Sunday, 20 July 2014

MH17: Transcending rivalry

THE NEEDLESS loss of the 298 lives on board the shot-down Malaysian Airlines plane on Thursday was, of course, tragedy enough in itself.

But hearing that two of the victims on flight MH17 were dedicated Newcastle United fans naturally meant the devastating incident in eastern Ukraine hit home harder still.

John Adler and Liam Sweeney were travelling from Amsterdam Schipol in Netherlands to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on the way to their eventual destination in New Zealand.

There, the pair planned to take in two Newcastle pre-season friendlies - against Sydney FC in Dunedin on Tuesday, and against Wellington Phoenix on Saturday.

All this having seen a 2-1 defeat to Oldham Athletic last Tuesday, their final match.

It was true commitment to the Magpies' cause. John, in particular, had built up an incredible reputation as one of the loyalist football supporters in the land, having missed just one first-team match since 1973.

Indeed, he was so well-known among the away support that he was given the affectionate nickname of 'The Undertaker' for his propensity to wear a black suit with a white shirt, whatever fixture United happened to be playing.

Liam could not quite match the Undertaker's record, but then - how could that be expected at his age of 28?

Both were such tragic losses - and yet, predictably, nothing so far seems to have come from the powers-that-be other than another tiresome round of finger-pointing.

Somehow, though, there is still actually a positive story to be found here - and, remarkably, it involves the fans of Sunderland AFC and their tribute page to John and Liam.

On the site, the Mackems explain: "We may be Sunderland fans, who traditionally have deep rivalry with Newcastle, but there are things far more important than any football games.

"The incredibly sad news that has emerged this week about two Newcastle fans who have passed has left us all shocked and deeply saddened. Donating here will help pay for a floral tribute to those fans and to unity between the two clubs.

"Any extra money will be donated to a charity that has yet to be decided. Thank you for your time, effort and donations. RIP to John Alder and Liam Sweeney, who were both far too young."

One thing is for sure - there should be some money left over for the charity - as, in an incredible coming-together of the two rival fanbases, more than £16,000 has been raised so far.

It is a fantastic gesture by all - but especially by those from Sunderland whose generosity has transcended rivalry.

In other tributes, Newcastle United released this statement and allowed the Sir Bobby Robson statute on Gallowgate to be used for scarves, shirts, cards and flowers to be laid. 

The commemorations have now been moved to the main entrance of the Milburn Stand in expectation of inclement weather. 

Additionally, the club confirmed that black armbands will be worn in the two friendlies in New Zealand on Tuesday and Saturday, and an - as yet - unspecified tribute will be organised for the first match of the season against Manchester City on 17 August.

Elsewhere, Gateshead staged an impeccably-observed minute's silence ahead of Friday's friendly win against Newcastle U21s - and Berwick Rangers, Whitley Bay and Blyth Spartans all followed suit. 

Sunderland and Darlington paid their respects ahead of their friendly at Heritage Park in Bishop Auckland yesterday.

And, on Twitter, United youth team player Kyle Cameron dedicated a 6-2 friendly win in Sweden to John and Liam.

Finally, here is a bit of poetry, from an unknown source, in memory of John Adler and Liam Sweeney who both died too young:

Ground to ground, both day and night
To follow those in Black and White
Cheering loud and clapping hands
Among the nation’s loyalist fans

Friendlies, cup games, not a care
If the Toon were playing, you were there
Win or lose, through bad and good
Newcastle United was in your blood

Known by thousands all around
Familiar faces at our grand old ground
Loved by many, all the lads and lasses
Before the next Toon game we’ll raise our glasses

Two empty spaces in the crowd
Don’t worry though, we’ll cheer you loud
This tragic news is sad and dark
But you’ll be the light at St James’ Park

Sleep tight now lads with pride on your faces
And teach the angels the Blaydon Races
For this sad day and through the night
Let Heaven’s gates be Black and White


Monday, 14 July 2014

World Cup 2014: For the record


Eight of the 16 knockout stage games went to extra time and three went all the way to penalties. Germany won a fourth World Cup title in a record eighth final. Brazil conceded the most goals of any team at a World Cup since Belgium in 1986, and the most ever by a host nation. They did still at least reach the semi finals, whereas nine teams failed to win a match including England and 2018 hosts Russia. Three teams - Australia, Honduras and Cameroon - failed to get a point, while Cameroon, Iran and Honduras, with just one goal, were the lowest scorers. By contrast, Costa Rica conceded just twice.

