England vs New Zealand: Shoaib Akhtar predicts winner ahead of World Cup 2019 final at Lord’s

first_imgFormer Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar predicted that England will start as the clear favourites for the final against New Zealand in the World Cup 2019 at Lord’s on SundayNew Zealand beat favourites India to seal the final spot whereas England thrashed arch-rivals Australia by eight wickets to set up the final date. England are totted as clear favourites but one can’t underestimate New Zealand, after seeing the quality of cricket they produced to knock out table toppers India in the semi-final..”If England wins the toss against New Zealand, they will score big runs against the Kiwis. It is important for Martin Guptill and Henry Nicholls to give a solid foundation to the Kiwi lineup. I support New Zealand, but England will clearly go in as the favourites in the final,” Akhtar said in a video posted on his official YouTube channel.Shoaib added the Kiwis need to put on an all-round performance to upstage the hosts in the mega clash at Lord’s. Akhtar urged England’s team management to promote Jos Buttler in the batting order.”Pressure plays a big role in big matches. England is a big team. I think they will create history at Lord’s by winning their first ever 50-over World Cup. New Zealand needs to perform in all departments of the game. Guptill needs to score runs for New Zealand to give the team a solid base at the top,” Akhtar said.”Jos Buttler should bat at top of the order, and if he gets the opportunity he will score big runs for the team. I hope for a thrilling match, it would be disappointing to see a batting collapse in the finals,” he added.advertisementALSO READ | New Zealand vs England, World Cup 2019 final Live Cricket Streaming: Watch NZ vs ENG Star Sports, DD SportsALSO READ | Dream11 Prediction: New Zealand vs England Final Playing 11, Captain and Vice-Captain World Cup 2019ALSO WATCH:last_img read more

Bangladesh fined for slow over-rate against Sri Lanka in 1st ODI

first_imgBangladesh team has been fined for maintaining a slow over-rate against Sri Lanka in the first ODI in Colombo on Friday.Chris Broad of the ICC Elite Panel of match referees imposed the fine after Tamim Iqbal’s side was ruled to be two overs short of its target after time allowances were taken into consideration.In accordance with Article 2.22 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel, which relates to minor over-rate offences, players are fined 10 per cent of their match fees for every over their side fails to bowl in the allotted time, with the captain fined double that amount.As such, Tamim has been fined 40 per cent of his match fee, while his players have received 20 per cent fines. Tamim pleaded guilty to the offence after the end of the match and accepted the proposed sanction. So, there was no need for a formal hearing.On-field umpires Nitin Menon and Raveendra Wilamasari, and third umpire Marais Erasmus leveled the charge.Bangladesh will play against Sri Lanka in the second ODI at PR Stadium in Colombo on July 28.Also Read | Change could be good: Robin Singh targets India head coach jobAlso Read | Lasith Malinga heroics help Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh by 91 runslast_img read more

Solskjaer confident Paul Pogba will stay at Manchester United

first_imgManchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is expecting to name Paul Pogba in the line-up for the first game of the new Premier League campaign against Chelsea next weekend, despite the Frenchman’s overtures to leave the club in the close season.Pogba said in June that he could seek a new challenge after three years at United, while his agent told The Times last month that the 26-year-old intends to leave the club amid reports linking him to Juventus and Real Madrid.However, with a transfer having not materialised the midfielder, who joined United from Juventus in 2016 for a then-world record fee of 89.3 million pounds, could be around Old Trafford for a little while longer.”Paul will probably be back early next week in training. It’s not an injury, just some pain. He’s not injured but I wasn’t going to risk anything this weekend,” Solskjaer told a news conference after his side’s penalty shootout win over AC Milan in Cardiff.”He should be okay (for Chelsea). I would hope so, anyway. I wasn’t expecting Paul (at the airport). I spoke to him after training and he didn’t feel right.”Pogba has endured a turbulent time at United, notably falling out with Solskjaer’s predecessor Jose Mourinho.However, he may be convinced by the ambition shown by the club to improve on a disappointing sixth place finish in the Premier League last season, 32 points behind champions Manchester City.Following the acquisitions of full back Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace and young winger Daniel James from Swansea City, United are close to sealing a record 80-million pound deal for Leicester City defender Harry Maguire.advertisement”Hopefully, the last little details will be in place and we can announce something very soon,” the Norwegian coach said of the England centre back.”Let’s get the details over the line but he’s played a few games over the summer so we’ll just have to assess him, if and when (he is available for the Chelsea match).”Solskjaer also said that Ashley Young would be the new club captain, taking over from Antonio Valencia who left after 10 years in Manchester to join LDU Quito in his native Ecuador last month.Also See:last_img read more

