Tag Archives: uphill

Roy Hodgson disappointed after Jermain Defoe goal disallowed

Hodgson furious at ref Cakir after Gerrard's sees red and Defoe has goal chalked off

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UPDATED:

23:12 GMT, 11 September 2012

Roy Hodgson was aggrieved and relieved on Tuesday after a late Frank Lampard penalty saved England from a World Cup qualifying defeat by Ukraine.

England were trailing to a first-half screamer from Ukraine's Yevhen Konoplianka with three minutes to go and heading towards a loss that would have left them facing an uphill struggle to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as winners of Group H.

But Hodgson's team were handed a lifeline in the dying minutes as substitute Danny Welbeck won them a penalty.

Pointing the finger: Roy Hodgson shows his displeasure at referee Cakir after the final whistle

Pointing the finger: Roy Hodgson shows his displeasure at referee Cakir after the final whistle

Lampard scored the spot-kick to save his side from their first World Cup qualifying defeat at Wembley for 12 years.

England were annoyed that a
first-half Jermain Defoe goal was ruled out for a foul with the game at
0-0 and Hodgson went straight to the referee's room to protest after the
full-time whistle.

'I don't really know why Jermain's goal was disallowed as we couldn't see a foul on the bench,' said Hodgson.

Nevertheless, the England camp still
could not hide their relief at salvaging a point, even if a late sending
off for Steven Gerrard left a sour taste.

Hodgson said: 'I suppose you are
always relieved when you are one down late on. I am not sure I will
accept it was a poor performance.

Sent off: Steven Gerrard hands the armband to Lampard after his dismissal

Sent off: Steven Gerrard hands the armband to Lampard after his dismissal

'We went a goal down to a wonder
strike and you are always going to be up against it. But we kept going
and kept probing and deserved our equaliser.

'The post was made to work a few
times and we created some dangerous moments. I don't think there were
many bad fouls. There were too many yellow cards and Steven was unlucky.
He didn't deserve two yellow cards.'

England will be without Gerrard when
they face San Marino in their next qualifier in October but the captain
will be back for the tougher-looking meeting with Poland that follows.

Speaking about his penalty, Lampard
said: 'It's a bit nerveracking to take a penalty near end of the game,
so I was happy to see it go in the back of the net.

'No-one knows why Jermain's goal was
disallowed. We thought it was a free-kick and that the ref brought it
back too early. It wasn't a foul at all, so we are very disappointed.
Before the game, we wanted to win, but in the circumstances, after
having a goal disallowed, it showed great character to get a point.

Clinical: Frank Lampard dispatched his second penalty in as many England games to seal the points

Clinical: Frank Lampard dispatched his second penalty in as many England games to seal the points

'I don't think you can pin it all on
anxiety. It is a long group and this was not an easy game, so it was
good to get a point.'

Ukraine coach Oleh Blokhin was not his usual controversial self after the game but did feel that his team could have won.

He said: 'I can't imagine a better
start, we created lots of problems for England and we had really good
chances, particularly in the beginning.'

Montenegro took over top spot in Group H on goal difference following their 6-0 away thrashing of whipping boys San Marino.

Poland are third in the table – also with four points – following their 2-0 home win over Moldova.

Captain Jakub Blaszczykowski led Poland from the front, scoring one goal and setting up the other.

Blaszczykowski put the home team
ahead with a penalty in the 33rd minute after Lukasz Piszczek was
brought down by midfielder Arthur Patras.

Jakub Wawrzyniak then made the game safe after heading in a cross from the skipper.

The Poles are level with England on
points and coach Waldemar Fornalik said: 'We will have to get stronger
for the England match.'

Stale Solbakken faces tough test at Wolves – The Midlander

Tremendous track record New Wolves boss Solbakken faces tough test from the start

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UPDATED:

14:18 GMT, 9 August 2012

Stale Solbakken arrived at Molineux with a 'tremendous track record,' according to the man who appointed him, Wolves' owner Steve Morgan.

Neatly brushing aside the car crash at Cologne, the former Wimbledon midfielder's success with Copenhagen was highlighted as a principal reason for his appointment.

Let's hope the Norwegian truly is the 'real deal'. Because what is becoming more evident with each passing day is that Solbakken will be tested from the very first kick of the ball in competitive action against Aldershot in the Capital One Cup first round this weekend.

Tough task: Stale Solbakken is charged with getting Wolves promoted at the first attempt in the Championship

Tough task: Stale Solbakken is charged with getting Wolves promoted at the first attempt in the Championship

More from Neil Moxley…

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02/08/12

Season review part 1 – Aston Villa, Wolves, West Brom, Birmingham and Coventry
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The Midlander: Solbakken faces uphill struggle to restore Wolves' fortunes
18/05/12

The Midlander: Council are the only ones who can revive Coventry
11/05/12

The Midlander: No more Mr Nice Guy if Villa want bums on seats
03/05/12

The Midlander: Wolves fans seem to have an over-blown sense of entitlement
13/04/12

The Midlander: Player power would be recipe for disaster at Leicester
05/04/12

The Midlander: Villa failed to muster up a single shot at Arsenal… that's shameful
30/03/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Stepping into what is the most competitive league in English football with a fair wind behind you is one thing. Trying to engineer a flying start amid uncertainty with a couple of your more influential players is another.

No supporter should be surprised that the hired hands who pass for the modern professional footballer can dictate whether they stay or go when the merest whiff of a more attractive offer is in the air.

So it was with Michael Kightly. So it is with Matt Jarvis. And so, too, it is with Steven Fletcher.

