Soccer, Uncategorized, Women's World Cup

Women’s World Cup Group C

Group C – Australia, Italy, Brazil, Jamaica

Australia

The Matildas are in a tricky pool as they aim to make an impression in this year’s World Cup.

They have qualified for seven out of the eight World Cups and have reached the quarter finals in the last three tournaments.

Sam Kerr
Eyes on the prize. Sam Kerr will try help Australia progress beyond the group stages. Photo by: Nigel Owen/Action Plus via Getty Images.

Australia have not made an impact in their previous campaigns but they do possess one of the best players in the world in striker Sam Kerr.

She was shortlisted for the inaugural Ballon d’Or last year and will captain her country this summer.

She has failed to score in her last two World Cup campaigns but at aged 25, she will be expected to put that right.

Australia have experienced off field issues, firing their coach Alan Stajcic in January and they are now lead by Ante Milicic, a former assistant with the men’s national team.

This is a difficult group but Kerr should be able to steer her side in to the knockout stages.

Italy

The Italians have qualified for their first World Cup since 1999 and have enjoyed an upsurge in form, reaching the final of the Cyprus Cup this year before losing to North Korea on penalties.

They have won seven out of nine games in 2019 including a victory in a friendly against Ireland.

Italy Women's Soccer Team
This is the first Italy team to reach the World Cup since 1999. Photo by: Getty.

Their striker Crisitana Girelli scored seven goals in qualifying  while Barbara Bonansea is a skillful winger who helped Juventus win the league and cup double this year.

Sara Gama will captain the team from midfield while Manuela Giugliano is another to keep an eye on after she helped Italy finish in third place at the U17 World Cup in 2014.

The side ranked 15th in the world would have been hoping for an easier group as they seek to progress to the knockout stages for the second time in their history.

With some third placed teams progressing to the knockout stages, they will not have a better chance to change that statistic.

Brazil

The 2007 runners up have plenty of World Cup experience as they have competed in all seven previous campaigns.

They looked assured in wining the Copa America Femenina, winning all seven of their matches while scoring 31 goals.

Fourteen of their 19 outfield players scored in the tournament but they traditionally dominate the competition, winning seven of the eight tournaments held.

Cristiane
Cristiane (centre) celebrates after scoring a hat trcik in Brazil’s opening round win against Jamaica. Photo By: Naomi Baker – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images.

Their problem however is their ageing squad which may not be able to withstand the quick turnaround in games.

Marta is one of the most recognised names in the women’s game and the World Cup’s record goal scorer with 15, will look to add to her tally this summer.

Beatriz is another to watch as she finished top scorer for her country at last year’s Copa America Femenina.

Midfielder Formiga, who turned 41 in March, retired in 2016 but returned last year.

Brazil have the experience and the pedigree and will be hoping for a deep run but can they find their form?

Jamaica

The feel good story of this World Cup, the Jamaicans have qualified for their first ever World Cup after a cut in funding in 2010 caused the team to not be able to take part in the 2011 World Cup qualifiers.

The turnaround was financed in part by Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella who became an official ambassador for the team and has helped with their fundraising.

They are nicknamed the Reggae Girlz and their fans will be expected to bring plenty of colour to France.

Jamaica made history by becoming the first Caribbean nation to qualify for the World Cup after beating Panama in a penalty shootout last year.

Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw is a top class striker and has scored 31 goals in 22 appearances for her country.

She scored 19 goals in qualifying, the most scored by any player representing the 144 nations attempting to qualify for the World Cup.

They could reach for the knockout stages if they finish in the top three but they will need Shaw to produce big performances.

It would be a terrific story if they could but the odds are stacked against them.

Group Fixtures: 

9th June

Australia 1 Italy 2

Brazil 3 Jamaica 0

13th June

Australia v Brazil 17:00

14th June

Jamaica v Italy 17:00

18th June

Australia v Jamaica 20:00

Italy v Brazil 20:00

Soccer, Uncategorized, Women's World Cup

Women’s World Cup Group B

Group B – Germany, China, Spain, South Africa

Germany

Dzsenifer Marozsan
Dzsenifer Marozsan will be crucial to Germany’s hopes of winning the World Cup. Photo By: Lar Baron/Getty Images.

Two time World Cup winners Germany would have been delighted with their World Cup draw.

They will be expected to top the group and will look to maintain their record of at least reaching the quarter final stage in each of the seven previous World Cups campaigns.

Martina Voss Teckelenburg’s side have not lost a game this year recording wins against France, Sweden and Japan.

