Middletown North seizes control from defending champions In a match of momentum swings, the final surge belonged to Middletown North’s wrestling team PHOTOS BYJEFF GRANIT staff Above, Manalapan’s Jimmy Fenimore rides Middletown North’s Joseph Sansone during a 171-pound match in Manalapan on Jan. 14. At left, the Braves’ Phil Kaiser holds North’s Andrew Stegner in an arm lock. Now, it’s the Lions who are in control of the Shore Conference A North Division, following their come-from-behind 30-26 win over Manalapan on Jan. 14. Trailing the defending A North Division and Shore Conference Tournament-champion Braves in their house, 26-18, with just three matches to go, the Lions roared back, sweeping the final three bouts of the night (140-145-152) to pull out their biggest win in years. Ben Hockin completed the comeback with his technical fall victory over Manalapan’s Matt Marchesano, 16-1. For Middletown North, the victory was huge for more reasons than A North, according to head coach John Marotta. “This is a team we hadn’t beaten since I’ve been here (2000),” he said. “It was a big hurdle to clear. “We never had a positive experience in their gym. We just wanted to get out of there with a win, whether it was by one point or criteria.” Through the ups and downs of the match, the Lions never wavered in their resolve, which may have proven to be the difference in this very tight match. “We spoke to the seniors before the match, and told them that no matter what happened, they couldn’t get down,” said Marotta. “They had to keep the underclassmen pumped up.” The Lions had some opportunities to crack when Manalapan built up leads of 19-12 and 26-18, and was one win away from handing Middletown North another heartbreaking loss. The match was unfolding much as Braves head coach John Verderosa had foreseen, and his defending champions were in a position to win it. “I thought we were going to get them,” he said. “That match at 140 (pounds) got away from us. “I enjoyed coaching the match even though we lost,” he added. “It was a really good match. Both teams went cheap and didn’t give up bonus points. My guys came to wrestle. I thought they wrestled well.” The see-saw battle began at random, with a coin toss determining 160 pounds as the starting weight class. Matt Fix put the Braves on notice starting the match off with a pin for the Lions. That was followed by a 6-3 decision by Joseph Sansone, and North was up quickly, 9-0. Manalapan came back strong with a pin from Phil Kaiser at 189 pounds and a decision by heavyweight Tom Boyce. Sandwiched in between those Manalapan wins, Garret Marron won by a decision for North at 215. After five matches, the Lions were clinging to a 12-10 lead. Things turned in Manalapan’s favor at 103. Carmin Roth scored a reversal in the final 30 seconds to pull out a 6-5 win that got the Brave fans into the match. North then forfeited to Manalapan’s state place winner Nick Manochio at 112, and, suddenly, the Braves were up 19-12 and the crowd appeared ready to carry Manalapan to a victory. North, though, got the momentum back, getting decisions from A.J. Maresca and freshman Frank Molinaro to pull within one, 19-18. Maresca decisioned Vinny Lynch, 7-3, at 119, and Molinaro topped Nick Barry, 6-3, at 125. Scott Beckerman halted the Lion run with a major-decision victory for Manalapan at 130, 16-6, over Bill Donovan. Anthony Accardi built the Manalapan lead to 26-18 with a 7-3 decision over Thomas Lucasiewicz, 7-3. North knew it had Hockin to close the match at 152, but the dilemma was to get to Hockin while still in the match. The Lions would have to do it against a battle-tested, championship Manala-pan team wrestling at home that knew it was one win away from taking a big steps toward defending its championship. The Braves, however, would not get that win. Their best chance was at 140 with Frank Grzelak, one of this year’s newcomers to the staring lineup who have been wrestling so well. Grzelak was holding a 6-3 lead in the second period when Dan Trezza scored on a reversal and near-fall points to take an 8-6 lead into the third period. He then gave up no points in the third period and held on for the critical 8-6 decision. Verderosa knew his team was in trouble. “The power of their lineup is 145-171,” he said. “The coin toss split it right in half.” While Verderosa could sense that the match was slipping away from his team, Marotta had the opposite opinion of his. “I was confident that if we were within seven or eight points going into 145, that we could win it,” he said. “I was pretty confident we’d win the last two matches.” Trezza’s win breathed life into the