Watch: Freshman J.D. King Scores TD on Second Collegiate Carry

first_imgIf you’re looking for the comments section, it has moved to our forum, The Chamber. You can go there to comment and holler about these articles, specifically in these threads. You can register for a free account right here and will need one to comment.If you’re wondering why we decided to do this, we wrote about that here. Thank you and cheers! On the first rush of his college career, freshman J.D. King went for two yards. On his second, he went 71 yards to the house for the first touchdown of his career. It was a beauty, too, as he was untouched throughout.It was also Oklahoma State’s longest rushing play since 2011.Oklahoma State has now scored on four of its first five possessions and is averaging 12.3 yards per play. They lead 28-14 in the middle of the second quarter.WATCH: Hail to the King! J.D. King goes 71 yards to put #OKState up 28-7! pic.twitter.com/ME0UqldbbH— Cowboy Football (@CowboyFB) September 1, 2017last_img read more

Pirates player wants to leave Joburg after attempted hijacking

first_imgOrlando Pirates Orlando Pirates defender Marc Van Heerden wants to leave Johannesburg after attempted hijacking Austin Ditlhobolo Journalist 19:52 11/28/17 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(0) Marc van Heerden of Orlando Pirates Backpagepix Orlando Pirates PSL Transfers The 29-year-old, who signed a long-term deal with the Buccaneers in January, 2017, is yet to establish himself at the Houghton-based side Orlando Pirates defender Marc Van Heerden is reportedly seriously considering leaving the club.According to The Citizen, Van Heerden recently survived an attempted hijacking and he is said to be considering leaving Pirates as he feels unsafe in Johannesburg.The publication’s source, who is close to the former AmaZulu left-back has revealed that the player wants to go back to the coast and the recent incident has fuelled his desire to leave the city. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Lyon treble & England heartbreak: The full story behind Lucy Bronze’s dramatic 2019 Liverpool v Man City is now the league’s biggest rivalry and the bitterness is growing Megan Rapinoe: Born & brilliant in the U.S.A. A Liverpool legend in the making: Behind Virgil van Dijk’s remarkable rise to world’s best player “He was with his wife in Bryanston when the incident happened,” the source said.”Now he is really trying to get Pirates to allow him to go to any team in Durban or Cape Town, which is his preferred destination,” the source continued.”He said he would gladly rejoin Chippa United as well if that were to be an option for him,” the source concluded.Van Heerden, who is a former South Africa youth international, joined Pirates from Chippa United midway through the 2016/17 season.He has made two PSL appearances for Bucs this season – netting once in the process.last_img read more