It happened to Birmingham City last season. It will happen to another club in 12 months' time.

However, where Solbakken, chief executive Jez Moxey and Morgan can count themselves unlucky is the timing of these offers.

Demands: Steven Fletcher has handed in a transfer request

Demands: Steven Fletcher has handed in a transfer request

For the uninitiated, a footballer's contract runs from July 1 to June 30. When that date passes – and yes, I appreciate the irony of this – they are often due another portion of their signing-on fee or 'loyalty' bonus as the next 12 months of their deal kicks in.

Unless a buying club wants to make a statement regarding season-ticket sales by unveiling a name signing, it is normally only after this time that deals are struck, although the 'Fletcher to Sunderland' bandwagon has been rolling since mid-May.

Think about it. Fletcher could bank another portion of his signing-on fee after his move from Burnley on July 1. Then negotiate himself another chunk of cash when he moves to the Stadium of Light in late August. Nice work if you can get it.

Given Martin O'Neill's past dealings at Aston Villa, it is little surprise that the Irishman has waited almost until the season's start to make a concerted effort to prise the Scotland international to Wearside. He routinely waited until the last week before the transfer window closed to make his moves at Villa Park.

Jarvis has also been at the centre of bids by West Ham and Fulham to move him back into the Premier League for some time.

And Moxey explained that Kightly's sale was forced by the player entering the final year of his deal. It was, given the player's pay hike, probably a deal which suited both parties (although, I'm sure like me, plenty of Wolves' supporters would have liked to have seen him form part of a successful promotion campaign).

It may well be that Wolves' coffers are swelled by over 20m by the time that the transfer window closes in the Premier League (it appears to be a case of when, not if, both depart).

Fair recompense some might say. It would, though, have been far more helpful had this whole situation been finalised weeks ago.

Departure: Michael Kightly has signed for Stoke

Departure: Michael Kightly has signed for Stoke

The continuing swirl of uncertainty around Molineux with a situation not under the club's control is not conducive to Solbakken producing performances on the pitch.

Do the disaffected players remain part of the group Do they train with the first-team Are they named to start, safe in the knowledge that before the next match is played, they could be on their way How does that affect the squad Can it be allowed to affect the group

Solbakken has to deal with that in the early part of the season and put out a competitive team in this toughest of leagues.

Make no mistake, Championship managers will be smelling blood in the opening few weeks of the campaign.

The Norwegian has to get to grips quickly in a division in which he has no practical experience and manage those who want to get away and those who want to stay.

It is the first examination in what is sure to be a testing campaign. Let's face it, there is always a sense of impatience among supporters whenever a team drops out of the Premier League.

So, Solbakken might boast a 'tremendous track record.' But this Championship campaign already looks like providing him with an acid test as to whether he can cut it in English football.

And, you suspect, in just ten months' time we will have the answer about whether his stay in the Black Country will be a long one.

London 2012 Olympics: Canoe sprint – Tim Brabants ready to defend title

Brabants ready to defend canoe sprint title after winning injury battle

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UPDATED:

14:36 GMT, 5 August 2012

Olympics 2012

Tim Brabants said he is as ready as he can be to defend his canoe sprint Olympic crown after coming back from serious injury to compete in this year's games.

Brabants, who won gold in Beijing, needed surgery in 2010 after he ripped his right pectoral tendon doing bench presses in the gym.

Since then it has been a struggle to get back to peak fitness and the 35-year-old accident and emergency doctor admits it will be tricky to defend his crown.

Canoe believe it: Brabants celebrates his triumph in Beijing four years ago

Canoe believe it: Brabants celebrates his triumph in Beijing four years ago

On Monday he opens the canoe sprint competition in the men's K1 1000 metres heats at Eton Dorney, where he will be hoping to add to the success of the canoe slalom specialists who won gold and silver in the men's two man boat.

Brabants, from Walton-on Thames in Surrey, said: 'It has been an uphill struggle to get here since my shoulder injury in 2010, with 2011 and the early part of this year being pretty much a write off.

'I am now just getting better and better and back to be where I want to be at this stage and I am as ready as I can be.

'I haven't written myself off, I am back on form now and I have got the experience from previous games, so I know I can handle the pressure side of it.

'When I sit on the start line I know I have given it everything I can, but there are a lot of talented athletes in our sport so it is going to be tough and with different winners at all the major races this season it shows the quality of the field.'

Back in action: Brabants injured himself in the gym

Back in action: Brabants injured himself in the gym

Golden moment: Brabants shows off his medal

Golden moment: Brabants shows off his medal

If Brabants fails to strike gold, Team GB has another great chance in Ed McKeever, dubbed the Usain Bolt of the water.

McKeever, 28, from Bradford-on-Avon, is competing in the new men's K1 200 metre sprint. The trainee accountant is one of the favourites for gold, after winning in the world cup series earlier this year.

Liam Heath and Jon Schofield in the K2 200m also represent a great medal chance for Team GB, while Richard Jefferies, who was selected for the Olympics after making it through the Sporting Giants talent spotting scheme, will compete in the men's C1 1000 metres and C1 200 metres.

A medal for Jefferies, who only applied after his brother saw an advert in his local gym, is unlikely but given the success of Helen Glover in the rowing, also selected through the scheme, expectations will be raised.

In the women's K4, Jessica Walker, Rachel Cawthorn, Angela Hannah and Louisa Sawers compete for Team GB.

Cawthorn will also race in the women's K1 500 metres, while Walker will compete in the K1 200 metres. Sawers will be joined in the women's K2 500 metres by Abigail Edmonds.

