From 1998 onwards they played in English football’s showpiece five times in eight seasons, winning four of those games.
Yet since the last success, a lucky one on penalties after being outplayed by Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in 2005, Wenger’s magic touch has deserted him not only in the Cup but every other competition too.
Arsenal therefore go into Saturday’s final against Hull City at Wembley without having won anything in the ensuing nine years, leaving the urbane Frenchman under the sort of pressure he has not experienced before in 30 years in management.
After the London club finished their Premier League programme in fourth place, ensuring a shot at the Champions League for a 17th successive season, Wenger, 64, insisted he would remain at the club next season.
He has not signed a new contract, however, and defeat by lowly Hull, 16th in the league and contesting their first major final, would lead to a backlash by supporters, many of whom already believe that going almost a decade without winning anything is unacceptable for one of England’s great clubs.
“All the pressure is on Arsenal,” the club’s former midfielder Ray Parlour, who also played for Hull, told Reuters on Friday.
“I know the supporters sometimes get frustrated with no trophy.”
The other source of frustration among the 60,000 fans who attend every home game is Wenger’s perceived reluctance to spend the sort of money on new players that has allowed clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea and – until this season – Manchester United to win the trophies they have missed out on.
For some years he put that down to having to finance the expensive move from Highbury, with its limited capacity, to the Emirates Stadium. That switch was completed eight years ago and Arsenal have not won anything at their new home.
The club board, which the American businessman Stan Kroenke joined in 2008, has always said funds were available to Wenger, whose more recent argument has been that other clubs have flouted Financial Fair Play rules and will now have to conform to them.
The decision to spend 42 million pounds on Real Madrid’s German midfielder Mesut Ozil at the start of the season appeared to indicate a new philosophy but after a dazzling start, Ozil’s form fell away in tandem with Arsenal’s.
Top of the table from mid-September in an almost unbroken sequence lasting until February, they dropped out of the running for the title with a series of humiliating defeats to other contenders, 6-3 at Manchester City, 5-1 at Liverpool and 6-0 at Chelsea.
There was widespread criticism when the only new signing
in the January transfer window was the Swede Kim Kallstrom, another midfielder, at a time when Olivier Giroud appeared to need back-up in the form of a new striker.
Giroud’s 16 league goals made him the only Arsenal player to reach double figures apart from midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who scored his 10th in the final match at Norwich last weekend.
Ramsey, who missed four months of the season, England’s Jack Wilshere and Ozil all suffered injuries that hampered Wenger’s plans in the second half of the season but with all three now back it is imperative that Arsenal leave Wembley on Saturday with their hands on a trophy.
If not, the taunt of Chelsea’s manager Jose Mourinho that Wenger is “a specialist in failure” will gain greater credence.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
“The Qatar technical report indicated clearly that it is too hot in summer, but the executive committee with quite a big majority decided all the same that the tournament would be in Qatar,” he added.
Asked whether the World Cup was likely to be held in the European winter, the 78-year-old replied: “It’s probable, yes. In fact, it’s more than probable.”
FIFA later issued a ‘media advisory’ noting that Blatter was in no way questioning whether the tournament would be held in Qatar.
“The comment by the FIFA President concerning the organisation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar to Swiss TV station RTS is in line with previous comments on this matter,” read the statement.
“As explained in his answer to the journalist, the President reiterated that the decision to organise the World Cup in summer was an “error” based on the technical assessment report of the bid, which had highlighted the extremely hot temperatures in summer in Qatar. At no stage did he question Qatar as the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” the statement concluded.
FIFA launched an investigation last year into alleged corruption surrounding the voting procedure for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.
The choice of Qatar was particularly controversial given that the small Arab nation has little footballing culture and summer temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius).
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said in January that the 2022 World Cup would not be played in the summer months but was likely to be held between November and January.
The soccer body has said no decision will be taken until after this year’s World Cup finals in Brazil with all stakeholders and commercial partners to be consulted.
