Monday, 8 December 2014

After Ronaldo, Messi nets hat-trick; clocks 400 goals!

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi continued their extraordinary double act, both scoring hat-tricks as Real Madrid and Barcelona maintained their battle for supremacy at the top of La Liga over the weekend. Lionel Messi scored yet another hat-trick and surpassed 400club goals as Barcelona came from behind to win the Catalan derby 5-1 against Espanyol in La Liga. The Argentine, who holds the La Liga and Champions League scoring records, produced a familiar devastating performance to take his record to 402 goals for Barca in all competitions, including 28 in friendlies. Messi produced his tour de force a day after Cristiano Ronaldo, his rival for title of world's best player, scored a La Liga record 23rd hat-trick in league leaders Real Madrid's 3-0 victory over Celta Vigo at the Bernabeu. European champions Real extended their club record winning streak to 18 matches in all competitions, staying two points clear of Barca while champions Atletico Madrid are a further two behind after their 2-0 victory at Elche.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Sindhu defends Macau Open title!

Two-time World Championship bronze medallist P V Sindhu lifted her first title of the season by successfully defending the USD 120,000 Macau Grand Prix Gold trophy after seeing off Kim Hyo Min of Korea in the women's singles finals, here Sunday. 

World No. 11 Sindhu prevailed over 91st-ranked, Kim 21-12 21-17 in the summit clash that lasted 45 minutes at the Tap Seac Multi-sport Pavilion here. 

The bronze-medallist at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Sindhu faced tough competition from Kim, who had come into the finals after beating seventh seed Chinese Yu Sun but the experienced Indian held her nerves to stave off the challenge from the Korean. 

Kim started off on an aggressive note and found the gaps easily to lead 3-0. Sindhu slowly started to decode her rival's game and not only clawed back at 6-6 with deceptive net play but led 7-6. 

Kim wriggled her way out of difficult situation with the help of her back hand returns but she faced resistance from the experienced Sindhu, who used her smashes to notch up winners and entered the interval 11-8 up.

Sindhu dominated the long rallies after the break and caught Kim at the forecourt twice. She also earned points with her soft taps to rush to 19-9 when Kim failed to return a net shot.

The Korean earned a couple of winners with her cross court returns but Sindhu soon reached the game point after making Kim run to four corners of the court. The Indian then clinched the opening game in 20 minutes with a sharp return which Kim couldn't negotiate.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Sindhu storms into Macau Open final!

Leading woman shuttler P.V. Sindhu entered the women's singles final of the $120,000 Macau Open Grand Prix Gold, registering a comprehensive win over Thailand's Busanan Ongbumrungpan here Saturday. 

Defending champion Sindhu had a facile 21-14, 21-15 win over the World No.23 in 42 minutes at the Tap Seac Multisport Pavilion here. With this win, the Indian World No.11 also extended a 5-0 lead in career meetings.

Busanan tried her best but she failed against the two-time World Championships bronze medalist Indian, who played aggressively. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Phillip Hughes: The showstopper is no more!

The Baggy Green Cap 408 is now history. It belonged to someone who was humble, kind and generous. He was an artist whose inimitable bold brush strokes made Australian cricketing canvas look bright and dazzling.

But, on Thursday the artist walked into a silent land where no one can go with him hand in hand.

The cricketing world has come to a standstill; cricketers are left in a state of shock and fans across the globe are mourning the death of Australian cricketer Phil Hughes.  

Hughes was felled by a bouncer at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday and after a 48-hour battle, the talented southpaw who had the world at his feet breathed his last.

The phrase, "for the love of the game” is referred to the passion that athletes have for the sport they play. Far away from the playing arena, the usual impression created in one's mind is that of sportspersons spending most of their time honing their skills, often sacrificing life's simple joys.

No matter whom they represent - club or nation, every athlete plays the sport to win. But, despite such dedication, the very saying "for the love of the game" isn't uttered to refer to athletes who have lost their lives while playing the sport they love.

Sadly, encountering death while playing a sport is an unfortunate fate. And when Hughes collapsed on Tuesday afternoon, the world had only hoped he cover-drives death away and springs back to life. However, with just three days shy of his 26th birthday, the world was left devastated as both a nation and the game lost a dear son. 

His friend, Alan Jones said that Hughes had wished to score his 26th first-class century to coincide with his 26th birthday. Alas it was not to be...

