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  • Former Russian Olympic record holder wishes well to Michael Phelps Moscow, Russia For nearly half a century, Larisa Latynina was the world's most decorated Olympian -- through the years of Soviet sports supremacy and decline, and the drastic evolution of ...
    Posted 1 Aug 2012, 16:35 by Meriposa World
  • London Olympic Games launched with a big opening ceremony London, Great Britain The opening ceremony of the London Games has begun with iconic images of London and Britain being beamed to the world.Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins ...
    Posted 27 Jul 2012, 14:23 by Meriposa World
  • Rafael Nadal surprised by Lukas Rosol in Wimbledon London, England Rafael Nadal, who won the 11th of his grand slams only this month in Paris and had every hope of adding another in SW19, is out of Wimbledon ...
    Posted 28 Jun 2012, 22:08 by Meriposa World
  • Italy defeats Germany in Euro semifinal with Balotelli Warsaw, Poland The Manchester City forward has hit the headlines for all the right reasons, opening the scoring with a powerful header before smashing home an emphatic second to clinch ...
    Posted 28 Jun 2012, 22:02 by Meriposa World
  • Mario Gomez scores for Germany victory over Portugal Lviv, Ukraine Mario Gomez made a surprise start and headed in the lone goal for Germany on Saturday in a 1-0 victory over Portugal in Group B of the ...
    Posted 9 Jun 2012, 15:30 by Meriposa World
  • Maria Sharapova wins her first championship in Roland Garros Paris, France Ever since shoulder surgery nearly forced Maria Sharapova into early retirement, she occupied an odd space in both tennis and the wider world of sports. She remained among ...
    Posted 9 Jun 2012, 10:37 by Meriposa World
  • Greeks rally in Euro 2012 to spoil Poland's party Warsaw, Poland The opening game of Euro 2012 started brightly, ended limply, and gave a convincing argument that the forefathers of soccer intended it to be an outdoor game, in ...
    Posted 8 Jun 2012, 21:52 by Meriposa World
  • Mexico wins its first Toulon championship against Turkey Mexico is the champion in Toulon after beating Turkey in the youth team tournament's final on Friday night. The under-23 team confirmed Mexico's ascension in the youth ...
    Posted 1 Jun 2012, 15:51 by Meriposa World
  • Neymar inspires Brazil to thump United States on friendly match Landover, Md  Brazil had its way with the U.S. soccer team, with the stars in the famous yellow jerseys dribbling past the Americans and generally pushing them around for ...
    Posted 30 May 2012, 23:58 by Meriposa World
  • Liverpool set to hire Swansea's Brendan Rodgers as new coach London  Liverpool appears set to hire Brendan Rodgers as its new manager. The hire would vault the Northern Irishman from relative obscurity to one of the toughest jobs in soccer ...
    Posted 31 May 2012, 00:00 by Meriposa World
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Former Russian Olympic record holder wishes well to Michael Phelps

posted 1 Aug 2012, 16:34 by Meriposa World   [ updated 1 Aug 2012, 16:35 ]

Moscow, Russia 

For nearly half a century, Larisa Latynina was the world's most decorated Olympian -- through the years of Soviet sports supremacy and decline, and the drastic evolution of her sport of gymnastics.

Now that she has been surpassed by American swimmer Michael Phelps, she doesn't look on in bitterness. In fact, she says she "could only be happy to see that there is such a talented athlete who was able to break the record."

What's more, the 77-year-old woman with the still-dazzling smile was in the stands of the Aquatics Centre on Tuesday night to witness Phelps win his 19th medal and see her record fall.

"I saw him swim, and I saw my record swim away," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

While competing for the Soviet Union at the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Olympics, Latynina won 18 medals -- something that even such storied gymnasts as Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci haven't done.

"Forty-eight years! That's a very long time!" Latynina said Wednesday, still marveling at how long the record stood.

Latynina competed in an era when gymnastics was more about femininity and maturity, rather than teenage acrobatics, which has dominated the sport for decades.

It's not unusual for gymnasts today to retire at 18, while Latynina made her debut in international competition at the age of 19. She was four months pregnant with her daughter Tatyana while competing at the world championships in 1958.

Latynina won her last medal at the Tokyo Games in 1964 when she was nearly 30 -- unusually old for gymnasts.

Comaneci, who is described as the best female gymnast in history, retired in 1981 when she was 20 with nine Olympic medals, five of them gold.

"We knew about her because we are in the same sport, and you always pay attention to the history," Comaneci said in an interview. "We grew up watching -- I didn't compete with her, but I watched her performances."

Latynina's fame peaked at a time when television in the Soviet Union was practically nonexistent. Although she is revered and respected throughout the gymnastics community at home and abroad, she is not as visible as Comaneci and younger gymnasts.

