Michel Platini backs Samir Nasri over journalist row

Platini backs Nasri on journalist row, calling rumours of two-year France ban 'ludicrous'

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UPDATED:

15:14 GMT, 30 June 2012

UEFA president Michel Platini has branded claims Samir Nasri could be banned for two years by France for his behaviour at Euro 2012 'absolutely ludicrous'.

After the debacle that unfolded in South Africa two years ago, morale in the French camp unravelled once more this summer.

Nasri was at the centre of it following intense criticism about the Manchester City man's performances.

Fiery character: Samir Nasri lost his rag with a French journalist

Fiery character: Samir Nasri lost his rag with a French journalist

The midfielder gesticulated angrily to the stands following his equaliser in the opening game against England.

Then he got himself in a four-letter exchange with a journalist following France's exit to Spain in Donetsk.

Sensitive to what went on before, it has been suggested Nasri faces a lengthy suspension from international duty.

Laughed off: Michel Platini (right)

Laughed off: Michel Platini (right)

But Platini, France's captain when they won the European Championships in 1984, feels that would be a wrong move.

'If I got suspended every time I insulted a journalist I wouldn't have had many caps,' he said.

'Whether Samir Nasri deserves something I have heard talk of two-year suspension but that's absolutely ludicrous.'

Euro 2012 final: Mario Balotelli has right attitude to help Italy beat Spain – Cesare Prandelli

Balotelli now has the attitude to match the talent, insists Prandelli as Italy prepare for Euro 2012 final showdown with Spain

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UPDATED:

16:34 GMT, 30 June 2012

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has praised Mario Balotelli's attitude ahead of Sunday's Euro 2012 final with Spain.

Balotelli needs one more goal to take the lead in the Golden Boot standings, knowing achieving that aim would take Italy a long way towards lifting the trophy.

It has seemed the 21-year-old has thrived on the responsibility Prandelli has afforded him during these championships, and his semi-final double was proof of that.

He's here: Mario Balotelli disembarks from Italy's team plane on arrival at the airport in Kiev on Saturday

Arrival: Gianluigi Buffon (left), Andrea Pirlo (centre) and Claudio Marchisio (right)

Forza Italia: Mario Balotelli (left) and
Gianluigi Buffon (right, top), Andrea Pirlo (centre) and Claudio
Marchisio (right) disembark from Italy's team plane on arrival at the
airport in Kiev on Saturday afternoon

One day to go: Italy forward Antonio Cassano arrives in Kiev ahead of the final with his son and wife

One day to go: Italy forward Antonio Cassano arrives in Kiev ahead of the final with his son and wife

The coach: Cesare Prandelli

In Ukraine: Alessandro Diamanti and his wife

Arrivals: Italy coach Cesare Prandelli (left) and forward Alessandro Diamanti with his wife (right)

The Italy coach feels Balotelli has found the perfect platform to display his talents.

'We have always felt he had great ability,' said Prandelli. 'He has found a set-up where he can talk to great champions, who have won a lot of trophies and achieved a lot.

'There comes a time when you have to be brave enough to accept other people's advice because the result becomes paramount.

Double vision: Balotelli (second left) was accompanied by his brother Enoch (second right) for the flight

Double vision: Balotelli (second left) was accompanied by his brother Enoch (second right) for the flight

'We have asked him to do certain things, and at this moment in time, he is doing them.'

Meanwhile, Prandelli has dismissed the growing allegation that Spain are a boring team.

'That assessment comes from the fact the same side has always been winning,' he said. 'I don't think they are boring in any way, shape or form.'

All smiles: Spain boss Vicente del Bosque (left), striker Fernando Llorente (second left), defender Sergio Ramos (second right) and goalkeeper Iker Casillas (right)

The opposition: Spain boss Vicente del Bosque (left), striker Fernando
Llorente (second left), defender Sergio Ramos (second right) and
goalkeeper Iker Casillas (right) were all smiles ahead of the final

Prandelli also revealed Italy had not arrived in Kiev from their Krakow base until 3am.