Blatter was adamant oil and gas-rich Qatar had not ‘bought’ the World Cup, however, and indicated political pressure from France and Germany had played a part.
“I will never say they (Qatar) bought it,” he said.
“We know full well that big French and German companies work in Qatar, but they don’t just work for the World Cup. The World Cup is only a small part of what is going on in Qatar.”
Asked about his future at the helm of FIFA, Blatter again indicated he would stand for a fifth term in next year’s election.
“At the moment I say I want to finish my mandate well. Of course I am willing to continue,” he said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Sudipto Ganguly and Toby Davis)
Steve Bruce has nonetheless been in demand throughout that time, serving seven different clubs with varying degrees of success.
As Alex Ferguson’s captain at Manchester United, helping the club to dominate English football throughout the 1990s, he established a reputation as a serial winner.
Unlike Ryan Giggs and the famed “Class of 92” who eventually joined him in the first team, however, Bruce had to fight his way up from the lower divisions after being rejected by the club of his boyhood dreams.
That was Newcastle United, one of several clubs in the north of England who turned down the chance to sign him as a young midfielder playing for Newcastle Schools.
He would have become an apprentice plumber had lowly Gillingham in the south-east of the country and the Third Division not taken him on in 1978.
Converted into a powerful central defender, Bruce became an England youth international, moved after six years to join Norwich City in the top division and made the step up to Manchester United in 1987, a year after Ferguson’s arrival at the club.
With Gary Pallister alongside him in a formidable defensive partnership, United won almost a dozen trophies, including the Premier League and FA Cup three times each and the 1991 European Cup Winners Cup.
Bruce’s most celebrated contribution was to score two headed goals in stoppage time at home to Sheffield Wednesday to earn a crucial victory in the run-in to United’s first title for 26 years in 1993.
Yet unlike Pallister, he was never selected for England.
For one reason or another, managerial stints at his first four clubs – Sheffield United, Huddersfield Town, Wigan Athletic and Crystal Palace – were all short ones.
He finally settled at Birmingham City, where he had played after Manchester United.
In six years they were promoted twice and relegated once, but he became unhappy under the controversial new owner Carson Yeung and left for two years with Wigan Athletic.
Regularly linked with his first love, Newcastle, he finally made it back to the north-east in 2009 but as manager of their big rivals Sunderland.
Sacked two years later, Bruce joined Hull and took them back to the Premier League in his first season, guiding them to safety and reaching the club’s first FA Cup final.
Since the semi-final victory by 5-3 over Sheffield United at Wembley, the team’s form has tailed off with four defeats in the last five games, including a 3-0 home loss to Arsenal.
“Of course we’re rank outsiders,” Bruce told the club’s website (www.hullcitytigers南宁桑拿网,).
“I think that is the actual beauty of the FA Cup.
“It’s like what we saw last year. Manchester City were huge favourites but Wigan went and won the thing.
“For me, things like that are why this is the greatest competition. There’s always been shocks and it’s a one-off game.
“It’s the mighty Arsenal with all their history, tradition, huge support and a huge club against the smaller club and the attraction is the ability of the smaller club to turn them over.
“The FA Cup Final is a place where heroes are made.”
His own dreams may once have been about achieving that in a Newcastle shirt but having received a winner’s medal three times with Manchester United, Bruce is now desperate to become a winning manager at last.
(This story was refiled to fix headline)
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
It was billed as a State of Origin trial but in the end it only proved a test of the Suncorp Stadium crowd’s patience before Brisbane ran out 22-8 NRL winners over a depleted Gold Coast Titans on Friday night.
Maroons selectors would have excitedly taken their seats to cast their eyes over the derby in the final audition for hopefuls before the Queensland side was named on Monday night for the May 28 series opener in Brisbane.
However, the Queensland panel would have been forgiven for looking at their watches as much as the field in a dour clash between two sapped teams before the Broncos (5-5 record) finally kicked ahead.
