly gave him advice on doping and how to avoid detection on training rides and even more startling is the allegation that Armstrong used to extract blood and undergo transfusions, storing the extracted blood in a fridge in his Girona apartment. Landis claims that Armstrong even asked him to keep an eye on the temperature of the fridge whilst he went away for a few weeks so that it remained optimal for blood storage. Armstrong described the claims as “incredible concoctions.”

Again, it must be stressed that these are merely allegations and just how believable are they? Landis is completely discredited following his own admission that he has cheated and his allegations do smack of sour grapes. He is though, somebody with inside information so to speak and so curiosity abounds. Whatever the case, it seems that Landis may have opened Pandora’s Box, as WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) and the US Food and Drug Administration have both pledged to launch investigations. Conspiracy theorists are busily bashing away on their keyboards, propagating incredible concoctions of their own.  One cannot help but think that we have not heard the last of this…

Categories: Cycling

Athletics: Still a marginal sport

May 18, 2010 2 comments

Athletics is a sport, or collection of them, in which human beings push themselves to the limit, and in the case of some, beyond. How fast can a human run? How far or high can a human jump? How can far can a human throw a given object? These are just some of the answers elite athletes strive to provide. Intriguing? One would think so, but for one reason or another, athletics somehow fails to capture the imagination in the way that, say, football or basketball do. Apart from the odd crossover star like Carl Lewis or Usain Bolt, athletics has not produced a plethora of luminaries. Why?

In all honesty, the sport has not exactly helped itself. Constant cases of substance abuse to aid performance have eroded fans’ confidence in the integrity of the sport. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has not helped either, failing to arrange a series of regular meetings that feature top stars competing against each other. In truth, the Olympics and World Championships apart, it very rarely happens and this has turned fans off.

To their credit, the IAAF has now realised this and looked to address the issue by replacing the outmoded Golden League with the new IAAF Diamond League, a series of fourteen meetings around the world that will feature the big names racing against each other. The sport’s marquee event is the men’s 100 metres and the two fastest men in the world, Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay are scheduled to go head to head at least three times. Add to the mix the fact that the third fastest man in the world, Asafa Powell, is also scheduled to compete and that at least one of the three will race at every meeting, and you have a winning recipe. Outside of the men’s 100 metres, there are many other World and Olympic champions pencilled in to compete like America’s 200 metres champion Allyson Felix and 100 metres hurdles star LoLo Jones. The IAAF has succeeded in attracting the big names by offering big prize money and they hope it will generate interest in the sport. Great.

Usain Bolt will be the Diamond League's star attraction (This image is the property of The Daily Telegraph)

Then came even more good news as the BBC announced that it will broadcast all of the meetings live, thus giving the event some exposure. BBC 1, no more likely BBC 2 I thought. Err… not quite.

The BBC has instead chosen to air the meetings on BBC 3 and ‘behind the red button.’ Yes that is right, channel 301 on Freeview. One has to applaud the BBC for broadcasting the Diamond League and their athletics coverage is always first rate with former top athletes like Steve Cram, Colin Jackson and Jonathan Edwards providing intelligent, insightful commentary and interviewing affable stars like Allyson Felix and Usain Bolt who are always willing to stop and chat. So why has the BBC chosen to relegate the event to secondary and even tertiary stations?

Allyson Felix is the biggest female star on show in the Diamond League and is also an ambassador for the event (This image is the property of AP)

In truth, it sums up the position of athletics in the sporting galaxy. If football and basketball are Earth and the moon, then athletics is Halley’s Comet, receiving attention very, very rarely. The public just does not think about it. The men’s 100 metres has always attracted interest as people are eager to see how fast the fastest man on the planet can run, but athletics has a whole has been allowed to plunge to such depths that what is an excellent initiative by the IAAF is relegated to a channel that shows ‘Gavin and Stacey’ and one that most people do not even know exists. Roll on 2012.

