Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Wednesday

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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.

One of the most intriguing matches is Friday’s qualifier between Serbia and Northern Ireland. Why? There will be no supporters in the ground after Serbia’s clash with Italy in October was abandoned following crowd trouble and the 2006 World Cup winners were handed a 3-0 win.

Also in action on Friday are Italy, France and the 2010 World Cup finalists Spain and the Netherlands, while on Saturday Wales host England in a British Isles derby and Norway host Denmark in a Scandinavian battle. Germany and Russia are two other big names playing.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Tuesday

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/CUPThe pain for Arsenal fans just rolls on it would seem, as a trip to my office's kitchen confirmed on Monday when I heard two voices grumbling about "Van Persie" and "not enough shots".

The North London club's woes of the last two weeks or so have been much publicised, but perhaps at last there is some news to cheer Gunners fans up in the return of former keeper Jens Lehmann? Who would you prefer in goal? Lehmann, or Arsenal's only currently available goalie Manuel Almunia, in good form in the last two matches against Barcelona and Manchester United?

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

FIFA’s World Cup decision day — live

We'll be following all the presentations and the vote itself as FIFA's executive committee decides on the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Spain/Portugal, Russia, England and Netherlands/Belgium are the four rival bids for 2018, while Australia, South Korea, Qatar, United States and Japan battle it out for 2022, with the vote to come on Thursday.

from Photographers' Blog:

Samurais in South Africa

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I arrived in South Africa with the Japan team filled with excitement and an acute feeling of anxiety. Never mind that I would be on the scene to cover the world's biggest sporting event, and never mind that I would be competing against the top sports photographers from around the globe to get the best pictures. For a Reuters photographer like myself dedicated to a single team, when your team drops out of the competition, you're finished. Like the defeated team, you go back to the hotel, pack your bags and spend the long flight home wondering what went wrong. Based on Japan's lackluster showing in the East Asia Soccer Championship my expectation for Japan was three defeats in a row and no victories. Mine would be a short stay in South Africa.

A Japanese boy living in South Africa reacts as he watches Japan's national soccer team depart from South Africa at O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg June 30, 2010. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

But during Japan's first match against Cameroon the Samurai Blue seemed to transform themselves in front of my eyes with Keisuke Honda’s goal being the catalyst. Japan was defeated by the Netherlands in their second match but the Samurais demonstrated the unity of the team in their performance and they were victorious against Denmark in their third match. In doing so they completely wiped out the image that I held of the Japan team before going into the competition. I was covering the world's biggest sporting event, and I was going up against the top sports photographers, but in this World Cup Japan's victory meant that the formidable teams of France and Italy and the even more formidable photographers accompanying them were going home. Not me.

Former Estonian bouncer adds Baltic spice to sumo

Baruto throws his weight around

Baruto throws his weight around

After the nightclub fracas that toppled a Mongolian grand champion from grace who would have thought it would take a former bouncer from Estonia to help clean up the mess in the troubled world of sumo?

The soft-spoken giant Baruto gave the ancient Japanese sport a shot in the arm after sealing his promotion to the sport’s second highest rank of “ozeki” with a 14-1 showing at the spring grand sumo tournament less than two months after “yokozuna” Asashoryu quit in disgrace amid a “booze rage” probe.

from Olympics Notebook: Vancouver 2010:

Winter Games: picture of the day

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OLYMPICS-SPEEDSKATING/Paul Barker writes on Tuesday:

I spent much of the day editing the women's 500 metre speed skating race, looking at many very good pictures. Jerry Lampen's frame of Annette Gerritsen of the Netherlands crashing as Nao Kodaira of Japan speeds past was the image of the day from that event.

Tears as Toyota pull out of Formula One

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Toyota team principal Tadashi Yamashina was in tears as the Japanese company announced it has withdrawn from Formula One with immediate effect.

Japan has deserted motorsport on mass during the economic crisis (Honda and Bridgestone to name just two).

A bunch of fives from Jonah Lomu

RUGBY-ZEALAND/LOMUI have big hands and am 6-ft 4-ins. I can palm a basketball, and dunk it — just about. It’s not often meeting athletes I feel weedy.

Until the All Blacks and Wallabies came to town.

Last weekend’s Bledisloe Cup test in Tokyo between the hulking trans-Tasman rivals prompted me to dust down the Dunlop Green Flash and renew my lapsed gym membership. For that I thank them.

from Raw Japan:

Ichiro: Japan’s greatest sporting export

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Japan’s Ichiro Suzuki underlined his position as his country’s greatest sporting export after shattering one of Major League Baseball’s oldest records.

The Seattle Mariners outfielder was described as a "Hercules" by fellow players after becoming the first man to record 200 hits for nine straight seasons.

from Raw Japan:

Ai, Ai, Ai!

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The Japanese fairway is littered with golf stars who joined the U.S. or European game highly touted, but who found themselves decidedly unexceptional amid a wealth of international talent.

Indeed, "Japan's next Tiger Woods" -- a phrase tossed about more in hope than in fact ( by myself included) --  is a misnomer, as it really hasn't seen its first Tiger, on the global tour at least. 

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