However, they arrived to a message of good luck from Italian president from Giorgio Napolitano, who has invited the players to an official function in Rome on Monday afternoon.

Fever pitch: Giant posters announcing the Euro 2012 final in front of the Olympic Stadium in Kiev

Fever pitch: Giant posters announcing the Euro 2012 final in front of the Olympic Stadium in Kiev

Theatre of dreams: Police officers walk past the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, the venue for the final

Theatre of dreams: Police officers walk past the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, the venue for the final

Centre of attention: Balotelli in training with the Italy squad on the eve of the Euro 2012 final in Kiev

Centre of attention: Balotelli in training with the Italy squad on the eve of the Euro 2012 final in Kiev

Centre of attention: Balotelli in training with the Italy squad on the eve of the Euro 2012 final in Kiev

Team talk: Italy's squad listen to coach Prandelli (centre) during training at the Olympic Stadium

Team talk: Italy's squad listen to coach Prandelli (centre) during training at the Olympic Stadium

Wimbledon 2012 Serena Williams beats Zheng Jie to move into second week

Aces high! Serena battles back against Zheng to move into second week of Wimbledon

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UPDATED:

16:30 GMT, 30 June 2012

Serena Williams powered down a record 23 aces as she fought back from one set down to edge past China's Jie Zheng in an epic encounter on Centre Court.

Williams previously held a 5-0 win-loss record over Zheng, but the 25th seed produced some excellent tennis today to make the American look ordinary at times on the Centre Court where she has previously won four Wimbledon titles.

A series of bruising serves prevented Williams from following sister Venus out of the tournament as the 30-year-old clinched a 6-7 (7/5) 6-2 9-7 win.

The 23 aces Williams served was confirmed as a new record for a women's match at SW19. Williams set the previous record of 20 during her semi-final win over Elena Dementieva in 2009.

A spring in her step: Serena Williams celebrates a hard-fought win over Zheng Jie in exuberant fashion

A spring in her step: Serena Williams celebrates a hard-fought win over Zheng Jie in exuberant fashion

Williams, who beat Zheng in the 2008 Wimbledon semi-finals, was impressed with the performance of her 28-year-old opponent.

'She played unbelievably well,' said Williams, who faces Sara Errani's conqueror Yaroslava Shvedova in round four.

'I kept fighting in that third set. If I was going to go out I wanted to go out fighting. It was good to go through. I needed a tough match like that.'

Williams, whose sister Venus was knocked out in the first round by Elena Vesnina, wasted little time or energy in blasting past Melinda Czink on Centre two days ago.

But Zheng made the American aware that she would provide a much sterner test.

Zheng had her opponent racing to all corners of the court in the opening exchanges and earned three break points in the third game after Williams slipped on the baseline.

Fist of fury: Serena celebrates a point

Fist of fury: Serena celebrates a point

Williams saved the first with an ace and after two errors from the Chinese, the four-time champion powered down two more aces, the second a 119mph rocket, to hold.

Williams was put off by the breeze in the first-set tie-break as she aborted her ball toss on the first point. The American then lost focus to send a simple backhand long.

Williams let out a typically forceful scream of 'Come on!' as she broke back to level at 5-5 in the breaker, but Zheng was unmoved and soon clinched the set when forcing the American to hit a backhand wide.

Any hopes Williams had of an immediate break in the second set were dashed when Zheng held to love, but the American inflicted damage in the fifth game when her opponent ploughed the ball into the net at 30-40.

Zheng's fight seemed to have evaporated as she was broken to love in the seventh and Williams served out to level the match.

The deciding set was tense but peppered with Williams aces.

Zheng showed nerves of steel to hold to love and lead 5-4.

Both players refused to back down and the set moved to 7-7, at which stage Williams earned her first break point of the set.

