Tag Archives: riposte

Spineless Mike Dean has let everyone down by letting Ferguson get away with it again

Spineless Dean has let everyone down by letting Ferguson get away with it again

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UPDATED:

01:36 GMT, 28 December 2012

I was at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, supporting Manchester United, and I was appalled by Ferguson’s finger-jabbing tirade towards the match officials and particularly towards assistant referee Jake Collin at the beginning of the second half.

Regardless of whether Dean was correct in awarding Newcastle their
second goal in their 4-3 defeat by United, what followed from Ferguson
at the beginning of the second half was unacceptable.

Cleared: Sir Alex Ferguson will face no action after complaining to referee Mike Dean on Saturday

Cleared: Sir Alex Ferguson will face no action after remonstrating to referee Mike Dean on Saturday

But by electing to omit the details of Ferguson’s ‘discussion’ with the officials, Dean not only let himself down but also his colleagues and most importantly, the army of referees — some of whom are as young as 14, the age at which I began refereeing — at grassroots level.

Week after week, we are subjected to foul verbal abuse in the Saturday and Sunday leagues, the type of which just doesn’t take place in any other aspect of society.

Where else is a 15-year-old boy called a ‘f****** blind ****’

At 16, I began refereeing adult games where every decision is questioned, where every free kick awarded brings a foul-mouthed riposte and when 6ft-tall, 15-stone men are gagging for a fight. I did one game in a rough part of Manchester last year and sent a player off for two straightforward yellow cards and he had to be restrained from attacking me by his team-mates.

Heart-racing: United struck late to go seven points clear at the top of the league

Barrage: Ferguson complained to assistant referee Jake Collin after Jonny Evans' own goal was awarded

This was a rare exception but it highlights that it has become the ‘done thing’ in football to intimidate the referee. And the most frustrating part is that the Premier League referees could bring an end to it by following the laws of the game and dealing with abuse with red cards.

It would bring an instant flurry of dismissals but players and managers would soon learn that such behaviour would no longer be tolerated. More than that, the example being set would soon filter down to grassroots — finally, we would have the precedent we need to get tough on the abuse.

I am fed up of seeing referees in the Premier League being so utterly spineless. Why is it that they continue to allow players to question every decision, swear at them, and crowd around them in an aggressive manner Top-level referees aren’t helping themselves and their cowardice is damaging our cause at grassroots level.

Chris Foy: England must build on New Zealand victory

England's stunning victory over All Blacks must not be a glorious exception

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UPDATED:

23:39 GMT, 2 December 2012

The teams were in a meeting with broadcasters in the countdown to kick-off at Twickenham when a member of the All Blacks staff asked a question.

Where should they stand when collecting the Hillary Shield for winning the Test

'When' rather than 'if' certainly jarred with England. Victory had been assumed. Hours later, the tourists had an answer they weren't expecting.

Showmanship: Manu Tuilagi made two tries and scored one

Showmanship: Manu Tuilagi made two tries and scored one

Flying high: Chris Ashton goes over in typically exuberant fashion

Flying high: Chris Ashton goes over in typically exuberant fashion

Over: Ashton

The New Zealand players found
themselves standing on the grass at HQ, looking up into the stand as
Chris Robshaw raised the shield which England had wrenched from Kiwi
clutches.

A week after being booed at the same
stadium, the captain and his team-mates were swamped by euphoria, having
delivered a performance from the heavens and a result to sit high in
the pantheon.

There have been few days like it, certainly not against these opponents.

In a year when British sporting
triumph has become almost routine, here was one last instalment to set
among the golden highlights from 2012.

Put aside for now the magical,
startling numbers – a scoreline from English fantasies – it was the
manner in which the hosts shattered the All Blacks' aura of
invincibility which generated such joy.

This was not a wild and wonderful fluke, although only time will tell if it is truly a watershed.

Stuart Lancaster's team systemically
and thrillingly dismantled the world champions. In the post-match search
for an explanation, it became apparent that the backs-to-the-wall
mind-set of the squad after defeats against Australia and South Africa
was a factor.

They had stood by their embattled
skipper and challenged themselves to deliver a stirring riposte, without
perhaps ever imagining it would be quite as stirring as this.

On the charge: Brad Barritt breaks away before going over for England's first try

On the charge: Brad Barritt breaks away before going over for England's first try

On the charge: Brad Barritt breaks away before going over for England's first try
5 KEY ISSUES FOR LANCASTER

Thinking it over: Stuart Lancaster

RETURNING STARS
If the injuries clear up in the New Year, Stuart Lancaster (right) has plenty to ponder, with Ben Foden, Tom Croft and Dylan Hartley trying to force their way back into the team, but perhaps finding their positions taken, judging by Saturday's performance.

THE SKIPPER'S CASE
Chris Robshaw suffered in the defeats by Australia and South Africa, then led with distinction against the All Blacks. It fortified his case for captaining the side in the Six Nations but Hartley and Tom Wood remain contenders.