Comaneci said Latynina was determined "to be the best," although gymnastics was a very different sport in that era.

"They were actually ladies competing in gymnastics. And you look back at the equipment, it was different then," Comaneci said. "I don't want to say primitive, but that's what it was. The beam was wood, it was not very good for your heels."

Latynina came from a background in ballet, raised by a single mother amid World War II because her father was killed in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943 when she was 9. She told state-owned Rossiya TV n 2010 that her mother swept floors, washed dishes and worked as a night guard to pay for her dance classes in her hometown of Kherson, on the Black Sea, while Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. But Latynina had to give up ballet when her teacher left town, and she turned instead to gymnastics.

Because Latynina's success was so long ago, people outside the sport may have forgotten what she accomplished.

"This is the first time people worldwide are acknowledging her in such a wonderful way for what she's done," Comaneci said. "People tend to forget things. Eighteen medals -- that's a lot."

Latynina still owns several records and is the only woman to have won nine Olympic golds.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told the news agency R-Sport that Latynina "will still remain one of the greatest athletes in history."

In Phelps, who is 50 years younger than she, Latynina said she sees "a strong, capable sportsman who has taken that record."

And she has a wish for him.

"That he doesn't look back into the past at his records, but remains a normal, good, kind person. Because that's the most important thing in life," she said.

By The Associated Press, August 2, 2012

London Olympic Games launched with a big opening ceremony

posted 27 Jul 2012, 14:23 by Meriposa World   [ updated 27 Jul 2012, 14:23 ]

London, Great Britain 

The opening ceremony of the London Games has begun with iconic images of London and Britain being beamed to the world.

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, wearing his yellow jersey, rang the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world to start the show.

All four countries of the UK were represented in song, as the show capturing the best of Britain began.

The three-hour spectacle will be viewed by a TV audience of one billion people.

A video of James Bond - actor Daniel Craig - meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace was broadcast to the audience. A helicopter then flew over the stadium to the sound of the Bond theme tune, as two figures parachuted out of the helicopter, one dressed as the monarch.

As if by magic, the Queen appeared in the stands at the stadium - part of a crowd of about 80,000 - amid cheers.

A Red Arrows fly-past marked the start of the pre-show at the symbolic time of 20:12 BST (19:12 GMT).

As the show began, its artistic director Danny Boyle pledged a ceremony with a theme of "this is for everyone".

The Oscar-winning film director added that it contains "a celebration of the creativity, exuberance and, above all, the generosity of the British people". He said there were to be "no spectators - everyone in the stadium will be part of the magic".

The chairman of London 2012, Lord Coe, earlier told the BBC he was "as excited as hell".

Crowds of people, many of them dressed up in their nation's colours, are at the Olympic Park for the show.

The BBC's Claire Heald, at the Olympic Park, says transport to the stadium appears to have run smoothly and the crowds moved quickly through security.

Rain has started to fall over the stadium, despite forecasters predicting dry weather ahead of the ceremony.

The day of celebration began at 08:12 BST (07:12 GMT) with a mass bell ringing. Big Ben rang for three minutes for the first time since King George VI's funeral in 1952.

In other developments:

A celebratory concert featuring Paolo Nutini, Snow Patrol, Stereophonics and Duran Duran is being held in Hyde Park.

The Olympic flame is at City Hall ahead of its ceremony appearance, on the last leg of its 70-day UK-wide journey.

Lord's cricket ground turned away spectators trying to get in to watch archery amid confusion over ticketing. The London 2012 website advertised the event's preliminary rounds as "unticketed", which some people interpreted as open to the public

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt narrowly avoided hitting a group of women with a bell after it flew off its handle on HMS Belfast during the co-ordinated ringing - he called the moment a "classic".

US First Lady Michelle Obama, who is in London to lead the US delegation, told the US Olympic team at their Docklands training camp "have fun, breathe a bit, but also win".

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge praised the regeneration which has taken place in east London and said the Games would have a "tangible legacy" with, uniquely, "no white elephants".

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "It's a great opportunity to show the world the best of Britain, a country that's got an incredibly rich past but also a very exciting future."

'Wave of excitement'

Mayor of London Boris Johnson told BBC Radio 5 live: "What's so amazing is just the wave of excitement seems to pass from person to person like some benign form of contagion. Everybody is getting it."

Tony Blair, who was prime minister when London won the Games in 2005, told the BBC: "It's a party atmosphere but also an immense sense of national pride - of what we are and what we can show the world."

The Olympic flame arrived at City Hall on the Queen's rowbarge Gloriana after first weaving through the maze at Hampton Court Palace then being transported down the Thames.