Lions, and George Stanley responded for North by scoring a 17-4 major decision over Jesse Cohen at 145 that melted the Manalapan lead to just 26-25. Momentum now swung over to North completely, with Hockin on deck. The Lion senior was never in danger en route to finishing off the come-from-behind triumph with his tech fall. Hockin and Stanley are two of the leaders on this veteran-dominated Lions team who have helped turn things around in 2004. Expectations were high in 2003, but the Lions stumbled through an 8-10 season. The veterans of that team, according to Marotta, were not about to repeat that experience. “Experience has helped us,” said Marotta. “The work ethic and attitude in the wrestling room has changed. They have a more positive attitude and they are more confident.” Middletown North is 6-0 on the season following its big win in Manalapan and, more importantly, 5-0 in the division. Next on the agenda is Ocean Township Saturday afternoon (2 p.m.) in Ocean. The Spartans are the lone remaining obstacle in the way of North’s title ambitions. “Our goal is to beat Ocean now,” said Marotta. Manalapan is 3-3 overall after the setback and 2-1 in A North. Verderosa pointed out that his team was not out of the A North race just yet. They will be rooting hard for Ocean Township in Saturday’s match — that would clear the way for the Braves’ match at Ocean on Tuesday to have championship ramifications. It could win them a co-championship. Ocean Township, which has a veteran team like North, has championship aspirations itself. The Spartans, like Middletown North, control their destiny.
The New Jersey Rockets Tier I travel hockey organization will hold open tryouts for its 2006-07 teams at the mite, squirt, peewee, bantam, midget, junior and girls (U19) levels beginning April 3. The Rockets are committed to competitive league and tournament play – the teams play in the highly competitive Atlantic Youth Hockey League and compete in top-level tournaments in the U.S. and Canada. Tryouts will be held at the Bridgewater Sports Arena in Bridgewater, except for the girls U19 tryouts, which will be held at the Union Sports Arena in Union. For more information visit njrockets.com, e-mail email@example.com or call (908) 753-1856. Hazlet Recreation will be offering the following camps in the next few months: Football camp – July 10-13 at a cost of $100. This is a non-contact camp stressing the fundamental skills and drills. The programs is for ages 6-15 and will be directed by Raritan High School head football coach Bob Generelli. The camp will be held at Raritan High School from 9 a.m. to noon. Participants must bring cleats and sneakers. A physical is required. Registrations may be done by mail or at the Cullen Center, 1776 Union Ave., Hazlet 07730. Cash or money order only. There is a $15 late fee for registrations taken after July 7. Girls basketball camp I (July 24-27) and II (Aug. 7-10) at a cost of $100 each for grades 3-8. The camps will be held at Raritan High School from 9 a.m. to noon. Participants must bring a basketball, sneakers, water bottle and lunch or snack. Registrations must be made by July 21 for camp I and Aug. 4 for camp II in order to avoid a $15 late fee. Payments may be done by mail or at the Cullen Center, 1776 Union Ave., Hazlet 07730. Check or money order only. Boys basketball camp I (July 24-27) and II (Aug. 7-10) at a cost of $100 each for grades 3-8. The camps will be run by Denis Caruano, and will be held at Hazlet Middle School from 9 a.m. to noon. Participants must bring a basketball, sneakers, water bottle and lunch or snack. Registrations must be made by July 21 for camp I and Aug. 4 for camp II in order to avoid a $15 late fee. Payments may be done by mail or at the Cullen Center, 1776 Union Ave., Hazlet 07730. Check or money order only. Last Saturday, the MNJYSA U8 Flight 3 Hazlet Sting were narrowly defeated by the Bridgewater S.A. Titans 1-0 at the HUSA Complex. Playing with one sub, and one player remaining on the disabled list, the Sting’s offense and defense held strong. Hazlet did miss several scoring opportunities but challenged the Titans’ defensive unit from start to finish. It was a very physical game and required the referee to stop play on a few occasions, giving warnings to several Titan players. The game saw its only goal scored with approximately seven minutes left to play The Sting, determined not to let the game get away from them, fought hard until the final whistle, but the Titans prevailed, resulting in the Sting’s second loss of the spring season by only one goal. The Sting coaches were extremely pleased with the solid performance of their