The team's head coach Brendan Purcell said the preparations have gone well.

'We've had a really good pre-training camp. It was great environment to put the final touches to the preparations,' he said.

'Everyone is getting very excited about being a part of the Olympics. We all went down to watch the rowing today and absorb the atmosphere. It was very inspirational to see the guys in the canoe slalom pick up their first gold. Everyone now can't wait to get out there on the water.'

London 2012 Olympics: Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier lose first badminton match

Adcock and Bankier face uphill task after losing opening clash to Russians

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UPDATED:

11:19 GMT, 28 July 2012

Olympics 2012

Great Britain's Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier failed to capitalise on a fine start as they were beaten in their London 2012 opener at Wembley Arena.

Adcock and Bankier raced ahead in the opening game of their Group A match against Russia's Alexandr Nikolaenko and Valeria Sorokina, but their opponents hit back to win 14-21 21-9 21-18.

The Anglo-Scottish pair, silver medallists at the World Championships at the same venue last year, must now bounce back quickly against Germans Michael Fuchs and Birgit Michels on Sunday.

Bad start: Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier lost out to Valeria Sorokina and Alexandr Nikolaenko

Bad start: Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier lost out to Valeria Sorokina and Alexandr Nikolaenko

Having entered the arena to a huge roar from the near sell-out crowd, the world number 10s made a superb start against opponents ranked five places below them.

The Britons dominated the opening game, with Adcock continually punishing Nikolaenko for lifting too often by smashing down at Sorokina while Bankier took charge at the net.

Their fast-paced attacking style was well rewarded as they took the opening game in 17 minutes, but the Russians changed the tempo to control the second.

Sorokina came to the fore as Bankier faltered and the loss of six successive points early in the game put the Britons on the back foot.

With the momentum lost, the Russians
eased away to level the match but Adcock and Bankier recovered their
poise in a tight final game.

There
was little to separate the two pairs but Adcock and Bankier had the
edge until the loss of four straight points turned a 14-12 lead into a
16-14 deficit.

Solemn: Adcock and Bankier will have to bounce back in their next group match

Solemn: Adcock and Bankier will have to bounce back in their next group match

Nikolaenko and Sorokina did not relinquish their lead and went on to wrap up the match in 61 minutes.

With a match against top seeds Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei also still to come, Adcock and Bankier, who had realistic medal hopes, face a battle to reach the knock-out stages.

Adcock, 23, said: 'Obviously we're very disappointed. We came here for a win and we didn't get it.

'But it is a group stage and know that two wins can still get us to the next stage. That is the positive of the day.

'We started really well and the crowd were brilliant but they adjusted their tactics and we were unable to combat that.

'The third game got a bit scrappy and they came out on top.

'Ideally we wanted to win every game and get off to a good start but now we have to go back, recuperate and prepare for the next two games.'

Stretch: Bankier returns a shot against Alexandr Nikolaenko and Valeria Sorokina of Russia

Stretch: Bankier returns a shot against Alexandr Nikolaenko and Valeria Sorokina of Russia

Adcock and Bankier had been expecting to open their campaign against the Chinese duo Zhang and Zhao on Sunday morning but the Badminton World Federation announced wholesale changes to the schedule on the eve of competition.

Because of an oversight, the initial programme did not comply to the governing body's own regulations for round-robin competitions.

The arena was also very warm for most of the morning session as the air conditioning had been turned off by organisers because of concerns it might affect the flights of shuttlecocks. It was turned on towards the end of the session.

Adcock did not cite either factor as an excuse for defeat.

The Nottingham player said: 'We found out quite early about the changes.

'A lot was made of it, after the draw was done the wrong way at the start, but that is the way it is.

Better luck next time: Adcock and Bankier acknowledge the crowd after their opening defeat

Better luck next time: Adcock and Bankier acknowledge the crowd after their opening defeat

'As soon as we were told the schedule had changed it was okay, we just prepared for the first match.

'It was quite warm, all events under TV lights are like that, but it felt okay. Unfortunately we just couldn't come through.'

Glaswegian Bankier, 24, said: 'We had a great start. I think we were playing well and the reaction we got when we went into the arena helped us.

'We felt very positive going into the first set and won that quite comfortably.

'But, like us, they had a gameplan as well and they managed to combat ours.

'I found my job quite difficult at the net.

'The third set was back and forwards but we just couldn't get that run we needed.

'We're extremely disappointed but we've got to get over it and move on, get ready for the next game.'

Sweden v England – EURO 2012 LIVE

EURO 2012 LIVE: Sweden v England – the action from Kiev as it happens

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UPDATED:

18:50 GMT, 15 June 2012

Follow Sportsmail's coverage of Euro 2012 as England go in search of their first win of the tournament against the only pointless side in Group D, Sweden. Roy Hodgson's men achieved a credible draw in their opening match against France but know they will face an uphill struggle to qualify for the knockout stages should they miss out on all three points here.

Find me on twitter @JamesAndrew_ or email me on [email protected] to get your views across.

SWEDEN VS ENGLAND (KO: 8:00PM)

Sweden: Isaksson, Granqvist, Mellberg, Jonas Olsson, Martin Olsson, Larsson, Svensson, Kallstrom, Elm, Ibrahimovic, Elmander.

Subs: Wiland, Hansson, Lustig, Hysen, Antonsson, Wernbloom, Safari, Holmen, Bajrami, Toivonen, Wilhelmsson, Rosenberg.

England: Hart, Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole, Milner, Parker, Gerrard, Young, Carroll, Welbeck.

