Tag Archives: sacrifice

Rafa Benitez writes open letter to Chelsea fans saying he will make them a success

Benitez writes open letter to Chelsea fans after his first league win saying he will fight for trophies at Stamford Bridge

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UPDATED:

08:14 GMT, 9 December 2012

Rafa Benitez has written an open letter to the Chelsea fans and says he will do all he can to bring success to Stamford Bridge.

The Chelsea interim manager has endured a testing baptism to his time in the Blues hot-seat and has been jeered by some supporters unhappy with his appointment in the wake of Roberto Di Matteo’s sacking.

The former Liverpool boss won his first league game in charge of his new side at the fourth attempt in the 3-1 win over Sunderland on Saturday just days after their Champions League defence was brought to a shuddering halt at the group stage.

Putting it in writing: Rafael Benitez has written to Chelsea fans telling them he will do all he can to deliver success

Putting it in writing: Rafael Benitez has written to Chelsea fans telling them he will do all he can to deliver success

The Spaniard has highlighted the relentless schedule of matches since his appointment, with the Sunderland game their fifth in a fortnight, and was keen to pay tribute to the Chelsea fans who have been in touch to offer their support.

Benitez used his own website to reach out to the Chelsea fans, saying: ‘From the moment I accepted the offer to join Chelsea, my team and I have worked towards improving the results and getting the wins that we all want – no matter what hours we have to put in and the effort and sacrifice in order to achieve this.

In the goals: Fernanado Torres scored a brace against Sunderland

In the goals: Fernanado Torres scored a brace against Sunderland

Winning feeling: Juan Mata helped secure Chelsea's first league win under Benitez

Winning feeling: Juan Mata helped secure Chelsea's first league win under Benitez

'As you can imagine from what you may have seen, we have been immersed in the tasks ahead and since the change in my work situation it has been a cycle of training and matches with virtually no time to do anything else.

'My official presentation as Chelsea manger took place on Thursday November 21 and I came straight from Abu Dhabi where I was giving a lecture. We literally walked straight off the plane into running my first training session in Cobham. After two sessions we faced my first match in charge against Manchester City and then just a further two sessions before facing Fulham in a local derby.

'Two massive league commitments in just three days. We had a couple of conditioning workouts with referrals and then another London derby against West Ham United. We rested on Sunday and then the same timetable again, Nordsjaelland and then Sunderland.

'The team’s win against the Danish side (6-1) was the biggest home win of the season for Chelsea but was not enough for us to progress in the competition. The results of previous matches of the group stage and the results that occurred on the night in other games left us without options. We would have liked to be able to offer our fans another ending to this story, to offer our fans another Champions League win but we now look forward to the Europa League.

'We are now challenged with the Club World Championship in Japan and it will not be easy – I tell you this from the experience of two previous participations with differing results. This team is willing to give everything to try and return with a new title to bring home to the fans.

'But let’s get back to why I am writing this letter and the basic purpose of trying to give a full account of my new situation and feelings before I seize this exciting new challenge of coaching at Chelsea FC. It is on that basis of the challenge I accepted the offer that was made. With the same faith, the same honesty, with the same loyalty and dedication I put into each of my previous projects.

Getting it right: Benitez says he has had little time to work with the Chelsea players on the training pitch

Getting it right: Benitez says he has had little time to work with the Chelsea players on the training pitch

‘That said, thank you all for your support, to those who have sent messages, emails, letters… To those who have called, who have tried to contact by any means possible… To all, I sincerely thank you for your support. We’re going to Japan right now to fight for the FIFA Club World Cup spurred on with all of your support.’

All 20 Premier League clubs will wear the poppy with pride on Remembrance Day

All 20 Premier League clubs will wear the poppy with pride on Remembrance Day

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UPDATED:

23:47 GMT, 2 November 2012

All 20 Barclays Premier League clubs will display a uniform poppy design on their shirts for the first time to mark Remembrance Day.

Every top-flight club will further show their support for the Poppy Appeal by donating all ‘Remembrance’ shirts to the British Legion for auction.

This year’s Poppy Appeal activities are even more poignant, with Armistice Day — November 11 — falling on Remembrance Sunday and all Premier League clubs have permission from the Royal British Legion to use the official Poppy on their shirts.

Wearing the poppy with pride: West Brom display their Remembrance shirts

Wearing the poppy with pride: West Brom display their Remembrance shirts

British Legion targets 42m record

The Poppy Appeal was launched in 1921 to raise funds to support the Royal British Legion’s charitable work and pay respect to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. This year, the Legion aims to raise 42million, 2m more than 2011’s record-breaking total, when 46 million poppies were distributed. The first Premier League club to play in poppy-adorned shirts were Leicester City in 2003, and manager Micky Adams wanted it to become the permanent strip after his team won back-to-back games that November.

