Hungarian F1 Grand Prix – Preview & Tips

Hungarian F1 Grand Prix

Events at Silverstone have stirred things up nicely at the top of the drivers’ championship  and it’s very much all to play for as this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix marks Formula 1’s traditional summer break. The teams have one last chance to bag a big result before the mid-summer hiatus and things couldn’t be more finely poised with just a single point separating Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton at the top of the standings.

In terms of the constructors’ standings , events in the English countryside played very much into the hands of Mercedes and despite Ferrari attributing their disappointing weekend to the poor performance of their tyres there’s no doubting it will have led to much soul-searching in the Italian garage.

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A Wounded Ferrari

But expect a Ferrari fightback. They’ll not want to go into the summer break on a downward curve and will be pulling out all the stops to get Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen in the podium places at the Hungaroring.

Ironically the changes to the Ferrari car that were made ahead of Silverstone were met with approval by both drivers and the Finn commented after the race that the changes ‘improved the feeling’ of their car and that the Hungarian track should suit it.

Ferrari need a strong performance, not just to earn some points but to re-establish themselves in the championship battle and it’d be a brave punter who would bet against it.

Cock-a Hoop Mercedes

By contrast Mercedes departed Silverstone on a high, and not just because of their impressive 1-2. The gap at the top of the drivers’ championship is now negligible and in the fight for the constructors’ title they lead by a whopping 55 points. Even at this stage of the season, it’s theirs to lose. And more bad news for Ferrari – they too think the Budapest track will suit them.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff observed post-Silverstone that while the planets aligned for the team in England it is all about ‘future performance’ and there’ll be no complacency or let up in intensity in their garage; the focus remaining on preparation and eye for detail.

And there are more records in the sights of Lewis Hamilton – winner at the Hungaroring last year – who this weekend will be aiming to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 pole positions. Valtteri Bottas too has incentive aplenty to continue his recent good form; something else that has met with Wolff’s approval, who commented after the British Grand Prix that the Finn is ‘getting better with each passing weekend’.

Red Bull Upgrade

Red Bull will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing Silverstone that saw Max Verstappen finish one place off the podium and Daniel Ricciardo a place behind him in fifth. This weekend they are using a heavily revised aero package that they believe will enable the F1 world to see the ‘real’ RB13 for the first time this year.

Problems to date have largely centred around rear-end grip but as the season has progressed this has become a diminishing problem and the balance has been reportedly improving all the time. And they hope this weekend to reap the full benefits of the work of their engineers, and to see an end to their the grip problems.

Ricciardo has been typically bullish when contemplating the Hungarian circuit and claims it to be a circuit that ‘always seems to suit us’, while Max Verstappen has been his usual more cautious self, sensibly awaiting the impact of the updates on the car’s pace before declaring Hungary as his new favourite circuit.

McLaren Optimism

For McLaren it’s been little short of a nightmare season but they believe that the Hungarian Grand Prix will give them their best opportunity of the season so far for scoring some decent points, particularly with Fernando Alonso having earned a very creditable fifth place one year ago. And with the Spaniard having accepted a whole range of grid penalties at Silverstone – a total of 30 places in for use of additional power unit elements – with the sole intention of doing well in Hungary, McLaren’s hopes are high.

The short, twisty lay-out of the Hungaroring does indeed offer a chance to those cars that are unable to generate the out-and-out power of the Ferraris and Mercedes and so, on that basis, the optimism of the McLaren team appears justified. Key for McLaren however, as always, is reliability and Alonso has been at pains this week to point that out.

They’ll be praying for a trouble-free, point-scoring weekend.

Buoyant Renault

Renault were buoyed by Nico Hulkenberg’s sixth place at Silverstone, albeit it was tempered by Jolyon Palmer’s early exit due to a hydraulic O-ring failure on lap one. But the mood is still positive in the garage with Palmer expressing a liking to the Budapest track dating back to his GP2 days.

Aerodynamically the team have made major strides with their set-up, with grip and stability significantly improved since the implementation of a new floor. In Hungary their garage are also evaluating a new nose and cooling package.

Renault will be hoping that all of the above equates to points on the board because in the constructors’ championship they have their sights firmly set on Williams’, who currently sit in fifth place – just fifteen points ahead of them.  Also in the mix for fifth place are Toro Roso and Haas on 33 and 30 points respectively.

New-look Sauber

For Sauber, currently a lowly ninth in the constructors’ championship, it’s a case of banking on some off-track changes to make greater use of that Ferrari powerpack. They have appointed a new team boss, Fred Vasseur, and will be hoping his influence will rub off on all those around him as they also look to implement a big aerodynamic update to the car.

Recent major technical upgrades in Barcelona and Monaco – to the floor, bargeboards, brake ducts and bodywork and – were considered very successful and they’ll be hoping the latest one, which involves the bodywork and cooling system, will have a similarly positive effect.

With a new floor due for Belgium after the summer break, they are a team with a plan but will be hoping these improvements manifest themselves into some regular top ten finishes for both cars.

The Track

The Hungaroring is notoriously hard on tyres and so Pirelli are offering the same options as 2016.  Although it is a permanent circuit it has plenty in common with the street circuits in the F1 calendar, such as tight and twisty corners, low grip, and a requirement for high downforce.

The weather in Budapest in late July can be extremely hot, which only serves to increase the degradation of the tyres.

It’s renowned as a circuit that makes overtaking difficult – another common factor with street circuits – and so race strategy is critical; as is the data collection process on Friday and Saturday that assists qualifying and race day.

The track itself is 4.381 km (2.722 mile) and was resurfaced completely for last year’s race. A few areas have been changed for this year’s. It will begin at 1400 hours local time (1300 BST) and be run over 70 laps or 306.630 km (190.553 miles).

Tips

Hamilton is the bookies’ clear favourite to secure another maximum and they clearly feel his momentum after the British Grand Prix is unstoppable. At Evens (with Betfred) the chance to double your money is reasonably attractive, but there’s value elsewhere.

Vettel at 7/2 to win the race looks a decent bet, particularly given the Ferrari bounce that is expected to be there this weekend. Even more attractive is Ferrari at 11/4 to win the team race, but this does rely on a focussed Raikkonen getting amongst the podium chasers.

Red Bull is another team with a huge incentive to bounce back in Hungary and Verstappen to win the race at 15/2 looks a reasonable bet for those who steer clear of the short-priced favourites.

Interestingly the Red Bull’s straight line speed makes it a relatively short 2/1 when picking the team that will post the fastest lap but with Ricciardo and Verstappen at the wheel this is something well within their grasp.

The bet on a podium finish also offers value as it enables the punter to steer clear of the Mercedes/Ferrari powerhouses, and Raikkonen at 5/2 looks excellent value, especially given his third place at Silverstone.

Recommended Bets:

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel – 7/2
Fastest lap:  Daniel Ricciardo – 7/2
Podium finish: Kimi Raikkonen – 5/2

UFC 214: Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones

UFC 214: Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones – Betting Preview, Prediction and Best Bets

Cancel your plans for June 29, trust me. This is the day of UFC 214, an event in which Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones stand toe-to-toe for the second time in a battle between two of the greatest mixed martial artists in the world. If that’s not enticing enough, then surely the two other UFC championship fights will tip you over the edge. The UFC pay-per-view event will be broadcasted around the world from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones is billed as the headline bout for UFC 214 in a contest for the UFC light heavyweight championship. Daniel Cormier is the current champion of the division after winning the title that had been stripped away from Jon Jones in 2015 for his involvement in a hit-and-run incident. Jones has since been fighting a difficult battle to get back inside the octagon and this fight with Cormier will mark only the second time that Jon Jones has been in the octagon since the two battled it out in January 2015 at UFC 182.

