A Good Summer Ahead for the English! (Part Two)

Yesterday was the release of the first of a three part blog about the magnificent summer that awaits English sport’s fans. If you missed it then don’t worry, it’s never too late to read it. A Good Summer Ahead for the English! (Part One)

So today marks the start of another huge tournament with the first match played between favourites England and perennial “chokers” South Africa.

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ICC Cricket World Cup Trophy (Via WikiCommons)

 

Cricket World Cup 2019 (May 30th – July 14th)

The blue ribbon event of the cricketing world is upon us again. Originally contested by eight nations in 1975, this year’s event will witness the top ten cricketing nations fighting it out to be crowned world champions. All of the partaking nations will play each other in a round robin tournament, with the top four going on to contest the semifinals. The cricket fest will come to an end on July 14th at the Mecca of cricket, Lord’s Cricket Ground, London.

The nations in order of world ranking:

  1. ENGLAND
  2. India
  3. South Africa
  4. New Zealand
  5. Australia
  6. Pakistan
  7. Bangladesh
  8. West Indies
  9. Sri Lanka
  10. Afghanistan

The main pavilion (left), and the media centre at the home of cricket. (Via WikiCommons)

Do England deserve to be the favourite?

England are easily the best ODI (one day international) team in the world. A combination of aggressive batting, and above average bowling has helped the creators of the sport become the best at it. Since the last World Cup in 2015, England have won around 70% of all ODI’s played. A feat that no other nation can surpass. In the meantime, they have also accumulated four of the largest run totals with the relentless stroke making abilities of their top order batsmen. In the likes of Jason Roy, and Johnny Bairstow, England has the most destructive opening partnership in world cricket. Follow that up with Jos Buttler, a man on a mission to demolish every bowler’s self-confidence. Buttler scores big and scores fast, an important asset when it comes to limited overs cricket. In fact, only on five occasions has a nation scored over 400 runs in an innings since the last World Cup. South Africa once and England four times (Usually a score over 300 is deemed good, depending on the conditions).

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Jos Buttler (Via WikiCommons)

However, that same aggression when batting can lead to a massive collapse on the wrong day, which is where the bowlers need to step up. Something that they are more than capable of doing with the likes of Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali, Tom Curran, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and the recent addition to the squad of Joffrey Archer. The latter has made a name for himself in recent years as a specialist of the short-game (T20/ODI).

With all this firepower, a smart leader is necessary. Enter Eoin Morgan. Ironically, Morgan is Irish-born, but captains the three-lions after switching allegiances in 2009. He is one of only two players to score a century – 100 runs in an innings – for two different nations. The other being Ed Joyce, who went from England to Ireland. Eoin Morgan is labelled as a “finisher” thanks to his hitting ability towards the end of a game, and that nickname may get put to the test on many occasions during this tournament.

Who are the other possible champions?

Australia:

Most final appearances (7), most wins (5) and the reigning champions. Australia have won four of the last five tournaments and have long been a force in all formats of the game. However,  in recent years, this cricketing nation has been hit with major issues. Most recently, Steve Smith, who captained the Aussies in all forms of the game, and vice-captain David Warner, both received lengthy suspensions for ball-tampering. This is basically the equivalent of when Tom Brady may or may not have reduced the air in the football’s being used when playing for the New England Patriots.

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David Warner (Via WikiCommons)

Both Warner and Smith have served their suspensions and are back in the squad, which could prove a huge factor as they both come into the tournament on the back of some great individual performances. I expect Warner to be one of the leading run scorers in the tournament, and Smith to aid current captain Aaron Finch in making the right decisions.

India:

The only country to snatch a World Cup from the Aussies when they won on home soil eight years ago. The chances of another success seems unlikely. However, any team with Virat Kohli in their ranks, has a chance. He is a messiah in the world of cricket. He is Ronaldo and Messi combined when it comes to hitting a ball with a bat. Backed up by the enigmatic MS Dhoni, India always have a chance. Unfortunately for Indian fans, this team are definitely much better in the kind of conditions expected in the sub-continent. England and Wales don’t really fit that bill. Nonetheless, you can never count them out.

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Virat Kohli (left) and MS Dhoni facing off for their franchises during the 2015 IPL season. (Via WikiCommons)

New Zealand:

Now this is a fantastic team, built with a great foundation and the ability to destroy opposition batting line-ups. Every other nation is definitely better at batting than bowling. Same can’t be said about the Kiwis. New Zealand have named six specialist bowlers. Four of those are world class, two are good. Their opening bowlers Trent Boult – who I think will be the top wicket-taker in the tournament – and Tim Southee have on many occasions ripped through the batting line-up of the opposition.