The second ranked side in the world will look towards Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan to anchor the midfield.

She is capable of creating and scoring goals, while Lea Schuller is another to keep an eye on as she has scored eight goals in 13 games for her country.

This could be her breakout tournament as Germany aim to join the USA as three time winners.

China

China are the most unpredictable side in the tournament as they reached the final in 1999, suffering a defeat on penalties to the US but they have not progressed beyond the quarter final stage since then.

They will be looking towards Wang Shuang to provide the goals needed to see them progress.

The reigning Asian Footballer of the Year plays her club football with PSG and is the only player in the Chinese squad to ply their trade abroad.

China have qualified for the World Cup seven times but their form in the Algarve Cup, a warm up tournament for teams, saw them finish last after losing all of their matches.

Spain

Women’s soccer in Spain has grown rapidly over the past few years as they won the Algarve Cup in 2017 and the Cyprus Cup a year later.

They qualified for their first World Cup tournament four years ago, failing to win a single game and finishing in 20th place.

La Roja have improved greatly since then and won all eight of their qualifying games for this tournament.

Jennifer Hermoso will be crucial to their hopes of progressing beyond the group stage for the first time.

She helped Atletico Madrid win the league title ahead of Champions League finalists Barcelona as the striker finished top scorer with 24 goals.

Jennifer Hermoso
Spain will need Jennifer Hermoso to be in top form if they are to progress in the World Cup.

Patri Guijarro is another attacking player who could shine as she won the Golden Boot at the Women’s U20 World Cup last year.

Spain face China in the final group game and the result there should determine who finished behind the Germans.

South Africa

South Africa are the second lowest ranked side in the tournament and will find it difficult to gather points in the competition.

The wonderfully nicknamed Banyana Banyana are competing in their first World Cup after finishing as runners up in the African Cup of Nations, losing to Nigeria in a penalty shootout.

They beat the Super Falcons in the group stage but their results against European teams is worrying.

South Africa
South Africa will hope to make an impression in France. Image via: Eyewitness News

South Africa have conceded a combined total of 10 goals  in friendly games against Norway and the United States before this tournament.

Janine van Wyk is the heartbeat of their defence and holds the record as the country’s most capped player of any gender.

Striker Tembi Kgatlana won Player of the Tournament at last year’s African Cup of Nations but she may struggle for service as her side are favourites to finish bottom of the group.

Fixtures: (British and Irish Times)
8th June:
Germany 1 China 0
Spain v South Africa 17:00
12th June
Germany v Spain 17:00
13th June
China v South Africa 20:00
17th June
China v Spain 17:00
Germany v South Africa 17:00
Soccer, Uncategorized, Women's World Cup

Women’s World Cup Group 1 Preview

The Women’s World Cup kicked off last night with France laying down a marker with a 4-0 victory against Korea Republic. The month long festival of football will showcase the best players in the world with the tournament taking place in France. Here I discuss each team in the group and how likely they are to progress beyond the group stage. 

Group A – France, Korea Republic, Norway and Nigeria

France

France will start this group as favourites as they seek to become the first nation to hold the Men’s and Women’s World Cup trophies at the same time.

Les Bleus have never won this tournament and are seeking to become only the second side after Germany to win the Men’s and Women’s hosting of this competition.

The team are ranked fourth in FIFA’s rankings and with home support should progress to the knockout stages.

Their striker Eugénie Le Sommer will lead the line.

The Olympique Lyonnais player has won six Champions League titles and has scored 74 goals in 159 French appearances.

They are unbeaten since February and their home fans will be expecting them to go deep in the tournament.

Eugenie Le Sommer
Eugenie Le Sommer will hope to lead hosts France to World Cup glory. Photo By: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images.

Korea Republic

Korea Republic, also known as the Taeguek Ladies will compete in their third World Cup finals having reached the knockout stages in 2015 where they were defeated by France.

Their other appearance in 2003 saw them suffer a 7-1 hammering to Norway as they failed to progress from the group.

Their captain Cho So-hyun is a midfielder who plays with West Ham United and is considered one of her country’s greatest ever players.

Ji So-yun plays for Chelsea and is another midfielder worth keeping an eye on.

They are hoping to get out of the group but they only just secured the final qualifying place in Asia while their poor form against European teams is cause for concern.

Norway

The World Cup winners in 1995, Norway, would have been widely regarded as dark horses for the tournament but the first ever winner of the Ballon d’Or feminin prize Ada Hegerberg’s decision to boycott the competition is a major blow.

She argues that female players are shown a lack of respect and will miss the tournament. Hegerberg has scored 38 goals in 66 appearances for her country and they may struggle for a cutting edge without her.

