Review of the Week – 31st July 2017

My sporting week this week has mostly been spent watching the electric atmosphere in Budapest for the Aquatics World Championships, although I did find time over the weekend to catch a bit of football, Formula 1 and cricket as well. The reappearance of Fantasy Football chat in my office also means that we have only a few short weeks before the sports news is even more dominated by the re-emergence of the Premier League.

KEY HEADLINES

Football – England exorcise French demons to progress to Euro 2017 semi-final against Dutch hosts; Germany shocked by Denmark, who will meet Austria

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/40765772 (England 1-0 France) http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/40765446 (Netherlands 2-0 Sweden) http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/40765453 (Germany 1-2 Denmark) http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/40766590 (Austria 0-0 Spain)

England’s Lionesses beat France for the first time in 43 years to progress to their second successive semi-final at a major tournament. It was a fourth win in a row at Euro 2017 for England, and, although the quarter-final was a cagier affair than the group games, the performance of the likes of Jordan Nobbs, Lucy Bronze and Jodie Taylor justified the approach taken by coach Mark Samson to rest his first choice team against Portugal. It looked an even better decision in the 75th minute when first-choice goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was forced off with an injury and replaced by Siobhan Chamberlain, who had played the full match against Portugal, and might otherwise have found her first action of the tournament to have been a very nervous 15 minutes defending a slender lead against a resilient French side. England now move on to a semi-final against the Netherlands on Thursday. The Dutch women overcame a strong Swedish side, and have also won all four of their matches so far, and will present a tough challenge for England.

The Lionesses will go into their semi-final as the newly-installed tournament favourites and highest-ranked team left in the competition, following Germany’s surprise defeat to Denmark in a rearranged fixture on Sunday lunchtime. Originally scheduled to play on Saturday evening, the match was postponed due to heavy rain, although not before a farcical wait for the referees to determine that the pitch was not suitable for play. When the game finally did kick-off, it seemed to be a decision that favoured Germany, as they took a 1-0 lead after just 3 minutes, following a goalkeeping error by Stina Lykke Pedersen. Danish forward Nadia Nadim equalised after half-time and Theresa Nielsen scored late on to snatch the win. The other quarter-final, between Spain and Austria, finished goalless, but it was Austria who triumphed in the penalty shootout, as Silvia Meseguer missed the crucial spot-kick for Spain. The Spanish side have dominated possession charts, but have now failed to score in their past three games, and failed to create enough chances here. Austria have been the surprise package of the tournament so far, and their match-up against Denmark should be an exciting game.

 

Swimming – Katinka Hosszú brings curtain down on Budapest championships with second gold; Sjöström, Ledecky and King also shine

https://www.fina.org/news/swimming-day-8-two-more-wr-final-consecration-dressel

On the final day of the swimming World Championships in Budapest, Katinka Hosszú brought delight to the home crowd, winning her second gold medal of the meet in the 400m Individual Medley. The week has seen a number of spectacular performances, not least from Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström, who won three gold medals, all in individual events, and broke the 100m Freestyle world record on the opening day. USA’s Katie Ledecky won enough to come second on the medal table on her own, with five gold medals (400m, 800m and 1500m Freestyle, 4x100m Freestyle relay and 4x200m Freestyle relay) and one silver (200m Freestyle).

 

Water Polo – USA back up Olympic victory with record fifth World title

https://www.fina.org/news/day-7-womens-water-polo-usa-rolls-spain-fifth-world-crown

The USA proved they remain the dominant force in women’s water polo with a 13-6 victory in the final against Spain. The European side did well to keep the game tight at 5-3 at half-time, but saw the Americans up the tempo in the third and fourth quarters, scoring four goals in each to stretch away. 19-year-old Madeline Musselman was named tournament MVP for the USA. In the bronze medal match, Russia won 11-9 against Canada.

 

BMX – Alise Post wins Elite Women World Championship after photo finish in Rock Hill, USA

http://www.uci.ch/bmx/news/article/corben-sharrah-and-alise-post-claim-elite-uci-bmx-world-championship-titles-rock-hill-usa/

USA’s Alise Post just held off a late surge from Australian Caroline Buchanan to claim the World Championship title. After both progressed easily through their semi-finals, it was Post who made the early move in the final, but as her stamina ran out towards the end of the race, Buchanan came storming back and was only denied on the line thanks to photographic evidence. Venezuela’s Stefany Hernandez initially looked well set to take bronze, until she was passed by Colombia’s Mariana Pajon. Earlier in the day, the UK’s Bethany Shriever won the Junior World Championship title.

 

Tennis – Jordanne Whiley reveals pregnancy, just weeks after Wimbledon triumph

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/disability-sport/40762837

Britain’s wheelchair tennis player Jordanne Whiley revealed on Saturday that she was 11 weeks pregnant as she won the wheelchair doubles title earlier this month against Wimbledon. The news came just months after Serena Williams made a similar announcement following her Australian Open win. My wife can’t understand it – she struggles to get off the sofa during her first trimester, never mind playing competitive sport!

 

WOMEN’S SPORT IN THE NEWS

A new thing here, but there has been a couple of articles that I thought were worth highlighting.

The Good: Marina Hyde – “Why can’t we celebrate women’s sport without relating it to men’s?”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/26/womens-sport-celebrate-world-cup-cricket-success-mens-sport

The Bad: The Economist – “The rise of women’s cricket”

https://www.economist.com/news/britain/21725590-world-cup-win-marks-double-victory-englands-female-athletes-4000-spectators

While it’s great to see an article about women’s cricket in The Economist, it’s also sad to see that the only player mentioned by name is Len Hutton.

