Friday, June 24, 2016

All the very latest football news and gossip across Europe!




The 2016 European Championships may be in full swing, but there is still plenty of football news to report. Here is a round up of all the latest football news/gossip across Europe today, which includes the likes of: PSG, Manchester City, Paul Pogba, Sadio Mane, Borussia Dortmund, Southampton, Claude Puel, John Stones, Inter Mlan, Juventus, Crystal Palace, Axel Witsel, Aaron Ramsey, Liverpool, West Ham, Victor Wanyama, Piotr Zielinskiand and Alexis Sanchez to name but a few!


Paris St-Germain have sacked manager Laurent Blanc, with the former France defender receiving a £16.85m pay-off - L'Equipe (French nationwide daily newspaper devoted to sports)

Former Juventus striker Alvaro Morata has re-joined Real Madrid, despite rumours Chelsea had launched a €50m bid to sign the Spanin international striker - AS (Spanish daily sports newspaper) and skysports.com

New Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will make a 'statement signing' during the summer transfer window, with Juventus France midfielder Paul Pogba, 23, a priority. Mourinho is also targeting a shock summer move for Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey. The Wales international, 25, is contracted to the Gunners until the end of June 2018 - Manchester Evening News and The Sun.

Tottenham have confirmed the signing of Victor Wanyama from Southampton for an undisclosed fee. The former Celtic midfielder has agreed a five-year contract with the club until 2021 - skysports.com

Leicester striker Jamie Vardy decided to snub a move to Arsenal as he was not convinced Arsenal play the right style of football to suit his game.
Arsenal triggered a release clause in Vardy's contract earlier this month, but Leicester announced on Thursday that the England forward has agreed a new four-year deal at the club, which he will sign once he is back from Euro 2016 - skysports.com

Juventus have drawn up a shortlist of strikers to sign this summer, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The Serie A Champions recently saw forward Alvaro Morata re-join Real Madrid. As a result, boss Max Allegri is understood to be weighing up a summer move for either Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez, Everton's Romelu Lukaku or Marseille's Michy Batshuayi - skysports.com

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is keen to snap up Arsenal ace Alexis Sanchez, according to reports - Daily Star

Liverpool will step up their efforts to sign Southampton's Senegal forward Sadio Mane, 24, in a £30m deal next week - Daily Telegraph

Liverpool have rejected an £8m bid from Swansea for midfielder Joe Allen, 26, who left the Liberty Stadium for Anfield four years ago - Daily Mirror

Southampton and Leicester are interested in signing Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen - The Times

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew wants to bolster his forward options with the signing of Liverpool striker Christian Benteke - The Sun

Borussia Dortmund say Manchester United target Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 27, is available for £30.6m. The Armenia forward has one year remaining on his contract - Kicker (Germany's leading sports magazine)

Manchester United have had an offer worth £28m rejected by Roma for established defender Kostas Manolas - transfermarketweb.com

Wolfsburg have made a £20m offer to Juventus for striker Simone Zaza. The German side have made their move as their own Andre Schurrle is a target for Borussia Dortmund, who in turn want a replacement for Manchester United target Henrikh Mkhitaryan - Daily Mail

Manchester City have made another signing already this summer. They have beaten Barcelona and Manchester United to the signing of 15 year-old Argentina youngster Benjamin Garre The attacking midfielder has been starring in the youth ranks of Velez Sarsfield - La Pelota al 10 (Argentinian radio station) and Daily Mail

West Ham have lodged a €52m bid with Lyon for forward Alexandre Lacazette. The 25-year-old is contracted to the Ligue 1 club until the summer of 2019 - L'Equipe (French nationwide daily newspaper devoted to sports)

Inter Milan are in talks with Russian club Zenit Saint Petersbourg about signing the former Standard Liège and Benfica box-to-box midfielder Axel Witsel. The 27 year-old Belgian international is also being tracked by Juventus, AS Roma, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea and Stoke City - transfermarket.com

Former Monaco, Lille, Lyon and Nice boss Claude Puel has emerged as the front-runner for the Southampton manager's job - Daily Telegraph

Poland star Piotr Zielinski will not sign for Liverpool until his nation are out of Euro 2016. Reports in Italy claimed that Anfield chiefs had wrapped up a £12m deal for the central midfielder from Serie A club Udinese - Daily Mirror

Manchester City are the frontrunners to sign Dinamo Zagreb's 19-year-old midfielder Ante Coric, who is part of Croatia's Euro 2016 squad, for £6m - Daily Mail

France midfielder Samir Nasri, 28, will have talks with new Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola next week as he wants to stay at the club - The Sun

Meanwhile, Guardiola has made Everton defender John Stones, 22, his number one transfer target - Marca (Spanish national daily sport newspaper) and Daily Express

Barcelona have joined Manchester United in the race to sign Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta. The Spanish giants are on the look-out for a new right-back as Dani Alves prepares to join Juventus.

Chelsea have snubbed an £18m bid for defender Andreas Christensen from Borussia Monchengladbach. The 20-year-old is on a two-season loan at the German club but Chelsea see him as an heir to John Terry at centre-half - Daily Mail

Chelsea target Radja Nainggolan is set to snub a big-money Blues switch to stay at Roma - Daily Mirror

Stoke City have offered nearly £20m for Napoli forward Manolo Gabbiadini - Daily Mirror

Roma have turned down a £28m offer from Manchester United for Greek defender Kostas Manolas, who is also a reported target for Arsenal - The Sun

Michy Batshuayi's future could be resolved this week, with West Ham and Juventus keen to sign the Belgium striker from Marseille. Tottenham are also considering whether to make an offer for the 22-year-old - Guardian

West Ham have made a €35m bid for Marseille's Michy Batshuayi - skysports.com

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern is wanted by Southampton after his Euro 2016 heroics - The Sun

Premier League newcomers Burnley are interested in signing Crystal Palace and Wales midfielder Joe Ledley - Croydon Advertiser

Tottenham have had a bid for Vincent Janssen turned down, according to his Dutch club AZ Alkmaar. Wolfsburg are also understood to be keen on the 22-year-old Dutch international striker, who was Eridivisie's top scorer last season.

Lazio want to take Southampton striker Graziano Pelle back to Serie A - The Sun

West Brom are interested in signing 24-year-old winger Andros Townsend from Newcastle and are prepared to sell winger 25 year-old Callum McManaman - Daily Express and Daily Star

Wales defender Chris Gunter is wanted by Premier League duo Swansea and Middlesbrough following his heroics at Euro 2016. The 26-year-old full-back is understood to have a release clause in his contract with Reading - Daily Mirror

Premier League champions Leicester City remain interested in Burnley defender Michael Keane, 23, after having an initial £10m bid rejected - Daily Mail and Leicester Mercury

Burnley are weighing up a double swoop for Aston Villa duo Ashley Westwood and Rudy Gestede -The Sun

Aston Villa have rejected Celtic's opening bid of £2m for winger Scott Sinclair. Brendan Rodgers wants to make the former Manchester City man his first signing as Parkhead boss - Daily Mail and Daily Record

Hull City goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic has signed a fresh two-year contract with the newly promoted Premier League club - skysports.com

Fiorentina chief executive Pantaleo Corvino, had started talks with Hull City over a deal for Uruguayan international Abel Hernandez (25) - La Gazzetta dello Sport (Italian sports newspaper)

Sunderland are in negotiations with Russian side Rubin Kazan for the permanent signing of midfielder Yann M'Vila, 25, who spent last season on loan at the Black Cats - Sunderland Echo

Watford have offered a new contract to Troy Deeney, 27, after Leicester had a £25m bid rejected for the striker - Watford Observer

Sevilla have signed Hiroshi Kiyotake after the Japanese midfielder passed a medical on Friday morning. Kiyotake joins from Bundesliga club Hannover 96 on a four-year contract - skysports.com

Chelsea and England Under-21 midfielder Lewis Baker is to spend a second season out on loan at Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem - sportinglife.com

Birmingham City have completed the signing of former Nottingham Forest midfielder Robert Tesche. The 29 year-old German has penned a three-year deal with the Blues - skysports.com

Portsmouth have completed the signing of striker Michael Smith from Swindon on a permanent basis - skysports.com

German defensive midfielder Marc Pfitzner, (31) has been signed by Werder Bremen, from Eintracht Braunschweigon on a deal lasting until June 2018 - transfermarket.com

St Etienne have signed 24 year-old midfielder Bryan Dabo from Montpellier, on a four-year contract - skysports.com

Marseille have completed the signing of Japanese defender Hiroki Sakai, the Ligue 1 club announced on their website. The 26-year-old was a free agent after his contract expired at Hannover 96 - skysports.com

Plymouth have signed defender Karleigh Osborne following his recent release by Bristol City. Teenage striker Louis Rooney has also signed a new deal with the Pilgrims - skysports.com

Walsall have completed the signing of former Yeovil captain Joe Edwards on a two-year contract.