Categories: Athletics

Football: Season Summary

May 16, 2010 2 comments


Champions: RSC Anderlecht

Champions League: KAA Gent

Europa League: Club Brugge

Relegated: KSV Roulers

Top Scorer: Romelu Lukaku (RSC Anderlecht) 15 goals

Sport Report Player of the Season: Milan Jovanovic (Standard Liège)


Champions: Chelsea

Champions League: Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur

Europa League: Manchester City, Aston Villa, Liverpool

Relegated: Portsmouth, Burnley, Hull City

Top Scorer: Didier Drogba (Chelsea) 29 goals

Sport Report Player of the Season: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)


Champions: Olympique de Marseille

Champions League: Lyon, Auxerre

Europa League: Lille

Relegated: Grenoble, Boulogne, Le Mans

Top Scorer: Mamadou Niang (Olympique de Marseille) 18 goals

Sport Report Player of the Season: Kevin Gameiro (Lorient)


Champions: Bayern Munich

Champions League: Schalke 04, Werder Bremen

Europa League: Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, VfB Stuttgart

Relegated: Hertha BSC, VfL Bochum *

Top Scorer: Edin Dzeko (VfL Wolfsburg) 22 goals

Sport Report Player of the Season: Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)

*Only two sides were relegated from the Bundesliga as 1. FC Nürnberg defeated FC Augsburg in the relegation playoff (3-0 on aggregate).


Champions: Internazionale

Champions League: Roma, AC Milan, Sampdoria

Europa League: Palermo, Napoli

Relegated: Livorno, Siena, Atalanta

Top Scorer: Antonio Di Natale (Udinese) 29 goals

Sport Report Player of the Season: Diego Milito (Internazionale)


Champions: FC Twente

Champions League: Ajax Amsterdam

Europa League: PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord, FC Utrecht

Relegated: RKC Waalwijk, Sparta Rotterdam

Top Scorer: Luis Suarez (Ajax) 35 goals

Sport Report Player of the Season: Luis Suarez (Ajax)


Champions: Benfica

Champions League: Braga, Porto

Europa League: Sporting Lisbon, Maritimo

Relegated: Leixoes, Belenenses

Top Scorer: Falcao (Porto) 25 goals

Sport Report Player of the Season: Óscar Cardozo (Benfica)


Champions: Rangers

Champions League: Celtic

Europa League: Dundee United, Hibernian

Relegated: Falkirk

Top Scorer: Kris Boyd (Rangers) 22 goals

Sport Report Player of the Season: Kris Boyd (Rangers)


Champions: Barcelona

Champions League: Real Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla

Europa League: Mallorca, Getafe

Relegated: Xerez, Tenerife, Valladolid

Top Scorer: Lionel Messi (Barcelona) 34 goals

Sport Report Player of the Season: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)


Champions: Bursaspor

Champions League: Fenerbahce

Europa League: Galatasaray, Besiktas

Relegated: Ankaraspor**, Denizlispor, Diyarbakirspor

Top Scorer: Ariza Makukula (Kayserispor) 21 goals

Sport Report Player of the Season: Arda Turan (Galatasaray)


Champions: Shakhtar Donetsk

Champions League: Dinamo Kyiv

Europa League: Metalist Kharkiv, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Karpaty Lviv

Relegated: Zakarpattia Uzhhorod, Chornomorets Odessa

Top Scorer: Artem Milevskyi (Dinamo Kyiv) 17 goals

Sport Report Player of the Season: Artem Milevskyi (Dinamo Kyiv)

** Ankaraspor was expelled from the Turkcell Super League. All Ankaraspor games in the 2009–10 season were scratched and awarded 3-0 to Ankaraspor’s opponents by default.

