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Wife key to Marquez vs. Pacquiao V

December 20th, 2012 No comments


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Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez went head-to-head for the first time in the featherweight division in 2004, a controversial bout which ended as a draw. The result stood, despite one judge admitting he had made a mistake when scoring a round 10-7 to Pacquiao rather than 10-6. They stepped back into the ring in a super featherweight fight in 2008, pictured above.

Pacquiao was given the fight and subsequently took Marquez’s super featherweight title, with a knockdown in the third round proving the difference after all other rounds were scored equal.

Controversy once again reigned when the two fought for a third time in in a welterweight bout in November 2011.

Pacquiao was awarded another points win, a decision greeted by boos from the Las Vegas crowd.

Marquez knocked out Pacquiao in the sixth round Saturday night in Las Vegas. Pacquiao lay motionless for a while, before eventually sitting up. With the technical knockout, Marquez was declared the winner.

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(CNN) — He may have knocked out eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao during their recent bout in Las Vegas but if Juan Manuel Marquez wants a fifth fight against the legendary Filipino he’ll need to get permission from his wife.

The Mexican stunned the world of boxing by knocking out Pacquiao in the sixth round of their welterweight contest earlier in December.

It was the first time the 39-year-old has claimed victory in four fights against Pacquiao, who many pundits regard to be the finest pound-for-pound fighter the sport has ever seen.

But with fans clamoring for a fifth bout, Marquez says the only way it will become a reality is if his wife allows him to renege on his promise to retire whatever the outcome of the fourth.

Read: Has Pacquiao boxed himself into a corner?

“I made a promise and I know that promises are debts,” Márquez said in an interview with CNN en Español.

Juan Manuel Marquez denies drug use

Pacquiao: I want to knock out doubters

“I don’t see a case to fight again but logically he wants a chance,” he added of talk that he and Pacquiao could square off for a fifth time.

Marquez’s emphatic victory offered the Mexican some redemption after he failed to win any of the first three fights against Pacquiao.

Their first encounter in May 2004 ended in a draw, while the Filipino took a points victory at the conclusion of their rematch four years later.

But their third clash in November 2011 ended in controversy when Pacquiao was awarded victory in a marginal points decision.

The crowd booed as the judges’ verdict was read out and Marquez claimed he should have been declared the victor.

That disappointment made his knockout of Pacquiao, who lay motionless for several minutes after being hit with the decisive blow, even sweeter for the veteran.

“It was a point in my favor because the other fights have ended in controversy but for me this was a clear success,” Marquez said. “For me it was a perfect shot — I think the knockout has been one of the best in a while.”

Pacquiao is one of the sport’s greats, winning titles at eight different weight divisions. In recent years he’s combined his exploits in the ring with a political career in the Phillipines.

His defeat left the country devastated, especially in the aftermath of a super typhoon that devastated parts of the country days before the fight.

Pacquiao’s wife was also seen in tears and has since pleaded with her husband to quit. Marquez said he shared her pain having watched a tape of the fight.

“It happened to him now and it could have been me. We are both exposed to this and it made me very sad that Manny Pacquiao’s wife was crying,” Marquez added.

Pacquiao has now lost two fights in a row after his defeat to American Timothy Bradley in June, though he did make a purse of around $25 million for the fourth installment of his battle with Marquez.

Marquez dedicated his victory to his family, coaching staff, and especially to the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto.

“I want to dedicate this fight to the new president of Mexico, but with the condition that he handles his duties well,” Marquez said.

The 39-year-old had been criticized in some quarters, including on social networking sites, for his support of Nieto, leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

He said: “I’m no tiny of piece of gold that will be liked by everyone, many people are in one political party, other people are with another, I simply speak as a citizen.”

The fighter was fined last October for wearing political propaganda in support of PRI in his third fight against Pacquiao.


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The world’s toughest sportsman?

December 20th, 2012 No comments


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Editor’s note: CNN’s Human to Hero series screens on World Sport at 1700 GMT (1200 ET) and 2230 GMT every Wednesday, and 0500 GMT Thursdays.

(CNN) — It’s not easy carrying the burden of a sports-mad nation’s lofty expectations of world-beating dominance on your shoulders, especially on home soil, but Richie McCaw did it — with a broken foot.

Battered and bruised, and knowing that the All Blacks’ other iconic star player, Dan Carter, had already been ruled out for the rest of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, McCaw soldiered on for three crucial matches — four hours of on-field punishment

He hid the extent of his injury from fans, media, his coaches and teammates to keep alive his dream of being the first New Zealand captain to lift the Webb Ellis trophy for almost a quarter of a century.

“The team had been number one in the world, or close to it, for a lot of years during the disappointment of not winning it,” McCaw told CNN’s Human to Hero series.

Human to Hero: Richie McCaw

Dan Carter’s top 5 rugby fly-halfs

Carter targets All Black rugby legacy

New Zealand loves the haka

“We had a team that was good enough, but it doesn’t mean anything when you get to a tournament like that, if you don’t put it on the field where it counts.

“There was heartache along the way, but the appreciation of what you’ve done … I certainly appreciated it. The first emotions were sheer relief that we’d finally been able to knock it off. Had we not gone through that, maybe it wouldn’t mean as much as it did.”

When it comes to rugby, New Zealanders expect victory. Nothing else will do. Defeat is rare — and as painful as the body blows that are routine for those who play one of the world’s most physically demanding sports.

The traditional Maori war dance that the All Blacks perform before every match — known as “the Haka” — is one of the most fearsome, and highly anticipated, sights on the international rugby stage.

“It is something very unique to New Zealand,” McCaw said. “It’s who we are and were we come from … a little island way down south, a long way from anywhere. It’s a pretty powerful symbol of what the All Blacks and New Zealand is all about.”

So it was a matter of great national hurt that the All Blacks had not been world champions since winning the inaugural tournament in 1987, also at home.

“Up until the (2011) World Cup, everyone acknowledged, “Ah the All Blacks are great,’ but there was always a ‘but’ — I suppose because they hadn’t won the World Cup. To not have that ‘but’ anymore was pretty satisfying,” McCaw said.

McCaw knows all about winning. Having become first All Black to achieve a century of Test appearances during the 2011 World Cup, this year he reached 100 victories from just 112 appearances — a phenomenal strike rate.

He suffered heartbreak in 2003, losing in the World Cup semifinals to arch-rivals Australia, and in 2007 the All Blacks crashed out ignominiously against France in the quarterfinals, leading McCaw to reconsider his future as captain.

Instead of making wholesale changes, the New Zealanders regrouped and went into the 2011 tournament — once again — as hot favorites.