Thursday, June 09, 2016

Euro 2016 - Part Two: A Short and Concise Preview



Group D

My Predicted Group finish:

1. Spain 2. Croatia 3. Turkey 4. Czech Republic


Spain

There was a time when it looked as if Spain would dominate international football forever more!
Yet the defending European champions are currently in a state of uncertainty. David Villa, Xavi and Xabi Alonso have retired from international football. There are doubts over who will start in goal – Del Bosque remains loyal to captain Casillas in spite of David de Gea’s consistent excellence for Manchester United – and there’s no obvious candidate to be the third midfielder alongside Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta.

For all this, however, Spain were dominant in qualifying, and despite losing friendlies to the French, Germans and Dutch since the summer of 2014, they have arguably Euro 2016’s most talented squad. If it clicks, they’re a difficult side to stop.

Group D isn’t the worst, but Turkey, Croatia and the Czech Republic are no mugs. Spain must avoid finishing second, which would mean a last 16 tie with the Group E winners – likely to be Italy or Belgium. Still, they’re good enough to reach the final.

Opening fixture: 13-06-2016 v Czech Rep - Toulouse, 2pm kick-off (UK time)

Key players: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City) and Nolito (Celta Vigo)

World ranking: 6

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 11/2 (Skybet)


Croatia

A lot of the attention falls on the midfield and understandably so! The depth and variety in those positions is impressive with Modric and Rakitic. In defence, Croatia have excellent full-backs. Darijo Srna is a great leader. Sime Vrsaljko is one of the best crossers in Serie A. Up front, Mario Mandzukic has had a fine season at Juventus and Ivan Perisic offers width and goals.

But the question marks come at centre-back! Dejan Lovren has been left out amid differences with coach Ante Cacic. Confidence in Cacic is not the greatest, however if Cacic gets the balance right, this team has what it takes to do very well.

Opening fixture: 12-06-2016 v Turkey - Paris, 2pm kick-off

Key players: Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Luka Modric (Real Madrid) and Mario Mandzukic (Juventus)

World ranking: 27

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 25/1 (Skybet)


Czech Republic

Gone are the days when the Czechs were part of football’s elite.
The Czechs won their group but conceded 14 goals in qualifying, more than any other side to qualify for Euro 2016.

Still, coach Pavel Vrba has created a side that aren’t easy on the eye but aren’t easy to beat, either. They won’t fear anyone, even in a tough group, but the Czechs could be heading straight home or get as far as the last 16. A leaky defence makes the former a more likely outcome.

Opening fixture: 13-06-2016 v Spain - Toulouse, 2pm kick-off

Key players: Petr Cech (Arsenal), Vladimir Darida (Hertha Berlin) and Tomáš Rosický (Arsenal)

World ranking: 30

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 100/1 (Skybet)


Turkey

Returning to the Euros for the first time since 2008, Turkey didn't need a play-off to book their place in France - they qualified as the best third-placed team behind the Czech Rep and Iceland and ahead of the Netherlands. They were undefeated in 13 games until their recent defeat to England in a friendly in Manchester in May.

Opening fixture: 12-06-2016 v Croatia - Paris, 2pm kick-off

Key players: Arda Turan (Barcelona), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Selçuk İnan (Galatasaray)

World ranking: 18

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 66/1 (Skybet)


Group E

My Predicted Group finish:

1. Belgium 2. Italy 3. Republic of Ireland 4. Sweden


Republic of Ireland

Ireland made the Championships by defeating Bosnia in a play-off after finishing third in their tough qualifying group behind Germany and Poland. They only lost two of their 10 qualifying games, conceding just seven goals, and they took four points from world champions Germany, drawing 1-1 in Gelsenkirchen and winning 1-0 in Dublin.

The Irish didn't get any luck when the draw was made! In probably the strongest group in the competition, Ireland's biggest game is likely to be their opener against Sweden. The loser of that game will surely be going home early. Any improvement on their performance at Euro 2012, along with a little luck could potentially see them sneak into the second round as one of the best third-placed teams. Much will depend on the fitness of captain Robbie Keane.

Opening fixture: 13-06-2016 v Sweden - Paris, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Shane Long (Southampton) and Jon Walters (Stoke)

World ranking: 33

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 100/1 (Skybet)


Italy

Outgoing manager Antonio Conte would dearly like to sign off with success before he leaves for Chelsea, but that's easier said than done for Italy. After a disastrous World Cup campaign that saw the Azzurri eliminated at the group stage – just as they were in South Africa four years previously – Italy needed to shake things up and Conte was brought in.

Italy comfortably won their qualifying campaign in what was ultimately a weak group, which included the likes of Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Malta. They finished unbeaten but were far from convincing, scoring only 16 times in 10 games and only managing to grind out 1-0 victories both home and away to Malta, currently ranked 165th in the world.

Group E is one of Euro 2016’s toughest, and while Italy’s defence can keep the very best teams quiet, their lack of attacking threat will likely see them fail to make it much further than the last eight.

Opening fixture: 13-06-2016 v Belgium - Lyon, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Graziano Pelle (Southampton), Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) and Daniele De Rossi (Roma)

World ranking: 12

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 16/1 (Skybet)


Sweden

Will Zlatan Ibrahimovic alone be enough to savevic alone be enough to save Sweden! The Swedes only qualified via a play-off win against neighbouring Denmark, after finishing behind Russia and Austria in a weak group that included Montenegro, Liechtenstein and Moldova. Ibrahimovic is in the form of his life right now and he will have to hit the ground running, because without him the Swedes look very ordinary. They have recorded just one win in their last six games, so the omens aren't good for coach Erik Hamren's side.

if Sweden manage to get through the group they are likely to play France, Spain or Austria in the round of 16 and that can only mean a ticket back home.

Opening fixture: 13-06-2016 v Rep of Ireland - Paris, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-Germain)

World ranking: 35

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 66/1 (Skybet)


Belgium

Belgium lived up to their status as group favourites, finishing top despite dropping five points to Wales. But their build up to these Championships has seen them lose several players to injury. However they have enough quality among their ranks to overcome their injury woes to at least reach the final of this year's tournament. Although to do so they will have to dispose of World Champions Germany in the quarter-finals, if results goes to plan.

Opening fixture: 13-06-2016 v Italy - Lyon, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Yannick Ferreira Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham) and Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

World ranking: 2

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 11/1 (Skybet)


Group F

My Predicted Group finish:

1. Austria 2. Iceland 3. Portugal 4. Hungary


Iceland

This is the first time Iceland have qualified for a major tournament, and they are the smallest nation ever to qualify for the European Championship, but they're by no means the weakest. They only lost twice in their qualifying group, a group which included the Czech Republic, Turkey as well as the Netherlands, who they beat both home and away. They also kept six clean sheets in their 10 games.

I think they will qualify as runners-up, then see how they fare against Slovakia or Wales – both beatable – in the last 16.

Opening fixture: 14-06-2016 v Portugal - Saint-Étienne, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea), Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (Nantes), Arnor Ingvi Traustason (Rapid Vienna) and Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City)

World ranking: 34

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 100/1 (Skybet)


Austria

Austria will be competing in their first European Championship finals after they won their qualifying group comfortably - following an unbeaten campaign, winning nine of their ten games and conceding just 5 goals.