Categories: Football

Weekend Boxing Round-Up

May 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Friday 14th May

Chumash Casino, Santa Ynez, California, United States

Sergiy Dzinziruk (UKR) beat Daniel Dawson (AUS) PTS

(WBO Light-Middleweight Title)

Buffalo Bill’s Star Arena, Primm, Nevada, United States

Julio Diaz (MEX) beat Herman Ngoudjo (CAM) PTS


Saturday 15th May

Domo del mar, Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche, Mexico

Jhonny Gonzalez (MEX) beat Jean Javier Sotelo (COL) KO 2

(WBC Featherweight Title Eliminator)

Estadio Centenario, Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico

Humberto Soto (MEX) beat Ricardo Dominguez (MEX) PTS

(WBC Lightweight Title)

Estadio “Tomás Oroz Gaytán, Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico

Orlando Salido (MEX) beat Cristobal Cruz (MEX) PTS

(IBF Featherweight Title)

Atlas Arena, Lodz, Poland

Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (POL) beat Giacobbe Fragomeni (ITA) TKO 8

(Vacant WBC Crusierweight Title)

Upton Park, West Ham, London, United Kingdom

Michael Katsidis (AUS) beat Kevin Mitchell (GBR) TKO 3

(Interim WBO Lightweight Title)

Derek Chisora (GBR) beat Danny Williams (GBR) TKO 2

(British Heavyweight Title)

James DeGale (GBR) beat Sam Horton (GBR) TKO 5

(Vacant WBA International Super-Middleweight Title)

Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, United States

Amir Khan (GBR) beat Paulie Malignaggi (USA) TKO 11

(WBA Light-Welterweight Title)

Victor Ortiz (USA) beat Nate Campbell (USA) PTS


Daniel Jacobs (USA) beat Juan Astorga (USA) TKO 2

(Vacant NABF Middleweight Title)

(WBO NABO Middleweight Title)

Categories: Boxing

What now for Amir Khan?

May 16, 2010 3 comments

WBA Light-Welterweight world champion Amir Khan last night successfully defended his title for a second time against New Yorker Paulie Malignaggi in front of a partisan crowd at Madison Square Garden. It was Khan’s debut stateside on a card televised on HBO Boxing After Dark and the Bolton native did not disappoint.

There had been much trash talking in the build up to the fight which boiled over at Friday’s weigh-in when a group of young men wearing hoodies with ‘Khan’s Army’ emblazoned on them stormed the stage knocking both fighters off. This increased anticipation for a bout which most expected to the champion to win, but that he would be tested by the awkward Malignaggi.

In truth, it turned out to be a straightforward and impressive defence for the British youngster, especially after early nerves and tension subsided. Malignaggi provided some difficulties early on as Khan struggled to time him and the challenger caught him with some crisp counter shots, but after Khan solved the puzzle in the third round, the outcome of the fight was never in doubt. Malignaggi lacked the power to hurt Khan and the champion took full advantage, fighting on the front foot and making the American eat his ramrod jab all night. He also landed quick hooks and crosses when the opportunity presented itself. Quite simply, Khan was too quick and too accurate and by the eighth round, the fight had visibly been knocked out of the challenger. He continued to take a shellacking until the eleventh round when referee Steve Smoger decided he had seen enough and waved off the fight. There were no protestations from Malignaggi or his corner which tells its own story. At the time of the stoppage, Sport Report had Khan leading by a score of 99 to 93.

Amir Khan after successfully defeating Paulie Malignaggi (This image is the property of Getty Images)

Khan looked good against an awkward, world-rated opponent and more importantly, on a HBO televised card in the States. With the backing of Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, Khan is now ready to step up and attempt to rule the 140 pounds division. In a post-fight interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman, Khan confirmed his desire to stay at light-welterweight and unify the division. So what next? Sport Report takes a look at the options.

Marcos Rene Maidana 28(27) – 1(0)

The 26 year old power puncher from Argentina is now the mandatory challenger for Khan’s WBA title and is therefore the most likely option. Maidana has had a title shot before, losing a split decision to Khan victim Andriy Kotelnik, but it was in June 2009 that he catapulted himself in to the division’s upper echelons with an exciting sixth round TKO victory over highly touted prospect Victor Ortiz. Since then, he has reeled off two more stoppage victories, most recently against unbeaten prospect Victor Manuel Cayo.

