Tag Archives: athleticism

Miroslav Stoch wins goal of the year

What a screamer! Stoch beats Neymar and Falcao to goal of the year

FIFA Puskas award for his stunning volley for Fenerbahce against Genclerbirligi.

The Slovak beat Neymar's goal for Santos and Radamel Falcao's strike for Atletico Madrid to win the award on Monday at FIFA's Ballon D'Or, where Lionel Messi was crowned player of the year.

Scroll down for video

Winner: Stoch collects the FIFA Puskas award

Winner: Stoch collects the FIFA Puskas award

But although the Slovakian Stoch, who plays for
Turkish side Fenerbahce, is not as highly-rated as the
other two, his goal certainly deserves the praise.

Stoch kept his cool and his balance to superbly volley into the top corner from the edge of the box against Genclerbirligi in a Turkish Super Lig match.

VIDEO: Watch Stoch's wonder strike

Here is who Stoch beat to the award

Radamel Falcao

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's ridiculous overhead kick against England missed the cut-off date but that sort of athleticism is on display in Falcao's effort against America de Cali.

Again reacting first to a corner, Atletico Madrid's Colombian hitman Falcao flung his body into the air and sent a vicious strike past the bewildered goalkeeper.

Neymar

Neymar's goal is a different type to the other two, its brilliance coming in the form of a hip twisting, dizzying dribble.

Showing poise, grace and fearlessness the Santos star weaved his way in and out of Internacional players before tucking the ball neatly home.

The skill involved in his solo effort is no surprise – the Brazilian won the 2011 Puskas award for a wonderful goal against Flamengo.

And the rest of the FIFA Puskas award nominees

Steve Hansen"s New Zealand can be the best of all time

Hansen's New Zealand are on the brink of immortality: Why Richie and Co can be the best of all time

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UPDATED:

00:44 GMT, 30 November 2012

Rich talent: McCaw is the leader of this All Black side

Rich talent: McCaw is the leader of this All Black side

Since taking overall charge of a World Cup-winning squad that only just staggered over the line against a superior France side last year, Steve Hansen has achieved more than simply turning the All Blacks into a much more formidable force.

He has made them, potentially, the most successful New Zealand team of all — and that truly is saying something.

The precision of their high-octane game, the simplicity of their passing, their off-loading in the heaviest traffic, all add up to an irresistible force based on supreme athleticism.

In their quest for perfection, they found it in purple patches against Scotland and then against Wales before declaring at 33-0 with 20
minutes left.

They are as far ahead of the game as New Zealand’s first World Cup-winning team was 25 years ago. After 19 wins and one draw in their
last 20 Tests, it can be but a matter of time before they eclipse the 23-match record set by Wayne Shelford, Michael Jones and company.

No team has ever won successive World Cups. If Richie McCaw and Dan Carter are fit, this one surely will.

Yes, even better than these great sides

1987-90

The presence of Wayne Shelford and the advent of the peerless Michael Jones in the same back row turned the inaugural World Cup into a no-contest.

The All Blacks made the tournament a procession, starting with a 70-point rout of Italy.

For a young Londoner it turned into a fairytale. John Gallagher emigrated from London to Wellington to pursue a career in the police and play a bit of rugby.

Unstoppable: Wayne Shelford and the All Blacks romped to World Cup glory in 1987

Unstoppable: Wayne Shelford and the All Blacks romped to World Cup glory in 1987

In next to no time he had bridged the chasm between turning out for Old Askeans, his local club in Kent and winning the World Cup.

France in the final provided the most testing opposition and they still lost by 20 points.

1905

Wherever they went in the British Isles, the ‘Originals’ treated crowds to a brand of rugby they had never seen before and not just because their goalkicking full back, Billy Wallace, wore a trilby during the first match against Devon.

Captained by Dave Gallaher, a native Irishman from a fishing village in Co. Donegal, the prototype New Zealand touring team set the standard for the next century.

The Originals: The 1905 team were the first to undertake a tour outside Australasia

The Originals: The 1905 team were the first to undertake a tour outside Australasia

The Scots did their best to avoid them, threatening to cancel their fixture by claiming a daily allowance of three shillings (15p) made the visitors professionals.

Gallaher’s team won 31 out of 32 matches, losing only to Wales in controversial circumstances — and the late refusal of a Bob Deans try is still a sore point.

1996

There were times during the 20-odd years when Australia, South Africa and, all too briefly, England monopolised the World Cup that the All Blacks were still the team to beat — never more so than the year after they lost the 1995 final to South Africa.

Sean Fitzpatrick proved the point, captaining the first and so far only New Zealand team to win a Test series in South Africa, 3-0. Christian Cullen introduced himself with seven tries in two Tests.