They could be the dark horses of the tournament. They're a hard-working, quick-countering side and can be absolutely ruthless on the break. Expect Austria to win their group and to face either Italy or Republic of Ireland in the last 16. If they finish 2nd in their group they will be paired with the winners of Group B, possibly England.

Opening fixture: 14-06-2016 v Hungary - Bordeaux, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Marko Arnautovic (Stoke), Marc Janko (Basel), David Alaba (Bayern Munich) and Aleksandar Dragovic (Dynamo Kiev)

World ranking: 10

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 40/1 (Skybet)


Portugal

Portugal topped their qualifying group, with seven wins out of eight, but scored just 11 goals in those 8 games.

So much depends on the condition of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid star looked well short of fitness in the Champions League final and manager Fernando Santos will be praying that he recovers in time. Without him, Portugal are worryingly light on goals.

With arguably the tournament’s best player in their ranks, plus a healthy mix of experienced campaigners and bright new talent, hopes are high within the Portuguese camp that they can continue their impressive Euros record. In six appearances, they have reached the semi-finals on four occasions, going on to contest the final on home turf in 2004, and they have never failed to successfully negotiate the group phase.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Portugal’s recurrent problem of having no high-quality striker is again evident. Eder may lead the line, but one goal in 23 Portugal appearances is not a record that will have opposition defenders quaking in their boots.

I expect Portugal to struggle in this group, and victory in their opening fixture against Iceland in Saint-Étienne is crucial, if they are to progress. Even if they do reach the knockout phase I can't see them progressing beyond the last 16.

Opening fixture: 14-06-2016 v Iceland - Saint-Étienne, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Renato Sanches (Benfica) and Ricardo Carvalho (AS Monaco)

World ranking: 8

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 20/1 (Skybet)


Hungary

Hungary's qualification wasn't exactly straight-forward and sadly there's little to suggest that their stay in France will be a long one. They made it through to the finals via a play-off win versus Norway, after finishing as the third best placed team in their group, behind Northern Ireland and Romania, scoring only eleven goals in their ten qualifying games. They will need to bring their very best to this tournament if they're to avoid finishing last in Group F.

Opening fixture: 14-06-2016 v Austria - Bordeaux, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Tamas Priskin (Slovan Bratislava), Zoltan Gera and Ádám Nagy (both Ferencváros)

World ranking: 20

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 200/1 (Skybet)



# All tournament betting odds correct at time of writing.
## All kick-offs indicated are in United Kingdom time.


Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Euro 2016 - Part One: A Short and Concise Preview



Group A

My Predicted Group finish:

1. France 2. Switzerland 3. Romania 4. Albania


Albania

Albania are set to make their debut appearance at a major tournament, controversially qualifying after being awarded three points from an abandoned match in Serbia following the infamous ‘drone incident.’ They are drawing on patriotic pride for inspiration.

Opening fixture: 11-06-2016 v Switzerland - Lens, 2pm kick-off (UK time)

Key players: Lorik Cana (Nantes) and Elseid Hysaj (Napoli)

World ranking: 42

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 200/1 (Skybet)


France

This is their time. Not only do France have history on their side as the host nation, having won two of the three post-war major tournaments to be held in their own back yard (Euro 84 and World Cup 98), but they have had an uncommonly calm run-up to the event.

The results have really come together in the last year, too. After a poor 2015 summer, France have won seven of their eight matches since September, with the one defeat – against England at Wembley – entirely understandable as the nation came to terms with the Paris terrorist attacks four days previously.

Opening Fixture: 10-06-16 v Romania - Saint-Denis, 8pm kick-off

Key players - Paul Pogba (Juventus), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Dimitri Payet (West Ham) and Anthony Martial (Manchester Utd)

World ranking: 17

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 3/1 favourites (Skybet)


Switzerland

Switzerland finished a distant second to England in qualifying, but after taking Argentina to extra time at the last World Cup, they look primed for their best ever European Championship showing. Euro 2008's co-hosts benefit from a youth development program that has produced a steady stream of promising players, many of them from immigrant backgrounds, such as Xherdan Shaqiri, and new Arsenal midfield signing Granit Xhaka.

Opening fixture: 11-06-16 v Albania - Lens, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke) Josip Drmić, Nico Elvedi, (both Borussia Mönchengladbach) and Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)

World ranking: 15

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 40/1 (Skybet)


Romania

Romania finished unbeaten in second place in qualifying behind Northern Ireland in Group F, but no qualifying team in Europe scored fewer goals in their 10 games than the 11 they mustered in total. With no big names in the team, the Tricolorii hope to cause an upset or two with an approach that’s rather at odds with Romanian football traditions.

Opening fixture: 10-06-16, v Romania - Saint-Denis, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Vlad Chiriches (Napoli) and Nicolae Stanciu (Steaua Bucharest)

World ranking: 22

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 100/1 (Skybet)


Group B

My Predicted Group finish:

1. England, 2. Slovakia, 3. Wales, 4. Russia


England

England scored 31 goals in their 10 qualifying matches (the second-most in Europe) and let in just three (the fewest in Europe).

Roy Hodgson has selected a squad that basically says: "Out with the old, in with the new."
Gone are the players of England’s so-called ‘golden generation’ and into the squad come players picked largely on merit rather than reputation, such as Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Eric Dier - all of whom are all likely to play a substantial role during the tournament.

The flipside to that aforementioned youthful exuberance is a lack of top-level experience. Of Hodgson’s regular picks over the past two years, only Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart, Gary Cahill and James Milner have passed 40 international appearances. But that may not be a bad thing. The emerging talents have fewer scars from previous failures, while a greater number of players are being picked on the basis of a great season, rather than an impressive CV.

The draw has been relatively kind, particularly in comparison to England’s testing ties in Euro 2012 (France, Sweden and hosts Ukraine) and World Cup 2014 (Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica).

Opening fixture: 11-06-16 v Russia - Saint-Denis, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier (All Tottenham) and Chris Smalling (Manchester Utd)

World ranking: 11

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 8/1 (Skybet)


Russia

The Russian qualifying campaign veered toward disaster, and it required the removal of coach Fabio Capello to pull them through, with CSKA Moscow coach Leonid Slutsky called in last June to rescue the campaign. However a proliferation of foreign players in the Russian Premier League means there is a shallow pool of talent to call upon, and an ageing squad to work with for the World Cup 2018 hosts.

Opening fixture: 11-06-16 v England - Saint-Denis, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Roman Shirokov (CSKA Moscow) and Artem Dzyuba (Zenit St Petersburg)

World ranking: 29

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 40/1 (Skybet)


Slovakia

Slovakia has become the home of one of Europe’s most unpredictable national teams.
Jan Kozak's side went off like a firework in their qualifying campaign by beating Ukraine away from home, stunning Spain and, in all, claiming wins in their first six games. Of more recent concern was the way Slovakia then went three games without even scoring and only confirmed qualification with a nervy win over Luxembourg.

Confidence is high throughout a squad which has now been together for a long time, so don't write them off. They're tactically versatile, can adapt their shape to suit any situation, and they boast one Marek Hamsik in their ranks. They won't win it, but they should comfortably progress to the knockout stages.

Opening fixture: 11-06-16 v Wales - Bordeaux, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Marek Hamšík (Napoli) and Martin Skrtel (Liverpool)

World ranking: 24

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 150/1 (Skybet)


Wales

Having made their first finals tournament since 1958, Chris Coleman's Welsh team are determined to prove that reaching Euro 2016 is not the end of the journey. Wales have a young squad, and even Bale, Ramsey and Allen are still in their mid-20s, so the future’s bright. That isn’t enough, though. Even if post-qualification friendlies brought disheartening results, if not performances.

Wales go into Euro 2016 feeling quietly confident. Nobody’s expecting much, and they thrive as underdogs. Making the second round would be a considerable but wholly possible achievement.

Opening fixture: 11-06-16 v Slovakia - Bordeaux, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Ashley Williams (Swansea) and Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)

World ranking: 26

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 80/1 (Skybet)


Group C

My Predicted Group finish:

1.Germany, 2.Poland, 3. Ukraine, 4. Northern Ireland


Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland have played in three World Cups, but this is their first appearance in the final stages of the European Championship. None of Northern Ireland’s players have taken part in a major tournament before. Given the level at which many of them perform with their club sides, a good proportion have never come up against opponents of this calibre, either.
However undefeated for more than a year, spirits are high and the dream is to emulate the 1958 and 1982 World Cup sides that got through their groups.