Australia is heartbroken. The showstopper is no more.

Rarely has cricket united hearts. But on the saddest day, players across nations shared the pain, cried in sorrow as a pall of gloom descended on the cricketing world.

It wasn't the first ever bouncer bowled in the history of the game. The likes of Mike Gatting (Nose broken), Andy Lloyd (Hit in the temple), Rick McCosker (Broken jaw), Nari Contractor (Skull fracture), Ahmed Shehzad (Skull fracture) had serious injuries but recovered after undergoing surgeries.

Even Hughes was expected to come back. Everyone thought it was a matter of time. But little did the world knew that Hughes was running out of time.

The blow to head is not new and can happen to any cricketer. A pull and a miss. Timing was the key. But Hughes was just a fraction late and that meant it was too late. When the clock stopped at the SCG, the scorecard showed Hughes was unbeaten on 63 and Hughes will forever remain so.
The news came as a bolt from the blue as twitter was flooded with condolence messages. And while the entire world is still weeping, another young man is in a complete state of distress.

In 1975, England's Peter Lever almost killed New Zealand's Ewen Chatfield. After Chatfield was brought back to life, Lever said, "I felt sick and ashamed at what I had done, and all I could think when I got back to the pavilion was that I wanted to retire."

If Lever could feel that, imagine what Abbott must be feeling now. We can't, none of us can. He must have been broken, inconsolable.

Just a month ago, both Hughes and Abbott made their T20 debut together in Dubai against Pakistan. They shared the same dressing room, shared high-fives. Each one plied their own trade. Hughes with the bat and Abbott with the ball.

After six weeks, both Hughes and Abbott were back to the same business. Although, this time they were pitted against each other, they were out in the middle doing what they both love to. Playing cricket.

But catastrophically, a single delivery shook the world, with Hughes leaving the world with a task to fulfill. To take care of Abbott. He did no wrong. He is not guilty. He is not at fault. Neither of them were. 

 Cricket lovers are left mourning the loss of Hughes, Abbott is left with a double blow to deal with - to come in terms with the loss of his dear friend and to survive from the nightmarish replays of that one single delivery which will  haunt him for the rest of his life.

From Michael Clarke to Ricky Ponting, the whole of the Australian side stood beside Hughes bedside with a prayer on the lips. The players were hoping for a miracle.

They all joined hands, stood by each other, kept vigil on their dear Hughesy but alas this time the little champion couldn't hang around, the battle was lost.

Soon flags flew at half-mast at cricket grounds in Australia, a day's play between Pakistan and New Zealand was suspended, well wishers left bouquets, players bowed heads in prayer and tears welled the eyes of Australian players who filed out of the hospital after bidding farewell to their beloved team-mate.

The journey of a young man who became the youngest to score a century in each innings of a Test has ended. It's time for his family to gather strength and spend the rest of their lives with fond memories as the pallbearers will soon carry the coffin of 25-year-old Phillip Joel Hughes.

Cricket, sometimes, is cruel. 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Messi sets Champions League goals record!

  Barcelona forward Lionel Messi set a Champions League scoring record of 74 goals when he netted a hat-trick in Tuesday's 4-0 Group F win at APOEL Nicosia.  The Barca and Argentina captain surpassed the record of 71 he jointly held with former Real Madrid and Schalke 04 striker Raul when he put his side 2-0 ahead shortly before halftime. Luis Suarez too netted his first goal in the Barcelona jersey on Messi's big night. The 27-year-old added two more goals in the second half to complete his 31st career treble, his fifth in Europe's elite club competition and the first in which he has scored all three with his less-favoured right foot. ​'I am pleased to have achieved such a nice record in such a nice and important competition but the really important thing is the three points,' Messi said in a television interview. ​His achievement is the latest milestone in a stellar career and comes three days after he broke the six decades-old La Liga scoring record with a hat-trick in Barca's 5-1 home win over Sevilla. Messi overhauled former Athletic Bilbao striker Telmo Zarra’s tally of 251 goals, set in 1955, and has 253 in 289 league games for the Catalan club he joined as a 13-year-old. Messi's 74 Champions League goals came in 91 appearances, while Raul needed 142 for Real and Schalke 04 for his 71. Real forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who ended Messi’s four-year run as World Player of the Year in 2013 with his second award, has scored 70 Champions League goals in 107 matches. Barca had already qualified for the Champions League last 16 along with group leaders Paris St Germain, who won 3-1 at home to Ajax Amsterdam. Barca need to beat the Ligue 1 side when they meet at the Nou Camp on Dec. 10 to secure top spot. 'We will try to keep going in the same way and meet the objectives we set ourselves at the start of the season,' Messi said.