The team: Cullen; Wilson, Little, Bunce, Lomu; Mehrtens, Marshall; Brown, Fitzpatrick, Dowd; R Brooke, I Jones; M Jones, Z Brooke, Kronfeld.

Whitewash: New Zealand stormed South Africa following the 1995 World Cup

Whitewash: New Zealand stormed South Africa following the 1995 World Cup

Quite the artist: George Nepia

Quite the artist: George Nepia

1924-5

Cliff Porter’s invincibles went one better than the 1905 team, winning all 32 matches. A 19-year-old Maori, George Nepia, played in every single one of them, an incredible feat considering the tour began in mid-September and finished four months later.

Nepia redefined the role of the full back, turning it into an art-form. He and his fellow backs ran riot behind a pack powerful enough to have blasted through every opponent, although one report claimed that several All Black forwards should have been sent off during the tour.

One fact remains beyond dispute — their record of invincibility has still to be matched.

Hard but fair: Whineray

Hard but fair: Whineray

1963-4

Wilson Whineray’s squad won 34 of their 36 matches, drawing 0-0 against Scotland and losing in a mudbath at Newport to a drop goal by John ‘Dick’ Uzzell. Whineray, later knighted, earned a reputation as a hard but scrupulously fair forward.

A former heavyweight boxing champion, his tough-as-old-boots mentality was never better exemplified than during the Ireland match when a punch from Willie-John McBride threatened to chop Colin ‘Pine Tree’ Meads down
for a long count.

‘Stay on your feet for Christ’s sake,’ Whineray told a staggering Meads. ‘Don’t let them know you’re hurt or we’re done for.’

Nir Biton set for Tottenham switch ahead of Manchester City

Spurs set to beat City to 'new Vieira' as AVB holds talks with midfielder Biton

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UPDATED:

08:51 GMT, 20 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Andre Villas-Boas is ready to bolster his Tottenham squad with a surprise move for Nir Biton after inviting the Israel midfielder to White Hart Lane for talks.

Biton was expected to join Manchester City, after impressing their coaching staff during a trial at The Etihad Stadium, and has also attracted interest from Everton and Aston Villa.

Centre of attention: Spurs target Nir Biton impressed Manchester City chiefs earlier this summer on trial

Centre of attention: Spurs target Nir Biton impressed Manchester City chiefs earlier this summer on trial

But Tottenham appear to have seized the initiative, after Biton and FC Ashdod owner Jacky Ben-Zaken flew to London to discuss a deal and make sure there were no problems over a work permit.

Though City were considering a loan move for Biton, Ashdod are short of funds and want to negotiate a permanent deal for a player who has been likened to former Arsenal favourite Patrick Vieira for his midfield athleticism.

Villas-Boas is more concerned about landing a suitable replacement for Real Madrid-bound Luka Modric but sees 20-year old Biton as a useful back-up who would strengthen his central midfield options.

Making a move: Andre Villas-Boas is set to hold talks with Nir Biton, with Spurs keen to sign the Israel midfielder

Making a move: Andre Villas-Boas is set to hold talks with Nir Biton, with Spurs keen to sign the Israel midfielder

London 2012 Olympics: Water polo girls to renew old rivalry in… the Bashes!

GB and Australia's water polo girls to renew old rivalry in… the Bashes!

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UPDATED:

18:21 GMT, 31 July 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

‘We get loads of scratches, bruising, marks from grabbing. It is very physical,’ says British Olympian Fran Leighton. ‘It’s bad when you go on a night out and you’ve got a low top on and everybody looks at you like, “Beaten wife”.’

‘I’ve broken somebody’s nose. I was young,’ confesses Frankie Snell, while Ciara Gibson-/07/31/article-2181692-13E4B190000005DC-802_634x433.jpg” width=”634″ height=”433″ alt=”The wrestler: British water polo player Frankie Snell (bottom) in training for the Olympics” class=”blkBorder” />

The wrestler: British water polo player Frankie Snell (bottom) in training for the Olympics

Not only are players required to tread water for more or less 60 minutes, swim up and down the pool at sprint speed, and find the athleticism to push out of the water to shoot, but they also have to be mentally and physically prepared for rough-house tactics you would associate more with, say, rugby, martial arts, or Leeds United under Don Revie.

‘In the rule book it’s down as non-contact, which is the biggest joke I’ve heard,’ team captain Leighton laughs.

There are seven players on each team, including a goalkeeper, and the aim is simply to score more goals than the opposition. Referees patrol the side of the pool looking for infringements, but the action under water is difficult to police, meaning players use every advantage possible no matter how violent. What lies beneath, indeed.

