Tag Archives: pieces

Manchester United and City posters ahead of the derby

Welcome to Manchester's new poster boys! Ahead of Sunday's big derby, check out this brilliant collection… and see how they have immortalised Maradona, Pele, Messi and Ronaldo

PUBLISHED:

11:11 GMT, 6 December 2012

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UPDATED:

14:56 GMT, 6 December 2012

Sunday's derby between Manchester United and City brings together some of the world's best players on the same pitch – Robin van Persie and Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney and David Silva to name just a few.

And in the build-up to the title tussle at the Eithad Stadium, Sportsmail is showcasing these superb pieces of art that celebrate those involved in the big match.

Van Persie, Rooney, Tevez and Silva are among the Manchester stars immortalised in these stunning pieces from Bosnian designer Zoran Lucic.

He doesn't stop at Manchester, however. Lucic has also designed posters for the game's greatest names – and you can see the best of them below.

Lucic's series – Sucker for Soccer – will form part of an exhibition called Fantasista to be held in London next year. Click here for more details.

Robin van Persie

David Silva

Head to head: Robin van Persie and David Silva will square up in Sunday's derby at the Etihad Stadium

Carlos Tevez

Wayne Rooney

Friends reunited: Carlos Tevez (left) and Wayne Rooney once played together in red… but these days they line up on opposing sides

Safe hands: Joe Hart, one of the world's best goalkeepers, will line up for City on Sunday

Safe hands: Joe Hart, one of the world's best goalkeepers, will line up for City on Sunday

Nemanja Vidic

Ryan Giggs

Red legends: Nemanja Vidic (left) and Ryan Giggs have both experienced plenty of Manchester derbies during their years at United

HERE'S SOME UNITED LEGENDS IMMORTALISED BY THE ARTIST…

Eric Cantona

Roy Keane

Red Devils: Eric Cantona (left) and Roy Keane both captained United under Sir Alex Ferguson

Duncan Edwards

Dennis Viollet

Heroes: Duncan Edwards (left) and Dennis Viollet are also part of the United legends depicted in the series

Denis Law

Bryan Robson

Stars of the show: Denis Law (left) and Bryan Robson

Bobby Charlton

George Best

Busby Babes: Sir Bobby Charlton (left) and George Best are two of Manchester United's greatest ever players

AND HERE'S SOME OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST PLAYERS ON SHOW…

Ronaldo

Pele

Diego Maradona

Zinedine Zidane

Ferenc Puskas

Johan Cruyff

Romario

Gerd Muller

Dennis Bergkamp

Write caption here

MESSI AND RONALDO ARE BATTLING FOR BALLON D'OR… BUT WHO'S GOT THE BEST POSTER

Lionel Messi

Cristiano Ronaldo

Write caption here

LAURA WILLIAMSON: Manchester United must address defensive frailty

United's leaking defence is no laughing matter for Ferguson ahead of Etihad visit

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UPDATED:

22:32 GMT, 2 December 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson quipped on Match of the Day that he might have to play himself against Manchester City on Sunday if Manchester United keep defending as they have been of late.

The thin smile on the lips of the United manager gave him away: it was more of a reprimand than a joke. United are three points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League yet their defending is in danger of becoming a laughing stock.

Saturday's 4-3 win at Reading was the 10th time in 15 Premier League games that United have conceded the opening goal, but the new worry for Ferguson was the manner in which Brian McDermott's side were able to cause havoc from set pieces and wide deliveries.

Shambles: Manchester United let in three goals against Reading

Shambles: Manchester United let in three goals against Reading

Hal Robson-Kanu converted a cross
that should have been cleared by Jonny Evans, then Adam Le Fondre and
Sean Morrison scored easily from Reading's first two corners, with 5ft
9in Le Fondre capitalising on being allowed a free header in the box.

These kind of things are not supposed
to happen against United but, then again, only rarely are seven goals
scored in the first 34 minutes of a Premier League match.

Ferguson said: 'In the first half the
defending was the worst this season. It was agony. Nobody competed for
the crosses. The derby is a massive game. If we defend like that we will
be in trouble.'

Darren Fletcher blamed individual mistakes rather than collective error for the defensive frailties.

The United midfielder also insisted
the return of England defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, together
with Nemanja Vidic's possible comeback from a knee injury against CFR
Cluj in the Champions League on Wednesday, can only help United's cause.

Fletcher said: 'Our defending is
becoming a concern but I think, particularly at set pieces, it's
individual mistakes, which we can try to sort out. We are talking about
it and we're trying to look at it and put it right. The biggest thing is
we keep coming back. It's a lot more disastrous when you don't.