The flame's trip around the UK ends with the lighting of the cauldron during this evening's opening ceremony, but the identity of the person who will take on the honour remains a mystery.

Europe's largest bell rang inside the Olympic Stadium at 21:00 BST (20:00 GMT) at the start of the opening ceremony, said to be a quirky take on British life.

Some 15,000 sq m of staging and 12,956 props are being used, and the event boasts a million-watt PA system using more than 500 speakers.

Thousands of fans are also gathered at other outdoor locations across the capital to watch the show on big screens.

But the BBC's John Maguire says thousands are likely to be turned away at east London's Victoria Park because of "huge" queues for the London Live event.

The Queen and Prince Philip earlier hosted a Buckingham Palace reception for foreign dignitaries, where she wished guests a "successful, enjoyable and memorable Games".

By BBC News, July 27, 2012

Rafael Nadal surprised by Lukas Rosol in Wimbledon

posted 28 Jun 2012, 22:08 by Meriposa World   [ updated 28 Jun 2012, 22:08 ]

London, England 

Rafael Nadal, who won the 11th of his grand slams only this month in Paris and had every hope of adding another in SW19, is out of Wimbledon on day four.

If that is not stark enough a statement, the fact he was beaten in the second round on Thursday night by Lukas Rosol, a 6ft 5in Czech ranked 100 in the world, 98 places adrift of the two-time former champion (and nearly a year older at 26), only added to the amazement.

Rosol not only did Andy Murray a considerable favour by opening up that side of the draw, he illuminated the tournament with the sort of high-risk tennis rarely seen at this level. Playing with the freedom of someone who expected to go out in three sets, he achieved what he called "a miracle".

It was a victory not just deserved, however, but universally lauded, and ranks among the greatest upsets in the history of the game. Perhaps Pete Sampras losing to the 145th-ranked George Bastl in the second round on his last visit here 10 years ago comes close – but Nadal is in his pomp, not easing towards retirement.

Rosol had won only 18 matches on Tour in his whole career. Nadal had not lost at this stage of a major tournament for seven years. Yet Rosol hit 65 winners to 41, a margin so clear there can be no argument about the correctness of the result. He might never reproduce such scintillating tennis, especially that which he unleashed in an astonishing fifth set – but it was no fluke, whatever the pain Nadal felt afterwards.

"I'm not just surprised, it's a miracle for me," said Rosol, who had gone out in the qualifiers in each of his previous five visits to Wimbledon. "He's a superstar and I'm very sorry for him, but I played unbelievably well.

"Before the match I was thinking to play just three good sets. But I know that Nadal is only human. Some matches he can turn up in not very good shape. I played my best match ever. It means so much for me. It never happened to me before. I was due to play next week in Germany but I want to stay here as long as I can."

Next up is the German Philipp Kohlschreiber – who beat Nadal earlier this month in Halle; in the further realms of fantasy for Rosol is a semi-final place – possibly against Murray, who took four sets to get past Ivo Karlovic, the Croatian later claiming line judges had dented the integrity of Wimbledon with 11 "outrageous" calls against him for foot faults. There was also a brave five-set exit for British wildcard James Ward against the 10th seed Mardy Fish.

But nothing that went before on the fourth day of this 126th Wimbledon could match the finish under the roof on Centre Court.

Rosol, built along the tall, lean lines of the modern professional, did not concede a point in his final two service games. His ground strokes burned the grass at nearly 100 miles an hour. He hit 22 aces – including two at the end. What chance did Nadal have to save it, having played below par in the first two sets, and slightly better in the fourth? A champion's, of course – but even his pedigree could not deny Rosol's inspired finish.

When they returned from a break to resume under the cover of the roof at two sets apiece, Rosol played a final set of such extraordinary power, precision and skill that Nadal was rendered a virtual bystander. It clearly irked him.

Serving to stay in the match at 5–3 down, he was thankful for a little clip on the net which sat the ball up for him and he put it away, as of old. Now he needed to break to remain in the tournament. Could he come back?

It was a forlorn hope. Rosol's level would not dip. He set up three match points with an ace down the middle and Centre Court held its breath. Another one, wide and wickedly quick, clinched it.

Asked was Rosol "just too good", Nadal replied with uncharacteristic terseness, "Oh, c'mon. That's too simple. In the fifth, yes. Not before, no? In the fifth set he played more than unbelievable. That's fine. Before, first three sets, I didn't play well."

There was tension between them on court, however, Nadal thinking Rosol was time-wasting, which is hugely ironic given the Spaniard's history.

"Is not the right moment for me to say what happened out there because gonna sound an excuse, and I never want to put an excuse after a match like today. But the umpire say a few things weren't right."