McCaw reached his century of caps in the third pool game against France, but his foot problem ruled him out of the match against Canada — and international rugby’s record points scorer Carter, who was to replace him as captain, then suffered a tournament-ending injury in training.

Rugby love starts early in New Zealand

New Zealand’s triumphant team perform a victory Haka after their 8-7 win over France

All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock is an unlikely try scorer to put his side 5-0 ahead in Auckland

France captain Thierry Dusautoir is congratulated after scoring his side’s try at Eden Park

France coach Marc Lievremont and his captain Thierry Dusautoir reflect on their World Cup near miss

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All Blacks triumph in Rugby World Cup final

Captain and coach Richie McCaw and Graham Henry take the plaudits from the jubilant fans

The streets of Auckland were jam packed for Monday’s victory parade for the triumphant All Blacks

New Zealand coach Graham Henry has been named coach of the year by the International Rugby Board after his World Cup heroics

New Zealand prime minister John Key gets to grips with the World Cup with assistant coach Wayne Smith

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw shows off the William Webb Ellis Trophy to the massive crowd in Auckland

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New Zealand celebrates its World Cup triumph

“I didn’t know what to say to Dan,” McCaw recalls in his autobiography “The Open Side.”

“Here’s a guy, a decent humble man, acknowledged to be the best of his generation, perhaps of any generation, who’s been crocked at the top of his game just when he’s about to perform on the biggest stage.

“I’ve had the odd moment since Dan went down this afternoon where I thought, ‘Jesus, it could be the two of us.’ But sitting with Dan, I know that it can’t be me now. Can’t happen. No moaning about my foot. Unlike Dan, I’ve still got a chance of playing and somehow, any old how, that’s what I’ve got to do.”

McCaw returned for the quarterfinal against Argentina, in which teammate Mils Muliaina became the second All Black to win 100 caps but then went off with a fractured shoulder. The injury crisis was mounting, and McCaw had his own worries.

“If I have to jump or run or push or tackle, I can do it — adrenaline’s a great painkiller. But when play stops and I have to walk or jog to a lineout or scrum 20 meters away, I’m really struggling.” he says in his book.

McCaw played the full 80 minutes in a 20-6 crushing of Australia, then held on to the bittersweet end in a nerve-wracking 8-7 win over France in the title decider — a rematch of the 1987 final that he had watched as a boy.

“I was about age 6 and watching it on TV. The image that I have in my head is John Kirwan scoring one of the tries,” he said.

“That sort of stuck with me I suppose. I thought it would be pretty cool to be like him.”

While Kirwan was one of New Zealand’s star backs, McCaw would go on to follow in the rugged boot prints of legendary forwards such Wayne Shelford, Michael Jones and Josh Kronfeld.

He has been named world player of the year three times, drawing both respect and anger from opponents and critics for his uncanny ability to tread the fine line between smart thinking and illegal play — as did one of his predecessors as skipper, 1987 World Cup winner Sean Fitzpatrick.

Having finally landed New Zealand’s holy grail, McCaw is hoping to play at the next World Cup in England in 2015, when he’ll be 35.

England rugby coach Stuart Lancaster with the Webb Ellis trophy after the draw for the 2015 World Cup, which his country will host. England will be in the toughest group along with Wales and Australia.

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, right, accepted the IRB team of the year award during the ceremony in London, while his coach Steve Hansen also scooped a prize.

Dan Carter was dejected after New Zealand’s shock 38-21 defeat by England two days before the World Cup draw, but rugby’s record points scorer gained some consolation after being named the world’s best player for the second time.

England ended the world champions’ 20-match unbeaten run at Twickenham, inspired by Samoa-born center Manu Tuilagi.

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Draw for 2015 Rugby World Cup

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Jean de Villiers Springbok captain

Biarritz and France No. 8 Imanol Harinordoquy played with a protector over his broken nose against Munster in a 2010 Heineken Cup semifinal match.

The eyes have it: A New Zealand player gets a close-up view of Bakkies Botha’s digits, as the South African lock crosses the line between aggression and assault.

Ireland’s Ronan O’Gara sports a classic shiner training with the British and Irish Lions in South Africa in 2009. The same player was on the receiving end of a furious attack from Australian Duncan McRae during a match in 2007.

A red rose to a bull: England’s Mike Tindall bears the scars and a torn shirt after finding himself on the end of a few boots while at the bottom of a ruck.

England lock Simon Shaw, with something attached to the right side of his head that vaguely resembles an ear, almost single-handedly tries to stop an Irish maul.

Former England loosehead prop and current England scrum coach Graham Rowntree. Never a man to do things by halves, he is owner of perhaps the finest pair of cauliflower ears in rugby.

From a different era: Former New Zealand captain Wayne “Buck” Shelford has gone down in history after playing through an injury that would makes most want to give the game up. His scrotum was torn by an opponent’s errant stud in a match against France, but was stitched up on the sidelines and continued to play on.

Spear tackles are classified as dangerous play in rugby because of the potential for serious injury.

A scrum pops up between Australian and Samoan forwards. The dark arts of the scrum are a mystery for most — it’s a place where biting, gouging and dirty tricks can go unnoticed by referees.

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Taking the hits

But after a long career as one of the most dynamic and influential forwards in rugby, it’s time to take a break — a six-month sabbatical in which he plans to get away from it all.

He has plenty of incentive to come back stronger — his last match was a shock defeat to England last month which ended the All Blacks’ 20-match unbeaten run.

“I hope having the time off will make me play a bit longer. So I’m taking it before I desperately need it, with the hope I’ll come back fresh mentally and physically,” he said.

“I’m pretty keen to get away and have a look at places I’ve haven’t been before and where rugby is not something people know too much about. That’s part of what wears you down a little bit, when you are living in fishbowl like you do in New Zealand, and it’s just nice to have a bit of time to be anonymous.”

McCaw has hinted that he will head to the U.S. and indulge his other passion — flying.

His grandfather was a fighter pilot during World War Two, and he has continued the family interest, being named an honorary squadron leader in the New Zealand Air Force.

He flies planes, helicopters and gliders, and has even narrated an aviation TV program.

“Dad flies, his brothers fly, a couple of my cousins fly, my aunty flies. We’ve got flying in common. When I go home to the old man we sit and talk way more about flying than rugby,” McCaw says in “The Open Side.”

“Gliding teaches you that you’ve got to be prepared as you possibly can for whatever contingencies of terrain and weather might eventuate when you’re up there. At the same time, you have to acknowledge that no matter how much you prepare, no matter how thorough you are, you can’t anticipate everything that Nature and Fate throw at you.”

When he returns from his sabbatical in mid-2013, McCaw knows that the rugby world will be trying to knock him and the All Blacks off their pedestal.

