Posted by Barrie on Sunday, 13 June 2010

Germany Start World Cup Off with Convincing Victory

Any doubts that you had over Germany coming into this tournament were put to bed with their performance in their 4-0 victory over Australia this evening.

Despite Philipp Lahm having to block a shot off the line in the opening minutes, Lukas Podolski fired Germany into the lead inside 8 minutes and there was no looking back afterwards. Just before the goal, I backed Germany in-play.

Podolski's strike partner, Miroslav Klose added to their goal tally as the partnership up front, when he headed in his 11th World Cup in a World Cup; his 7th with his head. The Polish-born duo had 6 domestic league goals between them last season but continue where they left off in 2006.

Tim Cahill received a red card from a tackle from behind. Harsh in my opinion, even if Bastian Schweinsteiger's ankle got crushed in the process. No attempt to play the ball, but he pulled out of the challenge.

Thomas Muller rolled in a third and Cacau became the quickest German substitute to score in a World Cup as he made it 4-0.

As I wrote in my Group D preview, expecting big things from Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil in this World Cup, neither disappointed. Ozil put in a man of the match performance and Muller came close to matching him. Ozil's vision and passing ability were both on display in this match. Muller had run taking on players and putting good balls into the box. It was his cut back that Podolski smashed home for Germany's opener. Marko Marin made a late substitute appearance and didn't have time or enough possession on the ball to impress, but look out for him in future matches. He is a good dribbler who's not afraid to take players on.

Germany's odds have already been cut from 14/1 to 10/1 to win the World Cup. While not wanting to jump on a bandwagon having only played one game, but if there's no such thing as peaking too early when it comes to Germany, then they are genuine contenders.

Germany's defence was hardly tested this evening, but they dealt with set pieces admirably. Perhaps Serbia can give the Germany defence a real test on Friday.

Earlier today, Slovenia were fortunate to beat 10 man Algeria 1-0, when Robert Koren's shot crept under goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi. And Ghana beat 10 man Serbia 1-0 thanks to Asamoah Gyan's late penalty.

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England: Is It 2006 All Over Again?

Less than 4 minutes into England's first 2010 World Cup match, all was going well. Emile Heskey played in Steven Gerrard and all of a sudden the nation was ecstatic.

After that, England were anything but convincing and it was the USA who were getting closer and closer, notably beating England's defence in the air several times. And what happened 5 minutes before half time will be remembered and replayed for eternity. Rob Green's horrendous error gifting Fulham's Clint Dempsey and USA an equaliser.

Emile Heskey and Shuan Wright-Phillips had one-on-one's in the second half, but other than that, Tim Howard was not tested. Rob Green was fortunate to deny Jozy Altidore in the second half as the USA came the closest to stealing al 3 points. It was a flat, dismal performance from England, who playing like this aren't going very far at all in 2010. But we will improve, right?

Back in 2006

A David Beckham free kick flicked into his own net by Carlos Gamarra after just 3 minutes lead England to a 1-0 victory over Paraguay in their opening game. That was followed up by a second poor performance, struggling to beat the weak Trinidad and Tobago. Qualification was already assured before England conceded their first goals of the tournament in a 2-2 draw with Sweden to top Group B.

A favourable draw matched England with Ecuador in the second round and a David Beckham free kick that no one connected with was the only game. England through to the quarter finals despite not impressing once. Progressing further than Spain, the Netherlands, Mexico and several other countries who must have been kicking themselves. England were then eliminated on penalties to Portugal in the quarter finals.

On paper, 2006 looked good. Not a single defeat, and only Sweden scoring against England. But the team's performance was terrible and we were very lucky to get as far as we did.

Based on the opening game, I can see the same thing happening again. And as soon as we come up against a good nation, we're going out of the tournament. England don't do victories over the big nations.

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Posted by Barrie on Sunday, 6 June 2010

Rafael Nadal Defeats Robin Soderling to Take Fifth French Title

Rafael Nadal raced away with today's French Open final, defeating last year's nemesis Robin Soderling in straight sets, 6-4 6-2 6-4.

The Spaniard, who didn't drop a set throughout the tournament for the second time in his career faced break points early in each of the three sets. After saving them, sometimes in style with points that made you wonder if you were hallucinating, Nadal went on to break Soderling in each set on his way to an inevitable victory.