Another one: Hal Robson-Kanu scored for Reading during United's 4-3 victory

Another one: Hal Robson-Kanu scored for Reading during United's 4-3 victory

Furious: Sir Alex Ferguson will undoubtedly have been disappointed with the way his side conceded

Furious: Sir Alex Ferguson will undoubtedly have been disappointed with the way his side conceded

United will also have to do without
Anderson for at least a fortnight. He injured a hamstring after scoring
United's first goal. The most worrying aspect for United was the way
Reading expected to score from every set piece, particularly when Nicky
Shorey was curling in corners from the left.

Anders Lindegaard was unconvincing
in goal for United, and Evans and Ferdinand did not impose themselves on
the game and were too often sucked in to marking Jason Roberts, giving
Reading space to attack with width.

Ferguson hauled off right back
Rafael, who had been booked, after 31 minutes and replaced him with
Smalling 'to give more height' but Patrice Evra remained fragile
defensively on the left.

Le Fondre admitted that Reading had
tried to target United at set pieces, having noted QPR's success in
scoring the opening goal at Old Trafford from a Kieron Dyer corner the
previous week.

'That's one of our main weapons, set
plays, and we took advantage,' said the Reading striker. 'Some of the
goals United have conceded are from set plays, like against QPR, so we
were playing to our strengths.' Now the task for United is to rediscover
quickly how to play to theirs.

Buck up: Patrice Evra

Buck up: Rio Ferdinand

Buck up: Rio Ferdinand (right) and Patrice Evra (left) will be looking to shore up for the visit to Manchester City

'Vidic is the club captain. He's a
fantastic defender. It's great that we've got Phil Jones back and Chris
Smalling. All these things are going to help us. Jonny Evans and Rio
Ferdinand have played a lot of games, so that will help us.

'We can't keep conceding goals. Going
against teams like Manchester City, they will punish any slack
defending, so we're going to have to be really on top of our game.

'We lost twice to City last season
and we lost the league. Those results were a major factor in that. So we
don't want to give them any advantage, and it's about time we got a
result against them.'

Titles, however, are generally won
with clean sheets rather than seven-goal thrillers. United's excellent
movement, desire and workrate up front rescued them, once again, against
Reading, but conceding three goals against a promoted side is hardly
the ideal preparation for a trip to the home of the champions.

Van the man: Striker Robin van Persie netted the winner for United

Van the man: Striker Robin van Persie netted the winner for United

How the other half did: Manchester City drew 1-1 with Everton at the Etihad

How the other half did: Manchester City drew 1-1 with Everton at the Etihad

Wales training camp in Poland – chilling route to supreme fitness

EXCLUSIVE: Cold play… Wales discover a chilling route to supreme fitness

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UPDATED:

23:04 GMT, 5 November 2012

Over the past year, Wales have narrowly lost a World Cup semi-final in New Zealand and won a Six Nations Grand Slam.

Many suggest their improved form is down to the emphasis they put on a brutal training regime. Sportsmail spent a day at their punishing camp in Poland and decided to take the (icy) plunge.

6am: THE PATH TO HELL

It’s pitch black. A path laminated with ice leads through a snowy wood to Spala’s Centralny Osredek Sportu. It is a gargantuan, grey, Communist block from the 1950s with what look like giant Lego pieces attached to it in seemingly random formation. Within this complex lurks every conceivable apparatus used to torture athletes in the name of elite performance.

Life in the freezer: George North (above) and Jonathan Davies (below) leave the cryotherapy chamber

Life in the freezer: George North (above) and Jonathan Davies (below) leave the cryotherapy chamber

Life in the freezer: George North (above) and Jonathan Davies (below) leave the cryotherapy chamber

The conditions are Spartan, but tough stints in the cryotherapy chamber mean the coaches can cram in three times the usual volume of training on a given day. As team manager Alan Phillips puts it: ‘We try to break them but they keep coming back for more.’

6.30am: IN AT THE DEEP END

Wales’ head of physical conditioning Adam Beard has the team in the pool before 6.30. This session is called a ‘cardiovascular primer’. It is too exhausting to be considered a warm-up. Some players are asked to sprint on the spot while fully submerged to starve themselves of oxygen, others are doing timed lengths.

Imagine 30 huge men doing extreme aerobics in goggles and swimming hats. It is ideal exercise because it keeps their heavy upper-body weight off their feet while working them hard. Beard is a calm Australian who commands respect. ‘We’re not good swimmers here,’ he says, ‘but that’s no bad thing because the more inefficient they are in the pool, the harder they have to work.’