Sportsmail has also learned that England’s rugby team will wear poppies on their kit when they play Fiji at Twickenham next Saturday — but Scotland will not do so the following day.

The Scots have opted to take the field at Murrayfield on Remembrance Sunday with poppies on their tracksuits and not play the All Blacks in poppy-adorned shirts.

Fiji will also wear poppies on their playing kit for their clash with England.

Wales, who welcome Argentina to the
Millennium Stadium at the same time as England host Fiji, will wear
poppies sewn into their shirts.

The
All Blacks will be wearing poppies on their warm-up tracksuits for the
anthems at the Scotland match. And Australia will wear them against
France.

Show of support: West Brom's Liam Ridgewell (left) and Gareth McAuley pose with south Staffordshire community fundraiser Alison Bates

Show of support: West Brom's Liam Ridgewell (left) and Gareth McAuley pose with south Staffordshire community fundraiser Alison Bates

Football’s adoption of the poppy has been mired in controversy in recent years. England were prevented from wearing them on their kit against Spain at Wembley 12 months ago by world governing body FIFA.

Eventually, after a Sportsmail campaign
and statements from Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron, a
compromise was reached where the players wore specially manufactured
black armbands emblazoned with the poppy.

They also wore poppies printed on their anthem jackets and observed a period of silence before kick-off.

Respect: Wembley falls silent before kick-off last November

Respect: Wembley falls silent before kick-off last November

In 2009, Liverpool and Manchester United were the only top-flight clubs not to wear a poppy on their shirts, but in 2010 — the last time domestic fixtures fell on Remembrance weekend — every team sported the poppy.

Last year every Premier League club wore a poppy on the weekend of November 5-6, but there was no uniform design of the poppy.

Some
were printed on shirts, some embroidered and some fixed by heat
transfer. This year, after working with the Royal British Legion, who
run the Poppy Appeal, each strip will carry the same poppy design.

Poppy day: Gabby Agbonlahor in Aston Villa's shirt in 2011

Poppy day: Gabby Agbonlahor in Aston Villa's shirt in 2011

Most clubs will iron on printed poppies but a small number plan to carry an embroidered poppy.

A spokesman for the Royal British Legion said: ‘The Royal British Legion is extremely grateful for the support that the Premier League and the 20 clubs are giving the Poppy Appeal. We look forward to seeing players, managers and staff wearing their poppies with pride over the coming weekends.’

World Series: San Francisco Giants beat Detroit Tigers to take two-game lead

San Francisco take Giant stride towards World Series after grabbing two-game lead

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UPDATED:

08:29 GMT, 26 October 2012

The San Francisco Giants took a 2-0 lead in the World Series with a 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers at AT&T Park in game two of the best-of-seven series.

Having posted an 8-3 win in Wednesday night's opener, Pablo Sandoval becoming only the fourth player to hit three home runs in a World Series game, the Giants took another significant step towards a second title in three years with another impressive home win.

The two starting pitchers – San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner and Detroit's Doug Fister – matched each other blow for blow in the early part of game two to ensure it was 0-0 through six innings.

Jump for joy: San Francisco Giants celebrate after beating Detroit Tigers at AT&T Park in California

Jump for joy: San Francisco Giants celebrate after beating Detroit Tigers at AT&T Park in California

Blowing bubbles: Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval starred in game one but couldn't continue his dream run

Blowing bubbles: Giants baseman Pablo Sandoval starred in game one but couldn't continue his dream run

World Series results and schedule

Game 1 – San Francisco won 8-3
Game 2 – San Francisco won 2-0
Game 3 – October 27 – Detroit
Game 4 – October 28 – Detroit
Game 5 – October 29 – Detroit
Game 6 – October 31 – San Francisco
Game 7 – November 1 – San Francisco

Brandon Crawford drove in the go-ahead run with a double-play grounder with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, though, and Hunter Pence added an insurance run for San Francisco with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

The Tigers were limited to two hits by Bumgarner and relievers Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo, the former striking out eight in seven shutout innings.

The teams will travel to Detroit on Friday before continuing the series with game three at Comerica Park on Saturday night.

Insurance run: San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence hits out in the eighth inning

Insurance run: San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence hits out in the eighth inning

Crucial: Hunter Pence watches his sacrifice fly that scored Angel Pagan

Bumgarner said: 'It definitely feels a whole lot better than having our backs against the wall.'