Undefeated on clay once again all season, Rafael Nadal returns to number 1 in the rankings, ending Roger Federer's overall 285 weeks as world number 1, one week short of match Pete Sampras' record.

The Spaniard now has a chance to extend his lead at the top of the rankings having missed the whole of the grass court season last year through injury. Rafael Nadal's grass season starts this week at Queen's before Wimbledon on June 21st.

Our tennis betting tipster correctly predicted a victory for Rafael Nadal today, as he had been backing him throughout the tournament. I myself took Nadal in-play with the best odds available at 1/3.

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Posted by Barrie on Saturday, 5 June 2010

Francesca Schiavone Wins the French Open

17th seed, Francesca Schiavone caused a big upset in defeating favourite Samantha Stosur in the final of this year's French Open final, becoming the first Italian female to win a Grand Slam final.

Both players started well on serve, but it was the Italian's single-handed backhand that was causing Samantha Stosur problems, with the Australian's serve not having the devastating effect it had on Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic in previous rounds.

The 29-year old Italian was edging the opening eight games, but it wasn't until Samantha Stosur was serving at 4-4 in the opening set that there was a break. Following that, Schiavone was able to fight back from 0-30 to serve out the opening set.

Samantha Stosur made a good start to the second set, starting with a few forehand winners that had helped her reached her first Grand Slam final. The Australian broke her Italian opponent early in the second set and raced into a 4-1 lead. However, there remained little difference between the number of winners she was producing compared to the number of errors. Her serve didn't have its desired effect in this match, and her forehand winners were not as prominent as in her previous three matches that saw her eliminate Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic.

Francesca Schiavone deserves credit for the number of serves she returned in play. Her biggest threat was at the net, where the Italian always looked like winning the point, and won 93% at the net, compared to Stosur's 61%. Despite a successful doubles player and former world number 1 in that event, Stosur doesn't look comfortable at the net when she approached.

Francesca Schiavone has played very well this week, but her performance in today's final was undoubtedly the best of the two weeks, and the biggest achievement of her career.

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Posted by Barrie on Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Bookmakers Expecting Goals from England at World Cup

There's not been too much optimism as far as I can tell regarding England's chances of a successful summer in South Africa.

Criticism over squad selection, criticism over player's determination and after England's latest two friendlies, criticism over the performances.

Despite this, the bookmakers are expecting a successful World Cup campaign from England. Or at least that's what their odds are showing.

England have been pegged back to equal third favourites today, with Argentina joining the Three Lions at 7/1. Diego Maradona certainly has a lot of talent at his disposal that have many punters backing him to lift the trophy as both captain and coach. However, his tactical decisions, choices and general eccentricity leave doubts in my mind as to whether Argentina will lift the World Cup for a third time.

England are 1/3 favourites to win Group C, as they come up against USA, Algeria and Slovenia. This I cannot debate, with only consecutive lacklustre performances the only reason why England should not win this group. The United States are beatable, Algeria are a bit of an unknown package, so I'm not ruling them out entirely. Slovenia beat Russia in the playoffs to reach the finals, but England were comfortable 2-1 winners in a friendly in September last year that suggests to me 3 points should not be a tough deal here, provided they are required from the final group stage game.

England, 1/16 to reach the second round. Once that has been complete, a second round match would see England pitted against either Germany, Serbia, Ghana or Australia. The bookmakers apparently don't fear either of these nations as England are 1/2 to reach the quarter final! Perennial quarter finalists, will Fabio Capello be able to live up to what should be regarded as minimum expectations?

If so, and if he go one stage better, the bookmakers are still offering only 6/5 on England to reach the semi final at the 2010 World Cup!

The odds that stand out the most to me are the overs/unders with the majority of bookmakers setting the mark at 9.5. Looking at England's record in previous World Cup's, the only time England scored more than 8 they went on to win the competition (need I remind you which year?). With Wayne Rooney's lack of goals recently, Emile Heskey's lack of goals period, and Frank Lampard's missed penalties; can we really expect to see England knock in 10 or more goals this summer? I have my doubts. England scored 6 en route to the quarter finals in 2006.

Yesterday we published the official Premiership Tips World Cup Preview.

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