Dip in the pool: The players are put through their paces in the water

Dip in the pool: The players are put through their paces in the water

Dip in the pool: The players are put through their paces in the water

7am: FUEL STOP

The food is basic but the players have an endless supply of fruit, sports meals (think healthy Pot Noodle) and protein in every conceivable form. It is no gastronomic feast but it is fuel. The players are measured on everything from stiffness to energy to general mood, and that information is used by the medical staff and physios to tailor regimes and help prevent injury. ‘We know how long they sleep and how they feel,’ says Beard.

8.45am: COOL RUNNINGS

The thermometer hovers around freezing and piles of snow mark the corners of the pitch. Running specialist Frans Bosch works on sprint technique and running economy with the backs, before Shaun Edwards takes over for defensive drills. The session is meticulous and not one ball is dropped.

Beard says: ‘When rugby came into the professional age we borrowed from weightlifting and track and field. Now we’re trying to find our own way. We film everything and take stats on everything. Frans looks at movement in a different way. If you’re more efficient at movement, you use less energy.’

Dominant: Wales have emerged as the major force in the northern hemisphere of late

Dominant: Wales have emerged as the major force in the northern hemisphere of late

10.30am: CHAMBER PLOT

I accept an invitation to join the cryotherapy. I am given socks, gloves and a sweatband to prevent frostbite. All sweat must be wiped dry or you will burn (one player suffered frostbite on a particularly sensitive part of his body when he ‘forgot to shake’). You spend 30 seconds in a holding chamber at -70C to give your body a chance to adjust before entering the second chamber for two minutes and 30 seconds at -130C.

In Gdansk, where Wales went before the Six Nations, a machine extracts liquid nitrogen so the room remains clear. Here, the fog intensifies as it gets colder until you cannot see your nose. The players play ‘word association’ and if you make a mistake you have to crouch down where it is even colder.

When the time was up I was so disorientated I couldn’t find the door. The science is simple enough. In the extreme cold your body tries to protect vital organs by withdrawing blood from the limbs, taking lactic acid and muscle damage with it (as well as lancing pain and getting rid of inflammation). Once you’re out, 10 minutes on a static bike flushes your system clear five times faster than an ice bath.

No rest for the wicked: The players head back into the cryotherapy chamber

No rest for the wicked: The players head back into the cryotherapy chamber

Beard makes the forwards do a 30-minute fitness session on the static bike straight after to gain the full benefit. Luckily, I play inside centre.

12pm: PORK WITH RICE AND TIPS

While the players are refuelling on rice, pork and vegetables, acting head coach Rob Howley explains the philosophy behind the punishment. ‘It is the opportunity to spend time with the players 24/7 and, as you can see, there’s not exactly much else to do. The players can be selfish and simply work on getting their bodies to the level the international game requires. You don’t get to spend 12 hours a day working on the finer points of your game at any other time.

‘As a coach, you need to see players under these conditions before you select them. You’d rather find out before a Test, so we manufacture those conditions here. This facility is unique. It allows us to put those players under pressure, not only from a physical perspective but mentally as well.’

1.30pm: DRILL BITS

A tactical session in the team room is followed by a gruelling but technical training session on the pitch that runs for precisely 41 minutes – the average length of time the ball is in play during a Test match. The session has been meticulously planned by Howley and Beard and there is a strict 30-second transfer between each drill. Things get heated at times, but quickly calm down. At the end, when players are doubled up in exhaustion, Beard delivers a one-word surprise: runways. Essentially a minute of sprinting, with a few ‘down-ups’, repeated six times.

Time to wrestle: The players move into the gym

Time to wrestle: The players move into the gym

Time to wrestle: The players move into the gym

Team-mates go up against positional rivals and the competition makes it torturous. It is a crude and cruel speed endurance test. Then the forwards head straight to the weights room.

3pm: GRUNT ’N’ GROAN

The forwards work with a mixture of heavy weights and medicine balls. It is short, hard, vein-popping work. Beard explains: ‘In the weights session we look at mechanical power under fatigue which is a key component of rugby. We try to replicate the ability to be able to perform explosive efforts and accelerate the body very quickly in whatever minute of the game.’

Wrestling is next — a key drill for rucking and mauling. Second rows Bradley Davies and Alun-Wyn Jones fight in a bout that produces world-class wedgies. Between fights they do abdominal work and lob heavy medicine balls at each other. Captain Sam Warburton takes on hooker Matthew Rees and the pair start grunting with exhaustion, producing a sound that has to be heard to be believed.

4pm: CHILLING OUT (AGAIN)

Cryotherapy: see above. And shiver.