Silva caps City comeback win over Hammers

first_imgManchester City 2 West Ham 1: Silva lining lifts patchy showing from leaders Dom Farrell Last updated 1 year ago 02:00 12/4/17 DavidSilva - cropped Getty Images Manchester City extended their Premier League winning run to 13 matches as David Silva celebrated a new contract with the decisive goal. David Silva restored Manchester City’s eight-point advantage at the top of the Premier League as Pep Guardiola’s side recovered from a lethargic first-half showing to see off West Ham 2-1.The Spain playmaker signed a contract extension at the Etihad Stadium this week and underlined his enduring worth to a club where he sits among the best ever to don the shirt by leaping to volley home Kevin De Bruyne’s chipped cross at the back post seven minutes from time.It means City have pulled level with Arsenal and Chelsea’s all-time record of 13 consecutive victories in a single Premier League season but their third straight 2-1 win, following Raheem Sterling’s last-gasp heroics against Huddersfield Town and Southampton over the past week, once again showed them to have dropped off the swashbuckling form that typified their early season play. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Lyon treble & England heartbreak: The full story behind Lucy Bronze’s dramatic 2019 Liverpool v Man City is now the league’s biggest rivalry and the bitterness is growing Megan Rapinoe: Born & brilliant in the U.S.A. A Liverpool legend in the making: Behind Virgil van Dijk’s remarkable rise to world’s best player This is arguably a concern for Guardiola, who saw centre-back Nicolas Otamendi cancel out Angelo Ogbonna’s 44th-minute opener with his third league goal of the season, ahead of a keenly anticipated derby showdown with nearest challengers Manchester United next weekend, although victory at Old Trafford would now see his team take a vice-like grip on the title race.That’s how you celebrate a contract extension! pic.twitter.com/0cG0DOT8eI — Manchester City (@ManCity) December 3, 2017 The Catalan rested Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho on the bench – the influential duo a yellow card away from a Manchester derby suspension – and City offered early encouragement to their opponents by displaying the set-piece vulnerability that has plagued them of late.Cheikhou Kouyate flicked on a seventh-minute corner at the near post for a stretching Michail Antonio to volley over.Despite hogging possession, City’s play lacked the tempo and incisiveness of their best work this season, with Adrian – starting due to Joe Hart’s ineligibility against his parent club – making his first save of note when Silva sought the top corner from outside the area.The Spain playmaker gave the ball away in a dangerous position after 35 minutes and Manuel Lanzini forced Ederson to parry behind unconvincingly at his near post.It was therefore thoroughly deserved when West Ham led on the stroke of half-time – Aaron Creswell’s excellent delivery from a short corner on the right picking out Ogbonna for a powerful header that Ederson could only palm into the corner.SCENES! @OgbonnaOfficial pic.twitter.com/JqQ3S2DZuY— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) December 3, 2017Guardiola took action at the interval, sending on Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus for his countryman and full-back Danilo, laying his side out in an ambitious 4-2-4 shape – Silva and De Bruyne as the midfield two.It meant Fabian Delph reverting to left-back but some silky footwork from the England international on the edge of the West Ham area drew a foul from the already-booked Declan Rice and Adrian denied De Bruyne’s rasping strike.City kept the ball alive from the rebound and Otamendi remained in the West Ham area to turn home after Jesus darted in from the right.The hosts were still struggling to punch regular holes in the West Ham rearguard, Adrian extending himself slightly theatrically to keep out a Leroy Sane long-ranger after the hour.Substance surpassed style when the Spanish keeper beat away a Sane strike from closer quarters, the Germany star having burst beyond former City favourite Pablo Zabaleta.A deflected De Bruyne drive flew into the grasp of a relieved Adrian, who then saved brilliantly from Jesus and Sterling’s recent Midas touch in front of goal deserted him on the rebound.West Ham briefly gained respite on the break as Antonio charged forward and went for glory, although Ederson was equal to the task – paving the way for Silva to live up to his crowd-favourite status.There was still time for the accident prone Eliaquim Mangala to present Diafra Sakho with a chance to level but the West Ham substitute fired wide and, despite a vast improvement from their midweek thrashing at Everton, West Ham remain second bottom. Key Opta facts: – City’s haul of 43 points from 15 games is a joint top-flight record, level with Tottenham in 1960-61 (converted to three points for a win).- West Ham’s total of 10 points from 15 games is their lowest ever in the Premier League and worst in the top flight since 1976-77 (nine, converted to three for a win).- City have won 10 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season, more than any other side.- Since his debut for City in September 2015, Kevin De Bruyne has provided 35 Premier League assists – more than any other in the big five European leagues.- Gabriel Jesus has been directly involved in 21 goals in his 24 Premier League appearances (15 goals, 6 assists). read morelast_img read more