Jiu-jitsu genius Demian Maia has earned his shot at Tyron Woodley and the UFC welterweight title in the co-main event of UFC 214. Maia has dominated everybody in his path to the UFC championship and his seven-fight win streak includes wins over Carlos Condit, Gunnar Nelson and Jorge Masvidal. Tyron Woodley enters the octagon for the third time since winning the UFC welterweight title from Robbie Lawler at UFC 201. Woodley enters this one after consecutive fights with Stephen Thompson that resulted in a majority draw and majority decision victory.

The UFC women’s featherweight championship is also up for grabs when Cris Cyborg meets Tonya Evinger at UFC 214. Cyborg was originally scheduled to meet Megan Anderson at this event but Anderson withdrew from the fight citing “pressing personal issues”.

Also featuring on the main card is an extremely exciting matchup between Robbie Lawler and Donald Cerrone and an important light heavyweight matchup between Jimi Manuwa and Volkan Oezdemir.

The best bet for UFC 214 is a relatively safe selection that backs Tyron Woodley to defeat Demian Maia by KO/TKO. Tyron Woodley is an extremely bad matchup for Demian Maia and his defensive wrestling will prove too difficult for Demian Maia to surpass. Maia, who is then forced to shoot for desperate takedowns in order to set up his submission game, will be exposed to a heavy-hitting Tyron Woodley.

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Recommended Bet:

Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia
Tyron Woodley to Win by KO/TKO
Saturday 29th July – 11:00 pm (ET) /  3:00am GMT
Odds: (-111, 9/10, $1.90) 

UFC 214 – Schedule and Start Time

Main Card (Fox) – 10pm ET / 2am GMT

Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones

Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia

Cris Cyborg vs. Tonya Evinger

Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone

Jimi Manuwa vs. Volkan Oezdemir

Preliminary Card (Fox) – 8pm ET / 12am GMT

Ricardo Lamas vs. Jason Knight

Renan Barao vs. Aljamain Sterling

Brian Ortega vs. Renato Carneiro

Andre Fili vs. Calvin Kattar

Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass) – 6:30pm ET / 10:30pm GMT

Jarred Brooks vs. Eric Shelton

Kailin Curran vs. Aleksandra Albu

Josh Burkman vs. Drew Dober

Beach Volleyball World Championships 2017

Beach Volleyball World Championships 2017

Vienna will become the unlikely capital of the beach volleyball world this week when the FIVB sets up its nets ready for the Beach Volleyball World Championships, which will run from July 28 – August 6.

For ten days the Austrian capital will be the sport’s HQ, hosting all of the group games and the finals in a purpose-built volleyball arena on the Danube Island.

It is the first time Vienna has played host to the sport’s biggest event outside the Olympics, and it will entertain the world’s best 48 women’s and 48 men’s teams who will fight for the title of world champions and the record prize money of $1million.

The Championship format is that, in both competitions, the 48 teams are split into six seeded pools with the top two automatically qualifying for the Round of 32. The remaining four places in that round will be taken by four ‘lucky losers’, who will qualify via winning a play-off match.

And from there it’s a straight knock-out, with the winners in the Round of 32 qualifying for the Round of 16 and thereon in there are quarter-finals, semis and the final.

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The Pools:

Women:

Pool A

  • Larissa/Talita (Br)
  • Bieneck/Schneider (Ger)
  • Day/Branagh (USA)
  • Strauss/Holzer (Aut)

Pool B

  • Laboureur/Sude (Ger)
  • Elas/ Amaranta (Sp)
  • Lidy/Leila (Cub)
  • Andrea/Gorda (Col)

Pool C

  • Agatha/Duda (Br)
  • Meppelink/Van Gestel (Ned)
  • Gordon/Saxton (Can)
  • Gaudencia/Too (Ken)

Pool D

  • Ludwig/Walkenhorst
  • Borger/Kozuch
  • Glenzke/Grossner
  • Mahassine/Zeroual

POOL E

  • Summer/Sweat (USA)
  • Davidova/Shchypkova (Ukr)
  • Mashkova/Smalikova (Kas)
  • Rimser/Plesiutschnig (Aut)

POOL F

  • Hermannova/Slukova (Cze)
  • Lehtonen/Lahti (Fin)
  • Filippo/Erika (Par)
  • Alfaro/Charles (Cos)

POOL G

  • Pavan/Humana-Parades (Can)
  • Yue/Wang (Ch)
  • Mengatti/Perry (Ita)
  • Flier/Van Iersel (Ned)

POOL H

  • Barbara/Fernanda (Br)
  • Heidrich/Verge-Deprea (Swi)
  • Elize Maia/TaianaLima (Br)
  • Manhica/Muianga (Moz)

POOL I

  • Maria Antonelli/Carol (Br)
  • Hughes/ Claes (USA)
  • Pischke/Broder (Can)
  • Nzayisenga/Mutatsimpundu (Rwa)

POOL J

  • Betschart/Huberli (Swi)
  • Wilkerson/Bansley (Can)
  • Zonta/Gallay (Arg)
  • Gabi/Agudo (Ven)

POOL K

  • Bawden/Clancy (Aus)
  • Ross/Fendrick (USA)
  • Laird/Ngauamo (Aus)
  • Xue/Wang X (Ch)

POOL L

  • Schwaiger/Schutzenhofer (Aut)
  • Kolocova /Kvapilova (Cze)
  • Birlova/Makroguzova (Ru)
  • Radarong/Udomchavee (Tha)

Who can win?

Despite missing out in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Brazilians Larissa and Talita will have a good opportunity to make amends in Vienna in the women’s event. The Brazilian pair who lead the world rankings after winning gold medals at the Fort Lauderdale Major – a recent three-star event in Moscow and in Olszty – are certainly among the main contenders in the Austrian capital and will comfortably negotiate Pool A before the going gets tougher.

While a long way from home, the Brazilian pair have spoken of the energy that will be generated by the 10,000-seat Centre Court and are looking to feed off it; the Austrian fans being renowned worldwide for their enthusiasm in the stands. Being on a different continent will not be an issue for Larissa and Talita.

When Ludwig and Walkenhorst secured their Rio 2016 Olympic gold medal, the German ladies also established the fact that they would be the team that the rest of the world would aim to take on in the 2017 Beach Volleyball World Tour. The pressure hasn’t fazed them at all though and they are now aiming to become the first women’s team to top a podium at the sport’s three most prestigious events – the Olympics, the FIVB World Tour Finals and the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships.

And they don’t have to look far more a major rival with compatriots Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude certainly in with a chance of getting in on the medal shake up; both keen to make up for missing out on Rio, with Britta Buthe and Karla Borger taking their country’s second and final spot in the Games.

Laboureur and Sude are in form, have had a good season and are capable of getting in on the medal action, as too are another Brazilian pairing in the form of Agatha and Duda, whose place as third favourites is more than justified.