DEPTHS DISCOVERED
Tom Youngs prospered at hooker to offer an alternative to Hartley, and lock Joe Launchbury showed stunning potential. There is ample tight-five cover, and England are well stocked with flankers and scrum-halves, but reserves are thinner at No 8 and on the wing.

PERFECT EXECUTION
England varied their game but, until Saturday, the execution let them down. The midfield axis was better used against New Zealand, forward runners did not clog up the line too much, and a better chase justified the in-field kicking.

LOGICAL SELECTION
Lancaster and his assistants kept a logical selection policy, even when making six changes before the South Africa game. Failings were fixed between games, hinting at good work in training. The set-up didn't panic under pressure.

The spirit was willing, but there was
no secret formula underpinning English exploits. They simply did all
their jobs with that much more precision.

A week earlier, Lancaster had lamented an absence of composure and this time that precious quality was evident in abundance.

Take the build-up to Chris Ashton's
try. When the marauding Manu Tuilagi blasted through Dan Carter, Richie
McCaw and Aaron Smith and burst clear towards the 22, he shaped to pass
to his supporting wing but delayed for a second.

That made all the difference in
clearing space for Ashton's gallop to the corner. It showed that, in the
midst of a tumultuous encounter, Tuilagi had used his head.

That was the composure his coach
wanted to see. There were various clues to England's state of mind and
their intent to be positive against the world's leading team.

In the first minute, deep in his own
half, Mike Brown shaped to clear his lines but instead chose to swerve
past Cory Jane and scorch clear.

Shortly after half-time, that sense
of adventure from the players in white was writ large again when the
ball was shipped down the line in their own 22 and Alex Goode stormed
clear.

He released Ben Youngs and although
the scrum-half 's off-load went forward, this was England using the
weapons at their disposal.

They had the courage of their
convictions. Conservatism was chased out of town. There was a familiar
hallmark of Lancaster's England in there, too: character.

In the closing seconds, when the
game was up, New Zealand's Charlie Faumuina rumbled towards the home
line but was resolutely held up by Courtney Lawes and Dan Cole.

Even at that late stage, shattered from the effort, they had a fierce determination to quell the last resistance.

Setting nerves jangling: Kieran Read went on the charge for the All Blacks' second try

Setting nerves jangling: Kieran Read went on the charge for the All Blacks' second try

On the charge: Julian Savea scores the first of his two tries to give New Zealand a foothold after half-time

On the charge: Julian Savea scores the first of his two tries to give New Zealand a foothold after half-time

So many aspects of this herculean
achievement warrant so much credit, but the fundamental issue which has
been spectacularly enhanced is England's breakdown work.

Man of the match Tom Wood, along with
Robshaw and the likes of Cole and Geoff Parling, annihilated the All
Blacks in the contact areas.

The usually peerless McCaw could do
nothing to stem the tide and in being reduced to mere mortality, he was
joined by fellow Kiwi icon Carter, who missed kicks and tackles, and was
hounded to oblivion.

England established a 15-0 lead just
after the break, founded on a relentlessly swarming defence, Owen
Farrell's kicking and that breakdown ascendancy, allied to a distinct
edge in the set piece.

What happened next was remarkable.
The All Blacks, a champion team raging against the dying of the light,
hit back with tries from Julian Savea and Kieran Read.

Twickenham practically trembled with foreboding of a New Zealand onslaught, but instead the mayhem unfolded at the other end.

Under pressure: England were 12-0 up at half-time, the first time New Zealand have failed to score before the break since 1998

Under pressure: England were 12-0 up at half-time, the first time New Zealand have failed to score before the break since 1998

Metronomic: Owen Farrell's right boot accounted for 20 points

Metronomic: Owen Farrell's right boot accounted for 20 points

In the space of eight minutes,
England scored three tries. First, their derided midfield pair ripped
the visitors apart, Brad Barritt dashing through a hole on the left and
passing out to Tuilagi, who flipped the ball back infield for his centre
partner to cross from close range.

Then came the 'Ash-Splash', courtesy
of Tuilagi, before Leicester's Anglo-Samoan wrecking ball claimed a try
of his own by intercepting a pass from Read on halfway and first
sprinting clear, then jogging and finally walking over to touch down.

'I looked into the eyes of my
opposite number and said, “I accept your challenge, now let's play some
rugby”.'

– Manu Tuilagi on the Haka

Perhaps the All Blacks should have feared the worst when England's No 13 watched the Haka and responded with a big grin.

'I really enjoyed it,' said Tuilagi.
'It was the first time I had faced it. I looked into the eyes of my
opposite number and said, “I accept your challenge, now let's play some
rugby”.'

Boy, did he play some rugby. They all did.

England were sensational and the upshot was one of the greatest victories, not just of the professional era but of any era.

They spoke later of the need to use
this win as a launchpad for improvement in the Six Nations and beyond,
which is just the right tone to adopt.

This cannot be an isolated success. It must become the norm, rather than a glorious exception.

But for now, a fanfare is fully justified.