Norway have won six of their seven games this year and will need Chelsea player Maren Mjelde to create chances.

Caroline Hansen is a talented winger who has signed for Barcelona after impressing with Wolfsburg.

The opening game with Nigeria looks to be vital towards deciding who progresses from the group.

Ada Hegerberg
Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg will not be playing for Norway at the World Cup.

Nigeria

Africa Women’s Champions Nigeria will be hoping to bring their success in their nation to the global stage.

The Super Falcons are the only African team to have qualified for every World Cup.

They have only got out of the group stages once, in 1999 when they reached the quarter final stage before losing to Brazil.

Nigeria will be looking to Asisat Oshoala to provide the goals; she announced herself on the world stage when she finished top scorer at the U20 Women’s World Cup.

Oshoala scored in the Champions League final as Barcelona were defeated by the all conquering Olympique Lyonnais.

They know that a top three finish may be enough to progress and the format gives them every opportunity to rectify previous World Cup failings.

Champions League, Soccer, Uncategorized

Best XI To Never Win the Champions League

As Mo Salah, Virgil Van Dijk and co. will now finish their careers with Champions League medals, some great players have graced the Champions League without winning it. Here we pick the best players to never win the competition (1992/93 onwards). We have not included players who are still active in the competition which means that Gianluigi Buffon cannot be picked. Also, we will not include players who won the old European Cup and they must have played in the Champions League era.

GK: Jens Lehmann

The two time UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year will be remembered for his sending off in the 2006 Champions League final which Barcelona eventually won 2-1. The German international undoubtedly enjoyed the greatest goalkeeping campaign in the Champions League in the 2005-06 season as Arsenal went a record 10 games without conceding a goal. That saw him go 853 minutes without the ball ending up in his net which is a record to this day. He maintained that record in the final as Manuel Almunia was between the sticks when Barcelona struck twice. Lehmann never got as close to Champions League success again with many Arsenal fans wondering what could have been if he did not get sent off in that final.

Jens Lehmann
Seeing Red. Jens Lehmann’s sending off left Arsenal fans wondering what could have been. Photo By: EPA.

RB: Lilian Thuram

One of the best defenders of his generation, Thuram missed out on Champions League glory with Juventus and Barcelona. A world cup winner who is a record appearance holder for France, he surprisingly ended his career without lifting Europe’s biggest club trophy. He was part of the Juventus side that lost the 2003 Champions League final to a star studded AC Milan side on penalties. He joined Barcelona in 2006 after the Calciopoli scandal saw Juventus relegated to Serie B. He left the club and retired in 2008 before they won the Champions League the year after.

Lilian Thuram
Lilian Thuram was one of France’s finest defenders. Photo by Getty Images/

CB: Laurent Blanc

Le Président was never able to claim the Champions League during a 20 year career which saw him win the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championships alongside the Premier League with Man United. Despite playing for Barcelona, Inter Milan and United, he failed to claim victory in the tournament. The closest he came was when the Red Devils reached the semi finals in the 2001/2002 season when they were defeated by Bayer Leverkusen on away goals. He retired the following season but he did so without lifting the ultimate honour in club football.

Laurent Blanc
Laurent Blanc never claimed Champions League glory. Photo via: www/101greatgoals.com.

CB: Fabio Cannavaro

The great Italian defender surprisingly never claimed the Champions League despite playing with Parma, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid. He captained Italy to World Cup glory in 2006 and helped his side concede only two goals during the whole tournament. Cannavaro claimed the Ballon d’Or the same year but despite this he never reached the final of this competition. He was part of the Inter Milan team that lost to bitter rivals AC Milan on away goals in the semi finals in 2003. It is simply unbelievable that Djimi Traore has won a Champions League while Cannavaro has not.

Fabio Cannavaro
Despite playing for Real Madrid and Juventus Cannavaro never won a Champions League winners medal. Photo By: Getty/John Walton.

LB: Gianluca Zambrotta

The 98 times Italian international failed to win the Champions League despite playing with clubs such as Barcelona, Juventus and AC Milan. Zambrotta played over 200 games for Juventus but he was another member of the side which lost the final to AC Milan in 2003. He reached the semi final with Barcelona in 2009 when they lost 1-0 to Man United on aggregate. Zambrotta successfully kept Cristiano Ronaldo quiet during the second leg but it was his poor clearance which led to Paul Scholes’ goal. A consistent player who is often overlooked for lists such as this, Zambrotta was an excellent defender but that did not translate to Champions League success.