 

COMING UP THIS WEEK

  • Football: UEFA European Championships, Netherlands – July 16th-August 6th
    • Denmark v Austria – July 27th 5:00pm
    • Netherlands v England – July 27th, 7:45pm
    • The Final – August 6th, 4:00pm
  • Beach Volleyball: World Championships, Vienna – July 26th-August 6th
  • Athletics: World Championships, London – August 4th-13th
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Opinion – Cycling – Tour de France organisers veer off La Course with experimental format

Following disappointment in missing out to Anna van der Breggen in the 2017 Giro Rosa, not to mention the aftermath of her horror crash at the Rio Olympic road race last year, it was extremely gratifying to see Annemiek van Vlouten triumph in the 2017 edition of La Course by Le Tour de France last weekend. That she took victory with such apparent ease, despite her exertions in the Giro just 10 days earlier, shows the level that she is now operating at, and will no doubt be cause for concern for her compatriot and Giro winner van der Breggen. However, the ease of her victory also raises questions about the new format that was introduced for the first time for La Course.

That format change saw van Vlouten win a comprehensive victory in the first stage of the race, an exciting summit finish on the Col d’Izouard on the same day that the men’s race completed the same feat. Van Vlouten was then virtually transported to the Marseille velodrome along with any rivals who had finished within 5 minutes of her. They were then set off on a time trial at the same time differences that they finished on the Izouard. On paper, it could make for an interesting finish, as van Vlouten is chased down by a larger group of riders for a sprint finish in the velodrome. What transpired was that she easily held off the chase group of Lizzie Deignan, Megan Guarnier and Elise Longho Borghini, who also stayed clear of the rest of the field.

To some extent, I approve of the Tour de France organisers trying out a new format in an attempt to make their race more compelling, but it feels fairly disrespectful to use this new format for the first time at La Course, rather than trying it out and refining it at a smaller event before launching it in France. While La Course is fairly far down the pecking order of women’s bike races, the link to the Tour de France means that this event is always likely to glean more attention from the casual cycling fan, who, if they tuned in this year, won’t have been all that impressed with what they saw.

It’s clear that there is some disillusion around the format within the peloton. In the immediate aftermath of the race, Deignan was diplomatic, but also clear that more work was needed: “The format needs some work – it was good but there is definitely work to be done. I’m open minded to the concept but it needs tidying up.” Van Vlouten herself tweeted after the event: “Winning at d’Izouard was a ‘goosebumps moment’; today nice ‘bonus’ with great crowds. […] Next year stagerace @LaCoursebyTDF?”.

The challenge facing the organisers is that running a stage race has failed previously (the women’s Grande Boucle last took place in 2009, and currently La Route de France is the only major women’s stage race in France, although it did not take place in 2017, and even when it does it has the lowest UCI ranking for a stage race), due to a lack of sponsorship and organisational difficulties. It’s not a simple challenge to overcome, and indeed it feels like only with a major shake-up of the cycling calendar will a solution be found.

From my point of view, the best solution is to try to tie La Course to the men’s Tour de France, effectively ‘piggybacking’ off their extensive infrastructure and support, and hopefully increasing exposure. One suggestion has been to run La Course as a shortened version of Le Tour de France, with the women riding the stage a day ahead of the men. However, this risks additional disruption to local areas that already have to shut down for at least a day and often more while le Tour passes through. Also, while there’s no doubt the women riders are physically capable of riding the route (indeed data from van Vlouten’s climb up the Izoard suggested that she was close to the time of the leading men, although that should be put into context, since the women completed a shorter route without two earlier climbs faced by the men’s race), the length of the stages and the difference in pace between the men and women would likely mean the stages would take too long to complete to be practical. Therefore, I’d suggest a similar approach to that taken on the Izouard, where the women finish in the same place, on the same day, but ride a slightly shortened route and set off earlier, to reduce the risk of the tail-end of the women’s race being caught by the head of the men’s.

The other issue at the moment is that La Course is simply too short, and needs to be turned into a ‘proper’ stage race, ideally with a couple of mountain stages, a couple of sprint stages and a time-trial, in order to turn it into a race worthy of the best female cyclists in the world. In my view it should also incorporate the finish on the Champs-Élysées that is the traditional conclusion of the men’s race. Since the final men’s stage is traditionally ceremonial, bar the final sprint, I could even see an argument for a joint male-female group finish, although it has previously worked to have the women ride the route ahead of the men on the final day. The easiest way for this to work, in my view, is to have the women ride a week-long stage race to coincide with the final week of Le Tour (potentially with an additional stage on the men’s rest day).

However, this solution presents problems around the scheduling, since that would clash with the Giro Rosa, which this year took place during the first week of Le Tour. Leaving only a week’s rest between the finish of the Giro Rosa and the start of La Course would not be enough for the top women to be able to do both, and since the Giro is the premier competition in women’s cycling, that can only be detrimental to the quality of the field at La Course. Therefore, a compromise is needed, and my solution for that would be to move the Giro in the calendar to align more closely with the men’s Giro d’Italia, with the aim of exploiting the same synergies and harnessing the same marketing power that goes alongside the men’s race. There would no doubt be an impact on the other events in the women’s cycling calendar, but I would hope that these hurdles could be overcome, and ultimately something drastic will need to happen if the exposure of women’s cycling is to be improved.

The resistance to promotion of the women’s events tends to be centred around the historical lack of spectator interest, which negatively impacts the sponsorships generated, and therefore causes the event to lose money. However, this always seems to be a vicious circle to me: without a major event, it’s difficult to attract spectator interest (and even more difficult if the organisers choose to tamper with or us experimental formats) and therefore the situation will never improve. The argument missing from the above is the expectation that, by running a women’s event, the Tour de France organisers have a chance to attract viewers to their sport that might otherwise not be interested – young girls who are more interested in watching women race than men – rather than taking away from their existing fanbase. My proposal above is designed to hopefully increase the prestige attached to La Course, while keeping a lid on associated costs, by trying to exploit synergies with the men’s race.