1GERMANYbeat Argentina 1-0 aet in Final
2ARGENTINAlost to Germany 0-1 aet in Final
3NETHERLANDSbeat Brazil 3-0 in third-place playoff after losing on pens v Argentina in SF
4BRAZILlost 0-3 to Brazil in third-place playoff after losing 1-7 v Germany in SF
5COSTA RICAlost on pens v Netherlands after 0-0 draw in QF
6COLOMBIAlost 1-2 v Brazil in QF
7BELGIUMlost 0-1 v Argentina in QF, nine points in group
8FRANCElost 0-1 v Germany in QF, seven points in group
9CHILElost on pens v Brazil after 1-1 draw in Last 16, six points in group
10GREECElost on pens v Costa Rica after 1-1 draw in Last 16, four points in group
11ALGERIAlost 1-2 v Germany aet in Last 16, four points in group, +1 GD
12UNITED STATESlost 1-2 v Belgium aet in Last 16, four points in group, 0 GD
13SWITZERLANDlost 0-1 v Argentina aet in Last 16
14MEXICOlost 1-2 v Netherlands in Last 16
15URUGUAYlost 0-2 v Colombia in Last 16, six points in group
16NIGERIAlost 0-2 v France in Last 16, four points in group
17ECUADORGroup stage - W1 D1 L1 F3 A3 Pts 4
18PORTUGALGroup stage - W1 D1 L1 F4 A7 Pts 4
19CROATIAGroup stage - W1 D0 L2 F6 A6 Pts 3
20BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINAGroup stage - W1 D0 L2 F4 A4 Pts 3
21IVORY COASTGroup stage - W1 D0 L2 F4 A5 Pts 3
22ITALYGroup stage - W1 D0 L2 F2 A3 Pts 3
23SPAINGroup stage - W1 D0 L2 F4 A7 Pts 3
24RUSSIAGroup stage - W0 D2 L1 F2 A3 Pts 2
25GHANAGroup stage - W0 D1 L2 F4 A6 Pts 1
26ENGLANDGroup stage - W0 D1 L2 F2 A4 Pts 1
27SOUTH KOREAGroup stage - W0 D1 L2 F3 A6 Pts 1
28IRANGroup stage - W0 D1 L2 F1 A4 Pts 1
29JAPANGroup stage - W0 D1 L2 F2 A6 Pts 1
30AUSTRALIAGroup stage - W0 D0 L3 F3 A9 Pts 0
31HONDURASGroup stage - W0 D0 L3 F1 A8 Pts 0
32CAMEROONGroup stage - W0 D0 L3 F1 A9 Pts 0

GROUP A Brazil and Mexico qualify
Thu 12-JunBRAZIL3-1CROATIASao Paulo
9pm ITVNeymar 29, 71(pen)
Oscar 90+1

Marcelo (og) 11
5pm ITVPeralta 61

Tue 17-JunBRAZIL0-0MEXICOFortaleza
8pm BBC

11pm ITV

Olic 11, Perisic 48 
Mandzukic 61, 73

Mon 23-JunCAMEROON1-4BRAZILBrasilia
9pm ITVMatip 26
Neymar 17, 35
Fred 49, Fernandinho 84

Mon 23-JunCROATIA1-3MEXICORecife
9pm ITVPerisic 87
Marquez 72, Guardado 75
Hernandez 82

(Q) BRAZIL210727
(Q) MEXICO210417

GROUP B Netherlands and Chile qualify
8pm BBCAlonso 27(pen)
Van Persie 43, 72
Robben 53, 80, De Vrij 64

Fri 13-Jun CHILE3-1AUSTRALIACuiaba
11pm ITVSanchez 12, Valdivia 14
Beausejour 90+2

Cahill 35
Wed 18-JunSPAIN0-2CHILERio de Janeiro
8pm BBC

Vargas 20, Aranguiz 43
5pm ITVCahill 21
Jedinak 54(pen)

Robben 20, Van Persie 58
Depay 68

Mon 23-JunAUSTRALIA0-3SPAINCuritiba
5pm ITV

Villa 36, Torres 69 
Mata 82

5pm ITVFer 77, Depay 90

(Q) CHILE201536

GROUP C Colombia and Greece qualify
Sat 14-JunCOLOMBIA3-0GREECEBelo Horizonte
5pm BBCArmero 5, Gutierrez 58
Rodriguez 90+3

Sun 15-Jun IVORY COAST2-1JAPANRecife
2am ITVBony 64, Gervinho 66
Honda 16
5pm BBCRodriguez 64, Quintero 70
Gervinho 73
Thu 19-JunJAPAN0-0GREECENatal
11pm BBC

Tue 24-JunJAPAN1-4COLOMBIACuiaba
9pm BBCOkazaki 45+1
Cuadrado 17(pen)
Martinez  55, 83
Rodriguez 89

Tue 24-JunGREECE2-1IVORY COASTFortaleza
9pm BBCSamaris 42, Samaras 90+3
Bony 74

(Q) COLOMBIA300929
(Q) GREECE111244
Ivory Coast102453

GROUP D Costa Rica and Uruguay qualify
Sat 14-JunURUGUAY1-3COSTA RICAFortaleza
8pm ITVCavani 24(pen)
Campbell 54, Duarte 57
Urena 84

Sat 14-Jun ENGLAND1-2ITALYManaus
11pm BBCSturridge 37
Marchisio 35, Balotelli 50
Thu 19-JunURUGUAY2-1ENGLANDSao Paulo
8pm ITVSuarez 39, 84
Rooney 75
Fri 20-JunITALY0-1COSTA RICARecife
5pm BBC

Ruiz 44
Tue 24-JunITALY0-1URUGUAYNatal
5pm ITV

Godin 81
Tue 24-JunCOSTA RICA0-0ENGLANDBelo Horizonte
5pm ITV

(Q) COSTA RICA210417
(Q) URUGUAY201446

GROUP E France and Switzerland qualify
5pm ITVMehmedi 48, Seferovic 90+3
E Valencia 22
Sun 15-Jun FRANCE3-0HONDURASPorto Alegre
8pm BBCBenzema 45(pen), 72
Valladares (og) 48