Subs: Green, Butland, Kelly, Walcott, Henderson, Baines, Jones, Jagielka, Downing, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Defoe.

Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

7.48pm: All over in Donetsk, the game ended France 2 Ukraine 0. That result puts France top of Group D with four points, Ukraine are in second with three, England have one point and Sweden are bottom without a point.

7.45pm: We should be kicking off in the Olympic Stadium in Kiev now, but due to the torrential rain in Donetsk which temporarily postponed France's game with Ukraine. So Kick off will be in 15 minutes.

7.40pm: Former Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher is in Kiev tonight, he has ensured that his world tour with new line-up the High Flying Birds were playing in Ukraine during the Euros, nice work if you can get it.

7.35pm: There are expected to be between 3,000-4,000 England fans in Kiev tonight. That is thought to be far less than Swedes, but there is no doubt that they will make enough noise to make sure they do not feel outnumbered.

7.32pm: Former England winger Chris Waddle being interviewed on BBC and is confident of an England win tonight.

7.25pm: Zlatan Ibrahimovic apparently has 11 tattoos on his back. Unlikely that will help or hinder him, but just a nugget of information.

7.10pm: Another goal in Donetsk, Newcastle's Yohan Cabaye has put the French two up. France 2 Ukraine 0

7.08pm Goal in Donetsk, France 1 Ukraine 0. Jeremy Menez has put the French ahead early in the second half. follow the action HERE

7.06pm: Just to give a little comparison between the two strike-forces, Danny Welbeck and Andy Carroll have England 10 caps and 2 goals between them. Where as Johan Elmander and Zlatan Ibrahimovic 142 caps and 47 goals for Sweden.

Blue moon: Noel Gallagher unravels a Manchester City flag ahead of the game

Blue moon: Noel Gallagher unravels a Manchester City flag ahead of the game

6.55pm: The Sweden team is in: Isaaksson, Grandqvist, Mellberg, J Olsson, M Olsson, Larsson, Svensson, Kallstrom, Elm, Ibrahimovic, Elmander.

6.50pm: In the build up to the game, Roy Hodgson has said he wants his team to be more clinical in front of goal, so was clearly in his mind when he opted for Carroll over Oxlade-Chamberlain and 4-4-2 formation

6.48pm: The England team is in, and as predicted the line-up is: Hart, Johnson,
Terry, Lescott, Cole, Milner, Gerrard (c), Parker, Young, Welbeck, Carroll.

Ready and waiting: England fans wait for the start of the game in the Olympic Stadium

Ready and waiting: England fans wait for the start of the game in the Olympic Stadium

6.44pm: Over in Donetsk the half time score is France 0 Ukraine 0, follow the action with my colleague Rik Sharma HERE

6.37pm: No confirmed team news as yet, but England are expected to make one change from the team that played on Monday with Andy Carroll coming in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ashley Young moving to midfield.

Expected line-up: Hart; Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole; Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Young; Carroll, Welbeck

6.30pm: Good evening and welcome to tonight's game between Sweden and England in Kiev, after a solid point against the French on Monday, Roy Hodgson's men side will be looking to get their European campaign up and running with a win.

6.19pm: KICK OFF DELAY: Sweden v England will now kick off at 8pm due to the late running of the France v Ukraine in Donetsk.

Head to head: England and Sweden fans exchange banter in the build-up to the game

Head to head: England and Sweden fans exchange banter in the build-up to the game

Let's go: England fans converge at the fan zone as the count down to kick-off

Let's go: England fans converge at the fan zone as the count down to kick-off

You're in the minority! Three England fans are surrounded by Swedes in Kiev

You're in the minority! Three England fans are surrounded by Swedes in Kiev

Confident: Sweden's supporters enjoy a refreshing beer before the main event

Confident: Sweden's supporters enjoy a refreshing beer before the main event

Leading from the front: Andy Carroll was predicted to lead the line more than 24 hours before kick-off

Leading from the front: Andy Carroll was predicted to lead the line more than 24 hours before kick-off

Euro 2012: England count down to Sweden match

Ready for battle: England fans count down to kick-off in Kiev as a nation holds its breath for Sweden encounter

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UPDATED:

14:14 GMT, 15 June 2012

Follow the big match – live!

Join us for the best coverage of the game, starting from 7pm here.

And don't forget we'll also have coverage of Ukraine v France from 4pm here

England fans are counting down to tonight's crunch match with Sweden at Euro 2012.

Thousands of supporters have descended on Kiev to watch the match, although they will be heavily outnumbered by Swedes.

There are around 20,000 Sweden fans in the Ukraine capital, with England only having approximately a quarter of that number.

But millions will tune in back home as the nation comes to a standstill to watch the match.

Ready for battle: England and Sweden fans mingle in Kiev before kick-off

Ready for battle: England and Sweden fans mingle in Kiev before kick-off

Outnumbered: There are far more Sweden supporters than England fans in Kiev for the game

Outnumbered: There are far more Sweden supporters than England fans in Kiev for the game

Happy to be here: England supporters are counting down to their team's second match

Happy to be here: England supporters are counting down to their team's second match

A victory for Roy Hodgson's men would put them closer to the knockout stages of the tournament.

But anything less would leave them
facing an uphill battle to avoid an early exit. A lot will depend on the
result of the earlier match between Ukraine and France in Donetsk.

There were peaceful scenes today after drunken England and Sweden fans were kept apart by security at a fan zone on Thursday night.