'The PSG match is going to be tough. They have some very good players and they are a team who are growing and improving all the time. 'But we are playing at home so we'll try to play a great match and finish first in the group.'

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth Win China Open Titles!

 Kidambi Srikanth beat home favourite Lin Dan of China to record the biggest win in his career and win the prestigious China Open Super Series men's singles title. Saina Nehwal had earlier won the women's title by beating Japan's Akane Yamaguchi in straight sets. 

Kidambi Srikanth recorded a rare feat by an Indian when he beat home favourite and two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan (21-19, 21-17) to win the China Open Super Series tournament on Sunday. This was the biggest win of his career so far.

The 21-year-old from Andhra Pradesh showed nerves of steel to produce a dominating performance which helped him see off five-time world champion Lin 21-19 21-17 in the men's singles final which lasted 46 minutes here.

Srikanth, who won the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold last year, had finished runners-up at the 2014 India Open Grand Prix Gold event in Lucknow and was a quarter-finalist in this year's Malaysian Open.

He was also a part of the Indian badminton contingent that reached the semifinals of the mixed team event at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

This is the first time any Indian male shuttler has won a Super Series Premier event ever since the Super Series and Premier tournaments were introduced.

India completed a rare doubles in singles at the China tournament after Saina Nehwal's win in the women's section earlier. Saina beat Japan's Akane Yamaguchi 21-12, 22-20 in her sixth appearance at the China Open. Saina has now moved to number five in the world rankings.

While Srikanth took 46 minutes to bring Lin Dan down, Saina's women's singles final lasted 42 minutes at the Haixia Olympic Sport Center.

This is Saina's third title of the year as the Indian had won the Australian Super Series in June, besides clinching the Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold early in the year.

In her sixth appearance in the prestigious tournament, Saina had to draw from her reservoir of experience to stave off the challenge of the athletic Akane.

In the opening game, Saina led 3-1 early on and extended it to 8-4. She lost few points due to miscued strokes but the Indian managed to go into the interval with a four-point lead with the help of an angled stroke and down the line smash.

Saina controlled the shuttle and the pace of the game and forced her young rival to commit errors, opening up a healthy 14-7 lead.

Akane showed sparks of brilliance but it was not enough to threaten Saina, who moved into game point with a delicate net shot and then a disguised return to earn the bragging rights.

Akane produced a better performance in the second game. The 17-year-old was quick on her legs and bothered Saina with her straight smashes to enter the break with a slender 11-9 lead.

The closing moments of the second game turned out to be nerve-wrecking as both the shuttlers engaged in aggressive rallies before the experienced Indian clawed her way back at 14-14.

Saina mixed her strokes well to dominate the rallies but she still found it difficult to find a chink in the Japanese's armour who returned everything that was directed at her.

At 18-18, Saina earned a point with a disguised net shot but the Indian hit one long and then missed another point to allow Akane to close in at 20-19. However, a couple of long shots by the Japanese swung the match other way, sealing the title in the Indian's name.

Kohli ton completes whitewash!

India skipper Virat Kohli led from the front with a smashing unbeaten century to guide his team to a three-wicket win in the fifth and final One-Day International (ODI), clean-sweeping the series 5-0 at the JSCA International Stadium here Sunday.

On a day of captains, Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews hammered a brilliant 139 not out to guide the visitors to a challenging total of 286/8 after electing to bat. However, despite a few hiccups, Kohli's knock of 139 not out off 126 deliveries -- his 21st ODI ton -- guided India home with eight balls to spare.

After hitting his first ODI century, Mathews gave Sri Lanka a brilliant chance in the match as he bowled Indian openers Ajinkya Rahane (2) and Rohit Sharma (9), who hit a world-record 264 in the previous match at Kolkata, with the score reading 14/2 in the fifth over.

In come Ambati Rayudu (59) and man of the series Kohli who joined hands to strike an important 136-run third-wicket partnership to stabilise the reeling Indian ship. Rayudu hit a smooth half-century, which included eight boundaries and a six, with Kohli giving him good company.