Men:

POOL A:

  • Alvaro Filho/Saymon (Br)
  • Gonzalez/Nivaldo (Cub)
  • Kunert/Dressler (Aut)
  • Williams/Phillip (T&T)

POOL B:

  • Smedins/Samoilovs (Lat)
  • Jefferson/Cherif (Qa)
  • Bockermann/Fluggen (Ger)
  • Charly/Golindano (Ven)

POOL C:

  • Dalhausser/Lucena (USA)
  • Doherty/Hyden (USA)
  • Prudel/Kujawiak (Po)
  • Leonardo/Garcia L (Gua)

POOL D:

  • Evandro/Andre (Br)
  • Virgen/Ontiveros (Mex)
  • Quesada/Pina (Cub)
  • Varenhorst/Van Garderen (Ned)

POOL E:

  • Alison/Bruno (Br)
  • Grimalt E/Grimalt M (Chl)
  • Plavins/Regza (Lat)
  • Nguvo/Tovela (Moz)

POOL F:

  • Krasilnikov/Liamin (Rus)
  • Koekelkoren/Van Walle (Ger)
  • Toc/Finsters (Lat)
  • Abicha/Elgraoui (Mor)

POOL G:

  • Losiak/Kantor (Pol)
  • Gibb/Crabb (USA)
  • Capogrossa/Azaad (Arg)
  • Goyo/Roger (Par)

POOL H:

  • Pedro Solberg/Guto (Br)
  • Brunner/Patterson (USA)
  • Seidl Rob./Winter (Aut)
  • Naidoo/Williams (RSA)

POOL I:

  • Herrera/Gavira (Sp)
  • Pedlow/Schachter (Can)
  • Candra/Ashfiya (Pol)
  • Ermacora/Pristauz (Aut)

POOL J:

  • Brouwer/Meeuwsen (Ned)
  • Fijalek/Bryl (Pol)
  • Ranghieri/Carambula (Uru)
  • Vieyto/Cairus (Uru)

POOL K:

  • Nicloai/Lupo (Ita)
  • Stoyanovskiy/Yarzutkin (Rus)
  • McHugh/Schumann (Aus)
  • Lombi/Kamara (Sierra Leone)

POOL L:

  • Doppler/Horst (Aus)
  • Saxton/Schalk (Can)
  • Raoufri R./Salemi B. (Ira)
  • Vandemberg/Nusbaum (Can)

Who can win?

The Brazilian duo of Alison and Bruno start as clear favourites, closely followed by the US pairing of Lucena and Dalhausser. Both will be expecting to advance comfortably through the Pool stages and still be there on the tournament’s final day.

Their respective odds will be short but justifiably so and those looking for a very decent chance of a modest return would be well advised to give both pairings serious consideration. Pushing them all the way will be another Brazilian pair ­– Pedro Solberg and Guto, who are seeded 8 but who are more fancied by the bookies, who make them third favourites.

For better value we’d recommend looking further down the bookmaker’s list of odds and, in particular, at the USA pairing of Brunner and Patterson.  After starting the season with two modest ninth place finishes and a more impressive fourth at tournaments in the USA, Brazil and Russia respectively, they then went on to finish 25th in the Netherlands, fifth in Croatia and then 25th in Switzerland. Their up and down season continued with two defeats in the recent World Tour event in Olsztyn but as Brunner has been explaining, their season is all about the World Championships are everything has been geared towards them peaking this week. These guys are well worth an each-way bet.

They are seeded 17th and open Pool H on July 29 against 32nd-seeded Robin Seidl/Tobias Winter of Austria. This is followed by a July 31 contest against 41st-seeded African continental qualifiers Jamaine Naidoo and Leo Williams of South Africa and they conclude their group action on August 2 against the aforementioned eighth seeds Guto and Pedro Solberg. This should be a formality with both pairings already qualified for the Round of 32.

On Austrian soil (or sand) there will be plenty of support for the European pairings, the highest seeding of which are the Polish duo of Kantor and Losiak. They enjoyed their best results of the season with a second place at the Rio World Tour event in May and the same at the World Tour event in Gstaad, Switzerland a couple of weeks ago. This suggests that Austria – not too far from home – will also be to their liking. These guys are in with a chance.

Another European duo who will consider themselves in with a chance of winning this event are Brouwer and Meeuwsen from the Netherlands. With three gold medals to their names in 2017 this Dutch pairing will be dangerous opponents and as a result have been installed as sixth favourites. But they too will be buoyed by a European crowd and probably some voices in the crowd from home.

Also worthy of an each-way bet, in no small part due to the thunderous backing they will get from the Vienna crowd, are Austrian duo Doppler and Horst. Their talent allied to a crowd that’ll be willing them on victory could be an explosive and intriguing cocktail.

Recommended Bets

Women’s:

  • Ludwig and Walkenhorst (Ger) – To win
  • Laboureur and Sude (Ger) – Each-way
  • Meppelink and Van Gestel (Ned) – Each-way

Men’s:

  • Pedro Solberg and Guto (Br) – To win
  • Brouwer and Meeuwsen (Ned) – Each-way
  • Brunner and Patterson (USA) – Each-way
  • Doppler and Horst (Aut) – Each-way

2017 BMX World Championships – Preview & Tips

2017 BMX World Championships – Preview & Tips

This week the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships will be hosted in the USA for the first time in over 15 years. The venue is the Novant Health BMX Supercross Track in Rock Hill, South California, where over 300 professional BMX riders from over 40 nations will compete for the sport’s biggest prize.

A week of events and open training sessions culminate on Saturday with the main event – finals day.

The track itself is one of just a few Olympic-calibre BMX SX tracks in the US; one that was modelled on the 2008 Beijing Olympic track. It was designed for speed with a 35-foot initial elite jump, asphalt turns for acceleration, and a breath-taking berm jump directly over the amateur track. Its unique state-of-the-art surface makes for smooth and dust-free racing in all weather conditions.

There are various junior competitions for elite youngsters, who will be the stars of tomorrow, but the two big events are the Men’s and Women’s elite races.

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Below, in no specific order, are a few names that will be in the mix to make the final eight of the Elite Men’s and Elite Women’s competitions:

Connor Fields (USA): The reigning Olympic Champion has not yet won the BMX Racing rainbow jersey as an Elite rider, so will be hoping to set that record straight. He’ll be boosted by a noisy home crowd, which could well propel him in his bid to make the final. As world ranked number 7, it’s a big ask for him to win the title but bank on him making the final and going close.

Joris Daudet (France): The reigning World Champion, and number 10 in the current rankings, proved he is in good form by winning the recent European Championships in France. His track skills enable him to come from behind, so even a slight mistake at the start will not necessarily put him out of contention.

David Graf (Switzerland): The world number 9 has experience of Rock Hill and has a built a reputation for overtaking on the course’s second straight, giving the impression his competitors are standing still. He’s capable of being in the mix.

Corben Sharrah (USA): The world number 1 has a reputation for cruising effortlessly through the qualification rounds and then, once in the final, he is more than capable of turning it up another notch. Like Connor Fields, he can also count on the backing of a noisy home crowd. He’s the bookies’ favourite.

Sylvain André (France): Has improved after spending time training and racing in the USA and won his first BMX SX World Cup race in Papendal earlier this year. The world’s number 8 was third at the recent European Championships so is in decent form. He’s a contender, no question.