Nacho hails ruthless Real and Ronaldo

first_imgReal Madrid Nacho revels in Real Madrid’s Sevilla thrashing as Ronaldo rediscovers Liga spark Joe Wright Last updated 1 year ago 03:14 12/10/17 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(1) nacho - cropped Getty Images Real Madrid Primera División Sevilla Real Madrid v Sevilla Cristiano Ronaldo The Blancos’ thumping win at Santiago Bernabeu had their Spain international wondering if they have played a better half of football all season Real Madrid defender Nacho was delighted with his side’s 5-0 destruction of Sevilla on Saturday.The La Liga champions scored all five goals in a scintillating first half as they claimed a win that moves them to within five points of league leaders Barcelona, having played a game more.Nacho opened the scoring in only the third minute at the Santiago Bernabeu before goals from Toni Kroos, Achraf Hakimi and a Cristiano Ronaldo double put the result beyond doubt before the half-time whistle. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Lyon treble & England heartbreak: The full story behind Lucy Bronze’s dramatic 2019 Liverpool v Man City is now the league’s biggest rivalry and the bitterness is growing Megan Rapinoe: Born & brilliant in the U.S.A. A Liverpool legend in the making: Behind Virgil van Dijk’s remarkable rise to world’s best player Nacho agrees it was probably Madrid’s finest 45 minutes of football in 2017-18 and he hopes the standard is maintained at the Club World Cup next week.Asked if it was their best half this term, he said, as quoted by AS: “Maybe. We had total dominance of the game in the first 45 minutes. We wanted to keep it going in the second half.”Just like the other day against Borussia Dortmund [in the Champions League], we spoke about going out strong, to try to dominate. We did that in the best way; the reaction of the team was to fight until the end.”Sevilla are an amazing team who are always going to be fighting going forward. The objective was to keep a clean sheet and get goals.”2 – Sevilla are the first opponent Nacho scored against in two games for Real Madrid in La Liga (4 goals scored in the competition, 2 against Sevilla). Reliable pic.twitter.com/TXq8Ue4ReR— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 9, 2017Ronaldo showed off his collection of five Ballons d’Or before kick-off, the Portugal star having won his latest individual prize this week, and he delivered an outstanding display that included him winning the ball back in his own half to start the move that ended in Kroos’ goal.”I’m happy for him, hopefully there are many more goals to come, with games like the one today,” Nacho said.Full-back Achraf, whose first goal for Madrid killed off any lingering hope of a comeback for Sevilla, admits it was a proud moment.”It’s a day I won’t forget. I’m very happy,” said the 19-year-old.”It’s been a year of working, of learning from my team-mates, who are the best. Little by little, I’m going to improve.”It was a spectacular first half. We went out from the first minute knowing what we had to do.”last_img read more