If that smacked of ungraciousness, it also reflected Nadal's frustration. He was powerless to resist Rosol in that final onslaught and said as much.

"That happens when you play against a player who is able to hit the ball very hard, hit the ball without thinking and feeling the pressure. At the end, when the opponent wants to play like he wanted to play in the fifth, you are in his hands, no? Everything was going right for him in the fifth."

He might have added because Rosol made it so – just he himself has done so many times in the past and will do again.

Whether Rosol does is more problematic – but he should not be denied the accolades, even by a great adversary, for what was surely his finest night.

By Kevin Mitchell, The Guardian, June 29, 2012

Italy defeats Germany in Euro semifinal with Balotelli

posted 28 Jun 2012, 22:00 by Meriposa World   [ updated 28 Jun 2012, 22:02 ]

Warsaw, Poland 

The Manchester City forward has hit the headlines for all the right reasons, opening the scoring with a powerful header before smashing home an emphatic second to clinch a date with Spain at the Olympic Stadium on July 1.

It was a deserved victory for Italy, who could have added further goals in the second half had they taken one of the numerous chances afforded to them by Germany's rushes forward to find a way back into the match.

Mesut Ozil ensured a nervy finish to the encounter with a penalty in second-half stoppage time, but there was to be no miracle for Germany, who bowed out at the semi-final stage for the second major tournament in a row.

Joachim Low restored Mario Gomez and Toni Kroos to his starting XI after the Bayern Munich pair were benched for the quarter-final victory over Greece in the quarter-finals.

Cesare Prandelli made only one change from the side that eliminated England on penalties, with Giorgio Chiellini recovering from an injury in time to replace Ignazio Abate.

It was Germany who threatened first only six minutes in, after Mats Hummels’ scrambled shot was blocked on the line by Andrea Pirlo, allowing Gianluigi Buffon to smother.

The Azzurri skipper nearly forced an own goal moments later after inadvertently diverting a Jerome Boateng cross into Andrea Barzagli, but the deflection rolled just wide of the post.

Despite the scares at the back during the opening exchanges, Italy were quicker to settle into the match, and began to establish a rhythm with some patient play in midfield.

Riccardo Montolivo blasted into the arms of Manuel Neuer from the edge of the box, but the Germany keeper was forced to work much harder by Antonio Cassano, whose curler towards the bottom corner was tipped away.

Italy started to get into their stride, were asking growing questions of the suspect German defence. Then, with 20 minutes gone, the Azzurri carved them completely apart.

Chiellini fed Cassano on the overlap down the left, and the Milan forward delivered a superb cross into the heart of the area, where Balotelli rose above Holger Badstuber to head Italy into the lead.

Italy were buoyed by the goal, with Germany still unable to shake off the erratic edge to their play. Montolivo’s hesitation allowed Badstuber to strip him of possession deep inside the area, but the new Milan signing would make a far more decisive contribution with 36 minutes gone.

His searching ball over the top caught the German back line out completely and released Balotelli, who stormed towards goal and smashed an unstoppable finish high into the back of the net.

The Manchester City man was booked for ripping his shirt of in a passionate celebration, but there were no such signs of desire from Germany, who were showing none of the verve from their entertaining win over Greece in the previous round.

Low was facing an uphill battle to get his side back into the match, and responded in kind, hauling off Gomez and Lukas Podolski at half-time for Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose.

Germany improved in the second-half but Phillip Lahm should have done a lot better after the restart, blasting over from the edge of the box after he was teed up in space by Kroos.

Reus was next to try his luck with a powerful free-kick from 20 yards out, but Buffon was equal to it and managed to punch over the crossbar.

However, for all Germany’s increased endeavour in the second half, they still lacked a cutting edge in front of goal, and with their urgency in the Italian half, were increasingly vulnerable to the counterattack.

A sweeping break just past the hour mark saw Alessandro Diamanti slip in Claudio Marchisio behind Badstuber, but his finish was driven the wrong side of the post.

The Juventus midfielder spurned an even greater chance with a quarter of an hour to play, when Badstuber’s slip allowed him with a clear sight on goal, but he disappointingly dragged his shot wide.

Germany were simply nowhere to be found, and could not make their forward pressure pay as Italy continued to take them apart on the counter.

Substitute Antonio Di Natale wasted the pick of the chances on 82 minutes after being put one-on-one with Neuer, but with all the time in the world to pick his spot, he instead found the side netting.

Germany were handed a late lifeline after Balzaretti's handball was spotted in the box, giving Ozil the chance to bury from the spot.

However, there was nothing left from Low's side despite an even later surge forward, giving Italy a nervy, but deserved victory and setting up a second meeting with Spain in this European Championship.