8pm ITVDzemaili 81, Xhaka 87
Giroud 17, Matuidi 18
Valbuena 40, Benzema 67
Sissoko 73

Fri 20-JunHONDURAS1-2ECUADORCuritiba
11pm ITVCostly 31
E Valencia 33, 65
9pm BBC

Shaqiri 6, 31, 71
Wed 25-JunECUADOR0-0FRANCERio de Janeiro
9pm BBC

(Q) FRANCE210827
GROUP F Argentina and Nigeria qualify

Sun 15-JunARGENTINA2-1BOSNIA-HERZRio de Janeiro
11pm BBCKolasinac (og) 3
Messi 65

Ibisevic 85
Mon 16-Jun IRAN0-0NIGERIACuritiba
8pm BBC

Sat 21-JunARGENTINA1-0IRANBelo Horizonte
5pm ITVMessi 90+1

11pm BBCOdemwingie 29

Wed 25-JunNIGERIA2-3ARGENTINAPorto Alegre
5pm ITVMusa 4, 47
Messi 3, 45+1, Rojo 50
Wed 25-JunBOSNIA-HERZ3-1IRANSalvador
5pm ITVDzeko 23, Pjanic 59
Vrsajevic 83

Ghoochannejhad 82

(Q) NIGERIA111334

GROUP G Germany and United States qualify
Mon 16-JunGERMANY4-0PORTUGALSalvador
5pm ITVMuller 12(pen), 45+1, 78
Hummels 32

11pm BBCA Ayew 82
Dempsey 1, Brooks 86
Sat 21-JunGERMANY2-2GHANAFortaleza
8pm BBCGotze 51, Klose 71
A Ayew 54, Gyan 63
11pm BBCJones 64, Dempsey 81
Nani 5, Varela 90+5
5pm BBC

Muller 55
Thu 26-JunPORTUGAL2-1GHANABrasilia
5pm BBCBoye (og) 31, Ronaldo 80
Gyan 57

(Q) GERMANY210737

GROUP H Belgium and Algeria qualify
Tue 17-JunBELGIUM2-1ALGERIABelo Horizonte
5pm ITVFellaini 70, Mertens 80
Feghouli 25(pen)
11pm BBCKerzhakov 74
Keun-ho 68
Sun 22-JunBELGIUM1-0RUSSIARio de Janeiro
5pm BBCOrigi 88

Sun 22-JunSOUTH KOREA2-4ALGERIAPorto Alegre
8pm ITVSon 49, Koo 72
Slimani 26, Halliche 28
Djabou 38, Brahimi 62

9pm ITV

Vertonghen 77
Thu 26-JunALGERIA1-1RUSSIACuritiba
9pm ITVSlimani 59
Kokorin 6

(Q) BELGIUM300419
(Q) ALGERIA111654
South Korea012361

LAST 16 Report
Sat 28-JunBRAZIL1-1CHILEBelo Horizonte
5pm BBCDavid Luiz 18aet
Sanchez 32
Sat 28-Jun COLOMBIA2-0URUGUAYRio de Janeiro
9pm ITVRodriguez 28, 50

5pm ITVSneijder 88
Huntelaar 90+4(pen)

Dos Santos 48
9pm ITVRuiz 52aet
Papastathopoulos 90+1
Mon 30-JunFRANCE2-0NIGERIABrasilia
5pm BBCPogba 79
Yobo (og) 90+2

Mon 30-JunGERMANY2-1ALGERIAPorto Alegre
9pm ITVSchuerrle 92, Oezil 120aetDjabou 120+1
5pm BBCDi Maria 118aet

9pm BBCDe Bruyne 93
Lukaku 105
aetGreen 107

Fri 04-JulFRANCE0-1GERMANYRio de Janeiro
5pm BBC

Hummels 13
Fri 04-Jul BRAZIL2-1COLOMBIAFortaleza
9pm ITVThiago Silva 7
David Luiz 69

Rodriguez 80 (pen)
5pm ITVHiguain 8

9pm BBC

Tue 08-JulBRAZIL1-7 (SEVEN)GERMANYBelo Horizonte
9pm BBCOscar 90
Muller 11, Klose 23
Kroos 24, 26
Khedira 29
Schuerrle 69, 79

Wed 09-Jul NETHERLANDS0-0 aet 
9pm ITV

9pm ITV

Van Persie 3, Blind 17
Wijnaldum 90+1

Sat 12-JulGERMANY1-0ARGENTINARio de Janeiro
8pm BBC ITVGotze 113 aet

Germany Neuer - Lahm (c), Boateng, Hummels, Hoewedes - Kramer (Schuerrle 32), Schweinsteiger, Mueller, Kroos, Oezil (Mertesacker 120) - Klose (Goetze 88) Subs not used Zieler, Grosskreutz, Ginter, Podolski, Draxler, Durm, Weidenfeller, Khedira Booked Schweinsteiger, Howedes
Argentina Romero - Zabaleta, Demichelis, Garay, Rojo - Biglia, Mascherano, Perez (Gago 86) - Higuain (Palacio 78), Messi (c), Lavezzi (Aguero 46) Subs not used Orion, Campagnaro, Di Maria, Rodriguez, Augusto Fernandez, Federico Fernandez, Alvarez, Basanta, Andujar Booked Mascherano, Aguero
Attendance 74,738 at the Estadio Maracanã Referee Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)