Reflecting on the regular-season trips to Detroit, he added: 'They were stressful series. Both the series we played there were tough. It's nice, but we can't relax. We got to keep pushing.'

No pain, no gain: Detroit Tigers catcher Gerald Laird (floored) reacts after being hit by the bat

No pain, no gain: Detroit Tigers catcher Gerald Laird (floored) reacts after being hit by the bat

Dramatic: San Francisco Giants' Angel Pagan signals for time after stealing second in the eighth inning

Dramatic: San Francisco Giants' Angel Pagan signals for time after stealing second in the eighth inning

Andrew Strauss was wrong man to take on – Nasser Hussain

Classy captain Strauss was wrong man to take on

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UPDATED:

22:34 GMT, 15 August 2012

It’s funny how the little details can sometimes reveal most about a man. Eight years ago, I was batting against New Zealand at Lord’s in what would be my final Test. At the other end was Andrew Strauss, playing his first.

We were chasing 280-odd and we’d just had a conversation about the need to get a bit busy with our running between the wickets.

In the next over, I got a bit too busy. Strauss was run out. In fact, he sacrificed himself, only 17 short of what would have been his second hundred in the game.

Class act: Strauss has been a top performer from the start of his career

Class act: Strauss has been a top performer from the start of his career

That sacrifice said a lot. He could easily have put himself first, especially on debut at his home ground with the prospect of twin hundreds there for the taking. But he just quietly walked past me on the way to the pavilion.

We ended up winning, and I was lucky enough to round my career off with an unbeaten hundred. But I gained a lot of respect for Andrew Strauss that day. That feeling, as Strauss prepares to make his 100th Test appearance, has never dimmed. In fact, I’d go as far to say that, as a man, I respect him as much as any England captain since Mike Brearley.

The truth was it didn’t need his sacrifice that afternoon at Lord’s to convince me he was made of the right stuff. Duncan Fletcher had been very excited about him during the one-day series in West Indies in 2003-04 — so much so that he told me Strauss might be a future captain of England.

The moment he walked into the dressing room for that Lord’s Test against New Zealand, you could tell he had something about him.

Run out: Strauss sacrificed himself when he was 17 shy of his hundred in May 2004

Run out: Strauss sacrificed himself when he was 17 shy of his hundred in May 2004

Ton up: Strauss scored a century on his debut against New Zealand

Ton up: Strauss scored a century on his debut against New Zealand

Some newcomers moan they’re not made to feel welcome. But all the best England players of recent times — the likes of Mike Atherton, Graham Thorpe, Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick — made themselves feel welcome simply by the way they carried themselves.

Strauss was like that, too. Some guys don’t need looking after — and even the senior players end up looking at them and thinking: ‘I could learn something here about the way to behave.’

And he’s never lost that down-to-earth quality that helps him treat the highs and the lows just the same. In that respect, he’s the perfect man to deal with the distractions presented by Kevin Pietersen.

If anyone has the right to tell KP to stop behaving like a Flash Harry it’s Strauss, who is as far from being a Flash Harry as you can get. I feel for him, having to deal with all this on the verge of a vitally important Test match for England, but he’s handled it with his usual dignity and authority.

The bloke I interviewed the other day for Sky was the same guy who turned up at Lord’s eight years ago. He’s never been look-at-me, never demanded praise. And he’s never set fancy fields just for the sake of it. Other players notice that kind of thing. It’s why he’s held in such high esteem.

Plenty to ponder: Strauss has had his captaincy tested to the limit

Plenty to ponder: Strauss has had his captaincy tested to the limit

Andrew Strauss by numbers

Strauss has played 99 Tests for England. He opened the batting on his debut against New Zealand in 2004 and scored 112 runs – becoming the first English opener to debut with a ton since 1958.

He has made 21 Test centuries and 27 half-centuries. Broken down, he has hit 865 boundaries during Test matches and scored 10 sixes. For good measure, Strauss has also taken 120 catches.

Strauss’s highest Test innings score of 177 was made in the third Test against New Zealand in 2008. He has faced 14,339 balls and in his Test career and has an average of 41.27 runs.

He has started 49 Tests as England captain. In those, he has overseen 24 wins and 10 losses, which puts him sixth on the list of captains with best win/loss ratios.

I might not always agree with the way he captains the side from a purely tactical point of view. For example, he can be a little reactive at times. But I admire the way he has stuck to a policy of asking his men to bowl tight and forcing mistakes from the opposition.