“A lot of people ask me what’s left to achieve or why do you still want to play. I guess you readjust the challenges,” he told CNN.

“You have the tag of world champions for four years — you try to live up to that every time. I know what it’s like, I’ve tried to knock off the world champs the following year.

“If we have that sort of goal, that sort of attitude, hopefully we will keep that level where it needs to be.”


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Chelsea ease into League Cup semis

December 20th, 2012 No comments

(CNN) — Globetrotting Chelsea bounced back from their defeat in the FIFA Club World Cup final to Corinthians with a resounding victory in the League Cup at Leeds.

Rafael Benitez’s side ran out 5-1 winners at the second tier outfit, having trailed 1-0 at halftime, thanks to goals from Juan Mata, Branislav Ivanovic, Victor Moses, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres.

Having arrived back in London from Japan on Monday after their defeat in FIFA’s showpiece club tournament, Chelsea progressed to the last eight on a rain-soaked night Yorkshire.

Luciano Becchio gave Leeds — European Champions League semifinalists back in 2001 — a first half lead but Spain’s Mata equalized early in the second half.

Read: Corinthians down Chelsea to take World title

Two goals in two minutes took the tie away from Leeds as Ivanovic nodded home from a corner before Moses’ shot from outside the area found the net.

Schmeichel’s Champions League prediction

The Secret Footballer says in the early days of in-play betting players used to make money by manipulating elements of the match such as who would win the first throw in.

Former Southampton man Claus Lundekvam has insisted that whilst he and the other players knew what they were doing at the time was illegal, it was never considered more than a bit of fun. Players, he claims, would bet on anything from who would get carded to the recipient of the first throw-in. En route to away matches everything was fair game for a flutter, he says, except for the score.

Lars Bohinen enjoyed eight successful years in the Premier League, and played alongside Lundekvam at international level for Norway. He explains that whilst he heard talk of spot-fixing, he never fully bought into the idea. It is only now, years after his retirement, that he considers that gambling talk between the players was more than a harmless joke. He also believes that there is far more addiction amongst top-flight players than people see. “You could sense it from the way they gambled”, he says.

For former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams holds the matter of addiction amongst professioanl footballers much more seriously. After overcoming drug and alcohol problems he fouded the Sporting Chance Clinic, dedicated to help other sportsmen and women do the same. The Professional Footballers’ Association and ex-Gunner Paul Merson are also patrons.

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Match-fixing in football

Juventus fans hold up three stars to signify the 30 championships won by the club, but two in 2005 and 2006 have been struck off the official records after the “Calciopoli” match-fixing scandal.

Former Juventus managing director Luciano Moggi gives testimony at a hearing into the match-fixing scandal. He was banned for life while the club lost two Serie A titles and was relegated to Serie B.

Juventus players celebrate their Serie A title success after going through the 2011-12 league season unbeaten to relegate arch-rivals AC Milan to second place.

Juventus coach Antonio Conte, a former fans’ favorite as a player, has transformed his side’s fortunes since taking charge at the start of the 2011-12 season.

Alessandro Del Piero suffered a disappointment in his farewell match for Juventus, losing the Coppa Italia final to Napoli to end a 43-game unbeaten run this season.

Andrea Agnelli is the latest member from the famous family which own FIAT and Juventus to take the helm at “The Old Lady.” The son of legendary former president Umberto Agnelli, he took charge in May 2010 and has made sweeping changes at the club.

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Juventus revived under president Agnelli

Hazard finished calmly in the game’s dying stages when sprung through on goal and the Belgian then teed up Torres for his sixth goal in five games.

Benitez, who replaced the sacked Roberto Di Matteo in November, told Sky Sports: “The team was quite good in first half; there were some situations where the keeper played pretty well.

“The players were a little tired but the reaction was amazing. We were looking for character and the reaction was so good, there were a lot of positives in this game.”

Asked whether he felt more settled in the job after a difficult start Benitez replied: “I was comfortable from the first day. I will try and do my best until the end.”

Chelsea will now face Swansea in the final four, while another Premier League side, Aston Villa, will play fourth tier Bradford, who knocked out Arsenal.

Elsewhere, champions Borussia Dortmund set up a repeat of last year’s German Cup final against runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich after thumping Hannover 5-1.

German international Mario Gotze scored a hat-trick while Pole Jakub Blaszczykowski grabbed two goals. Dortmund will now face Bayern hoping for a repeat of their 5-2 victory in last season’s final.

VfL Bochum, VfB Stuttgart and VfL Wolfsburg are also through to the last eight.

Read: Napoli hit by match-fixing related points deduction

In Italy, Napoli were defeated at home by Bologna for the second time in three days as they crashed out of the Italian Cup. It was their first match since being docked two points and having two players banned in a match-fixing scandal.

Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani gave Napoli the lead but goals from Cristian Pasquato and Panagiotis Kone have the away side a 2-1 win to go with their their 3-2 success in Serie A on Sunday.

Lazio had to rely on penalties to edge past Siena, while Fiorentina triumphed 1-0 away at Udinese.


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Barca coach suffers tumor relapse

December 20th, 2012 No comments

(CNN) — The coach of Spanish league leaders Barcelona has suffered a tumor relapse and will undergo an operation on Thursday but is to remain in his post.

In November Tito Vilanova had a tumor removed from his parotid gland — which is at the back of the mouth — when he was former Barca boss Pep Guardiola’s assistant.

The operation was thought to have been a success and when Guardiola went on sabbatical, Vilanova took over as coach of the team — seemingly in good health, but more cancerous cells have been discovered.

Vilanova is expected to be hospitalized for three to four days after his surgery and will then have chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment lasting around six weeks, according to Barca’s official website.

Read: Is Barca boss Vilanova coach of the year?

Club doctors have said he will still be able to work while his treatment takes place and there are no plans for him to step down. His assistant Jordi Roura will take charge for the weekend clash with Valladolid.

Lionel Messi breaks goal scoring record

Messi wins third straight Ballon D’or

Cristiano Ronaldo: I’m better than Messi

Lionel Messi, center, celebrates with Barcelona teammates Cesc Fabregas, left, and Xavi Hernandez after matching Pele’s 75 goals in a calendar year.

The Argentina star then moved past the Brazil legend with his second goal of the match against Mallorca, which left Messi nine short of the best tally for a year held by Germany’s Gerd Muller.

The 25-year-old has had a new celebration since the birth of his first child, son Thiago, earlier this month.

Messi is in line to win a fourth successive world player of the year award in January. Pele presented him with the Ballon d’Or at the start of this year.

Pele scored 75 goals in 1958, when he launched onto the football scene as a 17-year-old and helped Brazil win that year’s World Cup.

