Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

APOEL Nicosia and Jovanovic could prompt further Cinderella stories

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The Champions League is heading for another spectacular climax after the quarter-final clashes produced expected winners in holders Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Bayern Munich, who must be relishing the prospect of taking centre stage in the final in their own stadium on May 19.

But rather than the usual suspects who predictably reach the latter stages of the money-spinning competition every season, it was the highly unheralded outfit of APOEL Nicosia that lit up the scene this time.

The Cypriots defied the odds to reach even the group stage of the competition and then stunned one rival after another, punching way above their weight until they finally succumbed to Real 8-2 on aggregate.

They bowed out with their heads high and their Serbian coach Ivan Jovanovic, who had emerged from complete obscurity very much like the Champions League surprise package personified by his team, was graceful after the incredible ride ended.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Belgrade derby was full of nice not nasty surprises

I attended my first Belgrade derby on Saturday and all the preconceptions I might have had were happily blown away in the brisk Serbian wind.

The fixture is widely regarded as the most fiery and dangerous derby in world football but despite the game almost being a title decider, the sting was taken out of the occasion by Red Star ultras refusing to turn up at Partizan's stadium.

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.

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:

Prandelli breaks the mould by naming his teams a day early

SOCCER-EURO/In rugby, teams are often named several days before matches -- a habit I've never really understood.

If there is any doubt about what lineup you will field, surely it makes sense to keep the opposition coach guessing until the final moment? The advantage may be slight, but it's there and it might make the other coach mess up his preparations if he guesses wrongly.

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