Maidana has genuine knockout power in both hands which would be a concern for Khan who does not have a granite chin by any stretch of the imagination. Maidana himself is, however, very hittable and was on the floor three times against Ortiz before stopping him. He is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions too, but they have shown in the past that they are prepared to let their fighters fight each other and as the mandatory challenger, he is more than likely going to be Khan’s next opponent.

Victor Ortiz 27(21) – 2(1) – 1

The 23 year old from California has been highly touted for a long time now and was reputedly sent home from sparring after bashing Oscar de la Hoya as he prepared to fight Manny Pacquiao. He was going along quite nicely, beating decent opposition until the Ortiz Express was derailed by Maidana last year. He has since set about rebuilding his career and has looked good in doing so. Fought on the Khan-Malignaggi undercard last night against the world-class Nate Campbell and he pitched a virtual shutout. Ortiz has good power in both hands and shows an impressive range of punches when he is on song. The Maidana loss looks to have been a blessing in disguise as he now seems much less gung-ho and he has tightened up his defence.

Like Khan and Maidana, Ortiz is a Golden Boy fighter and they may choose to keep him away from Khan whilst he continues to re-establish himself as a major player in the light-welterweight division.

Devon Alexander 20(13) – 0

Unbeaten WBC and IBF Light-Welterweight champion. Alexander stopped the usually teak tough Juan Urango last time out and looked very impressive in doing so. Technically solid with decent pop, Alexander would be a tough opponent for Khan but a win would give the Englishman great kudos. Alexander’s biggest weakness is that he can be hit and against a quick, accurate puncher like Khan, that could prove his undoing.

There is much talk of a unification fight between Alexander and Timothy Bradley so that may well happen first, with Khan fighting the winner provided that he does not lose in the meantime. Before any of this though, Alexander must first defend his title on August 7th against an as yet unnamed opponent.

Timothy Bradley 25(11) – 0

Universally recognised as the top man in the division, the WBO champion was also the WBC champion before being forced to vacate. Bradley is on a hot streak having beaten Junior Witter, Edner Cherry, Kendall Holt and Lamont Peterson in four of his last five fights (the other was a no contest against Nate Campbell) and he would present a huge challenge to Khan. As a result, however, victory for Khan would increase his stock immeasurably.

Bradley is an all-round quality operator with quick hands and a good boxing brain. He does, however, lack the punch power of Maidana, Ortiz and Alexander and so may be seen as a safer bet.

All of the aforementioned would prove tough opposition for Khan but he is more than capable of beating all of them on his day. In the post-fight interview, Khan stated that he would be more than happy to fight Maidana next and he referred to the idea of the fight as a semi-final, with Bradley and Alexander contesting the other. The winners of the two bouts would then fight each other. If the promoters involved and HBO manage to pull this off, we will be in for a treat in the light-welterweight division.

Categories: Boxing

The England World Cup Squad: Who would you axe?

May 15, 2010 5 comments

On Tuesday, Fabio Capello named his 30-man provisional World Cup squad. There had been much speculation beforehand in the press and amongst fans about who would be included and who would miss out.

Would Gary Neville be called up as cover for Glen Johnson? Could Capello succeed where Steve McClaren had failed and tempt Paul Scholes out of international retirement? Had Tottenham’s Ledley King done enough to convince the Italian of his fitness? The announcement was much anticipated.

When Signor Capello revealed his selection, BBC Sport ran an article under the headline ‘Fabio Capello makes surprise England World Cup choices.’ Having seen the squad, I personally fail to see the surprises as the usual suspects and veterans of former tournaments (Ferdinand, Terry, Rooney, Lampard, Crouch, Gerrard etc) are all there, in addition to players such as Walcott and Barry who played key roles in England’s successful qualifying campaign.

There are no real surprises in the goalkeeping department as David James, Joe Hart and Robert Green are all included. The question here will be who will Capello pick as his number one?

The only real surprise in defence, and perhaps the entire squad, is the inclusion of Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher. The Liverpool defender retired from international football after being overlooked by Steve McClaren and has never really shown any discernable signs of reversing his decision. Nevertheless, Capello has twisted his arm and it would seem, looking at the squad, that he has been chosen as cover for Glen Johnson at right back, as Carragher’s Liverpool teammate is the only recognised right back in the squad. Michael Dawson’s superb club form has won him a place in the 30-man squad and Capello seems to be happy with Ledley King’s fitness as he too is included.