players and look forward to their next game in Readington, where they will take on the Vipers. In their fall season match-up, the Sting defeated the Vipers 1-0 in Readington. The Hazlet U-8 Sting are Resul Abas, Jake Capichana, Adam Chang, Brian Edwards, Jacob Hiban, Chris Medina, Joe Miragliotta, Barry O’Sullivan, Alan Troisi and Russell Van Cleve. The Sting is coached by Ralph Troisi, who is assisted by Bob Edwards and Pete Miragliotta. The Force, Hazlet United Soccer Association’s U12 boys travel soccer team, journeyed to Manchester for its MOSA (Monmouth Ocean Soccer Association) spring season opener. The Force took on the Lakehurst-Manchester Cheetahs, whose team was not at full strength, and decisively defeated them 4-0. The first half was closely contested. The Force missed several scoring opportunities but managed a lead of 1-0. Hazlet put the pressure on in the second half, which resulted in the breakdown of Lakehurst-Manchester’s defense. The fatigued Cheetah players surrendered three additional goals to the Force, resulting in Hazlet’s victory. This weekend will be a demanding one for the Hazlet Force players. Hazlet will travel to Toms River Friday night and will take on the Toms River S.A. Metrostars. Sunday will bring the Force home to the HUSA Complex, where they will match their skills against those of the Old Bridge S.L. Jaguars. The U12 Hazlet Force are Dave Alfano, Justin Bivians, Pat Conway, Alex Deahl, Tyler Eltringham, Brett Hilliard, Nick Ligouri, Danny O’Sullivan, Mike Parleman, Kyle Prata, Troy Prata, Dylan Quinn, Tommy Shaughnessy, Bryan Snyder, Raymond Supple and Scott Wilson. The Force are coached by Mark Bivians, who is assisted by John O’Sullivan. The Jersey Cynder is in its fifth year, and third in the Garden State Football League. The GSFL consists of teams from New England/Connecticut to as far as Maryland. The Cynder has its schedule and is looking for serious players only, in its quest for a championship this season. The league will also hold its annual All-Star game to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, at Giants Stadium Saturday, May 27th. All proceeds from that game will go to St. Jude’s. Interested players 18 years of age and older need to register online at www.jerseycynder.com. For further information, check out the official Web site of the Jersey Cynder at www.jerseycynder.com or call (973) 447-0508. The Aberdeen/Matawan Strikers U9 travel soccer team met the previously undefeated Lightning of Scotch Plains on Sunday at their home field at Strathmore Elementary School. The Strikers’ Anthony Castriciano, for the second straight game, opened up the scoring in the first quarter with a hard shot into the left corner of the net, past the outstretched hands of the Lightning goalie. The assist on the play was awarded to Eric Johnson, who directed a nice centering pass from the right side of the penalty box directly to Castriciano. This would wind up to be the only score of the first half, as team defense led by Joe Garafalo, Dylan Perone and Patrick Rodgers kept Scotch Plains pinned in their defensive zone. Overall team defense was to be the story of the second half. Matt Isaacson scored early in the third period on an unassisted goal from the left side to increase the Striker lead to 2-0. But inspired play from midfielders Liam Gallagher and Sada Mehari, along with strikers John Portella, Mike Wisk and Nick DeBold, kept the ball in the Lightning defensive zone pretty much the rest of the game. The defensive wall of Garafalo, Perone, Rodgers and Johnson (Eric) continued to frustrate the Lightning offense at will. Eric Johnson added an insurance goal in the fourth quarter, on a rebound off a hard Joe Garafalo shot for the final 3-0 margin of victory. Goalie Zack Khordi pushed back 13-of-13 shots to record his first shutout of the spring season.
BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer Win battle over vastly improved CBA squad BY TIM MORRISStaff Writer Above, CBA’s Justin Schwartz presses the ball upcourt during the Colts’ loss to Freehold Township in Saturday’s SCT final in Toms River. Below, CBA’s Brian Neller looks to dish as he drives to the basket Ed Wicelinski has seen enough of Freehold Township to know why the Patriots are the Shore Conference’s best team. “They are a team,” said Christian Brothers Academy’s head coach. “They don’t rely on any one player. They play defense really, really well and you can’t double them because they’ll pass it to the open man.” It was a pass to an open shooter, a role player, that made the difference Saturday night when Brian Golub’s Patriots confirmed once and for all that they