Who new ball game: England fans from Bristol enjoy a kickabout in the main square in Krakow

Who new ball game: England fans from Bristol enjoy a kickabout in the main square in Krakow

You're in the minority! Three England fans are surrounded by Swedes in Kiev

You're in the minority! Three England fans are surrounded by Swedes in Kiev

Confident: Sweden's supporters enjoy a refreshing beer before the main event

Confident: Sweden's supporters enjoy a refreshing beer before the main event

The two sets of supporters in Kiev
chanted loudly towards each other, but several efforts to break a line
of security personnel were quickly halted. About 100 England fans and 200 Sweden supporters were involved.

Hodgson's is set to bring striker
Andy Carroll into the team as a replacement for teenager Alex
Oxlade-Chamberlain in a change of tactics.

After drawing the first Group D game
against France, Hodgson is planning a more aggressive approach for
Friday night's Euro 2012 clash in Kiev.

All smiles: Hodgson will partner Andy Carroll with Danny Welbeck for Friday night's clash with Sweden

All smiles: Hodgson will partner Andy Carroll with Danny Welbeck for Friday night's clash with Sweden

On the bench: Oxlade-Chamberlain will be relegated to the substitutes' bench for the showdown with Sweden

On the bench: Oxlade-Chamberlain will be relegated to the substitutes' bench for the showdown with Sweden

He is expected to bring in Carroll to
join Welbeck up front in a 4-4-2 formation, having paired them in
training at Kiev's Olympic Stadium. Ashley Young is likely to start wide
on the left.

Hodgson
also considered using the pace of Theo Walcott and is thought to have
assured the Arsenal winger he will play a key role in the tournament.

Six of the last seven goals conceded by Sweden have been headers and England won 1-0 in a friendly at Wembley in November with a header by Gareth Barry.

Hodgson suspects Sweden manager Erik Hamren will be terrified of Carroll, who ended the season in top form.

Former Bolton striker Johan Elmander will return to the Sweden side. H was restricted to a second-half substitutes' appearance in the defeat to co-hosts Ukraine on Monday after recovering from a broken foot.

Centre of attention: Hodgson puts England through their paces ahead of Friday's crunch clash

Centre of attention: Hodgson puts England through their paces ahead of Friday's crunch clash

Banned: Rooney has one game left before his suspension is lifted

Banned: Rooney has one game left before his suspension is lifted

Euro 2012 email button

However, skipper Zlatan Ibrahimovic
was apparently unimpressed by Elmander's absence and coach Erik Hamren
has been quick to recall the forward, who now plays for Turkish outfit
Galatasaray.

In the team, which has been posted on
the official Swedish FA website, former Southampton player Anders
Svensson, has been recalled to partner Kim Kallstrom in the centre of
midfield, with Rasmus Elm shifting out to the left wing as Ola Toivonen
dropped to the bench.

West Brom's Jonas Olsson also returns
to central defence as Andreas Granqvist switches to right-back in place
of Michael Lustig, who has a hip problem.

Sweden lost their opening game 2-1 to
hosts Ukraine despite Ibrahimovic putting them in front. They have
never lost a competitive game against England, although a 43-year
unbeaten run against the Three Lions came to an end at Wembley in
November when Gareth Barry's deflected effort gave the hosts victory.

Danny boy: Welbeck is set to keep his place in Hodgson's line-up for the game against Sweden

Danny boy: Welbeck is set to keep his place in Hodgson's line-up for the game against Sweden

Leading by example: Hodgson and Gerrard speak to the assembled media on Thursday

Leading by example: Hodgson and Gerrard speak to the assembled media on Thursday

Group D is wide open, although
England will be in trouble if they lose. Neither Hodgson nor his captain
Steven Gerrard put the Swedes – or Tuesday's opponents Ukraine – in the
same class as the French.

The
manager said: 'To be brutally honest, France are one of the favourites
to win the competition and Sweden and Ukraine are not.'

'When we win the ball back and break out, we've got to make certain the
last pass, cross or actual finish is very clinical.

'It is hard to get
good goal chances at this level of football. You are not going to get
many during the course of a game and you have to be very effective when
the chances come your way'

Gerrard added: 'With respect to
Sweden, who are a good, strong team, they are not France. We can be a
bit more bold and ambitious and get at the Swedes more. We're confident
if we reach the same level of performance we'll get a victory.'

However,
Gerrard warned: 'Although we are confident, that's not to say we won't
be trying to learn from the mistakes we made in the first game.

Crunch clash: England are favourites to beat Sweden after holding France to a draw

Crunch clash: England are favourites to beat Sweden after holding France to a draw

Pace-setters: England know a win against Sweden will leave them in a good position ahead of their final group game

Pace-setters: England know a win against Sweden will leave them in a good position ahead of their final group game

'We've analysed what we did right and wrong against France and we will be trying to improve on our performance as well.

'I'm
really happy with the start we've made to the tournament. It was really
solid and we've left ourselves a good platform to build on.

'The boys are confident we will be on four points after this next game and that will be a good start to this group.'

France manager Laurent Blanc would seem to disagree. '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.'

England
will be wary of Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic despite his record of
scoring in only three of 19 games against English teams for club and
country.

Former
England manager Sven Goran Eriksson said: 'He is a player English
journalists like to criticise but I wouldn't be surprised if he scores
the goal that wins the game.'

All eyes on you: Gerrard is confident England will beat Sweden

All eyes on you: Gerrard is confident England will beat Sweden

VIDEO: Manager Roy Hodgson previews the game against Sweden

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Australia 27 Wales 19: Wallabies bounce back from Scotland defeat as Dragons" wait goes on

Australia 27 Wales 19: Wallabies bounce back from Scotland defeat as Dragons' wait goes on

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UPDATED:

12:26 GMT, 9 June 2012

Wales lost their first Test against Australia, despite a spirited second-half fight-back in Brisbane.