That feat was surpassed in 1972 by Muller, who scored 85 goals as West Germany won the European Championship and his club Bayern Munich lifted the Bundesliga title.

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Messi moves past Pele milestone

Pep Guardiola waved goodbye to Barcelona on Friday in the only way he knows how — by winning a trophy. The club’s victory in the Spanish Cup final took his haul of trophies to 14 during his four years in charge.

Guardiola is inextricably linked with Barcelona. He was born in Catalonia, and joined Barca’s academy in 1984, winning six Spanish league titles and one European Cup before leaving for Italy in 2001.

After a spell coaching Barcelona’s ‘B’ team, in which he delivered promotion to the second tier of Spanish football, Guardiola was handed the top job in June 2008 by then president Joan Laporta (L).

Guardiola’s dedication to an approach known as “tiki taka” — a fluent passing style based around dynamic movement — was immediately evident, as players like Xavi and Andres Iniesta, both World Cup winners with Spain in 2010, flourished. Guardiola also maximised the use of a young striker called Lionel Messi, who would go on to break all records.

In Guardiola’s first season Barcelona won an unprecedented treble as they scooped the Spanish league title, the Spanish Cup and the European Champions League, beating Manchester United in Rome.

By the time 2009 was out, Barca had added the Spanish Supercup, European Supercup and Club World Cup trophies to their cabinet, making it six won in Guardiola’s first season. He also retained the Spanish league title in 2010.

Prior to the 2010 season Real Madrid employed Jose Mourinho, the self-anointed ‘Special One’ as their coach. This intensified the fierce rivalry between the two giants, and provoked a series of disagreeements between two of the game’s biggest names.

Despite Mourinho’s presence, Guardiola again retained the Spanish league title in 2011 and claimed his second European Champions League crown, as Barca again beat Manchester United, this time at Wembley in London.

But for months there had been rumors that the demands of the job and those he placed on himself were wearing Guardiola down. After Barcelona had relinquished both their league and Champions League titles, he confirmed he was standing down. “The reason is simple: four years is enough,” he said. “I’m drained and I need to fill up.”

At the press conference to announce Guardiola’s departure Barca confirmed his assistant Tito Vilanova would take over as coach. As another disciple of Barcelona’s approach, he has a tough task to replicate Guardiola’s achievements.

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How Pep Guardiola reinvented football

At a press conference, club president Sandro Rosell said: “I want to thank everyone for their support on behalf of the team and Tito. We have complete confidence in the team. The club is very strong and very united, we’re capable of overcoming adversity.

“Tito is strong, very strong, he’s shown us that and we’re convinced that he’ll be back with us soon.”

Vilanova had told the Barca website earlier this week: “Being a head manager is difficult, but being an assistant manager isn’t easy either. I would say it’s more difficult to be an assistant manager than it is to be a head manager.”

Under Vilanova’s guidance, Barcelona have been unbeatable in the Spanish league — dropping just two points — and hold a nine-point lead over second place Atletico Madrid, with close rivals Real Madrid 13 points behind the Catalan side.

Real responded to the news by expressing their support for Vilanova, in a statement on their official website.

They said: “Real Madrid wish to express their heartfelt support to Barcelona coach, Tito Vilanova, to whom we wish a prompt recovery. Real Madrid extend this support to his club and family.”

Barca also finished top of their European Champions League group, suffering just one defeat in six matches.

Key to their success this season has been the number of goals Lionel Messi has scored, with the Argentine netting 25 times during the current campaign and 90 times during the calendar year.

As a youngster Vilanova was at Barcelona’s youth academy — La Masia — with Guardiola, though unlike the former Barca captain he failed to graduate to the first team.

Vilanova went on to play for some of Spanish football’s lesser known clubs — Figueras, Celta, Badajoz, Mallorca, Lleida, Elche and Gramenet — before retiring as a player in 2002 and turning to coaching.

When the 44-year-old Vilanova was appointed, Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta argued it was “a logical decision” because he “represents the same style of play and the same philosophy.”

“Tito has been working here with us, so why not Tito? He puts in all the hours until he sleeps and he has the personality that we need to lift us. He’s different to Pep, but Tito’s the one,” said Zubizarreta.

“We’ve always looked in house. We have Tito — it’s simple. We needn’t go out on the market.”

Read: Messi, Xavi and Puyol pen new Barca deals

Between 2008 and 2014 with Guardiola and Vilanova as coach and assistant, the Catalan club won 14 trophies, including two Champions League titles.

That recent success has been fostered on a tradition of developing their own players at their youth academy.

“Our style of play is so different from the rest of the teams that it’s just easier to send out a guy that grew up playing our style football,” said Vilanova.

“These players train their whole lives as Barca players, with the Barca system. If they play for the first team, it’s because we think we can win with them on the pitch.”

Since taking charge of Barca, Vilanova has won 23 of his 27 matches in all competitions, suffering just two defeats.


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Balotelli settles dispute with Man City

December 20th, 2012 No comments

(CNN) — There is rarely a dull moment in the career of Mario Balotelli but the controversial striker has at least been prepared to take his medicine in the latest spat with his club Manchester City.

The Italian striker had appealed to an English Premier League tribunal after he was fined for a poor disciplinary record during City’s title-winning season in 2011/12.

Balotelli, signed from Inter Milan by City boss Roberto Mancini for $39.1 million in 2010, missed a total of 11 domestic and European games through suspension and was reportedly fined two weeks wages by his club as a result.

The 22-year-old appealed the decision and his lawyers had been preparing to state his case at a Premier League tribunal on Wednesday.

Manchester derby thriller marred by ‘English disease’

Mourinho on the enigma of Balotelli

Can Balotelli lead Italy to glory?

Euro 2012 sparked into life when striker Robert Lewandowski scored the first goal of the tournament against Greece. Despite a lively opening, the co-hosts had to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Ukraine were the other team to welcome Europe’s finest, but the co-hosts fell behind in their opening match with Sweden. Step forward Andriy Shevchenko, the legendary striker who scored a second-half brace to delight the nation and secure a 2-1 win.

Tensions were high ahead of Poland’s clash with Russia. The hosts fell behind when Alan Dzagoev headed in his third goal of the tournament, but Poland’s captain Jakub Blaszczykowski fired in a stunning second-half equalizer to level the match. Despite the draw, Poland failed to make it out of the group stages.

Russia were also condemned to an early exit after 2004 champions Greece stunned Dick Advocaat’s team by winning 1-0 and reaching the last eight.

Despite being heralded by some as pre-tournament favorites, the Netherlands endured a miserable campaign, losing all three of their matches in a group which included Germany, Portugal and Denmark. Coach Bert van Marwijk resigned following the country’s group-stage exit.

