Just When You Thought We’re Done with Soccer For a While, Now We’re Worried about 2018…

After the alleged aspersions on FIFA, particularly their political influence as choices were made for Qatar as being an upcoming host nation, and the reported $11.5 billion spent by Brazil to host the 2014 World Cup, it’s no wonder that people are looking at Russia and trying to figure out what the 2018 World Cup is going to look like.

FIFA president got the ball rolling, so to speak, with a comment out of left field after Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s Sports Minister announced that Russia’s plans included the use of 12 stadiums in 11 cities to stage the event.

Sepp Blatter told journalists, “It’s a footballing country but we will have meetings there in September to see if 12 is the right number and even if they could be reduced to 10. It’s obvious the World Cup has taken such a dimension that the organization is a hard work for the organizing country and also for the FIFA. FIFA is looking at 2018 now and we are in discussions on what is the ideal number for the organization and to keep it in such a manner that it’s feasible, reasonable and controllable.”

Blatter also commented on the huge amount that Brazil had spent hosting the games, even though Mutko had already told reporters that Russia had earmarked $20 billion for this task.

Russian president Vladimir Putin attended the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro, and had talks with Blatter on the 2018 World Cup.

Other critics of Russia are concerned over demonstrations against Putin during the matches – much like the ones in Sochi during the Olympics. But help may come from an ally of Russia… China.

Xi Jinping, who is the General Secretary of the Communist Party in China, met with Putin and went on record as saying, “It doesn’t depend of whether China participates in the finals or not, we will help Russia hold the championships.”

Sources: Philly.com, The Moscow Times, Voice of Russia

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The Colorado Rockies Win Their First Home Series Since Mid-May Against the San Diego Padres.

The last time the Colorado Rockies won a series at Coors Field was back in mid-May. Sure they swept the San Francisco Giants on June 13-15, but it’s not the same as winning at home.

The Rockies started scoring straight off the bat, so to speak. Only the second pitch of the game from San Diego Eric Stults, and Charlie Blackmon hit the ball off to right-center for a home run. It was Blackmon’s 14th home run of the season so far… and that’s definitely how to start a ball game.

Fourth batter up, Troy Tulowitzki – better known to his teammates and the fans as Tulo – hit a line-drive home run into the bleachers out in left field. And suddenly the Rockies were two up and looking good.

The Padres eventually managed to get on the board with a home run in the fourth inning from Jake Goebbert, but Colorado kept their two-point lead with a home run from Wilin Rosario.

In the eighth inning, Padres Seth Smith got a two-run shot to even up the match, but then the Rockies pulled out all the stops. Blackmon got another one-out single, Stubbs blasted off a home run, and finally Tulowitzki got his second homer of the the match and his 10th multi-homer match of his career.

Speaking to the press after the game, Padres manager Bud Black was pragmatic about the loss, “We outhit ‘em but they outhomered us and that was the difference. They got five. We got two. Five minus two is three, and they won by three runs.”

And speaking to about his own team, Black continued, “[Joaquin] Benoit has been outstanding. He should be on the All Star team the way he’s thrown the ball. His stuff was good. He got two strikeouts and a popout to center. They hit a couple of high flies that went out, one by an All-Star [Tulowitzki].”

Great to win at home, but also great to have a win. This was only the fifth time the Rockies have been victorious in the last 23 outings.

Sources: Reuters, Fox News, USA Today

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LeBron James Quits the Miami Heat and Heads Home to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

LeBron James spent the first seven seasons of his career as a part of the Cleveland Cavaliers. But he wanted more than they could offer and leapt at the chance of being a part of the Miami Heat, a team that had more going for it in terms of star power.

The strategy worked. As part of the Miami Heat, James led his team into the NBA Finals four times, coming away with two titles. Can’t argue with that…

But the Miami Heat have been no more than warm this season, and James is out to prove to everyone that you can go home again. And more that that, you can win championships.

As you can imagine, James left a lot of broken-hearted fans when he headed off to Florida. That and an angry owner of the Cavs who did not hold back his feelings about his best player heading off into the sunset just as he was getting into his stride.

Arguably, James is the best basketball player in the league. And his presence on the Cleveland Cavaliers will certain shake things up in the Eastern Conference, evening up the playing field. But as James himself wrote in a piece of Sports Illustrated, ‘We’re not ready right now. No way.’