CM:Patrick Vieira

The French international was one of the best midfielders of his generation but that did not translate itself in to Champions League success. He left Arsenal in 2005 but unlike Thierry Henry his move did not result in winning the competition. In fact the Gunners reached the final the year after he left while he departed Inter Milan in January 2010 befoe they won the competition that season. He was not eligible for a medal. Amazingly he never progressed beyond the quarter final stage of the competition for any team he played.

Patrick Vieira
Patrick Vieira left Inter Milan six months before they win the Champions League in 2010. Photo By: Getty.

CM: Pavel Nedved

Nothing sums up the highs and lows of football better than Pavel Nedved in the 2003 Champions League semi-final between Juventus and Liverpool. The Czech Republic player scored a wonderful goal to help send The Old Lady in to the final but unfortunately for him a needless foul on Steve McManaman saw him receive a booking which ruled him out of the final. Juventus ended up suffering an agonising defeat on penalties to AC Milan with many wondering would Nedved’s presence have helped Juventus beat their Italian rivals. He did win the Ballon d’Or that season but the devastation remained for the rest of his career.

Pavel Nedved
Pavel Nedved missed the 2003 final through suspension. Photo By: Reuteurs.

CM: Lothar Matthaus

This player came closer than anybody on this list to claim the Champions League crown. Matthaus was part of the Bayern Munich side which came agonisingly close to winning the 1999 final before Man United scored twice in injury time to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Matthaus was an excellent box to box midfielder in his prime before he became a sweeper later in his career. The World Cup winner with West Germany was one of the best players in his era. He was 38 years old when he played in that final and it proved to be his final opportunity to claim a title that his talent deserved.

ST: Roberto Baggio

One of the most gifted players to grace the game, Baggio never claimed the Champions League title despite wreaking havoc in Italy and on the international stage. He helped Inter Milan qualify for the Champions League in the 1998-1999 season before they were defeated by eventual champions Man United. Baggio was in his prime before the introduction of the Champions League but for a player of his talent to never come close to winning the trophy is a shame.

Roberto Baggio
Roberto Baggio (right) won the Ballon d’Or in 1993, never claimed a Champions League winners medal. Photo By: EPA.

ST: Gabriel Batistuta

A player whose trophy haul did not match his obvious talent. Batistuta was among the most feared strikers in the world in the 1990s as he terrorised defences with Fiorentina and Argentina. He was 30 before he made his debut in the competition while his goals against Arsenal and Man United will never be forgotten. For those who had not seen him score hat tricks in the 1994 and 1998 World Cup he did not disappoint. Batistuta was one of the most feared strikers of his generation but he did not finish his career with the medals that his talent deserved.

ST: Ronaldo

Quite simply one of the greatest players of all time. The Brazilian failed to win the Champions League despite playing with PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. He famously scored a hat trick for Real Madrid against Man United in the 2003 Champions League before he helped them beat Juventus 2-1 in the first leg of the semi final, scoring the first goal. He limped off in the second leg as injuries began to take their toll. Juventus beat them to reach the final before the Galacticos were aiming for a treble the following season but lost to Monaco in the quarter finals with the Brazilian injured for the tie. One of the all time great players who unfortunately finds himself without a Champions League winners medal.

Ronaldo
Ronaldo is one of the all time great players. Photo By: Bru Garcia.

Honourable Mentions: Jose Francisco Molina, Roberto Ayala, Amadeo Carboni, Phillip Cocu, Michael Ballack, Denis Bergkamp, Eric Cantona, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Francesco Totti,

 

Uncategorized

Four for Four for Irish Provinces but Injury headaches for Joe Schmidt

I pick out the main talking points from the European action as Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht all secured victories.

Leinster remind Toulouse of the path ahead

Toulouse entered their clash with Leinster on the back of 12 successive victories and on top of their Champions Cup pool. For 40 minutes the RDS was home to a slugfest, one which closely resembled an international game. Leinster however are an 80 minute side and they had too much for their French counterparts. This was a stark reminder that although Toulouse have improved they are still not on the level to compete with the best in the competition. With Johnny Sexton and other internationals to return, Leinster once more look the team to beat.

Leinster Pro 14 Champions
Leinster are the defending champions and look the team to beat once more Photo by: Billy Stockland/INPHO

Carbery’s response to adversity is very encouraging

Joey Carbery suffered an off day when Munster lost to Castres in their fourth game of the Heineken Cup. His response to that poor performance has been extremely encouraging. He has kicked 17 successful penalties in a row in games against Leinster, Connacht and Gloucester. His mental toughness shows just why he has the potential to be a pivotal player for Munster and Ireland in the years ahead. His game management has improved too and a 26 point haul against Gloucester will do his confidence no harm at all.

joey carbery
Joey Carbery celebrates his try against Gloucester. Photo by: Inpho.