One final word from me, and that is that this is a two-way street. If the organisers were to take this leap of faith, then there would need to be effort put in by the women’s teams and individual cyclists to ‘up their game’ in terms of their approach to the cycling. Whether it is respective of the whole field or not, it surprised me to hear Deignan talk after each of the days racing on this year’s La Course and reveal that she had not done a recon of either course (in Marseille, she was quoted as saying “I wish I had done a recon today – I was not expecting that climb”, and after the Col d’Izoard she said “I surprised myself for sure. I think I overestimated the climb, I had not done a recon and I didn’t find it as hard as the nightmares I had about”). The preparation that goes into the men’s race would need to be mimicked by the women’s race, otherwise they run the risk of being branded hypocrites – complaining that they are not taken seriously, but not putting in the effort themselves.

Preview – Football – Tournament of Nations

What is it?

It’s a rather clunkily-titled football tournament, currently being held in the USA. The first I heard about it was on Twitter. Apparently, this is the inaugural competition, and will see the USA, Australia, Japan and Brazil face off for the title (Champions of Nations?) between 27th July and 3rd August.

Why those teams in particular?

I’ve got no idea. I can’t seem to find any information on how they decided who took part.   It looks like it is the highest-ranked women’s teams, apart from European teams who are all busy playing Euro 2017, and Canada, who have been excluded for a reason that escapes me. Not exotic enough, maybe?

What is the format?

The four teams play each other in a round robin. Three points for a win, one point for a draw, with ties determined by goal difference, then goals scored, then head-to-head results, then FIFA Ranking.

What happened yesterday?

The first two matches were played. Brazil drew 1-1 with Japan, and the USA surprisingly lost 1-0 to Australia. Both games took place in Seattle. Goalscorers were Camila (Brazil), Yuka Momiki (Japan) and Tameka Butt (Australia).

What next?

The next games are on Sunday in San Diego, with Japan v Australia and USA v Brazil. Then the tournament is wrapped up next Thursday in Carson, with Australia v Brazil and USA v Japan.

What is the most interesting thing you have found out about the tournament?

The teams taking part in the tournament each have an interesting nickname, which might well give an insight into the mindset of each country. Brazil are nicknamed Las Canarinhas, which translates to the ‘female canaries’, in reference, I assume, to their famous yellow shirts. Australia are nicknamed The Matildas, after the popular Australian ditty ‘Waltzing Matilda’. Japan’s national team are known as Nadeshiko, which apparently means ‘the personification of the idealised Japanese woman’, but is appreciably more catchy as a nickname in Japanese. For the hosts, however, Wikipedia lists the USWNT, Team USA, The Stars and Stripes, and The Yanks as potential nicknames, all of which are (in my opinion) pretty average as nicknames go. Surely the Americans must be able to come up with something better than that?

Where can I watch it?

ESPN are showing the tournament in the USA. I can’t find any reference to anyone showing it anywhere else, so I guess I’ll end up following the results on Twitter.

Report – Swimming & Water Polo – FINA World Championships Update

Just a few of the headlines from the FINA World Championships that are currently underway in Budapest.

Pellegrini stuns Ledecky in 200m Freestyle

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Federica Pellegrini (picture courtesy of Lis í Jákupsstovu)

Federica Pellegrini, who has won medals in the 200m Freestyle at every World Championships since 2005, made it an unlucky 13th world championship final for Katie Ledecky, the defending world and reigning Olympic champion in this event. Ledecky has won her first 12 world championship finals, but after battling Australia’s Emma McKeon in the middle lanes, was unable to cope with Pellegrini’s surge from the outside. Thankfully for Ledecky, she can console herself with her gold medals from the 400m Freestyle, 1500m Freestyle and 4x200m Freestyle relay earlier in the meet. After the event, Pellegrini announced that this would be her final appearance in the 200m Freestyle: “I was only fourth at the Olympic Games last year, so this is a great success for me. I was thinking of the medal but I never thought it would be gold! What a nice gift for the last 200m freestyle of my life.”

Hosszú brings the house down with 200m IM victory

10689512724_a1f86e3e18_z

Katinka Hosszú of Hungary (picture courtesy of Doha Stadium Plus Qatar)

Hungary has long since been associated with enthusiasm for winter sports, and a number of swimming legends have hailed from these shores. One of the biggest names of the current generation is Katinka Hosszú, and the ‘Iron Lady’ did not disappoint the home crowd on Day 2 in the pool, storming to victory in the 200m Individual Medley, and in the process becoming the first swimmer in history to win the event three times. On the electric atmosphere that greeted her victory, Hosszú said: “I am feeling the same way that the very time I won a race. I have been training in this pool since it opened, trying to imagine the crowd. You can’t be ready for such an amazing atmosphere. It is crazy!”

Kylie Masse is first Canadian female world champion

After 16-year-old Penny Oleksiak won a stunning 100m Freestyle gold medal at the Rio Olympics last year, Canadian swimming seemed to be on an upwards trajectory. While it was Oleksiak who grabbed most of the headlines at that time, Kylie Masse was also impressing by winning a bronze medal in the 100m Backstroke. In the 12 months since then, Masse has continued her improvement, and was delighted to become the first Canadian woman to win a world title earlier this week, breaking the world record in the process.

Sjöström shows class over 100m in both Butterfly and Freestyle

Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström gave us a spectacular opening to the World Championships, when she broke the 100m Freestyle world record on the opening leg of the 4x100m Freestyle relay, finishing in 51.71. While the rest of the Swedish relay team weren’t able to provide a medal to go with the record, Sjöström made no mistake in her first individual event of the meet, winning gold in the 100m Butterfly to make it four world championships in a row that she has won the event.

USA and Spain will do battle for water polo gold

This week saw the water polo competition reach the knockout stage, with a number of exceptional performances from unexpected sources. Canada overcame hosts Hungary 6-4 in the quarter-finals, thanks to a five-goal performance from Monika Eggens, but then lost out to an impressive Spanish side in the semi-finals. Spain had overcome Greece in a penalty shoot-out in their quarter-final after drawing 10-10 in normal time. In the other quarter-finals Russia upset Olympic silver-medallists Italy 9-8, and the USA defeated Australia 7-5, with the US team then going on to win comfortably 14-9 in the semi-final. With three of four Group Stage winners losing in the quarter-finals, there is a question mark over the merits of the four-day break in competition for those teams, although the benefit of that extra rest for the US team may become apparent in the final against Spain on Saturday.