Niek Kimmann (Netherlands): Back-to-back World Champion (2014 Junior and 2015 Elite) and world number 2, Kimmann has the ability to take the lead from any lane on the wide-open first straight in Rock Hill. This makes him a real contender.

Maris Strombergs (Latvia): ‘The Machine’ has not had a good 2017 but is one of the most experienced riders on the circuit and has two Olympic golds (2008, 2012) and two world championships (2008 and 2010) on his CV. As he approaches the twilight of a glittering career he’ll be looking for one more big win. This may just be it.

Twan van Gendt (Netherlands): The world number 3 is without doubt a potential finalist. Recognised as one of the fastest riders out there, he needs to be able to utilise his power and steer clear of mistakes but if he does this he’s a potential winner.

Mariana Pajon (Colombia): Dubbed the ‘Queen of BMX’, the double Olympic Champion and multiple World Champion has the skill, speed and experience to go all the way at Rock Hill. Anything other than first place will be deemed failure.

Laura Smulders (Netherlands): Freshly crowned European Champion in France, the Dutch rider’s confidence is high. The track in Rock Hill suits her – she won the World Cup race here in 2016 – and she will be looking for victory this week.

Alise Post (USA): After two third places and a second in the ‘Worlds’, the home favourite is ready to claim the title. The backing of the American crowd will be a huge advantage for the world number 6 and she’s expected to make the final.

Simone Christensen (Denmark): Only 23 but still hugely experienced, she’s a regular on the podium – although rarely on its top step. She’ll draw on her experience of winning the European title in 2015 and her world ranking of 4 to go all the way this time.

Yaroslava Bondarenko (Russia): The world number 3 is part of a very strong Russian team, but she is their leader and their fastest rider. At just 20-years old she has time on her side but can still go close this time round.

Stefany Hernandez (Venezuela): The world number 10 was the 2015 World Champion and Olympic bronze medallist in 2016. She’s still on the comeback trail after injury but has timed her return with a view to peaking in Rock Hill. She’s certainly one to watch.

Judy Baauw (Netherlands): The world number 5 is in good form and, as her ranking suggests, is capable of being world champion. She’ll be hoping to improve on her fifth place in the European Championships and is well capable of doing so.

Caroline Buchanan (Australia): Also a top level mountain biker, Buchanan has successfully switched between both disciplines and has won world titles in both. While not one of the favourites for this event, she’ll be a threat to those who are.

Tips

Home advantage seems sure to count for a lot at Rock Hill and the US pairing of Alise Post (in the Women’s) and Connor Fields (in the Men’s) will both go close. An each-way bet on both looks good value, whereas – for the same reason – a straight win bet for Corben Sharrah (Men’s), while the odds may not be attractive, looks good for a return.

For a slight outsider in the Women’s competition, look no further than Judy Baauw.

PDC World Matchplay Darts 2017 – Preview & Tips

PDC World Matchplay Darts 2017 – preview & tips

The 2017 PDC World Matchplay tournament starts on Saturday at its spiritual home – the Winter Gardens, Blackpool. Thirty-two of the world’s top players – the top 16 in the PDC Order of Merit plus 16 qualifiers from the one-year ProTour Order of Merit – will compete for one of the most prestigious prizes in the sport.

The tournament dates back to 1994, when Larry Butler beat Dennis Priestley in the first final. Interestingly, in its 22-year history there have only been seven different winners. Unsurprisingly, Phil Taylor has been the championship’s most dominant player with 15 titles; Michael van Gerwen and Rod Harrington the only other players to have lifted the trophy more than once.

Taylor was also the first to hit a televised nine-dart finish during the 2002 World Matchplay and he repeated the feat during the 2014 competition on the way to his seventh-straight Blackpool title; the previous year he’d managed an unbelievable three-dart average of 111.23 during his final win over Adrian Lewis.

His seven-year winning streak, from 2008 to 2014, ended in 2015 when Michael van Gerwen beat James Wade 18-12, before winning it again one year later – ironically beating Taylor in the final.

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This year they line up as follows:

PDC Order of Merit Qualifiers

1 Michael van Gerwen
2 Gary Anderson
3 Peter Wright
4 Adrian Lewis
5 Dave Chisnall
6 James Wade
7 Mensur Suljovic
8 Phil Taylor
9 Raymond van Barneveld
10 Jelle Klaasen
11 Michael Smith
12 Kim Huybrechts
13 Ian White
14 Robert Thornton
15 Benito van de Pas
16 Simon Whitlock

ProTour Order of Merit Qualifiers

Daryl Gurney
Alan Norris
Rob Cross
Joe Cullen
Mervyn King
Gerwyn Price
Cristo Reyes
Stephen Bunting
Darren Webster
James Wilson
Steve West
Steve Beaton
Kyle Anderson
John Henderson
Christian Kist
Justin Pipe

The players are playing for a new record prize pot of £500,000, which includes £115,000 to the winner with a £10,000 bonus on offer for anyone who hits a nine-dart finish.

The competition kicks off on Saturday with the first four matches of the first round, there’s a double session on Sunday and the round concludes with the final four games on Monday evening.

The second round is played across next Tuesday and Wednesday, the quarter-finals are on Thursday and Friday, the semi-finals next Saturday and the final on Sunday.

All of the first round matches are the best of 19 legs and Saturday night (7pm) is when it all starts with Steve West – a World Matchplay debutant – taking on former world youth champion and World No 11 in the PDC rankings, Michael Smith. This is followed by one-time winner and five-time runner-up James Wade facing a dangerous opponent in the form of Norwich’s ‘Demolition Man’ Darren Webster.

Wade and Webster are followed on stage by World No 2 Gary Anderson who continues his quest for his first Blackpool crown against the Dutchman Christian Kist, and opening night ends with the colourful 2017 UK Open champion Peter Wright playing another debutant, James Wilson.

Sunday afternoon gets underway with Justin Pipe – who clinched the final qualification spot last weekend – taking on the Dutchman Jelle Klaasen, and this is followed by former UK Open and World Grand Prix champion Robert Thornton taking on Spanish debutant Cristo Reyes. The third match of the afternoon sees two of the sport’s rising stars, Benito van de Pas and Daryl Gurney, clash in what promises to be an exciting match, before the session ends with former European Championship finalist Mensur Suljovic taking on John Henderson.

The Sunday night session see two of the game’s heavyweights take the stage in games two and three, but not before a very enticing aperitif in the form Dave Chisnall versus Mervyn King.  The greatest darts player ever to take the stage, Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor begins his final World Matchplay with a tough one against UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price and next up, to take on the experienced Dutchman Raymond ‘Barney’ van Barneveld, is Bradford’s Joe Cullen. Kim Huybrechts brings down the curtain on Sunday’s action when he plays Somerset’s Alan Norris.

An all-Aussie clash between Simon Whitlock and Kyle Anderson kicks off the action on Monday evening before World No.4 Adrian Lewis takes on Steve Beaton. And in game three, Stephen Bunting has the unenviable task of facing Michael van Gerwen, the World No.1 and current World Matchplay champion. The final game of the first round sees Ian White take on against Rob Cross, who has made a fine start to life on the circuit having only turned pro in 2016.