However, a terrible misunderstanding led to Rayudu's run-out with India's score at 150.

Ajantha Mendis' spin became a mystery for Indian batsman as the 29-year-old made a brilliant turnaround for the visitors, giving them a real chance to salvage a win.

Mendis took the wickets of Robin Uthappa (19), debutant Kedar Jadhav (20), Stuart Binny (12) and Ravichandran Ashwin (0) to turn the tables on India with the target suddenly looking monumental with their score at 231/7.

Kohli, however, slowly kept the run-flow going and finally found support in left-hander Axar Patel (17 not out).

Once he got the support he needed, the stand-in India skipper hit a flurry of sixes and boundaries and the target kept getting closer and closer till Kohli hit a six to win the match -- and clean-sweep the series.

Earlier, Sri Lanka got off to a decent start with opener Tillakaratne Dilshan (35) in punishing mood.
Debutant Niroshan Dickwella (4) was the first to be dismissed in the fifth over. The visitors suffered another setback in the next over as the dangerous Dilshan was sent packing by the innocuous medium-pace of Binny.

Sri Lanka lost some impetus after Dilshan's dismissal and lost further ground following two more quick strikes by India.

Wicketkeeper batsman Dinesh Chandimal's (5 runs off 31 balls) struggle at the crease was brought to an end by Patel, who picked up two wickets.

Former captain Mahela Jayawardene's (32) blossoming innings came to a pre-mature end as Sri Lanka slumped to 85/4 after 18.3 overs.

Man of the Match Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne (52) got together and stitched a 128-run stand for the fifth wicket to bring the islanders back in the game.

The Sri Lanka skipper smashed 10 sixes on way to his maiden hundred and, thanks to his blitzkrieg at the fag end of the innings, the visitors managed to score 73 runs off the final five overs despite losing three wickets.

Dhawal Kulkarni picked up three wickets but received some stick from the Sri Lankan batsmen, conceding 57 runs off his eight overs. Patel and Ashwin chipped in with two wickets each while Binny took one.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Saina in China Open final!

Leading Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal notched up a thrilling straight-game win to enter the women's singles final of the $700,000 China Open Super Series Premier here Saturday.

The Olympic bronze medallist defeated Chinese Liu Xin 21-17, 21-17 in 47 minutes at the Haixia Olympic Sport Center to take a 2-0 lead in career meetings. This is Saina's second Super Series final after clinching the Australian Open in June.

Sixth seed Saina will now face Japanese World No.35 Akane Yamaguchi, who upset South Korean fifth seed Yeon Ju Bae 21-10, 25-23 in the other semi-final, for their first ever match.

The World No.5 Indian took time to get into her rhythm and Liu looked the better among the duo at the start, taking a 7-4 lead to pressurise Saina briefly.

However, the 24-year-old Hyderabadi began to control the proceedings and equalised at 11-all. Saina went on to earn points regularly despite tough competition from the Chinese World No.17.

Liu conceded more points and taking advantage of that, Saina clinched the game in no time.

In the second game, it was a neck-and-neck contest till the 9-point mark before Saina bagged a 12-9 lead. Liu raised her game and managed to equalise at 14-all, also taking a two-point lead (16-14).

But Saina sent a flurry of cross-court smashes to grab a six-point lead and seal the game in her favour.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Rohit slams second double ton, breaks record!

Rohit Sharma created history by smashing the highest individual ODI score with a breathtaking knock of 264 as India thrashed Sri Lanka by 153 runs in the fourth cricket one-dayer to take a 4-0 lead in the five-match series, here at the Eden Gardens Thursday. 

Courtesy Rohit's mayhem, India scored a mammoth 404 for five and then easily bowled out the islanders for 251 in 43.1 overs. 

Returning after a 10-week injury lay-off, Rohit had everything going his way after being let-off on individual score of four. 

The Mumbaikar paced his innings to perfection as he first got set during the initial 50 runs before exploding against a clueless Lankan attack, as he scored his 264 off only 173 balls that had 33 fours and seven sixes.  

In the process, Rohit also broke compatriot Virender Sehwag's earlier world record of 219 runs, which he had set against West Indies in Indore, back in 2011. 

Rohit is also the only batsman to register two double centuries in ODIs and also now holds the record for highest number of boundaries during his innings. 