That’s being realistic as the Cavs will still be up against Larry Bird’s Indiana Pacers and the Chicago Bulls who are way and away the favorites this season. Don’t discount the San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Houston Rockets or the Portland Trail Blazers either.

And while we’re at it, the Los Angeles Clippers seem to be finding their form in the midst of the media spotlight over the torrid soap opera surrounding their owner, Donald Sterling.

Last word goes to James himself on his decision to head back to the Buckeye State, “My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio. I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when.”

Sources: USA Today, Mercury News, Miami Herald

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New York Mets Get a Win Over the Atlanta Braves With a Single from Ruben Tejada in the 11th Inning.

The New York Mets were hungry for a win. They needed something to bolster their confidence, especially against the Atlanta Braves who were beating them every which way the week before – even though the Mets were winning at one point in two of the three games they lost at Turner Field.

But how they got their win was far from the usual run of the mill…

The game seemed to be going the way the Mets wanted it go for the longest time. Braves left-handed pitcher Mike Minor only allowed the Mets two hits in the first seven innings – in the second inning, catcher Travis d’Arnaud scored an RBI double and in the fourth inning third baseman David Wright got himself a home run. And that put the Mets two ahead.

Then came the eight inning. Mets pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka – having pitched seven shutout innings – was replaced, and the Braves leapt on the opportunity. The Braves got three runs with two outs, and they were leading 3-2. When the Mets came up to bat, it was Curtis Granderson who tied the game for a homer and, after a scoreless ninth inning, the game was forced into further innings at 3-3.

The only issue in the ninth inning surrounded a call that Mets Eric Campbell was ruled safe at second base from a bunt. Braves manager Fredi Gonzales argued vehemently that it was a bad call, and ended up being ejected from the field. Speaking to the press afterward, Gonzales said, “It was one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen. It’s bad interpretation – whoever interpreted it.”

In the 11th inning, Ruben Tejada got the winning run and the Mets beat the Braves, 4-3.

As a result of beating the Braves, their third win in four games, the Mets are now within nine games of the Braves who currently lead the National League East.

Sources: Reuters, Seattle PI, My Central Jersey

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Top Scorer Miroslav Klose Helps Germany Beat Brazil 7-1 in the Semifinal.

This shouldn’t happen. Soccer matches are won by two goals, or even three, but not by six. And it definitely should not happen to the host nation at the World Cup, especially when they are clearly one of the best teams in the world.

It has to be said though that this is a very young Brazilian team, and playing without their top striker Neymar who broke a bone in his back, and their captain and brilliant defender Thiago Silva who managed to collect two yellow cards and a suspension from the match, this may have seemed inevitable.

Word is that the pressure has been enormous on the Brazilian team who, after the government had shelled out almost $12 billion to host the tournament, were expecting nothing less than a win. Hey, during the penalty shootout with Chile, yes, it was tense, but a couple of them were openly crying on the pitch during the penalty kicks.

The first half of the game was a shambles for this hard-working Brazilian team. They allowed more goals scored against them than they had in the preceding five matches that got them into the semifinal.

Thomas Mueller scored just 11 minutes into the game from a corner taken by Toni Kroos. As the cross bent into the goal area, Mueller neatly got by his defender, and volleyed the ball into the net by Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

Brazil managed to hold the Germans for a short span, but you could see that their game was unravelling. After another 10 minutes the pressure was back on and within the space of just six minutes, there were two goals from Kroos, one from Miroslav Klose and another from Sami Khedira. Just 29 minutes in and Brazil were standing at 5-0.

To the German’s credit, they stopped openly congratulating themselves on their goals… but it was heartbreaking to see the Brazilian team so despondent. And, even worse, to hear their fans boo them as they left the field for half-time.

Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Jr. – better known as just plain old Oscar – eventually managed to give Brazil a little dignity in the last few minutes of the second half with a single goal. But by that time, German substitute Andre Schurrle had already scored two more to make the final score, 7-1.

And just to add salt in the wound, Klose’s goal became his 16th World Cup goal, and he now holds the record over Brazilian superstar Renaldo.

Sources: LA Times, The Guardian UK, USA Today

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On the 30th Anniversary of Richard Petty Winning His 200th Win, Aric Almirola Wins at Daytona in the No. 43.

It was history in the making. On the same weekend that Richard Petty celebrated his 200th win 30 years ago, Aric Almirola won the Coke Zero 400 at the Daytona International Speedway in Petty’s famed No. 43.