OK, so that might not have worked so far in this series against South Africa, which is to their credit: at The Oval, the South African batsmen almost ‘out-Englanded’ England by playing a game of patience.

But there’s no getting away from the fact that the period in which Strauss has worked together with Andy Flower has been the most successful in England’s history.

These are two stand-out individuals, which is why it’s so strange that Pietersen chose to pick his fight with them. Surely he knew he’d picked on the wrong guys.

If this controversy had happened towards the start of Strauss’s career while he was still establishing himself, he could easily have become flustered. I wouldn’t have blamed him. But he’s in such a strong position now that he can pretty much cope with anything that is thrown at him.

I remember thinking eight years ago, as he sat on the Lord’s balcony after the Test talking excitedly to his dad on the phone, how much it all meant to him. For an old cynic like me, it was a refreshing eye-opener. It’s to his credit that, 99 Tests later, the fire is still burning.

Olympic diary: Let"s not forget to celebrate spirit of a Sundial Sprinter

Olympic diary: Let's not forget to celebrate spirit of a Sundial Sprinter

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UPDATED:

21:35 GMT, 6 August 2012

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She is last over the line and the
first through the interview area afterwards. When I ask her to stop and
talk she glances over her shoulder and assumes there must be another
athlete behind her. A puzzled Martina Bibiana then turns back, points at
herself and asks: ‘You mean me’

The 100m hurdler does not receive many
interview requests. Bibiana is one of the 10,500 athletes who will pass
through London 2012 practically unnoticed by the wider world. She will
run, see four years of hard work and sacrifice fly by in one fleeting
moment, and the four-year cycle will begin again.

They always say it’s not the winning but the taking part that counts. Right now, however, her face tells another story.

The 100m hurdler crossed the line in what is recorded on the official printout as her ‘season’s best’.

But she tells me it’s her only recorded time this season and, in sprinting terms, it is light years behind the best.

Martina Bibiana: She was last but not least

Martina Bibiana: She was last but not least

Of the 46 runners that finish round
one, Bibiana ranks 46th. Her time is clocked at 16.18 seconds, nearly a
second and a half slower than the 45th best athlete and a full 3.24
seconds slower than Jess Ennis’s heptathlon hurdles mark.

In the time it took Bibiana to
complete her race, Usain Bolt could have run to the finish line and most
of the way back to the start again.

If we were to be cruel, her performance didn’t so much need a stopwatch as a sundial.

But Bibiana represents the Olympic
spirit we keep hearing about. She is the underdog seeking to improve and
to make her country proud in an increasingly commercial and rapacious
sporting world.

More from Des Kelly…

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She constitutes precisely one half of
Equatorial Guinea’s Olympic team here at the Games and carried her
country’s flag during the opening ceremony.

But her nation has no great tradition of success. Equatorial Guinea’s most famous athlete is Eric Moussambani Malonga, better known to you and me as Eric the Eel, the slowest swimmer at the Sydney Olympics. She avoids that level of infamy, but her frustration is obvious. ‘I’m not here as a joke or as a tourist,’ she insists. ‘My dream was to come and compete, but it’s very difficult.’

She laughs when I ask what facilities there are at home. ‘We have nothing. I train alone. There is a coach and they do the best they can, but they know nothing about the hurdles.

‘We are a small country. There is no money available to help sport. I hear that we are the Eldorado of Africa now and there is gold somewhere, but we don’t see it. I’d have to leave and train somewhere else for my time to improve.

‘That is why it is very important I am running in London. It is to show my country what we could be and tell people that we can win a medal if we try. Yes, this is over for now, but I’ll go home and start again.’

Under Olympic rules, every nation is allowed to enter one man and one woman in track and field events, regardless of qualifying times, with the exception of specific events such as the marathon, which requires a minimum standard.

Proud moment: Martina holds the national flag ass he leads her nation's contingent

Proud moment: Martina holds the national flag ass he leads her nation's contingent

If a country wishes to send more, it must reach the B standard at the very least. For the women’s 100m hurdles, for instance, Bibiana would have been more than three seconds outside the qualifying mark.

But the wildcard entrants provide many of the heart-warming events that live on as significant moments of Olympic history which can be just as inspiring as any podium finish.

Niger’s rower Hamadou Djibo Issaka finished his single scull heat more than a minute behind his nearest rival — and was roared home all the way both at Eton Dorney and in Africa, too.

His message was familiar: ‘There are many people who want to start rowing because I have come to the Olympics. We do it when I get back. We just have to wait for the boats to arrive.’