Stockdale continues incredible try scoring form

Jacob Stockdale has took to senior rugby like a duck to water. The 22 year old winger scored his fifth and sixth tries as Ulster surprised last year’s finalists Racing 92. Stockdale’s second try in which he sidestepped past Olivier Klemenczak before breaking ahead, chipping on with a crisp-left foot strike, showing tremendous pace and then stepping inside to read the bounce quicker than three Racing defenders. Frighteningly good and as he is only 22, there is plenty more to come.

jacob stockdale
Jacob Stockdale scored a brace of tries for Ulster. Photo By: Getty.

Connacht have strength in depth

Connacht overcame Sale Sharks in the European Challenge Cup and now look poised to qualify for the quarter finals. The Westerners have used the competition to test their squad. Andy Friend did name a strong side but the performance of James Mitchell at scrum half and James Cannon in the second row. Substitute fly half David Horwitz kicked the winning penalty. If Connacht are to push for Champions Cup qualification then they will need a strong squad.

Schmidt’s scrum half crisis

If there is one negative that can be drawn from the weekend’s rugby, it is Ireland’s problem in the no9 position. Luke McGrath’s injury in Leinster’s win coupled with John Cooney not being fit to play for Ulster against Racing means that Conor Murray is Ireland’s only fit scrum half. Kieran Marmion was injured in Ireland’s victory against New Zealand last November and is not due back until late February. This means that Murray is the only capped Irish scrum half currently fit, less than three weeks out from the 6 Nations.

conor murray
Conor Murray is currently Ireland’s only fit scrum half. Photo By: Inpho.

Competition for Places for 6 Nations

The clean sweep of victories for the Irish provinces was notable because of the strength of performances by individuals fighting for a place in the Ireland squad. Since Ireland’s defeat to Argentina at the World Cup in 2015, Schmidt has tried to develop strength in depth. The provinces have allowed Irish talent to develop and now it is coming to fruition for the and the national side. This has raised hopes of a strong 6 Nations and World Cup.

Tennis

Players who can win the Australian Open

The first tennis Grand Slam of the year is fast approaching as the world’s top players battle for glory. Ivan Smyth picks the men in contention to lift the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.

  1. Novak Djokovic

The Serbian enters this tournament as the favourite after an outstanding end to his 2018 season. The number one ranked player in the world returned from injury to win Wimbledon and the US Open. He suffered defeat in Doha last week, losing to an inspired Roberto Bautista Agut. The 5-set format suits his game and it is hard to see many players who could potentially upset the 14-time Grand Slam Champion. He is aiming to win a record seventh Australian Open title and he will have a major say in who reigns supreme in two weeks’ time.

Novak Djokovic
Can Novak Djokovic win a record seventh Australian Open title? Photo By: PA
  1. Roger Federer

The 20-time Grand Slam champion comes in to this tournament in impressive form after helping Switzerland secure the Hopman Cup. He was undefeated throughout the competition where he defeated Cameron Norrie, Stefanos Tsitsipas and rival Sascha Zverev. Federer is tied with Djokovic and Roy Emerson (who won six titles from 1961-1967) on six Australian Open victories. He struggled towards the end of last season but if he is physically fit then he can create further history.

Roger Federer
Can Roger Federer win three titles Australian Open titles in a row? Sourced Via: Sky Sports
  1. Marin Cilic

It seems like now or never for the 6ft 6in Croat to claim an elusive Astralian Open crown. He is a Grand Slam champion after winning the US Open in 2014. He reached the final last year where he lost out to Roger Federer in a classic final. The 30-year-old reached three Grand Slam quarter finals and helped Croatia to win the Davis Cup in 2018. The fast courts Down Under suit his hard-hitting game and nobody would begrudge him another Slam. He faces a tough first round against Bernard Tomic, but he can go deep once more.

 

  1. Rafael Nadal

The 32-year-old Spaniard will always enter a Grand Slam among the favourites. He has been disrupted by injuries since losing to Novak Djokovic in an epic semi-final at Wimbledon. He has yet to play a competitive game in 2019 which is far from ideal preparation. The 2009 Australian Open champion faces a tough draw in which he may have to face Alex Di Minaur, Kyle Edmund, Kevin Anderson, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to win his 18th Grand Slam title. It would be one of his most impressive Grand Slam victories if he could achieve the feat. If anyone can do it then Nadal can.