The epic milestone was reached when Rohit hit an elegant cover drive off Nuwan Kulasekara to become the first batsman with two double hundreds in ODIs. 

Rohit did have a bit of luck going his way as he was dropped twice after reaching his double hundred. 

The stylish right-hander was all set to carry his bat through before he was holed out in the long-off region off the final delivery of the Indian innings. 

Finally, he received a 'Guard of Honour' from his teammates, who stood on both sides outside the dressing room with spectators also giving him a standing ovation. 

It couldn't have been a more memorable innings on the 150th anniversary of the hallowed ground which has seen many outstanding individual performances. 

Rohit's magnificent knock will rank among the very best played at this ground by the likes of VVS Laxman, Mohammed Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar to name a few. 

The fifth and final match of the series will be played at Ranchi on November 16.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

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Friday, 11 July 2014

Argentina into World Cup final on penalties!

  Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-2 on penalties to reach the World Cup final after a dire two hours of defence-dominated football failed to provide a semifinal goal for the first time in the tournament's history on Wednesday.  Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved Ron Vlaar's first penalty then made a superb diving save to deny Wesley Sneijder, allowing Maxi Rodriguez to crash home the decisive kick as his side converted all four of their penalties.   The game was a forgettable one as the Dutch struggled to build any meaningful attacks and completed 90 minutes without a shot on target as Arjen Robben's last-minute effort was brilliantly blocked by Javier Mascherano. 
Argentina were not much more adventurous and had only a handful of half-chances to their name as, in total contrast to Tuesday's match when Germany waltzed through a wide open Brazil to win 7-1, both defences were absolutely on top.

​In Sunday's final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro Argentina will play Germany in a repeat of the 1986 and 1990 finals - the first time the same two teams will have faced each other three times in the decider. 

The Netherlands will play Brazil in the third-place playoff in Brasilia on Saturday.


Germany crush Brazil 7-1 to reach World Cup final!

  The nation whose attacking soccer has thrilled the world for generations was left heart-broken on Tuesday after Brazil's humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the World Cup semi-finals.  Brazil has hosted one of the most memorable World Cups ever but the country's dream of winning on home soil was not the only thing shattered by a ruthless Germany in an extraordinary match in Belo Horizonte.   The South American country's pride took a battering as the carnival atmosphere that had swept over the samba nation gave way to a state of shock and disbelief following Brazil's heaviest ever international defeat.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari issued a heart-felt apology to a country that had spent more than $11 billion to host the World Cup and invested its heart and soul in making the tournament a success.
"My message for the Brazilian people is this. Please excuse us for this performance," he said.
"I'm sorry that we weren't able to get to the final and we're going to try to win the third place match. We still have something to play for."
Germany played superbly but were aided by a woeful Brazilian defense, which conceded five goals in a devastating 18-minute burst in the first half.

An unmarked Thomas Mueller got the first from a corner after 11 minutes before Miroslav Klose struck to become the World Cup's all-time leading scorer with 16 goals.
Toni Kroos grabbed two in three minutes before Sami Khedira added a fifth in the 29th minute as boos rang out around the Mineirao stadium and young children in the crowd started to cry.

German substitute Andre Schuerrle struck twice more late in the second half before Oscar scored a last-minute goal that was of little consolation to the five-times world champions, who had waited 64 years to try to bury the ghost of their 1950 final home defeat by Uruguay.
'I just wanted to make my people happy,' said a sobbing Brazil defender David Luiz. 'Unfortunately, we couldn't. I'm sorry, I'm sorry to all Brazilians, I just wanted to see them smile, everyone knows how important it was.'  The hosts' defense simply caved in.  Germany have the chance to win the World Cup for the fourth time when they play the winners of Wednesday's semi-final between Argentina and the Netherlands in Sunday's final in Rio de Janeiro.  Many fans at Copacabana Beach, who had been happily singing and dancing with excitement before the game, left the planned party before halftime.  In Germany, the celebrations were in full swing, with hundreds of thousands of people flocking to the avenue stretching from the Brandenburg Gate to the golden statue-topped Victory Column in Berlin.  Organizers extended the fan zone to 1.3 kilometers in anticipation of the massive crowd who roared with excitement as each goal was banged into the Brazilian net.  'Five goals in 18 minutes. It???s clear that they were shocked and didn???t know what to do,' Germany coach Joachim Loew said.  'We played well in the first half obviously. But it continues. We need to be humble. We don't want to overvalue this.'  Germany's win came exactly 24 years to the day since their last World Cup triumph in 1990, when they beat Argentina in the final.  They lost to Brazil in the 2002 final and were knocked out in the semi-finals when they hosted the tournament in 2006.  'We had great hopes in 2006 too and you can feel the pressure that the hosts have in a match like this,' Loew said.  'All 200 million people here want you to get to the final. That can cause your players to tighten up. I feel sorry for him (Scolari). I think I know how he feels.' Toni Kroos, who scored two goals and set up Mueller's, said, 'we are here to be World Cup winners.''We played an incredible match. If someone had told me before the match that we'd win 7-1, I'd have said, 'good, we'll take it,'' Kroos said.  Kroos has been crucial in executing Germany's set pieces, especially from corners. Five of Germany's 17 goals at the tournament have come after corners, while one was a penalty.   The Germans have been practicing set pieces, part of the team's meticulous preparations that are paying off as it seeks to capture its first major title since the 1996 European Championship.  