What about Adam Peaty?!

Finally, and I know it’s supposed to be a blog about women’s sport, but as a Brit I have to say “WOW!” about the performances of Adam Peaty during the swimming competition this week. The man is head and shoulders above the rest of the world in the 50m and 100m Breaststroke, and became the first man under 26 seconds for 50m Breaststroke as he broke his own world record in the 50m semi-finals. It is a bit of a novelty seeing a British sportsperson so dominant in their event, so I’ll make no bones about shouting it from the rooftops. Great to see him inspiring the next generation of talent as well, as training partner Sarah Vasey made the 100m Breaststroke final in her first World Championships (there, a reference to women’s sport!).

Preview – Swimming – FINA Swimming World Championships 2017

What is it?

As the name suggests, the FINA Swimming World Championships are a set of championships for swimmers from around the world, and it is organised by FINA, which is the international body responsible for organising international competitions for aquatic sports. The 2017 event is part of the wider World Aquatics Championships and is taking place in Budapest, Hungary. This will be the 17th edition of the event, and is the first time the event has taken place in Hungary.

What is the format this year?

There doesn’t seem to be any major difference between this schedule and recent swimming World Championships. 42 events will be held, of which 20 are for men, 20 are for women and 2 are mixed. Events either have heats, semi-finals and finals, or for longer events and relays, just heats and relays. Qualification from heat to semi to final is purely based on the quickest time, so if you win your heat or semi-final but do a slow time, you may not necessarily qualify for the final. In the event that more than one swimmer ties for the final qualification slot, those affected have to do a swim-off against each other.

Who are the historical powerhouses?

In an ‘all-time’ swimming World Championships medal table, the USA are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the world, having won 550 medals, including 236 gold. Next in the table are China, but with only 288 medals in total, and just 128 gold. Russia are next (combining their total with the USSR), with 271 medals total, but only 106 gold, and the table continues with Australia, East Germany, Germany, Hungary, Italy, France and Great Britain.

Who are the swimmers to watch out for?

10689512724_a1f86e3e18_zKatinka Hosszú of Hungary (picture courtesy of Doha Stadium Plus Qatar)

  • Katinka Hosszú (Hungary) – the self-styled ‘Iron Lady’ is the great home hope for gold medals in the pool. Hosszú is the world record holder in the 100m, 200m and 400m Individual Medley and the 100m and 200m backstroke, and won three gold medals and one silver at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
  • Katie Ledecky (USA) – Ledecky, despite being only 20 years old, seems to have been one of the world’s best swimmers for some time, and indeed has won the Swimming World Swimmer of the Year award for the past four years. She broke through at the 2012 Olympic Games in London when she defeated British hope Rebecca Adlington in the 800m Freestyle. Since then she has only got better, winning nine gold medals over the past two World Championships, and then winning four gold medals and a silver in Rio.
  • Sarah Sjöström (Sweden)Sjöström already stamped her mark on the 2017 World Championships, when on day one she smashed the 100m Freestyle world record as part of the first leg of the 4 x 100m Freestyle relay. She is also the current world record holder over 50m and 100m Butterfly and 200m Freestyle (shortcourse). Sjöström won gold in the 100m Butterfly in Rio, as well as two silvers and a bronze.
  • Simone Manuel (USA) – Manuel took gold and silver in the 100m and 50m Freestyle at Rio, widely considered to be the blue riband events of the swimming world, and so can claim to be the fastest female swimmer in the world (although Denmark’s Pernille Blume might dispute that, given that she took home gold in the 50m Freestyle).
  • Rie Kaneto (Japan) – Kaneto won gold in the 200m Breaststroke event at Rio, and was named Swimming World’s Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year – an award which, in recent years, has been dominated by Australian swimmers.

 

 

 What is the schedule, and which are the events to look out for?

  • Monday 24th July
    • 100m Butterfly
    • 200m Individual Medley – Katinka Hosszú will hope to win her first gold of the championships
  • Tuesday 25th July
    • 1500m Freestyle
    • 100m Backstroke
    • 100m Breaststroke
  • Wednesday 26th July
    • 200m Freestyle – likely to see a face-off between Katie Ledecky and Sarah Sjöström
    • 4 x 100m Medley Relay (Mixed)
  • Thursday 27th July
    • 50m Backstroke
    • 200m Butterfly
    • 4 x 200m Medley Relay
  • Friday 28th July
    • 100m Freestyle – can Sjöström break the world record twice in the same championships? Or will Simone Manuel triumph?
    • 200m Breaststroke
  • Saturday 29th July
    • 800m Freestyle – Ledecky will look to dominate this event once again
    • 200m Backstroke
    • 50m Butterfly
    • 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay (Mixed)
  • Sunday 30th July
    • 50m Freestyle
    • 50m Breaststroke
    • 400m Individual Medley – Hungarians everywhere will be hoping for a ‘golden goodbye’ to the 2017 championships, as Hosszú goes once again
    • 4 x 100m Medley Relay

Where can I watch it (UK only)?

The BBC are showing highlights every evening, and the rest of the action is on Eurosport.

Review of the Week – 24th July 2017

It all just seems to happen so quickly at the moment. No sooner does one major event finish than another one has popped up to replace it. Yesterday’s news will be wrapping tomorrow’s fish and chips, and all that.

KEY HEADLINES

Cricket – England win the World Cup

https://sportlikeagirl.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/report-cricket-england-triumph-over-india-in-world-cup-final/

England triumphed over India in a topsy-turvy World Cup final thanks to a wonderful final spell of bowling by Anya Shrubsole. India looked to be on their way to victory, before collapsing from 191-3 to 219 all out, chasing as target of 229 to win.