Nascar’s Danica Patrick drove the lonely road to a feminist legacy

first_imgThe Hollywood treatment of the Danica Patrick story hasn’t hit theaters yet. But please believe: it’s coming. Maybe in a year. Maybe in 30. Either way, the creative license is going to be off the charts.It’s not hard to imagine the Danica character, played by a Mara sister or similar “type”, shaving her head or adding bass to her voice or insisting her rival drivers call her “Dan Patrick”. The idea of a woman race car driver – and inside the southern fried, patriarchal world of Nascar of all places – requires so much suspension of disbelief, after all. The most palatable argument for it isn’t the truth. It’s another version of Disney’s Mulan, but with a fiery race car in place of a dragon.Never mind that she’s still driving that race car, although who knows for how much longer. In a Facebook statement posted last week the 35-year-old Patrick announced that this year would be her last driving for Stewart-Haas Racing, a perennial championship stalker in Nascar’s top level; more than six years ago, in a crossover coup, the team lured her away from IndyCar – the Formula One facsimile where she’d emerge as the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing and a ubiquitous celebrity to boot. View gallery Nature’s Bakery abruptly pulled support of Patrick earlier this year. Photograph: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images Pinterest Share on Messenger Twitter features Share on Facebook That, too, was an explosive moment – one Patrick does not hesitate to herald in her Facebook statement, along with seven top-10 finishes. (A note for the next boast: maybe nod to the little seat time missed in more than 300 appearances?) No doubt it’s been an impressive run – especially for someone whose formative racing experience traces to Milton Keynes, where a teenage Patrick once competed in British national series events against the likes of future F1 champion Jenson Button.Still: you don’t have to look hard to find the Nascar fan who says that if “Dan Patrick” were responsible for the same production, he wouldn’t have been able to drive for a frontrunner like Stewart-Haas if he would be able to drive in Nascar at all. And that’s true. It’s also true that if she were winning races in bunches, like Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, the shrinking audience for Nascar might be even smaller. (Menfolk are full of empathy for a damsel in distress. But a boss? She’s a bitch.)It’s also true that the trailblazer’s road is the roughest and loneliest. That much was clear the day I wandered into her garage while covering a 2014 test session at Michigan. Off to one side were a dozen or so boffins, poring over telemetry data. Opposite them was Patrick, sitting by herself, on her phone, scrolling. Before then I thought I knew from loneliness in Nascar, being one of the few black writers who covers the beat. But that scene always comes back, usually when some barfly is droning on about how Patrick has no business operating a race car. It left me wondering how differently things might’ve turned out for her had there been even one other woman among her technical advisors. Likely in that alternative reading, Patrick gets credit for two revolutions: the one Patrick started inside the car and the pit box.Patrick’s saving grace, of course, was self-promotion. She didn’t just sign die casts models or hawk motor oil. She posed for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue and starred in racy Super Bowl ads. She was the anti-Mulan – the rare sports woman who infiltrates, and thrives, in an exclusively male preserve while accentuating every bit of her womanhood. No, the marketing strategy isn’t for everyone. But Patrick made it pay off to the tune of tens of millions of dollars in endorsements. And to her credit, she’s never been much of a prude about how that money gets made, a trait that further distinguishes her from the cheesecake athlete who came before – Anna Kournikova, say.Patrick would collect many patrons in her day, but none that quite approached the generosity of GoDaddy; for ages the web domain purveyor seemed to support Patrick’s racing exploits without giving a second thought to the staggering expense. When the company finally decided, in the spring of 2015, to completely withdraw its underwriting relationship