ROB WILDMAN'S PLAYER RATINGS FROM ENGLAND'S DAY OF GLORY:

Player ratings

Player ratings

Zlatan Ibrahimovic"s best goals

Reckon the propeller kick is special It might not even be Ibrahimovic's best goal… check out his greatest hits

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UPDATED:

09:52 GMT, 15 November 2012

It was immediately dubbed the ‘greatest goal ever’ and why not

A quite sublime piece of audacity from Zlatan Ibrahimovic set the seal on an outstanding four-goal performance as Sweden beat England 4-2 in Stockholm last night.

It was the perfect riposte to those who have called him ‘overrated’ and those cheeky England fans who thought him inferior to Andy Carroll.

For Zlatan, though, it was also the latest masterpiece to add to an impressive collection of breath-taking goals. Enjoy some of his best here.

Watch Ibrahimovic's goals from last night here

Special: Ibrahimovic soaks up the acclaim of his home crowd after yet another spectacular goal against England last night

Special: Ibrahimovic soaks up the acclaim of his home crowd after yet another spectacular goal against England last night

Tying opposition defences in knots for Ajax

Ibrahimovic was a long way short of the finished product we see today when at Ajax, but his stock was rising with each of his 48 goals in 110 appearances.

The pick came in his final season with the Dutch club, against NAC Breda in 2004, when he tied the opposition in knots with a mazy run, beating the same players two or three times each.

At the time, Zlatan was in a feud with Rafael Van Der Vaart, who claimed that Ibra deliberately injured him in training. After the wondergoal, the camera cuts to an ashen-faced VVD in the stands. Ibra didn’t care, he signed for Juventus the following day.

A flick in the knick of time for Sweden

Euro 2004 and things are looking bleak for Sweden, trailing Italy in their second group match with the clock ticking down. A corner sparks pandemonium in the Italian defence and, with a moment of sheer improvisation, Ibra comes up with a kind of looping back heel which has just enough elevation and dip to evade the Christian Vieri on the post.

Paying back his transfer fee for Juve

Ibrahimovic had plenty to prove after making the 16m euro (12.8m) switch to Juventus and started to repay his transfer fee with strikes like this against Benfica.

Marauding down the left channel, there didn’t seem a lot on but utilising the element of surprise to devastating effect, Ibra launched a powerful, dipping shot inside the near post.

A chance from nothing against Roma

Another excellent illustration of Ibra’s ability to create something out of nothing. Surrounded by Roma defenders, and near the half-way line, he looked very isolated when the ball comes across.

But a flick of genius sends him spinning away from the defender, his pace carries him clear and a clinical finish doubles Juve’s lead.

67mph free-kick against Fiorentina

After Juventus came a 24.8m euro (20m) switch to Internazionale and a flurry of spectacular goals. The pick may well be this one – a stunning 32-metre free-kick at the San Siro against Fiorentina in 2009 which reached 67mph as it flew past the goalkeeper and crashed in off the bar.

More set-piece magic for Barcelona

Another outstanding free-kick, this time in the colours of Barcelona, whom Ibra joined in a megabucks move in 2009. Things didn’t transpire too well in Catalonia but he did grab 22 goals in 46 matches – including this marvellous Nou Camp set-piece against Real Zaragoza.

Loopy goal against Lecce

After spending the 2010-2011 season on loan at AC Milan, the move was soon made permanent. More comfortable to be playing back in Italy, it wasn’t long before Ibra was indulging in the spectacular again.

In this goal against Lecce, lashed in from a good 30 yards, it looks as though the Swede isn’t even looking at where the goal is.

Acrobatics for Milan against Fiorentina

In all, Ibra scored 56 goals in 85 games for Milan, an impressive tally, and he clearly revelled in inflicting pain on Fiorentina. Not a free-kick this time, but a piece of acrobatic trickery in the penalty area.

He pinches the ball from between the legs of the defender, a keepie uppie and then, while falling backwards, a scissor kick.

Ricky Hatton workout ahead of boxing return

No more Ricky Fatton! Slimline Hatton shows off slick skills ahead of ring return

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UPDATED:

16:19 GMT, 14 November 2012

Manchester City’s No 1 supporter was training like a demon for his comeback fight this afternoon while his upcoming opponent was on a fan pilgrimage to Old Trafford.

Ricky Hatton unveiled the reborn Hitman to the world’s media as he slipped off his shirt and gave a full bloodied demonstration of much of his old power.

Scroll down to watch Ricky Hatton in training

Trim: Ricky Hatton performs a workout ahead of his return to the ring in Manchester

Trim: Ricky Hatton performs a workout ahead of his return to the ring in Manchester

Hatton's hand and eye co-ordination were especially impressive as he worked with trainer Bob Shannon on a fast-moving speed stick.

Vyacheslav Senchenko finished his
workout an hour earlier and sped off with his team of fellow Ukrainians
to pay homage to Manchester United.

There will be 20,000 rabid followers of Hatton – and mostly City – in the MEN Arena next Saturday night, waiting to give Mr Senchenko a welcome made even more torrid by his affection for United.

Senchenko said: ‘I am one of many in my country who follow the Reds and I am excited that I’m going to visit the stadium. My favourite footballers in the world are Robin Van Persie and, with all his history, Ryan Giggs.