No holds barred: The British women's water polo team build their strength up by grappling

No holds barred: The British women's water polo team build their strength up by grappling

That is why, as these exclusive pictures show, land training is equally important as pool work. Every week the GB squad, centralised in Manchester, practice grappling and wrestling moves at the city’s Aquatics Centre.

Centre-back Snell explains: ‘We look like ninjas as we wear these skin-tight black leotards to reduce the risk of bruising. The moves are called things like mount and thrust. The mount is someone lying on the ground and you’re literally straddling them, and the person underneath has to try to flip them over and get on top. So you’re really going for it, no boundaries.

‘We do it for about 30 seconds then after you’re exhausted because your whole body’s tense. We have managed to transfer it into the pool a little bit. Sometimes you have to when you’re playing someone twice the size. The knee in the back is a little trick I do if someone’s holding me and I can’t get away.’

Meet the team: The British water polo team face old rivals Australia on Wednesday night

Meet the team: The British water polo team face old rivals Australia on Wednesday night

Leighton, the team’s captain since 2004, adds: ‘The wrestling is more to work all the muscles in our arms and get strength in our shoulders, but some of the grabs we now use in the water.’

The 30-year-old says they have even had lessons from an ultimate fighter. ‘He’s come and shown us how to defend ourselves.’

Leighton’s boyfriend is former swimmer Alex Scotcher, who won Commonwealth gold in Melbourne, and she concedes her idea of aquatic sport was initially a shock to him. But she has won him over and he now plays too, for London Penguins.

She says: ‘If we go out as a group of girls we must look like a women’s refuge or something. There’s all these scratches, a black eye, a few bandages. The worst I’ve had is an elbow to the face which split my eye. The blood just went everywhere. I looked like that guy in Batman, Two-Face!’

What lies beneath: Water polo is a brutal sport under the water as players bend the rules

What lies beneath: Water polo is a brutal sport under the water as players bend the rules

Snell, 25, adds: ‘Usually you do shake hands afterwards, but if someone’s given me a deliberate punch or something like that it’s hard to be friendly.’

Winger Gibson-/07/31/article-2181692-144FD0C4000005DC-948_634x463.jpg” width=”634″ height=”463″ alt=”Hot ticket: The Water Polo Arena on the Olympic Park will be packed to the rafters on Wednesday” class=”blkBorder” />

Hot ticket: The Water Polo Arena on the Olympic Park will be packed to the rafters on Wednesday

The Olympic tournament structure encourages the women to dream. There are two groups of four and all progress to the quarter-finals, with finishing positions deciding the draw. Win the fourth match and they are into the semi-finals. In Beijing, Holland finished third in their group with two losses, but narrowly won their next three to take gold. They have not qualified this time.

The British squad are aware just how important that fourth game is. ‘It’s all or nothing,’ Leighton says. Indeed, ask Fekete what the aim is and he will reply: ‘To win.’

Britain narrowly lost their opener to Russia 7-6 on Monday and next up is Australia, on Wednesday at 7.40pm. The rivalry between these nations will be even fiercer because of a nasty incident Down Under at the start of the year. Alex Rutlidge had her ribs broken when an Australian player kicked her hard in the midriff.

‘That was deliberate,’ Snell says, mood darkened. ‘We’ve got the video. She grabbed hold of Alex and booted off her. Then we see Alex going under water. That was the first time I’d ever seen broken ribs.’

Rutlidge does not know the name of the player, but remembers her face. ‘It was quite vicious and she meant to hurt me but not to break anything. It put me out of action for a while. If I saw her again I wouldn’t say anything to her. What happens in the pool stays in the pool.’

Wednesday’s match promises to be hard-hitting. The Bashes, you might call it.

Tour de France 2012: Sir Chris Hoy hails Bradley Wiggins as the greatest

Four-time Olympic champ Hoy hails Wiggins as the greatest

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UPDATED:

22:24 GMT, 21 July 2012

Four-time Olympic champion Sir Chris
Hoy led the acclaim for Bradley Wiggins after the Team Sky leader moved
within 24 hours of becoming the first British winner of the Tour de
France, leaving his wife to break open the champagne.

Barring a freak incident on Sunday's
concluding stage 20 to Paris, Wiggins will be the first Briton to stand
on the top of the podium by the Champs-Elysees in the yellow jersey of
champion.

Out in front: Wiggins will be the first Brit to win the Tour

Out in front: Wiggins will be the first Brit to win the Tour

Hoy, who won three Olympic titles in Beijing in 2008, on Thursday described the prospect of Wiggins winning the Tour as 'as good as anything any British athlete has ever done'.