with Nascar, there was a palpable sense that Patrick would suffer the worst. Now she’d be forced to go out and actually fundraise. And, well, those efforts haven’t unfolded as scripted either. Nascar Patrick made her Nascar debut at the 2012 Daytona 500. Photograph: Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Pinterest Danica Patrick … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Since you’re here… Motor sportcenter_img Support The Guardian Share on Twitter Share on WhatsApp Share on LinkedIn Facebook Publicly, both parties say this breakup is mutual. But anyone with a basic understanding of contract law well knows what an employer means to say when it decides against renewing an expiring agreement: basically, you’re fired. Surely team co-owner Tony Stewart was being ironic when he called his support for Patrick “unwavering”.In the case of this particular dismissal, however, there’s cause. And it’s not exclusively related to Patrick’s on-track performance, even though that concern dates to her days steering open-wheel machines in the IndyCar series. And while she certainly enjoyed her share of gender firsts – leading 19 laps of the 2005 Indianapolis 500, finishing third in ’09, actually winning a race in Japan the year prior – she didn’t enjoy nearly enough of them to recommend a transition to Nascar, where cars can seem unruly to even the most skilled pilots. Juan Pablo Montoya, a preternatural talent with seven Formula One wins and a pair of Indy’s Borg Warner trophies to his name, spent nine years in Nascar’s top series and only won twice. The highlight of him crashing into a jet dryer truck at the 2012 Daytona 500 will forever live in infamy.Incidentally, that race also marked Patrick’s debut in Sprint Cup, Nascar’s top flight. And while that outing didn’t go as planned (she finished 38th among 43 drivers), it was quickly reframed as a character-building experience after she earned the pole position in the race the very next year. Share on Pinterest Daytona 500: camping and carousing at the Great American Race – in pictures Share via Email Topics A 2016 partnership with Nature’s Bakery seemed like progress, not least because they were Nascar newbies. But then earlier this year the company abruptly pulled support, citing, among other things, her blatant promotion of competing products. (After trading lawsuits, Stewart-Haas and Nature’s Bakery settled out of court.) Soon thereafter, Smithfield Foods, a Virginia-headquartered meat processing concern, announced plans to begin subsidizing Stewart-Haas next year. But unlike Nature’s Bakery, they aren’t new to this game. In fact, they’ve been sponsoring Aric Almirola, another diversity test case who drives for a team fronted by Nascar legend Richard Petty, for some years now and he could very well convey in the deal. That leaves Patrick as the odd woman out. Familiar territory, then.Where she lands next is anyone’s guess. The most appealing open seats on the grid have already been promised to a handful of younger, cheaper talents who owe their career breaks to the procession of retiring Nascar stars. Two years ago it was Gordon. Last year it was Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. Up next is Dale Earnhardt Jr, with Patrick potentially out the door with him. If you didn’t have a reason to tune in the last nine weeks of the Nascar season before, certainly you do now.If Patrick never races again, it won’t be a tragedy. She’s far richer than all of her women driver forebears put together. What’s more, she’s already laid enough groundwork, between Instagram photos of yoga routines and meatless meals, to position her as a health and wellness ambassador in the Jillian Michaels mold. She’s likely to maintain a presence around the track too, whether that’s as the trophy girlfriend of Ricky Stenhouse Jr – an ascendant example from that aforementioned younger, cheaper driver cohort – or as a broadcast analyst, which would represent yet another mind-blowing feat.And that, right there, is the beauty of Danica Patrick: she’s an instrument of male and female fantasy, the sports pinup who grinds harder for feminism, day-to-day, than the great Billie Jean King ever could. It’s a story almost too good to be true. In the fullness of time, we’ll see if history, or Hollywood, remembers it that way. Facebook Twitter Reuse this contentlast_img read more