Opening fixture: 12-06-16 v Poland - Bordeaux, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Steven Davis (Southampton) and Kyle Lafferty (Norwich City)

World ranking: 25

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 250/1 (Skybet)


Poland

In Robert Lewandowski Poland have arguably the best centre-forward in the competition. Top scorer throughout all of qualifying Lewandowski scored 13 goals - equalling the record set by Northern Ireland’s David Healy. Lewandowski also found the net 42 times for Bayern this season in all competitions, while his partner at international level, Arkadiusz Milik, hit 21 in the Eredivisie for Ajax.

The Poles are vulnerable at the back. Cagliari’s Bartosz Salamon is their most in-form defender, but he’s inexperienced. Apart from that 2-0 win over Germany, their only qualifying shutouts came against Georgia and Gibraltar.

Opening fixture: 12-06-16 v Northern Ireland - Bordeaux, 5pm kick-off

Key players: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax) and Karol Linetty (Lech Poznań)

World ranking: 27

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 50/1 (Skybet)


Ukraine

Ukraine’s qualification success came down to a play-off against Slovenia. A 3-1 aggregate win ensured Ukraine came through a Euro qualifying campaign for the first time, having co-hosted the tournament in 2012. Their goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov is error prone and the defence is unremarkable, so in the powerful Andriy Yarmolenko they have a versatile forward who must deliver if Ukraine are to make progress. Height, speed, skill and a thunderous shot make him fit for almost any team in world football.

Opening fixture: 12-06-16 v Germany - Lille, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev), Yevhen Konoplyanka (Sevilla) and Denys Garmash (Dynamo Kiev)

World ranking: 27

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 66/1 (Skybet)


Germany

German boss Joachim Low has an abundance of talent available to him, despite the recent loss of Marco Reus to injury. Most of the men who lifted the World Cup in Brazil two summers ago are still there, either as regulars or on the fringes.
Germany topped their group in qualifying but were beaten twice, by Poland for the first time ever and then by the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.

However, they have struggled in recent friendlies, exemplified by England’s 3-2 friendly win in late March. However everybody knows Germany have the extra gears to go through that other teams don't, and they have reached at least the semi-finals at each of the last five tournaments.

Opening fixture: 12-06-16 v Poland - Lille, 8pm kick-off

Key players: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Mario Gomez (Besiktas), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Leroy Sane (Schalke), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller (both Bayern Munich)

World ranking: 4

Odds of winning Euro 2016: 7/2 (Skybet)



# All tournament betting odds correct at time of writing.
## All kick-offs indicated are in United Kingdom time.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Babe of the Month - Camille Leblanc-Bazinet


Camille Leblanc-Bazinet was born on 10th October 1988 in Richelieu, Quebec, Canada and is a Canadian professional CrossFit athlete. She is also an accomplished weightlifter, having qualified for the national championship for weightlifting in Canada.

Throughout her early years, Camille did gymnastics to a high level. At the age of 16, her career as a gymnast came to an abrupt halt due to injury when she tore her hip. After recovering, she played senior AA soccer and volleyball. She later was the captain of her flag football team in college. Leblanc-Bazinet also spent time running half marathons, skiing, and playing rugby. In an interview, she said she was introduced to CrossFit at a rugby party where I met a guy who was a owner of a CrossFit gym and he challenged me to try a session.....that same day I payed for a year's subscription.

CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program designed to perform at the highest standards of many athletes by targeting peak exertion in the three main metabolic pathways. The program is designed to be applicable at all levels do the scalability of the workouts.

CrossFit is a fast growing fitness sport/lifestyle/movement. It combines gymnastics with weightlifting, with combat sports, with running, swimming, cycling, rowing, normally in the same workout. The goal is to achieve elite total body fitness including strength, endurance, balance, agility, flexibility, and accuracy.

The rise of Camille Leblanc-Bazinet from teenage gymnast to “Fittest Woman on Earth” would only have surprised those who weren’t paying attention!

Since her competitive CrossFit debut back in 2010, Leblanc-Bazinet made a habit of dominating the Canada East Regionals and making waves at the Games, where she picked up three Top 10 finishes in her first four years. It was in 2014, however, that everything came together - as the 5’2” Leblanc-Bazinet showed off her much improved weightlifting prowess en route to her first Reebok CrossFit Games title.

Even while simultaneously working towards a degree in Chemical Engineering, the former balance beamer dedicated herself so much to the art of the barbell that she will be representing her native Canada in Women’s Weightlifting at the forthcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

Leblanc-Bazinet is part of a spirited, athletic family. She has three siblings with competitive CrossFit experience, as well as her partner - CrossFit coach and trainer Dave Lipson. After moving to Boulder, Colorado in 2015, Camille made her debut in the South Regional with familiar results: a first place finish.






You can follow Camille on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

All the very latest football news and gossip across Europe!




Here is a round up of all the latest football news/gossip across Europe today, which includes the likes of: Christian Benteke, West Ham, David de Gea, Real Madrid, Rafael Benitez, Juventus, Dimitri Payet, AC Milan, Mario Balotelli, Everton, Jose Mourinho, Aston Villa, Yaya Toure, Leicester, Roberto Di Matteo, Ajax, Dani Alves, Watford, John Terry and Swansea City to name but a few!


Real Madrid will look to sign West Ham and France midfielder Dimitri Payet, 29, but not until after Euro 2016 - Le 10 Sport (French sports publication)

West Ham will turn their attention to signing Liverpool striker Christian Benteke, 25, after having a club record £31m bid rejected for Lyon's 24 year-old French international striker Alexandre Lacazette - The Sun

The Turkish press is today echoing interest in Jose Mourinho joining Fenerbahce and the Turkish club are preparing an offer in the region of 15 million euros annually for the Portuguese born boss - AS.com

Arsenal have submitted a £51m offer to Juventus in an attempt to sign 23-year-old forward Alvaro Morata during the summer transfer window - Corriere dello Sport (Italian national sports newspaper based in Rome)

Real Madrid have until 15 June to trigger 25-year-old Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea's £39m release clause - Dairio AS (Spanish daily sports newspaper)

Romelu Lukaku's father thinks his son will leave Everton for around £65m before Euro 2016 gets under way - Daily Express

Former Borussia Monchengladbach coach Lucien Favre is in the hunt for the Everton job after holding talks with Goodison officials, but Saints boss Ronald Koeman and Dutchman Frank de Boer still top the shortlist - The Sun

A Far East consortium are believed to be close to agreeing a deal to buy Aston Villa and that would make Roberto Di Matteo the favourite to pip Nigel Pearson to the manager's post - Daily Express

Watford have held talks with former Inter Milan boss Walter Mazzarri and the club could appoint their new head coach by the end of this week - Gazetta dello Sport (Italian sports newspaper)

Yaya Toure's agent has claimed talks are being held with Inter Milan over a summer move. Speculation about the Manchester City midfielder's future has been an ongoing theme and it appears he could reunite with former City boss Roberto Mancini at San Siro - skysports.com

Rafael Benitez has agreed to stay on as manager at Newcastle United and will be given full control over transfers as he plans for next season in the Championship - Daily Mail

Claudio Ranieri wants to bring £15m-rated Ajax striker Arkadiusz Milik to Leicester. The 22-year-old has scored 47 times in 76 appearances for his club - Daily Mirror

Swansea City boss Francesco Guidolin has urged the Club not to cash in on £10m-rated striker Andre Ayew - The Sun

Swansea have Junior Hoilett top of their wanted list this summer with the 25-year-old winger's contract expiring at QPR - Daily Mirror

Dani Alves will stay in Barcelona for at least another season - skysports.com

Liverpool and Italy forward Mario Balotelli, 25, who is currently on loan at AC Milan, is wanted by Spanish side Espanyol - Fichajes, via Daily Star

John Terry has signed a new one-year deal with Chelsea. The club have said decision has been taken following consultation between Terry, incoming manager Antonio Conte, the owner and the board - skysports.com

