Posts Tagged ‘ Turkey ’

World Cup 2014: The Dark Horses

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Yesterday, we had a good look at the four teams most likely to win the upcoming World Cup. What we have yet to touch on is one of the most lively debates before any international tournament. Who will be the team who emerges from nowhere to thrill the crowds and cause a few upsets along the way? Is there a team from lower down the international pecking order who can surprise us all and go all the way? Usually there is at least one team who overachieves in these competitions, and calling them right is often the difference between winning and losing the fantasy football wars, so here we will look at four teams who could potentially go from dark horses to World Cup champions in the space of a few weeks in June. Continue reading

Champions League Quarter Final Draw Made

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Manchester United have been handed the toughest tie possible in the UEFA Champions League quarter finals as they were pitted against reigning champions Bayern Munich.

With United currently enduring a torrid season under the tutelage of David Moyes this clash could further highlight their woes or it could yet be the making of The Chosen One, should his charges halt the progress of Pep Guardiola’s  side.

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea have been paired with Paris St Germain. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and co will offer a stern test to the blues, who coasted through against Galatasary in the previous round.

Real Madrid will face 2013 beaten finalists Borussia Dortmund while an all-Spanish meeting between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid completes the quarter final draw.

Draw in full: 

Barcelona v Atletico Madrid

Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund

Paris St Germain v Chelsea

Manchester United v Bayern Munich

First-leg ties to be played on 1 and 2 April, with the second legs being played on 8 and 9 April.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

The Globalisation Of The NBA

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Brooklyn Nets kicked off the first global game of 2014 with a resounding 127-110 win over the Atlanta Hawks at London’s 02 Arena last Thursday.

Over the past 35 years the NBA have played 147 games globally, visiting 20 different countries including China, Germany, Italy and Russia amongst others.

Yet the globalisation of the NBA has extended far beyond bringing the game cross continent.  Continue reading

News in Brief – Ireland Falls To A New Kind Of Criminal

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Enda’s been away on a mission before the taste of Turkey has barely left our lips. Good old Enda, what would we do without him? Well, actually while he’s been away the Limerick City of Culture Committee has crumbled further. CEO Patricia Ryan has now resigned from her 18 month, €120,000 salary job. NIB said didn’t we?! We said last week it was going to get silly and it has.

Not only has Ryan been resigned to giving up the job (and its accompanying cash) now there are allegations of phone hacking as someone let slip of her departure on a blog an hour before she made an official statement. It’s hardly whistleblowing on an Edward Snowden scale. Talking to RTE Radio 1 an artist involved described the whole thing as ‘like a big game’ before painstakingly going through each play; ‘the players have come out on the pitch . . . there’s been an upset . . . the whistle goes’ yeah we get the idea. It’s a game, Monopoly, the Limerick version. Continue reading

Irish Sides Learn European Fate

el-trophyUEFA revealed the draw for the First Qualifying Round and Second Qualifying Round of both the Champions League and Europa League yesterday morning. Fans from across the globe, including those within in the League of Ireland tuned in to see where they would follow their team in a foreign country for the first time this year.

St.Patrick’s Athletic never seem to get the luck they need within the draws. Pats last couple of European draws has featured trips to Bosnia, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Malta, Romania, Russia, Sweden and Ukraine. No doubt their was an air of grievance around Richmond Park yesterday when the draw pitted them against Lithuanian side Zalgiris Vilnius, with a potential second round trip to Armenia to face FC Pyunik or Macedonia to face FK Teteks on the cards should they progress. . Continue reading

Turkish Unrest Spreads As Erdogan Remains Defiant

Protesters clashed with police across Turkey overnight despite an apology for police violence from the Deputy Prime Minister designed to halt an unprecedented wave of protest against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Pro-government newspapers signaled a softening of Ankara’s line in the absence of Erdogan, who flew off on a state visit to north Africa on Monday night after a weekend of rioting critics were inflamed by his denunciations of protesters. Continue reading

Healthy (and Tasty!) Lunch Recipes

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad. 

  • 1/2 Butternut Squash, chopped and roasted in the oven for about 30mins, until softened and browned.
  • 1/4 block of Feta Cheese, crumbled.
  • Handful of Mixed Leaves such as Lamb’s Lettuce, Spinach and Rocket.