By Keeghann Sinanan, Goal, June 28, 2012

Mario Gomez scores for Germany victory over Portugal

posted 9 Jun 2012, 15:29 by Meriposa World   [ updated 9 Jun 2012, 15:30 ]

Lviv, Ukraine 

Mario Gomez made a surprise start and headed in the lone goal for Germany on Saturday in a 1-0 victory over Portugal in Group B of the European Championship.

The Bayern Munich striker made a surprise start Saturday against Portugal at the European Championship and knocked in a deflected cross from Sami Khedira in the 72nd minute to give the Germans a 1-0 victory in Group B.

Gomez, who had created little before the goal, was due to be replaced by Miroslav Klose, who was already waiting on the touchline on his 34th birthday. And Gomez nearly scored another goal before Klose finally came on in 80th.

''I have two successful seasons behind me but it was a hard road for me,'' Gomez said about usually being second choice to Klose. ''I am very happy that the coach had confidence in me and with the goal I could pay something back.

''The ball was deflected and landed exactly on the front of my head. It wasn't that difficult.''

Despite indicating before the match that he would start the veteran Klose as striker, Germany coach Joachim Loew went with Gomez.

''Clearly, Miroslav was going to come in at that moment, but Mario scored the goal then,'' Loew said. ''We waited a few more minutes.''

Gomez was the Bundesliga's top scorer over the past two seasons and had 12 goals in the Champions League this season to help Bayern Munich reach the final, where it lost to Chelsea on penalties.

Germany was the better team Saturday but found it hard to break down a defensive Portugal. The Germans, seeking their first title since 1996, are considered one of the favorites of the tournament despite being in the toughest group along with the Netherlands and Denmark.

Although Cristiano Ronaldo did little until late in the match, Portugal had a chance to equalize in the 84th when Nani hit the crossbar with a misdirected cross - the second time the team struck the frame in the match. And Silvestre Varela had another opportunity in the 89th but he shot straight at Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from close range.

''Everyone knows the class of Ronaldo. You can't shut him down completely but we did well as a team. I think he had no more than two or three shots at goal,'' said Germany defender Jerome Boateng, who had been denounced by Loew after newspaper stories about his private life surfaced. ''The criticism from the coach helped me and the whole team stood behind me.''

Although Germany monopolized possession and chances, Pepe had the best opportunity of the first half, hitting the underside of the German crossbar late in the period after a Portugal corner. The ball hit the line and bounced out.

''We played very well tactically. We stayed in the match and we won 1-0, that's the most important thing,'' Loew said. ''You don't want to fall behind in the first game. The first game is very important, it tells you where the team is, in which direction you are going.''

AP, June 9, 2012

Maria Sharapova wins her first championship in Roland Garros

posted 9 Jun 2012, 10:36 by Meriposa World   [ updated 9 Jun 2012, 10:37 ]

Paris, France 

Ever since shoulder surgery nearly forced Maria Sharapova into early retirement, she occupied an odd space in both tennis and the wider world of sports. She remained among the most marketable female athletes on the planet, tall and blond and famous, a superstar in every sense except the most important one.

The gap between her game and her fame closed considerably Saturday, closed by virtue of another one-sided affair that left her knees down and crying on the clay, then bounding into the stands, where she hugged her entourage and kissed not one but two babies. After Sharapova dismantled Sara Errani of Italy, 6-3, 6-2, she held aloft the silver French Open championship trophy, for her the most elusive of the major championships.

This triumph gave Sharapova a career Grand Slam, but it meant much more than that. She won her first major title in 2004 at Wimbledon at age 17, then the United States Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008. Everything that happened afterward — the shoulder surgery, the reconstructed service motion, the comeback that shocked the tennis world — was as difficult as it was unexpected.

“Most people would have called it a day,” Martina Navratilova, one of the most accomplished tennis players ever, said earlier last week. “She stayed with it. I wouldn’t have thought she was capable of doing that two, three years ago. Great for the sport, I think, and good for her.

“She’s a superstar, and it’s always good if a superstar is on top.”

On Monday, Sharapova will still be the reigning French Open champion, will still remember that tournament officials announced her as the runner-up at the championship ceremony, will still hear the Russian national anthem that played once the confusion was sorted out. She will also ascend to No. 1 in the world, and for those who disagreed with Navratilova’s assessment of Sharapova’s superstar status, it will be more difficult to argue than before.

As they walked onto the court, the contrast between Sharapova and Errani was more than noticeable. It was striking. Sharapova stood nine inches taller and dressed in black, even the usual black visor to shield her from the, well, clouds. Errani wore pink. Sharapova held 103 more Grand Slam match victories than Errani and had earned nearly $17 million more in prize money alone.