 

Football – England on course for the quarter-finals, but Scotland are in trouble

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/40694641

England followed up their 6-0 trouncing of Home Nations rivals Scotland with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Spain in their second group match, thanks to goals from Fran Kirby and Jodie Taylor. Although not mathematically certain to qualify, England know that they need only avoid defeat in their final group match against Portugal to top the group and qualify for the quarter-finals. By comparison, Scotland look to be heading home after slipping to their second defeat in a week, losing 2-1 to Portugal. Scotland looked like they may have a chance to claw themselves back into contention when Erin Cuthbert scored with a fine curling strike to cancel out Carolina Mendes’s opener, but Ana Leite quickly restored Portugal’s lead. Scotland must defeat Spain by two clear goals in their final game on Thursday and hope that England defeat Portgual.

 

Para-Athletics – Britain enjoys best-ever World Championships with 39 medals

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/disability-sport/40697902

Hannah Cockroft, Georgie Hermitage and Samantha Kinghorn led the way for Britain’s para-athletes at the World Championships in London. Britain won 18 gold medals in a total of 39 to finish third in the medal table, behind China and the USA. Cockroft continued her domination of the T34 class, winning the 100m, 400m and 800m events, while Hermitage won the T37 100m and 400m and Kinghorn triumphed in the T53 100m and 200m, and also took home bronze medals in the T53 400m and the T34 800m. Other notable medallists included: Sophie Hahn, who won the T38 100m and 200m titles; Kadeena Cox, who won the T38 400m; Sophie Kamlish, who won the T44 100m; Stef Reid, who won the T44 long jump; Olivia Breen, who won the T38 long jump; and Hollie Arnold, who won the F46 javelin.

 

Lacrosse – USA defeat Canada in World Cup final, while England take bronze with golden goal victory over Australia

http://www.englishlacrosse.co.uk/RWLC17/

USA finished the lacrosse World Cup tournament the way they have played throughout, with a dominant 10-5 victory over Canada in the final. The US raced to an 8-1 lead midway through the second half, before Canada came back strongly to make the final score respectable. In the bronze medal match, England scored an exciting golden goal to take the win against a strong Australia side.

 

Hockey – England take bronze as USA win World League in Johannesburg

http://www.fih.ch/events/hockey-world-league/2017-women-hockey-world-league-semi-final-rsa/news/usa-women-belgium-triumph-at-hockey-world-league-semi-finals/

From the 8th-23rd July, Johannesburg has played host to ten of the world’s best women’s hockey nations, in a tournament acting as a semi-final for the FIH World League 2016-17. The first semi-final took place in Brussels from 21st June-2nd July, and saw the Netherlands, China and South Korea qualify for the final, which will take place in Auckland from 17th-26th November. New Zealand qualify automatically as hosts, meaning that the top four from the Johannesburg semi-final would go through to the final. After a hard-fought tournament, the USA took first place after defeating Germany in a shoot-out, and England took the bronze medal match after defeating Argentina, who also qualify for the finals.

 

Swimming – World Swimming Championships start in Budapest

http://www.fina.org/event/17th-fina-world-championships

With the synchro, open water and diving competitions completed (bar the high dive which takes place 28th-30th July), and the water polo starting the knockout phase this week, attention turns to the swimming, which started on the 23rd July and runs through to the 30th July. Hosts Hungary are traditionally considered to be very enthusiastic about their aquatic sports, so a fantastic atmosphere is expected.

 

COMING UP THIS WEEK

  • Football: UEFA European Championships, Netherlands – July 16th-August 6th
    • Portugal v England – July 27th, 8:45pm
    • Scotland v Spain – July 27th, 8:45pm
  • Swimming/Aquatics: FINA World Championships, Budapest, Hungary – July 14th-30th
  • Parasport: Deaflympics, Turkey – July 18th-30th
  • Fencing: World Championships, Leipzig, Germany – July 19th-26th
  • BMX: UCI World Championships, Rock Hill, USA – July 24th-30th
  • Tennis: Swedish Open (WTA International), Båstad, Sweden – July 24th-30th
  • Tennis: Jiangxi Open (WTA International), Nanchang, China – July 24th-30th

Report – Cricket – England triumph over India in World Cup final

Hosts England triumphed in a wonderfully topsy-turvy World Cup final against India at the home of cricket. Lord’s witnessed a final that reminded me of what a wonderful game cricket is, and how quickly fortunes can change in any format of the game. Having lost to India in their opening match of the World Cup, England had gone unbeaten throughout the rest of the tournament, but looked to be heading to defeat towards the end of the final, before a wonderful spell of bowling from Anya Shrubsole tore through the Indian middle- and lower-order and took England to a nine-run victory.

After winning the toss, England chose to bat first and made a promising start, with Lauren Winfield and Tammy Beaumont sharing an opening stand of 47. But after Winfield was bowled by Rajeshwari Gayakwad, the home side lost their early momentum, and Beaumont and captain Heather Knight quickly followed Winfield back to the pavilion, leaving England under pressure at 63-3.

Sarah Taylor and Nat Sciver have been two of England’s most impressive performers throughout this tournament, and they steadied the ship with an excellent 83-run partnership to wrest back the initiative. Just as they seemed to be ready to accelerate on, and set India a daunting total, Taylor feathered a catch down the leg side off the bowling of Jhulan Goswami and was followed next ball by Fran Wilson, trapped lbw. Sciver followed a few overs later with the score at 164-6 and with England struggling to put the runs on the board during the crucial late overs of the game.

Katherine Brunt put on another crucial 32 runs alongside Jenny Gunn, before being run out by India’s young star Deepti Sharma, and Gunn and Laura Marsh then guided England through to the end of the 50 overs, putting on another 32 runs, leaving India with a below par target of 229 to win. In the Group Stage match in Derby, India had set England a total of 282 to win, and seen England fall all out for just 246, so the target seemed well within India’s reach, but then a World Cup final can do funny things to people.

