Dribblers of magic
Glory on Centre Court
Rain could play spoilsport
Dribblers of magic
Euro 2004 finally ended with unexpected winners. Greece were crowned champions at the end of a magical run. They made good use of the resources available to them. The fighting unit did not have any stars before the tournament but five Greek names eventually figured in the all-star team announced at the end. Their captain was named the player of the tournament.
The tournament threw up new stars while older ones took a beating. Emerging talent proved their star credentials and looked capable of carrying the burden of their nations hopes.
Stars of the tournament
Milan Baros: Baros scored in every match that the Czech Republic won before the semifinal against Greece. With five goals, he was the highest scorer of the tournament. He showed no signs of the poor form that he had at Liverpool, where he was benched.
Not in the starting 11, he showed calm consistency and countenance to net the goals. That was matched ably with speed and skill which beat the rival defence.
Wayne Rooney: Another one of the young brigade, Rooney stole the thunder and the headlines from his more well-known and illustrious seniors. He carried England's hopes and forward attack on his young capable and strong shoulders. Rooneymania swept England as he was hailed as the star.
The Everton forward demonstrated cool temperament essential for champions, besides the power that his sturdy thighs could unleash.
As the injured star limped
out of the quarterfinal against
Cristiano Ronaldo: The Portuguese forward gave hope that he was ready to take over the mantle from the ageing golden generation squad. His runs down the flanks were inspirational as they provided the additional bite to the attack.
The Manchester United teenager may have cried after the defeat in the final but seemed more than ready to carry the good work and be the next torchbearer for his country.
Pavel Nedved: The European Footballer of the Year was in sublime form, complimented by the speedy Baros. Hardworking Nedved, with his golden flowing locks, mesmerised the opponents and spectators alike.
The captain led a collective conditioned team put together by coach Karel Brueckner. He dazzled and showed why he was Europe's best right now. Though Baros scored more, but most of the times he was set up by Nedved.
Theodoros Zagorakis: The unassuming Greek captain was an unknown entity before the tournament. At the end of it, his team was the new champions and he was declared the best player. He was also the man of the match in the final.
The hard-working, 32-year-old AEK Athens midfielder showed great leadership quality and skill to guide Greece, who were 80-1 outsiders to the title. His name will not be forgotten in a hurry now.
Traianos Dellas: The centre half was instrumental in taking Greece past the Czech Republic through a silver goal. He was the star, along with Georgis Seitaridis, of the well-organised back four which kept the rival marauders at bay through the tournament.
He and fellow defenders stifled the attacking stars, stunning France, the Czech Republic and Portugal (twice). The AS Roma player was also selected in the all-star team picked after the tournament.
Henrik Larsson: In a tournament where the youngsters called the shots, Larsson came out of retirement to boost his team's chances of a good showing. His presence had a marked effect on the forward line as Sweden went into the quarterfinals.
Now that Larsson is back with a bang he has no intention of retiring and going back into oblivion.
Ruud van Nistelrooy:
He finally had a chance of figuring in a major tournament. He took the
offering in both hands and was on target for the Dutch. The sole striker
struck rich and translated his team's work into goals. The Manchester
United man juggled and weaved his magic where other stars had failed to
translate hopes into reality.
Glory on Centre Court
Maria Sharapova arrived in the USA in 1994 with a paltry $700 in her pocket and the dream of one day playing on the Centre Court at Wimbledon.
It took the Siberian-born teenager just 10 years to fulfil that ambition and be crowned the Wimbledon champion.
‘‘Well definitely the move to the USA was an amazing sacrifice. I mean, you either win or you lose,’’ the Russian said.
‘‘It’s a 50-50 chance that you’re going to play on Centre Court at Wimbledon a few years later. So you just never know what can happen.’’
With aspirations to make it as a top professional, seven-year-old Sharapova left her mother behind in Russia to move to Nick Bollettieri’s tennis academy in Florida.
The school already had a reputation of producing champions, with Andre Agassi and Monica Seles being two notable graduates, and Sharapova’s parents were convinced that Bollettieri would be able to garner their daughter’s talent.
It was also the place where Sharapova’s compatriot, Anna Kournikova, had honed her racket skills.
‘‘Of course when you go to the USA with $700, you’re considered poor,’’ said Sharapova, now 17. ‘‘I mean, it’s a new country, you don’t have the language, you don’t know what’s going to happen.
‘‘I was only with my dad when we came because I didn’t see my mom for two years because she couldn’t get a visa.
‘‘We landed in Miami airport..... I think we took a bus and we drove to Bollettieri. We came there like at 12 midnight. That’s how it all started.’’
Having had such a humble start to life, Sharapova refuses to get carried away with her success.
Although Sharapova is inevitably compared to Kournikova thanks to her glamorous blonde looks, the world No 8 is determined to carve out her own niche.
‘‘Definitely my parents have been through all the good times and the bad times and I owe a lot to them,’’ she said.
‘‘They’re my best friends.... they always want me to be happy, and to go in the right direction in life.’’
Having dedicated that last 13 years to the sport, Sharapova is now the Wimbledon champion, the ultimate reward for her parents’ sacrifice.
Rain could play spoilsport
Usually, it is rain that follows cricket around. But this time, the organizers seem to have followed the rain by scheduling the Asia Cup 2004 in Sri Lanka at peak monsoon time.
The six-nation Asia Cup will be staged from July 16 to August 2 at Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo, Premadasa International Stadium, Colombo and the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, Dambulla.
A total of 13 one-dayers will be played, with nine matches to be played under lights. All the nine day-night matches will be either played at the Premadasa Stadium or at Dambulla.
The tournament will include two round-robin stages, starting with two groups of three. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Hong Kong make up group A while India, Sri Lanka and UAE make up group B.
The first phase is designed to eliminate the minnows UAE and Hong Kong. But if rain and/or bad light throws up a the surprise result or a costly no result in Phase 1, it may result in one of the weaker teams reaching Phase 2 in place of a heavyweight. This is specially pertinent to Group B, in which India is placed with hosts Sri Lanka and UAE, making it comparatively more difficult than group A.
This will be followed by a Super Four stage, which will feature top two teams from each group. Each of the four qualifying teams will play the other three, and then the top two teams will play the final.
The organizers have kept reserve days for all matches from Phase 2 onwards recognizing the threat of the monsoon clouds. But still, the rain god may upset many game plans in truncated matches with the dreaded Duckworth Lewis system calling the shots.
Hockey team disappoints
The much-hyped specialised training of our hockey team in the USA has proved to be counter-productive. It is a pity that our hockey team was trounced and knocked out by Holland, Pakistan and Germany in the four-nation Rabobank Hockey Tournament at Amsterdam. As a matter of fact, our boys are no match to the sturdy European players, who excel in all the departments of the game. The humiliating defeat against Pakistan is beyond my comprehension.
D.R. SHARDA, Chandigarh
Anju George’s feat
Anju Bobby George’s ‘career-best’ leap of 6.82 metres at Doha was not accepted because the wind was strong. Anju, on whose training the government spent a huge amount of Rs 30 lakh in the USA, could not jump to a distance of 6.70 metres, the qualifying mark for Athens Olympics at the athletic meet in New Delhi. At Osaka, she jumped only 6.46 metres. On home soil, Anju George achieved a distance of 6.74 metres in 2001 and 2002. It seems that the jump recorded by Anju on home soil was manipulated.