Friday, November 24, 2006

Let's stage the World Cup now, jokes O'Driscoll

Ireland proved beyond all reasonable doubt yesterday that they deserve to be regarded as the second best team in the world at present.

Eight days after running South Africa ragged, they battered the Wallabies into submission. Eddie O'Sullivan's side made it abundantly clear amid a November storm that their epic triumph over the Springboks was no fluke, no flash in the pan.

With just 10 months to go until the World Cup they are reaching the height of their powers and on this evidence, only one nation can live with them.

What a terrible pity that when Brian O'Driscoll and Co play their last ever match at Lansdowne Road next weekend, New Zealand are not the opposition.

Because if the All Blacks are blazing a trail at the summit of the international game, Ireland are gamely giving chase.

It would be entirely fitting for the Kiwis to end their latest European crusade in Dublin, for a match which could be billed as the very best of north v south.

They would start as favourites, but as an experienced team who have several strings to their bow and ample stocks of confidence, Ireland would take them to the very edge.

Instead, it is the Pacific Islands who must try to stem the green tide and they cannot fancy their chances.

Given the trials and tribulations experienced by England and France in recent weeks, O'Sullivan's team are Europe's form horse - the best bet for the Six Nations title. Unless injuries intervene, they must start the championship as nailed-on title favourites and genuine Grand Slam contenders.

In appalling conditions yesterday, Ireland used their heads and settled for winning 'ugly', but still managed to sprinkle some gold dust on an otherwise drab, grey occasion.

Given the resourcefulness, cohesion and power of the Australian defence, the hosts' ability to score two tries amid driving rain was an achievement in itself.

While the backs had called the tune against South Africa by exposing their aggressive, blitz defence, it was the Irish pack who put paid to the Wallabies' hopes.

In a spiteful contest up front, flanker Neil Best stood head and shoulders above all those around him.

Having done enough to keep his place at the expense of Llanelli's Lion, Simon Easterby, the 26-year-old Ulsterman was always in the thick of the action, never taking a backward step.

At one stage in the first half, he flattened Lote Tuqiri with a tackle of startling ferocity and if his defensive work was good, so was his running game and his handling at the lineout.

The extent of Ireland's dominance of possession and territory in the first half was remarkable. After Stirling Mortlock had kicked Australia into a 3-0 lead, the home side commenced a lengthy siege, pounding the Wallabies' 22, searching for that elusive opening.

They found it in the 12th minute, when a multi-phase assault ended with Geordan Murphy apparently touching down in the right corner, only for video replays to show he had knocked on. No matter, Ronan O'Gara kicked the subsequent penalty and back came Ireland again.
From a close-range lineout in the 26th minute, the visitors' were finally stretched too far. Gathering possession on the 22, O'Gara chipped to the left touchline where Denis Hickie collected the ball, jinked in-field and burrowed over to mark his international comeback in fine style.

Three minutes before the break, Ireland struck again, with a try that stemmed from Donncha O'Callaghan's theft of Australian lineout ball on the left. Denis Leamy thundered forward and when the ball was shipped right at high speed, Horgan passed inside to Murphy who raced in to touch down.

O'Gara converted and O'Sullivan's side were in the box seat at 15-3. The second half was a grim spectacle as the weather worsened, but still Ireland kept up the attacking momentum.

A further penalty from Mortlock was trumped by two from O'Gara as Australia lost their discipline and composure.

While Ireland played the percentages - kicking for territory astutely, the Wallabies seemingly had no Plan B to fall back on.

Hickie almost struck again in the closing stages, only to be bundled into touch. Another try would have been fully deserved but there was still no doubt about the scale of Irish supremacy.

Their celebrations at the end were distinctly modest, suggesting that beating southern hemisphere teams is no longer a big deal in Dublin. O'Sullivan has moulded a team who are beginning to realise just how good they really are - arguably the finest in their nation's history.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Brazil beats Uruguay 4-1 to win Beach Soccer World Cup

Brazil scored two goals in the final period to beat Uruguay 4-1 Sunday and win FIFA's Beach Soccer World Cup.