Ukraine needed to beat England to qualify from Group D, but went behind as Wayne Rooney scored on his return from suspension. Artem Milevskiy thought he had leveled when his shot appeared to cross the goal line, but John Terry cleared and England advanced alongside France.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s personal mission to beat the Czech Republic succeeded in the closing stages as he superbly headed Portugal into the semifinals of Euro 2012.

Joint-favorites Germany were far too strong for Greece in the quarterfinals, thrashing Fernando Santos’ side despite resting three of their forwards for the game.

Xabi Alonso scored both of Spain’s goals in the quarterfinal against France, leading the champions into a showdown with neighbors Portugal on the occasion of his 100th cap.

Andrea Pirlo was the coolest man in Kyiv as he chipped in this effort in a shootout against England. Italy advanced as Ashley Cole missed and Alessandro Diamanti fired in the decisive spot kick.

Having got the order of the takers wrong, Bruno Alves compounded his own misery by smashing his penalty against the bar as Portugal lost in the semis to Spain.

Cesc Fabregas’ scuffed penalty went in off the post as Spain beat Portugal in their semifinal shootout to earn a place in the final against Italy in Kiev on Sunday.

Controversial striker Mario Balotelli was Italy’s hero in the semifinals, scoring twice as the Azzurri stunned Joachim Low’s Germany with a 2-1 win.

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Unforgettable moments of Euro 2012

But a statement released by the club confirmed the Italy international had dropped his appeal after the two parties resolved their differences.

“After amicable talks between the parties, as a sign of respect for Roberto Mancini, the supporters and the club, Mario Balotelli has chosen to accept a two week fine levied upon him by the club and withdraw his disciplinary appeal, which was due to be heard by a Premier League panel,” it read.

“Mario remains available for selection for all forthcoming fixtures.”

Balotelli has infuriated his manager on several occasions during his two seasons at the club, Mancini stating only recently that the striker needed to train harder to get into the team.

Twice Balotelli hasn’t made City’s 25-man squad in the Premier League this campaign and he was substituted at halftime in City’s recent 3-2 derby defeat to neighbors Manchester United.

Despite his disciplinary record, Balotelli did set up a goal for Argentina striker Sergio Aguero that secured City their first title in 44 years on a dramatic final day of last season.

That came after Mancini said Balotelli may never play for the club again after he was sent off during a defeat at Arsenal that had seemed to spell the end to their title campaign.

Balotelli played a key role in Italy’s team as they made the final of Euro 2012, where they were beaten 4-1 by World champions Spain.


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Players’ union to launch match-fixing hotline

December 20th, 2012 No comments

(CNN) — In the past week sanctions have been handed down in both South Africa and Italy in relation to a growing trend that is fast becoming a stain on soccer’s integrity — match-fixing.

But FIFPro, the worldwide players’ union, are preparing a project to tackle fixing, that will include an education program and an online tool for their members to report illegal approaches.

Match-fixing has proved a particular problem for Italian football in recent years.

Napoli were hit with a two-point penalty that dropped them from third to fifth in Serie A as part of an ongoing investigation, though they vehemently deny any wrongdoing. Defender Paolo Cannavaro is appealing his six-month ban for failing to report an illegal approach.

Juventus coach Antonio Conte recently returned from a 10-match touchline ban imposed for failing to report match-fixing while coach at Siena.

Read: Napoli hit by match-fixing related points deduction

In 2006, Juve were stripped of two league titles and relegated to the third division of Italian football — before later being reinstated in the second tier — for their part in the “Calciopoli” scandal.

The Secret Footballer says in the early days of in-play betting players used to make money by manipulating elements of the match such as who would win the first throw in.

Former Southampton man Claus Lundekvam has insisted that whilst he and the other players knew what they were doing at the time was illegal, it was never considered more than a bit of fun. Players, he claims, would bet on anything from who would get carded to the recipient of the first throw-in. En route to away matches everything was fair game for a flutter, he says, except for the score.

Lars Bohinen enjoyed eight successful years in the Premier League, and played alongside Lundekvam at international level for Norway. He explains that whilst he heard talk of spot-fixing, he never fully bought into the idea. It is only now, years after his retirement, that he considers that gambling talk between the players was more than a harmless joke. He also believes that there is far more addiction amongst top-flight players than people see. “You could sense it from the way they gambled”, he says.

For former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams holds the matter of addiction amongst professioanl footballers much more seriously. After overcoming drug and alcohol problems he fouded the Sporting Chance Clinic, dedicated to help other sportsmen and women do the same. The Professional Footballers’ Association and ex-Gunner Paul Merson are also patrons.

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Match-fixing in football

Juventus fans hold up three stars to signify the 30 championships won by the club, but two in 2005 and 2006 have been struck off the official records after the “Calciopoli” match-fixing scandal.

Former Juventus managing director Luciano Moggi gives testimony at a hearing into the match-fixing scandal. He was banned for life while the club lost two Serie A titles and was relegated to Serie B.

Juventus players celebrate their Serie A title success after going through the 2011-12 league season unbeaten to relegate arch-rivals AC Milan to second place.

Juventus coach Antonio Conte, a former fans’ favorite as a player, has transformed his side’s fortunes since taking charge at the start of the 2011-12 season.

Alessandro Del Piero suffered a disappointment in his farewell match for Juventus, losing the Coppa Italia final to Napoli to end a 43-game unbeaten run this season.

Andrea Agnelli is the latest member from the famous family which own FIAT and Juventus to take the helm at “The Old Lady.” The son of legendary former president Umberto Agnelli, he took charge in May 2010 and has made sweeping changes at the club.

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Juventus revived under president Agnelli

Elsewhere, the president of the South African Football Association (SAFA) and four other officials were suspended this week as part of an investigation into match-fixing ahead of the country hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2010.

It is alleged four friendly games were prearranged for the benefit of convicted Singaporean match-fixer Wilson Perumal and his Football 4U organization.

FIFPro have European Union funding behind their ‘Don’t Fix It’ project and will be working closely with Birkbeck University and European soccer’s governing body UEFA.

The initiative will be launched in nine countries: England, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Romania, Scotland and Slovenia.

“In the past few years, the football world has realized that match fixing is one of the biggest threats to the game, maybe even its biggest threat,” FIFPro said in a stament on their website.

“It is not solely a problem of individual countries, as recent reports and incidents have proven that match fixing is widespread in numerous nations on all continents: from Finland to Zimbabwe, from Malaysia to Italy.

“In FIFPro’s opinion, one of the ways to reduce the incidence of match fixing and the potential for match fixing in football is education of the players: the campaigns need to be taken into the dressing rooms of the clubs.”