are No. 1 in the Shore by defeating Wicelinski’s Colts, 55-49, before an SRO crown in the Ritacco Center at Toms River North High School in the Shore Conference Tournament championship game. It was the Pats’ third win in as many games against the defending champion Colts. CBA had rallied to catch the Patriots at 43-43 on a big three by Brian Neller with 2:13 to play. RICH GRAESSLE The momentum was the Colts, but the Pats had the Fischer brothers, Eddie and Kevin. Eddie, who had masterfully led the Patriots all night, would find his brother open in the left corner and delivered one of his trademark pinpoint passes. Kevin let it fly and when his shot fell through the net, it was a dagger in CBA’s heart. The shot went back to the Fischer driveway years ago. “Since sixth grade when we were always playing in the driveway we practice plays like this,” said Kevin Fischer. “I always took the shot.” Saturday, it took some encouragement from his brother to knock down the biggest shot of the game. Kevin had missed some open shots earlier in the game, but that didn’t faze his older brother. “That was a big shot for us,” said Eddie. “All game I kept telling him to keep his head up and remain confident.” Confident enough to stick the shot that turned the SCT final around. “We got the game all squared and they hit the wide open three,” said Wicelinski. Forward Marcus Roberson who helped set the screens that freed Fischer up, was not surprised to see him make the shot. “That’s what he does,” he remarked. “He shot it with confidence.” Kevin Fischer’s trey was the latest example of what has separated the 23-1 Patriots from everyone else. They have their Big Three in seniors, Eddie Fischer, T.J. LaFalce and Roberson, who can be counted on each night. But then they had their role players, the Rodger Wilmots, the Alan Frosts, Brian Brikowskis, Kevin Fischer and Corey Csakais. Someone else each night seemed to step up for them. In the SCT, no one stepped up more than Eddie Fischer. He willed the Patriots to win, supplying the offense more than usual, scoring a game-high 22 points. “I look to drive and penetrate and pass the ball to the open man,” he said. “Our shooters missed a couple early and I felt I had to shoot a little more,” he added. “It helped in the fourth quarter.” Fischer scored nine of his points in the fourth, including a running jumper with 49.6 seconds left that lifted the Patriots to a 48-44 lead. CBA would get a gigantic break in the final half minute. After pulling to within a three-point shot, 50-47, on Derek Beck’s basket, the Patriots had the ball under the Colts’ basket following a timeout. They went with the deep pass that floated off Fischer’s fingertips. The Colts would have the ball with a chance to tie it. Fischer would have none of that. Just seconds after the turnover, he came up with the steal that sealed it. “I lost my man,” noted Fischer. “I felt Becker behind me and I saw [Mike] Kuhn coming up and I looked into his eyes.” Fischer read Kuhn’s eyes and when he attempted his pass to Becker, Fischer reached up and snatched the pass. He would be fouled and make both of his free throws to extend the lead to 52-47. CBA got those points back on a pair of free throws from Becker with 17.1 seconds left, but Fischer made one of two free throws to push the lead back to four and the Colts were finally done. LaFalce provided the final points from the line with 2.4 seconds left and the Patriots had won what is the biggest game in the program’s history. “This was the big one, if we’d have lost this one, the other two would have been for nothing,” said Fischer. “Since we came to high school we’ve had great chemistry and confidence.” Roberson reflect on what it took to get Freehold Township to this point where the Pats are the SCT champions. “A lot of work made this happen,” said Roberson. “It feels good.” Beating the program that has been the standard in the Shore (the Colts have won the SCT 14 times) made the victory that much more memorable. “You have to give it to CBA, they were tough,” said Roberson. “They played us wire to wire.” Eddie Fischer was named the Player of the Game, not only for his 22 points, but the big plays he made all game. LaFalce, who had torched CBA in the first two games, was ‘”held” to 15. Roberson added eight and was his usual force pulling down rebounds in traffic. This was an historic victory by the Patriots. They were the first Patriot team and first Freehold Regional District team to get the SCT final, let alone win it. It’s another hurdle that has been cleared for future teams. While CBA is not used to losing meaningful games to Shore teams, it was an achievement for this young team just to get to the final. They’ve grown up right before Wicelinski’s eyes. Neller, for instance, did not play like a sophomore, netting a team-high 17 including four treys (all of them big). Kuhn, a junior, added 11. “I’m proud of their effort today,” Wicelinski said. “Our shots weren’t falling and it would have been easy to quit. “We got to the championship game and had a chance to win,” he added. “You can’t ask for more.” It’s now on to the state playoffs. CBA, the fifth seed in the Non-Public South A bracket opened last night against 12th-seeded Red Bank Catholic, with the winner to face fourth-seeded St. John Vianney tomorrow in Holmdel.