Rafael Nadal
Will Nadal win the first Grand Slam of the year? Photo By: Getty.
  1. Sascha Zverev

The talented German has yet to progress beyond the quarter final of a Slam. The 21-year-old is one of the biggest prospects in the game, but he needs to serve big and improve his forehand. Since 2005 only two players outside of Djokovic, Federer or Rafael Nadal have won the Australian Open. Zverev may well be the best bet to break those player’s hold on the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup. He has not yet progressed beyond the third round of this competition, but he beat both Djokovic and Federer and the ATP Tour Finals last November.

  1. Karen Khachanov

The Russian is an outside bet to win his first ever Grad Slam title. His big serve and large forehand are well suited to the Australian courts. He defeated four top 10 players to win the Paris Masters last November: John Isner, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic. The no.10 seed has not progressed beyond the second round in this tournament before, but he should rectify that stat this year. He can beat any player on his day.

 

The Australian Open runs from 14-27th January. It promises to be a fantastic tournament with plenty of top-quality action in the men’s and women’s draws.

Boxing, Uncategorized

My Boxing Awards 2018

Fight of the Year: Canelo-Golovkin II

The Canelo-Golovkin rematch was the biggest fight of the year in my opinion. Often rematches fail to live up to the hype but tis fight was even better than the first bout. After the Mexican star failed a drugs test, the fight was pushed back until September. Golovkin was angered by the failed test but the fight went ahead. The pair produced 12 rounds filled with phenomenal intensity, character and huge punches. Canelo gained the decision and in the eyes of many is now the biggest star in boxing.

 

Canelo v GGG
Canelo lands a right hook on Gennady Golovkin in what was an epic rematch. Photo By: Al Bello’Getty Images.

 

Fighter of the Year: Oleksandr Usyk

The Ukrainian boxer enjoyed a sensational 2018 as he became unified Cruiserweight champion of the world. He defeated Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev in the World Boxing Super Series to win the WBC, WBA (Super), IBF, the Ring and lineal Cruiserweight title alongside the WBO title he already held. For the first time in British boxing history, all four cruiserweight titles were on the line. Usyk’s  knock out win against Bellew as he won all three of his fights in his opponent’s back yard. He is planning to move to heavyweight and add some extra spice to the division. Other contenders included Naoya Inoue, Mikey Garcia, Vasyl Lomachenko and Canelo Alvarez.

Usyk
Oleksandr Usyk enjoyed a stellar 2018. Photo By: WBSS

Knockout of the Year: Whyte-Browne

This was a tough category to pick a winner but the devastating knockout that Dillian Whyte inflicted on outclassed Lucas Browne gets my nod. The Brit dominated his opponent before a sensational left hook ended the Aussie’s night. Other contenders for this award were Alexander Povetkin’s knockout of David Price, Usyk’s finish of Tony Bellew while Naoya Inoue’s KO of Juan Carlos Payano was very close to winning the award.

Dillian Whyte
Dillian Whyte celebrates his victory against Dereck Chisora. Photo By: Getty.

Comeback of the Year: Tyson Fury

This was a relatively simple category to pick a winner as Tyson Fury came back from over two years of inactivity and mental health difficulties to challenge Deontay Wilder in a heavyweight classic. Fury shed 10 stone and won two comeback fights. He fought the Bronze Bomber for the WBC Heavyweight Championship of the World in what was an epic contest. The Gypsy King looked to be knocked out in the 12th round but he defied the odds to get up just as he proved the doubters wrong by coming back from the lowest point of his life. A deserving winner.

Round of the Year: Fury v Wilder Round 12

The final round of the Fury-Wilder contest is my pick for the best round of the year. The Bronze Bomber landed a devastating three punch combination to knock Fury down. Wilder celebrated as he thought he had won his 41st fight with 40 knockouts. Instead Fury somehow got to his feet and survived the onslaught from the heaviest puncher in boxing today. It looks as if we will get a rematch in what should be another epic contest.

Fury Wilder
Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder produced an epic fight and an exhilarating twelfth round. Photo By: Showtime Boxing.

2018 was an excellent year for boxing with some epic fight staking place. Next year promises to be exciting with plenty of big fights taking place. I hope you enjoyed this blog post and feel free to comment on your suggestions for winners in the above categories. I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and all the best for 2019!!

