Tuesday, July 11, 2006


In the recently concluded 2006 FIFA World Cup, England could not even reach the semifinals and they lost out on a penalty shoot out. Portugal were the team not fancied to go to the last four. Italy went on to win the Cup and France went to the finals when every one expected not much from the likes of Zidane. The hosts Germany also managed to reach the last four when they were not favoured to do so. England, on the other hand, had all the stars and the talent one could ask for but still returned home with no credit. It is not everyday that a football team boasts of the talents like Beckham, Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and Joe Cole. Even the bench consisted of precociously talented youngsters like Theo Walcott. So what went wrong?

The English struggled against their opponents before caving against Portugal. Now there are excuses galore. First, the target is their Swedish coach Sven Goran Eriksson. The second reason for the defeat is Christiano Ronaldo who caused Rooney to receive the red card. The third reason is the alleged distractions posed by the wives and girlfriends of the English players, called ‘WAG’ by the English press.

The Indian cricket team went to the Caribbean with a lot of hope. The team of Rahul Dravid was expected to beat the West Indies in both the tests and the one-dayers. The Indians won the first one-dayer and then lost the remaining four. The reversal in fortune was hard to explain considering the success in Pakistan and then in India. England and Sri Lanka were trashed. The Indians won the test series 1-0 after a lot of difficulty. Even if there was no Tendulkar in the team, talent was never scarce for the Indians. But most of the players came a cropper. The coach of the Indian team got flak as was with the selectors. So what went wrong?

There was a lot of controversy when a Swede was appointed as the coach of the English football team. There were similar noises when John Wright was appointed the coach of the Indian cricket team. Former greats were appalled by the decisions. The parallels do not end here. The decisions of the respective coaches have received widespread criticism. The pay packets given to the ‘foreigners’ have been the subject of many a discussion.

Coming to the public, a lot of attention and time is given in the following of the lifestyles of the players. The private lives of the players interest most followers of the game. The players are placed highly even if their success is moderate and every failure is treated as a national calamity. If Rooney gets so much attention even when he is relatively new to the international football scene, the birthday of Dhoni is an event to cover for most of the television news channels.

India won only one world cup in 1983 which seems ages ago and England won their only world cup in 1966. But every time the teams step onto the field, there is anticipation which time and again is not fulfilled.

Monday, July 10, 2006


The final of the world cup 2006 went all the way to a shoot out as more than 120 minutes tied the score at one goal each to Italy and France. The French drew first blood through a penalty scored by Zidane. It took a header from Matterazzi to equalize for the Azzuri.

For a greater part of the stipulated 90 minutes, the Italians enjoyed possession of the ball but could not add to the score. The French also could not score a second goal. In the extra time, the French tried everything but to no avail. Buffon made a fine stop preventing a powerful header from Zidane going into the net.

The final was the last international match for Zidane and it could not have ended in a more bizarre fashion. The captain of France was red carded for head butting an opponent in the extra time.

In the tiebreaker, neither Barthez nor Buffon could do anything heroic. David Trezeguet’s shot rattled the crossbar but the ball bounced outside the line. Earlier in the 6th minute, Zidane was lucky to find the ball bouncing inside the line after hitting the crossbar. Grosso scored the decisive penalty to make it five from five for the Italians.

The Italians have won the world cup for the first time since 1982. That triumph was also preceded by match fixing allegations as is the case now.


As expected, Roger Federer won his fourth Wimbledon in a row with a four set win over Nadal. Nadal took time to warm up to the occasion while Federer was in no mood to give anything to his opponent. The world number 1 from Switzerland won the first set 6-0 and few would have given Nadal any chance to come back into the match. Proving that he is not like other clay court specialists, Nadal took the next two sets to tiebreaks, winning the third and taking the match to a fourth set.

History was very much against Nadal. It was in 1927 that Henri Cochet- a part of the legendary ‘Four Musketeers from France’ won the trophy after losing the first two sets. We have to go even further into the past to find a player winning after losing the first set 6-0.