Once their online reporting method is up and running FIFPro estimate a total of 12,000 players and 20,000 people associated with the game will be able to disclose any bullying, intimidation, harassment, and inappropriate approaches.


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Football: Barca coach suffers relapse

December 20th, 2012 No comments

(CNN) — The coach of Spanish league leaders Barcelona has suffered a tumor relapse and will undergo an operation on Thursday but is to remain in his post.

In November Tito Vilanova had a tumor removed from his parotid gland — which is at the back of the mouth — when he was former Barca boss Pep Guardiola’s assistant.

The operation was thought to have been a success and when Guardiola went on sabbatical, Vilanova took over as coach of the team — seemingly in good health, but more cancerous cells have been discovered.

Vilanova is expected to be hospitalized for three to four days after his surgery and will then have chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment lasting around six weeks, according to Barca’s official website.

Read: Is Barca boss Vilanova coach of the year?

Club doctors have said he will still be able to work while his treatment takes place and there are no plans for him to step down. His assistant Jordi Roura will take charge for the weekend clash with Valladolid.

Lionel Messi breaks goal scoring record

Messi wins third straight Ballon D’or

Cristiano Ronaldo: I’m better than Messi

Lionel Messi, center, celebrates with Barcelona teammates Cesc Fabregas, left, and Xavi Hernandez after matching Pele’s 75 goals in a calendar year.

The Argentina star then moved past the Brazil legend with his second goal of the match against Mallorca, which left Messi nine short of the best tally for a year held by Germany’s Gerd Muller.

The 25-year-old has had a new celebration since the birth of his first child, son Thiago, earlier this month.

Messi is in line to win a fourth successive world player of the year award in January. Pele presented him with the Ballon d’Or at the start of this year.

Pele scored 75 goals in 1958, when he launched onto the football scene as a 17-year-old and helped Brazil win that year’s World Cup.

That feat was surpassed in 1972 by Muller, who scored 85 goals as West Germany won the European Championship and his club Bayern Munich lifted the Bundesliga title.

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Messi moves past Pele milestone

Pep Guardiola waved goodbye to Barcelona on Friday in the only way he knows how — by winning a trophy. The club’s victory in the Spanish Cup final took his haul of trophies to 14 during his four years in charge.

Guardiola is inextricably linked with Barcelona. He was born in Catalonia, and joined Barca’s academy in 1984, winning six Spanish league titles and one European Cup before leaving for Italy in 2001.

After a spell coaching Barcelona’s ‘B’ team, in which he delivered promotion to the second tier of Spanish football, Guardiola was handed the top job in June 2008 by then president Joan Laporta (L).

Guardiola’s dedication to an approach known as “tiki taka” — a fluent passing style based around dynamic movement — was immediately evident, as players like Xavi and Andres Iniesta, both World Cup winners with Spain in 2010, flourished. Guardiola also maximised the use of a young striker called Lionel Messi, who would go on to break all records.

In Guardiola’s first season Barcelona won an unprecedented treble as they scooped the Spanish league title, the Spanish Cup and the European Champions League, beating Manchester United in Rome.

By the time 2009 was out, Barca had added the Spanish Supercup, European Supercup and Club World Cup trophies to their cabinet, making it six won in Guardiola’s first season. He also retained the Spanish league title in 2010.

Prior to the 2010 season Real Madrid employed Jose Mourinho, the self-anointed ‘Special One’ as their coach. This intensified the fierce rivalry between the two giants, and provoked a series of disagreeements between two of the game’s biggest names.

Despite Mourinho’s presence, Guardiola again retained the Spanish league title in 2011 and claimed his second European Champions League crown, as Barca again beat Manchester United, this time at Wembley in London.

But for months there had been rumors that the demands of the job and those he placed on himself were wearing Guardiola down. After Barcelona had relinquished both their league and Champions League titles, he confirmed he was standing down. “The reason is simple: four years is enough,” he said. “I’m drained and I need to fill up.”

At the press conference to announce Guardiola’s departure Barca confirmed his assistant Tito Vilanova would take over as coach. As another disciple of Barcelona’s approach, he has a tough task to replicate Guardiola’s achievements.

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How Pep Guardiola reinvented football

At a press conference, club president Sandro Rosell said: “I want to thank everyone for their support on behalf of the team and Tito. We have complete confidence in the team. The club is very strong and very united, we’re capable of overcoming adversity.

“Tito is strong, very strong, he’s shown us that and we’re convinced that he’ll be back with us soon.”

Vilanova had told the Barca website earlier this week: “Being a head manager is difficult, but being an assistant manager isn’t easy either. I would say it’s more difficult to be an assistant manager than it is to be a head manager.”

Under Vilanova’s guidance, Barcelona have been unbeatable in the Spanish league — dropping just two points — and hold a nine-point lead over second place Atletico Madrid, with close rivals Real Madrid 13 points behind the Catalan side.

Real responded to the news by expressing their support for Vilanova, in a statement on their official website.

They said: “Real Madrid wish to express their heartfelt support to Barcelona coach, Tito Vilanova, to whom we wish a prompt recovery. Real Madrid extend this support to his club and family.”

Barca also finished top of their European Champions League group, suffering just one defeat in six matches.

Key to their success this season has been the number of goals Lionel Messi has scored, with the Argentine netting 25 times during the current campaign and 90 times during the calendar year.

As a youngster Vilanova was at Barcelona’s youth academy — La Masia — with Guardiola, though unlike the former Barca captain he failed to graduate to the first team.

Vilanova went on to play for some of Spanish football’s lesser known clubs — Figueras, Celta, Badajoz, Mallorca, Lleida, Elche and Gramenet — before retiring as a player in 2002 and turning to coaching.

When the 44-year-old Vilanova was appointed, Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta argued it was “a logical decision” because he “represents the same style of play and the same philosophy.”

“Tito has been working here with us, so why not Tito? He puts in all the hours until he sleeps and he has the personality that we need to lift us. He’s different to Pep, but Tito’s the one,” said Zubizarreta.

“We’ve always looked in house. We have Tito — it’s simple. We needn’t go out on the market.”

Read: Messi, Xavi and Puyol pen new Barca deals

Between 2008 and 2014 with Guardiola and Vilanova as coach and assistant, the Catalan club won 14 trophies, including two Champions League titles.

That recent success has been fostered on a tradition of developing their own players at their youth academy.

“Our style of play is so different from the rest of the teams that it’s just easier to send out a guy that grew up playing our style football,” said Vilanova.

“These players train their whole lives as Barca players, with the Barca system. If they play for the first team, it’s because we think we can win with them on the pitch.”

Since taking charge of Barca, Vilanova has won 23 of his 27 matches in all competitions, suffering just two defeats.


