USA’s failure captures the attention of world
THE USA’s failure to qualify for the World Cup finals almost defies belief. The Americans needed just a point from their final match against a Trinidad and Tobago team which had lost eight of its previous nine qualifiers. Instead, they managed to lose 2-1 in front of 5,350 fans at the Ato Boldon Stadium in the small town of Couva to miss out for the first time since 1986. It was, in the words of Sports Illustrated, “a choke job of historic proportions”, and “the most embarrassing result in US soccer history”.
Yet the American collapse did have the effect of sending Panama through to the finals for the first time. The Panamanians were lucky from the point of view that their first goal in a 2-1 win over Costa Rica did not seem to have crossed the line. Yet there was a touch of karma to that as four years ago they were set to qualify before conceding two goals in injury-time in their last game against Mexico. Irish people will identify with this team from a country of four million people overturning the odds to make it through. Come on the Canalmen.
AMID all the furore over national anthem protests you could miss the fact that they’ve also actually been playing some football in the NFL. In Dallas last Sunday there was an electrifying reminder of just what makes the game so special. When the home Cowboys took a 31-28 lead against the Green Bay Packers with 1.13 left on the clock you thought visiting quarterback Aaron Rodgers surely couldn’t repeat the miracle comeback which knocked Dallas out of last year’s play-offs.
Yet he did, passing, scrambling and probing, going 75 yards in nine plays and finding wide receiver Davante Adams with the winning touchdown pass with 11 seconds on the clock. If Tom Brady is the game’s ultimate winner, Rodgers is its ultimate miracle worker. The duo may well meet up in the Super Bowl. Best bets to spoil that dream match-up? The Packers’ AFC rivals the Kansas City Chiefs, the only side to start the season 5-0.
WHEN a 20-year-old Bryan Cooper rode three winners at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival, the world seemed to be at the feet of the Tralee prodigy. Yet the road to the top is not as straightforward in horse racing as in other sports and Cooper has been cursed with injuries.
His biggest blow, however, came in July when Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud, where he’d been number one jockey, decided to let him go. Now Cooper has bounced back, securing a job with Alan Potts, one of Britain’s biggest owners. He will have first pick of the Potts horses which are trained in England, with Robbie Power enjoying the same privilege with those stabled in Ireland.
Among the horses Cooper will ride are Fox Norton and Finians Oscar, current ante-post favourites for the JLT Novices Chase and the Ryanair Chase at next year’s Cheltenham respectively. The latter would provide a nice bit of revenge, wouldn’t it?