Arsenal are keen on Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney and Leicester's Ben Chilwell. However the Gunners have yet to make any offers and are expected to offer around £6m for both of them - Daily Mail

French-Senegalese forward M'Baye Niang, 21, currently on a contract with AC Milan until June 2019, has become a main target for both Liverpool and Tottenham. Niang, is also interesting Borussia Dortmund and Stoke City as well - gianlucadimarzio.com

Incoming Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola wants to hijack neighbours United's move for the Schalke's attacking midfielder Leroy Sané. The German international is also on the radar of Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain as well - Daily Star

Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez has signed a new long-term deal with the Spanish club. There had been speculation that Manchester United were interested in the midfielder, but he has committed his future to Atletico - skysports.com

Real Madrid star Isco wants to stay at Santiago Bernabeu next season, as he told the club's official website: "I'm happy with what I've achieved but excited by the future. There is no better place to win titles than at Real Madrid. My aim is to work day by day because I'm an ambitious player and I've still got a lot to demonstrate" - Realmadrid.com

AS Roma's attempt to sign Guinean-Italian midfielder Amadou Diawara, 18 could be hijacked by Juventus, as a possible replacement for Paul Pogba. Also of interest to several other European clubs, the player is currently on a deal with Bologna until June 2020 - transfermarketweb.com

Cardiff City have confirmed Paul Trollope as their new manager - skysports.com

FC Crotone recently promoted to Serie A, will face a huge job to convince manager Ivan Juric to stick around following interest from Leeds United - Daily Express

Bristol City have signed Wrexham youngster Johnny Smith for an undisclosed fee - skysports.com

Defender Nathan Smith has signed a one-year deal with Yeovil Town - skysports.com

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Statistically, the EA Sports best performing players in the English Premier League so far this season!


The EA SPORTS PPI (Player Performance Index) is the only official player rating index of the Barclays Premier League which measures a player's all round contribution to the success of his team using six key indices:

The intention is to remove any opinion bias and only work with proven statistical measurements which become more accurate as the season progresses.


Season 2015/16 - Last update: 10/05/16 at Noon


Goalkeepers:

1. Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester) 448 EA Sports PPI  
2. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) 406
3. Petr Cech (Arsenal) 388
4. Adrian (West Ham) 357
5. Heurelho Gomes (Watford) 351
6. Joe Hart (Man City) 350
7. Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea) 341
8. Jack Butland (Stoke City) 341
9. David de Gea (Man Utd) 339 (right)
10. Simon Mignolet (Liverpool) 313


Defenders:

1. Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham) 576
2. Wes Morgan (Leicester) 529
3. Héctor Bellerín (Arsenal) 501
4. Eric Dier (Tottenham) 498
5. Ashley Williams (Swansea) 484
6. Aaron Cresswell (West Ham) 484
7. Nacho Monreal (Arsenal) 477
8. Charlie Daniels (Bournemouth) 472
9. Scott Dann (Crystal Palace) 470
10. Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal) 463



Midfielders:

1. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) 940 (right)
2. Mesut Özil (Arsenal) 769
3. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) 712
4. Dele Alli (Tottenham) 661
5. Dimitri Payet (West Ham) 654
6. Ross Barkley (Everton) 632
7. Sadio Mané (Southampton) 592
8. Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea) 591
9. Georginio Wijnaldum (Newcastle) 566
10. Cesc Fàbregas (Chelsea) 555


Forwards:

1. Harry Kane (Tottenham) 1033 (right)
2. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) 885
3. Sergio Agüero (Man City) 748
4. Romelu Lukaku (Everton) 683
5. Odion Ighalo (Watford) 671
6. Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal) 644
7. Troy Deeney (Watford) 539
8. Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) 538
9. Anthony Martial (Man Utd) 523
10. Marko Arnautovic (Stoke) 516


The Six Key Indices:

1. Winning Performance

Players receive points for time on the pitch in a successful team. Players will receive more points if they play the full 90 minutes in a winning team. This index shares league points won by a team between the players according to the minutes they are on the pitch. Only time on the pitch and points scored are taken into account in this first index.

2. Player's Performance per match

Players receive points for positive influences on a winning performance (shots on target, tackles, clearances, saves etc). Players have points taken away from their score for negative actions such as shots off target and receiving yellow and/or red cards.

3. Appearances

Players receive points for minutes on the pitch. The number of points won by ALL teams in the Barclays Premier League are divided among the players according to the number of minutes they have played. This does not take into account the result of a match, it awards points purely for playing time.

4. Goals scored

Players are awarded points for scoring goals. These points are only given to the goalscorer.

5. Assists

Players are awarded points for assists. These points are only awarded to players that make the assist.
Assists are awarded to the player from the goal scoring team who makes the last touch before the goal is scored.
If after this touch, an opposing player touches the ball outside the penalty area altering the intended destination of the ball, then no assist is given, except if this intervention directly results in an own goal.
In the event of a penalty or free-kick, the player earning the penalty or free-kick gets an assist if a goal is directly scored, but not if he takes it himself, in which case no assist is given.

6. Clean sheets

Allocates points for clean sheets to the whole team. The proportionate split of the points is weighted according to the player's position. Therefore a goalkeeper will be awarded a greater proportion of the points for keeping a clean sheet than a striker. The points are also awarded proportionately to the time spent on the pitch.


N.B. The overall EA SPORTS PPI is a correlation between all of the above indices. The Index only includes actions that can be measured objectively and does not reward one action more than another (e.g. a pass by a midfielder will not gain more points than a tackle made by a defender). Subjective factors relating to individual players' skill levels or evidence of a specific flair, such as a particularly spectacular pass or goal, are not included within the index.




Sunday, May 01, 2016

Babe of the Month - Read the Surfer Manuel on Hawaiian Hottie Malia


Malia Manuel was born on 9th August 1993 in Kauai, Hawaii and is a female professional surfer.

Surfing has been ingrained in Malia’s blood since she was born. At the age of two, Malia started surfing with her parents, catching waves along the beaches of Kauai.

In 2008 aged 14, Malia became the youngest ever female or male to win the US Open of Surfing held at Huntington Beach, California. Since then Malia has continued to influence the female surfing progression by placing 1st in the US Open Pro Junior in 2009.

In 2011 she became champion of both the Azores Islands and Spain's Pantin Classic WQS 6-star events, and earning the top qualifier spot for the elite Association of Surfing Professionals Women’s World Tour (ASP).

To cap off her first year on the World Tour she claimed the prestigious title of  'ASP Women’s Rookie of the Year 2012' - and went on to win the WQS 6-star event in Oceanside, California in 2013, cementing her first place spot in the World Rankings.
Rounding out 2014, Malia finished 5th in the world on the Women’s Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour.

In 2015 Malia was a semi-finalist in the Women’s Drug Aware Margaret River Pro event held in Western Australia, and was chosen an inspirational woman to other women by Mind Body Green as one of the 100 Women To Watch in Wellness, alongside the likes of Christy Turlington Burns, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hillary Biscay, Jessica Alba, Krista Stryker and Torah Bright.

Malia's hobbies outside sport include: Yoga, Running and growing organic food.



She is sponsored by O'Neill wetsuits and clothing, Von Zipper eyewear, Sanuk footwear and Mayhem surfboards.




CAREER ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

2015 – Top 100 Women in Wellness to Watch | Mind Body Green

2015 – Women’s Drug Aware Margaret River Pro | Semi-finalist

2014 – Ranked 5th on the Women’s Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour

2013 - Women’s World Qualifying Series Champion

2013 - Super Girl Pro Champion

2012 - ASP Rookie of the Year

2011 - Top Qualifier for the Elite ASP Women’s World Tour – age 18

2011 - WQS 6-star Pantin Spain Champion – age 18

2011 - Front cover of TransWorld Surf Magazine in August 2011 (only 2nd female ever) – age 17 (above right)

2010 - Hawaii World Team member – age 16
2009 - Hawaii World Team member – age 15
2009-  US Open Junior Womens Champ – age 15
2009 - Junior Women Regional Champ – age 15
2009 - VQS Champion – age 14
2008 - Youngest Ever US Open Champ – age 14
2008 - International Grom Search Champ – age 14
2008 - Junior Women Regional Champ - age 14
2008 - Hawaii World Team Member – age 14
2008 - NSSA National champ Explorer Womens – age 14
2007 - NSSA Middle School girls National Champion -age 13
2006 - NSSA Open Women runner up – age 12
2005 - Hawaii World Team member – age 11
2004 - Surfing America Champion National Title – age 10
2002 - 1st Annual Irons Brothers Classic winner – age 8





You can follow Malia on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram





Friday, April 22, 2016

All the very latest football news and gossip across Europe!