Dressing

  • 1 tblsp. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tblsp. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. chopped oregano

Place the leaves on a plate, sprinkle over the roasted butternut squash and crumbled feta cheese. Pour over the dressing and mix to combine.

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Mixed Veg and Ham Omelette

  • One Egg
  • One Egg White
  • 1/2 Cup of Milk (skimmed or full-fat)
  • 1/2 Green Pepper, chopped.
  • 1/2 Red Pepper, chopped.
  • 1/4 Courgette, chopped.
  • 1/2 Red Onion, chopped finely.
  • 1 Slice of Crumbed Ham, chopped.
  • Chopped fresh or dried Parsley
  • Seasoning.

Heat up olive oil or low calorie spray in a frying pan. Mix all ingredients together until combined. When the frying pan is hot, pour the mixture in. Meanwhile, heat up the grill in order to cook the top of the omelette. When the top of the omelette has almost set and the bottom is browned, place the frying pan under the grill with the handle facing out so you do not burn yourself taking it out. When the top is browned to your liking remove the frying pan from the grill, place the omelette on a plate and serve with the carrot and pumpkin seed side salad -> recipe below.

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Chickpea Stew

  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, chopped finely.
  • 1 medium Onion, chopped finely.
  • 1 Red Chilli, deseeded.
  • 1 Green Pepper, chopped.
  • 1 Red Pepper, chopped.
  • 1/2 Courgette, chopped.
  • 1 Can of Chickpeas
  • 1 Carton of Passata or 1 tin of Chopped tomatoes, blended till smooth.
  • 2 tblsp. of finely chopped fresh Parsley or Coriander
  • Seasoning.

Heat up olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan. When hot, sauteé the onion, garlic and chilli until the onion is transparent. Add the vegetables and cook until softened, but still firm. You do not want to overcook them. Add the passata/tin of tomatoes and simmer for about 10-15mins. Add chickpeas and seasoning. Cook for a further 10mins and serve hot with crusty bread. This can be frozen in batches and taken to work in a lunchbox.

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Moroccan-Style Chargrilled Veg Salad

Veg

  • 1/2 Green Pepper, large slice.
  • 1/2 Red Pepper, large slice.
  • 1/4 Courgette, cut into round slices.

Cous-Cous

  • 1/2 a bag of portioned wholegrain cous-cous

Moroccan-Style Dressing

  • 1 tblsp. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tblsp. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tblsp. of finely chopped Mint
  • 1 tsp. of Cumin
  • 1 tblsp. Lemon Juice
  • Seasoning

Chargrill all vegetables on a hot griddle pan or a George Foreman grill until softened and slightly blackened (only slightly!)

Open the portioned bag of cous-cous and put it in a bowl. Cover with boiling water. Leave for 10mins. When softened place on a plate and serve the chargrilled vegetables on top of the cous-cous.

Spoon dressing over salad and mix to combine. Serve with warm pita bread.

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Carrot and Pumpkin Seed Side Salad

  • 2 Carrots, grated.
  • 1 Garlic Clove, grated.
  • Sprinkle of Pumpkin Seeds

Healthy Dressing

  • 1 tblsp. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tblsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped Coriander
  • Seasoning

Mix together the grated carrot, garlic and pumpkin seeds. Pour over dressing and mix to combine. Serve with your lunch or dinner for a healthy side salad.

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Turkey and Guacamole Pita Bread

Healthy Guacamole

  • 1/2 Avocado, mashed.
  • 2 Cherry Tomatoes, chopped finely.
  • 1/2 Red Chilli, deseeded and chopped finely.
  • 1/4 Red Onion, chopped finely.
  • Squeeze of lime juice
  • Seasoning
  • 1 tsp. of greek yoghurt or sour cream or créme fraiche

Combine all the guacamole ingredients with the mashed avocado. Toast the pita and open it out. Place a slice of turkey onto the pita bread. Spread the healthy guacamole onto the turkey slice. Close the pita and cut into half. Serve with the carrot and pumpkin seed side salad.