6pm: THE MUNCH BUNCH

After dinner, Warburton sums up what distinguishes the training camps from the rest of the year: ‘All you have to do is turn up on time and train,’ he says. ‘Everything else is provided for you. You can be selfish and concentrate on yourself. The players like that. I get confidence in my game from putting in so much physical work.’

Pumping to the music: Next up is a weights session

Pumping to the music: Next up is a weights session

Pumping to the music: Next up is a weights session

7pm: PUMP UP THE MUSIC

The day’s final session is the most enjoyable: hypertrophy training (essentially weightlifting). There are 15 stations in the room and the players split into groups and choose which weights to do to pumping music. Jamie Roberts picks the track list while resident DJ Gethin Jenkins is in France.

Some work for 45 minutes or so, others stay longer. It is noted who stays and who leaves. This training does not increase power but, Beard explains, if you add mass and maintain speed that increases your momentum.

9pm: BEDTIME STORY

The players are spent. Beard is impressed. ‘When we first came here it was about us cracking the whip. “You have to do this, you have to do that”. Now the culture drives that. We have a liability board for those who aren’t training hard enough and the punishments are horrific. But nobody has come close to being on that list.

‘Before the World Cup we were fit enough to play but we weren’t fit enough to do the training the coaches wanted. We’ve provided that for the coaches and now we want to go to the next level. The technical and tactical should be what they focus on, not any physical limitation. We need to provide them with that platform, because if we don’t, we have failed them.’

Wales face Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia on consecutive weekends in the Dove Men Series at Millennium Stadium, starting with the Pumas (Saturday, KO 2.30pm). Tickets, starting at 10 for children and 25 for adults, are available at: www.wru.co.uk Tel: 08442 777888.

Goal from triple dummy at corner – video

Check out the triple dummy… is this the most outrageous goal from a corner ever

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UPDATED:

11:40 GMT, 3 October 2012

It's the sort of fixture that you are
likely to find on Eurosport and will only watch if the TV remote is
more than a foot away or you just watch any football that comes on the
box.

But if you was lucky enough to catch the highlights of Moldova's Under 17 match with Serbia, you
would have witnessed one of the more amusing set-pieces seen in recent
times.

Serbia Under-17s

Serbia Under-17s

From a corner kick, Serbia played a short pass to the edge of the penalty area, which resulted in three attackers performing dummies before Andrija Zivkovic buried his first-time strike into the bottom corner.

Three players performing the distraction seems a bit excessive, and the statue-like defending as well as the Moldovan keeper being anchored to the spot only aid the eventual goal.

Watch the video

Still, it beats your over-paid Premier League right winger delivering yet another corner to be easily headed away at the near post and credit must be given to Zivkovic.

The pass to the forward took a ridiculous amount of bobbles before he found the sweet spot, making him a handy option for a number of Premier League sides facing tricky FA Cup away trips to the lower leagues in a few months' time.

Republic of Ireland campaign could end early, says John O"Shea

Stop this rot! O'Shea warns lacklustre Ireland their campaign's set for early end

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 9 September 2012

Republic of Ireland defender John O’Shea has conceded the World Cup campaign could be over before it has started if the team do not improve on Friday's shambolic win in Kazakhstan.

The Sunderland utility man was one of the more senior members of Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad to escape from Astana with three points after their late recovery.

And, like captain Robbie Keane who had admitted Ireland were lucky to win the opening game in Group C, O’Shea was brutally honest about a performance which nearly resulted in one of Ireland’s worst ever results.

Hitting the skids: Republic of Ireland struggled to overcome lowly Kazakhstan

Hitting the skids: Republic of Ireland struggled to overcome lowly Kazakhstan

The vice captain said: 'We got out of jail, 100 per cent. We were very lucky – every clich in the book really. We just needed to get out of there with three points but it was not the way we planned to do it.

'At the start of the campaign, after the Euros, at all costs we needed the win and thankfully we stuck at it.

'If we end up when this group is finished having qualified, believe me people will have soon forgotten about this game but we are not kidding ourselves. It could have been very, very embarrassing for everybody involved.

'Thankfully it's not and it’s three points and we move on.'

Under pressure: Giovanni Trapattoni

Under pressure: Giovanni Trapattoni

PROBABLE TEAM

Coleman, Kelly, McShane, Wilson; Brady, Meyler, McCarthy, Keogh; Doyle, Long.

Ireland were once again exposed at a set piece to concede the early goal to Kazakhstan captain Kairat Nurdauletov.

Once a major strength of the Ireland team under Trapattoni, the free-kick undermined the Italian’s tactics, as it did in Poland when they conceded five goals in total from every game from set pieces.