The decision to award Lionel Messi the Golden Ball came as a surprise, even to FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Diego Maradona also criticised the choice of his compatriot for the prize.
Golden Boot James Rodriguez (Colombia) - six goals, two assists
Golden Ball Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Golden Glove Manuel Neuer (Germany)
Best Young Player Paul Pogba (France)
Fair Play Award Colombia

A record-equalling 171 goals were scored in 64 games at an average of 2.67 goals per game, 32 by substitutes - another record.
6 James Rodriguez (Colombia)
5 Thomas Muller (Germany) 
4 Neymar (Brazil), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Robin Van Persie (Netherlands)
3 Arjen Robben (Netherlands), Karim Benzema (France), Enner Valencia (Ecuador), Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland),
Andre Schuerrle (Germany)
2 Tim Cahill (Australia), Mario Mandzukic (Croatia), Gervinho (Ivory Coast), Luis Suarez (Uruguay), Andre Ayew (Ghana), Clint Dempsey (United States), Memphis Depay (Netherlands), Ivan Perisic (Croatia), Wilfried Bony (Ivory Coast), Jackson Martinez (Colombia), Ahmed Musa (Nigeria), Asamoah Gyan (Ghana), Islam Slimani (Algeria), Alexis Sanchez (Chile), Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica), Abdelmoumene Djabou (Algeria), Mats Hummels (Germany), David Luiz (Brazil), Miroslav Klose (Germany), Toni Kroos (Germany), Mario Goetze (Germany)
1 Oscar (Brazil), Oribe Peralta (Mexico), Xabi Alonso (Spain), Stefan De Vrij (Netherlands), Jorge Valdivia (Chile), Tim Cahill (Australia), Jean Beausejour (Chile), Pablo Armero (Colombia), Teofilo Gutierrez (Colombia), Edinson Cavani (Uruguay), Joel Campbell (Costa Rica), Oscar Duarte (Costa Rica), Marco Urena (Costa Rica), Claudio Marchisio (Italy), Daniel Sturridge (England), Mario Balotelli (Italy), Keisuke Honda (Japan), Admir Mehmedi (Switzerland), Haris Seferovic (Switzerland), Vedad Ibisevic (Bosnia-Herzegovina), John Brooks (United States), Sofiane Feghouli (Algeria), Marouane Fellaini (Belgium), Dries Mertens (Belgium), Lee Keun-ho (South Korea), Aleksandr Kerzhakov (Russia), Mile Jedinak (Australia), Eduardo Vargas (Chile), Charles Aranguiz (Chile), Ivica Olic (Croatia), Juan Quintero (Colombia), Wayne Rooney (England), Olivier Giroud (France), Blaise Matuidi (France), Mathieu Valbuena (France), Moussa Sissoko (France), Blerim Dzemaili (Switzerland), Granit Xhaka (Switzerland), Carlo Costly (Honduras), Peter Odemwingie (Nigeria), Divock Origi (Belgium), Rafik Halliche (Algeria), Son Heung-min (South Korea), Yacine Brahimi (Algeria), Koo Ja-cheol (South Korea), Nani (Portugal), Jermaine Jones (United States), Silvestre Varela (Portugal), David Villa (Spain), Fernando Torres (Spain), Juan Mata (Spain), Leroy Fer (Netherlands), Fred (Brazil), Rafael Marquez (Mexico), Andres Guardado (Mexico), Javier Hernandez (Mexico), Fernandinho (Brazil), Diego Godin (Uruguay), Juan Cuadrado (Colombia), Andreas Samaris (Greece), Shinji Okazaki (Japan), Georgios Samaras (Greece), Edin Dzeko (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Marcos Rojo (Argentina), Miralem Pjanic (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Iran), Avdija Vrsajevic (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Aleksandr Kokorin (Russia), Jan Vertonghen (Belgium), Giovani Dos Santos (Mexico), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Netherlands), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Greece), Paul Pogba (France), Mesut Oezil (Germany), Angel Di Maria (Argentina), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium), Romelu Lukaku (Belgium), Julian Green (United States), Thiago Silva (Brazil), Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina), Sami Khedira (Germany), Daley Blind (Netherlands), Georginio Wijnaldum (Netherlands)
5 Own goals - Marcelo (Brazil) for Croatia, Noel Valladares (Honduras) for France, Sead Kolasinac (Bosnia-Herzegovina) for Argentina, John Boye (Ghana) for Portugal, Joseph Yobo (Nigeria) for France

World Cup 2014 featured the fewest dismissals (10) since 1986. 
Maxi Pereira (Uruguay) v Costa Rica
Wilson Palacios (Honduras) v France 
Pepe (Portugal) v Germany
Alex Song (Cameroon) v Croatia
Kostas Katouranis (Greece) v Japan
Ante Rebic (Croatia) v Mexico
Claudio Marchisio (Italy) v Uruguay
Antonio Valencia (Ecuador) v France
Steven Defour (Belgium) v Algeria

Oscar Duarte (Costa Rica) v Greece

Sunday, 13 July 2014

World Cup Final: Freude, schoener, Goetze-funken.