The once high-flying Gold Coast (6-4) were battling from the outset without fiery forward Greg Bird (suspension), halfback Albert Kelly (leg), Queensland lock Ash Harrison (concussion) and flyer Kevin Gordon (knee, illness).
Titans coach John Cartwright’s luck did not change when pivot Aidan Sezer (pectoral) and utility William Zillman (concussion) failed to finish the match.
And Brisbane – already without ex-Test backrower Sam Thaiday – were soon reeling from the pre-game withdrawal of Queensland hopeful Ben Hannant (groin), replaced by David Stagg.
Still, the Titans grabbed an 8-4 halftime lead ahead of 31,380 before Brisbane looked to have snuck ahead in the 43rd minute.
Backrower Alex Glenn crossed, only for the video referees to give the red light after dubiously ruling that Brisbane forward Jarrod Wallace had obstructed the defence.
But the Broncos were not to be denied 14 minutes later when winger Dale Copley sealed a double, running off veteran centre Justin Hodges to lock up the scores 8-8.
And Brisbane jumped to a 14-8 buffer when Test utility Matt Gillett crashed over in the 64th.
Gold Coast were denied a miraculous Anthony Don four-pointer off a kick in the 67th when the video referee picked up a David Taylor knock-on in the lead-up.
Corey Parker’s 70th minute penalty drilled another nail in the Titans’ coffin before centre Jack Reed’s 74th try sealed the result.
Gold Coast drew first blood when Sezer potted a ninth minute penalty.
But Brisbane appeared to have the upper hand in a dour struggle when winger Copley fed off a sublime Hodges face ball to cross in the 31st.
Yet the visitors held the upper hand at the main break 8-4, Don crashing over in the 35th minute.
Besides the ho-hum display, Maroons selectors would have also been concerned by Hodges limping off with what was later diagnosed as a rolled ankle.
Incumbent Maroons veteran centre Hodges was only six games back from an eight-month recovery from an Achilles operation.
“It was not his Achilles. It was his ankle. He needed to come off. It was nothing major,” Broncos coach Anthony Griffin said.
“It was an ugly win, losing Hannant didn’t help.
“But Gold Coast were brave.”
Meanwhile, Titans coach John Cartwright said he “feared the worst” for Sezer and claimed Zillman had copped a “really bad hit to the head”.
“It (those injuries) didn’t help but we won’t use it as excuse,” he said.
“But there was a lot courage in the performance.
“We needed to be brave. But we also had to be perfect.”
The Australian team’s tilt at the women’s world sevens rugby crown is on track after three wins out of three in the pool stage to progress to the quarter-finals at the Amsterdam series.
Australia qualified as top seeds from the opening day of the final round of 2013/14 with three strong displays against France, South Africa and Russia to set up a tie with Brazil on Saturday night (2000 AEST).
The winner will play Canada or the United States in the cup semi-finals.
Captain Sharni Williams, arguably the player of the day, led from the front continually to provide the platform for Australia’s exciting backline to deliver.
“Obviously, our aim was to win three out of three in the pool stages, but we all know that tomorrow will be the hardest day. We’ve still got a lot to work to do as there were a few missed tackles in that final game which I’m sure we’ll review.
“It was a tough day. We didn’t know how South Africa would go and they came out pretty strong and physical. Against Russia, we had to keep ball in hand and we managed to do that. It can be hard not to think of the second day but you’ve got to get the first part of the job done first.
“The weather’s been pretty good, it feels like we’re back home and the dry conditions suit our game.”
Tim Walsh’s side began their campaign with a convincing 24-5 win over France, then South Africa were unable to cope with Williams’ and Shannon Parry’s dominance at the breakdown and lost 29-7.
In the toughest pool game, the Aussies outscored Russia six tries to one in a 36-5 romp.
New Zealand qualified as second seeds and will face Russia in the quarter-finals. In the other last-eight clash, England – also unbeaten – play France.
Australia realistically need to finish two places or above their Trans-Tasman rivals in Amsterdam to secure their first IRB Sevens World Series crown.
