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Archive for February, 2011

Who will win the ICC Cricket World Cup?

February 15, 2011 1 comment

This coming Saturday (19th February) India face Bangladesh in the opening match of the 2011 ICC World Cup. The competition is being held in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and is seen as one of the most open World Cups in recent years. Who do you think will win?

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Categories: Cricket

Lindsey Vonn: Sport’s least recognised superstar?

February 13, 2011 Leave a comment

The sporting world is bursting to full with superstars who enjoy worldwide fame. Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Roger Federer, Manny Pacquiao, Serena Williams… the list goes on. This Monday gone (7th February) the galaxy of stars came out to play at the sporting world’s equivalent of the Oscars, the Laureus World Sports Awards. Amongst the winners in Abu Dhabi were household names such as the Spanish National Football Team, Rafael Nadal and Zinedine Zidane, but the winner of the Sportswoman of the Year award had many people asking: ‘Lindsey who?’

This may seem slightly unfair but the recipient of the award is a classic example of somebody who competes in a sport which is not mainstream in most countries. Lindsey Vonn is however, a genuine sporting superstar and fully deserving of the award.

For those who are not aware, Vonn is the world’s leading female skier by some distance and arguably the biggest name in the sport, male or female. She has been nominated for the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year award on two previous occasions in 2009 and 2010 before making it third time lucky and winning the prestigious gong for her exploits in 2010.

2010 was always going to be a big year for Vonn with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and she made sure it was a memorable one. However, things did not go to plan in Canada as a combination of uncharacteristic errors and injury meant that Vonn did not achieve the medal haul she, and many others, expected.  She announced that she would compete in five events at the Olympics, but just a week before her first event was due to begin, she revealed she was carrying a shin injury which was causing her serious pain. The American refused to give in and battled her way to an impressive gold medal in the Downhill, finishing over half a second ahead of fellow Team USA skier Julia Mancuso. Thereafter however, things went downhill (if you will pardon the pun). In her second event, the Super-Combined, Vonn led after the downhill section but crashed out during the slalom. Her third event was the Super-G and despite not skiing as aggressively as she can, Vonn managed a bronze medal.

Lindsey Vonn shows off the gold medal she won in Vancouver (This image is the property of AFP)

Following this bronze medal, the games’ star attraction moved on to the Giant Slalom where she once again crashed out, breaking a finger in the process. Things did not improve in her final event, the slalom, as she straddled a gate and was consequently disqualified. Despite returning from Vancouver with a gold and a bronze, Vonn’s games were seen as something of a disappointment, but being the professional she is, she refused to blame injury.

The fact that an Olympic gold medal and a bronze medal are seen as an underachievement is testament to Vonn’s talent and her overall season’s results leave no doubt that she is currently the world’s most dominant skier.

A career best 11 wins netted her the Overall World Cup Title, as well as discipline World Cup Titles for Downhill, Super-G and Combined. At the age of just 26, Vonn has 39 World Cup race wins to her name, a record for an American skier male or female, and is only the second woman in history to win three consecutive overall World Cup titles. Don’t bet against her extending this run. 

Vonn is a true superstar in the United States, starring in TV commercials and endorsing several sporting products, most notably Head skis. At the age of 26, she is showing no signs of slowing down and can look forward to many more years of success. The fact that she is affable, good looking and successful should mean that she is a global superstar, especially if one looks at other athletes who share these attributes (Tiger Woods, Oscar de la Hoya, David Beckham), but the non-global nature of her sport means that she will probably never be a globally recognised household name. This is a no fault of her own and it is refreshing to see such a prestigious awards ceremony recognising somebody who excels in a niche sport and is more than worthy of such an award.

For full list of Laureus Award Winners see:  http://www.laureus.com/awards/2011/winners

Lindsey Vonn

Name: Lindsey Caroline Vonn

Place of Birth: St. Paul, Minnesota, United States of America

Nationality: American

Olympic Games Medals: Gold: Downhill, Bronze: Super-G (Vancouver 2010)

World Championship Medals: Gold: Downhill, Super-G (Val d’Isere 2009), Silver: Downhill, Super-G (Are 2007), Downhill (Garmisch 2011)

Personal Awards: 2011 Laureus Sportswoman of the Year

                                    2010 Associate Press Female Athlete of the Year

                                    2010 United States Olympic Committee Sportswoman of the Year

                                    2009 Skier d’Or

Categories: Miscellaneous

Super Bowl XLV Preview: Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

February 6, 2011 1 comment
It’s here! Tonight in Arlington, Texas, the Biggest Show on Earth lands in the world’s most impressive sporting arena. A record crowd is expected to watch two of the NFL’s most storied franchises go head-to-head for the sport’s ultimate prize. Excited? You should be. Both teams have quality throughout the roster and seem to have peaked at just the right time. Sport Report previews an intriguing match-up.