England started the Indian innings fantastically, breaking through in the second over as Shrubsole caught Smriti Mandhana in front lbw. When Sciver ran out dangerous Indian captain Mithali Raj for just 17, India were wobbling at 43-2. Poonam Raut and Harmanpreet Kaur steadied the ship, and looked to have taken the match away from England in another excellent partnership, putting on 95 runs for the third wicket. Kaur eventually holed out to Tammy Beaumont off the bowling of Alex Hartley, but Veda Krishnamurthy picked up where Kaur had left off, and as the game ran into the final ten overs, India seemed to be on course for victory, to the delight of the large India-supporting sections of the Lord’s crowd.

Anya Shrubsole had obviously not read the Indian script. Her father had earlier shared an image of her as a nine-year old visiting Lord’s, and just when England needed a saviour, up she stepped, first trapping Raut lbw, then watching Hartley bowl Devi the next over, before Shrubsole had the dangerous Krishamurthy caught by Sciver, and then bowled Goswami two balls later. India had gone from 191-3 to 201-7 in the space of just over two overs, but even then, the game was not won.  England had seemed to be on the wrong side of luck on a few occasions, with dropped catches and misfields only heightening the tension on the day.

Needing just 28 runs off 30 balls, India were happy to pick up singles and inch their way towards victory. Dot balls were cheered by the crowd, but then a boundary from Deepti Sharma released some of the pressure. Having moved onto 218 runs, and now needing just 11 runs from 16 balls, Shikha Pandy was run out after an excellent throw by Shrubsole and quick work by wicketkeeper Taylor. Suddenly, India were marooned, with all of their recognised batters back in the hutch. Three dot balls later, Shrubsole was back, and with the first ball of her over she had Sharma caught by Sciver.  Two balls later Jenny Gunn, usually so reliable, dropped a dolly of a catch to reprieve Poonam Yadav, but Shrubsole was not to be denied.  She bowled another beautiful straight ball, lighting up the bails behind Gayakawad, to leave India ten runs short of victory.

What a wonderful advert this was for the women’s game, full of drama and tension, and a fitting end to a wonderful tournament. India will feel they could, indeed possibly should, have triumphed, but England will rejoice in their never-say-die attitude that has brought them to the pinnacle of the women’s game.

Preview – FINA Water Polo World Championships

What is it?

The water polo World Championship forms part of the FINA 2017 World Aquatics Championships, which also includes diving, swimming, open water swimming and synchronised swimming competitions (look out for more on some of these in the weekly review and in upcoming previews). It is a biennial competition, and is the name suggests, the aim is to crown the best water polo playing nation in the world. The 2017 edition will be the 13th women’s World Championship, having been established in 1986 (while a men’s competition has been running slightly longer, since 1973, with 2017 marking the 17th edition).

Where is it?

The 2017 World Aquatics Championships are taking place in Budapest in Hungary. Hungary has a long tradition of success in water polo, and the championships are expected to draw large crowds. The water polo matches are taking place at the Alfréd Hajós National Swimming Stadium on Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube River flowing through the heart of Budapest. The pool is named after Alfréd Hajós, a Hungarian swimmer who won two gold medals at the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens. Hajós was a versatile athlete, and as well as his swimming medals, he won Hungary’s 100m sprint, 400m hurdles and discus events in 1898, played football for the Hungarian national team, served as a football referee and coached the national team. After his sporting career, he then went on the become an award-winning architect and designed the stadium that now bears his name.

What is the format?

Sixteen teams have qualified for the 2017 tournament. These are split into four groups of four teams, which play each other in a round robin format in the Preliminary Stage. The top team in each group qualifies automatically for the quarter-finals, while the second and third placed teams have playoff matches to decide the remaining four quarter-finalists. From the quarter-finals onwards, the tournament is a straight knockout to the final on 28th July, although all sixteen teams play on after having been knocked out to give a full ranking at the end of the tournament.

Who are the qualifiers?

The groups for the Preliminary Stage are as follows:

  • Group A: Brazil, Canada, China, Italy
  • Group B: New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, USA
  • Group C: France, Hungary, Japan, Netherlands
  • Group D: Australia, Greece, Kazakhstan, Russia

Hungary qualified automatically as hosts. USA and Spain qualified thanks to their performance in the 2016 World League competition. Italy, Russia, Australia and China qualified at the 2016 Olympic tournament. France, Greece and the Netherlands qualified at the 2016 European championships. Brazil and Canada qualified at the Pan American Games. Japan, Kazakhstan, South Africa and New Zealand then qualified through their respective continental qualifying tournaments.

Who are the historical powerhouses?

Where men’s water polo has traditionally been dominated by Eastern and Southern European countries (predominantly Hungary, Serbia and Croatia in recent years), the women’s game has historically been less predictable, although in recent competitions the USA have begun to assert a level of dominance. In the twelve World Championship tournaments to date, the USA have four wins, Italy and Hungary have two apiece, and Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Greece have each won one.

What are the home team’s chances?

The Hungarian women’s team have struggled to match the success of their male compatriots, having finished no higher than 4th at an Olympic Games, and not having won the World Championships since 2005. Their best performance in recent times came in 2013, where they took the bronze medal.

Who are the players to watch out for?

  • Maggie Steffens (USA) the US captain led the way at the Olympic tournament in Rio, notching 17 goals as the team won the gold medal.  Steffens also won gold in 2012 in London, at a tournament where she was also prolific, scoring 21 goals. Steffens was named the Female Water Polo Player of the Year in 2012 and 2014.
  • Rita Keszthelyi (Hungary)Keszthelyi will lead the Hungarian women in their home tournament, and her talent has long been recognised in her home country, as she was named Hungarian Female Player of the Year in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, as well as being named in the Dream Team in the 2016 Olympic Games.
  • Giulia Emmolo (Italy) – Italy won the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and will be hoping to go one better in Budapest. If they are to do so, they will be relying on Emmolo to make her mark, as one of their key goalscorers.
  • Rowie Webster (Australia) – Australia’s captain has played over 200 games for the national team, and won bronze as part of the Australian Olympic team in London in 2012. She also holds the record for the most goals scored in one Australian National League season, with 99 goals scored.
  • Alexandra Asimaki (Greece) – 29-year-old Asimaki is the star centre-forward of the Greek team. She helped guide the Greek team to a gold medal in the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, and was named the FINA Female Player of the Year as a result of her goalscoring exploits. At club level, she has helped her team Olympiacos to the Greek title in each of the past three seasons, and won the LEN Euro League and LEN Super Cup in 2015.