‘My son Danil (aged nine) is also a big United fan and I must go now to buy lots of shirts and other memorabilia to take home to him.’

Senchenko is also vowing to go back to
his adopted hometown of Donetsk in Russia with the victory which would
re-establish him among the leading contenders for the world welterweight
title he held until recently. He says: ‘I have come here to win. I am
the fittest I have ever been.’

Ricky Hatton

Ricky Hatton

Before and after: Hatton has lost five stone ahead of his boxing return

Ambitions: Hatton could fight for a world title next year if he comes through against Vyacheslav Senchenko

Ambitions: Hatton could fight for a world title next year if he comes through against Vyacheslav Senchenko

Hatton’s riposte: ‘That’s not going to happen.’ The Hitman directed our attention to his muscular condition following his five stone weight loss and said: ‘Four and a half months ago I was 15 stone and could hardly walk back up the hill from the pub. And when I did get there, I had to sit down and take a rest before trying to climb the stairs to the bedroom. In all honesty, after all the boozing and blowing up and all the madness I put myself through, you shouldn’t be looking at someone in this condition.

‘But here I am and I feel as great as I look. I’m absolutely confident that no matter what everyone has been saying, this comeback is going to be great.

‘When I started just working out in the gym and changing my lifestyle, I felt well and I started watching other fighters more closely on the box. I found myself sitting on the sofa watching Amir Khan and Kell Brook and thinking “what the hell am I doing sat here”'

Senchenko admits he is convinced that Hatton will be back to his formidable old best. He says: ‘Although I think I can beat him, I know it will be a very tough fight. Hatton wouldn’t be coming back unless he has proved to himself in the gym that he can be as good as when he was a world champion’.

Tough task: Hatton's opponent Senchenko (below) has lost only once during his career

Tough task: Hatton's opponent Senchenko (below) has lost only once during his career

Vyacheslav Senchenko

The Ukrainian lost that status when he was stopped by Pauli Malignaggi, surprisingly, in his last fight. That his only defeat and he blames it on swelling around his right eye which badly affected his vision. But he remembers, with some irony, that when he was still the WBA welterweight champion, he met Hatton at that organisation’s annual convention in Panama.

He said: ‘We were photographed together because there was talk of us having this fight. But he was so heavy that I was worried he’d be too big for me and we might have to go up a couple of divisions if it was going to happen’.

Hatton’s regime has brought him back down to his fighting weight but he does not credit his return to boxing for saving him from self-destruction. He said: ‘I saved myself when I realised I had to live better for myself and my family. And the change is permanent.'

Even so, he plans to celebrate his return to the big time with a sample of his old ways…by raising a glass of beer to his fellow City fans.

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Kell Brook dismissed by Devon Alexander

Who the Kell are you Champion Alexander dismisses Brook challenge

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UPDATED:

22:54 GMT, 24 October 2012

World welterweight champion Devon Alexander has delivered a stinging riposte to mandatory challenger Kell Brook – claiming he doesn’t even know who he is.

Sheffield star Brook knocked out Hector Saldivia inside three rounds in the final eliminator for the IBF title last Saturday.

He hopes to lure Alexander to Britain early next year but the American insisted he is unfazed by the challenge.

Champion: Devon Alexander (right) has taken no notice of Kell Brook

Champion: Devon Alexander (right) has taken no notice of Kell Brook

‘I didn’t see the fight and I barely know Kell Brook,’ Alexander told World Boxing News.

‘We will see what my advisor Al Haymon and my trainer Kevin Cunningham come up with. Right now, I’m not even worried about Kell Brook because I barely know him and who is he anyway

‘I never saw him fight before so I can’t rate him, but maybe he can be used as a tune up. Right now there are a lot of options and I’ll just leave it up to my trainer and advisor to deal with.’

Down and out: Brook beat Hector Saldivia in Sheffield on Saturday

Down and out: Brook beat Hector Saldivia in Sheffield on Saturday

Brook took just 28 seconds of the third round to end the challenge of Saldivia having also had his Argentinian opponent on the canvas in the opening session.

The 26-year-old admitted afterwards that he would be open to fighting British rival Amir Khan ahead of a bout with Alexander.

Ashley Cole available for selection for England but likely to be rested

Hodgson to spare FA blushes by resting Cole despite being told he can pick under-fire Chelsea star

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UPDATED:

21:14 GMT, 8 October 2012

Ashley Cole will not be banned from playing for England for his Twitter attack on the Football Association.

Officials at the FA have chosen to leave the decision with Roy Hodgson and it is up to the England manager if he now wants to inform Cole that he will not play against San Marino on Friday as a punishment for branding the governing body a ‘bunch of t**ts’.

But the FA did hit the England and Chelsea left back with a misconduct charge on Monday for his remark on Twitter and Sportsmail understands Hodgson has no intention of taking any action of his own.

Training day: Cole with England at St George's Park on Monday

Training day: Cole with England at St George's Park on Monday

In allowing Hodgson to decide if Cole should be suspended, the FA are inviting criticism. Former England captain Alan Shearer led the calls for him to be suspended for being so disrespectful towards the FA – sparking a fresh Twitter riposte from Cole – and such leniency will be seen as the governing body failing to display proper leadership as the moral guardians of the game.