The dullest game in World Cup history: Switzerland v Ukraine in 2006

first_img Twitter features Read more Which is your favourite World Cup? The question of what makes a football match great has no objectively correct answer but ask a range of people and a few themes are likely to emerge: goals, end-to-end action, intensity, quality, drama, incident, controversy. Switzerland versus Ukraine was lacking in all seven of these departments.“The tedium of much of this occasion should not detract from Ukraine’s achievement,” wrote Dominic Fifield in his match report. “It was to be admired, even if it was occasionally exasperating to watch.” The BBC echoed these sentiments, albeit in more diplomatic tones: “In a tightly contested match both teams found it difficult to create clear openings in the penalty area, with the game’s best chances coming from set pieces as well as some powerful long-range shots.” Even Fifa’s own report struggled to find a positive angle, describing it as a “scrappy affair devoid of highlights” that “could never develop any genuine flow.”On TV, Ray Stubbs said: “Dull doesn’t quite do it justice. Franz Beckenbauer must have wondered why he gave up a night of his honeymoon to see the match.” A highlights package broadcast by ITV later that night skipped straight to the penalty shootout to “prevent the TV audience from taking further punishment.” Italy 4-3 West Germany this was not. The five questions Gareth Southgate must answer in England’s friendlies World Cup 2006 Ricardo Cabanas was one of three Swiss players to miss a penalty in the shootout against Ukraine. Photograph: Bernd Thissen/EPA World Cup 2018 This is bloody awful,” said subtlety’s Mick McCarthy, cursing his luck at being placed on co-commentary duty Pinterest Topics Read more Share on Pinterest Pinterest Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder, but there are some things even the most steadfast of contrarians would struggle to find attractive. One such example was the last-16 match between Switzerland and Ukraine at the 2006 World Cup, a game so dull that dishwater should take offence if ever mentioned in the same sentence as this horrorshow.Ukraine eventually emerged victorious after 120 excruciating minutes, Oleg Blokhin’s side triumphing in a penalty shootout that featured only a marginal increase in quality on what had gone on before. Reaching the quarter-finals in their first – and so far only – World Cup was a commendable accomplishment for Ukraine, but there’s an argument that both sides should have been immediately expelled from the tournament. Twitter Other World Cup knockout ties have dropped off in intensity in extra time, but no other game has started from such a low base. Tranquillo Barnetta was the only player to receive a yellow card in two hours of what can only loosely be termed football; a dearth of quality can sometimes be excused, but Switzerland and Ukraine didn’t even have the decency to give us a bit of needle.And so to penalties, where the contest threatened to descend into total farce after Shevchenko and Marco Streller missed the first two spot-kicks. “Is anybody going to score in Cologne tonight?” Guy Mowbray asked, clinging ever tighter to his sanity. McCarthy, only half-joking, suggested tossing a coin to decide the winner.Ball was finally introduced to net when 21-year-old Artem Milevskiy showed great nerve to coolly convert a Panenka and edge Ukraine in front in the shootout. Barnetta then blazed his effort against the bar and Serhiy Rebrov made no mistake, before Ricardo Cabanas’ miss left Switzerland staring defeat in the face. Up stepped Ukraine right-back Oleh Husyev, whose emphatic finish sent his country into the quarter-finals. Switzerland, meanwhile, became the first team in World Cup history not to score a single penalty in a shootout and the first to exit the competition without conceding a goal. Facebook Share on Messenger Part of the joy of football lies in the unknown, the utter ignorance of what you’re going to see when you arrive at the stadium or turn on the TV. It wouldn’t be as fun if every game was a 4-4 thriller. Perhaps the two teams did everyone a favour, reminding us that entertaining encounters should be cherished when they come around. You need the lows to appreciate the highs. Even though Ukraine 0-0 Switzerland was the dullest game in World Cup history, we should still be thankful it unfolded as it did. Let’s just hope there isn’t a repeat in Russia this summer – once in a lifetime is more than enough.• This is an article from The Set Pieces• Follow Greg Lea and The Set Pieces on Twitter Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Switzerland World Cup Share on WhatsApp Share via Email Facebook Ukraine captain Andriy Shevchenko hitting the crossbar with a header and Switzerland striker Alexander Frei hitting the woodwork with a well-struck free-kick were the only moments of note in the first half. The 15-minute interval brought welcome respite, but the early stages of the second period made it obvious that no teacups had been sent flying in the dressing rooms at half-time. Both sides, it seemed, were perfectly happy with how the opening 45 minutes had played out.Ukraine started the brighter after the break but failed to test Pascal Zuberbuhler in the Switzerland goal, with Andriy Voronin’s speculative long-ranger the only time the Basel goalkeeper was called into action before the hour-mark. Not that the Swiss fared any better: the first time they tested Ukrainian goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy was an overhit free-kick which was drifting well wide of the target anyway. “This is bloody awful,” said subtlety’s Mick McCarthy, cursing his luck at being placed on co-commentary duty for the evening. Tell us what you really think, Mick.The final chance in the game came in the 75th minute, when a flicked header from Ukraine’s Andriy Husin sailed narrowly wide of the far post after Zuberbuhler had flapped unconvincingly at Maksym Kalynychenko’s corner. After that, nothing. Reuse this content Share on LinkedIn Ukraine In hindsight, we should have known what was coming. Both teams put great stock in keeping their sheets clean: Switzerland had topped a group containing France, Togo and South Korea without conceding goal; and this was Ukraine’s eighth clean sheets in nine games in 2006. The 45,000 spectators inside Cologne’s RheinEnergieStadion were never likely to be treated to a spectacle.Even so, the opening stages passed by without anything that even resembled an incident. Johan Cruyff used to implore his players to treat the ball as a friend; on that basis, the Adidas Teamgeist must have severely wronged all 22 players on the pitch. Neither side was able to retain possession for very long, with a flurry of hurried passes and sloppy touches giving way to what must be the earliest Mexican wave in the history of football. Occasionally a deviant maverick would look to break forward and progress up the pitch, but such missteps were quickly quashed as both teams resumed their joint endeavour to cure insomnia. Ukraine go through. Finally. Photograph: Murad Sezer/AP Guardian Sport Networklast_img read more