The winners in the bottom half of the draw will play in the second round on Tuesday and those in the top half on Wednesday – all games in this round being the best of 21 legs – with the winners progressing through to Thursday’s and Friday’s quarter-finals, which will be the best of 31.

The semi-finals, which are the best of 33 legs, will be played on Saturday before the big one, the final, on Sunday is played over the best of 35 legs.

Betting

Unsurprisingly, Michael van Gerwen heads into the tournament as 8/11 favourite with Betfred as he looks to defend his World Matchplay crown. Gary Anderson is second in the betting at 4/1 with the same bookie, while Peter Wright at 6/1 looks decent value.

It’s been a while since Phil Taylor was anything as generous as 25/1 but as he enters the twilight of a simply never-to-be-repeated career that’s exactly what he is to win this year’s competition. But for the romantics out there, there are worse bets to take on.

According to Betfred, Dave Chisnall is the best of the rest at 33/1, followed by Michael Smith, Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis all at 40/1. The rest are 50/1 or over and are listed below:

James Wade – 50/1
Mensur Suljovic  – 50/1
Rob Cross – 66/1
Daryl Gurney – 66/1
Jelle Klaasen – 100/1
Kim Huybrechts – 100/1
Benito van de Pas – 125/1
Gerwyn Price – 125/1
Simon Whitlock – 150/1
Alan Norris – 200/1
Ian White – 200/1
Joe Cullen – 200/1
Mervyn King – 200/1
Robert Thornton – 200/1
Cristo Reyes – 200/1
Darren Webster – 200/1
Kyle Anderson – 250/1
Stephen Bunting – 300/1
Steve Beaton – 300/1
Justin Pipe – 300/1
Christian Kist – 500/1
James Wilson – 500/1
John Henderson – 500/1
Steve West – 500/1

Tips/Advice

Given his almost complete dominance in the sport it’s unsurprising that Michael van Gerwen is odds-on but there’s little value to be had there, and Gary Anderson’s 4/1 looks a decent bet especially with his experience of winning the sport’s big titles.

Where it gets even more interesting, as mentioned above, is when you look at Peter Wright at 6/1. ‘Snakebite’, as he is known has only the UK Open to his name but is undoubtedly knocking on the door in terms of winning one of the big ones. Now could be his time.

Further down the betting, Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis – both at 40/1 – are worthy of a punt if you’re looking to throw your weight behind an outsider; both having been there and done it on the biggest stage. Both will need to be in the right mind-set and will need the planets to align but on their day both are capable of getting amongst the van Gerwens and Andersons.

In terms of the first round match-ups a couple are worthy of consideration if you’re looking for an upset: Darren Webster at 21/10 to beat James Wade looks reasonable value, as does Mervyn King at 5/2 to beat Dave Chisnall.

Betfred are also doing some specials and one that caught the eye was Gary Anderson at 4/1 to his the most 180’s on the opening Saturday; Peter Wright also looking good value at 9/2.

On Sunday night there is an interesting market on in which game will the most 180’s be hit – Phil Taylor v Gerwyn Price looking quite enticing at 10/3 – and on Monday night Betfred have a book running on the player most likely to hit the highest checkout. While van Gerwen will be the name on everyone’s lips, an in-form Adrian Lewis is more than capable of hitting a 170 and winning you some cash.

Recommended Bets:

Winner: Peter Wright – 6/1
Mervyn King to beat Dave Chisnall – 5/2
Gary Anderson to hit most 180’s on Saturday – 4/1

World Fencing Championships Leipzig 2017 – Preview & Tips

World Fencing Championships Leipzig 2017 – preview & tips

This week the German city of Leipzig plays host to the best fencers from around the world in the sport’s blue riband event – the World Championships.  The city considers itself an integral part of the fencing world having played host to the International Fencing Federation’s 90th anniversary celebrations in 2003 and in 2005 more than 800 fencers competed there in the first ever World Championships. The city also hosted the European Championships in 2010.

The World Championship are held annually with the exception of Olympic years, which effectively doubles as the ‘Worlds’ for that year, but it is complicated slightly by two of its events not being included in the Olympic programme – namely men’s team sabre and women’s team foil. Therefor in an Olympic year these two disciplines are held separately.

The sport is divided into three disciplines: Foil, Sabre and Épée. The specifics of each event are as follows:

Foil – A light thrusting weapon with a maximum weight of 500 grams. The point scoring ‘target’ for the foil is the torso (including the back), neck, and groin, but not the arms or legs. The foil has a circular hand guard that protects the hand from direct stabs; the hand not being a valid target in foil. Touches are scored only with the foil’s tip.

Sabre – A light cutting and thrusting weapon that targets the entire body above the waist, with the exception of the weapon hand. It is the newest weapon in the sport and, like the foil, the maximum weight of 500 grams. Hits with the entire blade or point are valid but as in foil, touches that land outside of the target area are not scored. However, unlike foil, these off-target touches do not stop the action, and the fencing continues

Épée – A thrusting weapon like the foil, but it’s heavier, with a maximum total weight of 775 grams. And in épée, the entire body is valid target. The hand guard on the épée is a large circle that extends towards the pommel, effectively covering the hand, which, unlike in foil, is a valid target. Like foil, all hits must be with the tip and not the sides of the blade and hits with the side of the blade do not register on the electronic scoring.

Each discipline is competed for in the World Championships on a male, female, individual and team basis. As a guide to who may win this time round, see below the top three in each event in the Rio Olympics plus the two events that were competed for (also in Rio) but not as part of the Olympic programme.

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2016 Rio Olympics:

Épée Team Women:

  • Gold – Romania
  • Silver – China
  • Bronze – Russia

Épée Team Men:

  • Gold – France
  • Silver – Italy
  • Bronze – Hungary

Épée Individual Women:

  • Gold – Szasz (Hun)
  • Silver – Fiamingo (Ita)
  • Bronze – Sun (Chn)

Épée Individual Men:

  • Gold – Park (Kor)
  • Silver – Imre (Hun)
  • Bronze – Grumier (Fra)

Foil Team Men:

  • Gold – Russia
  • Silver France
  • Bronze ­­– USA

Foil Individual Women:

  • Gold – Deriglazova (Rus)
  • Silver – Di Francisca (Ita)
  • Bronze – Boubakri (Tun)

Foil Individual Men:

  • Gold – Garozzo (Ita)
  • Silver – Massialas (USA)
  • Bronze – Safin (Rus)

Sabre Team Women:

  • Gold – Russia
  • Silver – Ukraine
  • Bronze – USA

Sabre Individual Women:

  • Gold – Egorian (Rus)
  • Silver – Velikaya (Rus)
  • Bronze – Kharlan (Ukr)

Sabre individual Men:

  • Gold – Szilagyi (Hun)
  • Silver – Homer (USA)
  • Bronze – Kim (Kor)

2016 World Championships:

Sabre Team Men:

  • Gold – Russia
  • Silver – Hungary
  • Bronze – Romania

Foil Team Women:

  • Gold – Russia
  • Silver – Italy
  • Bronze – France

Tips

If attempting to identify a prospective winner it’s difficult to see past the Russians, particular in the foil and sabre categories. Both individually and as a team, Russia are very strong and in the foil and the sabre they have the number one ranked women in the world – Inna Deriglazova and Yana Egorian respectively.  Both are current World/Olympic champions and both will be difficult to beat again in Leipzig.