O'Shea added: 'It's something we have to look at, especially with the teams that we are going to be facing. We are going to have to cut this problem out because if lower teams like Kazakhstan can cause us problems from set pieces then Germany are going to be more than capable of doing it.

'They will be looking at the DVDs of the last few games and watching to see where we have conceded our goals. It’s something we are going to have to brush up on.'

Meanwhile, Ireland are sweating on Sean St Ledger’s fitness after the Leicester defender suffered a recurrence of a knee injury.

FAI doctors are assessing whether the centre-back should return to the Midlands, leaving Hull defender Paul McShane and Reading’s Alan Pearce, who was called up on Saturday, on stand-by.

London 2012 Olympics: Hail Sir Chris Hoy, Martin Samuel

Hail Britain's superman: Hoy leads the way on Terrific Tuesday

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UPDATED:

21:57 GMT, 7 August 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

It is about the team, it is about the technology, it is about the wheels, the preparation, the numbers, the thousand tiny pieces of analysis and insight that go to make an Olympic champion.

Yet, every now and then, it is really just about the man. One incredible man. One man and his unending thirst for success. One man who simply refuses to be beaten. A six-time Olympic gold medallist called Christopher Andrew Hoy.

The men and women of Great Britain Track Cycling formed a guard of honour around him when his bike finally slowed to a halt at the Velodrome, and they crowded into the podium area when he stood head down, humbled, to receive his medal.

Scroll down for video
Hot wheels: Sir Chris Hoy powers round the final bend to go past Maximilian Levy

Hot wheels: Sir Chris Hoy powers round the final bend to go past Maximilian Levy

Emotional: Sir Chris Hoy was tired and tearful after winning his SIXTH Olympic gold medal

Emotional: Hoy was tired and tearful after winning his sixth Olympic gold medal

Unbeatable: Sir Chris Hoy crosses the line to win gold in the men's keirin

Unbeatable: Sir Chris Hoy crosses the line to win gold in the men's keirin

Lip service: Chris Hoy kisses his medal

Emotional: Sir Chris Hoy

Tears of Hoy: Sir Chris was emotional after his record-breaking win in the keirin

He wiped away tears, at last able to
show humanity. They clicked away furiously with cameras and smartphones.
No man is a hero to his valet, is the saying, yet that is not true of
Hoy. The rest of the team still lingered, drinking in the scene, as he
showed off his gold medal to photographers and the crowd. His parents,
David and Chris, looked on from behind a red, white and blue banner.
‘Chris Hoy — The Real McHoy’ it said. As if anybody requires proof.

The ride of his life There have been
so many great ones. What is indisputable, however, is that at 36, Hoy
needed every last drop of his phenomenal willpower to get over the line
ahead of Maximilian Levy of Germany. On the last lap, it looked as if he
had been outfoxed, the German taking an aggressive route to nip ahead.
This was where Hoy’s strength of character came to the fore. He held his
nerve, he held his line and refused to be panicked. As if locating a
secret booster button, the power increased. /08/07/article-2185038-146E36B0000005DC-181_634x477.jpg” width=”634″ height=”477″ alt=”Well done: Sir Steve Redgrave congratulated Chris Hoy after the Scot beat his record” class=”blkBorder” />

Well done: Sir Steve Redgrave congratulated Chris Hoy after the Scot beat his record

Hoy would not allow his sixth gold
medal to be diverted to Germany, or anywhere but his home in Salford. He
would not be beaten at his Games, in his backyard. After the
shenanigans that surrounded his fifth medal — with accusations that
Great Britain’s cyclists blatantly played with the rules to win — this
victory could not have been more pure. Here was an athlete sensing and
seizing his moment; here was Britain’s Olympian supreme.

He had us at four, really. After
Beijing in 2008 when plain Chris Hoy became Sir Christopher having won
three gold medals at the same Olympics — the first Briton to do so in
100 years — it was clear he was among the most exceptional sportsmen of
any era.

His achievements at these home Games,
however, have established fresh heights. His first gold medal, in the
team sprint, equalled the record held by Sir Steven Redgrave but now Hoy
stands alone. He has not spanned the same number of Games as the rower,
but his influence on his sport, track cycling, is unmatched.

He's done it: Chris Hoy celebrates after crossing the line first in the keirin

He's done it: Chris Hoy celebrates after crossing the line first in the keirin

Bring it on: Sir Chris Hoy managed to hold off his rivals for a superb win in the keirin

Bring it on: Sir Chris Hoy managed to hold off his rivals for a superb win in the keirin

The greatest ever: Sir Chris Hoy has more gold medals than any other Briton

He has grown with it, his success has
driven it on, introduced funding, created the domination we almost take
for granted now. From a single gold medal in 2000 — Hoy won silver in
Sydney — to a pair in 2004, seven in Beijing and the same again in
London, track cycling is the soaring success of British Olympic sport
and Hoy truly the man who inspired a generation.

