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LEICESTER CITY VS SPORTING BRAGA

The foxes have impressed in the last few games and there was no letting up on Thursday night. What a pass from Tielemans in the build up the third goal from fellow Belgian Praet. Iheanacho, deputizing for the rested Vardy struck a brace to stake a claim for a starting berth but it will take some doing to depose Vardy in the form he is in. Braga on the other hand barely threatened Schmeichel’s goal. With competition for the top 4 places in the Premiership promising to be at an all time high, this competition may provide a route for Leicester into the Champions League. They need to sort out their consistency issues particularly after Christmas. Their over reliance on goals from Vardy may come back to bite them and may possibly need to dip into January market to find a player who can supplement him. No offence to Iheanacho and Slimani of course.

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PARIS MASTERS HIGHLIGHTS

Standout result on Thursday was Stan Wawrinka beating the in form Russian Andrey Rublev in 3 sets. Stan the man recovered impressively from losing the first set for just 1 game showing his younger upstart he has a lot in his 35 year old self.The key to his victory was winning his efficient conversion of break points(3/5) to Rublev’s (3/6). There was not much in it but it proved to be telling. Rafa Nadal celebrated a milestone 1000th win on the tour with a straight sets win over Australian Thompson. Thompson impressed me with my shot of the day when he was 3-2 up in the second at 0-15. Nadal is now ONLY behind Jimmy Connors(USA), Roger Federer(SUI) AND Ivan Lendl(CZE). He looked much settled after a shaky last match with Lopez.

WORLD CUP:BELGIUM VS MOROCCO

The funniest thing about this Belgian team is that they are ranked higher than Spain and France in the FIFA rankings but they come into this world cup with BIG NAMES in terrible form for their club sides. Talk about the Eden Hazards and the Castagnes of this world. Reputations count for absolutely zero in soccer. Morocco were full value for their victory here, my heart warmed up to Ziyech’s redemption mission at this world cup. He has had a torrid 2022/2023 season at Chelsea having lost his place when Graham Potter showed up. He was a thorn on the side of Castagne all match capping off with a mega assist to Zakaria in injury time. This was the Ajax Ziyech as I knew him. Morocco were full of energy , enthusiasm and most importantly did not show any respect to their opponents which has been the downfall of many an African side at previous world cups. The Belgians started with Batshuayi upfront with Lukaku still missing and to be fair he held the line well but Michy has never been that prolific in his career.

In as much as Courtois is a marvelous goalkeeper, he is prone to a brain freeze or two once in a while. The hero of the UCL final was culpable for Romain Saiss’s opening goal. The former Wolves man was credited with the goal but Sabiri’s vision to catch out the Real Madrid keeper cannot be understated. Spain failed to renew the old guard on time and paid for it by poor showings in 2014 and 2018. Belgium are heading in that direction. Clearly Alderweireld and Vertonghen have seen better days, both in their late thirties were caught out on those set plays far too easily. I am in the mood to be critical today. Alex Witsel now, very little protection for the vulnerable back four. Kevin De Bruyne had his worst game for a long time (and it doesn’t happen often), absolutely little link up play with Michy. The good now, Mazraoui of Bayern was huge at left back, we all know how KDB streaks to the flank if he doesn’t find space in the middle of attack. Morocco didn’t feel the absence of their impressive first choice keeper Bounou of Sevilla at all, replacement Munir looked assured. Morocco will face already eliminated Canada ,knowing a win for Croatia when they face Belgium will send them through regardless of their result.

PLAY OF THE WEEK

This is the GOLDEN GENERATION OF CANADIAN SPORTS we are witnessing this year. Canada’s young upstart Davis Cup team is the best of the lot, no disrespect to the Canadian Men’s Soccer team at all. They have two top 20 players in Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger Aliassime who played my play of the week this week. Facing Australia in this year’s final, Canada had taken a 1-0 lead in Malaga, Spain thanks to Denis winning against Kokkinakis in the earlier match. Felix now faced Alex De Minaur in the second match. Not only did he romp to victory in straight sets, he fired an impressive 22 winners past the 19 year old Aussie. Now my play of the week, check out first set 4-3 Canada deuce on the Aussie racquet. Is it possible to have a twin in tennis(not birth twin but a twin in sense of your approach to points)?

Felix is the younger version of Djokovic in terms of point construction and defense. The moment of the point where De Minaur was in trouble was mid point when he decided to go central with his backhand. From there Felix was finding corner after corner, getting back into the point was always going to be difficult for Alex. To his credit, Alex put up a valiant fight to keep in the point on the baseline, even the lob wasn’t bad. Check out the footwork by Felix for the overhead. Key to perfecting the overhead smash is to focus on the ball not on your opponent , deciding where you are going to place the ball early too. Couldn’t have done it any better. Crowd goes wild, Felix is something special. Canada winning their first Davis Cup title, second time of asking in the final, well deserved.