Green Bay Packers: Regular Season Record 10-6. 2nd in NFC North.

The Packers are making their first appearance in the big one since 1998 in Super Bowl XXXII, when they lost to John Elway and the Denver Broncos. Green Bay were many people’s favourites to go all the way prior to the season kicking off, but injuries seemed to have put paid to such aspirations, particularly as they had been robbed of star running back Ryan Grant for the entirety of the season. Mike McCarthy’s men battled on and thanks to stellar performances from the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews, made the playoffs where they have looked very impressive indeed.

Route to the Super Bowl

Wildcard Playoff: defeated Philadelphia Eagles 21-16

Divisional Playoff: defeated Atlanta Falcons 48-21

Conference Playoff: defeated Chicago Bears 21-14

Key Players

QB- Aaron Rodgers

Although Aaron Rodgers has only been a starter for three years, he is undoubtedly one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. The California native had another fantastic season passing for 3922 yards and 28 touchdowns despite missing a game with concussion. For the second consecutive year, he posted a passer rating above 100 (101.2) and proved his accuracy by throwing only 11 interceptions. Add in 356 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns and you have a picture of a complete quarterback.

Aaron Rodgers will be the Packers' key man (This image is The property of the Guardian)

More importantly for the Packers, he has performed even better in the playoffs. His numbers through three playoff games make impressive reading with 6 touchdowns, a 71% completion rate, a passer rating of 109.2 and he turned in one of the all-time great playoff performances against Atlanta. Rodgers is quite simply the Packers’ main man, especially in the absence of Grant. If he is on top form, the Packers should win.

WR- Greg Jennings

It is all well and good having a quarterback who is on a hot streak but you need somebody to catch the balls he is throwing and Green Bay have had that in the form of Greg Jennings. An excellent all-round receiver, Jennings has speed, strength, is a good route runner and offers Rodgers a safe pair of hands. The man from Kalamazoo, Michigan proved himself as one the league’s top receivers this year with 1265 yards (4th in the NFL) and 12 touchdowns. Nobody has caught more passes in the playoffs this year and Green Bay will no doubt see him as their number one outlet. The Steelers may look to use double coverage in an attempt to nullify the threat he poses, but with the likes of Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson also providing options, this may be a gamble.

CB- Charles Woodson

One of the team’s natural leaders and one of the few Packers with Super Bowl experience having lost with the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII, Woodson is a key player in more ways than one. He has long been one of the league’s top defencemen and ball hawks. His ability to intercept passes shows his ability to read the game and this season he posted a career high 92 tackles, showing the key role he plays in an excellent secondary that also contains Nick Collins and Tramon Williams. Arguably more important are the intangibles that Woodson brings: leadership, composure and experience, all of which could be crucial against a team with far more Super Bowl experience. At 34 years of age, Woodson will know this may very well be his final shot at winning a ring and he will no doubt do all he can to make it happen.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Regular Season Record 12-4. Won AFC North. 

The Steelers won Super Bowl XL (2006) and XLIII (2009) and so are chasing their third Lombardi Trophy in six years.

Pittsburgh had the second best defence in the NFL during the regular season, giving up just 276.8 yards per game (YPG). Furthermore, they were the most effective defensive unit against the rush as they held opponents to an average of just 62.8 YPG. Whilst they may not have been one of the most prolific offences in the league, running back Rashard Mendenhall impressed and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was as reliable as ever. In safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison, the Steelers have two of the NFL’s best defensive players and with such a balanced team, they will fancy their chances.

Route to the Super Bowl

Wildcard Playoff: Bye

Divisional Playoff: defeated Baltimore Ravens 31-24

Conference Playoff: defeated New York Jets 24-19

Key Players.

QB- Ben Roethlisberger

Despite recent off-field misdemeanours which have not endeared him to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, ‘Big Ben’ continues to perform when it matters most. At the age of just 29, Roethlisberger already owns two Super Bowl Rings and is looking to join the likes of Tom Brady, Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as a quarterback with at least three Super Bowl wins. His experience of playing in the big game could prove key in pressure situations. Roethlisberger missed the first four games of the season through suspension but still passed for 3200 yards and 17 touchdowns. Roethlisberger is an accurate passer with a big arm and if he is at the top of his game, the Steelers have every chance of winning. The only obvious weakness in his game is perhaps his lack of mobility, which may suit the Packers as they look to blitz.

RB – Rashard Mendenhall

In only his second season as a regular starter, Mendenhall rushed for 1273 yards (7th in NFL) and added an impressive 13 touchdowns. With Roethlisberger passing for a solid, but unspectacular 17 touchdowns, this scoring contribution was a major factor in the Steelers’ success. Mendenhall demonstrated a safe pair of hands, fumbling on only two occasions through the regular season and has continued his good form in to the playoffs, rushing for 167 yards and three touchdowns in two games. The Packers defence was only 18th in the league against the run during the regular season and so Mendenhall may be the deciding factor.

