USA’s fail­ure cap­tures the at­ten­tion of world

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - COMMENT -

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?

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