Belgians Show Ireland That Success Starts At Home

European football is currently witnessing a revolution, one that has been simmering under the limelight for the past few seasons but is now fully realising its potential.

The football world has become synonymous with names like Dembele, Hazard and Verthongen, the backbone of a blossoming Belgium side that many are tipping for future success. Belgium, like Ireland, has never exactly been a football haven. There national side has enjoyed more success than Ireland in terms of qualifying for events but still it’s nothing worth bragging about. At club level its pretty much a similar story as Belgian teams have had limited success on the European front. Where it not for Anderlecht and Standard Liege then this revolution may not have been possible.

To the aforementioned trio add the names of Kompany, Vermaelen, Defour, Witsel, Fellaini and Lukaku, all household names on the European stage and it’s not hard to see why this team managed by Belgian hero Marc Wilmots looks set to shine. Throw rising stars in there such as Mirallas, Alderweireld and De Bruyne and one begins to instantly wonder how this team never made it to Euro 2012. Perhaps the Euros came too soon but Belgium were quite unlucky finishing two points off a playoff spot in what was a tough qualification group featuring a German side who won ten out of ten and a Turkish outfit  who narrowly pipped Belgium to second place.

The new golden generation of Belgium looks set to outshine its predecessors, who reached six successive World Cup’s between 1982-2002, which included a  4th place finish in 1986. They even finished as runners up at Euro 1980. Wilmots side have enjoyed a solid start to qualifying for Brazil 2014 grinding out a 2-0 win over Wales and a 1-1 draw with Croatia which is no mean feat, Irish fans would certainly agree.

But for all the prospects and potential this Belgian team has one wonders how Ireland cannot produce such a model for success giving we are country of a similar nature. Yes the Belgian population is double that of Ireland but in reality what does population matter if one has correct infrastructure?

The Belgian FA have incorporated a model for success, they are willing to do everything possible to provide themselves with success. The vision of Belgian football is quickly changing thanks in large part to the motivational factor whereby such a small country takes pride from punching well above their weight. Ireland have a similar outlook yet finances dictate success. Nonetheless the quality of the current Belgium team compared to Ireland is astounding as any of the Belgian players would walk into the Irish set up.

In recent years we have witnessed a reversal of our fortunes. The old guard of Given and Duff have retired while Dunne and Keane are on their last leg. Our input into European competition and the Premier League has steadily declined year after year. After all, how many Irish players will feature in this year’s Champions League?

Contrast this steady decline with the fortunes of the respective clubs in Belgium and Ireland. This season sees Anderlecht make a welcomed return to the Champions League group stages, a feat the 31 time Belgian champions last enjoyed in the 2006/07 season. The Belgian champions boast ten Belgians in their squad. Combine this ten with the current Belgian stars at other Champions League clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Zenit and it’s not hard to see the Belgians mean business. Meanwhile, Aiden McGeady holds his head high as Ireland’s sole Champions League representative and League of Ireland clubs remain light-years’ away from reaching Europe’s premier club competition.

Of course we can talk with a bit more excitement when it comes to the Europa League. After all Shamrock Rovers did enjoy success qualifying for the group stages last year. However this historic feat was quickly forgotten as the Hoops failed to earn a single point and bowed out of the competition. How long will we wait for another Irish club to break such ground, something the Belgian sides do year upon year with relative ease.

The old adage that success starts at home is universally true. This rising Belgian outfit would be nothing where it not for the backing it’s football association affords its national league. Contrast this with Ireland and the ever lacking FAI involvement in the League of Ireland and it’s not hard to see why we are struggling at both international and club level. Indeed it says something about the difference between the LOI and the Pro League when you consider the numerous Irish stars who had to move abroad in recent years to get a sniff at pulling on the green jersey.

So while Wilmots leads this golden generation onto bigger and better things Irish fans can only wonder what might have been if the FAI had a similar dedication to that of their Belgian counterparts. The longer the FAI are devoid of hope and enthusiasm the longer Irish football as a whole will suffer.