John McGinn more than proves his worth in Aston Villa promotion

first_imgShare on LinkedIn Share via Email Topics ‘We had to dig deep’: Tammy Abraham on Aston Villa’s promotion to the Premier League – video Share on Pinterest Aston Villa Share on WhatsApp Aston Villa in Premier League heaven with Wembley play-off win over Derby Play Video 1:12 Sportblog Read morecenter_img Championship “Sometimes in football you have to take risks and challenge yourself,” McGinn said. “I think some people had the perception I’m just a runner, just a hard-working player. I think I am that – but I think I’ve got a lot more to my game. I had to come down here and challenge myself against stronger, faster players to show that I can offer a lot more. There are always going to be doubters but hopefully I can show what I can do in the Premier League.”For Villa fans, proudly rejoicing about “super John McGinn” as the song goes, one that a joyous Smith was singing as his midfielder held court after the match, this is nothing new. Here was yet another near-flawless performance, perhaps best encapsulated by his hounding of Kelle Roos, the Derby goalkeeper, midway through the second half.McGinn is happy fire-fighting, harrying, inventing, as well as scoring screamers – as typified against Sheffield Wednesday in September. The modest – and menacing – McGinn, signed by Steve Bruce, admitted he feared he might not make the grade after struggling in his first couple of training sessions last August. Ten months on how silly that now seems.All in all, it proved a hugely satisfying weekend for the McGinn family, given that on Sunday his elder brothers, Stephen and Paul, ensured St Mirren maintained their Scottish Premiership status. McGinn will be Stephen’s best man on Friday and here he was the best man on the pitch. But it was not just McGinn who came to the fore when his team needed him most, as typified by a well-worked Villa opener. The unfashionable Albert Adomah, who came within hours of returning to Middlesbrough in August, and the 31-year-old Ahmed Elmohamady combined down the right, the latter delivering a wondrous ball towards the back post for Anwar El Ghazi, a lovely, frustrating player capable of the sublime and the ridiculous, to convert.Until Villa established a two-goal buffer, the worry – once again – was that Grealish, a supremely talented No 10, was trying too hard, cropping up at left-back and holding midfield to pick up possession. Once McGinn had seized on Roos’s error, Grealish could relax, backed up by his teammates, especially Conor Hourihane, the former Plymouth midfielder who has proved a trusty midfield anchor after patiently waiting for his chance.Then there was Tyrone Mings, a colossus at centre-back who was forced off through injury after making a lung-busting run to prevent Martyn Waghorn from getting a shot on goal.The composure of Mings and Axel Tuanzebe made Derby’s harum-scarum defending look all the more shaky. “I said to John on the pitch: ‘Keep going, you’re the engine of the team’ and it’s absolutely true,” Mings said.“He has such a great desire, so when you have a player like that it is easy to go and back him up when you see how he’s working for you.”Grealish’s influence on Villa cannot be overstated – no one is more deserving of a Premier League stage – especially given how he shone during an end-of-season run that now translates to two defeats in 16 matches, including a 10-match winning run, but others did the damage here. With McGinn’s tireless midfield energy, Villa always seemed shatterproof. Share on Twitter Derby County Above a baying, swaying sea of claret and blue Jack Grealish, alongside James Chester, lifted the play-off winners’ trophy high in the royal box but it was the Aston Villa captain’s overlooked supporting cast that propelled them to the Premier League.Chief among these was John McGinn, the Glaswegian who spent the buildup to the final telling everyone there is more to Grealish than junior-size shin pads, flashy haircuts and sunbeds. By the same token that Grealish is not the Jack the lad his manager, Dean Smith, said he envisaged on taking the job in October, McGinn is much more than just a nagging nuisance in midfield. He was a ubiquitous presence – the bargain of the season at £2.7m from Hibernian – and it was fitting his goal sealed victory. features Share on Facebook Share on Messenger Reuse this contentlast_img read more