After watching Wiggins win the penultimate day's time-trial to Chartres, Hoy wrote on Twitter: 'I think I might stick a fiver on that Wiggins bloke to win the Tour de France tomorrow.'

Wiggins' wife, Cath, might well have a headache as her husband rides into the French capital.

She wrote: 'Right everyone I am calling it. Operation drink as much champagne as you can. GO.'

David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) was a team-mate of Wiggins when he finished fourth in the 2009 Tour, equalling the British best.

Impressed: Sir Chris Hoy

Impressed: Sir Chris Hoy

A protracted departure to Team Sky for their debut season in 2010 caused some acrimony, but friendship has been restored and the duo will ride together in the Olympic road race on the opening day of London 2012 in support of Mark Cavendish.

Millar wrote on Twitter: 'Congratulations @bradwiggins. That's been an inspirational display of athleticism & ambition. You are one of the greats of cycling.'

The feat was also recognised by non-cyclists with former England international footballer Gary Lineker tweeting: 'Never really followed TDF but what an unbelievable effort from Bradley Wiggins and the team. Utter respect!'

'AS BIG AS '66'

Steve Backley

OBE, four-time European javelin champion, double Olympic silver medallist.

'People may forget that Bradley is already an incredible Olympian with six medals, including three golds. That already makes him a British sporting legend in my book but now he's gone and done this. This has to be one of the greatest British sports achievements of all time.'

Mark Foster

Winner of 47 major championship swimming medals and five-time Olympian.

'Bradley's achieved a first for Britain in almost 100 years in arguably the most gruelling challenge of the lot. It proves what a great physical specimen he is. I place this achievement right up there with the four-minute mile and the 1966 World Cup.'

David Coulthard

Winner of 13 F1 grands prix, 2nd in 2001 drivers' championship, twice winner of British and Monaco GPs.

'Bradley must have Scottish roots because no Englishman could sustain so much pain. I go out cycling with pro riders in the hills around Monaco and even there I'm impressed with their endurance. He makes us F1 drivers look like wimps in comparison.'

Lawrence Dallaglio

OBE, former England and Wasps rugby captain, winner of 85 caps and the Rugby World Cup.

'I spent a few days cycling across the Pyrenees in 2008 and, this summer, across the Alps. It makes me respect his achievement even more. He's dominated it from start to finish and conducted himself impeccably. This is up there with 1966 and us winning the World Cup in 2003.'

Wimbledon 2012: Mike Dickson"s SW19 awards

SW19 awards: A crying shame for Andy but what a show it was!

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 9 July 2012

After one of the most memorable Wimbledon tournaments – including a first British finalist in the men’s singles for 76 years in Andy Murray and a surprise doubles success for Jonny Marray – Sportsmail’s Tennis Correspondent Mike Dickson reveals his highs and lows from the fortnight.

Tears of joy – and happiness

The defining image of Wimbledon 2012 will be Andy Murray’s post-match emotion on the Centre Court, but he was not alone in exercising the tear ducts.

After winning her first round match and being told she had made the British Olympic team by Judy Murray standing at courtside, Elena Baltacha also wept, but with joy.

It all ends in tears: Murray can't contain his emotions on Centre Court

It all ends in tears: Murray can't contain his emotions on Centre Court

Kate's a right Royal tennis lover

Wimbledon, and British tennis in general, has been loyally supported by more minor members of the Royal family over the years and it is much appreciated.

But now along comes the new superstar of the clan, who just happens to love the sport. No getting away from it, the Duchess of Cambridge appears to be the new royal face of The Championships.

Anyone for tennis The Duchess of Cambridge (right) and her sister Pippa in the Royal Box

Anyone for tennis The Duchess of Cambridge (right) and her sister Pippa in the Royal Box

An inscrutable fellow

Whatever drama was going on down below him, Ivan Lendl subjugated his wisecracking off-court personality to show barely a flicker of emotion all fortnight in the coach’s box.

It was a remarkable display of self-control, but it seemed to serve its purpose in transmitting calm to his sometimes turbulent client.

Ice cool: Lendl barely flinched as he watched Murray

Ice cool: Lendl barely flinched as he watched Murray

So much in common, yet so different

Roger Federer and Serena Williams were born barely a month apart, and they both won Wimbledon in 2003.

Given the massive level of international competition it is a tribute to their extraordinary skill and athleticism that, just shy of 31, they were able to come back and do it again in symmetry nine years later.

Thirty-somethings: Williams and Federer with their trophies

Thirty-somethings: Williams and Federer with their trophies

From Russia with grunt: Sharapova was as noisy as ever

From Russia with grunt: Sharapova was as noisy as ever

Try not to adjust your volume

The women’s tour say they are serious about tackling repeat grunt/yelping, discussing the introduction of gruntometers and education programmes at junior level to stamp it out.

