Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

from Mark Meadows:

Montpellier need belief not Santa Claus to win Ligue 1

Put a beard on avuncular and rotund Montpellier president Louis Nicollin and he could easily be mistaken for Father Christmas.

Sadly for supporters of the high-flying Ligue 1 club, Nicollin is not a fan of miracles.

"I don't believe in Santa Claus," he said.

Nicollin refuses to dream that his side can massively upset the odds and win their first French title having finished way down in 14th last term.

But on Sunday's evidence, Montpellier really can pull off the impossible after they outplayed big-spending leaders Paris St Germain for long spells before coming away from the capital with a 2-2 draw which left them a point behind in second place.

The cat flashes his claws

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Karim Benzema has shrugged off the disparaging label of being Real Madrid’s pussycat and turned himself into a fearsome feline under Jose Mourinho.

In the space of a year, the 24-year-old has gone from expensive bench warmer to first-choice leader of the line at the world’s richest club by revenue, and won over a skeptical coach.

Don’t write off the old continent just yet

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By Alan Baldwin

Speaking about the Formula One calendar and the continuing expansion to east and west, the sport’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone declared this month that Europe was “finished“.

“It will be a good place for tourism but little else,” he told Spanish Sports daily Marca. “Europe is a thing of the past.”

from Photographers' Blog:

Tour de France 2011 – A long way to Paris

This year's riders of the Tour de France covered 3430.5 km (2131.6 miles), divided into 21 stages, according to the Tour's official website.

What you may not know is that the Reuters pictures team covering 2011's most-watched sporting event managed to tally up some 10,000 km (6213 miles).

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Wednesday

SOCCER-EURO/Happy middle of the week to you all, and if like me you are in London where the sun is out and there is very little football to write about, you are forgiven for thinking the season is over and the grasscourt tennis season is about to kick in.

Don't look so worried, David (right). While the weather will probably change before I’ve finished writing this blog, the good news is it’s only March and there is plenty more football left. It's just this week it’s the international break.

Welcome back “le crunch” — we’ve missed you

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RUGBY-NATIONS/ENGLANDThere will be an extra buzz around Twickenham on Saturday and it will not be just because England fans know a win over France would set them up for their first Six Nations title for eight years.

“Le Crunch” is back, and then some. The fixture that was for so long the focal point of the championship gradually lost its allure as England dropped off the pace and Wales and Ireland became the main challengers, but with two wins apiece for the cross-channel rivals so far, it once again looks the pivotal match.

Don’t discount Ireland for the Six Nations

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RUGBY-NATIONS/
By James Illingworth

The 2011 Six Nations kicks off shortly in Cardiff with much of the pre-tournament hype suggesting a two-horse race between France and England.

England’s favourites tag among English bookmakers looks unjustified if it is based on one decent performance in November against Australia, with the 2010 grand slam winners France surely still the team to beat.

Serbian players, fans set new Davis Cup celebration standards

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TENNIS-DAVIS/Passers-by in downtown Belgrade unfamiliar with Serbia’s appetite for sports success would have been forgiven for thinking that the Balkan country won the soccer World Cup on Sunday evening and not the Davis Cup, an annual tennis competition featuring 16 teams in its top tier.

Several thousand jubilant fans, sporting national flags and team shirts, brought traffic to a halt in the city centre moments after Serbia beat France 3-2 in a pulsating three-day final to win the event in front of 17,000 supporters in the Belgrade Arena.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Euro 2012 qualifiers – live

We're following all tonight's Euro 2012 qualifiers live. Join us here for updates, comments and pix ... and details of all the goals as they go in.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

France to host Euro 2016

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Favourites France have been chosen to host Euro 2016 after beating Italy and Turkey.

UEFA President Michel Platini, a proud Frenchman, whipped round the card in Geneva to reveal France's name.

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