Alex Cuthbert crossed for a try and Leigh Halfpenny kicked 14 points as the Six Nations champions threatened to pull off an historic win.

But it was not enough to recover from early scores by Rob Higginbotham and Will Genia before Pat McCabe crossed to snuff out the Welsh recovery.

Clincher: Pat McCabe's try put Australia out of reach

Clincher: Pat McCabe's try put Australia out of reach

MATCH FACTS

Australia: Ashley-Cooper, Vuna, Horne, McCabe, Ioane, Barnes, Genia, Robinson, Polota-Nau, Kepu, Simmons, Sharpe, Higginbotham, Pocock, Palu.

Replacements: Moore, Alexander, Dennis, Hooper, White, A. Faingaa, Harris.

Tries: Higginbotham, Genia, McCabe
Conversions: Barnes (3)
Penalty: Barnes
Drop goal: Barnes

Wales: Halfpenny, Cuthbert, J. Davies, S. Williams, North, Priestland, Phillips, Jenkins, Owens, A. Jones, B. Davies, Charteris, Lydiate, Warburton, Faletau.

Replacements: Rees, James, A. Jones, R. Jones, L. Williams, Hook, Beck.

Tries: Cuthbert
Conversions: Halfpenny
Penalties: Halfpenny (4)

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa).

Tri Nations holders Australia
recovered from the defeat to Scotland to end Wales' run of six wins in a
row and leave caretaker coach Rob Howley facing an uphill task for the
rest of the three-Test series.

Australia took an early grip on the
game when Berrick Barnes opened the scoring in the ninth minute after
Wales prop Adam Jones was penalised for not rolling away at the tackle
and the Wallaby fly-half kicked the resulting penalty.

Halfpenny and Scott Williams showed
glimpses in midfield, but Australia dominated the first half with David
Pocock edging the contest at the breakdown.

The Wallaby skipper stole possession
close to the Welsh line after Rhys Priestland fumbled a high kick by
Barnes under pressure from Digby Ioane.

Australia looked to have created a
certain try when Rob Horne darted to the left, but Cuthbert prevented
the scoring pass with a crucial tackle.

However, just moments later the
Wallabies crossed following a series of drives from their forwards that
ended with Higginbotham crashing over for his first Test try.

Barnes converted and Australia led 10-0 after 16 minutes.

Stunning effort: Will Genia goes over the lone after a magnificent solo effort, sparking vibrant celebrations from the hosts (below)

Stunning effort: Will Genia goes over the lone after a magnificent solo effort, sparking vibrant celebrations from the hosts (below)

Celebration: Will Genia

Halfpenny finally got Wales off the
mark on 23 minutes, but the Six Nations champions were struggling to
find any momentum against an Australia team playing with their tails up.

Scrum-half Genia pulled the strings for Australia and went close to extending their lead but Cuthbert again saved a score.

Wales suffered a blow on 29 minutes
when George North was forced off with a leg injury, forcing a re-shuffle
with Halfpenny switched to the left wing and James Hook introduced at
full-back.

Barnes had the chance to extend Australia's 10-3 lead before half-time, but hit the post with his effort.

Opening score: Scott Higginbotham goes over

Opening score: Scott Higginbotham goes over

However, Genia needed less than a minute of the second half to grab the Wallabies' second try.

Australia burst forward from the
kick-off and the Queensland scrum-half darted between two Welsh
front-rows and past Hook to touch down under the posts and hand Barnes a
simple conversion.

Wales attempted to shake-off the early blow with a second penalty for Halfpenny.

Barnes responded with a 50th-minute
drop goal, but Halfpenny again nudged Wales closer with a third penalty
after a heavy head-to-head collision with Wallaby hooker Tatafu Polota
Nau that saw both players leave the field.

Offload: Halfpenny gets a pass away as Berrick Barnes awaits

Offload: Halfpenny gets a pass away as Berrick Barnes awaits

Ashley Beck replaced Williams for his first cap and was immediately involved in creating Wales' first try.

Hook and Priestland shipped the ball
to Beck who flicked possession to Cuthbert and the wing finished in
style for his fourth Test try.

Halfpenny converted and added an excellent penalty from out wide to cut the deficit to 20-19 on 63 minutes.

Fast hands: Genia gets quick ball away from an Australian scrum

Fast hands: Genia gets quick ball away from an Australian scrum

Wales were eying a remarkable
turnaround, but Australia showed their clinical edge when they needed it
most. Genia was again the creator, picking his pass to McCabe who
crashed over on 67 minutes.

Barnes converted and Australia were once again eight points ahead.

Twice Cuthbert threatened to break
clear for a second try that Wales desperately needed, but was denied as
Australia recovered to hold out for victory.

Stale Solbakken has difficult job at Wolves – The Midlander

Solbakken faces uphill struggle to restore Wolves' fortunes

|

UPDATED:

12:04 GMT, 18 May 2012

As far as the media is concerned, the appointment of Stale Solbakken will be very good news.

Within 30 minutes of his arrival at Wolverhampton Wanderers, he claimed that a combination of 'Jesus and Jose Mourinho' would not have been successful in his last job at Cologne.

He then said, as a combustible character himself, that he was looking forward to sharing a touchline with the likes of Neil Warnock next season.