The first set carried out along those lines. Sharapova buried Errani with ground strokes and grunts, the former hard and flat and angled, the latter long and loud. Before Errani blinked, Sharapova led, 4-0, her ratio of winners 12 to 1.

“Well, I start very bad,” Errani said after the match. “With this player, if you give her games like this in the beginning, they are more relaxed. I couldn’t play the game that I want to play.”

A day earlier, Navratilova said it would take “a monumental effort” for Errani to contend. The mismatch, as Navratilova saw it, would come on Errani’s serve, her weakest shot, against Sharapova’s service return, her best one.

Midway through the second set Saturday, Sharapova had won 70 percent of the points against Errani’s second serve, as Navratilova had predicted. Sharapova was then more likely to break serve than to hold it, and thus the odds tilted overwhelmingly in her favor.

The scrappy Errani continued to scrap, just as she scrapped all tournament. It had been a career run. Before Tuesday, Errani had squared off against top-10 players on 28 occasions and lost every match. She then toppled two in Angelique Kerber and Samantha Stosur, to add to victories here against Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Next week, Errani will enter the top 10 herself.

On the eve of the most important singles match of her life, Errani played doubles. And she not only played doubles, she won the women’s doubles title, leaving open the possibility that one player would win singles and doubles championships at Roland Garros as Mary Pierce did in 2000, when Sharapova was 13. Better to keep playing, Errani figured, after she captured tournaments in Acapulco, Barcelona and Budapest in March and April.

Against Sharapova, Errani again kept playing, saving one match point, then another, but not a third. Sharapova then fell onto the clay, her comeback complete, same as her career Grand Slam.

Michel Spingler, Associated Press, June 9, 2012

Greeks rally in Euro 2012 to spoil Poland's party

posted 8 Jun 2012, 21:52 by Meriposa World   [ updated 8 Jun 2012, 21:52 ]

Warsaw, Poland 

The opening game of Euro 2012 started brightly, ended limply, and gave a convincing argument that the forefathers of soccer intended it to be an outdoor game, in the cool of winter.

The first thing to do is congratulate the Greeks. In coming from a goal down to tie their game against Poland, 1-1, they showed more than just the courage to fight in Poland’s fiercely partisan new national stadium. Greece also withstood all the fair elements of sport, and some decidedly unfair ones.

Under a closed PVC roof over this otherwise fine arena, both teams were left gasping for air in a temperature that was about 70 degrees outside at kickoff, and considerably more humid inside once the hot breath of 56,070 baying Poles, and a few hundred Greeks, had shouted themselves hoarse.

Why close the roof, other than because it is there?

Why did Poland wilt first, especially since they had a man advantage for the crucial third of the game? Maybe emotional energy has something to do with it, or maybe because the Poles were taller and heavier to a man, and the Greeks relied more on technical ability and tactical surprise.

But we knew after 17 minutes that this is no longer a Greece built on “Otto’s Wall”: the ultra defensive resistance coached into it by the German Otto Rehhagel before it won the European title in Portugal in 2004. Now, Greece is less secure at the back, and more committed going forward.

The insecurity hit them first when Poland’s captain, Jakub Blaszczykowski, powered his way out of the defense into attack on the right flank. His cross invited Robert Lewandowski, the home team’s new scoring threat, to do what he has been doing all season long for his German club, Borussia Dortmund.

He found space, although Greece was generous with it, and headed the ball firmly past the stranded, hesitant goalkeeper. One-nothing to the host nation, and surely now self confidence would fill the players?

Rather, the opposite. Greece was hit by a double whammy before halftime when the Spanish referee, Carlos Velasco Carballo, overzealously booked defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos not once, but twice for fouls. Not once, but twice the referee’s judgment was harsh.

An early bath for Papastathopoulos, an unfortunate handicap for his countrymen, was turned to courageous advantage when Greece’s Portuguese coach, Fernando Santos, sent on a forward at halftime. The new attacker, Dimitris Salpingidis, scored a poacher’s goal within five minutes of his entrance, and, led by the veteran Giorgos Karagounis, Greece then dared to create the superior opportunities.

Alas, poor Karagounis. Having been granted a penalty, this time a correct decision after Poland’s goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny, tripped Fanis Gekas, Karagounis kicked it so tamely that the substitute goalie Przemyslaw Tyton dived to his left and pushed aside the low shot.

It was Tyton’s first touch of the ball, and eased the blushes of the red-carded Szczesny. Thereafter, either team could have won, but neither had the energy.

The early vivaciousness descended. The clammy heat won.