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Trent Boult (Via WikiCommons)

Don’t get me wrong, they have decent batsman who can score big, too. The likes of captain Kane Williamson, opener Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and Colin Munro can all go big, but relying on them to consistently score heavy is not a smart move.

Other players to watch (Not included in the aforementioned nations):

Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn (South Africa): The pair have been the linchpin for the Proteas bowling attack. Two stars for a team that lacks the quality of previous generations.

Chris Gayle (West Indies): The phrase “fetch that” is perfect for this man. Chris Gayle has one of the heaviest bats in the game, and when he swings his wood, balls go flying.

Rashid Khan (Afghanistan): Watching Rashid Khan bowl is a joy. He is a spin bowler with the ability to spin the ball both ways, and that makes for some exciting viewing. I am a huge fan!

Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh): Tamim has had to change his batting in recent years as his team relies on him to bat deep into the innings. Yet, he is still an exciting batsman who likes to smash the bowlers around.

On their day, any one of the teams could go a long way and essentially win the tournament. No matter what happens, an exciting five weeks awaits; full of runs, wickets and drama, as long as the British summer allows for it.

A Good Summer Ahead for the English! (Part One)

With Aston Villa securing their way back into the Premier League on Sunday, the domestic season in England came to an end. As a result, all eyes can turn to the Summer ahead for English sports’ fans, starting with the Europa League on Wednesday evening and Ending with the Cricket World Cup on July 14th at Lord’s, London, England. English teams are guaranteed success in two of the five major events, while favourites in two of the remaining three competitions, but is a clean sweep actually possible. What better place to start than…Azerbaijan!

Europa League: Arsenal vs Chelsea (May 29th)

These two Goliaths of English football are going to make the almost 6,000 mile round trip to Baku, Azerbaijan. Something that is all the more ridiculous as the teams are separated by a not so lengthy 10 miles. For the fans who want to go support their team, they will need to pay between £450 – £800 for flights alone and that’s only if they are lucky enough to be able to score a ticket. You see the money grabbing, greedy so and so’s at UEFA have decided that both Arsenal and Chelsea are to be given 6,000 tickets each – guess that’s one ticket for each mile they are having to travel – even though the Olympic Stadium in Baku has a capacity exceeding 69000.

Eden Hazard looking for a fairy tail ending (Via WikiCommons)

Unfair but expected by UEFA, especially as they know that the tickets will be swooped up by the local Bill Gates, Richie Rich, Scrooge McDuck and any other rich dude who wants to witness high quality football. Both teams will be near full-strength apart from Arsenal who will be without Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who will miss the final due to safety concerns. Current affairs between Armenia and Azerbaijan has left the Armenian footballer no alternative than to pull out of this important match.

On the night, there will be many players looking to make headlines. Chelsea’s Hazard will be one of those stars. The Belgian is likely to be on his way to Real Madrid next year, and wants to leave with a win. While Arsenal strikers Aubameyang and Lacazette will be hoping to fire Arsenal to their first ever European trophy at the third attempt. Arsenal’s previous defeats came in 2000 against Galatasaray in the UEFA Cup (previous name for the Europa League) and Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League Final.


Champions League: Liverpool vs Tottenham (June 1st)

Prior to the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals, Barcelona and Ajax held the advantage, yet neither of those two clubs made it to the final on Saturday. Liverpool demolished Barcelona 4-0 while Tottenham secured a final berth with a hat-trick completing goal from Lucas Moura in the dying moments of the game.

Liverpool will definitely go into the game the favourites and rightly so. They have the stronger squad, better balance, superior form and have beaten Spurs in both the games that the two teams played against each other this season. If Liverpool play anything like they did against Barcelona, then there’s nothing Tottenham could do about it.

Tottenham on the other hand are likely to be rejuvenated by the return of their captain, Harry Kane. This will likely pose a problem for Mauricio Pochettino as he will have to drop someone from the starting line-up to make way for Kane. Do you drop Lucas Moura who scored a hat-trick against Ajax, Heung-Min Son who is arguably their best player this year, Dele Alli who can be incredible on his day.

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Wanda Metropolitana, Madrid (Via WikiCommons)

The Wanda Metropolitana in Madrid will definitely witness a great game of football and a fantastic advert for the English game. Thanks to UEFA, at least the teams will be well-represented in the stands with both sides allocated just over 16,000 tickets each. How generous of them…

So there you have it, the two events where the English are going to be taking home the spoils. Part two of three will look at the Cricket World Cup, while the final section will concentrate on the Nation’s League and the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France… Unless UEFA prevent me from doing so…

Misunderstanding My A*#e

“Kepaze”

Surprisingly, the first word that came into my mind was the Turkish word for “shameful,” and/or “scandalous”. This word has the perfect letters and meaning to describe the actions of Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

(Ironically, Kepa’s surname is very similar to the Turkish word Ariza, meaning “defect”.)