Here is a round up of all the latest football news/gossip across Europe today, which includes the likes of: Roberto Martinez, Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea, Juventus, Tottenham, Marcus Rashford, Jorge Mendes, Barcelona, Crystal Palace, Ramiro Funes Mori, Divock Origi, Gus Poyet and Michael Owen to name but a few!


Chelsea are planning a £90m summer move for Everton striker Romelu Lukaku and defender John Stones. Chelsea had three bids for Stones rejected last year, going up to £37m, but are looking to bid £40m this summer - Daily Star

Newcastle United midfielder Moussa Sissoko is attracting the interest of AC Milan, with reports suggesting the Frenchman will leave St James’ Park should Newcastle be relegated - Tuttomercatoweb.com (Italian news outlet)

Mats Hummels' father and advisor, Hermann Hummels, has labelled Manchester City as "an interesting option" for the Borussia Dortmund and German international defender, with his contract at the Signal Iduna Park due to expire in the summer of 2017 - SID (German news agency based in Cologne)

Roberto Martinez needs to win the FA Cup to stand any chance of keeping his job as Everton manager - Daily Mirror

Mauricio Pochettino is due a £500,000 bonus if Tottenham overhaul Leicester to win the Premier League title - The Sun

Crystal Palace are considering a move for Barcelona midfielder Alex Song, who is on loan at West Ham but not in Slaven Bilic's plans - The Sun and skysports.com

Marcus Rashford will wait until he has appointed an agent before discussing a new contract at Manchester United. The 18-year-old has reportedly had his business handled by his mother and brothers up to now. His current contract runs until the summer of 2017 - Daily Mail

Jorge Mendes, the agent of Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, wants to represent Manchester United's 18-year-old forward Marcus Rashford - The Times

Chelsea are closing on a £35m deal for Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan - Daily Express

Manchester United have made an enquiry for Bordeaux midfielder Adam Ounas. The 19-year-old has played 25 games for the French side this season, scoring six goals.
But AS Monaco are also reportedly interested in the France U20 international - Le10Sport (French daily tabloid)

French international offensive midfielder and winger Hatem Ben Arfa is likely to leave Nice as a free agent this summer with a number of clubs interested in the 29 year-old, most recently AC Milan. The Italian club are determined to win his signature ahead of all other interested parties which include Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool. Meanwhile, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain are monitoring the situation of the former Newcastle and Olympique Marseille player - RMC Sport (French news outlet)

Southampton are still trying to convince midfielder Victor Wanyama to sign a new contract. The Kenyan's contact runs out in the summer of 2017, and Tottenham have been heavily linked in the British press - Daily Echo

West Ham full-back Aaron Cresswell is being tracked by Liverpool and Chelsea. The 26 year-old currently on a deal with London side until June 2020, is valued in the region of 9 million pounds - Daily Express

Liverpool's Belgium forward Divock Origi, 21, will be out for between four and six weeks with the ankle injury he suffered during Wednesday's win over Everton - RTBF (Belguim broadcasting company)

Everton defender and Argentine international Ramiro Funes Mori has had death threats over his Merseyside derby foul on Divock Origi, despite saying sorry - The Sun

Liverpool and England forward Daniel Sturridge, 26, wants to remain at Anfield and has set his sights on scoring 100 league goals for the Reds - Daily Mail

Aston Villa want to sell defender Joleon Lescott, 33, as part of a post-relegation clearout - Daily Mail

Tottenham are in talks over the use of Wembley Stadium for European games next season while White Hart Lane is renovated - The Times

Juventus are weighing up the chance to try signing Lazio's Italian international goalkeeper Federico Marchetti, 33 as a substitute to Gianluigi Buffon for next season. The player is currently on a deal with the Serie A club until June 2018 - transfermarketweb.com

Liverpool's decision to appoint Michael Owen as a club ambassador has gone down badly with some fans still angry over his time at Manchester United - Daily Mail

Real Sociedad have just submitted an 8 million euros offer to Besiktas for the 23 year-old Turkish international midfielder Oguzhan Özyakup, one of current season's main Süper Lig protagonists. There has also been interest from Inter and West Ham for the Dutch-born player who is currently on a deal with the Istanbul side until June 2018 - transfermarketweb.com

Barcelona, are moving towards signing 21 year-old Uruguayan international centre-back José Gimenez, The player is currently on a deal with Atletico Madrid until June 2018, and has a 65 million euros release clause in his contract - El Mundo Deportivo (Spanish nationwide daily sports newspaper)

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is interested in Nottingham Forest midfielder Oliver Burke. The 19-year-old winger has been on fine form for the Championship club, but agreed a four-and-a-half year deal in February - The Sun

German international winger and forward André Schürrle might return to England next season, with Tottenham an interested party. Currently on a deal with Wolfsburg until June 2019, the former Bayer Leverkusen player might push for a move, although the Bundesliga giants are aware they won't get back anything like the 32 million euros invested in him - transfermarketweb.com

Former Sunderland manager Gus Poyet could return to English football with Nottingham Forest when he leaves AEK Athens at the end of the season - Daily Telegraph

Harry Cornick has put pen to paper on a new contract with Bournemouth until June 2018. The 21-years-old has just came back from loan at Yeovil Town and thanks to his good performances he deserved a new deal with the Cherries - transfermarketweb.com

Matthew Pennington has been recalled from his loan spell at Walsall as Everton battle with a defensive availability crisis - skysports.com

Reading manager Brian McDermott, 55, does not fear being sacked by the club a second time. The Royals are 15th in the Championship - Reading Chronicle

Leeds United boss Steve Evans, 53, has played down speculation linking him with the Celtic job - Yorkshire Post

Adam Thompson has signed a new contract with Southend, keeping him at the club until the summer of 2017 - skysports.com


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Most Famous Meltdowns in Sporting History!


There’s a famous saying about sports, that it’s the perfect platform to illustrate the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. That’s a very true statement, and sometimes we forget just how fine a line there really is between those two things. The thrill for one side equals agony for the other, and anyone who has played sports can tell you that losing is never easy. In some cases, the agony of defeat is especially strong.

Jordan Spieth's infamous collapse in the final round of the US Masters on Sunday brings to mind so many others in the world of sports that I thought I'd bring you 10 of my favorite meltdowns and collapses in sporting history, just for fun!

Spieth had a five-stroke lead when he came to the 10th hole on Sunday. But two straight bogeys followed by a disastrous quadruple bogey on the par-3 12th suddenly had him behind by three strokes, a deficit from which he could never recover.

The 22-year-old Texan had been poised to win his second straight Masters and third major in his last five tournaments. Instead, he had to place the green jacket on Yorkshire born winner Danny Willett, who became only the second Englishman ever to win the US Masters at Augusta National.


SOUTH AFRICA - 1999 CRICKET WORLD CUP SEMI-FINAL


It was all in the balance when South Africa needed nine to win from the final over of their semi-final against Australia with one wicket remaining. The two men batting for the Proteas could not have been more different. One was Lance Klusener. The burly power hitter who had probably been the player of the tournament up to that point and was sitting on 23 from 12 balls. At the other end was Allan Donald, one of the best fast bowlers to ever play for his country, but who sadly, couldn’t bat to save his life.

Luckily for the Rainbow Nation, the talismanic Klusener was on strike and stroked the first two balls of the over for four, tying the match and making sure South Africa only needed one run from the last four deliveries to make a first World Cup final.

They only lasted two thanks to a hilarious run-out in which Klusener sprinted down the pitch whilst Donald stood his ground, realised what was going on, dropped his bat and trotted down the pitch to be run out by some distance. Match tied, Australia advanced due to a higher finishing position in the previous stage.