Germany 1 Goetze 113
Argentina 0
After extra time

Germany Neuer - Lahm (c), Boateng, Hummels, Hoewedes - Kramer (Schuerrle 32), Schweinsteiger, Mueller, Kroos, Oezil (Mertesacker 120) - Klose (Goetze 88) Subs not used Zieler, Grosskreutz, Ginter, Podolski, Draxler, Durm, Weidenfeller, Khedira Booked Schweinsteiger, Howedes
Argentina Romero - Zabaleta, Demichelis, Garay, Rojo - Biglia, Mascherano, Perez (Gago 86) - Higuain (Palacio 78), Messi (c), Lavezzi (Aguero 46) Subs not used Orion, Campagnaro, Di Maria, Rodriguez, Augusto Fernandez, Federico Fernandez, Alvarez, Basanta, Andujar Booked Mascherano, Aguero
Attendance 74,738 at the Estadio Maracanã Referee Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)
Kick-off 8pm BST. Live on BBC One and ITV1.

GERMANY won the World Cup as a unified country for the first time ever after Mario Goetze's wonderful extra time goal beat Argentina in the Estadio Maracanã.

Just as the Final appeared destined for the dreaded penalty kicks, substitute Goetze took Andre Schuerrle's cross on his chest and volleyed a left-foot shot across Sergio Romero into the net.

It was a magnificent and historic end to a magical first World Cup in Brazil for 64 years - and it was also a goal which ended 18 years of hurt for the Germans, since their victory at Euro 96.

For the Nationalmannschaft, such a winless streak was considered a drought - and the frustration levels only mounted further following appearances in the last four of every tournament since they hosted the World Cup in 2006.

This time, though, Germany have generally looked ready, something which they amply demonstrated in destroying hosts Brazil 7-1 in the semi final.

But, as it happened, the early stages of the Final were actually dominated by Argentina.

Unfortunately for La Albiceleste, the best of these early chances fell to an off-colour Gonzalo Higuain, rather than the usually lethal Lionel Messi.

First, on 20 minutes, Higuain spurned a glorious one-on-one chance after he had been put through by an almost disastrous back-header by Toni Kroos.

Then, 10 minutes later, the Napoli striker was denied - correctly - by the offside flag, having failed to time his run to meet Ezequiel Lavezzi's cross.

At the other end, Germany had been restricted to half-chances, their rhythm from previous games perhaps upset by a late calf injury to Sami Khedira.

The midfielder was replaced in the starting line-up by Christoph Kramer - who was not even in the original 30-man squad - but then he could only last 30 minutes before taking a knock and being subbed for Schuerrle.

It was almost a move which paid immediate dividends with Schuerrle providing Germany's best moment until then of the half, his rising drive being saved well by Romero.

Shortly after that, a fantastically open game went close to finding its first goal when Messi - finding a lot of joy down the right - had a squeezed effort hacked off the line by Jerome Boateng.

And, indeed, for the most of the first half, Argentina enjoyed the best of the chances. As the interval neared, though, Germany showed just how dangerous they could be.

A corner floated in by Kroos found Benedikt Hoewedes barely six yards out with the goal at his mercy.

However, the Schalke centre-back mistimed his header and could only hit the post, meaning the teams went in at half time at 0-0 - when it really should have been at least 1-1.

The start of the second period saw the play swing back to Argentina - but, this time, Messi really should have done better than to drag his shot across the goal having beaten offside.

Nevertheless, Germany were clearly showing signs of being rattled. Schweinsteiger and Howedes both picked up cheap bookings - and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer clattered Higuain in the air, having come flying out of his goal.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the game became a little fragmented, and Argentina drew level on yellow cards as Javier Mascherano and sub Sergio Aguero went in the book in quick succession.

Still, surely the 0-0 scoreline would set up a grandstand finish...

Well, unfortunately, not quite - not within the 90 minutes, anyway. Kroos came closest to breaking the deadlock, only for his side-footed effort to be saved comfortably by Romero.

So, onto extra time then, for the third World Cup Final in a row - and, while the game had somewhat drifted in the second half, the 30-minute additional period started with a bang.

This time, Germany had the first chance, Schuerrle again bringing Romero into action - before, at the other end, Boateng blocked a dangerous Aguero ball intended for Messi.

Next came another massive chance for Argentina - as substitute Rodrigo Palacio easily beat the tiring Mat Hummels for pace before chipping wide as Neuer spread himself.

Considering the largely positive play throughout, this Final undoubtedly deserved a proper winner, without the need for spot-kicks.

But, with so many really good chances being missed, it was hard not to begin assuming penalties were in the offing.

Thankfully, neither of the sides had settled for that risky outcome - and the match remained an exciting contest, yet still more absorbing in the growing realisation that just one goal would be enough.

Desperation for that special moment hung tensely in the Rio de Janiero air as Argentina sought a famous victory in the country of their greatest rivals and the Germans looked for a successful culmination to all of their hard work.

Ultimately, it was the latter which won out - and, considering the effect that those four successive near-misses could have had on Germany, this was a heartening demonstration of the idea that persistence pays off - eventually.