River, looking for a record 35th league championship, lead the Final tournament with 34 points, two more than Estudiantes and three ahead of Gimnasia.
Coach Ramon Diaz’s team, with few survivors of the side relegated in 2011, are in the best position to pick up their first title since 2008 when Diego Simeone was in charge.
A draw with Quilmes will be enough if Estudiantes do not win at Tigre. But if Estudiantes win in Juan Sebastian Veron’s last match before retiring, they would go into a playoff with River since goal difference is not taken into account.
Only a River defeat and a draw for Estudiantes would give Gimnasia a chance of going into a playoff. But they must beat Boca Juniors, who are closing their championship with a flourish looking for a fifth win in a row, at La Bombonera.
“We’re dreaming of reaching our objective. We all want to win and know we’re close to something beautiful,” said River’s Colombia striker Teofilo Gutierrez.
“I don’t know if it will be my last match (with River) but I want to enjoy it with my team mates,” added Gutierrez, who will be going to the World Cup finals in Brazil with Colombia next month.
PRESSURE ON RIVER
Veron could add a second league title to his Estudiantes tally after helping them to victory in 2006 under Simeone in a playoff with Boca on his return from a decade in Europe.
The 39-year-old believes the pressure is all on River, saying: “We’ll try to do our job and hope they drop points on the way. In this finish, they have 85 percent of the burden (of succeeding).”
Gimnasia defender Lucas Licht is hoping for a miracle.
“Aside from the fact that there are minimum chances in football, there are also miracles and let’s hope they happen,” he said.
Quilmes, meanwhile, avoided relegation last weekend with their 2-0 home win over Gimnasia.
Three teams, Atletico Rafaela, Colon and Godoy Cruz, are fighting to avoid joining relegated Argentinos Juniors and All Boys in the second tier Primera B Nacional next season.
Given the bizarre nature of relegation in Argentina, determined by teams’ average points over three seasons, the three clubs were vying for the championship lead at different stages in the campaign.
Outgoing champions San Lorenzo, who won the Inicial title in the first half of the season and on Wednesday booked their place in the South American Libertadores Cup semi-finals to be played after the World Cup, close their campaign at home to Velez Sarsfield on Monday.
(Writing by Rex Gowar; Editing by Justin Palmer)
Two new coal plants will be built in Victoria as the state and federal governments put millions of dollars into developing new uses for the resource.
A $50 million joint investment by the Victorian and federal governments will go towards two advanced coal projects which will produce products such as oil and fertiliser from the state’s brown coal reserves.
Victorian Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said the venture would help the state develop further uses for coal while boosting the Latrobe Valley’s economy.
“This joint investment will enable the development of new smarter, cleaner and sustainable uses for this important resource,” Mr Ryan said on Friday.
Energy and Resources Minister Russell Northe said the projects had the potential to bring significant employment and investment to the Latrobe Valley.
Under the State-Commonwealth Advanced Lignite Demonstration Program, Coal Energy Australia will receive a $30 million grant towards its $143 million demonstration plant producing fertiliser, oil and coal used in steelmaking.
Ignite Energy Resources will get $20 million for its $84.3 million pre-commercial plant making upgraded coal products for local or export markets along with synthetic oil.
Friends of the Earth spokesperson Shaun Murray said it was perverse that taxpayer money was being spent on propping up greenhouse gas-intensive industries.
“The international scientific community is urging rich countries like Australia to lead the way with deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Murray said.
“It is perverse we would be throwing public money into attempting to develop new ways to use brown coal.”
Brazil was the best bet for over half of the respondents, way ahead of Germany and arch-rivals Argentina, as international football fans vie for one of the millions of tickets to cheer on their home country after the first kick off on June 12.
“Brazil are the big favourites. It will be very difficult for Brazil to lose there,” said John Welch, a strategist with CIBC in Toronto. “But because of the way (Brazil’s coach) Felipao plays, they are not going to be winning by 3 or 4 goals every time like they did in 1950 until the final.”