He took his lead from the bicycle in the film ET,
those who have followed took their lead from an equally alien figure.
Hoy’s drive is nothing recognisable to most of the population.

Yet he gets through to some. On the
night Hoy became Britain’s greatest Olympian, the future was represented
by Laura Trott, whose gold medal in the women’s omnium (cycling’s
equivalent of the heptathlon) is her second at the age of 20. She may be
Hoy’s successor one day, or certainly his female equivalent.

And it was a sad moment, but perhaps
the defeat of Victoria Pendleton in the women’s sprint also served to
emphasise the extent of Hoy’s achievement. Success is not guaranteed,
even for a favoured British rider. Pendleton was hoping to finish her
magnificent career on a high, this being her last race. Instead she had
to settle for silver, victory going to her great rival Anna Meares of
Australia.

On the edge: Victoria Pendleton and Anna Meares collided in the first leg

On the edge: Victoria Pendleton and Anna Meares collided in the first leg

Letting bygones be bygones Pendleton embraces Meares on the podium after her final race

Letting bygones be bygones Pendleton embraces Meares on the podium after her final race

Pendleton’s obvious distress made for
a tense atmosphere when Hoy lined up in the final of the men’s keirin.
Trott had taken the roof off the place with a stunning time trial to rip
gold from the hands of Sarah Hammer of the United States. Yet now there
was uncertainty.

Pendleton upset, what if the hero of
British cycling, the flag bearer of Team GB, could not meet
expectations, either This had been billed as the Veoldrome’s equivalent
of Super Saturday. Such are the incredible standards set in Beijing,
just the one gold medal would constitute a rather tame Tuesday.

Instead, it will go down in history,
for reasons that stretched even farther than the Velodrome, heartbeat of
Britain’s success in these Games.

A dressage gold medal, even before
proceedings opened here, took Britain past their tally of 19 from
Beijing in 2008. Cycling’s success then took the gold standard to 22, a
total second only to the 56 won in 1908.

What a finish: Chris Hoy brought the curtain down on his Olympic career in record-breaking style

What a finish: Chris Hoy brought the curtain down on his Olympic career in record-breaking style

Smile for the cameras: Chris Hoy after winning the keirin to claim a sixth Olympic gold medal

Smile for the cameras: Chris Hoy after winning the keirin to claim a sixth Olympic gold medal

In reality, though, the two eras do
not bear comparison. There were 10 medal-winning countries 104 years ago
compared to 63 and counting now, and in some events it was impossible
not to get on the podium. Lacrosse, for instance, had two entrants
(Britain and Canada) as did motorised water sports (Britain and France).
The shooters fired at running deer and a sport called jeu de paume was
played, which we know in Britain as real tennis.

Some things never change, though, in
that Britain dominated the cycling that year, too, with five golds,
three silvers and a bronze. The running total for 2012, including the
medals won on the road, reads eight golds, two silver and two bronze,
with mountain and BMX events to come.

If that is down on 2008 it is only
because the rules have changed to restrict entrants to one from each
country on the individual track events. For this reason, Hoy was
excluded from Monday’s sprint, although it would be disrespectful to
gold medallist Jason Kenny to speculate further.

Let’s face it, six is enough for
anybody, although Hoy will continue to Glasgow in the Commonwealth Games
where the velodrome is named in his honour.

Head and shoulders above the rest: Sir Chris Hoy

Head and shoulders above the rest: Sir Chris Hoy

After that, who can say He will be 40 by the time of Rio de Janeiro and those pumping legs have to slow down eventually.

‘If you ever see me near a boat
again, shoot me,’ said Redgrave after his fifth gold. Yet Hoy pedals on.
Sometimes, it is just about the man. Only the man.

And what a man.

Sealed with a kiss: Chris Hoy with his SIXTH Olympic gold medal after winning the keirin

Sealed with a kiss: Chris Hoy with his SIXTH Olympic gold medal after winning the keirin

Video: Edinburgh and Olympic Park crowds react to Hoy's 6th gold

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Graham Poll: Italy have taken full advantage of weak refereeing

Italy have taken full advantage of weak refereeing

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UPDATED:

22:04 GMT, 22 June 2012

Italy's players seem to be enjoying
the new, lighter approach from referees at this tournament. They appear
to be using it to their advantage.