The FA could respond by pointing to the stance they have taken on John Terry, both in stripping him of the England captaincy and in dealing with the race row at Loftus Road. They could point to the way they reprimanded Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, too.

But they also refused to discuss whether Terry would have been allowed to continue representing England in the wake of the hearing. Instead, Wembley officials cited the fact that Terry had made the decision for them by retiring from international football the night before appearing before the independent commission that banned him for four matches and fined him 220,000.

It is unlikely Cole will play in this week’s World Cup qualifier at Wembley, but only because Hodgson plans to rest the player with a slight ankle problem – in the knowledge he can call on a more-than-capable understudy in Leighton Baines – and so make sure Cole is fit for next week’s clash with Poland in Warsaw.

Starting role: Baines will feature if Hodgson decides to rest Cole

Starting role: Baines will feature if Hodgson decides to rest Cole

It does also solve a problem for the FA – sparing the governing body the embarrassment of seeing their chairman David Bernstein shaking Cole’s hand in the pre-match line-ups before a capacity Wembley crowd. But officials will still have to endure the sight of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meeting Cole at the official opening of St George’s Park on Tuesday. The Duke is also the president of the organisation which the 31-year-old insulted after last Friday’s publication of the independent commission’s report into the Terry affair.

Hodgson contacted Cole on Friday to ascertain whether his anger towards the FA was about to lead to him following Terry into international retirement.

The defender assured Hodgson it was not and on Monday Cole reported for international duty with the rest of his colleagues at the new National Football Centre. It is understood Hodgson once again reminded all his players of their responsibilities as England internationals on Monday night.

The FA were concerned that the Cole situation would overshadow the Royal visit but it is only on Tuesday that Hodgson will be able to respond to questions from the media about the episode.

Having intervened in the past and stripped Terry of the captaincy, Bernstein will also face questions for the first time about both Terry and Cole in the context of the England team.

Question time: Bernstein is likely to be grilled over Terry (left) and Cole

Question time: Bernstein is likely to be grilled over Terry (left) and Cole

On Monday night Hodgson and FA officials were made available to the BBC but questions were limited to coaching and the NFC in Burton.

The FA might have insisted discipline and England are separate issues when Terry accused them of making his position ‘untenable’, but Terry was stripped of the captaincy over a disciplinary matter and there have been plenty of other such examples in the past.

Cole did issue an ‘unreserved apology’ last week for a tweet that also landed him in trouble with his employers at Chelsea, but the FA still took action on Monday as part of their normal disciplinary processes.

A brief FA statement said: ‘Ashley Cole has been charged by the FA in relation to a Twitter comment which was improper and/or brought the game into disrepute.’

Cole has been given until 4pm on Thursday to respond, which is a much tighter schedule than normal but may have been set with Friday’s game in mind.

Plenty to ponder: Hodgson has endured a turbulent month

Plenty to ponder: Hodgson has endured a turbulent month

As reported by Sportsmail on Monday, Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand has been called into the squad as a replacement for the injured Kieran Gibbs, with Liverpool’s Jonjo Shelvey also now among the seniors as cover for Frank Lampard, should the Chelsea midfielder be forced to withdraw with a knee injury he suffered over the weekend.

Shelvey is banned for the Under 21s this week but that would not stop him representing the seniors, even though Hodgson has called him in more for the experience.

If Lampard is out, Hodgson will also have to find a new captain, with Steven Gerrard already suspended for the San Marino match. Joe Hart and Wayne Rooney would be the leading candidates.

One piece of good news for England is the fact that Poland captain Jakub Blaszczykowski is set to miss next week’s World Cup qualifier after suffering an ankle injury while playing for Borussia Dortmund on Sunday.

London Olympics 2012: USA 4 France 2: Alex Morgan hits two goals

USA 4 France 2: Morgan's brace fires defending champions to comeback win

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UPDATED:

19:38 GMT, 25 July 2012

Olympics 2012

Alex Morgan scored twice as the United States produced a wonderful riposte after falling two goals behind, beating France in their opening match of the Olympic Games.

The reigning Olympic champions looked in trouble at Glasgow's Hampden Park when Gaetane Thiney and Marie-Laure Delie handed France a 2-0 lead after 13 minutes.

Double trouble: Alex Morgan netted a brace to fire the USA to an opening win

Double trouble: Alex Morgan netted a brace to fire the USA to an opening win

However, Abby Wambach's header and a
cool finish from Morgan brought the score level before half-time and
further goals from Carli Lloyd and Morgan early in the second half gave
the Americans a deserved victory.

These sides met at the semi-final stage of last year's World Cup, with the USA winning 3-1 on that occasion, but it appeared as if the French would gain revenge early on as they took advantage of sloppy American defending.

Thiney opened the scoring with a fierce effort from outside the area that Hope Solo should have done better with and two minutes later Delie doubled the advantage with a powerful drive, when after a number of ricochets around the area the ball fell perfectly at her feet.