RUSSIA ROLLS IN OPENER At Wroclaw, Poland, Alan Dzagoev scored a goal in each half and Russia put on a masterly display of attacking soccer to beat the Czech Republic, 4-1. Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov gave Russia a 2-0 halftime lead before Vaclav Pilar’s goal in the 52nd minute gave the Czechs brief hopes of a comeback. Dzagoev replied with his second goal in the 80th minute, and the substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko added a fourth in the 82nd. “If you score four goals against the Czech Republic in an international, you have played a good game,” said Russia’s coach, Dick Advocaat. “We should have scored more.”

By Rob Hughes, New York Times, June 8, 2012

Mexico wins its first Toulon championship against Turkey

posted 1 Jun 2012, 15:50 by Meriposa World   [ updated 1 Jun 2012, 15:51 ]

Mexico is the champion in Toulon after beating Turkey in the youth team tournament's final on Friday night.

The under-23 team confirmed Mexico's ascension in the youth team ranks by winning the French tournament, as now the U-17, U-20 and U-23 team have reached the podium in the past year, with the U-23's now focused on making history at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Mexico's youngest player on the Toulon squad, 18-year-old Cándido Ramírez, opened up the scoring in the 26th minute, after a hard fought beginning where Turkey attempted to flex their defensive muscle by stifling Mexico's powerful attack in the early going.

Ramírez took a pass from Raúl Jiménez and slotted past Ertugrul Taskiran to make it 1-0 and open up the game for both offenses.

Tense moments followed for the Mexican defense, as Turkey attempted to take hold of possession and push up to equalize, but the abbreviated forty minute first half ended with the Mexicans still ahead.

Changes to the Turkish lineup created offensive opportunities for Pim Verbeek's squad, as Mexico had relegated themselves into a more defensive stance, hoping for a counterattack to seal the match and the championship.

Emre Gural and Tevfik Kose created chances for Turkey in the early second half, but both failed to materialize in goals that could have tied the game or even put them ahead.

Hiram Mier struck for Mexico's second goal in the 71st minute, pulling Luis Fernando Tena's boys away with less than minutes remaining. The Monterrey defender slammed in a Marco Fabián cross that beat Taskiran from close distance.

Mexico piled on towards the end with sub Alan Pulido cutting in between three defenders and shooting low in the 77th minute, making it 3-0 and closing out any opportunity for a late Turkish comeback.

By Eric Gómez, Goal.com, June 1, 2012

Neymar inspires Brazil to thump United States on friendly match

posted 30 May 2012, 23:53 by Meriposa World   [ updated 30 May 2012, 23:58 ]

Landover, Md 

Brazil had its way with the U.S. soccer team, with the stars in the famous yellow jerseys dribbling past the Americans and generally pushing them around for the first half-hour.

Neymar had another dazzling night against the United States, scoring one goal and setting up two more to lead the five-time World Cup champions to a 4-1 victory in an exhibition Wednesday night.

"We need to get an edge more nastier," said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the former German star and coach. "Maybe we're a little bit still too naive. Maybe we don't want to hurt people. But that's what we've got to do. You've got to do that at the end of the day. So we've got to step on their toes more and get them more frustrated and make a case with the referee maybe as well, for us, not only the opponent."

Thiago Silva, Marcelo and Alexandre Pato also scored for Brazil, playing the opener of a three-game U.S. tour.

Herculez Gomez, in his first start since the 2010 World Cup, scored for the U.S., which is preparing for its opening qualifier for the 2014 World Cup on June 8.

"Four-one was maybe not a scoreline that was indicative of the overall game. I think for long stretches of that game we kind of imposed our will on them," Gomez said. "I think the main difference was they were clinical in front of goal and we weren't."

Neymar, the 20-year-old Santos sensation, put Brazil ahead in the 12th minute after a hand ball on Oguchi Onyewu on Leandro Damiao's shot, a call the Americans disputed with referee Jeffrey Calderon of Puerto Rico. Neymar then took a corner kick that Thiago Silva headed in for his first international goal in the 26th.

Gomez cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 45th following a fine run by Michael Bradley and cross by Fabian Johnson. But before an enthusiastic crowd of 67,619 at FedEx Field, Marcelo restored the two-goal lead in the 52nd as Jermaine Jones, Onyewu and American captain Carlos Bocanegra left him unmarked in front of the net. Pato entered in the 64th and added a goal in the 87th that the U.S. claimed was offside.

"We're the only team in the world that gets homered at home. It's unbelievable sometimes," Bocanegra said.

Klinsmann, a German who moved to California with his American-born wife after retiring as a player in 1998, said the U.S. team has to be more assertive with officials.

"You watch big teams in the world, what they do, and there's a call going against them -- Barcelona is one of them -- they come with 10 guys towards the referee," he said. "The referee is confused. He doesn't know even know who to show a yellow card."