Giving it her best shot: Zheng Jie gave Serena a scare

Giving it her best shot: Zheng Jie gave Serena a scare

Zheng survived that but gave Williams another opportunity moments later, and this time the chance was taken as the underdog fired long after a powerful Williams forehand.

Despite an early double fault when serving at 8-7, Williams engineered two match points at 40-15.

Zheng showed she still had fight in her by returning two sharp backhands to force deuce.

But when it arrived the sixth seed did not squander a third match point, she leapt up with clenched fists, clearly delighted to have avoided a shock defeat.

Tour de France 2012: Fabian Cancellara wins opening prologue

Wiggins makes solid start to Tour de France as Cancellara lands opening prologue

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UPDATED:

16:10 GMT, 30 June 2012

Swiss on a roll: Fabian Cancellara crosses the finish line to win the prologue

Swiss on a roll: Fabian Cancellara crosses the finish line to win the prologue

Bradley Wiggins' bid to become the first British winner of the Tour de France began with a second-placed finish as Fabian Cancellara won the opening prologue in Liege.

Wiggins is seen as the main rival to defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and clocked seven minutes 20.51 seconds on the 6.4-kilometre course.

Swiss rider Cancellara
(RadioShack-Nissan) was the penultimate rider to roll down the ramp and
finished in 7mins 13secs to take the race lead on the opening day for
the fifth time.

Australian Evans, the final rider on the course, finished in 7:30, losing just under 10 seconds to Wiggins.

It was the fourth time Cancellara has won a Tour prologue, following successes in 2004, 2007 and 2010, plus his time-trial win in Monaco in 2009.

But the Olympic time-trial champion is likely to possess the maillot jaune only on a temporary basis.

The distance and time gains are minute in the context of the 3,497km race to Paris on July 22, which continues tomorrow with the first road stage, the 198km stage one from Liege to Seraing, a suburb of the Belgian city, and concludes on a category four climb.

Great start: Fabian Cancellara takes the overall leader's yellow jersey

Great start: Fabian Cancellara takes the overall leader's yellow jersey

Great start: Fabian Cancellara takes the overall leader's yellow jersey

Wiggins (Team Sky) is looking to become the first Briton on the Tour podium in three weeks' time and demonstrated his supreme form by pushing Cancellara close and taking an advantage of more than nine seconds over Evans, who finished 13th.

The 32-year-old Londoner, who was born in Ghent, Belgium, was denied the chance to become the fifth Briton to don the yellow jersey, but will be happy with his display.

At the intermediate time check after 3.2km Wiggins, who was the 188th starter in a field of 198 riders, trailed by six seconds in 10th place.

But he overhauled provisional leader Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) of France in the second half of the route to claim a narrow lead.

The next 10 riders attempted to beat Wiggins' time and only Cancellara did.

Chavanel placed third, with Evans' team-mate TJ van Garderen fourth to take the best young rider's white jersey.

Chris Froome (Team Sky) finished in 7:29 to place 11th and second Brit behind Wiggins, while Commonwealth Games time-trial champion David Millar (Garmin-Sharp), who had been a doubt for his 11th Tour due to illness earlier this week, clocked 7:31 to place 16th.

Steve Cummings (BMC Racing) was a place behind in 17th. World time-trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) had to change bikes due to a mechanical problem and finished in 7:36 to place 45th.

Wimbledon 2012 Brian Baker goes from hit-and-giggle on grass to last 16

Baker goes from hit-and-giggle on grass to Wimbledon last 16 as fairytale continues

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UPDATED:

17:09 GMT, 30 June 2012

Brian Baker has gone from playing 'hit-and-giggle' grass-court tennis with friends to amazing his family and the wider sporting world by reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon.

The 27-year-old was unranked just a year ago, a once leading junior whose hopes of a career in the game had been seemingly ruined by a succession of injuries.

But having undergone a succession of operations, Baker gave it one last shot, and beat France's Benoit Paire 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 to reach the fourth round of the world's most famous grand slam.

Wonderful week: Baker

Wonderful week: Baker

Fortunately his family have already extended their stay in London to include Monday, when he will face 27th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber for a place in the quarter-finals.

'I think they had to change their flights twice, they weren't that confident in me starting out,' said Baker, smiling.

'I was just excited that they were able to come back over. They came over for the French Open, so it's nice to see my dad was able to take time off work again.

'It makes it a lot more special to be able to share it with my family and girlfriend than it is if you're just doing it on your own.'

Baker's comeback began on the golf course last summer.

That was when the Nashville resident found out he had been given a wild card into a Futures tournament in Pittsburgh, only his third event since 2005. Not only did he qualify, he won the tournament.

The former French Open boys' finalist has said repeatedly that he never doubted his ability, and he really came back onto the radar when he won a Challenger tournament in April that earned him a wild card into the French Open.

A week before Roland Garros he qualified for his first ATP World Tour event in almost seven years, in Nice, and then beat the likes of Gael Monfils and Nikolay Davydenko to reach the final.

There were calls for Baker to be given a wild card for Wimbledon, but now he is through to the last 16, the American is grateful that did not happen.

He said: 'I wasn't that disappointed that I didn't get one. I needed the match practice on the courts. My only grass-court match was at Queen's qualifying and I lost. I didn't feel I was comfortable on the stuff.

'There's actually two grass courts at the club where I grew up at back in Nashville. I think I once played hit-and-giggle tennis on that. I played a pro-am doubles tournament up in the Hamptons with a buddy from Nashville on grass.

Into the second week: Baker will play Phillip Kohlschreiber in the last 16

Into the second week: Baker will play Phillip Kohlschreiber in the last 16

'But those courts are nothing compared to these. They're a lot softer. It had been seven years since I played on a similar style grass court.'

Baker's victory today, over an opponent who badly lost his cool in the third and fourth sets, ensures he will break into the top 100 for the first time in his career.

Asked if he still has to pinch himself, Baker said: 'I'm sure I will. It's been unreal. When I'm on the court I know I definitely have nerves. Closing out the match you definitely know what's on the table, what you can accomplish.

'I missed a few shots at the end that I probably wouldn't miss if it was the quarters of a Challenger and not trying to get to the round of 16 at Wimbledon.

'It is crazy, what's going on. But I'm still trying to stay focused on the task at hand and not get too wrapped up in it.

'Because once you do that, I think it's tough to be able to play your best tennis once you're happy that you've been there.

'So I'm trying every match to go in there hungry and try to win the next one instead of thinking, “I'm in the round of 16 of Wimbledon, this is awesome”.'

Wimbledon 2012: Hawk that patrols SW19 stolen from car

Rufus the Wimbledon hawk stolen from car… better call in the flying squad

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UPDATED:

16:43 GMT, 30 June 2012

The hawk that patrols Wimbledon to deter pigeons has been stolen, police said.

Detectives are investigating the
theft of Harrier Hawk Rufus, who was stolen along with his cage
overnight between Thursday and Friday from a car parked in Wimbledon.

Court out: Rufus the hawk has been stolen

Court out: Rufus the hawk has been stolen

A spokesman said Rufus was in the car parked on a private drive in Dunstall Road with the rear window open for ventilation.

The hawk, which deters pigeons at the All England Club purely by his presence, is also a family pet, he said.

'The family has become very attached to the bird who is now four-and-a-half years old.

'They are distressed over the theft and are appealing for help to recover the bird.'

Rufus has become a well-known fixture at the south-west London club, with visitors often stopping to ask for photos with the hawk.

Keeper Wayne Davis with Rufus

Distressed: Keeper Wayne Davis with Rufus

He even has his own Twitter account, but has not tweeted for a day.

His last tweet was before Rafael Nadal's shock exit from the tournament, when he said: 'Murray is through, Rafa is down 2-1 (!), Ward played brilliantly but lost to Mardy Fish, and Italy are beating Germany 1-0!'

Rufus is a Harris Hawk, an American species. Hawking was first introduced to the All England Club in 1999 as an environmentally-friendly method of pest control.

Pigeons are not the Harris Hawk's natural prey, and they are trained not to attack but to circle and fly around the courts to scare the birds.

Rufus is flown each morning and evening of the championships before and after play, but not during, so as to avoid any distraction.

Wimbledon 2012: Petra Kvitova eases past Varvara Lepchenko

Defending champ Kvitova growing into tournament after Lepchenko rout

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UPDATED:

13:39 GMT, 30 June 2012

Defending champion Petra Kvitova sailed into the second week of Wimbledon courtesy of her most accomplished performance of the tournament so far.

The fourth seed dropped just one game on her way to a 6-1 6-0 win over Uzbekistan-born American Varvara Lepchenko, setting up a fourth-round meeting with Francesca Schiavone in the process.

Strong performance: Kvitova

Strong performance: Kvitova

That match will no doubt present a harder task for the Czech, but for now she can reflect on a hassle-free opening week that has seen her lose just 13 games in total.

Winning smile: Kvitova

Winning smile: Kvitova

She appears to have got stronger as she has gone along too, having conceded eight games to first-round opponent Akgul Amanmuradova and four to Great Britain's Elena Baltacha last time out.

The only time she looked in any trouble was when she conceded two first-set break points, but she saved them with ease.

She
won 53 points to her 53rd-ranked opponent's 28 and now has a day to
prepare for her meeting with Italian Schiavone, who secured her passage
through with a similarly routine 6-0 6-4 win over Klara Zakopalova.

David Beckham would have been good influence on Team GB squad, says Spurs" Harry Kane

Beckham would have been good influence on Team GB squad, says Spurs kid Kane

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UPDATED:

13:31 GMT, 30 June 2012

Tottenham's England Under 19 midfielder Harry Kane feels David Beckham would have been a great influence on youngsters in the Team GB Olympic squad.

Former England skipper Beckham, 37, missed out on the chance to light up London 2012 after Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards were revealed to be the three over-age players in Stuart Pearce's 18-man squad for the Games.

Beckham spent time training at Spurs Lodge during February 2011 while getting ready for the Major League Soccer season with LA Galaxy.

Out: David Beckham is not in the Team GB squad

Out: David Beckham is not in the Team GB squad

Kane, part of the England Under 19 squad which are heading out to Estonia for the start of the European Championships next week, is in no doubt of the influence the former Manchester United and Real Madrid man can still have on upcoming players.

'David Beckham was down here at Spurs when he was getting fit, and it was amazing to see him in the dressing room, to talk to him because he has been through it all and is one of the greatest role models ever,” said 18-year-old Kane, who enjoyed a successful spell out on loan with Millwall last season.

'I had a good chat to him because we went to the same school in Chingford, so we had plenty to talk about. From a football base, he was just trying to help.

Strong influence: Kane is disappointed Beckham will not be at the Olympics

Strong influence: Kane is disappointed Beckham will not be at the Olympics

'Of course to have players like that around the dressing room is inspiring and you want to go on to what they have achieved.'

Kane added: 'I would have thought he deserved to go. He had a lot to do with us getting the Olympics and to have him there as a role model would have been the best thing.

'It is unfortunate that he won't be there, but that is Stuart Pearce's choice and we have to move on.'

While Kane feels it was a 'great experience' to play competitive matches in the npower Championship for the Lions, the youngster is hoping to break into the Spurs first-team under Harry Redknapp's replacement.

'Harry was a great manager who helped me out a lot, and it was a shame to see him go, but that is football,' said Kane, who played six times in the Europa League for Spurs at the start of last season, scoring against Shamrock Rovers.