Perfect start: France's Gaetane Thiney hit the opener

Perfect start: France's Gaetane Thiney hit the opener

The two-goal lead only lasted a further
five minutes though as Megan Rapinoe's corner found Wambach at the back
post from where she nodded in her 139th international goal.

Morgan made it 2-2 just after the half-hour mark as some awful defending allowed Solo's simple long ball to find the Seattle Sounders striker free to lift the ball over the advancing Sarah Bouhaddi.

Delie twice went close to restoring France's lead, while Morgan also had a big penalty appeal waved away.

Back in action: Hope Solo made her first appearance since the Beijing Games

Back in action: Hope Solo made her first appearance since the Beijing Games

The United States took control at the start of the second period and substitute Lloyd struck the crucial blow as she cut inside onto her left foot and fired a vicious shot into the corner from 20 yards after 56 minutes.

Another fine break from the Americans moments later sealed all three points as Tobin Heath was released down the left by Rapinoe and her cross found Morgan free at the back post to tap home.

It"s the making of Mario Balotelli! Man City"s problem boy is helping to usher in a brave, new era for Italy

It's the making of Mario! City's problem boy helping to usher in a brave, new era for Italy

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UPDATED:

23:11 GMT, 30 June 2012

As he stood tall, shirt off, torso rippling and the colour of his skin proudly exposed, Mario Balotelli seemed keen to make a point in Warsaw's National Stadium on Thursday.

Was it a riposte to the Gazzetta dello Sport cartoonist who had depicted him as King Kong prior to the England match Was it a final, definitive answer to Italian fans who had racially insulted him and displayed banners saying 'No to a multi-ethnic national team' two years ago in a friendly match against Romania

Sitting comfortably: Mario Balotelli takes a break during training

Sitting comfortably: Mario Balotelli takes a break during training

Middle man: Balotelli is always centre of attention

Middle man: Balotelli is always centre of attention

Balotelli may have been unwilling to explain his behaviour following the glorious second goal that ultimately finished Germany's Euro 2012 challenge but what is clear is that a 21-year-old footballer, Ghanaian by ethnicity but Italian by birth and adopted by white Italian parents, is ushering in a new era for the Azzurri at the European Championship.

Seasoned Italian correspondents cannot remember a black Italian ever having had such an impact on the nation's popular culture. For while Andrea Pirlo is the outfield leader of this entertaining team and goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon the vocal driving force, its vitality and future is represented by Balotelli.

Cesare Prandelli, the man who has guided what many considered a mediocre team to the brink of a glorious victory in today's final against Spain in Kiev, is now reaping the rewards of investing so much faith in a player who might have been considered too volatile to integrate into a squad playing tournament football.

The coach praises the job Roberto Mancini has done with Balotelli at Manchester City, but his compatriot had been reduced to declaring the striker 'finished' after his red card against Arsenal as recently as April.

Mario Balotelli of Italy looks on during a training session

Mario Balotelli of Italy looks on during a training session

Thirsty work: Balotelli and Daniele De Rossi

Thirsty work: Balotelli and Daniele De Rossi

However, Prandelli, who dropped Balotelli from his squad in March because of his indiscipline at City, took the risk and now receives the rewards. On Friday he grinned as Italian journalists applauded him into a press conference and now his job is to puncture excessive expectations.

He cautions against defining Balotelli as the symbol of a multi-racial Italy. 'I don't think we can solve racial problems just through one game, just because Mario Balotelli scored,' he said. 'He's not so much the symbol of the team, the shirt is the symbol of the team. And he is Italian. Full stop.'

But at times Balotelli still seems something of an outsider. After the win against Germany he sought out his adopted mother, Silvia, who wept as she embraced him. It was the most moving image of the tournament but while that was happening most of his team-mates had walked over to the Italian fans and were dancing an excited jig together in the middle of the pitch – without Balotelli.

It may be more realistic, however, to measure what Balotelli and Prandelli represent in football terms. Last Sunday, having beaten England at Kiev's Olympic Stadium, Prandelli spelt out his footballing philosophy. And it felt like a challenge to Roy Hodgson's England.

'A lot of Italian coaches want to start playing football now, not just playing for the result,' said Prandelli. 'We have this mentality – we want to play. This is the way football's going in the future and I think Italian sides will want to play as we are.'

And of England 'We tried to bring them out of their defence, but they didn't want to come out,' he said. It is the ultimate irony. Just as the English finally learn how to defend, thanks to former AC Milan and Inter coaches, the rest of the world embraces attacking football.

The makeover Prandelli has given the Italian game is similar to that which Jrgen Klinsmann achieved for Germany at the 2006 World Cup, foundations on which Joachim Low's team have built impressively, notwithstanding their defeat on Thursday night.

The task is greater though for Prandelli, the former Fiorentina and Parma coach. The caricature of Italian football would have it that cynicism abides on the pitch – this is the nation that invented catenaccio and revered Claudio Gentile – and off it.