In midfield, Michael Carrick has been included despite a sub-par season at Manchester United and Scott Parker’s endeavours at West Ham United have won him a first call-up in nearly four years. Manchester City youngster Adam Johnson has played his way in but Shaun Wright-Phillips is perhaps a slight surprise after a poor season at club level. It is also fair to say that not many predicted a first call-up for Tottenham’s Tom Huddlestone, even after an impressive season at White Hart Lane.

The striking corps is very much as expected, although many question Emile Heskey’s credentials, particular with regard to scoring goals. Capello has shown on numerous occasions, however, that he is a firm fan of the Aston Villa frontman so his inclusion should not come as a shock.

The full squad is listed below.

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), David James (Portsmouth), Robert Green (West Ham).

Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Michael Dawson (Tottenham), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Ledley King (Tottenham), John Terry (Chelsea), Matthew Upson (West Ham), Stephen Warnock (Aston Villa).

Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham), Adam Johnson (Manchester City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), James Milner (Aston Villa), Scott Parker (West Ham), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City).

Forwards: Darren Bent (Sunderland), Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).

All in all, it is a predictable squad as Capello has stuck with the players who got England to South Africa. Paul Scholes turned down the opportunity to play for his country again and the likes of Gary Neville and Owen Hargreaves were always outside bets. There are no high profile casualties, particularly if one compares the squad to those of France (Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri omitted), Brazil (no Adriano or Ronaldinho) or Argentina (no Esteban Cambiasso).

Capello now takes this 30-man provisional squad in to games against Mexico (May 24th) and Japan (May 30th) and he will no doubt run the rule over those who are borderline inclusions. Seven must go.

Everybody has their own opinion on who should be on the plane to South Africa and who should be waving the squad off at Heathrow, so I asked a selection of friends and Sport Report readers for the names of the seven players they would axe. The results are shown in the graph below:

As you can see, opinion differs greatly depending on who you ask but two names came up repeatedly: Shaun Wright-Phillips and Matthew Upson, both of whom have struggled for their respective clubs of late. Those surveyed were also not convinced by the inclusion of Michael Carrick, Jamie Carragher and Stephen Warnock.

Ultimately, it will be up to Fabio Capello to make what will be seven extremely difficult choices. Let us hope he makes the right ones and brings the trophy back to old Blighty!

Categories: Football

Chelsea: Deserved Champions

May 11, 2010 2 comments

This Sunday gone, Chelsea clinched the Premiership title at Stamford Bridge with an emphatic 8-0 victory over Roberto Martinez’s Wigan Athletic and I have to say, deservedly so.

It has been a strange season in the Premiership with all of the so-called big four slightly under-par, but all in all, Chelsea has been the best team. They have scored 103 goals in the league, a record, and taken 18 of a possible 18 points against the so-called big four. That is the form of champions. Manchester United had, by its own high standards, a disappointing season. Sure, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men only finished one point behind the eventual champions, but the truth is they simply were not good enough.

Seven defeats are too many and the Scot will know that as he starts to mastermind next season’s assault on the trophy he sees as his. People have spoken at length about the significance of United’s defeat to Chelsea at Old Trafford last month, but if one looks back at the season, United lost the title by dropping points against the lesser teams. Pundits and fans alike have claimed that they have not missed Cristiano Ronaldo as the form of Wayne Rooney has mitigated his absence. I disagree. In the three seasons that United won the title with the Portuguese, their record against the so-called big four was patchy at best, a bit like this season (nine points from eighteen). However, their form against the rest of the Premiership was superb and Ronaldo was the main reason, not the only reason but the main one, for this. Lesser defenders simply could not handle him and he cut them to ribbons, scoring freely or laying on goals for teammates like Rooney. If you do not believe me, ask Bolton, ask Newcastle.