The Hungarians and French are also strong in this sport with Aron Szilagyi of Hungary number one in the world and the current World/Olympic champion in the men’s sabre category and favourite to win gold, and Yannick Borel of France is ranked number one in the world in the men’s épée.

Italy too had a successful Rio Olympics and will looking again to succeed in Leipzig, particularly in the form of Daniele Garozzo, who is the current World/Olympic champion in the men’s foil.

British Open Championship 2017 – Preview & Tips

British Open Championship 2017 – Preview & Tips

The Open Championship is golf’s third major of the year and prides itself on being the original and best. It’s the only one of the four majors that’s not played in the U.S. and it’s always played on a links course – one that is built on sandy soil on coastline; is buffeted by strong winds and therefore requires deep bunkers to prevent the sand from blowing away; and is largely treeless.

This year’s tournament is the 146th and is being played at Royal Birkdale in Southport, on the north-west coast of England. For those who like their stats, Birkdale – which is 7,156 yards long – is a par 70 course. As of 2008 its stroke index was 74.87.

As links course go, Royal Birkdale isn’t one in the traditional sense in that consecutive holes rarely run in the same direction. It is lined by high dunes, which create a natural amphitheatre for the spectators, and is renowned as being one of the toughest tests of links golf, especially when the wind is blowing.

The last time the Open was played at Birkdale, in 2008, the golfing gods did their worst and the winner, Padraig Harrington, won with a score of three-over-par; the only time in the 21st century that the tournament has been won with an over-par score. Incredibly, only the par five 17th averaged below par.

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Unsurprisingly, given the difficulty of the course, the list of nine previous Open winners at Royal Birkdale is littered with the great and good of golf:

1954 – Peter Thomson -9
1961 – Arnold Palmer -4
1965 – Peter Thomson -7
1971 – Lee Trevino -14
1976 – Johnny Miller -9
1983 – Tom Watson -9
1991 – Ian Baker-Finch -8
1998 – Mark O’Meara – Even (via a playoff)
2008 – Padraig Harrington +3

Below is the top fifteen in 2008, seven of whom (in bold) will be gracing the fairways of Royal Birkdale later this week:

1st – Padraig Harrington +3

2nd – Ian Poulter +7

J3rd – Greg Norman +9

J3rd – Henrik Stenson +9

J5th – Jim Furyk +10

J5th – Chris Wood +10

J7th – Stephen Ames +12

J7th – Ernie Els +12

J7th – David Howell +12

J7th – Robert Karlsson +12

J7th – Paul Casey +12

J7th – Steve Stricker +12

J7th – Robert Allenby +12

J7th – Anthony Kim +12

J7th – Ben Curtis+12

Who’s Going to Win

The winner of this year’s event will win a record $1,845,000 in prize money and if the bookies are to be believed it will be a three-way fight between Dustin Johnson (+1200), Rickie Fowler (+1400) and Jordan Spieth (+1400). [Odds from Bovada].

Of course, rarely, if ever, in golf does a tournament align with form and rankings, and it’s a given that an unexpected name will pop up on the leaderboard as the tournament reaches its climax. For the punter it’s a case of trying to identify who will emerge from the pack and be the one to get among the favourites, but it’s a tough ask because this year the field looks more wide open than ever.

Henrik Stenson, still fresh with memories of victory at Royal Troon one year ago, will be keen to repeat the feat; other recent winners who will also benefit from having emerged victorious on the Open’s eighteenth on Sunday afternoon include Zach Johnson (2015), Rory McIlroy (2014), Phil Mickelson (2013) and Padraig Harrington (2008). It’d be unwise to underestimate the advantage gained from having been there and done it on Europe’s biggest golfing stage.

We’ve already mentioned the top three in the current odds, but here’s a more detailed list of those at the forefront of the bookmakers’ thoughts, with Bovada’s odds in brackets and the player’s respective world ranking in square brackets:

  • Dustin Johnson (odds +1200) [World ranked 1]
  • Jordan Spieth (+1400) [3]
  • Ricky Fowler (+1400) [10]
  • Jon Rahm (+1600) [8]
  • Sergio Garcia (+1600) [5]
  • Justin Rose (+1800) [12]
  • Rory McIlroy (+1800) [4]
  • Hideki Matsuyama (+2000) [2]
  • Tommy Fleetwood (+2000) [14]
  • Henrik Stenson (+2500) [7]
  • Adam Scott (+2800) [15]
  • Brooks Koepka (+3300) [11]
  • Jason Day (+3300) [6]
  • Paul Casey (+3300) [16]

Dustin Johnson’s place as favourite is understandable as he’s widely regarded as the most talented golfer in the world right now and enters the tournament at the top of the world rankings, but he has missed his last two cuts. Up until then he’d enjoyed a fine 2017 – the blot on the landscape being his disastrous 92nd at the U.S. Open – with three tournament wins and several top ten finishes. If he can rediscover his form of February and March of this year he’ll be there or thereabouts. At +1200 he looks decent value.

Hideki Matsuyama, the current world number two, is another with a genuine chance of victory after having won the Phoenix Open, finished second at the U.S. Open and having had six top-five finishes, but his relatively generous odds (+2000) reflect the fact that he missed the cut one year ago at Royal Troon. An 18th place finish one year earlier at St Andrews suggests he can handle a troublesome links but he’s yet to prove he can win on one.

The bookmakers see Jordan Spieth, Ricky Fowler, Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia as Johnson’s main challengers, Spieth in particular looking in decent form following his recent win in the Travelers Championship. The Open Championship however is one title that has eluded him so far and he’ll be desperate to improve on his fourth place finish at St Andrews in 2015.

Fowler and Garcia, in addition to already being in the world’s top ten, have the added strength of being long off the tee – long, straight driving being a must for any success at Birkdale – and both have a chance with this weapon in their armoury.

Rory McIlroy and Jason Day will be expected to be in the mix at the top of the leaderboard, the Ulsterman with the benefit of a home crowd desperate to seem him recover his mojo of two seasons ago. But he has failed to register a win in 2017 and has failed to crack the top 15 in his last three tournaments. He’ll be hoping home advantage inspires him.

Day has arguably had the most disappointing 2017 among those at the top of the rankings and has only a second-place in the AT&T Byron Nelson in May to show for his efforts. He was way off the pace in the Travelers Championship and finished a disastrous 144th at the U.S. Open, so is coming into the Open Championship off the back of a miserable run of form. But he’s talented and shouldn’t be ignored by those fancy a piece of +3300, although he’d probably be content with top ten.

Two more Brits are worthy of consideration, with Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood both hoping to benefit from home advantage and familiarity with the quirks of a brutal links. Rose however is still awaiting his first win in 2017, although second place in the Masters was a fine effort, and will need to overcome the psychological blow of struggling in the U.S. Open and the Players Championship.

Fleetwood meanwhile will be literally on home territory and will likely know the course better than any of the main protagonists. For those who bet with the heart as well as head he’s definitely your man. A fourth place in the U.S. Open boosted his profile and ranking in equal measure and at +2000 , while he’s not offering the punter the best value, he does have a real chance.