Look, we have all have moments in our lives when we haven’t wanted to do something our boss wanted us to do, but like most people, we end up doing it, because that’s what grown-ups do. Yet, football players seem to think that normal rules don’t apply for them.

What happened?

For the people living under a rock, or who have no interest in sport, the basics are that, during the Carabao League Cup Final on Sunday between Chelsea and Manchester City, the Chelsea goalkeeper, in an act of defiance, refused to come off the pitch in the face of head coach Maurizio Sarri’s clear annoyance. Roughly 82,000 fans packed into Wembley Stadium, and the millions watching on television, caught a glimpse of what can only be seen as disrespect.

With extra time coming to a close, and penalties beckoning, Maurizio Sarri and his team wanted to make a tactical substitution by bringing on Willy Caballero. This was clearly a pre-determined decision, and one that could definitely be vindicated when considering Caballero’s excellent reputation as a specialist at saving penalties. The only problem was that Kepa clearly didn’t get the memo, or more likely, didn’t care about the memo.

(Via SkySports Football’s page on Youtube)

Maurizio Sarri was overcome with rage, and who could blame him? He was shown great disrespect in front of millions.

(Via SkySports Football’s page on Youtube)

Sarri wasn’t sure what to do, and he ended up having to give in. This was yet another example of a player’s defiance paying off, and Sarri was not happy about it, to say the least. (The faces of the players on the Chelsea bench say it all.)

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(Via SkySports Football’s page on Youtube)

As soon as the final whistle went, it was clear which team was feeling more like a collective. Kepa wouldn’t even look at Sarri, and Sarri was out for blood. Most importantly, Caballero had to be consoled by the team coaches.

The Outcome and Aftermath

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Man City win the first of a possible FOUR trophies (Via SkySports Football’s page on Youtube)

Man City went on to win 4-3 on penalties. Kepa saved one penalty, but made a huge mess of another, which he should have saved from Sergio Aguero. But the talking point was clear, and the  press were waiting for Sarri with questions about his goalkeeper’s refusal to come off.

Sarri, as expected, came out and faced a bombardment of questions about the incident. He said that Kepa was right to want to stay on, but wrong to conduct himself in the way he did.

Sarri went on to say that it was a substitution based on injury, because he thought Kepa was injured, and he wanted a fully-fit keeper in goal for the penalties. Apparently, Kepa wasn’t injured and hence refused to come off.

Sounds plausible.

Yet, before the penalties, even after the doctor’s words, both Sarri and Caballero were very upset. Caballero was having to be consoled by team coaches, while Sarri was being held back by Anthony Rudiger.

It was clearly a tactical substitution.

Still not convinced?

There is footage before the penalties of Kepa studying information on a phone. I guess he got a very important message from his mother about something. Or, more likely, he was being given the information that Caballero would have memorised and trained for throughout the week leading up to the game.

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Just some revision, maybe… (Via The Ultimate Chelsea Fan TV on YouTube)

After the loss, Sarri reportedly went back to the changing room and sat there by himself for a good amount of time before going to receive his runners-up medal.

What happens next?

Coming into the game, Sarri was under huge pressure. He made changes, and his team played fantastically. But that refusal has over-shadowed the entire performance. In professional football, when your number comes up, you go off and that’s it. What kind of message does this send to the rest of the footballing world?

The Chelsea board have some huge decisions to make regarding Sarri and Kepa Arrizabalaga. They seem to have sided with Maurizio Sarri at first glance, and rightly so. Kepa – Chelsea’s record signing at £71.6m –  has been fined a week’s wages (a reported £195,000), which will be donated to the Chelsea Foundation. An amount that is, truthfully, just a drop-in-the-ocean for the Spanish goalkeeper. But this will not be the end of this debacle, and many people will be interested to see who starts in goal in the next few games.

Next up for Chelsea is a big game against local rivals Tottenham in the league on Wednesday evening (Feb. 27). Tottenham are currently in third, while Sarri’s team – including Kepa, I guess – are in a battle for fourth (the final Champions League spot) with Arsenal and Manchester United. A defeat could signal the end for Sarri, especially after the incident on Sunday.

I guess if Maurizio was to depart, not everybody would be Sarri to see the back of him.