Strike a pose: Italy's Mario Balotelli celebrates after scoring his second goal against Germany

Strike a pose: Italy's Mario Balotelli celebrates after scoring his second goal against Germany

Clinical: Balotelli heads home against Germany

Clinical: Balotelli heads home against Germany

The 2006 Calciopoli fixing scandals has been followed by the latest betting scandal, Scommessopoli, which has embroiled current Juventus coach Antonio Conte and defender Domenico Criscito, who was withdrawn from the current squad because of the investigation.

Leaving aside that Italy's greatest successes in 1982 and 2006 came in the wake of match-fixing scandals, Prandelli presents a different face of Italian football. He even dropped Daniele De Rossi in March for elbowing a player. 'I wanted to display good football, something really pleased with. we have taken our methods,' he said.

Prandelli already has a groundswell of sympathy in Italy death of his wife, Manuela, his childhood sweetheart, from cancer five years ago. Here he has been emgaging and quirky. After victories, he and his coaching staff have set off in the small hours of the morning to walk to a Krakow monastry – the first time they completed the entire 15 miles on foot – as a pilgrimage of thanks.

The great AC Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi, Fabio Capello's mentor, has said that Prandelli is revolutionising their game and 20 million Italian viewers tuned in to watch the Germany match, a statistic that has made the coach proud. 'Before this tournament everyone was more concerned with a Juventus-Milan game than the national team,' said Prandelli. 'Now we're getting results and everyone is supporting the team.'

It helps if you have the metronomic passing of Pirlo, the energy of De Rossi and Claudio Marchisio and explosiveness of Antonio Cassano.

The youthful spirit and inspiration, though, is all from Balotelli. And while Serie A is routinely derided by little Englanders, Italy does have a habit of producing players who can actually pass the ball to each other.

As for Prandelli, he is all smiles for now. A month ago, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti was so disillusioned with the latest scandal engulfing the game, he said it might be better if Italian football was suspended for three years. Prandelli, it seems, saw a politician eyeing a bandwagon.

'I simply said I don't agree with this view of football,' he said. 'We like to play fair. And if you think as Prime Minister or as a Government that the Italy team does not represent its country in a proper way then perhaps it's better for us to stay at home.'

Prime Minister Monti is presumably glad they did not. On Friday he confirmed that he would be flying to Kiev to attend the final. It seems Italian football is worth watching after all.

England can make a mockery of Sweden after Aftonbladet joke front pages: Martin Samuel

No joke, we can make a mockery of the Swedes

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UPDATED:

23:33 GMT, 14 June 2012

For this morning’s edition, Aftonbladet, the biggest selling daily newspaper in Scandinavia, has mocked up front pages of various British newspapers in the event of England’s certain defeat by Sweden.

‘L0-5ERS,’ says Aftonbladet’s imitation Daily Mail, which seems a tad optimistic considering that only one match between the teams has been won by a margin of more than two goals. It was on May 17, 1937 and went in England’s favour. ‘Smogas-bored,’ reads the cod Sun, which is really rather good, with a greater chance of accuracy considering that both teams seem to be putting much emphasis on scoring from set pieces.

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Swede revenge: Aftonbladet's tongue-in-cheek prediction is for a 5-0 defeat for England tonight. The Swedes imagined how the Daily Mail (left) and The Sun would report that

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Swede revenge: Aftonbladet's tongue-in-cheek prediction is for a 5-0 defeat for England tonight. The Swedes imagined how the Daily Mail (left) and The Sun would report that

Swede revenge: Aftonbladet's tongue-in-cheek prediction is for a 5-0 defeat for England tonight. The Swedes imagined how the Daily Mail (left) and The Sun would report that

There are too many scatological references in Aftonbladet’s take on tabloid culture to be truly accurate — the negative reaction to the ‘Norse manure’ headline in The Sun after defeat by Norway under Graham Taylor was a reminder that some jokes do not play as well over the breakfast table as they do in the laddish environment of the office — but nobody can claim Aftonbladet have not captured the zeitgeist at this tournament.

England in Ukraine are like the Manchester City of 10 years ago. They are the punchline, the butt, the pay-off to every gag. Somehow, a group of players that have lost two matches in close to two years have ended up as Euro 2012’s fall guys. Holland are embroiled in civil war, Sweden are firing balls at the bare backside of the reserve goalkeeper — and not particularly successfully, by the way — but mention England and a flicker of a smile plays across most lips.

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Back at you: Our riposte foresees a very different outcome

Back at you: Our riposte foresees a very different outcome

The Football Association have managed expectations so successfully that most of Kiev expects the team bus to arrive at the Olympic Stadium to the music from Laurel and Hardy. Here come England. Di-dum-di-dum, dum-di-dum, didderly-dum, didderly-dum. Look, there’s manager Roy Hodgson in front with the horn, selling fresh fish.

Last week, on the eve of the opening match with France, some Gallic joker asked the England boss why anyone worried about his team at tournaments when they so often disappoint; now even the Swedes are cracking wise.

The 1-1 draw with France in the opening game, a serious result and performance if ever there was one, has done nothing to restore England’s credibility on the international stage. Prior to the match with Ukraine, France coach Laurent Blanc was still having fun at England’s expense.