Magic moment: Hamadou Djibo Issaka at Eton Dorney

Magic moment: Hamadou Djibo Issaka at Eton Dorney

And Eric the Eel might have been a ‘joke’. But in March of this year he was appointed national swimming coach, tasked with the job of ensuring his country is no longer the punchline.

Back on the track, another hurdler trails in last in her heat. Lecabela Quaresma is from Sao Tome and Principe, an island off the coast of west Africa. The art student’s time is a distant 14.54sec, another ‘season’s best’.

But she is glowing because she was there. She tells me: ‘It doesn’t matter where I finish, my country is proud of me because I am running on the same track as athletes like Bolt. I even saw him in the Athletes’ Village.’ What did he say ‘Oh no, I didn’t speak to him — I was too scared! But I have a picture.’

We weigh our worth in gold, silver and bronze at the Olympics but, sometimes, a little piece of humanity has vastly more value.

NBC off beam

The Americans landed a spacecraft on Mars and immediately beamed back HD pictures from 154 million miles away. But NBC, who paid US$1.2 billion for exclusive Olympic TV rights in the US, did not broadcast live the 100m final from London. The event was shown six hours later. What planet are they on

Setting a terrible example: Gatlin

Setting a terrible example: Gatlin

Off message

When Usain Bolt finally led Yohan Blake into their post-race press conference, the world’s fastest man was still mugging good-humouredly for the cameras while Blake sniggered at his jokes and generally played the role of Muttley to Bolt’s Dick Dastardly.

But the Wacky Races truly got under way with Justin Gatlin. The American won bronze in what can only be regarded as a moment of solemn shame for athletics.

Gatlin returned to the sport in 2010 after a four-year doping ban. Everyone, Bolt and Blake included, did their best not to pay him particular attention. Then an online writer asked the disgraced Gatlin if he had a message to inspire children.

Here’s what Gatlin wanted to tell the little kiddies: ‘Go for it. Be simple and honest,’ he said. ‘Go out and challenge yourself. To all the kids out there, I say go out and do what you gotta do.’

Yeah kids, ‘Go out and do what you gotta do’. Take drugs. Never show any remorse. And pick up an Olympic medal. That’s some inspirational message. We can only give thanks Gatlin failed to win athletics’ blue riband event.

London 2012 Olympics: France 44 Great Britain 15: British men defeated in handball debut

France 44 Great Britain 15: British men suffer heavy defeat in handball debut

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UPDATED:

20:59 GMT, 29 July 2012

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Great Britain men's six-year journey in pursuit of the Olympic dream came to fruition, though it ended in a heavy defeat to reigning gold medallists France.

It seems a fitting reward that Team GB were able to make their Games debut sharing the court with the French, who are widely regarded to be the best side in the sport's history, after the substantial personal sacrifice the majority of the squad have made to be here.

Lives have been put on hold for the last six years after it was announced that Great Britain would form a team with the intention of competing at London, with many players sleeping on floors and painting toilet blocks in various outposts of Europe in a bid to get by.

Hang time: Bertrand Gille of France jumps to shoot in the win against Great Britain

Hang time: Bertrand Gille of France jumps to shoot in the win against Great Britain

Being in its infancy as a handballing nation, Team GB were always going to be outclassed by the defending Olympic and world champions and for all the progress they have made since 2006, the scoreline highlights just how far they have got to go to compete on the world stage.

Les Bronzes showcased exactly why they are the favourites to retain their title, with an imposing display of physicality and a strong defence, though the opening 20 minutes will have given the hosts extreme pride and cause for optimism.

Under pressure: Jerome Fernandez of France is tackled by Sebastian Prieto (right) and Robin Garnham

Under pressure: Jerome Fernandez of France is tackled by Sebastian Prieto (right) and Robin Garnham

Hot ticket: The Copper Box was packed to the rafters to watch the British men's debut

Hot ticket: The Copper Box was packed to the rafters to watch the British men's debut

Having watched the women's side perform so admirably against Montenegro and make such a positive impression on the unsuspecting British public, Dragan Djukic's side will have been keen to follow suit and they had the crowd rocking when they scored the opening goal, Steven Larsson thundering in their maiden strike at the Olympic Games.

France's superiority soon told and they rattled off six successive goals to lead 7-2 in the 13th minute, but Team GB did not allow the champions to run away with it and back-to-back goals from Robin Garnham and Chris Mohr kept the home crowd interested and the deficit down to three.

