Archive for July, 2016

HISTORY OF HOME ADVANTAGE FOR FRANCE

Posted on July 7, 2016. Filed under: FOOTBALL, EURO 2016 | Tags: , , , , |

The second semi-finals of EURO 2016 tonight pits the host country France with Germany. France have won the Henri Delaunay Trophy twice while Germany have won it three times.Germany are the holders of the World Cup and if those statistics make the ‘Die Mannschaft’ the favourites, then one can be for  a surprise.

The ‘Les Bleus’ are appearing to be peaking at the right time and playing on home soil can be a very big advantage. The French won the World Cup in 1998 defying all odds playing in front of the home fans.On the other side, there is Germany which fights till the last whistle is blown and the team cannot be taken for granted.

But with injuries and suspensions, the Germans are going into battle tonight without the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Gomez, Sami Khedira and Mats Hummels. Add to the absence of firing from the likes of Gotze and Muller. For the French, things are bright with the likes of Griezmann, Giroud and Payet in fine form. The injury to central defender Hummels can prove costly for the Germans. All the contenders for the Golden Boot are from the French team and that is something to worry for the Germans.

France won the World Cup in 1998 when a certain player going by the name Zinedine Zidane conducted the French orchestra and also went on to score two goals against Brazil in the finals. Pogba is not certainly in the class of Zidane but great things are expected of him.

Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil have to fire from the midfield. The strikers have to be on target. The lack of form reminds one of the immense value that was added by a certain Miroslav Klose. It is sad that Germany who at one time invented the concept of the ‘Libero’ do have difficulties in the midfield.

The match between Italy and Germany was highly tactical with no team wanting to lose and in the end the match was decided on penalty. This is the problem with modern football where strategies are more important than flair and fluidity on the pitch.

Coming to the coaches, it is interesting. The French coach is Didier Deschamps who lifted the World Cup in 1998 as the captain of his team as well as the EURO in 2000. The EURO championship would only add to his resume. On the other side, we have Joachim Low who would be willing to add the EURO to the World Cup. By doing so Low would join with the coach of Spain, Busquet to win the EURO and the World Cup.

During the World Cup of 1998, before every kick-off, the French goalkeeper Fabian Barthez was kissed on his bald head by his teammate Laurent Blanc. After the initial wins, this carried on through to the finals. This time, Griezmann is  greeted with kiss on his striking boot by teammate, Payet. The French would not mind more kisses from Payet.

In the end, it is a question of ‘who blinks first’. I am waiting for a good contest.

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THE GREAT ESCAPE

Posted on July 7, 2016. Filed under: TENNIS, WIMBLEDON, WIMBLEDON 2016 | Tags: , , , , , |

It is sad to see Roger Federer not making into the finals of tournaments leave alone winning titles. His absence from the French Open was a sad reminder of the fact that all things, however good they might be, have to come to an end. It has happened to other players of the past and in different sports and games. The same player who once had us thrilled ended up looking like a poor copy from a worn out photocopier. It happened to Boris Becker in tennis and the great Kapil Dev in cricket. Those two gentlemen were my original sporting idols. But it was really difficult coming to terms with the decline of Federer.

The pull out of Rafael Nadal and the unexpected loss of Novak Djokovic made me feel optimistic about the chances of Federer having the coveted Wimbledon trophy in his hands for one more time, may be the last time ever. But when Cilic won the first two sets, things began to look difficult for Federer. There were a lot of unforced errors, even on the Federer forehand that in its prime was feared by opponents. Of course, Cilic was playing well.

Federer saved three match points and came back into the match by winning the third set in a tie-break. Even then things were not pretty sailing for the Swiss and I tweeted about the need for a miracle for Federer to win. I was pretty convinced about the result. But slowly things began to fall in place with Cilic stacking up the errors and Federer won the next two sets to emerge the victor in five sets.

Federer did just enough to live for another day and have a go at the most coveted title in the tennis world. The semi-final is also going to be tough as Federer is going to face Milos Raonic. If he goes past the Canadian, the finals may in all probability, going by the seedings and the form book shall bring the rival called Andy Murray. Federer, going by his nature would not want to look beyond the encounter with Raonic. It remains to be seen whether one of the greatest of all time succeeds for a last time or would it be like having a futile tilt at the windmills. We have to wait for some time.

What a way to stay in the tournament and cause many heart beats to miss !. I wanted to title the post featuring the name ‘Houdini’. But I was beaten by more than a mile by Nirmal Sekhar and his write-up in The Hindu. I also thought of using the title ‘Live Another Day’ but unlike James Bond who is entirely fictional, Federer is a real hero. But I cannot remain free from the influence of Hollywood movies and there is the reason for the title.

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A TALE OF TWO INDIVIDUALS

Posted on July 6, 2016. Filed under: FOOTBALL, EURO 2016 | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Later this night Portugal and Wales are going to play the first semifinals of the EURO 2016.This is not the first time for Portugal but for Wales it is. Of course, Portugal has always flattered to deceive even when there was the golden generation with the likes of Figo. The talents of Christiano Ronaldo has, so far, not brought glory to Portugal at the international stage.

No one expected Wales to come this far in the tournament even as the most famous Welsh footballer, Gareth Bale differed. But critics have been proved wrong and supporters have been pleasantly surprised. Of course, the tournament has been witness to the performances from unfancied teams like Iceland!

Portugal has not been a one man team but Ronaldo was expected to lead the team to glory by inspirational play. So far, there has been very little of this. On the other hand, Wales was dismissed as a one player team and the player in question is Bale.In the initial rounds this appeared to be true but then the others from the team raised their hands only for the red hot Belgians to be trashed.

Portugal, it appears has the better of defence and that is where Wales might be found wanting since two key players from the earlier matches are to sit on the bench for the semifinals on account of suspension. But if Bale scores early, then things might become very difficult for Portugal.

It is the most opportune time for Ronaldo to take himself and his team to a higher position at the international level. Even as football is a team game, there is enough opportunity for the individuals to come to the fore and end up glorious. It was thirty years ago that one Diego Maradona took Argentina all the way to World Cup glory in Mexico. Ronaldo has a clothing line called CR7 and in Chemistry the element Chromium is represented by the symbol Cr. For the uninitiated, it is Chromium that makes objects like our bikes and cars look shinier and blingier. The performance of Ronaldo can only add to the shine.

Bale and company have been under no burden of expectations so far.That resulted in the way Wales played so far. But the enormity of the semifinals may just be too much to sustain. Wales should continue to play in the same way.

Ultimately, it all comes to how two mightily gifted individuals, Ronaldo and Bale can inspire their teammates.What makes things interesting is the fact that Ronaldo and Bale are team mates at Real Madrid.

The mind says Portugal since there is the pedigree but the heart goes out for the underdog Wales.

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