Indeed, if anything, the whole 2006 to 2012 period has only served to make the team's desire to succeed even stronger.

And, let us not doubt for a second that this has been a team effort, with little cause to pick out individuals.

Nevertheless, this report cannot be completed without some praise of the poacher extraordinaire, Miroslav Klose.

Already the all-time leading World Cup scorer after his goal against Brazil in the semi, 36-year-old Klose now has a winner's medal to go alongside his individual achievement.

Klose aside, Germany are far from an ageing team, however.

Having become the first European team ever to win a World Cup on South American soil, the valid question which must be asked is if they will now become the dominant force in world football.

Neuer, Mueller, Goetze, Schuerrle, Kroos, Mesut Oezil, and Bastian Schweinsteiger will all go on for some time yet. The unfortunate Marco Reus - absent from Brazil through injury - can be easily added back into mix.

But the man who really makes it stick is Joachim Loew. Head coach now for eight years to the very day, Loew has overseen an exciting transition in the Nationalmannschaft under his tutelage.

From encouraging pretenders to unfortunate nearly men - and now finally a team which has truly flowered into an Ode to Joy.

Herzliche Glückwünsche, Deutschland - die Weltmeister 2014. Congratulations, Germany! World champions 2014.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

World Cup 2014: Humiliated Brazil blitzed by Germany


Tue 08-JulBRAZIL1-7 (SEVEN)GERMANYBelo Horizonte
9pm BBCOscar 90
Mueller 11, Klose 23
Kroos 24, 26
Khedira 29
Schuerrle 69, 79

Wed 09-Jul NETHERLANDS0-0 aet 
9pm ITV

GERMANY humiliated hosts Brazil with five goals inside the first half an hour in an astonishing record World Cup semi final win in Belo Horizonte.

Thomas Muller opened the scoring on 11 minutes, taking advantage of being unmarked to finish neatly from a Toni Kroos corner for his 10th World Cup goal.

Muller's strike already puts him level with Gary Lineker at number eight on the all-time list at the tender age of 24 - and that list got a new leader last night in Miroslav Klose.

The 36-year-old veteran became the highest scorer in the tournament's history, his 16th World Cup goal making it 2-0 and moving him one ahead of Brazil's Ronaldo.

Klose tapped in on the rebound from his own shot to score in a World Cup semi final for the first time in a record fourth appearance at this stage.

What had happened up until then was merely an aperitif - what followed next was totally otherworldly. It made for barely believable viewing.

Captain Philipp Lahm, finding himself in acres of space down the right behind full-back Marcelo, crossed for Muller.

He missed it - but Kroos behind him didn't, a ruthless low drive supplied into the bottom corner for 3-0.

It became 4-0 within a matter of seconds, Kroos scoring twice inside two minutes following a neat interchange with Sami Khedira after Fernandinho had amateurishly given the ball away.

Then came the inevitable fifth. David Luiz committed himself to a challenge which he lost out on in midfield, and that left the Germans three-on-three behind him.

Another neat passing interchange - this time between Mesut Ozil and Khedira - allowed the latter to provide the finish, for only his fifth international goal.

Brazil had made him look like a seasoned striker - and, embarrassingly, the hosts clearly had no answer to the barrage they were facing.

Fred has been an abomination of a centre-forward since the start of the tournament - while Marcelo and David Luiz were caught out of position so often last night, it was hard to tell in the end if they were doing it as some kind of elaborate joke.

True, the prospect of Brazil reaching the World Cup Final on Sunday had been severely damaged before the game by the absence of their best player Neymar and their captain Thiago Silva.

Even in these regards, though, the Seleção had only themselves to blame.

Neymar's injury came in a match in which Brazil themselves had committed 31 fouls against the Colombians, effectively kicking James Rodriguez out of the game.

In a rough-and-tumble contest which Brazil had helped to create - and even encouraged - the foul on Neymar was not a particularly outstanding one. Luis Felipe Scolari's men had lived by the sword and died by it.

As for the brainless Silva suspension - the second booking, given to him for obstructing Colombia keeper David Ospina, could only be justified if he was trying to give himself some rest before the Final.

Now, instead, he has an appointment to a third-fourth place playoff in Brasilia. Pertinently, Brazil never played at the Maracana in this tournament, and they will not do so.

The second half was played, for the most part, like a training match with the Nationalmannschaft unwilling to expend unnecessary energy and Brazil staggering around shell-shocked.

Even still, the Germans' effortless attacking was enough to create more chances and yet more goals - particularly following the introduction of hungry substitute Andre Schuerrle.

Again, the sixth goal came down the German right - Lahm getting in behind to provide Schuerrle with a tap-in from 12 yards.

The seventh goal, though, was all down to Schuerrle, as neat control of an awkward ball into his instep enabled him to smash the ball in off the underside of the bar. 7-0.

Schuerrle's club team-mate Oscar scored a merited consolation, Manuel Neuer having earlier produced a fantastic double-save from Paulinho.

But Germany could have also had more on the break too - and the final scoreline made it simply impossible for Brazil to hide from the utter devastation of the worst defeat in their history.

Klose's goal to beat Ronaldo's scoring record just rubbed further salt in the wounds, as did the Germans overtaking Brazil in terms of total World Cup goals, by 223 to 221.

This means much more than a few dry scoring statistics to Brazil, however. This was a momentous defeat to rank alongside the Maracanazo in 1950.

It was a first home loss for Brazil in 12 years since their defeat in a friendly to Paraguay - and their first home defeat in a competitive game since a 3-1 reverse to Peru in the 1975 Copa America

More importantly, in a wider sense among fans everywhere on the planet, the nature of Brazil's destruction potentially brings a sad end to their unique aura in world football.

Of course, the shirt will still show the stars that mean they have five previous World Cup wins to fall back on - but the true glory days feel as if they are now definitely long gone.

For quite a few years now, there has been a feeling that Brazil are no longer the special force in world football.

Yes, the 1994 winners had the romantic story of ending the agonising 24-year wait for World Cup success - but they did so playing largely defensive football, emphasised by their eventual win in the Final on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

The 2002 champions were a better watch - thanks to a front trio of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho - but, even then, Rivaldo was driven to cheat in a group game.

Ever since then - now 12 years ago - it is the case that Brazil have simply not turned up at the World Cup finals.

The quarter final defeats in 2006 and 2010 to France and Netherlands respectively had the common theme of the Seleção having no idea what to do after falling behind.

But, from having been merely disappointing in the last two World Cup, Brazil have now been completely devastated at their own party.

They are the butt of the jokes, suddenly nobody's second favourite team - and, given their abandonment of the beautiful football for which they are famous, they have no-one but themselves to blame for this sorry state of affairs.

The glorious joga bonito of Pele, Garrincha, Zico, Socrates and Ronaldo is dead. Brazil 1-7 Germany in Belo Horizonte was the funeral.

Messi lands his date with destiny
ARGENTINA won the second semi final, beating Netherlands on penalties after a tense - though pretty tedious - 0-0 draw in Sao Paulo.

Substitute Maxi Rodriguez struck the winning penalty after earlier Dutch efforts by Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder were saved by Sergio Romero.

It will be La Albiceleste's first World Cup final since 1990, when they also met Germany, losing 1-0.

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal did not repeat his tactic from the quarter final of bringing on Newcastle United goalkeeper Tim Krul for Jasper Cillessen for the shoot-out.

Instead, van Gaal opted to introduce Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in extra time in the hope of nicking a winning goal.

But, in a game of very few chances, Huntelaar was unable to do so - and the lack of another option off the bench left Cillessen on the pitch despite him having never saved a single penalty in his professional career.

Sadly for 25-year-old Cillessen, that is still the case today as Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Garay, Sergio Aguero, and Rodriguez all converted.

The Dutch keeper should have saved one, and perhaps two, of the Argentines' efforts - but the real damage was done early on in the shoot-out by the Dutch takers.

Van Gaal has gone on record to state that two of his players had refused to take the first penalty, leaving the Aston Villa centre-back Vlaar as the man to step forward.

Vlaar, who had played well, struck weakly down the centre - and, though Arjen Robben scored their second, Dutch misery was compounded by Sneijder's effort being saved.

Aguero made it 3-1 by shooting low into the corner - and, although Dirk Kuyt kept the wolf from the door by coolly slotting his kick home, the experienced Rodriguez put just enough power on his shot to beat Cillessen.

Defeated Brazil's ultimate nightmare of Argentine success on their soil remains a distinct possibility, then - but Messi and co will have to play a lot better than they did in this semi final.

Nevertheless, Argentina were the better side and deserved winners of a forgettable encounter, having had the better chances inside the first 90 minutes.

At the end of the first half, Garay sent a header under pressure over the bar and, then late on, Gonzalo Higuain could only find the side-netting.

Then, in extra time, Rodrigo Palacio should have done much better with a header when put through one-on-one. There really was not much to get excited about in a first ever World Cup semi final 0-0 draw.

Indeed, the Dutch only had one shot on target in the whole of the 120 minutes of play, and that was a long-range effort from Robben, never likely to beat Romero.

Germany v Argentina, then - the best team in the world against the best player in the world. A worthy World Cup Final.

Monday, 7 July 2014

F1 2014: Hamilton shines at Silverstone

LEWIS HAMILTON won an entertaining British Grand Prix at Silverstone to close the gap on Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to four points in the title race.

The big action at the Northamptonshire circuit started almost immediately with a first Formula One red flag in 14 years on an opening lap after former world champion Kimi Räikkönen crashed into a barrier.

Räikkönen, rejoining the race having gone wide at Aintree corner, span wildly off the grass and right across the track, catching the unlucky Felipe Massa on the way.

And there then followed a delay of an hour as the damaged guardrail was hastily repaired.

For the record, Räikkönen himself has suffered bruised ankles from the 150mph shunt and is a doubt for the German Grand Prix in two weeks.

But the lack of series injuries suffered to him or any of the other drivers is once again testament to the fine progress made over the years by the authorities to make the sport much safer.

Once the action resumed, so did the title fight, as Hamilton - who qualified a disappointing sixth - swiftly passed McLaren pair Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button to move behind leader Rosberg.

Not for the first time this season, the 2008 world champion then lost time to his German team-mate in the pits - but fortune finally favoured the Briton on lap 29 when Rosberg retired with a gearbox problem.