No way past: France's goalkeeper Daouda Karaboue tries to make a save at the Copper Box

No way past: France's goalkeeper Daouda Karaboue tries to make a save at the Copper Box

But their continental opponents again flexed their muscles, scoring seven unanswered strikes, and with a measly defence, they shut the hosts out, claiming an unassailable 16-6 lead after 24 minutes.

Another strong spell saw that become 21-7 by the half-time break and it really was a case of damage limitation for Djukic's men.

Unfortunately it was more of the same in the second half as France scored at regular intervals and their task was made all the easier seven minutes after the restart when Larsson was sent off somewhat harshly when former world player of the year Nikola Karabatic appeared to trip over himself.

On the attack: Britain's right-back Steven Larsson (left) shoots at France's goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer

On the attack: Britain's right-back Steven Larsson (left) shoots at France's goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer

France had license to play freely and they put GB to the sword, hitting the back of the net almost at will.

It was a hard final 20 minutes for the numerically-disadvantaged Team GB and they eventually lost by 29 goals.

Guillaume Joli top scored for the champions with 11, while Garnham threw in six for the hosts including two late on as the home crowd were given some cause for cheer.

London 2012 Olympics: Juan Mata warns gold is not a given for Spain

Gold is not a given, warns Mata as Spain star looks to cap sensational three months

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UPDATED:

14:11 GMT, 15 July 2012

Juan Mata is hoping to complete the 'perfect summer' with a gold medal at the upcoming Olympics, but the Spain ace knows that, contrary to some expectations, it is not going to be easy.

Mata heads to the London Games having already tasted success in three competitions this year, winning the Champions League and FA Cup with Chelsea before helping Spain retain their European Championship title earlier this month.

Viva Espana: Mata (centre) lifts the European Championship

Viva Espana: Mata (centre) lifts the European Championship

It has been an unforgettable time for the 24-year-old but there is still more silverware up for grabs as Spain seek to claim the Olympic football title they last won on home soil at Barcelona in 1992.

Luis Milla's squad, which counts on the likes of Jordi Alba, Javi Martinez, David De Gea and Iker Muniain, are highly fancied to do well in London, but Mata is refusing to get carried away.

He said at a press conference on Sunday: 'It seems that we must win the gold without even playing first, and that's not the case. There are other very strong teams, who have squads that can challenge for the title.

Up for the cup: Mata won both the FA Cup and the Champions League in May

Up for the cup: Mata won both the FA Cup and the Champions League in May

'We have to be isolated from these expectations about winning.

'We want to do as well as possible, but we know that it will be difficult.'

Mata, who was also part of the Spain squad that won the 2010 World Cup, added: 'Spain have won in recent years because behind the success there is sacrifice and a lot of hard work, and this is a good path to follow.

'Personally I've had a fantastic season, and if we win, it would be a perfect summer and a first season in England in which I couldn't have asked for more.'

James Anderson: England off booze to beat Sri Lanka heat

We're all off the booze… It can help beat Sri Lanka heat, insists Anderson

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UPDATED:

21:57 GMT, 24 March 2012

James Anderson and his Test teammates
are ready to make what previous generations of England tourists would
have considered the ultimate sacrifice in their attempt to retain the
world No 1 spot in sweltering Sri Lanka – a fortnight on the wagon.

The forecast for the first Test
starting tomorrow in Galle and the second of the two-match series
commencing in Colombo four days after the first finishes is the seasonal
norm for this part of the world – 'Scorchio!' and getting scorchier, a
combination of brain-frying temperatures of 40 degrees-plus and
lung-bursting humidity that makes every waking moment a sweating one.

Icemen cometh: Anderson and his England colleagues need to keep cool

Icemen cometh: Anderson and his
England colleagues need to keep cool

Mindful of the debilitating and potentially dangerous effects of dehydration, leader of the bowling attack Anderson has decided to stay clear of alcohol until the end of the Test action, on April 7 if the contest goes the distance, and he expects most, if not all, of his colleagues to follow suit.

ENGLAND IN SRI LANKA

1st Test March 26-30, Galle

2nd Test April 3-7, Colombo

Probable England team: A Strauss (capt), A Cook, I Trott, K Pietersen, I Bell, R Bopara, M Prior (wkt), S Broad, G Swann, J Anderson, M Panesar.

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Anderson said: 'You cannot overstate the importance of being properly hydrated in these conditions. There are not too many big drinkers in this team, so it's not a massive issue for us, but the lads just don't want to do anything that could detract from our performance or could possibly cause us issues on the field.