And finally, Henrik Stenson is certainly one who could trouble the favourites, especially given his third-place finish in 2008 and his victory at Royal Troon in 2016 – posting a record -20 in the process. His experience of playing well at Royal Birkdale could prove invaluable, so too his experience of lifting the Claret Jug.

Tips/Advice

Rarely does a rookie win the Open Championship, such is the severe test offered by links golf, and it’s therefore no surprise that statistically experienced players fare far better than debutants. Ben Curtis, in 2003, was the last player to win on debut and before him it was Tom Watson in 1975, so unless you’re up for a speculative punt stick to those who are familiar with one of the toughest tests in golf.

Look out too for those who are in the habit of winning because only the aforementioned Ben Curtis, along with Stewart Cink, Ernie Els, and Zach Johnson, have won the Open this century without winning on either the PGA Tour or the European Tour in the year prior to winning the Open Championship.

Age is another good guide and goes hand-in-hand with experience. Stenson was 40 when he won a year ago and 12 months earlier Zach Johnson was approaching 40 when he won. If he’d been born a few months earlier five of the last six Open winners would have been aged 40 or over, and in last year’s top four were Phil Mickelson (46) and Steve Stricker (49).

Another interesting one is that the last four Royal Birkdale winners all finished inside the top-seven in the US Masters, so some research along these lines may be time well spent.

Recommended Bets:

Jorda Spieth @ +1400 with Bovada
Justin Rose @ +1600 with Bovada
Sergio Garcia @ +1800 with TopBet
Tommy Fleetwood @ +2000 with TopBet
Henrik Stenson @ +2500 with Bovada
Patrick Reed @ +5000 with TopBet

UFC on FOX 25: Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum

UFC on FOX 25: Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum – Preview, Prediction and Best Bet

Long Island will host the UFC for the first time on Sunday 23rd July when the promotion brings an action-packed card filled with six Long Island natives. UFC on FOX 25 is headlined by an important matchup between two classy middleweights, Chris Weidman and Kelvin Gastelum. The UFC has chosen the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York as the location for the event.

Weidman vs. Gastelum is an extremely well-matched fight between two middleweights who are on completely different trajectories. Chris Weidman had reached the top of the UFC when he shockingly defeated Anderson Silva at UFC 162. Then, he dismantled two top mixed martial artists in Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort and looked to be unstoppable as the middleweight champion. That was until a poorly-timed spinning kick against Luke Rockhold allowed the challenger to take Weidman down to the mat and punish him in the fourth round at UFC 194. Weidman lost his championship and then went on to lose two consecutive fights against Yoel Romero and Gegard Mousasi. The fighter from Long Island needs this victory more than any ever before.

Kelvin Gastelum, on the other hand, has been outstanding since moving up to the middleweight division. Gastelum had trouble making weight in the UFC’s welterweight division and has now smashed Tim Kennedy and Vitor Belfort before the fight made it to the judges’ scorecards. Gastelum’s three-win streak puts him right in contention with the best middleweights in the UFC, and a win over Weidman would instantly move him just outside contention for a title shot after Michael Bisping and Robert Whittaker battle in a middleweight unification bout later this year.

The co-main event sees two of the UFC’s top featherweights battle it out when Dennis Bermudez meets Darren Elkins. Bermudez returns to the octagon after suffering a brutal knockout loss at the hands of the returning Korean Zombie at UFC Fight Night 104. Elkins is on a four-fight winning streak after scoring one of the more memorable comebacks in UFC history against Mirsad Bektic at UFC 209. A win for either of these fighters will see them shoot up in the UFC’s featherweight rankings.

Also featuring on the card is a light heavyweight bout between Patrick Cummins and Gian Villante and one of the more underrated bouts of the year when 20-1 Jimmie Rivera meets 22-1 Thomas Almeida in a pivotal matchup in the UFC’s bantamweight division.

The main event will be a brilliant bout between two expert mixed martial artists. Weidman is one of the best starters in the UFC and often comes out and controls the first round. If Kelvin Gastelum can survive the early onslaught from the ‘All-American’, Gastelum should be able to work Weidman over by the third round and start landing clean straight punches from a distance. Weidman has recently shown signs of fatigue and deteriorating fight intelligence by the time the fight makes the third round. I expect Kelvin Gastelum to make him pay.

Recommended Bet:

Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Kelvin Gastelum to win in Round 3
Sunday 23rd July – 11:30 pm (ET) /  3:30am GMT
Odds: (+1100, 11/1, $12.00) 

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UFC on FOX 25 Schedule and Start Time

Main Card (Fox) – 8pm ET / 12am GMT

Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum

Dennis Bermudez vs. Darren Elkins

Patrick Cummins vs. Gian Villante

Jimmie Rivera vs. Thomas Almeida

Preliminary Card (Fox) – 6pm ET / 10pm GMT

Lyman Good vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos

Rafael Natal vs. Eryk Anders

Ryan LaFlare vs. Alex Oliveira

Damian Grabowski vs. Chase Sherman

Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass) – 4pm ET / 8pm GMT

Kyle Bochniak vs. Jeremy Kennedy

Brian Kelleher vs. Marlon Vera

Timothy Johnson vs. Júnior Albini

Shane Burgos vs. Godofredo Pepey

Chris Wade vs. Frankie Perez

Women’s 2017 European Championships – Preview & Tips

Women’s 2017 European Championships – Preview & Tips

In the four years since the last Women’s Euros, in Sweden 2013, the women’s game has changed almost beyond recognition.

The sport’s profile has been ratcheted up significantly in that relatively short space of time and between now and the final on August 6 we’ll see the second biggest tournament in the world of women’s football played out on a platform that wouldn’t be out of place in the men’s game.

The tournament kicked off over the weekend in the Netherlands; the host cities being Breda, Deventer, Doetinchem, Rotterdam, Tilburg, Utrecht and Enschede, where the final will be played (at FC Twente Stadion).

The competition, which is run by UEFA in line with the men’s equivalent, was originally a biennial tournament but changed to every four years in 1997 to avoid a clash with the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Between 1987 and 1995 it was a four-team competition, it was increased to eight between 1997 and 2005, twelve between 2009 and 2013, and now it has been expanded to sixteen.

Unsurprisingly Germany have been dominant in the competition, winning eight times – in 1989, 1991, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2013 – in an amazing run that includes victory at the last six consecutive championships.

Sweden took the first title in 1984, Norway won it in 1987 and 1993, and the only other nations to reach finals have been England (1984 and 2009)­ and Italy (1993 and 1997).

The championship’s first 16-team format follows the traditional route with the teams initially split into four groups of four with the top seeds being kept apart. The top two teams from each group will then progress through to the knock-out stages, which begin on 29 July.

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The groups are as follows:

Group A: Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway

Group B: Germany, Sweden, Russia, Italy,

Group C: France, Iceland, Austria, Switzerland

Group D: England, Scotland, Spain, Portugal

In terms of the highest ranked teams, eight appear in the current FIFA top 20:

  • 2nd: Germany
  • 3rd: France
  • 5th: England
  • 9th: Sweden
  • 11th: Norway
  • 12th: The Netherlands
  • 13th: Spain
  • 15th: Denmark

Clearly Germany are the team to beat, not least because in addition to winning the Euros on six consecutive occasions they also won Olympic gold in Rio 2016. Their coach, Steffi Jones – who won this competition as a player in 1997, 2001 and 2005 – has been in charge since 2005 and has an almost unblemished record when competing against European opposition.