Market professionals from across the world who regularly participate in Reuters economic polls were invited to showcase their forecasting powers on sporting matters. Most responses came from Europe and South America, in line with the greater presence of both regions in the 32-team tournament.
However, being the favourite of analysts and bookmakers should not cause too much enthusiasm in Brazil, according to Reuters polls on previous World Cup tournaments.
Although most were right in predicting Spain’s glory before the 2010 South Africa cup, economists failed miserably in forecasting Italy’s fourth title in 2006.
Some used sophisticated statistical models to predict World Cup results but were beaten by Paul, an Octopus living in a aquarium at Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany, who picked the right winner in 12 out of 14 matches in the latest cup.
A Reuters Breakingviews calculator based on the hard numbers – the players’ transfer value, population, participation and public engagement – suggested Germany will squash the dream of a sixth win for Brazil.
In any case, this year’s solid consensus is evidence of the great impression left by Neymar and his teammates last year, when they crushed once-feared Spain by 3-0 to win the Confederations Cup after a flawless campaign.
Despite unrest in Brazil’s streets over the staggering cost of the World Cup and jeers for President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s team received massive support from its fans, giving economists another reason to be optimistic about the Selecao.
EARLY BATH FOR ENGLAND?
Brazil last hosted the cup in 1950 and an unexpected defeat then by Uruguay in front of more than 200,000 fans left deep scars in Brazil’s national psyche and nurtured glory-thirsty teams which, led by Pele, were crowned world champion three times in the following four cups.
The best candidates to repeat Uruguay’s feat in the economists’ opinion are Germany, with 18 votes, and Lionel Messi’s Argentina, with 13. Spain had more mentions than Germany to appear in the World Cup final match, but only eight expect a second straight title.
None saw Brazil’s challengers coming from England, though. The inventors of football were pointed as the most likely former world champion to crash out of the tournament in the group stage, with 64 mentions.
“England will return from Brazil without scoring a single goal a la France in 2002,” said Isaac Matshego at Nedbank.
Pessimism about England’s World Cup prospects seems to have reached the highest levels after a British government report suggested that the national team faced their customary early exit from the tournament.
BOOT THE BALL
While Brazil is widely favoured as a team, analysts thought Messi, chosen four times as the world’s best player, would win the Golden Ball awarded to the best player with 42 mentions although Brazilian striker Neymar was a close second with 36.
Messi is also set to be the top goalscorer and win the Golden Boot, trailed by Neymar and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Apart from the few countries that have already won the Cup, played since 1930, economists bet that Belgium, Colombia and Chile would be the surprise underdogs.
If Brazil fails to win its sixth World Cup title, a European squad has a fair chance of winning the trophy for the first time on Latin American soil: 40 percent, according to the median forecast in the poll.
For whatever reason – the weather, food or most likely fan support – Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have seized all six trophies played for in Latin America.
Hamilton Moreira Alves, an equity analyst with Banco do Brasil, puts Europe’s chances at zero. Why? Destiny:
“European teams have never won three consecutive World Cups. Italy did it in 2006 and Spain in 2010, so…”
(Click here for poll on the economic impact of World Cup:)
(For a TAKE A LOOK on the countdown to 2014 World Cup)
(Polling by Reuters bureau in Bangalore, Brasilia, Johannesburg and London; Editing by Ross Finley and Toby Chopra)
Faster, higher, stronger they may be, but Olympians wouldn’t win many medals in a contest of dental health.
Behind their buffed physiques lurks a dentist’s nightmare.
“They have bodies of Adonis and a garbage mouth,” says Paul Piccininni. As dental director for the International Olympic Committee, Piccininni is intimately familiar with the broken teeth, abscesses, decay and other dental issues that force hundreds of Olympians into dentists’ chairs at every Games.
Among them Michael Jordan. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, where basketball’s superstar in the making was top scorer on the gold medal-winning US team, Jordan “had a significant dental problem that could have kept him out of a game,” Piccininni told The Associated Press in an interview at a conference on sports injuries.