MANCHESTER UNITED - 2011-2012 PREMIER LEAGUE

With a chance to widen their lead at the top of the table to 11 points with only five games remaining, Manchester United visited a relegation threatened Wigan Athletic side that had only won three of their last 17 games and had lost all 13 matches they had with played with United since their promotion to the Premier League in 2005.

Following Man City's 4–0 win over West Bromwich Albion, United's lead at the top of the table was cut to five points. United rebounded in their following match at Old Trafford, beating Aston Villa 4–0.

United were back at Old Trafford for their next fixture, against mid-table Everton. Despite holding a 3–1 lead and then later a 4–2 lead, United blew the chance to take all three points by conceding two late goals, resulting in their lead at the top of the table being cut to just 3 points heading into the pivotal Manchester derby.

The next game was the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium, with the match finishing 1–0 in favour of City. This caused City to lead the table by goal difference, which handed control of the title race over to their “noisy-neighbours.”

In this case however, the champions-elect never showed up and were unable to break Wigan down on their way to a 1-0 defeat. They dropped further points in a thrilling 4-4 draw with Everton having been two goals up with just seven minutes to play. Then United fell to a narrow defeat to at the hands of cross-town rivals City in a match which handed control of the title race over to their 'noisy-neighbours.'

On the final day of the season, Manchester United beat Sunderland and City were trailing 2-1 entering stoppage time against relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers (and needing a victory to win their first league title for 44 years). Edin Dzeko equalized in the 92nd minute and then Sergio Aguero smashed home the winner in the 94th minute to snatch the Barclays Premier League crown from Manchester United's grasp in a quite incredible finale!


JEAN VAN DE VELDE - 1999 BRITISH OPEN GOLF TOURNAMENT

Van de Velde was an obscure pro golfer from France, who stormed to a commanding lead in the final round of the Open at Carnoustie in 1999, and strode to the 18th tee needing only a double bogey six, on a par-four closing hole, to win the major, which would have made him the first Frenchman to do so since 1907.

The engraver, thinking that the Open was in the bag, started to inscribe Van de Velde's name on the claret jug. However a series of poor decisions turned a comfortable three-stroke lead into a three-way play-off with Justin Leonard and eventual winner Paul Lawrie.

His choice of a driver off the tee was dubious, but not nearly as poor as the decision to go for the green instead of laying up on his second shot, which ricocheted backward 50 yards off a stone wall into severe rough. From there, he dunked his third shot into the Barry Burn, which he briefly considered trying to play out of before taking a drop (and ensuing penalty) and sending shot No. 5 into a greenside bunker. He wound up with a triple-bogey seven, when a six would have given him the title.

To make this collapse even more cataclysmic, Lawrie was ten shots off the lead at the start of play on that final day – making his victory the biggest comeback in major golf history.

The closest van de Velde ever came to winning a major again was tying for 19th at the Masters the following year and 19th again at the British Open in 2008.


TEAM NEW ZEALAND - 2013 AMERICA'S CUP  (Sailing)

The 34th America's Cup was a series of boat races held on San Francisco Bay between the defender Oracle Team USA representing the Golden Gate Yacht Club, and the challenger Emirates Team New Zealand representing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

Oracle Team USA, with Sir Ben Ainslie on board as tactician, completed one of the most remarkable sporting comebacks of all time, trouncing Team New Zealand by 44 seconds in their winner-takes-all finale in San Francisco. The American defenders came back from an 8-1 deficit to win eight consecutive races and claim victory in the first-to-nine series.

The defeat was all the more galling for New Zealanders because Oracle's skipper Jimmy Spithill hailed from their bitter arch-rivals Australia.

It has been labelled the greatest comeback in the history of sport, matched only by one of sport's greatest chokes!




NEW YORK YANKEES VS. BOSTON RED SOX - 2004 BASEBALL WORLD SERIES

Most Red Sox fans were of the belief that they’d never see a World Series title, particularly after the gut punch of the 1986 World Series. When the New York Yankees took a 3-0 lead in the 2004 American League Championship Series, Boston fans just chalked it up as yet another disappointment, and Yankee fans were planning on raising yet another banner. And then came Game 4, and Dave Roberts made his mark in baseball lore, sparking what would become the most epic meltdown in baseball history.

The steal by Roberts started the rally that would not only give the Sox a victory in Game Four, but would begin a snowball effect that resulted in four straight wins, including a decimation at Yankee Stadium in which Boston jumped out to a 6-0 lead after two innings and never looked back, on their way to an eventual World Series championship. So, while the Sox have had some historic meltdowns of their own over the years, at least Boston fans can take solace in the fact that they helped their arch rivals achieve arguably the greatest choke job in sports history. Before 2004, no baseball team that led a series 3-0 had ever lost a seven-game series. The Yankees remain the only ones to do so.


GREG NORMAN - 1996 US MASTERS GOLF TOURNAMENT

Chances are pretty good that, if you enter the final round of a golf tournament boasting a six-stroke lead, you have to like your odds of winning said tournament. Greg Norman probably woke up on Sunday of the 1996 Masters feeling pretty confident for precisely this reason, as he found himself with a score of 13 under par, while the next closest competitor, Nick Faldo, was sitting at seven under.

What unfolded in that fourth and final round of the Masters will live on in infamy, and has forever tainted Norman’s otherwise-stellar career. After shooting an astounding 63 in the opening round, followed by strong rounds of 69 and 71, Norman was on the verge of being a wire-to-wire leader and Masters champion. It looked like Norman would romp to victory. Except Norman was the one getting romped. The Aussie shot a 78 in that final round including three bogeys and two double bogeys in an eight-hole span, while Faldo shot a 67 as the gap between the two swung by a staggering 11 strokes, with Norman going from leading by six strokes to ultimately losing by five.

Faldo won the tournament for the third time. It was the sixth and final major victory of his career.
Norman would finish his career just two major championships, both at the British Open.


GAVIN HASTINGS - 1991 RUGBY WORLD CUP SEMI-FINAL

With the scores level at 6-6 against England at Murrayfield, and with just 15 minutes of the match remaining Scotland were awarded a penalty inside the England 22, just right of centre. For Hastings this should have been a relatively straightforward penalty attempt, that could have earned Scotland a place in the Rugby World Cup final of 1991.
But the Edinburgh born goal-kicker missed, pushing it wide on the right and the score remained tied until Rob Andrew's late drop goal nicked it for England.

England had reached their first World Cup final, Scotland have never got as close again.


DEVON LOCH - 1956 GRAND NATIONAL

The Queen Mother's horse was only forty yards from the finishing line at Aintree racecourse with a five-length lead on 24th March 1956, when he inexplicably jumped into the air and landed on his stomach. Jockey Dick Francis was unable to make him continue which allowed E.S.B to claim victory. The reason behind Devon Loch's jump is still uncertain to this day. For jockey Dick Francis, his mount's bizarre collapse on the run-in to victory in the world's most famous steeplechase remained a "terrible memory, even after all these years."

Devon Loch's was not the first time a horse had seemed to jump some form of 'ghost fence' on the run in of the National. In 1901, Arthur Nightingall's race was well won on board Grudon when his mount also made to jump a fence that wasn't there. On that occasion the pair recovered and had sufficient time to continue and win the race.

The Queen Mother famously said, “Oh that’s racing.”
Dick Francis retired from the sport the following year and became a crime writer!


JIMMY WHITE

Sport's perennial runner-up, 'The Whirlwind' lost all six of his World Championship snooker finals, four of them to his ice-cool nemesis Stephen Hendry.

Among White's more spectacular chokes were losing 18-14 after leading 14-8 in 1992, and missing a routine black at 17-17 in the deciding frame in 1994.


SCOTT BOSWELL - CHELTENHAM AND GLOUCESTER TROPHY CRICKET FINAL 2001

The Leicestershire cricketer was man of the match in the 2001 Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy semi-final, but he made headlines for different reasons in the final against Somerset.