It wasn’t the most ideal of conditions. Rain not only delayed the start of the race, but also shortened it. But the rain didn’t damper Almirola’s spirits as he got up to grab the well-earned title, and more, a chance to race for the Chase Cup.

Speaking after the race, Almirola said, “The amount of effort that’s gone into this race team this year with everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports trying to build this race team back to a winning race team, the way it’s supposed to be. Thirty years to the weekend that Richard Petty got his 200th win is really, really special.”

The race was scheduled for Saturday night, but the rain was just too much and it was run the following day, and even then it was delayed and stopped several times for rain. There were three red flags throughout the race, and two because of major accidents that took out most of the main contenders: Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Jamey McMurray, and Tony Stewart to name a few.

The second wreck, which started when Biffle and Kahne collided, involved 25 of the cars in the race. Busch’s car was flipped upside down, but the good news was that no one was seriously injured. After the race, Busch described the race, “It just felt like a slow carnival ride.”

After Almirola, Brain Vickers got second place, closely followed by Kurt Busch, Casey Mears and newcomer, Austin Dillon. Danica Patrick lost momentum through a mistake in pit-road, and everyone’s favorite and Daytona 500 champion, Dale Earnhardt Jr., came in 14th.

Almirola is the 11th winner this season, and is assured a spot in the 16 drivers who will compete in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Sources: Jackson Sun, Sporting News, Boston Herald

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Djokovic Wins His Seventh Grand Slam – Vindication for Hiring His New Coach, Boris Becker.

Novak Djokovic has fought his way through to 14 Grand Slam finals in his career, but the win over 32-year old Roger Federer last week was certainly one of his sweetest. And certainly vindication for his decision to hire Boris Becker as his coach earlier this year. Winning only one of his last six Grand Slam finals, and none of the last three, Djokovic was certainly in need of some guidance to hone his game.

Boris Becker turned out to be the answer. Speaking to journalists after the match, Djokovic said, “I started feeling much closer to Boris and understood what message he’s trying to convey to me. There were a few things he said that were important but most of all is the mental toughness and the self belief. He believes in my game, he knows that I have the game to win this tournament and I just needed to hang in there and stay tough regardless of what I go through on the court.”

It was an epic final and, as both players found it increasingly hard to hold their service game, it became harder and harder to figure out who would win.

In the first set, Roger Federer managed to win in the tiebreak, but in the second set, Djokovic got the first service break and served out to win, 6-4. Equally matched in the third set, again there was the inevitable tiebreak at six games each, but this time Djokovic got the win. By the time the fourth set came around, both players were struggling to hold their serve with Federer not only defending a match point when Djokovic was 5-4 up, but then going on to win the next four games.

Both men were clearly getting tired, but it was Djokovic who had more energy and won the final set, 6-4, to take the title.

Although losing to Djokovic, Federer put up an amazing fight to the end, and definitely had his chance to win his eighth Grand Slam Wimbledon title. Speaking to the press after the match, Federer said, “I thought it was a high quality match and it was good stuff from both players out there. I think clearly we both walk away happy from here. Him more happy than I am.”

Sources: Daily Mail UK, Keith Prowse, Herald Sun

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Heartbreak for Kevin Stadler as Graeme McDowell Swoops In to Win the French Open.

Kevin Stadler has been playing the golf of his dreams, winning all three days of the French Open, and especially starting on his first day with a magical seven-under-par 64. But unlike the gorgeous weather of the previous days, the final round was fraught with wind and rain, and that played havoc with most of the players.

Starting his day eight strokes off the leader, Graeme McDowell was probably hoping to be high enough in the ranking to get some take-home pay. Especially as Stadler was still four shots clear of his nearest rival. However, Stadler was not having his best day and, after getting round the front nine in 41 strokes was in despair that he was going to get anywhere close to the title.

However, Stadler battled back into the game with birdies on the 14th and 16th, and managed to get back to the top of the leaderboard. Thing is, McDowell took no notice of the weather at all and was on his way to carding a 67, which under the conditions of play was simply sensational.

And like all good fairy tale endings, it was all down to the 18th hole. McDowell’s drive went straight into the deep rough and it looked like Stadler was in with a chance to at least force a playoff. By the time both players got to the green, and McDowell having holed out, was clearly preparing for the playoff holes as all Stadler had to do was hole a two-foot putt.