 

 

 

Boxing, Uncategorized

The Weekend of Boxing – Warrington wins an epic, Whyte earns a title shot and Edwards pulls off an upset

Warrington finally getting the recognition he deserves

Josh Warrington entered his fight with Carl “The Jackal” Frampton as an underdog. The Leeds Warrior was defending his IBF featherweight title after his surprise victory against Lee Selby earlier in the year. He applied constant pressure to the three time world champion throughout this classic contest. Warrington is now getting the recognition he deserves and there are few British fighters who have enjoyed a better year. He is looking to unify the division and there are plenty of exciting fights to be made.

Josh Warrington
Josh Warrington defeated Carl Frampton to defend his IBF World Featherweight belt. Photo By: Getty

The end of the road for Frampton?

Carl Frampton has enjoyed a remarkable career and is one of if not the best fighter to ever be produced on the island of Ireland. The Belfast native was a two weight world champion and has held three different world championship belts during his career. The Jackal contributed greatly to an epic contest but as in his loss to Leo Santa Cruz, a slow start proved his downfall. He says that he will take time to make a decision on retirement but no matter his decision, he has done himself proud.

Dillian Whyte deserves his shot

With all the talk surrounding Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, it is easy to forget Dillian Whyte. The Body Snatcher knocked out Dereck Chisora in another brutal slugfest. He called out Joshua after the fight with the champion not impressed by Whyte’s actions. Whyte has enjoyed an excellent 2018 as he defeated Joseph Parker, Lucas Browne and Chisora. He has responded to his only defeat, which was inflicted by AJ in 2015. With Wilder and Fury set for a rematch, Whyte should finally get a world title shot.

Anthony Joshua
Anthony Joshua. Source via: Sky Sports.

Whyte’s boxing skills improving

Whyte-Chisora II was an all action fight but Dillian Whyte’s boxing skills improved greatly from the first fight. Chisora tried to apply incessant pressure but Whyte’s jab and boxing IQ helped him to wear his fellow Brit down. Chisora was winning on two of the three judges’ scorecards at the time of the knockdown but Whyte was turning the screw. The Body Snatcher has an excellent jab and will need all his artillery to claim a world title.

Dillian Whyte
Dillian Whyte celebrates his victory against Dereck Chisora. Photo By: Getty.

Edwards pulls off a shock

On the Whyte-Chisora undercard, Charlie Edwards surprised Cristofer Rosalesto claim the WBC World Flyweight title. Edwards boxed superbly to win all three judges scorecards: 118-110 117-111, 116-112. In 2016, he lost to Johnriel Casimero for the IBF flyweight tile but this was his sixth victory on the bounce. The images of him presenting his mother with his belt is heartwarming and he has an exciting future ahead. He may defend his title against Lee Selby in what would be an exciting British fight. Edwards should savour this victory as 2019 will be a busy year for him.

 

 

Premier League, Uncategorized

Premier League Round Up:Liverpool extend their lead while Spurs make a statement

Everton 2-6 Spurs

Spurs in the title race

Tottenham demolished Everton in what was the best team performance by any team in the premier league this weekend. After progressing to the Champions League knockout stages, they have carried that momentum in defeating North London rivals Arsenal while this victory has moved them within two points of Man City. They are in red ht form away from home also, winning 8 of their 10 way games. This was a decisive victory in laying down a marker. Now they must back this performance up.

Harry Kane 1
Harry Kane scored twice against Everton. Source: Getty Images.

 

Man United 5-1 Cardiff City

United up the pace

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took charge of his first match as Man United interim coach. It could not have gone much better as they thrashed Cardiff City 5-1. United played more attacking football as their front three of Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford all got on the scoresheet. It was the first time this season that United outran their opponents in the Premier League. They also made their highest number of forward passes in a game in the league this season. It is too early to judge Solskjaer’s reign but the signs are promising!!

 

Arsenal 3 – 1 Burnley

Kolasinac outstanding in wing back role

Arsenal defeated Burnley 3-1 in Saturday’s early kick off.  The Gunners came in to this game after back to back defeats to Southampton in the league and Spurs in the Carabao Cup. They suffered further defnsive woe with Nacho Monreal limping off but the performance of Sead Kolasinac at left wing back is encouraging. He suffered when deployed in a back four against Wolves and since then Unai Emery has deployed a back three. He got an assist and played a key role in the second. Arsenal need him to stay fit amid their defensive crisis.