Most cricket fans will remember what happened nest. Many of the rest of you may know about it from YouTube. The video is called "The Worst Over Ever?" Six of his first eight balls were wides. There were, at one point, five in a row, some flew to slip, others flew towards fine leg.
The bemused batsman, Marcus Trescothick, hit a couple of the straighter balls for four. The six ball over lasted 14 balls.

After eventually completing the over Boswell went down to field at fine leg. The ball came his way. "I can dive for this." He did. And he missed it. Worse, he tore up a lump of the Lord's turf. "It landed on my head. So I was lying on the floor and I look up and there are 2,000 people behind me, and I see the ball trickling over the boundary. I have this bleeding lump of turf on my head." I thought: 'Fucking hell. This can't get any worse. Get me off this field.' He froze. Literally. "There was a water bottle five metres away from me. My mouth was so dry. But I couldn't move. I couldn't walk five metres to go and get it." The Somerset fans chanted "Bring on the Boswell! Bring on the Boswell!" That, he says, "haunted me for a couple of years".
and it also ended Boswell's first-class career at just 26 years of age.

Leicester also went on to lose that 2001 final.





Friday, April 01, 2016

Babe of the Month - Sexy US Olympian and Virgin Lolo Jones


Lori "Lolo" Jones was born on 5th August 1982 in Des Moines, Iowa, and currently resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Jones is an American track and field and bobsled athlete. She is of Native American, African, French, and Norwegian descent. She is a devout Christian, and often prays before competitions, and talks about her faith on social media.

She attended eight schools in eight years while her single mother, Lori, often held down two jobs to support her family of six. Jones' father spent most of her childhood in the Air Force and later in state prison.

When her family was about to make another move to Forest City, Iowa, Lolo and her family parted ways, and her mentor, Coach Ferguson, arranged for her to live with four different families during her enrollment at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines.

One of those who took Jones in was Janis Caldwell, who had seen Jones compete at Roosevelt. Jones stayed with the Caldwells after her senior year at Roosevelt, while she attended college, trained and worked part-time at the Iowa Bakery Cafe, a local coffee shop.

At Roosevelt, she excelled in the classroom, keeping her grades up and playing the cello in the school orchestra. She was named Gatorade Midwest Athlete of the Year and set a record at the Iowa state track meet with a mark of 13.40 seconds for the 100-meter hurdles. She also played cello in the school's orchestra.

Jones originally intended to enroll at Iowa State University through its Upward Bound/Science Bound program. Instead, she followed the lead of elite hurdler Kim Carson, who was her role model and Caldwell's goddaughter. Carson was an All-American and national champion at Louisiana State University. Like Carson, Jones competed on LSU's track team.

A 2005 graduate of Louisiana State University, Lolo specializes in the 60 and 100 meter hurdles. She won three NCAA titles and garnered eleven All-American honors while at Louisiana State University.
She won indoor national titles in 2007, 2008 and 2009 in the 60m hurdles, and won a gold medal at the World Indoor Championship in Valencia, Spain in 2008.

She was favourite to win the 100m hurdles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but tripped on the penultimate hurdle (below) when leading the race, and finished in seventh place. She did however go on to win silver at the 2008 World Athletics Final in Stuttgart.


In 2010 Jones defended her 60m hurdles Indoor World Title in Doha, after finishing with a time of 7.72s a new American record.

Due to there being no major championships for Americans, Jones then traveled to Europe and competed in mainly IAAF Diamond League events. After wins in Doha, Oslo, New York, Gateshead, and Monaco, Jones ended the season in second place in the Diamond League overall standings.

Jones made her 2011 race debut at the Aviva International Match, Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. Jones finished the race in fourth place after hitting the third hurdle. A close third-place finish followed in Stuggart but injury and illness forced Jones to miss the rest of the indoor season.

On 23rd June 2012, Jones placed third in the 100m hurdles at the U.S. Olympics trials, qualifying her for a spot on the 2012 Summer Olympics team.

At the London Olympics on 6th August, Jones won her heat in the 100 meter hurdles with a time of 12.68s. On 7th August she placed third in the semi-finals of the 100 meter hurdles, gaining progression to the finals. In the finals later that day Jones finished fourth with a time of 12.58s.

In May 2013, Jones earned her first win of the 2013 season at the Seiko Golden Grand Prix in Tokyo.

At the 2015 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Jones advanced to the finals. She qualified for the NACAC Championships in Costa Rica. and won the NACAC Championships Women 100 metre hurdles in 12.63, but due to a strong tail wind her time was not considered a world record.

Much of Jones' schedule between 2013 and 2015 was spent concentrating on her 'other' sport and battling injury.

Jones also competes as a brakewoman on the U.S. national bobsled team. Jones was introduced to bobsledding by Elana Meyers. After a disappointing 2008 Olympics campaign where she failed to medal, she took up the sport and gained weight. In October 2012, Jones was named to the U.S. national bobsled team.Jones was one of three track and field Olympians (along with Tianna Madison and Hyleas Fountain) invited to the U.S. women's bobsled push championship by coach Todd Hays. Jones and Madison made the bobsled team, giving them a chance to earn a spot on the bobsled World Cup circuit.


On 9th November 2012, Jones and teammate Jazmine Fenlator placed second in Jones' first career World Cup bobsledding competition. She won a gold medal in the mixed team event at the 2013 World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
She represented the U.S. at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, making her one of the few athletes who have competed in both the Summer and Winter Olympic games.

On 27th January 2013, Jones won gold in the team event with the U.S. at the FIBT World Championships in St. Moritz.
She was selected for the U.S. bobsled team competing at the 2014 Olympics held in Sochi, Russia, as the brakewoman for the USA Team-3 sled, with the team coming eleventh.

On 19th February, 2014, the team placed eleventh, 3.36 seconds behind the gold-medal-winning Canadian team.

Last season was an injury plagued one for Lolo.
Now less than six months since hip surgery and four months before the summer Olympics, she's working had to find her stride. She is currently training for the Rio Olympics, doing the Orange theory fitness workouts, for which she is also a spokesman.

If Jones makes the U.S. team in Rio, it would be her fourth Olympic appearance.

In October 2009, Jones posed semi-nude for The Body Issue of ESPN the Magazine. In 2012 she appeared on the cover of Outside magazine wearing a bathing suit made of strategically placed ribbon.

On 4th August 2012, Jones was heavily criticized by Jeré Longman of The New York Times: "This [media attention paid to her] was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign."

Janice Forsyth, director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario, compared her to tennis' Anna Kournikova, who had never won a WTA Tour singles tournament but became well-known after appearing in numerous photo shoots and product advertisements. Jones rejected these criticisms, saying that her critics should be "supporting the U.S. Olympic athletes," whereas instead they just "ripped me to shreds."

Jones also stated that The New York Times did not do its research properly, since, unlike Kournikova, she had won several major races, including two world indoor titles and holding the indoor American record.


In a 2012 segment on HBO's Real Sports, Lolo Jones revealed that she is a virgin, dates online, and struggles to maintain her virginity. See that short interview here!

She said: "If there's virgins out there, I'm going to let them know, it's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life—harder than training for the Olympics, harder than graduating from college, has been to stay a virgin before marriage."

The selection of Jones to the U.S. 2014 Winter Olympics bobsled team was criticised by some American bobsledders as happening due to her fame.

However the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation CEO Darrin Steele defended the selection: "I haven't heard anyone making the argument about Lolo not being a better athlete right now, a better brakeman for the team. I don't think I've come across that one time. I've heard a lot about history and all that's nice. But who's going to provide the best results for the U.S. team in Sochi? That's the bottom line. And I'll have that debate with anyone who wants to have it."

Lolo Jones net worth is thought to be in the region of $1.5 Million.

Lolo Jones is the most followed U.S. Track and Field athlete on Twitter (414,000 followers)

Lolo is sponsored by several well known products/brands including Asics, Red Bull and Orange Theory Fitness.

In 2012 The Lolo Jones Foundation was set up. Its mission is to empower and inspire individuals who face the most socio-economical hardships to realise their full potential through engaging community programs and initiatives.


At its core, the Lolo Jones Foundation seeks to help the following demographic(s):

# Single Mothers.
# Families of incarcerated loved ones.
# Poverty stricken communities and youth.



You can follow Lolo on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram