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

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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!).

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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

eng women

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?

gervsew

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?

eng women

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.

Preview – ICC Women’s World Cup 2017

What is it?

The ICC Women’s World Cup is the oldest and most prestigious competition in international women’s cricket. It serves as the world championships for the One Day International (“ODI”) cricket format. The women’s World Cup actually predates the men’s version, with the first World Cup being held in 1973. However, some larger gaps between editions due to funding issues around the early championships mean that the 2017 edition is the 11th Women’s World Cup, whereas the men held their 11th edition in 2015. Prior to 2005, the competition was run by International Women’s Cricket Council (“IWCC”), and post-2005 it was taken over by the International Cricket Council (“ICC”), following their merger with the IWCC.

What is the format this year?

Eight teams qualified for the World Cup. In the initial group stage, all eight teams play each other in a league format. Following the group stage, the top four teams qualify for the semi-finals, with the top-ranked team playing against the fourth-ranked team, and the second- and third-ranked teams facing off against each other. The winners of each semi-final then meet in the final on 23rd July. There is no 3rd place playoff.

Who are the qualifiers?

Between 2014 and 2016, eight nations (Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies) played seven rounds of one-day series, with each team playing the other seven once. At the end of this ICC Women’s Championship, the top four teams (Australia, England, New Zealand and the West Indies) qualified for the World Cup, and the bottom four went into a World Cup Qualifier tournament against six other nations: Bangladesh and Ireland, who qualify by virtue of having ODI status: Zimbabwe, who won an African regional competition; Thailand, who won an Asian regional competition; Papua New Guinea, who won an East Asia-Pacific regional competition; and Scotland, who won the European regional competition. Unsurprisingly, the bottom four from the ICC Women’s Championship came through the Qualifier, leaving us with the same eight teams to contest the World Cup.

What are the home team’s chances?

Only three teams have won the World Cup: Australia; England; and New Zealand. Going into the 2017 tournament, Australia are the top ranked team in the world, but England are ranked second, and will hope that home advantage can give them the competitive edge. England lost their opening match against India, but since then have won six matches on the spin, and have qualified for the semi-finals as the top team in the Group Stage.

Who are the players to watch out for?

Meg Lanning from Australia tops the batting rankings going into the tournament, followed by India’s Mithali Raj and fellow Aussie Ellyse Perry. From an English perspective, Natalie Sciver has the highest ranking at number 7, but Tamsin Beaumont has topped the scoring charts in the Group Stage, ahead of Perry and Raj. For the bowlers, South Africa’s Marizanne Kapp tops the rankings, ahead of Australia’s Jess Jonassen and the Windies Stafanie Taylor. In the Group Stage, India’s Ekta Bisht has taken the most wickets, with 13, ahead of compatriot Shikha Pandey with 11 and South Africa’s Dane van Niekerk with 10.

What is the schedule now?

England play South Africa in Bristol on the 18th July. In the Group Stage, England beat the Proteas by 68 runs in the a high-scoring match. South Africa showed their potency in becoming the first women’s team to score more than 300 runs when batting second, but England’s total of 365, built on the back of a partnership between Tammy Beaumont and Sarah Taylor worth 275 runs, proved to be beyond them. The second semi-final will see Australia take on India in Derby on the 20th July. India are the only team to have beaten England at the tournament, defeating them in the opening match, but were comfortably defeated by Australia in the Group Stage. In the match against Australia, Mithali Raj became the leading run-scorer in women’s ODIs, passing England’s Charlotte Edwards (5,992 runs) and 6,000 runs on her way to 69.

The final will take place at Lord’s in London on the 23rd July.

Where can I watch it (UK only)?

Sky Sports are showing all of the World Cup matches live, and listeners can tune in to TMS on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra or via the BBC Sport website.

Review of the Week – 17th July 2017

Another wonderful weekend of sport, and I couldn’t help but reflect on how much more enjoyable summer sport is.  I think the best thing for me is the variety – for me, this weekend was tennis, cycling, tennis, formula one, tennis, para-athletics, cricket and a little more tennis.  I also find that the sports pages are much more interesting when they don’t just have half of their content taken up with the Premier League.  But then the Premier League season rolls around once more and I forgot all that amid the whirlwind of wondering whether this year will indeed be Liverpool’s year.  Sigh.

KEY HEADLINES

Tennis – Garbiñe Muguruza is the new Wimbledon champion

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/tennis/40619110

The Spaniard beat former champion Venus Williams in straight sets 7-5 6-0 to claim her second Grand Slam title.  The first set was a tight affair, with Williams looking the more dominant.  But when Williams failed to capitalise on set points in the tenth game, Muguruza pounced, breaking the Williams serve to take the first set, and then taking advantage as Williams crumbled.

 

Golf – Park Sung-hyun wins US Women’s Open

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/golf/40627394

In her debut season, the 23-year-old South Korean Park took her debut LPGA title.  China’s Shanshan Feng started the day one shot clear of two more South Koreans: 17-year-old amateur Choi Hye-Jin; and Amy Yang, with Park a further two shots back.  Feng, seeking to become the first Chinese winner of the US Open, shot a disappointing 3-over-par 75 to drop out of contention, while Park finished with a final round 67 to take the title with an overall 11-under-par score.

 

Cricket – England through to World Cup semi-finals after sixth straight win

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/40618796

England defeated the West Indies by 92 runs in Bristol to claim their sixth straight victory of the tournament, and qualify for the semi-finals of the World Cup at the top of the league table.  They will face South Africa on Tuesday, while the second semi-final will see Australia take on India.

 

Lacrosse – USA in ominous form

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

It looks like it will take something special to dethrone red-hot favourites the USA in the Lacrosse World Cup taking place in Guildford.  The USA defeated Canada 17-3 to make it four wins out of four, having already dismantled hosts England 18-1 on Saturday, Australia 18-5 on Friday and Scotland 19-3 on Thursday. The group stage concludes on Tuesday, with quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday respectively.

 

Football – Netherlands ‘lionesses’ in crest rebrand

https://www.buzzfeed.com/ikrd/people-really-love-that-the-dutch-womens-football-crest-has?utm_term=.vkjDmog1P#.enRezZJXR

In advance of the UEFA Women’s European Championships, which kicked off this weekend, the Netherlands have announced a change to the crest of their women’s team.  For the past 46 years, the Dutch women have shared the same crest as the men (heraldry isn’t really my thing, but I guess it’s something along the lines of ‘an azure lion rampant on a field of tangerine’), but from this tournament onwards, they will be represented by a lioness.  I have to say I think it’s a pretty cool change, although, most Dutch kit decisions are pretty cool – what can’t you love about bright orange everywhere?!

 

Water polo – England win EU Nations Cup

http://www.waterpoloengland.org/2017/07/16/gold-for-englands-senior-women-in-the-2017-eu-nations/

England’s senior women have lifted the EU Nations Cup with a 12-6 victory over South Africa in Plisen, Czech Republic.  Despite missing two penalties and trailing 4-3 at half time, England came back strongly in the second half.  Katie Hesketh led the scoring charts with three goals, while goalkeeper Kate Read was named Tournament’s Best Goalkeeper.  England now hold both the senior and junior versions of the EU Nations Cup.

 

Football – Lewes FC become first professional club to pay men and women equally

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/jul/12/lewes-fc-first-club-equal-pay-men-women

Lewes FC announced this week that, as part of their Equality FC campaign, they will pay both their men’s and women’s sides equally, as well as provide equal resources for coaching, training and facilities.  Lewes FC men play in the Isthmian League Division One South and the women play in the FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division.

 

Para-Athletics – Stef Reid wins long jump gold at World Para-Athletic Championships in London

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-paraathletics-championships/2017/07/15/stef-reid-upgrades-silver-win-long-jump-gold/

Having so often left major championships as the silver medallist, on this occasion there was only ever going to be one winner, as Stef Reid gave an impressively consistent display to take her first major gold medal in the T44 long jump.