It was Rosberg's first retirement of 2014 - in fact, his first for 25 races - and it denied the capacity Silverstone crowd what looked set to be a fascinating head-to-head.

Nevertheless, Hamilton's dominant position earned him big cheers from most of the 120,000 spectators, and there was still plenty of exciting action to follow from the stands.

Williams' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas provided much of it, moving up from 14th on the grid to a career-best second place.

Meanwhile Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo also finished on the podium and thus continues to outperform his more decorated team-mate, four-time defending champ Sebastian Vettel.

Fourth place went to Button, an encouraging result for the 34-year-old Frome flyer in his previously struggling McLaren. It did mean, though, that he missed out on a podium at Silverstone for the 15th time.

Vettel, on fresher tyres, beat Ferrari's Fernando Alonso to fifth after a great tussle throughout the latter stages of the race, which provided the true definition of wheel-to-wheel racing. It really was first class stuff.

The other points positions went to Magnussen in seventh, Nico Hulkenberg in eighth, Russian youngster Daniil Kyvat in ninth, and Jean-Eric Vergne in 10th.

The title race, then, remains a two-horse race with Rosberg (165points) narrowly ahead of Hamilton (161), and Ricciardo (98) placed as the best of the rest.

Alonso is fourth on 87 points ahead of the impressive Bottas (73), who moved ahead of Vettel this weekend.

A hugely important weekend, it has been too - with Hamilton able to put behind his recent disappointments to get back in the thick of the title battle.

It also provided some Great British cheer after a pretty miserable sporting summer so far. England's footballers, of course, flopped out of the first round of the World Cup and the rugby union side were whitewashed by the All Blacks in New Zealand.

The cricketers were shocked at home by Sri Lanka, and this week Andy Murray provided a limp defence of his hard-earned Wimbledon crown.

Even the first stage of the Tour de France this weekend had brought bad news as Manxman Mark Cavendish crashed out of the whole race in the closing sprint.

But, as unlikely as it seemed on Sunday morning, Hamilton has restored a smile to the face of British sport - for now.

And, as Hamilton freely admits himself, he is ready to go into "attack mode".

Particularly sweet would be if he could follow up this win with another in the next Grand Prix. It is held in Hockenheim - Rosberg's home circuit - on 20 July.

Pole positionFastest lapWinner
16 MarchSkyAustralian Grand PrixHamiltonRosbergRosberg
30 MarchBBCMalaysian Grand PrixHamiltonHamiltonHamilton
6 AprilSkyBahrain Grand PrixRosbergRosbergHamilton
20 AprilSkyChinese Grand PrixHamiltonRosbergHamilton
11 MayBBCSpanish Grand PrixHamiltonVettelHamilton
25 MaySkyMonaco Grand PrixRosbergRäikkönenRosberg
8 JuneBBCCanadian Grand PrixRosbergMassaRicciardo
22 JuneSkyAustrian Grand PrixMassaPerezRosberg
6 JulyBBCBritish Grand PrixRosbergHamiltonHamilton
20 JulySkyGerman Grand Prix

27 JulySkyHungarian Grand Prix

24 AugustBBCBelgian Grand Prix

7 SeptemberBBCItalian Grand Prix

21 SeptemberSkySingapore Grand Prix

5 OctoberBBCJapanese Grand Prix

12 OctoberBBCRussian Grand Prix

2 NovemberSkyUnited States Grand Prix

9 NovemberSkyBrazilian Grand Prix

23 NovemberBBCAbu Dhabi Grand Prix

Drivers' Championship
01Nico Rosberg (Ger)Mercedes165 (3 wins)
02Lewis Hamilton (Gbr)Mercedes161 (5 wins)
03Daniel Ricciardo (Aus)Red Bull-Renault98 (1 win)
04Fernando Alonso (Spa)Ferrari87
05Valtteri Bottas (Fin)Williams-Mercedes73
06Sebastian Vettel (Ger)Red Bull-Renault 70
07Nico Hulkenberg (Ger)Force India-Mercedes63
08Jenson Button (Gbr)McLaren-Mercedes55
09*Kevin Magnussen (Den)McLaren-Mercedes35
10Felipe Massa (Brz)Williams-Mercedes30
11Sergio Pérez (Mex)Force India-Mercedes28
12Kimi Räikkönen (Fin)Ferrari19
13Jean-Eric Vergne (Fra)Toro-Rosso-Renault9
14Romain Grosjean (Fra)Lotus-Renault8
15*Daniil Kyvat (Rus)Toro-Rosso-Renault6
16Jules Bianchi (Fra)Marussia-Ferrari2
17Adrian Sutil (Ger)Sauber-Ferrari0
18*Marcus Ericsson (Swe)Caterham-Renault0
19Pastor Maldonado (Ven)Lotus-Renault0
20Esteban Gutiérrez (Mex)Sauber-Ferrari0
21Max Chilton (Gbr)Marussia-Ferrari0
22Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn)Caterham-Renault0
*= Debut season in F1

Constructors' Championship
01Mercedes326 (8 wins)
02Red Bull-Renault168 (1 win)
05Force India-Mercedes91
07Toro Rosso-Renault15