Federer won the fourth set and with it the championship. Federer failed to match the 1976 achievement of Bjorn Borg when the Swede won the event without dropping a set. However, with this win, Federer has now joined Borg and Sampras in winning four finals in a row.

Both Federer and Nadal played good tennis but there is every indication that grass court tennis is a dying art.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


With the cricket and football, time could not be devoted to tennis and Wimbledon. The final of the men takes place tomorrow and the winner in the women’s section has already been crowned.

Amelie Mauresmo has become the winner of the famous Rosewater Dish beating the favourite Justine Henin-Hardenne. In the men’s side, the final features the two top seeds Roger Federer and Raphael Nadal.

Federer was tipped from the start to reach his fourth consecutive final and Nadal has reached the final for the first time. The Spaniard’s progress this far has been a surprise. It also points to a rather grim situation for grass tennis. There is a genuine dearth of serve and volley type of tennis that people of my generation have been accustomed to. To be fair, Federer is also not in the mould of Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg or Boris Becker. But he is a great talent and that is something that makes me wonder about the reason for the failure to win the French Open.

Anyway, Federer is the favourite to win the event and stamp his authority on the famed centre court on Sunday. The win would make Federer the first man since Bjorn Borg to win four successive finals.

Friday, July 07, 2006


The finals of the 2006 world cup will feature France and Italy. No one would have anticipated this clash even 15 days ago. Both the teams have rewritten the formbook. Zidane and the others of the Les Bleus started the tournament in a poor fashion, securing a draw with Switzerland. But as the tournament advanced to the knock out stages, the French conquest gathered the momentum and Spain was beaten decisively. Then in the quarterfinals, it was the turn of Brazil to suffer a loss.

The Italians have always played scrappy football where a goal decided the issue. The match against Australia went the full distance before a doubtful penalty settled the issue in favour of the Azzuri. However, in the subsequent matches, the Italians displayed attacking football, securing a place in the finals. The Italians are in the finals after a gap of 12 years. Interestingly, they also reached the finals in 1982 which was also 12 years from 1994.

The finals shall be interesting with Zidane and company making a final attempt at glory while the Italians would be keen to win the cup and redeem themselves following the match fixing allegations at the club level. Can they repeat the feat of 1982 when they won the cup in Spain, which also was preceded by allegations of match fixing?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


The first semifinals of the 2006 world cup features the hosts Germany and Italy. The Germans do not have happy memories of past encounters with the Azzuri in the past. In a warm-up encounter before the world cup saw the Italians come up victors with a 4-1 scoreline.

It was a very rare sight to see the Italians win their match against Ukraine with a score of 3-0. Most of the times, the Italians find it difficult to score goals. With the strong defence and the newfound confidence, the Italians can embarrass Ballack and company.

The Germans have played good football except in the match against Argentina. The likes of Podolsky  and Klose can score goals with Ballack controlling the midfield. The suspension of Frings can cause some problem, though.

The match promises to be a close encounter.



In recent times, India has won a few tests abroad at places like Jamaica, Headingley, Adelaide and Rawalpindi. All these wins have a common factor in the batting of Rahul Dravid. The two half centuries at Jamaica have only added to the exploits of Dravid.

Early in his career, Dravid was considered as a solid player but not recognized for his match winning qualities. The decline of Sachin has provided the space and opportunity for Dravid to stamp his class and authority.

Gone are the days when Rahul Dravid was not able to get into the one-day side. His batting was considered too slow for the liking of the spectators and the selectors. But he has reinvented himself and is one of the more consistent of the Indian batsmen. The run of success that India enjoyed leading upto the finals of the cricket world cup in 2003 was not just due to the batting but also due to the wicketkeeping of Dravid. The masterstroke of making the Karnataka batsman don the big gloves gave the team the much needed flexibility.

It is too early to talk about the captaincy skills of Dravid. The win at Jamaica has to be seen in the light of the defeats in Pakistan and in Mumbai.