But they are fearful of upsetting two of its main practitioners, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, neither of whom are going away any time soon, so the debate goes on.

Give it your best shot

Of the thousands of brilliant shots executed over the fortnight, one that sticks in the memory is Andy Murray’s running backhand pass that blazed by Spanish bulldog David Ferrer in the fourth set of their quarter-final.

It helped set up a truly stomach-churning tiebreak, which the British player won.

And the point is

Federer played the most beautifully constructed rally when it most mattered – on set point in the third against Novak Djokovic to go 2-1 up.

He gradually worked his opponent wide and then, back arched, pulled off an acrobatic overhead to answer the world No 1’s awkward lob. It seemed to break Djokovic’s spirit, not easy to do.

Lukas who

The most fearless, explosive spell of tennis was that of world No 100 Lukas Rosol in the fifth set against Rafael Nadal, in the second-round shock.

Could he do it again, Rafa was asked. ‘How old is he’ replied the Spaniard, to which the answer is 26: ‘Well, he never done it before.’

Czech mate: Rosol was brilliant in defeating Nadal

Czech mate: Rosol was brilliant in defeating Nadal

And after crashing in the next round you wonder if Rosol will ever do it again.

Bring me sunshine

The strangest day in a long time on the Centre Court was the first Friday, when the roof was shut all day out of fear that rain was imminent.

Trouble was it never came, and while those on the outside courts luxuriated in longed-for spells of decent weather the crowd in the main arena missed a rare chance to spot blue sky.

Closed in: The roof was closed at times even when the sun was shining

Closed in: The roof was closed at times even when the sun was shining

From hero to zero

Barely four weeks ago Sara Errani enjoyed the best performance of her life in reaching the final of the French Open.

She turned up at Wimbledon and did ok – until Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova inflicted upon her a ‘golden set’, in which Italy’s toast of Paris scored nul points.

The Late, Late Show

/07/09/article-2171122-13E191A6000005DC-10_634x380.jpg” width=”634″ height=”380″ alt=”Late show: Murray beat Baghdatis past 11pm” class=”blkBorder” />

Late show: Murray beat Baghdatis past 11pm

Aussie and out: Former champion Lleyton Hewitt

Aussie and out: Former champion Lleyton Hewitt

You are the pits of the world

Even those against capital punishment might have second thoughts when it comes to the odd isolated idiot who still thinks it is funny to interrupt the unique hush of the Centre Court with a ‘C’mon Tim’ or other such stale banality.

Before long one of them will have to be slung out, as a warning to others.

We tried not to laugh but…

Australia used to be a tennis superpower, as the honours board at the All England Club attests, and the visit of Rod Laver this year reminded us.

But what a modern-day situation for the Rockhampton Rocket to contemplate, with not one of his compatriots making the second round for the first time since 1938.

Conspiracy theory

Ivo Karlovic was apoplectic at being footfaulted 11 times in the second round against Andy Murray. He accused the tournament of a grand conspiracy to help Britain’s top player through. Wimbledon wisely adopted its best regal ‘Never complain, never explain’ response.

Blind date

Jonny Marray, Sheffield’s 31-year-old journeyman, probably did not expect that his Wimbledon would end with a Grand Slam title, 130,000 in his pocket and playing a final before nearly four million TV viewers.

The beauty of sport is that all these things came to pass, and the question now is whether he and Frederik Nielsen can make the field for the O2 Arena in November.

Shock: Marray (right) and Nielsen had to qualify for the tournament

Shock: Marray (right) and Nielsen had to qualify for the tournament

And finally… something for Andy Murray to remember

From his fellow Scot Robert Louis Stevenson: ‘To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.’

Women"s football needs a lift – Laura Williamson

Women's football so needs a repeat of its 'Yes!' moment

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 24 June 2012

In 1999, Brandi Chastain scored the winning penalty for the USA in the Women’s World Cup final against China.

With 90,185 people watching inside the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, Chastain ripped off her shirt, revealing her sports bra, and slid to the ground with fists clenched, eyes closed and screaming with pure, unbridled joy.

This positive, powerful image of athleticism, of the outpouring of emotion that only sport can induce, was beamed around the world. It made the cover of Sports Illustrated with the simple, emphatic headline: ‘Yes!’

Yes! Brandi Chastain celebrates winning the World Cup for the US

Yes! Brandi Chastain celebrates winning the World Cup for the US

More from Laura Williamson…

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17/06/12

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10/06/12

Laura Williamson: Why we must not disable our sense of humour
03/06/12

Laura Williamson: Why even the elite suffer to compete
27/05/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

It seemed to show anything was possible. But, nearly 13 years on, how women’s football could do with another Chastain moment.

Last Saturday was the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the law that prohibits discrimination against women in the States, but the country’s Women’s Professional Soccer League was suspended in January and then folded in May.

The players were told of their impending unemployment by email, with confirmation coming four months later via Facebook. Over here, we saw the first meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on women’s sport and fitness and England’s women beat Holland 1-0 and Slovenia 4-0 to move within one match of qualifying for Euro 2013.

But as a phone-in on BBC Radio 5 Live asked: ‘Will the women’s game ever catch up with the men’s’, the resounding answer was ‘No!’

There is, however, another potential Chastain moment for women’s football coming up in 30 days’ time, when Great Britain v New Zealand kicks off at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. It is the first event of the London 2012 Olympic Games and a massive opportunity for women’s football, a sport which values the Olympics just as much as a World Cup.

This isn’t an Under 23 tournament with a few big names thrown in; it’s the very pinnacle of the game, which is just what the Olympics should be about. The only problem is there could be only around 20,000 people inside the stadium to watch it.

At times, women’s football seems incapable of helping itself.

Landmark moment Hope Powell hopes to lead Team GB to Olympic glory

Landmark moment Hope Powell hopes to lead Team GB to Olympic glory

Hope Powell announces her Team GB Olympic squad on Tuesday at a press conference conveniently scheduled during one of the busiest weeks of the summer, when it will have to compete with Euro 2012 and Wimbledon for exposure.

The same old arguments will be trotted out: women’s football ‘deserves’ more coverage and it is the third largest sport in terms of participation. Don’t you dare compare us to the men’s game in terms of attendance, salaries, speed or skill but, yes, we do want the same level of media attention, thank you very much. It just doesn’t add up.

What women’s football still doesn’t seem to grasp is it needs genuine success to propel it to the next level. Is that fair Probably not. But whingeing about disparity doesn’t seem to have got the game very far.

Around 20 million Japanese viewers watched world champions Japan take on the USA last week. As Chastain showed, winning matters.

Average gates of 528 people watching an FA Women’s Super League match on a poor pitch aren’t going to change the world, but success for Powell’s squad in an Olympics on home soil That could be a real ‘Yes!’ moment.

What they said…

Tweet of the week came from British swimmer Liam Tancock and sums up the danger of believing your own publicity. Sometimes less information is a good thing, Liam.

‘@LiamTancock: Just watched the film ‘Hancock’ Think it would be better if it was called Tancock, but it was pretty good and easy watching :-)’

Self promotion: Liam Tancock fancies himself as a bit of a ladies man

Self promotion: Liam Tancock fancies himself as a bit of a ladies man

And what I've been doing this week…

Proudly watching the Olympic torch come through my home town of Hull. The dancing white telephone boxes were a particular highlight…

Sampling ‘cardio tennis’, a tennis-based work-out that anybody (even with a backhand like mine) can have a go at…

Taking part in a training session with Special Olympic silver medallist Charlotte Cox in preparation for the British 10k London Run in two weeks’ time.

Performance of the week

Ashton Eaton broke the 11-year-old decathlon world record by scoring 9,039 points in the US trials. The Czech Roman Sebrle held the previous mark of 9,026 points. Eaton, at 24 the youngest of a celebrated trio of US decathletes and seen as the heir to a throne disputed by Brian Clay and Trey Hardee, eclipsed them both in front of his hometown crowd in Eugene, Oregon.

As Eaton crossed the line and broke down in tears, he was congratulated not only by Clay and Hardee, but by former US record-holder Dan O’Brien (8,891 points). A mention, too, for Jessica Ennis, who beat British record-holder Tiffany Porter in the 100m hurdles at the Olympic trials in Birmingham. Not bad for a heptathlete.

Chelsea win Champions League: Petr Cech saves the day

How it was Cech mate: Blues' No 1 reveals his logic that saved the day in Munich

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UPDATED:

21:57 GMT, 20 May 2012

Only when listening to Petr Cech at Munich’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Sunday morning did it become clear just how brilliant a performance he delivered on Saturday night.

Only then did it become clear that Chelsea’s victory was a victory for intelligence and logic as well as courage, determination and athleticism; for meticulous preparation on the part of Roberto Di Matteo as well as guts and guile and the finishing of the irrepressible Didier Drogba.

Cech sat with a small gathering of invited journalists, his winner’s medal hanging from his neck and the European Cup positioned on the carpet in front of him, and explained how he made the first of three penalty saves.

First up: Petr Cech saves Arjen Robben's penalty in extra time

First up: Petr Cech saves Arjen Robben's penalty in extra time

MATCH FACTS

Bayern Munich: Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Tymoschuk, Contento, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Robben, Muller (Van Buyten 86), Ribery (Olic 97), Gomez. Subs not used: Butt, Petersen, Rafinha, Usami, Pranjic.

Booked: Schweinsteiger.

Scorer: Muller 83.

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Kalou (Torres 84), Mikel, Lampard, Bertrand (Malouda 73), Mata, Drogba. Subs not used: Turnbull, Essien, Romeu, Ferreira, Sturridge.

Booked: Cole, Luiz, Drogba, Torres.

Scorer: Drogba 88.

Referee: Pedro Proenca (Portugal).

Attendance: 69,901.

It was perhaps the most crucial, awarded to Bayern Munich in the fifth minute of extra time after Drogba had foolishly felled Franck Ribery. John Mikel Obi played his part, mischievously informing Arjen Robben that his former Chelsea colleague would know exactly what he intended to do; that Cech would make the save.

Cech, it turns out, was not quite that confident, but the thought process that led to him choosing the right way — a thought process built on a study of the Holland winger’s technique — remains incredibly impressive.

‘Robben always shoots different ways,’ said Cech. ‘There’s no pattern in his penalties. So I didn’t know what to do with him. Half he shoots to the right, half to the left. No pattern whatsoever. He even runs up the same way to the ball.

But when you’re tired, when you’ve played for 95 minutes, players choose power rather than technique, rather than placing it. I thought he’d smash it somewhere near the corner and hope it would go through. He’s left-footed. I’m left-footed, and I thought if it was me I’d shoot across, left to right. Which is why I went to my left.’

Second helpings: Cech was spot on again to save from Ivica Olic in the penalty shoot-out

Second helpings: Cech was spot on again to save from Ivica Olic in the penalty shoot-out

This is a guy who mastered Spanish in a month, his fourth language. For this Champions League final he mastered Bayern’s penalty takers in two hours, destroying the myth that the Germans always win these shootouts.

Even on the eve of the game Jupp Heynckes was pointing to the superior mental strength of his compatriots when it comes to scoring from 12 yards. Cech and Chelsea’s penalty takers took a sledgehammer to that theory. Not least with the saves to deny Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

That's the set: Cech got a hand to Bastian Schweinsteiger's penalty to push it on to the post

That's the set: Cech got a hand to Bastian Schweinsteiger's penalty to push it on to the post

How much did Cech know about Bayern’s chosen five on Saturday night ‘Quite a bit because I went six times the right way for the six penalties,’ he said with a wry smile. ‘I either guessed pretty well or I was ready to guess pretty well. I’d seen all the Bayern penalties since 2007. It took me about two hours to go through them all on a DVD, on the flight over. The coaching staff studied them too and we took notes. When it came to the shootout I then said, “Guys, the notes” But Hilario said, “You don’t need the notes, you’ll save everything”.

‘Mario Gomez hit the best penalty. I got close to Manuel Neuer’s. But I’d gone the right way each time and it would have been impossible to have kept guessing right and not saved one. That’s what happened. I got a touch on Schweinsteiger’s, too.’

Cech mate: Chelsea's goalkeeper celebrates with the Champions League trophy in Munich

Cech mate: Chelsea's goalkeeper celebrates with the Champions League trophy in Munich

It was astonishing, not least the way Bayern contrived to lose the initiative three times. They tossed it away when they allowed Drogba to cancel out Thomas Muller’s 83rd-minute opener with a thumping header of his own two minutes from time; again when Robben missed his penalty and lastly when the shootout was 3-1 in their favour.

They also squandered the considerable advantage that came with being at home. A neutral venue Try telling that to Chelsea when three-quarters of the ground was a sea of red. In every respect it was like a home game for Bayern, even down to the tactics of the teams. Bayern attacked and for the most part dominated, unleashing 35 attempts to Chelsea’s nine and earning 20 corners to Chelsea’s one. But it was from that one corner, delivered by Juan Mata, that Drogba equalised.

The one that got away: Cech was beaten by Thomas Muller's penalty but it proved to count for nothing

The one that got away: Cech was beaten by Thomas Muller's penalty but it proved to count for nothing

In midfield, in particular, Bayern were excellent, especially Toni Kroos and Schweinsteiger. What a player Kroos is. But Schweinsteiger could not watch when Robben took that 95th-minute penalty and the fear of losing a third title this season clearly got the better of him when it came to taking Bayern’s final spot-kick.

Under the guidance of Di Matteo, super cool until he needed to deliver a stirring speech to his shattered players at the end of normal time, Chelsea displayed no such nerves.

Winner: Didier Drogba scored the penalty that won Chelsea the trophy

Winner: Didier Drogba scored the penalty that won Chelsea the trophy

Frank Lampard and Mikel worked tirelessly in midfield, while David Luiz and Gary Cahill were magnificent for two centre halves returning from injury, keeping Gomez quiet with impressive ease.

Luiz not only confirmed he had suffered a setback with his hamstring injury on the Thursday but revealed it went again after 20 minutes of this game. ‘I told myself I’d play with the heart rather than the body,’ he said afterwards.

In Cech’s words, ‘Cahill and Luiz were amazing’, and never more so than when Luiz took that huge run- up before thumping home his shootout penalty following Mata’s opening miss.

Big winners: Chelsea celebrate their Champions League triumph in Munich

Big winners: Chelsea celebrate their Champions League triumph in Munich

Ashley Cole was also immense, at left back and when it came to burying his penalty at a Bayern end that became a wall of sound designed to intimidate the Chelsea players who had to make that lonely walk from the halfway line.

To beat Bayern in the manner they did, to exorcise the ghosts of Chelsea’s Champions League past, to heal the scars of Moscow, was a credit to all those involved. From Di Matteo to the Champions League debutant, Ryan Bertrand.

Home comforts: Chelsea paraded the Champions League trophy in London on Sunday

Home comforts: Chelsea paraded the Champions League trophy in London on Sunday

In Drogba, though, they had their big-match winner; the scorer of nine goals in nine cup finals and someone, surely, Roman Abramovich has to keep at Stamford Bridge.

Where John Terry had failed in 2008, Drogba succeeded. ‘I was confident,’ he said as he recalled the thoughts passing through his mind as he marched towards the penalty spot. ‘I wanted to score for Petr Cech, for my team-mates, I just wanted to make Chelsea smile.’

He certainly succeeded.

Douglas move to Newcastle hits delay

Newcastle grow frustrated as defender Douglas' deal is hit by delays

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UPDATED:

09:27 GMT, 17 May 2012

Newcastle United’s pursuit of summer transfer target Douglas has hit a stumbling block due to complications surrounding the deal.

The 6ft 4ins 24-year-old FC Twente defender is a long-term target of the north east club, who had originally wanted to wrap up a swift deal for a player coming to the end of his contract.

His strength in the air, potential threat in the opposition box and athleticism are seen as a perfect complement to Fabricio Coloccini – and further competition for the returning Steven Taylor.

Deal on hold: Douglas' move to Newcastle has been held up

Deal on hold: Douglas' move to Newcastle has been held up

The Newcastle Journal believe Douglas wants to make the move, but the deal is not proving as straightforward as the Magpies had hoped.

He is out of contract in the summer but there is confusion over a clause which could kick in at the end of the season, tying him down for another 12 months with the Dutch side.

To further complicate matters, Newcastle have grown fed up of dealing with multiple agents, prompting them to take a step back from the transfer after making initial enquiries to the Eredivisie outfit.

The club are now waiting for both player and Twente to come back to them but are relaxed about the situation, having already compiled a list of possible alternatives that have been thoroughly scouted for months.

United also have interest in Montpellier’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who has been called into the France squad for Euro 2012, and Toby Alderweireld of Ajax.

Arsenal want Acharaf Laazar

Arsenal in the market for 'new Bale' as Moroccan left-back Laazar is tracked by Wenger

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UPDATED:

08:30 GMT, 21 April 2012

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is on the trail of 20-year-old left-sider Acharaf Laazar, dubbed the 'new Gareth Bale' by former QPR defender Mauro Milanese.

Milanese, now sporting director of Serie B side Varese – who Lazaar plays for – recommended Bale to AC Milan having played against him in the Championship when the Welshman was at Southampton. And now Milanese believes that his club's prize asset can emulate Bale's rise.

In the market: Wenger is looking to sign a left-back

In the market: Wenger is looking to sign a left-back

His agent Ali Barat has also made the
comparison to Bale, telling talkSPORT: 'There’s been a lot of interest
from plenty of clubs from around Europe. He’s very similar to Gareth
Bale in terms of his pace and athleticism.

'I think he will be a big player in the Premier League very soon.'

Neither Andre Santos nor Kieran Gibbs have been able to nail down a regular starting place at left-back at the Emirates, prompting Wenger to scour Europe for a specialist in the position.

Although originally seen as a winger, Lazaar has established himself as one of the top young talents in Italy since converting to a defensive position.

The 20-year-old is yet to be capped by Morocco and is eligible for an Italian passport having lived in the country since he was a child.

Lazaar is also attracting interest from Milan, Everton and Mallorca.