Troy Polamalu (left) could be the difference between winning and losing for the Steelers (This image is the property of Getty Images)

SS – Troy Polamalu

The man with the $1 million hair is one of the NFL’s elite players regardless of position. Like Roethlisberger, Polamalu is looking for a third Super Bowl ring and will no doubt give his all to make it happen. The Steelers are a different proposition with Polamalu, as was seen last year, when he was injured for four games and his recent AP Defensive Player of the Year award is testament to his quality. He finished the regular season with seven interceptions (only Ed Reed had more) and continues to perform at a level that most players simply cannot reach. Polamalu is the complete safety; he can tackle, offers excellent coverage and is very quick. If Aaron Rodgers wants to throw the ball in Polamalu’s direction, he will have to make sure his accuracy is spot on.

Sport Report Final Verdict.

This year’s Super Bowl is a battle between two well-balanced teams which are both capable of beating each other. It will come down to who executes well on the day and, as Charles Woodson said earlier this week, who starts well. However, the Packers offence seems to be firing on all cylinders at the moment and their defence has stepped up its game in the playoffs, most notably against the run. These factors combined should mean that they have just too much for the Steelers and win a close, thrilling encounter.

Sport Report Prediction: Green Bay 21-17 Pittsburgh

Categories: American Football

The day the madness returned to football.

February 2, 2011 2 comments

When fans of England’s Premier League awoke on Monday morning, one question was on their minds: would Fernando Torres swap the red of Liverpool for the blue of Chelsea before the day was done? By the time they were going to bed, the World Cup-winning striker’s move to the Kings Road club was a mere footnote in what The Guardian dubbed ‘The day the madness returned to football.’

As expected, Torres completed his move to the Premier League champions for a reported British record fee of £50 million and is coincidentally set to make his debut against his former club at Stamford Bridge this coming Sunday (6th February). That the fourth most expensive transfer in football history could be such a secondary detail on transfer deadline day could only mean one thing: something unexpected, something mad, must have happened.

Indeed it did. Despite having already sealed a deal to bring Ajax hitman Luis Suarez to Anfield, Liverpool shocked the world by seeking a replacement for Torres in the form of Newcastle United’s Andy Carroll. The young number 9 has had a highly impressive start to his first season in English football’s top tier, scoring 11 goals and he has been linked with a big money move away from St James’s Park for some time. However, Tottenham Hotspur were thought to be the front runners in the race for Carroll’s signature and so Liverpool’s interest came out of left field somewhat.

When the story of Liverpool’s interest first broke however, the major shock was the reputed size of the offer. People up and down the country exclaimed “£30 million!?” in disbelief. This offer was rejected and so the Reds came back with an improved offer. Details of this second offer are sketchy, but it was again rejected. Finally in the mid afternoon, the clubs confirmed that a fee had been agreed, a fee (reportedly) in the region of £35 million in up-front cash plus add ons. No you did not read that wrong. £35 million in up-front cash plus add ons.

Carroll was rushed to Liverpool’s Melwood training ground where he passed a medical and signed on the dotted line. In the space of a few short hours, Andy Carroll had gone from local-boy-done-good to the eighth most expensive player of all time. Carroll insists that he was forced out, whilst Newcastle claim he handed in a transfer request once he learned of Liverpool’s interest. Whatever the case, Liverpool had their man.

Andy Carroll passed his medical and became the eighth most expensive player of all-time. (This image is the property of The Guardian)

It is a huge gamble on the part of Dalglish and new owner John W Henry. They received a fair price for Torres, but have spent the vast majority of it immediately on a replacement. Looking at Liverpool’s squad, they may have been better served acquiring three or four players at £10-15 million each, time will tell.

From Newcastle’s point of view, this represents great business. They have received a fee well in excess of what they would have realistically expected by playing on Liverpool’s desperation to replace Torres before the transfer window slammed shut. Knowing how much Liverpool had banked for Torres no doubt aided their negotiating position. Alan Pardew and Mike Ashley are certainly gambling on a mediocre strike force to keep Newcastle in the Premier League, but if they are able to maintain their place at English football’s top table, and then Ashley allows Pardew to reinvest the Carroll funds in the squad in the close season, the sale of their biggest asset will have been a positive for the club as a whole.

It seems that everybody from the man in the pub, to Rio Ferdinand on Twitter, to Alan Pardew has had their say on the fee, and the overwhelming view is that Liverpool have grossly overpaid for a promising, but ultimately still relatively unproven striker. Granted, there has long been an unofficial premium payable for young, English players but that Andy Carroll should cost more than David Villa seems simply absurd.

There is however an old adage in the business world: something is worth what someone will pay you for it. Liverpool paid £35 million. Guess Carroll is therefore worth £35 million.

Categories: Football