Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Both teams got the Euro 2012 playoff draw they wanted

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By Philip O’Connor in Stockholm

It wasn’t just Irish eyes that were smiling when the Euro 2012 playoff draw was made in Polish city of Krakow – some of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) delegation appeared to be laughing out loud when they were drawn to face Estonia, with the winner heading to next year’s finals.

But despite the protestations of coach Tarmo Ruutli, Ireland probably represents the best possible draw for the Estonians, given that the other alternatives were Portugal, Croatia or the Czech Republic.

“I don’t think the Republic of Ireland were the easiest of our potential opponents,” Ruutli said in a statement after the draw. “All the teams at this stage are strong and they proved it during the group stage. However, I won’t deny the fact that we wanted to face Ireland more than the others.”

Former Ireland captain Kenny Cunningham didn’t mince his words, telling RTE TV that “everyone would have been leaning towards Estonia. They are the weakest of the teams we could have faced.”

Euro 2012 playoffs renew recent rivalries

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 By Zoran Milosavljevic

The Euro 2012 two-legged playoffs should offer plenty of action and eight entertaining matches, with the last four berths in next year’s finals up for grabs.

While Ireland will start as strong favourites against Estonia, the other three ties appear set to be nerve-jangling affairs in which two former Yugoslav repubics will be eager to avenge painful defeats against their respective opponents, while another is aiming to make history in only their second tournament as an independent nation.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Swedes show Dutch courage

By Philip O'Connor

Sweden’s 3-2 victory over the Netherlands to qualify for Euro 2012 may have surprised many observers, but Swedish footballers have a long history of success against Dutch opposition.

The home of "Total Football" has for many years been something of a finishing school for Swedish footballers, and five of the players in the victorious Sweden squad play their club football in the Netherlands.

The Lineman: Week Five NFL picks

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OK, it is not exactly the big week I was looking for but 3-3 at least has the Lineman heading back in the right direction. But catch a look at the Pick of the Week 3-1 (soon to be 4-1).

Good tipping to all.

Record: 12-12. Last week 3-3

Pick of the Week: 3-1

PICK OF THE WEEK

San Diego Chargers (3-1) at Denver Broncos (1-3)

(Chargers minus-4.5)

Maybe I am one of those guys who keeps banging his head against the wall but for the second time in three weeks I am backing the Chargers as my sure thing.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Spreading out internationals makes sense

UEFA's plan to spread out fixtures during international weeks makes perfect sense and should bring an end to those strange weekends during the season with no top class soccer, when I find myself watching rubbish old B-movies and darts.

The idea would see a national team play on Thursday for example and then Sunday, or Friday and Tuesday like now or Saturday and Tuesday.

The future of British tennis

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The Great Britain Junior Davis Cup team were trying to win the Junior Davis Cup for the first time in UK history. We have a great team and were seeded number 1 because we won the European team championships for the first time this summer.

The team consisted of Kyle Edmund at number 1, who at 16 had made the semi-finals of the junior U.S. Open, Luke Bambridge at number 2, and Evan Hoyt at number 3. We prepared very well by getting to Mexico 6 days early to acclimatise to the altitude, time zone, and heat. We were determined to win. The reason we arrived 6 days early is that it takes a day for every hour to adjust to the time zone. The ball flies quicker and further through the air because of the altitude. Also in altitude it is harder to breath because of the air.
As the number 1 seeds we drew Thailand, Germany and Canada in our group to qualify for the semi-finals. We had to beat all the teams to be certain of qualifying, which we did. We won all our matches but it wasn’t quite as straight forward as that. Evan Hoyt our third ranked boy was struck down with food poisoning an hour before his opening match against Thailand and our number 1 Kyle Edmund was on antibiotics for the whole event because of a fever and couldn’t play singles on the opening day against Thailand. These kinds of situations are always a balancing act, but the depth of the team is so good that we could play any one of the three boys.

The Lineman: Week Four NFL picks

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By Steve Keating

OK, OK; the shine of a 5-1 opening week is really starting to dim but after three weeks the Lineman is still batting .500.

But like the Atlanta Falcons, we get our season turned around in Week Four. Good Luck.

from Photographers' Blog:

Climbing Eden Park

By Bogdan Cristel

After 40 hours of flying Bucharest - Amsterdam - Beijing - Auckland, I arrived in New Zealand; my first time in the Southern Hemisphere.

The first nice surprise here was that both my check-in pieces of luggage arrived on the same flight (I expected it to take a week and to be on the safe side packed a toothbrush in my hand luggage).

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

United get rude awakening

The plain sailing Manchester United would have expected in the group stage of their Champions League campaign has turned into a rough ride after Tuesday’s 3-3 home draw with Swiss side Basel, who were unlucky not to have come away from Old Trafford with the three points.

Two draws in their last two games, away to Stoke City in the Premier League and the late escape against Basel, will have rooted out any complacency that might have crept into Alex Ferguson’s men after their flying start to the season which included an 8-2 drubbing of Arsenal.

The Lineman: Week Three NFL picks

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Had a Baltimore Ravens type Sunday last week, going 2-4 after a brilliant (if I do say so) 5-1 start to the season. But like the Ravens, I look for a big bounce back in Week 3.

Record: 7-5. Last week 2-4; Pick of the Week: 2-0

PICK OF THE WEEK
Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) at San Diego Chargers (1-1)
(Line: Chargers minus-14.5)

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