Andy Townsend was right in Friday's Sportsmail to highlight the 'dark arts' tactics employed by
the Azzurri, especially noticeable at set-pieces when they hold
opponents and block runs.

Foul play: Italy's Federico Balzaretti, left, with a uncoventional tackle on Ireland's Aiden McGeady

Foul play: Italy's Federico Balzaretti, left, with a uncoventional tackle on Ireland's Aiden McGeady

I refereed Italy v Croatia at a major tournament – just like Howard Webb did in Poznan on June 14. Mine was a 2002 World Cup match, which Croatia won 2-1.

So much went on that my assistant was confused as to what was a foul and what was not. He disallowed an Italian goal for holding – replays later showed the offence was the other way round!

Incredibly there has only been one penalty and only three red cards in the first 25 games in Ukraine and Poland, despite plenty of offences usually worthy of punishment.

Teams will be well aware of this as the players seek any advantage they can to progress. Weak refereeing, while popular with spectators in the short term, does lead to issues throughout the game over the longer term.

Don't be surprised if we see some controversial incidents in the latter stages.

Ian Bell ton has England backing specialists

England backing specialists after Bell's spectacular success in first one-day international

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UPDATED:

20:30 GMT, 17 June 2012

England will persist with their policy of backing specialists over bits-and-pieces players all the way to the next World Cup after the spectacular success of Ian Bell in the first one-day international.

Bell vindicated the selectors' decision to ignore his mediocre one-day history by stepping into Kevin Pietersen's shoes and hitting 126 as opener against West Indies on Saturday.

Terrific ton: Ian Bell leaves the field after smashing the West Indies' bowlers

Terrific ton: Ian Bell leaves the field after smashing the West Indies' bowlers

And England are convinced that, with the Champions Trophy being held at home next year and the 2015 World Cup in Australia, orthodoxy can take them to their first 50-over title.

Emboldened by their success against Pakistan in the UAE and with the introduction of a new ball for each of the 50-over innings, England have decided to invest in their traditional strengths.

A top three of Bell, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott will never win any big-hitting competitions but England are convinced they can score quickly enough to form the backbone of the one-day batting.

Belter: Bell forces England into a rethink of their selection process

Belter: Bell forces England into a rethink of their selection process

It is a mystery why a player with Bell's stroke-making ability has had such a modest one-day record but the first of three NatWest internationals against West Indies at the Ageas Bowl looks like proving his coming of age.

Bell's century in an imposing total of 288 for six was always going to be too much for a sloppy West Indies side weakened by the late withdrawal of Chris Gayle and Darren Bravo, both of whom are doubtful for Tuesday's second game at the Kia Oval.

Euro 2012 Is Roy Hodgson the man to help England end Sweden hoodoo

Revered Roy is returning to the roots he replenished as England look to end Sweden hoodoo

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UPDATED:

21:43 GMT, 14 June 2012

In Sweden they consider Roy Hodgson one of their own to the extent that they still refer to him as 'Royson' or 'Swedish Roy'.

It is 22 years since he left but he needs little encouragement to roll out his fluent Swedish and will always be adored for his contribution to their footballing development.

He won the title twice with Halmstad, who were relegation fodder when he first moved to Scandinavia in 1976, and won the title five times on the trot with Malmo.

He's so popular: Roy Hodgson is hoisted by Halmstad players and fans after winning the Swedish league in 1976

He's so popular: Roy Hodgson is hoisted by Halmstad players and fans after winning the Swedish league in 1976

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But for an ill-fated four months at Bristol City, he spent 14 years coaching in Sweden.

'He came to Sweden unknown but earned a big name because of the way he brought new influences into Swedish football,' said Sweden manager Erik Hamren.

'He’s a big name in Sweden and we will never forget him for what he’s done for Swedish football. I’m looking forward to meeting him but I hope he has a headache after this game.'

This contribution for which Hodgson is revered was to impress – along with fellow wandering Englishman Bobby Houghton – the English tactical system upon the region’s football psyche.

Sweden became long-standing devotees of 4-4-2 and only tore up the format when Hamren took charge two-and-a-half years ago and switched to 4-2-3-1, though he still relies heavily on physical power and set-pieces.

'You’re always looking to take new steps,' said Hamren.

'Seldom do you stay on the same platform. I try to do my job with my philosophy of how to play and get results.'

Scholar of the game: Hamren

Scholar of the game: Hodgson

Scholars of the game: Hamren (left) and Hodgson

So the Swedes are emerging from the tactical comfort blanket supplied by Hodgson and Houghton at a time when England have appointed Hodgson, who is expected to select a team in a 4-4-2 formation.