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Football: Chelsea ease into Cup semis

December 20th, 2012 No comments

(CNN) — Globetrotting Chelsea bounced back from their defeat in the FIFA Club World Cup final to Corinthians with a resounding victory in the League Cup at Leeds.

Rafael Benitez’s side ran out 5-1 winners at the second tier outfit, having trailed 1-0 at halftime, thanks to goals from Juan Mata, Branislav Ivanovic, Victor Moses, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres.

Having arrived back in London from Japan on Monday after their defeat in FIFA’s showpiece club tournament, Chelsea progressed to the last eight on a rain-soaked night Yorkshire.

Luciano Becchio gave Leeds — European Champions League semifinalists back in 2001 — a first half lead but Spain’s Mata equalized early in the second half.

Read: Corinthians down Chelsea to take World title

Two goals in two minutes took the tie away from Leeds as Ivanovic nodded home from a corner before Moses’ shot from outside the area found the net.

Schmeichel’s Champions League prediction

The Secret Footballer says in the early days of in-play betting players used to make money by manipulating elements of the match such as who would win the first throw in.

Former Southampton man Claus Lundekvam has insisted that whilst he and the other players knew what they were doing at the time was illegal, it was never considered more than a bit of fun. Players, he claims, would bet on anything from who would get carded to the recipient of the first throw-in. En route to away matches everything was fair game for a flutter, he says, except for the score.

Lars Bohinen enjoyed eight successful years in the Premier League, and played alongside Lundekvam at international level for Norway. He explains that whilst he heard talk of spot-fixing, he never fully bought into the idea. It is only now, years after his retirement, that he considers that gambling talk between the players was more than a harmless joke. He also believes that there is far more addiction amongst top-flight players than people see. “You could sense it from the way they gambled”, he says.

For former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams holds the matter of addiction amongst professioanl footballers much more seriously. After overcoming drug and alcohol problems he fouded the Sporting Chance Clinic, dedicated to help other sportsmen and women do the same. The Professional Footballers’ Association and ex-Gunner Paul Merson are also patrons.

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Match-fixing in football

Juventus fans hold up three stars to signify the 30 championships won by the club, but two in 2005 and 2006 have been struck off the official records after the “Calciopoli” match-fixing scandal.

Former Juventus managing director Luciano Moggi gives testimony at a hearing into the match-fixing scandal. He was banned for life while the club lost two Serie A titles and was relegated to Serie B.

Juventus players celebrate their Serie A title success after going through the 2011-12 league season unbeaten to relegate arch-rivals AC Milan to second place.

Juventus coach Antonio Conte, a former fans’ favorite as a player, has transformed his side’s fortunes since taking charge at the start of the 2011-12 season.

Alessandro Del Piero suffered a disappointment in his farewell match for Juventus, losing the Coppa Italia final to Napoli to end a 43-game unbeaten run this season.

Andrea Agnelli is the latest member from the famous family which own FIAT and Juventus to take the helm at “The Old Lady.” The son of legendary former president Umberto Agnelli, he took charge in May 2010 and has made sweeping changes at the club.

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Juventus revived under president Agnelli

Hazard finished calmly in the game’s dying stages when sprung through on goal and the Belgian then teed up Torres for his sixth goal in five games.

Benitez, who replaced the sacked Roberto Di Matteo in November, told Sky Sports: “The team was quite good in first half; there were some situations where the keeper played pretty well.

“The players were a little tired but the reaction was amazing. We were looking for character and the reaction was so good, there were a lot of positives in this game.”

Asked whether he felt more settled in the job after a difficult start Benitez replied: “I was comfortable from the first day. I will try and do my best until the end.”

Chelsea will now face Swansea in the final four, while another Premier League side, Aston Villa, will play fourth tier Bradford, who knocked out Arsenal.

Elsewhere, champions Borussia Dortmund set up a repeat of last year’s German Cup final against runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich after thumping Hannover 5-1.

German international Mario Gotze scored a hat-trick while Pole Jakub Blaszczykowski grabbed two goals. Dortmund will now face Bayern hoping for a repeat of their 5-2 victory in last season’s final.

VfL Bochum, VfB Stuttgart and VfL Wolfsburg are also through to the last eight.

Read: Napoli hit by match-fixing related points deduction

In Italy, Napoli were defeated at home by Bologna for the second time in three days as they crashed out of the Italian Cup. It was their first match since being docked two points and having two players banned in a match-fixing scandal.

Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani gave Napoli the lead but goals from Cristian Pasquato and Panagiotis Kone have the away side a 2-1 win to go with their their 3-2 success in Serie A on Sunday.

Lazio had to rely on penalties to edge past Siena, while Fiorentina triumphed 1-0 away at Udinese.


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Football: Balotelli settles City dispute

December 20th, 2012 No comments

(CNN) — There is rarely a dull moment in the career of Mario Balotelli but the controversial striker has at least been prepared to take his medicine in the latest spat with his club Manchester City.

The Italian striker had appealed to an English Premier League tribunal after he was fined for a poor disciplinary record during City’s title-winning season in 2011/12.

Balotelli, signed from Inter Milan by City boss Roberto Mancini for $39.1 million in 2010, missed a total of 11 domestic and European games through suspension and was reportedly fined two weeks wages by his club as a result.

The 22-year-old appealed the decision and his lawyers had been preparing to state his case at a Premier League tribunal on Wednesday.

Manchester derby thriller marred by ‘English disease’

Mourinho on the enigma of Balotelli

Can Balotelli lead Italy to glory?

Euro 2012 sparked into life when striker Robert Lewandowski scored the first goal of the tournament against Greece. Despite a lively opening, the co-hosts had to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Ukraine were the other team to welcome Europe’s finest, but the co-hosts fell behind in their opening match with Sweden. Step forward Andriy Shevchenko, the legendary striker who scored a second-half brace to delight the nation and secure a 2-1 win.

Tensions were high ahead of Poland’s clash with Russia. The hosts fell behind when Alan Dzagoev headed in his third goal of the tournament, but Poland’s captain Jakub Blaszczykowski fired in a stunning second-half equalizer to level the match. Despite the draw, Poland failed to make it out of the group stages.

Russia were also condemned to an early exit after 2004 champions Greece stunned Dick Advocaat’s team by winning 1-0 and reaching the last eight.

Despite being heralded by some as pre-tournament favorites, the Netherlands endured a miserable campaign, losing all three of their matches in a group which included Germany, Portugal and Denmark. Coach Bert van Marwijk resigned following the country’s group-stage exit.