 

Major Boost For Celtic Nations Euro 2020 Bid

On May 15th, as time was drawing to a close, the Celtic nations – composed of Ireland, Scotland and Wales – made it known to UEFA that they were interested in entering the race to host the 2020 European Championship. “We can confirm that we have had initial discussions on the principle of a joint bid with both Wales and the Republic of Ireland and have declared our interest to UEFA in order that we can fully explore the opportunity in more detail,” said the Scottish FA in a statement released to the press. A statement of interest is all that this is; the official bids won’t be made for another 18 months or so.

This isn’t the first time the Celtic countries have formed an alliance in an attempt to secure the European Championship. Some may remember with shame the fiasco that was Ireland and Scotland’s attempt at hosting Euro 2008. Despite being proclaimed as one of the best choices, Irish and Scottish football officials were shocked and dismayed to learn that not only did they fail to secure the competition, but their joint bid was never really a serious contender. Several reasons were behind this revelation, and perhaps reasons behind the addition of Wales in the current bid. Firstly, the issue of which Dublin stadiums were to be used was unresolved. The GAA refused to allow the use of Croke Park to host a foreign game, while the IRFU wanted a new stadium built-in exchange for the use of rugby’s Lansdowne Road. Fears were also raised by UEFA regarding the concentration of too many stadiums in one city – Glasgow held three of the required arenas and should several matches be scheduled there for the same day, security and control could have been a major issue. Further problems surrounding financial and political stability in Ireland gave organisers little choice but to move on to more suitable candidates.

Ten years after that failed attempt, things are looking better. The exclusion of the use of Croke Park was a stumbling block in 2002 yet the proceeding years have seen the playing of several international football games at the home of the GAA, and the temporary relaxation of Rule 42 (prohibiting foreign sports utilising GAA grounds) so as to allow Irish rugby a temporary home during the construction of their new stadium. Considering the potential advantages for the Gaelic organisation, one would think that a second relaxation of their ban might not be a difficult thing to negotiate.

In addition, the bid is made possible by issues surrounding their opponents. As of the May 15th deadline, only two other countries had put forward their name for contention – Turkey and Georgia. Turkish football is currently under intense scrutiny by Uefa following the match fixing scandal that rocked the federation. Fenerbache had been excluded from the Champions League this season, while their club chairman currently resides in jail, awaiting a verdict. Also affecting the Turks is the soaring chance of Istanbul being chosen to host the 2020 summer Olympics. Uefa’s President, Michel Platini, has warned that if Istanbul were to be awarded the Olympics, he wouldn’t vote for them. However, he needn’t worry. The International Olympic Committee had itself reminded the country of its rules – an Olympic host nation cannot hold another major sporting event in the same year. Speaking to the Press Association, a senior Uefa official commented on both situations, saying “this could be good news for Scotland, Wales and Ireland if they were to proceed with a bid.”

But the good news for the Irish, Scottish and of course the Welsh too, doesn’t just end there. In relation to the Georgian bid, the threat doesn’t seem to be overly great. Though the original plan had been to pursue a joint bid with fellow ex-Soviet country, Azerbaijan, the latter elected to focus their attention on the 2020 Olympics, and soon after it was announced that Georgia was now attempting a solo bid. However, hosting such major competitions on their own is beyond most countries. Ten stadia with a minimum of 30,000 seats and rising are required; Georgia’s biggest stadium seats 55,000 and is the only one to cross the 30,000 threshold until the Bantumi Stadium opens next year. With low average income and GDP and 34 per cent of the country living below the poverty line, it’s hard to see eight more suitable stadiums being constructed, especially when they will see minimal use once the Euros are over. In recent days, news has come through regarding Azerbaijan’s failed Olympics bid, and their intention to rebid for the Euros alongside Georgia once more. But considering they have only one 30,000 seater stadium at present, and a 65,000 arena planned for 2015, they would fall far short of Uefa’s requirements. The Celtic nations have everything in place already, bar the possibility of having to construct one extra stadium, Georgia/Azerbaijan would face a bill for at least six arenas.

Between the three countries that have banded together, there are seven possible stadiums that do already meet the criteria or could with a little upgrade. What could make or break this bid, just like the last time, is whether or not the GAA decides to play ball. Across the 32 counties, they have eleven stadiums above the 30,000 mark alone, many of which are far greater in size than, several more whose capacity could be increased with the addition of a few thousand more seats. Now perhaps only a few, Páirc Úi Chaoimh or Semple Stadium, for example, might be actually usable. But France 2016 will be using ten stadiums, and with the GAA’s help, the three countries could easily match this.