What has happened already?

The Preliminary Stage of the tournament finished on 20th July. The quarter-finals will look like this:

  • Italy will play the winner of the playoff between Russia and the Netherlands
  • The USA will play the winner of the playoff between France and Australia
  • Hungary will play the winner of the playoff between Canada and New Zealand
  • Greece will play the winner of the playoff between China and Spain

The USA have looked particularly dangerous, scoring 58 goals in their three Preliminary Stage matches, although the majority of those goals came against minnows New Zealand and South Africa – the US team raced to a 6-1 lead at the end of the first quarter against eventual Group B runners-up Spain, but then lost the remaining three quarters 7-6, suggesting they may not have everything their own way over the rest of the tournament. Italy have progressed with limited difficulty, winning 10-4 against Canada, 18-4 against Brazil and 15-8 against China. Hosts Hungary also qualify as group winners, mainly thanks to a hard-fought 10-8 win over the Netherlands.

Where can I watch it (UK only)?

Sadly, I have no idea – I’m yet to find any coverage anywhere, including online. If anyone knows anything more, could you let me know please!

Report – England 6-0 Scotland

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England women (picture courtesy of joshjdss under license)

Jodie Taylor became the first England women to hit a hat-trick in a major tournament (and the first England player full stop to score one in the European Championships) as England sent out an emphatic message to their Euro 2017 rivals with a thumping victory over the Auld Enemy Scotland in their opening group game. Having failed to win their opening game at any major tournament for the past 12 years, this was an encouraging sign, although the Lionesses will likely encounter stiffer opposition in the remainder of the tournament.

Usually, the opening games of major tournaments are cagey affairs, with neither side wanting to make mistakes or drop points. This match, however, had much more of a derby feel to it, and the early period saw end-to-end action, with some chances for both teams. Indeed, it was Scotland who took the game on immediately, with a long range shot from Jane Ross tipped over rather nervously by Karen Bardsley in the England goal. From there, however, the action clearly favoured England, who found space down both flanks and had the dangerous Fran Kirby looking threatening on the counter-attack, and dropping between the lines to cause havoc with the Scottish defence.

After just ten minutes, England were ahead. A through ball from Lucy Bronze seemed intended for Kirby, but a clever dummy dragged two Scottish defenders with her, and left Taylor clean through on goal, with Gemma Fay unable to prevent the striker stroking the ball home. This is unlikely to have been the Scottish goalkeeper’s dream for her 200th cap. Scotland continued to look for the direct ball up to Ross up front, but the striker looked increasingly isolated as the game progressed, and the England midfield soon began to control the game. The Lionesses showed impressive fitness, with Jordan Nobbs particularly visible, and Bronze and Stokes providing an outlet on either side as they bombed forward to support the attack.

As the game seemed to be pausing for breath, Kirby earned a dubious free kick out on the left hand side of the penalty area. Nobbs floated in the cross and Bronze leapt for the header which was hacked off the line by the Scottish defence. The ball fell kindly to Taylor, who showed excellent composure to steer it into the goal, although questions should be asked of Fay’s positioning and command of her six-yard box. England’s two goal lead quickly became three as Jill Scott launched a long range shot which cannoned back off the bar. Ellen White, although a few yards behind the Scottish defence, was first to react, and pounced on the rebound to direct the ball past Fay for the third time.

Shortly after half-time, Taylor completed her hat-trick. Captain Steph Houghton hit a long free kick, which was flicked on by White into the path of Taylor, who dinked a lovely weighted lob over Fay and into the net. With the game won, coach Mark Sampson was able to shuffle his attacking pack, taking off Taylor to a standing ovation, and replacing her with Barcelona-bound Toni Duggan, and also taking the opportunity to rest Kirby and White for Parris and Carney respectively.

With the game won, it seemed that England were happy to take their foot off the gas and see out the remaining minutes, although Bardsley and Houghton both seemed determined to maintain their clean sheet. As the game entered the final five minutes, Nobbs volleyed in a sublime finish off a deflected cross from Carney to cap an excellent performance, and with the last kick of the game Nobbs swung in a corner which was headed goalwards by Houghton before being tipped past Fay in true poacher’s fashion by Duggan.

England now move on to arguably the trickiest match of their group stage against Spain (who defeated Portugal 2-0 yesterday), while Scotland need to regroup quickly ahead of their match against Portugal. Goal difference will now not be their friend in their quest to make it to the knockout stage.

Preview – UEFA Euro 2017

What is it?

The UEFA Women’s Championship is a competition between the best women’s international football teams in Europe. It takes place every four years. The 2017 edition (which I’m just going to refer to as Euro 2017, since there isn’t another international football competition happening in Europe this summer) will be the 12th version, and will be taking place across the Netherlands from 16th July 16th to 6th August.

What is the format?

The competition this year has expanded to 16 teams, up from the 12 that contested Euro 2013. The teams are split into four groups, who play each other in a round-robin format during the Group Stage, earning three points for a win and one point for a draw, as usual. The group winners and runners-up qualify for the quarter-finals, and it’s then a straight knockout to the final in Enschede on 6th August. There are various permutations in the event of a tie at the end of the group stage, starting with the results, then goal difference, then goals scored in the games between the tied teams, then the same criteria across all of the group games, then potentially a penalty shoot-out if there are only two teams tied and they happen to be playing each other in the final round of matches. After that it’s down to a ‘fair play’ factor (with teams given points for yellow and red cards during their games), and if that doesn’t solve it, the higher ranked team will progress. During the knockout stages, extra-time and penalties will be used in the event of a draw.