Ukraine needed to beat England to qualify from Group D, but went behind as Wayne Rooney scored on his return from suspension. Artem Milevskiy thought he had leveled when his shot appeared to cross the goal line, but John Terry cleared and England advanced alongside France.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s personal mission to beat the Czech Republic succeeded in the closing stages as he superbly headed Portugal into the semifinals of Euro 2012.

Joint-favorites Germany were far too strong for Greece in the quarterfinals, thrashing Fernando Santos’ side despite resting three of their forwards for the game.

Xabi Alonso scored both of Spain’s goals in the quarterfinal against France, leading the champions into a showdown with neighbors Portugal on the occasion of his 100th cap.

Andrea Pirlo was the coolest man in Kyiv as he chipped in this effort in a shootout against England. Italy advanced as Ashley Cole missed and Alessandro Diamanti fired in the decisive spot kick.

Having got the order of the takers wrong, Bruno Alves compounded his own misery by smashing his penalty against the bar as Portugal lost in the semis to Spain.

Cesc Fabregas’ scuffed penalty went in off the post as Spain beat Portugal in their semifinal shootout to earn a place in the final against Italy in Kiev on Sunday.

Controversial striker Mario Balotelli was Italy’s hero in the semifinals, scoring twice as the Azzurri stunned Joachim Low’s Germany with a 2-1 win.

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Unforgettable moments of Euro 2012

But a statement released by the club confirmed the Italy international had dropped his appeal after the two parties resolved their differences.

“After amicable talks between the parties, as a sign of respect for Roberto Mancini, the supporters and the club, Mario Balotelli has chosen to accept a two week fine levied upon him by the club and withdraw his disciplinary appeal, which was due to be heard by a Premier League panel,” it read.

“Mario remains available for selection for all forthcoming fixtures.”

Balotelli has infuriated his manager on several occasions during his two seasons at the club, Mancini stating only recently that the striker needed to train harder to get into the team.

Twice Balotelli hasn’t made City’s 25-man squad in the Premier League this campaign and he was substituted at halftime in City’s recent 3-2 derby defeat to neighbors Manchester United.

Despite his disciplinary record, Balotelli did set up a goal for Argentina striker Sergio Aguero that secured City their first title in 44 years on a dramatic final day of last season.

That came after Mancini said Balotelli may never play for the club again after he was sent off during a defeat at Arsenal that had seemed to spell the end to their title campaign.

Balotelli played a key role in Italy’s team as they made the final of Euro 2012, where they were beaten 4-1 by World champions Spain.


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Football: Plan to tackle match-fixing

December 20th, 2012 No comments

(CNN) — In the past week sanctions have been handed down in both South Africa and Italy in relation to a growing trend that is fast becoming a stain on soccer’s integrity — match-fixing.

But FIFPro, the worldwide players’ union, are preparing a project to tackle fixing, that will include an education program and an online tool for their members to report illegal approaches.

Match-fixing has proved a particular problem for Italian football in recent years.

Napoli were hit with a two-point penalty that dropped them from third to fifth in Serie A as part of an ongoing investigation, though they vehemently deny any wrongdoing. Defender Paolo Cannavaro is appealing his six-month ban for failing to report an illegal approach.

Juventus coach Antonio Conte recently returned from a 10-match touchline ban imposed for failing to report match-fixing while coach at Siena.

Read: Napoli hit by match-fixing related points deduction

In 2006, Juve were stripped of two league titles and relegated to the third division of Italian football — before later being reinstated in the second tier — for their part in the “Calciopoli” scandal.

The Secret Footballer says in the early days of in-play betting players used to make money by manipulating elements of the match such as who would win the first throw in.

Former Southampton man Claus Lundekvam has insisted that whilst he and the other players knew what they were doing at the time was illegal, it was never considered more than a bit of fun. Players, he claims, would bet on anything from who would get carded to the recipient of the first throw-in. En route to away matches everything was fair game for a flutter, he says, except for the score.

Lars Bohinen enjoyed eight successful years in the Premier League, and played alongside Lundekvam at international level for Norway. He explains that whilst he heard talk of spot-fixing, he never fully bought into the idea. It is only now, years after his retirement, that he considers that gambling talk between the players was more than a harmless joke. He also believes that there is far more addiction amongst top-flight players than people see. “You could sense it from the way they gambled”, he says.

For former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams holds the matter of addiction amongst professioanl footballers much more seriously. After overcoming drug and alcohol problems he fouded the Sporting Chance Clinic, dedicated to help other sportsmen and women do the same. The Professional Footballers’ Association and ex-Gunner Paul Merson are also patrons.

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Match-fixing in football

Juventus fans hold up three stars to signify the 30 championships won by the club, but two in 2005 and 2006 have been struck off the official records after the “Calciopoli” match-fixing scandal.

Former Juventus managing director Luciano Moggi gives testimony at a hearing into the match-fixing scandal. He was banned for life while the club lost two Serie A titles and was relegated to Serie B.

Juventus players celebrate their Serie A title success after going through the 2011-12 league season unbeaten to relegate arch-rivals AC Milan to second place.

Juventus coach Antonio Conte, a former fans’ favorite as a player, has transformed his side’s fortunes since taking charge at the start of the 2011-12 season.

Alessandro Del Piero suffered a disappointment in his farewell match for Juventus, losing the Coppa Italia final to Napoli to end a 43-game unbeaten run this season.

Andrea Agnelli is the latest member from the famous family which own FIAT and Juventus to take the helm at “The Old Lady.” The son of legendary former president Umberto Agnelli, he took charge in May 2010 and has made sweeping changes at the club.

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Juventus revived under president Agnelli

Elsewhere, the president of the South African Football Association (SAFA) and four other officials were suspended this week as part of an investigation into match-fixing ahead of the country hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2010.

It is alleged four friendly games were prearranged for the benefit of convicted Singaporean match-fixer Wilson Perumal and his Football 4U organization.

FIFPro have European Union funding behind their ‘Don’t Fix It’ project and will be working closely with Birkbeck University and European soccer’s governing body UEFA.

The initiative will be launched in nine countries: England, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Romania, Scotland and Slovenia.

“In the past few years, the football world has realized that match fixing is one of the biggest threats to the game, maybe even its biggest threat,” FIFPro said in a stament on their website.

“It is not solely a problem of individual countries, as recent reports and incidents have proven that match fixing is widespread in numerous nations on all continents: from Finland to Zimbabwe, from Malaysia to Italy.

“In FIFPro’s opinion, one of the ways to reduce the incidence of match fixing and the potential for match fixing in football is education of the players: the campaigns need to be taken into the dressing rooms of the clubs.”

Once their online reporting method is up and running FIFPro estimate a total of 12,000 players and 20,000 people associated with the game will be able to disclose any bullying, intimidation, harassment, and inappropriate approaches.


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