NFL:VIKINGS VS PATRIOTS

https://www.vikings.com/video/full-highlights-vikings-33-patriots-26

Bill Belichick’s record on Thursday Night Football is astounding before we even look at Thanksgiving. A win percentage of 75% meant his New England Patriots came into their TNF game with Minnesota firm favorites. The Vikings no pushovers, their regular season record 8-2 is the joint second best in the league. The purple team has tweaked their style from a defensive style last season to a more aggressive one which has worked wonders. Check out their first TD of the game on 10:44 in the first Q. Attack the flanks of their QB Kirk Cousins, center(down the middle) becomes free, fill the pocket for the simple TD (At least simple on the eye).

Bill Belichick is about teamwork and guts, that’s his style. Not surprised it didn’t take long for the Patriots’ to register their first TD. High risk high reward, Nelson Agholor going long found by Patriots QB Jones expertly. But boy what a nervous ending to Q1 from the Vikings. Cousins throwing an Interception to Jon Jones that nearly put his team in all sorts. Catch of the match Cousins to wide receiver Jefferson Q2 05:10, between the two safeties and the middle linebacker. Key was getting ahead of the linebacker very early in the play, with pace and focus on the football.

The never say die attitude of the New England Patriots came to the fore in Q3. Game tied at 16-16 and 11 minutes left in it, Hunter Henry scored one of the two best TDs of the game. Always having an eye for the open player, Mac Jones didn’t waste time making the pass early. Let’s watch closely the safety who attempted the tackle on Henry. Way to early to be diving 2 meters into the tackle don’t we think? From there his team was in trouble, Patriots looked the business going into Q4 despite the Vikings scoring the best one of the two. The most vulnerable time for your team is when you have just scored a TD. You are relaxed you are thinking here we go, you are in celebration mode. Right from the restart, Kene Nwangu with a 97 yard return TD to stun the Patriots. Gaps, gaps, gaps. So Q4 was all about New England stopping the momentum of Minnesota going into the last Q. They didn’t do that. Punished by another great piece of wide receiving by Adam Thielen.

Kirk Cousins for the Vikings had a better success rate than his counterpart Mac Jones at 81% despite garnering few yards (299 to Mac’s 389). Such accuracy wins football games. Wide Receiver Justin Jefferson was the best in that position with 139 yards and 9 receptions.

WORLD CUP:FRANCE VS AUSTRALIA

The world champions jinx has been broken. Not since 1998 in Paris has the holders of the world cup won their first match at the showcase, Brazil’s win versus Scotland and Brazil again in 2006. France were handed Australia again just like in Russia 4 years ago, so they can’t complain about lack of knowledge of their opponents. In terms of squad depth I don’t think anyone can match the French, Deschamps started without in form defenders like Saliba and his go to defender Varane but still managed to see out this one.

Not without a Saudi like scare at the start of the match though. Craig Goodwin with a well taken side foot past Lloris. You see, Australia isn’t quite big on soccer as it is cricket and rugby so in the past they have to make do with expatriate players and those born outside the land of OZ. Goodwin is a refreshingly different, born in Adelaide and plays there too. Lucas Hernandez’s ACL(anterior cruciate ligament) tear may have contributed in the build up but take nothing away from the finish.

If I get injured I would certainly be happy to see my brother coming to my place. Theo Hernandez was awesome on the left side of ATTACK AND DEFENSE although he didn’t have much defending to do , the socceroos were that poor after they scored. Look, there is no doubting the gulf in class between the two nations, but at least go down trying you know. I didn’t see that. Just look at the way they lost the ball for Giroud’s first goal. Inexcusable at this level.

Clearly the flanks were a big issue for Australia, just cutting crosses(this is soccer basics here) was a big issue. They made Mbappe and Giroud look extraordinary. Lesson for them for the “easier on paper” ties with Denmark and Tunisia. The bright spots for Australia? The bravery of their coach Graham Arnold in going for an attacking lineup with virtually five forward players but given the opposition a little conservatism wouldn’t have hurt. For France besides Theo it was the fact that they got to see what their fringe players could do at the world stage. Marcus Thuram and Youssouf Fofana will give selection headaches to Deschamps as the tournament progresses(that is assuming they make it out of the group, nothing is for granted in life hey).

PLAY OF THE WEEK

Now this is thinking on your feet. You got to love basketball. It’s a sport that tests your mind as well as fitness. Trae Young , the 2018 Rookie of the year and Atlanta Hawks main guy did the business against the Toronto Raptors Saturday Night. He had a game high 33 points and 12 assists including this assist to John Collins for my play of the week. Pretty poor reaction to the loose ball from the Raptors. I get it they were waiting to see what will happen , possibilities to steal the ball right under the bucket. Fair and fine. But check out number 3 Anunoby at the bottom of the screen. He is the crucial extra defensive player for Toronto(he could make or break the play), that extra two seconds of ball watching cost his team. He would have been at a better position to thwart the eventual Collins dunk than Thaddeus Young number 21(no relations whatsoever to Trae).This would not be Trae’s last contribution in the game. His last second alley-hoop to Griffin won the game for ATL. Good looking out Trae.