The pressure must have been huge and, sadly, his putt veered away from the cup and the title went to McDowell. Stadler shared second place with Thongchae Jaidee, who although lost five strokes in the first four holes, managed to scrape together four birdies in the rest of his round to card a 72.

Speaking to the press after the tournament, McDowell expressed his astonishment that he ended up winning the title, “I’m very surprised. Midway through my second glass of red wine last night, when I was very disappointed with my back-nine performance on Saturday, I really didn’t think I’d be a) standing here with an opportunity to be in a play-off and b) with a trophy in my hands. I feel very fortunate. Kevin Stadler is a great, great player. I literally gave him that putt on the last green. I didn’t expect him to miss that.”

Sources: RTE, MSN, BBC

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19-Year Old Nick Kyrgios Achieved the Impossible When He Beat Rafael Nadal to Get to the Quarterfinals.

It happens. It happened to Roger Federer in the second round of last year’s Wimbledon as he got knocked out of the tournament by a virtual unknown, Sergiy Stakhovsky. (Although having said that, I should qualify that by telling you that Stakhovsky pulled off another shocker at this year’s Wimbledon by beating the #12 seed, Ernests Gulbis.)

Let me get back on track. Too often, the champions get wrong-footed by a youngster, the winner gets their moment in the shining lights, and then they get knocked out – as expected – in the next round. But these young guys are the future of tennis, and it’s worth spending a little virtual ink praising an Australian teenager for taking on a titan of international tennis and winning.

Seeded #144 in the world, Nick Kyrgios was making his debut at Wimbledon and he got there on a wild card. And he’s facing Rafael Nadal – the world’s #1 – for a place in the quarterfinal. Now, first off, congratulations are due just for getting that far in what is arguably one of the most testing tennis tournaments in the world.

Kyrgios’ claim to fame so far was to partner Thanasi Kokkinakis to win the boy’s doubles trophy.

The four set match lasted a little under three hours. Kyrgios won the first set in a tiebreak, but lost the second set, 5-7. In the third set, Nadal had set point at one stage but blew it, and Kyrgios forced a tiebreak that he won. After that, the wind seemed to go out of Nadal’s sails and he lost the fourth set, 6-3.

Speaking to the press after the match, Kyrgios was overwhelmed, “It hasn’t sunk in what just played out out there. I played extraordinary tennis. I was struggling a bit on return, but I worked my way into it. I served at a really good level and I’m really happy. You’ve got to believe you can win the match from the start and I did. I’m playing unbelievable tennis on the grass. He hit extraordinary shots, but he’s always going to bring that.”

Sources: ATP World Tour, The Guardian UK, ESPN

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Lewis Hamilton Wins the British Grand Prix After His Teammate Nico Rosberg Retires.

The winners so far in the Grand Prix this season are without doubt Mercedes. Aside from a blip in the schedule at the Canadian Grand Prix, a Mercedes car has won every race so far, and come second for the most part too. This has led to all kinds of friction between the two Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, and it was Rosberg who is wining so far this year, 29 points ahead of Hamilton.

But aside from wanting to catch up to Rosberg, Hamilton had something else to prove. The British Grand Prix, held as Silverstone, is home turf – and he won the race back in 2008 and he sure wanted to win again.

But Hamilton didn’t do too well in the qualifying laps. It’s England, and it was raining, and the track was wet. While his Mercedes teammate Rosberg won pole position, Hamilton was lucky to score sixth place on the grid.

Speaking to the press after his poor qualifying drive, Hamilton said, “Yesterday was a really difficult day. I went away feeling terrible for the fans, and I felt I let them down – and the team and myself – and coming back today and trying to turn that negativeness around was my priority.”

Rosberg soared into the lead, but Hamilton did well in the opening lap to get to fourth. But everything went on hold for an hour after Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen swerved across the track in front of oncoming traffic. No one was hurt, and the race started on lap three.

It took all of two laps for Hamilton to catch Rosberg, but he couldn’t get close enough to his rival to effect a pass. Tragedy struck for Rosberg with just 21 laps to go when his gearbox failed and he had to pull out of the race. Hamilton raced on by and held the lead to win the British Grand Prix. And with his win came 25 precious points which now puts him within four points of Rosberg. The game is back on…

After the race, Hamilton told journalists, “Thinking of the history of this circuit and the great drivers who have won in the past, it has been since 2008 since I won and I’m feeling really grateful.”

Sources: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bleacher Report

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