New arrival: Stale Solbakken has taken over the reins at Wolves

New arrival: Stale Solbakken has taken over the reins at Wolves

More from Neil Moxley…

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11/05/12

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03/05/12

The Midlander: Wolves fans seem to have an over-blown sense of entitlement
13/04/12

The Midlander: Player power would be recipe for disaster at Leicester
05/04/12

The Midlander: Villa failed to muster up a single shot at Arsenal… that's shameful
30/03/12

The Midlander: Trio of under-achievers face big questions ahead of another summer of upheaval
22/03/12

The Midlander: Relegation will not be end of the world for Wolves
16/03/12

The Midlander: If Harry says 'no' then Hodgson is the perfect fit for England
08/03/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

But then he admitted he wouldn't take on Sam Allardyce, should West Ham not make it tomorrow, because 'he is way too big.'

He finished off by challenging yours truly to ten races to prove his fitness following the heart condition that caused his premature retirement and almost cost him his life. No problem. (But you won't win a typing test against me, Stale!)

But while his media skills should be a consideration, particularly at a club like Wolves, I wonder if he has stopped to consider the size of the job in hand.

Taking over a relegated club is always a tough ask.

There are players who will be coveted by others. There are players who think they should be coveted by others.

Inevitably, football matches have been lost. I think it was Gordon Strachan who pointed out that once a player has been a part of a team that has been relegated that you can smell it on them.

Solbakken doesn't turn up for work until July 1. Presumably because of contractual issues with his last club.

But it's a big ask for him to come in, assess what he has, try and guess the strength of the Championship, make a couple of signings and put together a winning team for the slog of that particular division.

Up against it: Solbakken with Wolves chairman Steve Morgan

Up against it: Solbakken with Wolves chairman Steve Morgan

And he's got to weigh all this up within six weeks of the next campaign kicking-off.

Having said that, it was important for the club for a fresh pair of eyes to look at the situation.

Terry Connor stepped in at a difficult time, with no forethought to the downside, should it happen and did his best in ridiculously trying circumstances.

But he remains too closely associated to the Mick McCarthy regime to make objective judgements.

Steve Morgan will give Solbakken time. 'It could be considered a left-field appointment,' he said, 'but we wanted to think outside the box.

'If you look at anyone else out there, then of course they have much more experience in English football but they have nothing like his success rate.

Bad experience: Solbakken at Cologne

Bad experience: Solbakken at Cologne

'And all appointments are a gamble. But there's no-one out there with a track record that comes anywhere near his.'

Well, winning the Superliga with Copenhagen five times on the spin is something, but haven't Copenhagen won eight of the last 12 competitions anyway

And relieving Lukas Podolski of the captaincy at Cologne not only alienated the press and public, it looks like the dressing-room disintegrated too. How else do you explain a fall from mid-table to relegation (Morgan's justification was that Cologne was an unstable football club and 25 managers in 26 years pointed to that.)

Of course, at the moment, Solbakken's arrival can be greeted as a bold and inventive appointment. But he's got a hellava lot to get to grips with. And quickly.

As ever, participation in football matches will decided how his arrival is viewed by the end of the coming year.

Morgan's first appointment then is from left-field. Solbakken may need to hit the ground running. Or else Wolves could be left behind.

An eye for detail

One of the hallmarks of Roy Hodgson's spell at West Brom was his organisational skills.

They may be hackneyed in the eyes of some, but clearly they have served him well over the years.

It wasn't unknown for the old boy to stop his 11-a-side practice matches and move players one foot in either direction, to improve their positional sense. As a result, West Brom became a far more rigid team.

But as evidence to Hodgson's tactics, you only have to look at the reigns of Tony Mowbray and Roberto Di Matteo.

The Baggies lost so many goals, particularly at home, on the counter-attack. That rarely happened with Hodgson's side.

Eyes on the prize: Roy Hodgson's organisational skills are impressive

Eyes on the prize: Roy Hodgson's organisational skills are impressive

I respected him for that reason. He was an old-fashioned manager who showed that you could make a difference through teaching.

I firmly believe players want to learn. Some will be open to it. Others won't.

It was therefore heartening to pick up a little snippet from St Andrew's this week. Chris Hughton's coach, Paul Trollope, spotted that Chris Burke wasn't at all bad on his left foot.

The former Rangers' trainee did not, however, take aim too many times after cutting in. Trollope encouraged Burke and the pair have practised shooting after coming back onto his left-foot relentlessly throughout the season.

The results are there for all to see. I have not checked this, but my contact reckons that Burke found the net six times in such a fashion. It could have made the difference between qualifying for the play-offs and not.

And while it obviously reflects well on Trollope and Burke it just goes to show that the benefits of good coaching can have tangible reward on the training pitch.

No way back for Eck

Finally, a word about Alex McLeish.

This job was a big opportunity. He was beset by a couple of untimely injuries, most notably to Jermaine Jenas and Darren Bent.

But to those who say he never stood a chance Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Aston Villa's supporters gave Alex McLeish a chance. The only way he was going to win them over though was by producing a brand of attacking football. Not by deploying tactics similar to those he used at St Andrew's.

Gone: Alex McLeish faces an uncertain future after being sacked by Aston Villa

Gone: Alex McLeish faces an uncertain future after being sacked by Aston Villa

Statistically, the two seasons were almost identical and the fact that Villa drew 17 matches showed they were competitive. Yet they would have earned more points winning just six of them.

He never grasped that fact. In doing so, he bought himself no time and could not escape the downwards spiral.

The fact is, if Villa were to finish 16th, they might as well have done so with a few spills and thrills.