'So far on this tour, if we've a had a beer a few days out of game then it's been literally two or three. But with the games so close together I won't have a drink now until the end of the second Test. I don't think I'll be the only one … we have a job to do out here.'

Hot stuff: Anderson tries to cool off after session in the nets

Hot stuff: Anderson tries to cool off after session in the nets

A long list of former England stars might find such self-denial hard to swallow, but Anderson and Co are taking deadly seriously the issues of keeping outwardly cool and inwardly hydrated in conditions one former England coach once described as 'very nearly too hot for Europeans to be playing cricket in'.

Anderson said: 'From the moment you walk out of your air-conditioned hotel room you start sweating and you don't stop all day. Even Alastair Cook, never previously known to perspire, had a bead on the other day when he made his 160. He panicked so much he sent for boxfuls of new gloves. If your kids were out in it you'd call them back indoors.'

And those concerns extend beyond straightforward physical well-being.

'There are several potential problems: some of the lads have been getting headaches, we're aware of Graham Thorpe finishing the Colombo Test back in 2001 on a hospital drip.

'There is no doubt that the heat can disrupt your focus and shorten your fuse, and we can't allow that to happen. And, as a bowler, sweating hands means it is very hard to keep the ball dry, especially if we want to get reverse-swing.'

But equally, the 29-year-old who, with 249 Test wickets needs four more to overhaul fellow Lancashire legend Brian Statham to become England's fifth highest Test wicket-taker, believes England are well prepared, with a range of measures to maintain their cool.

'Some of it can be psychological, in that if you go on about how difficult it is going to be, that can also drain you. We have to accept it's going to be hot, accept it's going to be 10 days of tough cricket because we don't want anything to take away from our concentration.

'But two weeks getting acclimatised has helped and there are measures we can and will take to make sure we are as near to peak levels as we can be.

'We'll be weighed first thing in the morning then last thing at night to make sure we are not losing too much; I've been dropping half a kilo a day, which is OK, but Matt Prior shed 4kg last week and that sort of loss could be an issue.

'And I think myself and Stuart Broad will have to bowl shorter spells.'

How to beat the heat: 8 point plan

Matthew Macklin aims to dethrone Sergio Martinez

Macklin hoping for New York fairytale in front of passionate Irish crowd

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UPDATED:

13:56 GMT, 16 March 2012

Matthew Macklin hopes to complete a remarkable story on Saturday night by dethroning middleweight king Sergio Martinez in front of thousands of Irish Americans on St Patrick's Day at Madison Square Garden in New York.

A proud Birmingham native whose parents are both Irish, Macklin grew up in England, earning nine GCSEs and three A-Levels, and spent summers in Ireland, where he became an accomplished hurling player in his teens.

He gave up hurling at 16 when injury threatened his amateur boxing career and made an even greater sacrifice three years later when he dropped out of a law degree at Coventry University to focus on fighting.

Raring to go: Matthew Macklin believes he can beat Sergio Martinez

Raring to go: Matthew Macklin believes he can beat Sergio Martinez

The former ABA champion has had to tread a complicated path to the top, however, with multiple trainers, regular management changes and three professional defeats all featuring prominently on his career arc.

Yet after joining forces with New York promoter Lou DiBella, he has secured himself a 'fairytale' opportunity to become the linear, recognised world middleweight champion by dethroning superb Argentinian Martinez.

To do so he must beat the man widely regarded as the third best fighter in the world, behind pound-for-pound kings Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

Should he upset the veteran Martinez, Macklin believes he will have justified some of the tough decisions he has made over the years.

'I had to make sacrifices when I was younger, not least packing in university to focus on the boxing,' said the 29-year-old.

'I knew I could always go back to that so it was not that hard a decision. But I've always felt that if I got to this stage, and managed to win a world title, it would fully vindicate my choice.

'But generally it's been a long, hard road at times for me, but it will all be worth it when I beat Martinez.'

Main man: Marintez is considered the best middleweight in the world

Main man: Marintez is considered the best middleweight in the world

While Macklin (28-3, 19KOs) is given short shrift by bookmakers – some of whom have him a 15/2 underdog – he should be well backed at the famous Madison Square Garden venue, where the Irish community are expected to come out in force on St Patrick's Day.

One of Macklin's three career defeats was a highly-disputed split decision against WBA champion Felix Sturm in Germany last summer.

'I was very disappointed not to get the decision against Sturm but this is the silver lining,' he said.

'Everyone in America saw that and they were way more outraged than we were in England or Ireland. Maybe it was because they love the aggression side of boxing, which I showed, and so most in America barely had Sturm even winning three rounds.