What is the prize?

The winning team will take home €1.2m, with a total prize fund of €8m. By comparison, the winning men’s team from Euro 2016 took home €27m.

Who are the qualifiers?

The groups for the Group Stage break down as follows:

  • Group A: Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway
  • Group B: Germany, Italy, Russia, Sweden
  • Group C: Austria, France, Iceland, Switzerland
  • Group D: England, Portugal, Scotland, Spain

Austria, Belgium, Portugal, Scotland and Switzerland are making their first appearance at a European Championships.

Who are the historical powerhouses?

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Germany defend a corner against Sweden (picture courtesy of Blondinrikard Froberg)

Germany are the standout European team in women’s football. They have won the European Championships on eight separate occasions (including once in 1989 as West Germany) and have won the previous six tournaments. The only other teams to have won the competition are Norway (who won in 1993 and in 1987, when the tournament was badged as the ‘European Competition for Women’s Football’) and Sweden (who also won the ‘European Competition for Women’s Football’ in 1984). Denmark and Italy won unofficial tournaments in 1979 and 1969 respectively.

Germany are the second-ranked team in the world currently, although they will have strong competition from other high-ranked teams France (ranked 3rd), England (ranked 5th) and Sweden (ranked 9th).

What are the home team’s chances?

The Dutch side (following their recent rebranding exercise) go into the tournament ranked 12th in the world, and will hope that their home support can inspire them to victory. Captained by Reading defender Mandy van den Berg, they will be hoping that Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema can continue her excellent goalscoring record, with 41 goals in 51 matches for the national team. Also included in the squad are veterans Sherida Spitse and Loes Geurts.

What about the Home Nations?

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England women (picture courtesy of joshjdss under license)

England have improved in recent years, and finished third at the 2015 World Cup in Canada, defeating Germany in the third-place playoff match. They were unbeaten throughout their qualifying campaign, with seven wins and a solitary draw at home to Belgium. Captained by Manchester City defender Steph Houghton, and with the experienced Jill Scott, Alex Scott (no relation) and Fara Williams in the side, they will be hoping that Toni Duggan’s recent move to Barcelona can inspire her to goalscoring glory, while midfielder Frank Kirby was described by coach Mark Sampson as a ‘mini-Messi’ following her performance against Mexico during the 2015 World Cup.

Scotland qualify for the European Championships for the first time in 2017. They are ranked 21st in the world, although their ranking has been gradually increasing over recent years, and they will hope to surprise some of the other participants, not least big rivals England, who they meet in their opening match on 19th July. Captain Gemma Fay will win her 200th cap if selected for that match, while Manchester City forward Jane Ross is their main goalscoring threat.

Who are the players to watch out for?

  • Dzsenifer Marozsan (Germany) – the German captain will be hoping to make it seven wins on the trot at the European Championships. Born in Budapest, she became the youngest scorer in the Bundesliga at just 15-years-old, and in recent years has inspired Germany to an Olympic gold medal, and has won the Champion’s League with her club Lyon. She was named 2016’s best female playmaker in the world by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, and was selected in FIFA’s FIFPro World XI 2016. She has scored 30 goals in 75 appearances for the national team.
  • Pernille Harder (Denmark) – the striker and Denmark captain has been prolific in recent years, scoring 45 goals in 84 matches for Denmark, as well as 70 goals in 87 games for Linköping FC between 2012-2016, earning her a move to German side Wolfsburg earlier this year. Harder is often at the centre of Denmark’s better play, and links up very well with compatriot Nadia Nadim.
  • Jordan Nobbs (England) – while Kirby and Williams often grab the headlines, Nobbs has overcome injury at the 2015 World Cup to quietly develop into a linchpin of England’s play. An energetic midfielder, she was recently crowned England’s player of the year, and helped her team Arsenal to FA Cup victory in May.
  • Lotta Schelin (Sweden) – her country’s leading goalscorer is often compared with compatriot Zlatan Ibrahimovic, more for her goalscoring exploits and rangy physique than for weird philosophical discussions and referring to herself in the third person. Although the Swedish side have a lot of young talented players coming through the ranks, they will still rely on Schelin to chip in with goals to guide them to the latter stages of the tournament.
  • Camille Abily (France) – after Lyon and PSG made it an all-French final in the women’s Champions League earlier this year, hopes are high that France can improve on recent disappointments in international tournaments. At 32, Abily is one of the older players in the French squad, but is playing as well as ever, and the attacking midfielder’s helped guide Lyon to the double-treble this year (winning the French Division 1 Féminine, the Coupe de France Féminine and the Champions League in both 2015 and 2016).

What has happened already?

The tournament kicked off on 16th July, and six matches have already been played:

  • Netherlands 1-0 Norway
  • Denmark 1-0 Belgium
  • Italy 1-2 Russia
  • Germany 0-0 Sweden
  • Austria 1-0 Switzerland
  • France 1-0 Iceland

What are the key matches in the rest of the Group Stage?

The big matches (‘derbies’ and against the top two seeds in each group) to look out for are (with local times i.e. one hour ahead of BST):

  • Spain v Portugal – 19th July 18:00
  • England v Scotland – 19th July 20:45
  • Germany v Italy – 21st July 20:45
  • England v Spain – 23rd July 20:45
  • Belgium v Netherlands – 24th July 20:45
  • Norway v Denmark – 24th July 20:45
  • Switzerland v France – 26th July 20:45

The other Home Nations matches are:

  • Scotland v Portugal – 23rd July 18:00
  • Portugal v England – 27th July 20:45
  • Scotland v Spain – 27th July 20:45

What do the bookies think?

Looking today, Betfair have the following (approximate) odds:

  • Germany 2-1
  • France 5-2
  • England 7-1
  • Netherlands 8-1
  • Sweden 9-1

Where can I watch it (UK only)?

Channel 4 have the UK broadcast rights, and are showing England v Scotland live on 19th July. The BBC are providing radio coverage.