Landon Donovan said "that's not really in our character as Americans."

"We try to play the game fair," Donovan said. "We don't really dive. We don't do those kind of things."

Brazil, which receives an automatic berth as the 2014 World Cup host, improved to 16-1 against the U.S. with a 35-11 goal difference.

Neymar, coveted by many European clubs, called it an efficient win.

"It's not every day that one can come and apply all sorts of dribbles, between the legs, over the head," he said through a translator. "It was a good test to play with a tough team like the U.S."

Brazil coach Mano Menezes used mostly a roster than can go to the Olympics -- limited primarily to players younger than 23.

"Since the beginning, I knew we could trust them, building with this team, blending them with more experienced players," he said, also using a translator. "We blended to try to well balance the different sectors, and their response was very good."

Following a 1-4-1 start under Klinsmann, the Americans had won five in a row, including an impressive 1-0 victory at Italy and a 5-1 win last weekend over a Scotland team that already appeared to be on summer vacation.

Against sixth-ranked Brazil, the No. 29 Americans played more offensively than in the 2-0 loss at the Meadowlands two years ago, when they were outshot 20-7. This time the U.S. had a 15-12 advantage in shots.

Klinsmann continued to tinker with his front line because Jozy Altidore didn't arrive until Monday and Clint Dempsey is recovering from a groin strain. Dempsey entered in the 57th minute, marking the first time he played with Donovan since Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley as coach last July.

Gomez almost got another goal in the 64th, but his header off Johnson's cross was cleared off the goal line by Romula. Three minutes later, Neymar found a streaking Pato in front of the goal, but his shot bounced off goalkeeper Tim Howard's near post.

Brazil goalkeeper Rafael Cabral, making his Brazil national team debut, had a fine double save in the 76th, stopping Gomez with his left hand, then kicking away Terrence Boyd's effort. Cabral leaped to palm Bradley's header over the crossbar in the 85th, and Onyewu headed the ball off the crossbar on Donovan's free kick.

U.S. players were angry -- but not that much, given it wasn't a game that counted.

"At the end of the day, we got caught a couple times, and that's what happens," Howard said. "The second half we mixed it up a little bit. We probably need to try to impose that will and try to turn it into a scrap earlier than we did."

The Associated Press, May 31, 2012

Liverpool set to hire Swansea's Brendan Rodgers as new coach

posted 30 May 2012, 23:44 by Meriposa World   [ updated 31 May 2012, 00:00 ]

London 

Liverpool appears set to hire Brendan Rodgers as its new manager.

The hire would vault the Northern Irishman from relative obscurity to one of the toughest jobs in soccer, with his current club Swansea claiming a deal was expected to be finalized on Thursday.

Following talks with Liverpool's American owners -- Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Boston Red Sox -- Rodgers told Swansea on Wednesday he has been offered the job as Kenny Dalglish's replacement at Anfield and was ready to accept.

"We are trying to finalize within the next 24 hours," Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins. "Although we are very disappointed to lose such a talented, young British manager, we didn't wish to stand in his way."

Liverpool will have to pay compensation to Swansea, reported to be in the region $6 million, because Rodgers has three years left on his contract after signing a new deal in January.

In what will be one of the most low-key managerial appointments made by the traditional English powerhouse in a generation, the 39-year-old Rodgers was preferred to Wigan manager Roberto Martinez despite having only one season's experience in England's top division.

That year, however, was a highly successful one, with Swansea finishing 11th in its first season in the Premier League, earning plenty of admirers because of the Welsh team's attractive, possession-based style of play. It made Rodgers one of the most sought managers in Britain.

"We wish Brendan every success in the future," Jenkins said. "We will always remain good friends and we thank him for all his hard work and passion at this football club over the past two years. We shall now refocus and quickly start the process of finding his replacement to continue the great work Brendan has carried out at this football club."

Liverpool, which has yet to comment on the managerial situation, fired Dalglish two weeks ago after a disappointing campaign in the Premier League, where it placed eighth -- its lowest finish in 18 years. The Reds' last match of the season was a 1-0 loss at Swansea, leaving them 17 points off a Champions League qualification spot, the minimum goal of the owners.

Dalglish guided Liverpool to victory in the League Cup final, ending the club's six-year trophy drought, but it wasn't enough to convince management he was the man to return the five-time European champions to glory.

Liverpool targeted the hiring of a young manager to replace Dalglish and also held talks with Martinez, who led Wigan to survival in the Premier League with a stunning late-season run that included a 1-0 win at Liverpool. But it decided on Rodgers, who was once a youth-team manager at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho and has also managed second-tier clubs Watford and Reading.

The Associated Press, 31 May 2012

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