Cristiano Ronaldo - missed in Manchester

United will look back on the following results as the ones that cost them the title: 1-0 defeat away to Burnley, 2-2 draw at home to Sunderland, 1-0 home defeat to Aston Villa and 0-0 draw away to Blackburn. I cannot say they would not have had these results with Ronaldo because the fact is, there is no way of knowing, but United miss him. That said, the spine of a good team is still in place and with a shrewd acquisition or two over the summer, they will be right back in contention again next year.

 Chelsea only lost one game fewer than United, but one somehow had the impression all season that they looked like the strongest team. John Terry had a poor season and injury robbed them of their best midfielder in Michael Essien. The likes of Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard had to be at the top of their game, and they did not let their club down. Florent Malouda was the success story of the season, finally looking like the player they bought from Lyon, scoring goals and setting up many more. It was far from a perfect season, let’s not forget that they only won by one point when Manchester United had a disappointing season, but Carlo Ancelotti has done the first part of his job, regained the Premiership title. He will know however, that some remedial work needs to undertaken in the summer.

 He has also pleased Roman Abramovich by introducing a free-flowing style of play that has brought a century of league goals, much to the dismay of Wigan, Sunderland and Aston Villa. As a point of comparison, Jose Mourinho’s last season at Chelsea brought 64 goals. His job will now be to bring the Champions League to Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea - worthy champions (This image is the property of Getty Images)

Chelsea’s ability to beat the sides around them in the table has ultimately proved the difference and although there has been luck along the way (Didier Drogba’s offside goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford), you cannot be lucky for thirty eight games. The best team wins the league, so to Chelsea I say, Congratulations.

Categories: Football

Kevin Durant: A star is born

May 7, 2010 Leave a comment

The 2009-2010 NBA season has catapulted one man to basketball superstardom: Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant. Sure Durant performed solidly in his first two seasons in the league, but this season, he flew off the charts.

30.1 PPG were enough to give him the NBA Scoring Championship ahead of Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony. His other statistics stacked up too. Field Goal % of.476, three point field goal % of .365 and a free throw % of.900 were up there with the best in the league. He also chipped in with 7.6 RPG, 2.8 APG and 1.4 SPG. He has clearly become a top-level, all round-performer at the tender age of 21 and a place in the All NBA First Team proves it.

Big things were expected of the Washington born small forward from the start. He played only one year’s college basketball at Texas and was prolific. He consequently declared himself eligible for the 2007 NBA Draft, at which he was the second pick for Seattle Supersonics behind Ohio’s Greg Oden. Durant’s first season for the Sonics was commendable if unspectacular as he won Rookie of the Year honours.

Kevin Durant in action (This image is the property of

At the end of 2007-2008 season, the Sonics relocated to Oklahoma and became the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Sonics had already become a somewhat unfashionable outfit after the glory years of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp in the 90s and the relocation did not help matters. In their inaugural season, the Thunder, despite the best efforts of Durant, slumped to a record of 23-59. The 2009-2010 season however, was a different story.

There is undoubtedly a direct correlation between the improvement in the franchise’s fortunes and the upsurge in Durant’s own form. As Durant moved in to the elite player category, the Thunder qualified for their first playoff series with a record of 50-32, something which echoes Lebron James’s early career. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, they met the top seeds and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers and lost in six games. It was still a laudable performance from the team with the youngest average age in the NBA and they will look to improve further next year, with their number 35 no doubt spearheading their charge.

At the age of 21, Durant has the world at his feet. Now an NBA superstar with a whopping endorsement contract from Nike to match, he really is close to a complete player. He is able to post up against bigger guys and shoot over the top of smaller guards. He can drive the lane or he can shoot from the perimeter. Perhaps Lebron James and Kobe Bryant are the only players currently in the NBA who are better all-round performers than Durant, but they have been doing it for years at the highest level. Can Durant go on and cement his place as a genuine megastar who consistently performs off the charts? This writer certainly thinks so and is very much looking forward to finding out.

For Kevin Durant’s Player Profile, visit

Categories: Basketball