That way, McLeish might have bought himself some time and not given the fans a stick to beat him with.

As it is, his reputation now has been damaged. Perhaps beyond repair.

Alex McLeish believes Aston Villa can avoid relegation

McLeish believes his Villa side have just enough to avoid dreaded drop

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UPDATED:

23:18 GMT, 6 April 2012

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish is aware of the financial implications of relegation, but is confident his crop of young players will ensure that scenario is avoided.

Villa go into Saturday's Barclays Premier League match at Liverpool only five points above the relegation zone and with a squad decimated by injury and illness.

The club suffered an increased loss of 54million for the financial year ending May 2011 and going down to the Championship would add significantly to their financial concerns.

Belief: Alex McLeish thinks he will be able to keep Villa up

Belief: Alex McLeish thinks he will be able to keep Villa up

McLeish said: 'Has Randy Lerner (club owner) mentioned relegation to you I think we could all do without it. It doesn't bear thinking about financially so that's why I believe that we'll stay up.

'We've got big challenges in the next eight games but I believe we have enough in us to get points.

'We'll try to win as many as we can. Would I take 15th spot now Probably, absolutely.'

McLeish concedes he always expected this season to be an uphill battle, but has no regrets about making the controversial switch from local rivals Birmingham.

He said: 'It's not been easy and I knew it wouldn't be. I thought it would be tough, especially when you look at the comparison with the two squads from this year to last year.

'Last year's squad was a little bit stronger, so I knew it would be tough. But it doesn't mean to say that we can't finish another three or four places up the table.

'But I've never wished I didn't make the move. I never, ever look back and regret anything.

Bad news: The club were rocked by Stiliyan Petrov's illness

Bad news: The club were rocked by Stiliyan Petrov's illness

'You always wonder what you might be doing now if you didn't do it, but I have always vowed never to regret anything.'

McLeish will be without eight senior players through illness or injury for the trip to Anfield, but has faith in the crop of academy products who are receiving their opportunity.

He said: 'It is probably the youngest squad I've ever had to work with. At Rangers we dabbled in a lot of free transfers, guys at the end of the careers, to try to augment the squad.

'But we're going to go with the youngsters here. It can make or break players but a lot of them have got so much confidence.

Good enough Villa must play better to stay up

Good enough Villa must play better to stay up

'This is a learning curve for them in all aspects, life as well, in terms of the importance of the situation also.

'But a lot of them will be concentrating and focusing on enhancing their careers, getting into the first team and staying in the first team.

'They can emerge as men after this. I would definitely back a few of them to do that.

'They have to grow up as quickly as possible in one of the toughest leagues in the world.'

37m hole in Chelsea"s bid to meet financial fair play rules

The 37m hole in Chelsea's bid to meet financial fair play rules

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UPDATED:

22:14 GMT, 24 March 2012

Laurent Blanc is the latest name to be considered as the man to oversee Roman Abarmovich's rejuvenation of Chelsea.

But whoever gets the job faces an
uphill struggle if Chelsea fail to make the Champions League next
season, a prospect which looks ever more likely after Saturday's 0-0
draw against Tottenham.

Making the call: Roman Abramovich has to pick in ninth manager in nine years

Making the call: Roman Abramovich has to pick in ninth manager in nine years

With Pep Guardiola now expected to stay at Barcelona next season, Abramovich is understood to have met France manager Blanc as the Russian looks to appoint his ninth manager in nine years.

Abramovich still has to decide whether to swallow his pride and ask Jose Mourinho back and, while Fabio Capello is said to be keen to return to England, Chelsea's only contact with him was as a possible temporary replacement for Andre Villas Boas until the end of the season. The same applies to Rafa Benitez.

With Eden Hazard, the 30million-rated Lille midfielder, and Atletico Madrid striker Falcao key targets, Chelsea do plan to continue rebuilding this summer with significant spending.

But Abramovich and his new manager will be constrained if Chelsea cannot finish in the top four or win the Champions League, an alternative way to qualify for next season's competition. Abramovich has spent around 800m since his takeover in 2003.

But, under UEFA's new Financial Fair Play rules, which are unlikely to face legal challenges by the clubs after being backed by the European Commission last week, the Russian's lavish subsidies of Chelsea will have to end, making Champions League qualification a must.

Last year Chelsea made 37m from Champions League TV money alone, plus an estimated 25m from the matches. And next season looks like being a financial nightmare if they fail to qualify.

Struggle: Chelsea trail Tottenham in pursuit of top-four place

Struggle: Chelsea trail Tottenham in pursuit of top-four place

Without that money there seems little hope of Chelsea meeting the criteria for UEFA's new rules unless the naming rights of Stamford Bridge can be sold for a huge sum. Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay has said he is confident of a deal this summer, but 10m a year would be a generous valuation and UE FA have already said they will outlaw any massively overvalued deal that looks like a disguised subsidy.

The FFP rules do not come into force until 2013 but it is this season's finances and next season's that will determine whether a club comply. Any club who do not will risk being excluded from UEFA competitions, including the Champions League.

Clubs will be allowed to lose a total of 35m in the first two years of UEFA's scheme – that is, this season and next. Exemptions mean Chelsea had been confident of meeting the new requirements even though they posted a 67.7m loss last year.

The club might even cut that loss to a few million pounds this season under UEFA's accounting rules. But take 37m out of the pot and it is difficult to see how they can make the grade.

One of the mitigating factors UEFA will take into account in deciding whether the rules have been broken is whether losses are heading in the right direction. But if Chelsea do not qualify for the Champions League, their losses are likely to grow rather than fall.