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Brazil mull Neymar conundrum as consistent Germany loom!

Brazil must overcome the massive blow dealt by the injury to marquee forward Neymar if they are to beat frighteningly consistent Germany on Tuesday and book a World Cup final spot on home soil for a second time.

Brazil, chasing a sixth world title, are still reeling from Neymar's injury in their quarter-final win over Colombia, and the entire nation is holding its breath and hoping the team's chances have not been irreparably damaged.
Neymar, who scored four goals in the tournament, fractured a vertebra late in the game and will be out for the rest of the tournament but for Brazil there is no alternative but to get to the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 13.

Any other result would be a national catastrophe for the country of 200 million football-mad fans, similar to the 1950 final defeat by Uruguay, also in Brazil.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will be forced to reshuffle his team in two positions with captain Thiago Silva suspended for the game against opponents who have made a record fourth consecutive World Cup semi-final.

"We'll miss Neymar," team mate Oscar said. "Whoever comes in his place has to play as part of the team and beat Germany. "The best thing we do is play as a team and I just hope that whoever comes in plays well," the attacking midfielder said.

To play as well as Neymar is probably expecting too much of Willian, likely to be his understudy at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

Neymar has netted 35 times in 54 games for Brazil, more than anyone else in the squad and Scolari has selected him for every one of the 27 matches he has coached since returning to manage Brazil for a second time in 2012.

But if anyone knows how to beat the Germans it is Scolari who led Brazil to their most recent world title in 2002 with a 2-0 victory over Germany in the final in what is, surprisingly, the teams' only previous World Cup meeting.


The European heavyweights' consistency since then is nothing short of spectacular, coming back as title contenders every four years and making the semi-finals in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

However, what they have failed to do is lift a fourth trophy, stumbling at the penultimate hurdle each time.

Without a World Cup win since 1990 and an international title since Euro 96, the Germans are convinced they finally have a team that can deliver the killer punch.

"I can only urge you to go and reward yourselves," German football association President Wolfgang Niersbach told the players through the announcement system on board the airplane back from their 1-0 quarter-final win over France on Friday.

"Reward yourselves by doing in this last week exactly what you have been doing so far. You have it in you and we all want to return again to the Maracana in Rio. Let's stick together because then we can land the big coup."

Less exciting and less youthful than 2010 but arguably more efficient and experienced, the Germans did not need to fire on all cylinders against France, scoring an early goal and holding on to their lead with relative ease.

The backline with Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels as central defenders worked like clockwork, eliminating most threats from France forward Karim Benzema, while their quick switch to attack also operated like a well-oiled German machine.

"We will now try to take that next step," coach Joachim Loew said. "The team is strong and stable. In the past five tournaments (World Cups and Euros) we reached the semis. Now it's time at this semi-final to move a step further."

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Djokovic beats Federer to win Wimbledon, regain No. 1 spot!

  Novak Djokovic won his second Wimbledon title and seventh career major with a 6-7 (7/9), 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 6-4 victory over Roger Federer Sunday, shattering the Swiss star's dream of a record eighth triumph in a titanic struggle. Victory allowed the top seeded Serb, also the 2011 winner, to end a run of three successive defeats in Grand Slam finals.   But the 27-year-old struggled to get across the finish line having surrendered a 5-2 lead in the fourth set and then a match point.  Defeat for 32-year-old Federer, who won the most recent of his 17 Grand Slam titles at the All England Club in 2012, ended his bid to become the oldest Wimbledon champion in the Open Era and of breaking the tie of seven titles he shares with Pete Sampras.  