‘We can’t repeat the first 30 minutes against England,’ he said. ‘If we had played against a really good side it would have been over.’ Frankly, the laughter continues to echo from that fourth German goal in Bloemfontein.

The Swedes, meanwhile, continue to look back to the 1992 edition of this tournament, recalling the match and headline that seemed to crystallise decades of English disappointment: Swedes 2 Turnips 1. No matter that the last result between the teams was an English victory in what proved to be Fabio Capello’s final game. Sweden now sees every meeting between the nations as inspiring another pratfall from the folk who claim to have bequeathed the game to the world.

Maybe it is these very English pretensions that are the root of such merriment. John Cleese mined his post-Monty Python career from the simple realisation that the taller and more pompous the man, the funnier his loss of decorum and dignity.

Brolin, Dahlin, Brolin... Brilliant: Barry Davies followed his

Brolin, Dahlin, Brolin… Brilliant: Barry Davies followed his “Where were the Germans But frankly, who cares” of Seoul 1988 with more seminal commentary four years later in Stockholm

England’s failure to beat Sweden in a single competitive match is therefore made more amusing by the fact that in each of those games, almost the entire English nation expected victory as sincerely as Basil Fawlty believes he is running an upmarket establishment.

The contradiction is most explicit in the perception of club and country. Sweden is obsessed with Premier League football, to the extent that Aftonbladet regularly devotes six or seven pages to the English game. ‘Sometimes more than is in your papers,’ says Peter Wennman, their UK correspondent. The national team, by comparison, are game for a laugh. Anxious not to think himself coach to a bunch of clowns, however, Hodgson insisted the problem was, if anything, too much respect.

‘I’d be surprised if teams aren’t taking England seriously,’ he said. ‘I think it’s more that in previous tournaments, we haven’t been able to live up to some very, very high expectations. I think the reputation of football in England, the famous names of the Premier League will always mean we are not taken lightly. Swedes spend a lot of time watching our Premier League and get extra motivated to beat an English team. They like it if they can show that these highly paid superstars are not better than their players.’

You'll get your chance, son: Roy Hodgson will unleash Wayne Rooney on Ukraine - but England must navigate Sweden first

You'll get your chance, son: Roy Hodgson will unleash Wayne Rooney on Ukraine – but England must navigate Sweden first

The full glory of Aftonbladet’s parody of this newspaper’s ire, reads ‘This lousy eleven brings shame on England for generations to come after horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible performance.’ What chance is there of life imitating art Not a lot.

‘Sweden are not France,’ said Steven Gerrard, several times, emphasising a general mood that this is a group game England should win if they harbour serious intent to remain in this tournament beyond Tuesday’s meeting with Ukraine in Donetsk.

France, it seems, were there to be contained, Sweden there to be beaten. Do that and the group could be won, although a draw in the third game should be enough to progress.

Mercurial talent: Which Zlatan Ibrahimovic will turn up in Kiev

Mercurial talent: Which Zlatan Ibrahimovic will turn up in Kiev

That would be an even break for Hodgson here, anything more an unexpected bonus; and either way respectability would be restored. Having made a habit of exiting tournaments in chaos, or vulnerable to familiar failings, an England team that beat their inferiors, stifled their superiors and made some small dent on the knockout stages would leave Hodgson in credit and win a few admirers. Whether the new manager can take it to the next level and command respect for England’s style of football is another matter.

The team should include Andy Carroll beside Danny Welbeck, with Ashley Young reverting to the left in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Not since the days of Michael Owen and Emile Heskey has an England side been sent out for a major match in such a conventional 4-4-2 system.

The emergence of Wayne Rooney as second striker changed the shape of Sven Goran Eriksson’s team and almost every permutation since has been a variation on a familiar theme. Hodgson’s grand plan is to go back to the future and to a time when England were taken seriously in tournaments. The ones they qualified for, anyway.

Jonathan Edwards blasts Jessica Ennis "fat" comments

It is appalling to call Ennis fat! Olympic legend Edwards blasts disparaging remarks

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UPDATED:

22:26 GMT, 29 May 2012

Olympic triple-jump gold medallist Jonathan Edwards has branded comments about Jess Ennis being fat 'appalling'.

The 26-year-old's coach Toni Minichiello revealed last week a 'high-ranking' person within UK Athletics made the remarks about the heptathlete.

And Edwards, who won gold in the 2000 Games in Sydney said: 'It's an appalling word to use. If you have concerns over somebody firstly they should be private for something as sensitive as that but you don't use emotive words like fat.'

Jessica Ennis

Jonathan Edwards

Support: Edwards (right) has hit out at disparaging remarks made about Ennis

Neil Wilson

Ennis beat her main rivals for gold and broke Denise Lewis's British record at Gotzis last weekend.

Edwards added: 'It was the perfect riposte. Jess is not going to have the physique of a sprint-hurdler because she's got to do the shot put and the javelin so she has to get a balance between having some muscle bulk to do the heavy throws as well as be fast to do the hurdles, the 200m, the long jump and also the 800m. She looks fabulous.'