The AP sent Jordan a phone text message to ask about the tooth issue, but he didn’t respond. Piccininni, bound by medical secrecy requirements, also wouldn’t give details.
“I know, but I shouldn’t say,” Piccininni said. “We’ve seen the best of the best.”
Honing their bodies through intense physical effort, athletes refuel with energy drinks, gels and bars and frequent meals, which teeth don’t like. Dehydration from sweating can also cut the production of saliva needed to regenerate tooth enamel.
Some rowers, for example, have “huge amounts of decay” because they’re training in boats for hours at a time, refuelling with teeth-eroding acidic, sugary drinks, said Tony Clough, who set up the dental clinic for Olympians at the 2012 London Games. Located in the athletes’ village, it had 30 dentists and 1,900 visits.
“We had patients coming in at 10:30 at night to have root canals and things like that,” said Clough.
A study that looked at 278 of the clinic’s visitors found 55 per cent had cavities and three quarters diseased gums, mostly gingivitis but also 15 per cent with more serious periodontitis.
One-quarter said dental problems affected their quality of life. The British Journal of Sports Medicine published the study last September.
“The oral health of athletes is worse than the oral health of the general population,” Piccininni said. “Considerably worse.”
An abscessed lower-left wisdom tooth threatened to keep British rower Alan Campbell from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The infection spread to his shoulder, back and eventually settled in his right knee, requiring surgery two months before the Games and ruining his training.
He placed fifth in the Olympic single sculls final and feels “I certainly would have gone quicker” had the infected tooth not laid him so low, keeping him out of his boat for six weeks.
At the London Games four years later, Campbell won bronze. He’s certain that taking better care of his teeth has helped him row faster.
He says he now flosses more, tends to drink water rather than sugary drinks, is “more aware of how important dental hygiene is to me and my body” and “if I thought I had any problems I would just have a tooth removed.”
“I’m not saying someone with perfect teeth is going to beat Usain Bolt,” Campbell said in a phone interview with the AP.
“But myself with good dental hygiene versus myself with bad dental hygiene: The version of me with good dental hygiene will be the one that comes out on top, I’m certain of it.”
Generally, teeth are most at risk among people aged 16-25, when they fly the family nest, perhaps party more and brush less, Clough said.
That’s also the age group of many Olympians, which helps explain why so many have problem teeth.
But other suspected causes appear more athlete-specific. Frequent travel for competition or training can get in the way of regular dental check-ups.
The wear of long flights might also be a factor, because Olympic dentists see “a huge big leap” in dental infections in the first week of the Games, said Clough.
Clenching teeth during strenuous effort, like lifting weights, can also grind them down.
“You could land the Space Shuttle” on some athletes’ teeth, said Piccininni. “Flat as a pancake. They have worn it down so much.”
Rowers breathe up to 80 times a minute in competition, and burn through 6,000 calories and eat five times a day, Campbell noted.
“A lot of pressure is going through the mouth,” he said.
At the Athens Olympics in 2004, “I was grinding my teeth in my sleep and I was waking up with a very sore jaw and sore teeth as well and I had a special gum-shield to wear at night to sleep with.”
“That was the stress. It was my first Olympics. I was quite young. I was 21. I think I was feeling the pressure,” he said.
The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic clinic will have eight dental chairs, X-ray machines, root canal specialists, surgical facilities.
There will be full-time dentists at hockey, rugby, and basketball for any injuries.
The clinic will also distribute mouth guards. They handed out 350 in London and 150 at the Sochi Olympics this February, including to four Austrian ice hockey players after a teammate lost a tooth in their first game.
Treatment is free.
Some Olympians “know they’ve had a dental problem for three weeks or a month or three months, but they know if they can hold off until they get to the Games they get it treated for free,” Piccininni said.
“That’s fine. That’s one of the reasons that we’re there, is because athletes don’t have the financial resources.”