Grow a second income!

Krul shootout saves send Dutch into semis!

The Netherlands advanced to a World Cup semi-final with Argentina by beating Costa Rica on penalties after a cagey, tactical last-eight battle finished 0-0 after extra-time on Saturday.
Substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul, introduced just for the shootout, saved from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana as the Netherlands triumphed 4-3.

Costa Rica defended deeply from the start and goalkeeper Keylor Navas, whose performances have played a large part in his country's run to the quarter-finals for the first time, was again in sharp form with a series of saves, while Wesley Sneijder hit a post with an 81st-minute free kick and Robin van Persie had a scrambled shot cleared off the line in stoppage time of normal time.   The game blew wide open in extra time as Marcos Urena had a chance to win it for Costa Rica but had a shot well saved by Jasper Cillessen, while Sneijder hit the bar again two minutes from the end. 

Argentina beat Belgium to reach first semi since 1990!

  Gonzalo Higuain's first goal of this World Cup sent Argentina into the semifinals on Saturday with a 1-0 win over a disappointing Belgium.  Argentina, which hadn't advanced past the World Cup quarterfinals since 1990, put in its best performance so far in the tournament, controlling the match after Higuain's eighth minute goal. The Napoli striker fired home Angel Di Maria's deflected pass just inside the area, beating Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with a low shot to the far corner of the net.  
 Higuain came close to making it 2-0 in the second half when his shot smashed into the crossbar.
Belgium lacked the creativity to find a way past Argentina's defensive line, and created few clear chances apart from a pair of headers by Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini. 

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Federer sets up Djokovic final!

Seven-time champion Roger Federer dismantled the big-serving game of Canadian Milos Raonic to reach his ninth Wimbledon final.

The Swiss, 32, broke Raonic in the first game and went on to win 6-4 6-4 6-4 in one hour and 42 minutes.
He will take on top seed Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final, after the Serb beat Grigor Dimitrov in four sets.

Federer is trying to win his 18th Grand Slam title, and his first since beating Andy Murray at Wimbledon in 2012.

Fifteen years after making his first appearance at the All England Club, Federer has the chance to extend the record he has already set for major victories and break new ground for Wimbledon titles in the men's game.

"That was a big victory," said the Swiss, who lost in the second round last year. "I really had to focus on every point. I know that is always the case at this stage but it was hard.

"I had to be very careful on my service games and I knew there were only going to be a few chances on his serve, but I am very, very happy.

"I played some great tennis under pressure at times because I didn't play well here last year, and I expect a lot of myself. In the second week I have played better as the week has gone on.

"Now I can look forward to another great match with Novak."

Brazil striker Neymar to miss rest of World Cup!

 With tears streaming down his face after being kneed in the back, Neymar was carried off the field on a stretcher.

He won't be coming back. Not to this World Cup, anyway.

The 22-year-old Brazil striker, the one with the hopes of a nation on his shoulders, was ruled out of the rest of the tournament after fracturing his third vertebra during Friday's 2-1 quarterfinal win over Colombia.

"It's a big loss for us," Brazil midfielder Fernandinho said. "We need to find a way to stay together and become stronger after losing our greatest player. We will try to win this World Cup and for sure we will dedicate it to Neymar."

Neymar is the biggest football star in Brazil, and one of the biggest at the tournament along with Argentina forward Lionel Messi. His face has been plastered on billboards and shown on television continuously, leading many of his staunchest supporters to copy his dyed-blonde fauxhawk.

His millions of fans had expected Neymar's World Cup to end with him holding the trophy, not being carried off the field in tears.

Neymar was kneed by Colombia defender Juan Camilo Zuniga late in the second half at the Arena Castelao. He was taken to a private clinic and was released a short time later.

He was not expected to need surgery, Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said, but he will also not be able to face Germany on Tuesday in the World Cup semifinals.

"He will not be in condition to play, he will need a few weeks to be fit again," Lasmar said. "He is very, very sad."

About 50 Brazil fans, many still wearing the team's jerseys, crowded outside the clinic where Neymar was taken, while the ambulance that carried him remained parked in front, lights blazing.