Hamren’s changes are seen as his attempt to eke more from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the talisman and captain, who will hope his brilliant hat-trick against Arsenal in the Champions League will end his poor personal form against English teams.

England, similarly, were relieved to end their long winless run against the Swedes with a 1-0 win in a friendly at Wembley in November but have never beaten them in seven competitive games.

'It is in the heart and soul of every Swede to make life miserable for England,' said former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson.

'Most football-crazy Swedes grew up with English football. They have followed the Premier League on television and know all the names of the stars and biggest personalities.

Speaking from experience: Svan Goran Eriksson tried but failed to oversee a victory over Sweden, with England drawing 2-2 in Cologne in 2006

Speaking from experience: Svan Goran Eriksson tried but failed to oversee a victory over Sweden, with England drawing 2-2 in Cologne in 2006

'The consequence is that Swedish players always work a little harder when they play England. It’s like a derby to them. And that makes Sweden a nasty rival.

'They always do their scouting with impressive thoroughness and because of that you often get matches that are tactical games – or even wars.'

So, having failed to beat them with a Swede, England will attempt the same trick with an adopted-Swede, playing in the shape the Swedes have finally abandoned.

George North: How to get ready for the Aussies…

How to get ready for the Aussies… man-made lagoons, big Brothers and table tennis

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UPDATED:

21:40 GMT, 8 June 2012

The Australian press have been bigging
us up ahead of the first Test. The TV advert that has been running in
the build-up calls us the 'European champions' who are coming on to
their turf. It's a bit over the top, but good marketing, good for
ratings and it's quite funny. I guess we are European champions in a
way, but in Wales we call it the Grand Slam!

We trained for the first week out
here with just 16 players so we're sevens specialists now. With the rest
of the squad staying in Cardiff for the Barbarians match, it was a case
of going through patterns of play, set pieces, strike patterns. The jet
lag has been a nightmare but we knew we had to head out here early as
we have a job to do.

George North: Ready for action

George North: Ready for action

For a couple of days we had the help of a local team called Brothers Rugby Club, who are top of their provincial division. They came to train against us and were a decent outfit with a few good players. The second day we even did full contact, every man for himself. They had a back who played fly-half on the first day then moved to the wing on the second. He had a step like Quade Cooper.

I'm sharing a room with fellow wingman Alex Cuthbert.

It's been sorted by positions on this trip. As soon as the first game comes it will all fly by – game, recovery, four days' training, repeat. I haven't even bothered to unpack, I just dip in when I need something. The World Cup was nine weeks but, with matches, recovery and four days' training, each week really does just seem to disappear.

We didn't have any internet for the first few days. Everyone was trying to email friends and family but couldn't. It was $150 for five days' Wi-Fi at the hotel so the boys went off to the shops to buy a dongle. They seem to do the trick. I like Brisbane. On the first night we went to the restaurants on the river which are very nice but it costs about $50 for a small 8oz steak – and it doesn't even come with potatoes!

On the run: Jonathan Davies during training

On the run: Jonathan Davies during training

We haven't been subjected to the cryotherapy capsule here yet but we have been using this man-made lagoon for our warmdown. It is a 20-minute walk from the hotel and it's freezing – I mean UK cold! We all jump in and stand in the water for five or 10 minutes. With the walk back as well, it makes for a good recovery session.

The table tennis isn't going so well as Rhys Priestland is flying again. He beat me yesterday and Mike Phillips is playing well, too. The table is on an open balcony above the hotel lobby and you can hear the boys downstairs. Everyone is quite competitive, as you can imagine, and people at the reception keep looking up, thinking, 'What's going on here'

Warren Gatland has still left his mark on the squad. We have such a system in place that, if you drop a few people out and put a few people in, the machine still works. He's a big person to lose but I'm sure he still has his input even though he's not here physically. The boys have sent a few things across to him and, fingers crossed, his recovery is going well.

People keep asking me about the Lions but I'm honestly not thinking about it. I'm quite superstitious and I don't like talking about things that might not happen. If it happens, it happens; if it doesn't, I'll have to take that on the chin and work harder. But I'm here and we need to knuckle down and win a Test series against Australia.

I wasn't born the last time Wales won out here – I don't even think my parents were! It's a big ask, but we play for each other so we have a good shot at this. We've got a really good chance to take a scalp.

The Scotland match tells us nothing about the Wallabies.

Will Genia was shivering during the second half, that's how bad the conditions were. We watched it to try to take some lessons from it but it was impossible.

It was sunnier in Brisbane. Shaun Edwards and a few of the guys went to the Suncorp Stadium to watch the Broncos play the Newcastle Knights in an NRL match. It's good to get an early peek at the stadium.