Back in the days when Channel 9 was Channel Eddie, Eddie McGuire would always start The Footy Show with the words “What a week it’s been!”. Well what a week it is going to be for sport. The Cricket World Cup has kicked off on the subcontinent with a lavish opening ceremony. The first game between India and Bangladesh begins on Saturday. A new season of Super Rugby begins tonight (Friday 18th February). The competition has been expanded to 15 teams, including the Melbourne Rebels. Of course we can not forget, back in England the FA Cup Fifth Round matches will be played this weekend, including the fairytale fixtures of Manchester United playing host to non-league Crawley Town and Leyton Orient welcoming Arsenal, fresh from their European Champions League victory over Barcelona.
The Cricket World Cup proper starts on Saturday, with two of the host sides, Bangladesh face favourites India. Australia have their first game on Monday (21stFebruary) in Ahmedabad against Zimbabwe. Australia did well against England in their recent one day series and Ricky Ponting made a come back in the warm up game against India last week. Ponting made 50 in a break from his recent poor run of form, but Australia were well beaten by the Indian spinners. They will need to seriously improve in order to beat India on their home soil and maintain their huge success in this competition. Of Course South Africa should not be forgotten as contenders for the trophy. The Cricket World Cup features 14 teams and 49 matches staged over 6 weeks across the sub continent, including Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. Pakistan was forced to withdraw from hosting because of security concerns.
The new Super 15 tournament begins in New Zealand where the Hurricanes host local rivals the Highlanders. The first game on Australian soil is also the first Super Rugby game in Melbourne, where the new franchise, the Melbourne Rebels host last years highest finishing Australian side the Warratahs. The Rebels include a variety of oversas talent, including former England Fly Half, Danny Cipriani. Not to mention Australian Captain Stirling Mortlock. Mortlock‘s former side the Brumbies host the Waikato Chiefs, while the Queensland Reds host Perth‘s Western Force, who finsihed second from bottom last season. With James O’Connor and David Pocock playing so well for Australia, it’s hard to believe they will finish as low again.
I mentioned those two fairytales fiixtures in the FA Cup earlier, which will undoubtedly go to the Premier League leaders Manchester United and Arsenal, but they will be days that the Crawley and Leyton Orient players will always remember. Other notable match ups include the round four replays. The all Premier League clash of Chelsea and Everton and Manchester City have to still complete their clash against Notts County.
I can not close without mentioning the superb win by Arsenal against Barcelona. Even Arsenal die hard fans knew it would be difficult. Arsenal played well in the first half, keeping Barcelona out and creating some chances oftheir own, but still conceded a goal to World Cup star David Villa. The second half saw an amazing comeback by the Gunners. Robin Van Persie managed to get his shot from the left between the post and Barcelona goalkeeper Valdes. Arsenal’s second goal came from some fancy work on the right from Samir Nasri who centred the ball for great finish by Andrey Arshavin. It will be a tough game at the Nou Camp, but Arsenal have given themselves every chance and may be fuelled the confidence of their frst Trophy in 6 years, as they play the League Cup Final before they meet Barcelona again.