Buru, Duda, Benjamin and Sidney scored a goal each for the hosts, who clinched their 10th beach soccer title. Brazil was held to third place in FIFA's inaugural tournament last year on Copacabana beach.

Brazil won all six of its matches en route to this year's title, its first since 2004.

Buru scored first in the first period, while Uruguay equalized in the second with a goal by Ricar. Brazil retook the lead still in the second when Benjamin scored, and Duda and Sidney sealed the victory in front of nearly 7,000 fans with goals in the third period.

Defending champion France, upset by Uruguay in the semifinals, finished third by beating Portugal 6-4 in a rematch of last year's final.

This year's tournament had 16 teams, four more than in 2005. More than 40 nations tried to qualify for the competition.

Portugal striker Madjer finished as the tournament's leading scorer with 21 goals.

The championship trophy was presented to Brazil captain Junior Negao by former FIFA president Joao Havelange.

Beach soccer is played on a sand field about 40 meters (120 feet) long and 30 meters (90 feet) wide. Each match is divided into three periods of 12 minutes, and substitutions are unlimited.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Online Sports Betting in the US

With the recent crack down in the USA on online gambling, is the only online sports book, poker room and casino that this site can recommend. Many sites across the board (like party poker, bet on sports, and 888) have closed their doors to US players. Meanwhile, Bodog has committed to keep servicing the US. Check them out and good luck.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Africa: 2010 World Cup is for Africa to Lose

In the history of the FIFA World Cup, perhaps the 2010 edition has the greatest significance for Africa. For the first time, the continent is scheduled to host the world's most spectacular sporting event. But importantly, the hosting comes with the huge expectation of winning the event. No African nation has won the World Cup and 2010 is seen as providing the continent with the perfect opportunity to re-write history.

Brazil is the only country to have denied the hosting continent the World Cup - in Sweden in 1958 and Korea-Japan in 2002 - hence history largely favours an African victory in 2010. The 2010 encounter has been said to be a make or break for African teams. The reality is that it will be the most demanding campaign for the continent given the high expectations associated with hosting. Some people think home advantage will be an incentive that will instil self-belief in the African campaign. The history of Africa in the World Cup is dominated by under-performances even from cou-ntries with huge potential like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Nigeria. In many cases, the lack of self-belief and a winning mentality is patently evident in African teams at the World Cup. Even against the giants, they can control matches for long periods with brilliant football but fail repeatedly and miserably to deliver the killer blow only to succumb to the easiest of sucker punches.

Playing in the competition far away from home has each time seen a number of African teams finding the going tough with smaller crowds cheering them on. Hence, they play with less easiness and reassurance. On numerous occasions, African teams have unsuccessfully relented to the psychological and outstanding team strategies which some of their opponents employ. Their advantage in games hinge on the physical strength and endurance. They adopted a 'shoot and hope' game, which most of the time is ineffective.

In 2010, Africa should win the World Cup. In case this does not happen, at least improving on the two quarter-final appearances is a must. It is no longer flattering to state that a continent so rich in world class talent has only two quarter-final appearances at the Mundial. Hosting the World Cup provides the best opportunity to change this sorry record just like South Korea did in 2002 to break Asia's quarter-final record set by North Korea in 1966. If an African team wins the World Cup in 2010, it will be the first time that the title goes outside Europe or South America. The traditional African heavyweights such as Nigeria, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Senegal, South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Cameroon and Ghana are likely to bear the hopes of the continent come 2010. Though times constantly change, it is highly likely one of these countries stand the best chance to win the competition for Africa. They have world class players making waves in the top leagues and competitions in the world and they have the experience.

The under achievement of African teams at the World Cup is bewildering in many ways considering the number of star players from the continent. Moreover, Africa has been an acknowledged power in age-limit competitions like the Olympic, the Under-17 and Under-20. Sadly, the run-away success in top leagues and age-limit competitions by African players and teams has not been transferred to the World Cup.

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