But are three host countries too much, taking up 3 automatic slots? Three joint hosts aren’t exactly unheard of but usually one or two countries band together to shoulder the burden. And with all of these stories being thrown around about the ‘Celtic nations’, one little state in the middle of all this must be feeling left out and a little angry. Four host countries are far too much, two would nearly be better. So what about a joint bid with Northern Ireland? After all, our footballing world has been quite bound up with theirs in the last number of years. Northern footballers are entitled to play for the Republic, and have done so time and time again, and not to the best reception north of the border. Perhaps it is time to reconcile and offer the hand of peace. Through showing off their players in our jersey on the island as a whole. Joking aside though, there is a small possibility that it might work. Again, we would need the GAA’s help to succeed, as well as some stadium renovation north and south of the border. I won’t be as naïve to suggest that this could do something to heal the tension that still exists on both sides of the border once and for all. But surely a joint hosting of an event of such magnitude could do something good for relations between our two states? And perhaps a joint effort at hosting the summer championships in 2020 could bring both football associations back on more cordial terms since the FAI broke away to form their own organisation south of the border all those decades ago. At the very least, it’ll ensure they qualify for the event, not to mention ourselves, so on that basis they might go for it. And even more unlikely but still possible, such a venture, were it to go well, might allow for thoughts of a united Irish football team to begin to swirl back to the surface once more.

Considering there are 18 months left until concrete bids are submitted to Uefa, we might as well use the time to consider our plans as well as our alternatives. Discussion isn’t concrete and it doesn’t do any harm. What we do know is that the Euros are between a country that can’t really afford to host, one that seems quite preoccupied with the Olympics and then our own band of merry suitors. With the deck so stacked in our favour, God help us if we can’t manage to win this time around.

Irish Aim For Italian Scalp

REPUBLIC of Ireland under-21 team manager Noel King believes his side have the character to cause a surprise when they host leaders Italy in Monday’s UEFA U21 Championships qualifying Group Seven fixture at the Showgrounds, Sligo (3.00pm). 

Coached by former Juventus star Ciro Ferrara, the Italians have won all five of their fixtures in the qualifying group but face an Irish side that has won three successive games at the west of Ireland venue. 

“Italy have won this competition five times before and having studied them closely I would say they are as good as any team I’ve seen at this age group,” said King. 

“They will rightly believe that they have a chance of winning this competition outright in Israel next summer and have very talented attacking players but we need to keep that out of our minds and focus on the job at hand. 

“If we do everything in our power to win this game then I believe we can get another victory in Sligo, where we’ve developed an excellent relationship with the local football community.”

Italy’s striking options include AC Milan’s Stephan El Shaarawy, Manolo Gabbiadini of Atalanta, Siena’s Mattia Destro and Chievo’s Alberto Paloschi. 

With Hungary beating second-placed Turkey on Friday, the Irish could leapfrog the Turks if they secure the three points tomorrow. 

“That result could be good for us but that will only be the case if we take advantage of it,” said King. 

“Everybody is fit and we’ve been together since before the Denmark friendly last week so we’ve prepared well and with the support of a packed Showgrounds I believe we are ready to produce a good performance.” 

Republic of Ireland U21 squad: Ian McLoughlin (MK Dons), Aaron McCarey (Wolves), Mark Connolly (Unattached), Shane Duffy (Everton), Greg Cunningham (Manchester City), Niall Canavan (Scunthorpe United), John Egan (Sunderland), Kevin Long (Burnley), Jeff Hendrick (Derby County), Eunan O’Kane (Torquay United), Richie Towell (Unattached), Aidan White (Leeds United), Conor Clifford (Chelsea), Conor Hourihane (Plymouth Argyle), Sean Murray (Watford), Samir Carruthers (Aston Villa), Ronan Murray (Ipswich Town), James Collins (Shrewsbury Town), Rhys Murphy (Unattached), Robbie Brady (Manchester United).