Arsenal v Burnley

Arsenal responded to two defeats in a row to defeat Burnley. Photo via: http://www.arsenal.com

 

Huddersfield 1-3 Southampton

Hasenhuttl has got Saints scoring

Ralph Hassenhuttl has enjoyed an excellent start to life as Southampton manager. They have won consecutive premier league games for the first time since April 2017. The Saints have also scored 3 goals in consecutive games. Danny Ings, Charlie Austin and Michael Obafemi have all scored uder their new boss while Shane Long had a goal ruled out for offside against Arsenal. Their fans can now enjoy Christms outside the relegation zone.

 

Chelsea 0-1 Leicester City

Leicester enjoy the rub of the green

Crystal Palace defeating the reigning Premier League champions meant that Leicester’s victory against Chelsea was almost forgotten. The Foxes set up with a bank of four and a bank of five as they frustrated the Blues and Eden Hazard. It was their best result of the season but had Marcos Alonso’s injury time strike gone in instead of striking the post and rolling across goal, then they would have not gained the three points. Sometimes you earn your own luck and Leicester’s tigerish performance saw them grab all three points.

Giroud v Southampton
Chelsea had little cause for celebration after a 1-0 defeat to Leicester City. Photo by: Reuters

Crystal Palace 3 – 2 Man City

A Coming of Age Performance for Wan-Bisaka

Crystal Palace deserve immense praise for their shock victory against Man City. Roy Hodgson got his tactics spot on while Palace scored three goals from three shots on target as they were ruthless in front of goal. No player typified Palace’s grit and determination more than 21 year old right back Aaron Wan-Bisaka. The defender faced in form Leroy Sané but nullified the talented German while providing an outlet for the counter attack. He is far from the finished article but based on this performance, he has a bright future.

 

Crystal Palace v Leicester
Crystal Palace had cause for celebration after pulling off the upset of the season so far.  Source via: talkSPORT.
Uncategorized

US Open Tennis Talking Points

The US Open ended and with it the 2018 Grand Slams came to a conclusion. One of the most controversial tennis tournaments in living memory saw Naomi Osaka claim her first Slam while Novak Djokovic claimed his 14th. Here I discuss the key talking points from a fantastic Grand Slam.

Tennis Slams
We have had a great set of Grand Slams in men’s and women’s tennis this year. Photo Via: Bank Exams Today

Umpires draw controversy

Mohamad Lahyani’s mid match pep talk to Nick Kyrgios led to fierce criticism in some quarters. Umpires are not permitted to encourage players. The US Tennis Association defended the well respected umpire but Lahyani should have known better. This controversy is largely forgotten due to Carlos Ramos giving Serena Williams three code violations in the women’s final. By the letter of the law his decision was correct but it is a rule that is rarely applied. Some players feel they are treated differently and these controversies do not help.

Next Gen close but not close enough

The future stars of the men’s game did not win a breakthrough Grand Slam but there are signs of hope. Karen Khachanov lost an eipc four set contest to Rafael Nadal while Dominic Thiem lost in a fifth set tie break to the Spanish maestro. Alex De Minaur took Marin Cilic to five sets while Denis Shapovalov did likewise with Kevin Anderson. Sascha Zverev suffered another early Grand Slam exit. This year’s semi-finalists had an average age of 30 years old. There’s no substitute for experience in Grand Slam tennis.

Kei Nishikori take two
Kei Nishikori was the youngest US Open semi-finalist at age 28. Photo By: Getty

Osaka can win more Slams

After the controversy surrounding Serena Williams and Carlos Ramos’ altercation, it is easy to forget that Naomi Osaka at age 20 has won her first Grand Slam. Her heavy hitting and slick movement saw her comfortably beat the 23 time Grand Slam champion. She played the big points exceptionally well throughout the tournament and held her nerve in the final. If she can keep herself grounded then this will not e the lat we hear of the Japanese sensation.

Naomi Osaka.jpg

Players need weather protection

This year’s tournament was played in stifling hot and humid weather conditions with many players complaining that the conditions were unfair to play in. We saw similar complaints. Temperatures at the Australian Open in January reached 40 degrees with players feeling the strain. Tournament organisers need to consider the ill effects that players can feel and although it may frustrate fans, players should not have to pull out of matches due to extreme weather.

A Special Era for Men’s Tennis

Novak Djokovic won his 14th Slam as he equaled Pete Sampras’ on the all time Grand Slam winners list. He is now only three behind Rafael Nadal and six behind Roger Federer. Age is on his side while he is back at the peak of his powers. As tennis fans we have been privileged to watch Djokovic, Murray, Nadal and Federer trade blows for the best part of a decade. Since Roland Garros in 2005, they have won 50 out of 55 Grand Slams. Simply incredible.


Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic won back-to-back Slams. Photo By: PA