'Now I have to impress the new manager who comes in, whomever it is. I just have to keep my head down, keep doing what I have been doing and hopefully I will get my chance.'

Cardiff City Stadium will play host to UEFA Super Cup in 2014

Cardiff City Stadium will play host to UEFA Super Cup in 2014

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UPDATED:

13:27 GMT, 30 June 2012

UEFA have confirmed the 2014 Super Cup will take place in Cardiff.

The annual match between winners of the previous seasons' Champions League and Europa League is moving from its traditional home in Monaco next year.

And Cardiff City's plush new stadium will host the match in two years' time, when it is expected to have been moved to mid-August due to the scrapping of that month's international friendly date.

New host: Cardiff City Stadium will host the UEFA Super Cup

New host: Cardiff City Stadium will host the UEFA Super Cup

First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones said: 'This is fantastic news and confirms once again how our capital city is in the 'champions league' itself when it comes to hosting world class sporting events.

'The European Super Cup will be a major boost to not only to the city, but also for the global profile of Wales.'

GB women 4x100m relay team out of Olympics after disqualification in Helsinki

GB women 4x100m relay team out of Olympics after disqualification in Helsinki

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UPDATED:

13:12 GMT, 30 June 2012

Britain will not have a women's 4×100 metres relay team at the London Olympics after they were disqualified from the European Championships and overtaken in the world rankings.

Only the top 16 nations in the world qualify for the Games and Britain arrived in Helsinki ranked 15th, needing a good performance in the semi-finals or final to hold off the likes of Poland and Switzerland.

No go: Great Britain will not have an Olympic relay team after being disqualified in Helsinki

No go: Great Britain will not have an Olympic relay team after being disqualified in Helsinki

However, Poland ran 43.13 seconds to reach the final and Switzerland recorded a national record of 43.51secs to overtake Britain in the rankings, with the quartet of Anyika Onuora, Montell Douglas, Hayley Jones and Ashleigh Nelson then running 43.51s to finish second to Germany in their semi-final – only to be disqualified for a lane infringement.

Jones was the guilty party who stepped outside her lane on the third leg around the bend.

That all meant Britain dropped to 17th in the rankings with an average time of 43.675 – rounded up to 43.68 by the IAAF – with Switzerland reducing their average to 43.66.

Disqualified: Ashlee Nelson runs in Helsinki

In vain: Ashlee Nelson brings the team home in Helsinki

UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee admitted the failure was an accident waiting to happen.

'It was always an accident waiting to happen that didn't happen here necessarily, it is a process over a number of years,' Van Commenee said.

'We have been underperforming in this area for more than 10 years and at one point you don't get away with it.

'I'm not really surprised, that's why I stopped the programme basically two years ago. I didn't think they were going to be dangerous in London.

'It's a disappointment but at the same time I did not expect great things at all. I think it's a true reflection of where we are. We are somewhere between 15th and 20th and on the day we turn out to be 17th.'

Unsurprised: Van Commenee

Unsurprised: Van Commenee

Van Commenee famously labelled the women's relay squad a 'disgrace' for their 'schoolgirl mistakes' at the last Europeans in Barcelona, giving them a dressing down in their hotel lobby as the press sat nearby interviewing Jessica Ennis following her heptathlon gold.

Asked why he stopped supporting them
financially when they were clearly in need of improvement, the Dutchman
added: 'A number of things. One is to focus on where we can be
successful. We have limited resources in medical support and finances. I
can spend the pound only once so I have to make choices.

'Secondly, it is always a great test
to find out how eager people are. I never take support away from
athletes to punish them, or to trigger them, or what a lot of athletes
call a kick under the butt. I don't use it as a tool that way, but I am
always interested to see how people respond.

'Some pick it up in a positive way
and make it impossible for me not to put them back on support, which is
fantastic, and some get only angry and die in misery.

'There were 100 things to do and this one has not been turned around successfully within this cycle. But most of the time you have to go to the lowest point in order to create an environment to improve.'