The German squad is renowned for having strength in depth and have coped with some key retirements with no dip in quality; many of their younger players having had experience of winning trophies at youth level.

The German’s strongest challengers are expected to be France, who have a squad packed with players from Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain, and many of whom played in this season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League final. Despite a burgeoning reputation they have under-delivered in the last two championships – exiting on both occasions at the quarter-final stage on penalties.

They confirmed their pedigree by winning the prestigious SheBelieves Cup in March, beating England and world champions the United States in the process, while drawing with Germany.

England, Europe’s best performers at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, are arguably the best of the rest and will take great confidence from the fact they beat Germany in the bronze medal match.

Norway too, runners-up last time, will be hopeful of progressing deep into the tournament, along with fellow Scandinavians, Sweden, who will again be looking to progress safely into the knockout stages.

Among the rest, the Spanish squad is recognised as being one laced with talent, along with Switzerland, while home advantage for the Netherlands could prove beneficial, especially with big crowds expected for their games.

In Group A, Denmark will fancy their chances of progressing but will likely be competing with the Netherlands and Norway for a place in the top two; home advantage being considerable for the Dutch. Belgium are the group’s outsiders.

Assuming the Germans will comfortably qualify from Group B, it’s a battle for second but in a group that also contains Sweden it looks a big ask for Italy and Russia to progress to the knockout stages.

Iceland, in their third consecutive finals, will likely be left chasing the French in Group C but will come under pressure from the talented Swiss. Austria will be the group’s outsiders and will likely find the going tough but are capable of springing a surprise.

In Group D, England will start clear favourites but will be pushed all the way by the Spanish. An injury-hit Scotland squad will find it difficult to break into the top two, along with Portugal, who begin the tournament as one of the outsiders.

In terms of which players to look out for… 

Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands) – a prolific striker who recently signed for Arsenal is key to the hosts’ hopes.

Ada Hegerberg (Norway) – UEFA’s current Player of the Year was joint-top scorer in qualifying with ten goals and now plays for Lyon.

Dzsenifer Marozsán (Germany) – another Lyon star who’ll be one of the big performers of the tournament.

Hedvig Lindahl (Sweden) – the Chelsea keeper performed heroics in the Rio Olympics and will be hoping to replicate this form over the next three weeks.

Wendie Renard (France)  the French captain is their rock at the back and also pops up with important goals from set pieces.

Jill Scott (England)  a key player for Mark Sampson’s England, this tall midfielder will be central to her countries chances.

IntenseGambling Trivia

There are two trials taking place, the first being that sides will be allowed to use a fourth substitute in extra time, and the second that yellow and red cards can be issued to team officials in technical areas.

TIPS

Such has been the German’s dominance it’s difficult to see past them but the English will fancy their chances, especially given their success against them in the last World Cup. Therefore England 8/1 to win the competition (with 888sport) looks good value.

France at 3/1 to win the tournament also looks a reasonable bet for those hopeful of tripling their money, but for those looking for a punt on an outsider with a chance look no further than Spain at 14/1.

Recommended Bets:

Winners: France – 3/1
Austria to beat Switzerland (18-4-17) – 14/5
England to reach the final – 11/5

Modern Pentathlon European Championship 2017 – Preview & Tips

Modern Pentathlon European Championship 2017 – preview & tips

This week sees the start of the 2017 Modern Pentathlon European Championships in Minsk, Belarus. The modern pentathlon is an Olympic discipline that sees athletes compete over five separate events: fencing, a 200m freestyle swim, show jumping and a final combined event of pistol shooting and a 3200m cross-country run.

Competitors earn points for their performance in each of the five disciplines and the scores are combined to give the overall total, similar to the scoring in the heptathlon and decathlon in track and field. Where the modern pentathlon differs from these events however is that starting times for the last event (combined laser pistol shooting and cross-country running) are staggered so that the first person to cross the finish line is the winner.

Before the final event competitors are ranked according to their score from the first three disciplines and are allocated start times accordingly, with the leader going first, and other starting times being dependent on their current score. Therefore the first person to cross the finish line wins the whole event.

The European Championships are contested annually – last year’s event being held in Sofia, Bulgaria – and, as is traditional in the sport, men and women competed separately for individual, team and relay titles and also for a mixed relay title.

The standard of competition in this year’s event will be as high as ever, particularly with fourteen of the world’s top twenty men (based on the official rankings) and seventeen of the world’s top women being European.

The names to look out for …

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MEN

Pavlo Tymoshchenko – UKR (World ranked 1)

Valentin Pades – FRA (2)

Aleksander Lesun – RUS (3)

Valentin Belaud – FRA (5)

Bence Demeter – HUN (6)

Jan Kuf – CZE (7)

Patrick Dogue – GER (8)

David Svoboda – CZE (10)

Jarolslaw Swiderski – POL (12)

Robert Kasza – HUN (13)

Alexander Nobis – GER (14)

Ilya Palaskov – BEL (17)

Fabian Liebig – GER (18)

Denys Pavlyuk – UKR (19)

WOMEN

Laura Asadauskaite – BEL (1)

Gulnaz Gubaydullina – RUS (2)

Kate French – UK (3)

Alice Sotero – ITA (4)

Annika Schleu – GER (5)

Tamara Alekszejev – HUN (6)

Ilke Osyuksel – TUR (7)

Sarolta Kovacs – HUN (8)

Francesca Tognetti – ITA (9)

Anastasiya Prokopenko – BEL (11)

Elena Potapenko – KAZ (12)

Gloria Tocchi – ITA (13)

Ekaterina Khuraskina – RUS (14)

Lena Schoneborn – GER (15)

Anna Maliszewska – POL (18)

Elodie Clouvel – FRA (19)

Alessandra Frezza – ITA (20)

All of the above, based on their world ranking, will be in with a shout of a medal in Minsk, although the starting lists of competitors are yet to be confirmed. Punters should check these before picking their bets.

As a further guide, the results of last years ‘Europeans’ are a follows…

Men’s Individual:

  • Gold: Jan Kuf (CZE)
  • Silver: Robert Kasza (HUN)
  • Bronze: Riccardo De Luca (ITA)

Men’s Team:

  • Gold: France
  • Silver: Belarus
  • Bronze: UK

Men’s Relay:

  • Gold: Russia
  • Silver: Czech Republic
  • Bronze: Poland

Women’s Individual:

  • Gold: Laura Asadauskaite (LIT)
  • Silver: Gulnaz Gubaydullina (RUS)
  • Bronze: Ilke Ozyuksel (TUR)

Women’s Team:

  • Gold: Lithuania
  • Silver: Italy
  • Bronze: UK

Women’s Relay:

  • Gold: Czech Republic
  • Silver: Russia
  • Bronze: Italy

Mixed Relay:

  • Gold: Czech Republic
  • Silver: Russia
  • Bronze: Italy

The Czech Republic were clearly the dominant force a year ago and will again be a force again in Minsk. While individually they only have two athletes in the world’s top twenty men, and none in the women’s, as a team they remain a formidable force, alongside the other Eastern European countries.

Aslo, based on the world rankings, in the men’s event the French looked well equipped to perform well in Minsk, and in the women’s event, Italy – with four athletes in the world’s top twenty – look set enjoy a good championship.