Neymar was hurt in the 86th minute, falling to the ground in pain after Zuniga jumped into him from behind.

Brazil teammate Marcelo quickly called for medical assistance when he saw Neymar writhing in pain. Neymar stayed face down until team doctors arrived and put him on a stretcher.

"Everybody knew that Neymar would be hunted," Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "It's been happening in the last three matches and we had been talking about it. But nobody listens to us."

Friday's match ended with 54 fouls in total — 31 by Brazil and 23 by Colombia. Scolari said Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo should have done more to take control of the match.

According to Hulk, another of Brazil's striker, Neymar needs more protection from the officials.
"Every time is like this. Players always come after Neymar," Hulk said. "The referees need to do more to keep this from happening."

P.S. - Associated Press video journalist Renata Brito contributed to this report.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Brazil seals win over Colombia, reach the semis!

  Brazil hung on by its fingernails in the final 10 minutes of the match, but advanced to the World Cup semifinals, edging Colombia 2-1 in Fortaleza on Friday.  Captain Thiago Silva scored early in the match and David Luiz gave Brazil a 2-0 lead with a rocket of a free kick in the 69th minute.   Leading scorer James Rodríguez brought Colombia within one when he scored on a penalty in the 80th minute but the Colombians couldn’t tie it.  Germany stands in the way of Brazil’s return to the Maracana for the World Cup final. The two sides clash in the semifinal on Tuesday.  But the host nation will be holding its collective breath, as Neymar was carried off on a stretcher in the final moments of the match, after he was fouled hard and appeared to injure his back.  

Germany reach record fourth-straight semifinal!

  Germany reached the semifinals for a fourth straight World Cup by beating France 1-0 Friday in a cagey match settled by a first-half header from Mats Hummels.  The center back headed Toni Kroos' free kick in off the underside of the bar in the 13th minute in one of the few chances created in muggy conditions at Maracana stadium.   Germany will play Brazil or Colombia in the semifinals on Tuesday as it seeks a fourth world title. France struggled to impose its attacking game in the face of a robust, experienced Germany side that seemed more comfortable on the big stage.  Mathieu Valbuena and Karim Benzema had France's best chances saved in the first half, with the German lineup holding off late pressure with apparent ease.   

Thursday, 3 July 2014

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Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Belgium defeats US 2-1, books date with Argentina!

  Belgium overcame a world-class goalkeeping performance and a furious American comeback in extra time to book a spot in the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals, edging the U.S. 2-1 on Tuesday.  The Belgians applied nearly constant pressure on the U.S. defence before breaking through in the 93rd minute, when Kevin De Bruyne made a great move in close and finally put a shot past Tim Howard.   Romelu Lukaku added a second Belgian marker in the 105th minute, which seemed to seal the win for Belgium.  But the Americans sparked back to life in the 107th minute, when Julian Green brought the U.S. back within one with a great volley.  That provided a grandstand finish to the match, but the Americans couldn’t find another goal.  Howard had a magnificent game in the American net, as Belgium directed 38 shots on goal, forcing 16 saves out of Howard, the most by any keeper so far in Brazil.  Belgium faces Argentina in the quarter-finals on Saturday.   

Argentina scrape 1-0 extra time win over Swiss!

  Angel Di Maria scored in the 118th minute Tuesday to give Argentina a 1-0 win over Switzerland after extra time and a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals.  With a penalty shootout looming, Lionel Messi made a surging run toward the Swiss area and laid the ball off to Di Maria on the right, and the winger sent a left-foot shot past diving goalkeeper Diego Benaglio. Blerim Dzemaili nearly equalized right before the end but his header hit the post, and the rebound bounced off his knee and wide of the goal. Benaglio had previously kept Switzerland in the game when got a hand on Di Maria’s shot in 109th minute.
Argentina will play the winner of Belgium and the United States.

Germany labour to win against Algeria!

  Substitute Andre Schuerrle and Mesut Ozil scored in extra time to lead Germany over an aggressive Algeria 2-1 and into the World Cup quarterfinals.  Thomas Mueller provided a cross from the left flank that was slightly behind Schuerrle. The Germany forward dragged his leg and backheeled the ball into the far corner in the 92nd minute, leaving goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi with no chance.   Ozil added the second in the 120th, and Abdelmoumene Djabou pulled one back in injury time for Algeria. 
 Germany will next face France on Friday at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

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