 

COMING UP THIS WEEK

  • Football: UEFA European Championships, Netherlands – July 16th-August 6th
    • England v Scotland – July 19th, 8:45pm (live on Channel 4)
  • Parasport: ParaAthletics World Championships, London – July 14th-23rd
  • Cricket: ICC Women’s World Cup – June 24th-July 23rd
  • Swimming/Aquatics: FINA World Championships, Budapest, Hungary – July 14th-30th
  • Lacrosse: World Cup, Guildford – July 12th-22nd
  • Volleyball: FIVB U20 World Championships, Mexico – July 14th-24th
  • Hockey: World League, Johannesburg – July 8th-23rd
  • Parasport: Deaflympics, Turkey – July 18th-30th
  • Multi-sport: Commonwealth Youth Games, Bahamas – July 19th-23rd
  • Fencing: World Championships, Leipzig, Germany – July 19th-26th
  • Athletics: European Junior Championships, Grosetto, Italy – July 20th-23rd

 

Report – Venus DeMolition! Garbiñe Muguruza is the new Wimbledon champion

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Garbiñe Muguruza (picture by Carine06, shared under licence)

For almost an hour, it seemed possible that Centre Court would witness yet another episode in the saga of Williams triumphs that have dominated women’s tennis in the past decade. In the absence of her younger sister Serena, Venus was rolling back the years, showing her strength on serve and from the back of the court, and moving with a freedom that belied her age. On the other side of the net, the comparative rookie Garbiñe Muguruza seemed to be struggling under the pressure of only her third grand slam final. Her usually reliable forehand seemed vulnerable, and a serve which had only been broken four times in the entire tournament now looked under serious threat.

In the tenth game of the first set, Williams pressure and Muguruza errors took the score to 15-40. Two set points for Williams to take a huge step towards her sixth Wimbledon title. And what a chance she had on the first point, moving Muguruza around the baseline, and then, when all she needed was a trademark forehand winner, Venus dumped the shot into the net. Chance gone, and a big clutch serve from Muguruza on the next point took away the break chance. Muguruza held two points later.

Much is made of ‘turning points’, those crucial moments where momentum seems to swing. Here, though, was the epitome of such a moment. Up to that point, Williams had seemed strong and assured, but suddenly she was nervous and drained of energy. Muguruza was energised, and as Williams missed first serves and committed double faults at crucial moments, the Spaniard pounced, grabbing a break for 6-5 and serving out to win the first set.

All of a sudden, the match was all Muguruza. She immediately broke the Williams serve, backed it up with a hold of her own, and Williams seemed to visibly crumble, the scoreboard ticking over ever more rapidly. 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, 5-0. Suddenly Muguruza was serving for the title. Williams, ever the warrior, tried to dig deep, but seemed depleted of any reserves. The final point of the match was decided, somewhat unsatisfactorily, via Hawkeye, which determined that Williams had indeed hit her final shot long. Muguruza took a moment, before realisation set in: she was the new Wimbledon champion. She sank to her knees, before signalling her delight to her player’s box, including coach and 1994 Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez.

Immediately after the match, Muguruza reflected on her previous experience, having been beaten by Venus’s sister Serena in the Wimbledon final in 2015: “I didn’t want to lose this time, because I know the difference. I’m happy that once again I see myself winning a Grand Slam, something that is hard to do. It means a lot of confidence,” she said. She also paid tribute to her opponent: “She’s such an incredible player. I grew up watching her play. I was so excited to go there and win especially over someone like a role model.”

In the analysis of the match, Williams refused to blame her long-standing battle with auto-immune disease Sjogren’s syndrome for her dramatic loss of form. Avoiding direct questions on the matter, she said “[Muguruza] competed really well. So credit to her. She just dug in there and managed to play better. There’s always something to learn from matches that you win and the ones that you don’t win. So there’s definitely something for me to learn from this. But at the same time looking back, it’s always about looking forward, too.”

Having lost to sister Serena in the Australian Open final, and now to Muguruza at Wimbledon, this season can still be regarded as a success for the 37-year-old, but she must be concerned that her future opportunities for grand slam success will become more and more limited.

Indeed, this victory for Muguruza felt something like a changing of the guard. Her baseline play throughout the tournament has, at times, seemed to be laser-guided, and with her main rivals either out of action or struggling with form, she has an opportunity to step into the void created by Serena’s absence. Martinez has no doubt about the opportunity facing her student: “She has the potential and she can win more. She is very happy with her game. She beat the world number one, Kerber, and she can go all the way.”