'Everyone thought I won it, but over here they felt I really dominated him completely.

Out of luck: Macklin lost a controversial split decision to champion Felix Sturm

Out of luck: Macklin lost a controversial split decision to champion Felix Sturm

'It was good to get rewarded with this fight because being at Madison Square Garden, on St Patrick's Day, against Martinez, on (American pay-per-view giant) HBO, it ticks all the boxes.

'It's like a fairytale.'

Martinez (48-2-2, 27KOs) has apparently shunned the 'alphabet' world titles but holds the Ring middleweight belt and is regarded as the top man in the division.

The 37-year-old had a tricky night against Macklin's fellow Briton Darren Barker last year before stopping him in the 11th and he will hope Macklin's more aggressive style will play into his hands.

Despite worldwide respect for his talents, Martinez's name has rarely got the billing it deserves, so he is relishing the high-profile clash at one of boxing's great venues.

'It's a great, great honour to fight at Madison Square Garden and a lifetime dream,' he admitted. 'It makes me quite emotional.'

Kenny Dalglish switches focus to Premier League

The time for celebrating is over, says Dalglish as he switches focus to Premier League

Liverpool's Carling Cup triumph must be consigned to the trophy cabinet as the players prepare to 'sacrifice' themselves for the club again, manager Kenny Dalglish said.

A first piece of silverware in six years was secured at Wembley after a physically draining Carling Cup penalty shoot-out win over Cardiff.

But the players barely had chance to celebrate as they raced off to join their international teams for the various midweek friendlies taking place around the world.

And when they returned to the club's Melwood training ground on Thursday it was made clear to the squad the time for enjoying that victory had passed.

Cup of joy: Dalglish celebrates winning the Carling Cup on Sunday

Cup of joy: Dalglish celebrates winning the Carling Cup on Sunday

With fourth-placed Arsenal visiting Anfield on Saturday Dalglish wants his players switched on and fully focused on a match which could have a significant bearing on their aspirations for Champions League qualification.

'What happened last Sunday I think they fully deserved it – on the day and in their performances in the competition,' said the Scot.

'The boys have been away for international matches but I am sure they have enjoyed the success they have had and they will put it behind them and get themselves focused for the match on Saturday, which will be really difficult.

'We don't want to sound as if they shouldn't have enjoyed themselves – I hope they have because we have – but we've had the enjoyment and now it is back to work.

'We know the hard work which was involved in getting to Wembley. The players were prepared to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the club and we just need more of that.

'We will now go for whatever we can in every game. It is nice to be in the Europa League but it is even nicer if we can progress and build on what we did last Sunday.

Looking ahead: Liverpool face Arsenal on Saturday

Looking ahead: Liverpool face Arsenal on Saturday

'I am sure it has whetted their appetite. Our season is not finished because we won the Carling Cup.'

Questions were started to be asked of some of Dalglish's signings, particularly those who arrived in the summer, prior to the win in Cardiff.

Big-money signings like Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson had failed to live up to their price tags while even Charlie Adam, a 6.75million signing from Blackpool, was coming in for criticism.

Downing produced his best display in a red shirt at Wembley and Dalglish will hope winning something early in their Liverpool careers will give a boost to the summer signings.

'I think for everyone who has come in you don't realise how big and important and how difficult it is to change your circumstances,' said the Reds boss.

'It is not only yourself but your family who have to settle down.

'But they have now contributed to the fantastic history this club has and they have a place in a lot of people's hearts that maybe wasn't there on the Saturday.

Proud moment: Dalglish enjoyed himself at Wembley

Proud moment: Dalglish enjoyed himself at Wembley

'They can feel very proud of what they have done and happy with what they have achieved and I am sure they will want to achieve more.

'They won't take it for granted that it is finished, they will keep working.'

Arsenal arrive at Anfield after their own morale-boosting victory over north London rivals Tottenham.

Trailing 2-0 they bounced back to score five unanswered goals and Dalglish is under no illusions, despite the talk of Arsene Wenger's side not being the force they once were.

'They were fantastic – 2-0 down and then they got five goals in about 20 minutes, which is a fantastic turnaround,' said Dalglish.

'They were going through a tough time after a heavy defeat in Milan (losing 4-0 to AC in the Champions League) and I think that took the wind out of their sails.

'But whether or not both clubs won last Sunday this was always going to be a difficult game.

'We know what we are up against, we know what we have got to do and we will compete as well as we can.

'We know they have quality but we're not so bad ourselves.'