PAUL Lambert’s damning indictment of the FA Cup’s place in the modern football calendar came back to haunt him as League One strugglers Sheffield United claimed a richly deserved third-round 2-1 upset at Villa Park.Ryan Flynn grabbed the winner with a superb 80th-minute strike just five minutes after Lambert’s beleaguered Aston Villa had clawed their way back into the contest through an equaliser from substitute Nicklas Helenius.Lambert had described the FA Cup as a “distraction” in the build-up to the match and maintained most of his fellow top-flight managers would rather do without the competition.But despite his claims Lambert only made three changes to the side that won at Sunderland on New Year’s Day – making the utterly dominant performance by Nigel Clough’s Blades all the more disappointing for the home side.Jamie Murphy had struck the visitors – currently languishing in 18th place in League One after a New Year’s Day loss at Walsall – in front on 20 minutes and Villa seldom looked like finding an equaliser until Helenius’s strike.Villa’s day had gone badly from the start, Nathan Baker injuring himself in the warm-up and having to be replaced by Aleksandar Tonev, and the visitors more than held their own until Murphy gave them their shock lead.The Blades striker made the most of some hesitant Villa defending to cut in from the left flank and drill a hard low shot which appeared to take a deflection off Andreas Weimann on its way past Villa keeper Jed Steer.The goal briefly sparked the home side into life as Matthew Lowton clattered a shot against team-mate Weimann from an Antonio Luna cross, then Benteke was inches from connecting with a cross-field ball from Fabian Delph.But as the first half neared its conclusion it was the visitors who looked likely to grab a second goal, Tony McMahon causing problems in the Villa box with his low cross from the right, and a Murphy ball from the left blocked by Villa captain Ciaran Clark as Chris Porter lurked in front of goal.Benteke missed two glorious chances to equalise for Villa in the final minute of the first half, twice heading horribly wide after mis-judging two crosses from Marc Albrighton.Continuing to make a mockery of their lowly league position, the Blades started the second half in fine fashion with Flynn bringing two consecutive saves out of Villa keeper Steer.In response, Villa were struggling to muster any sort of attacking threat and their best chance to equalise in the 55th minute had an element of fortune about it as Albrighton’s cross from the right almost caught out Long.Lambert threw on an additional striker in Helenius but the Blades continued to dominate and could have increased their lead on the hour when Steer spilled a low drive from Flynn and Villa were somewhat fortunate to be in a position to boot the ball away from danger.Villa struggled to muster any attacking threat whatsoever until the 70th minute when Albrighton set up Benteke who toe-poked his shot straight at Long, then moments later Benteke fed Ashley Westwood whose shot from the left side of the box was scooped high and wide of target.But the home side finally grabbed a scarcely deserved equaliser in the 75th minute when Weimann’s shot in the box took a big deflection and found substitute Helenius who fired home from the left side of the box.If Villa thought they had turned the game around the visitors had other ideas. First Porter burst into the box straight from the re-start and scooped a glorious chance just over the bar, then Flynn flashed a shot across the face of goal.But Flynn made amends in the 80th minute with a stunning strike to put the Blades back in front, cutting across the edge of the Villa box before unleashing a mighty left-foot shot past Steer in front of the massed ranks of visiting fans.Benteke bicycle-kicked Villa’s final effort over the bar deep into injury time and the final whistle sparked wild celebrations among the visiting contingent – and boos for Lambert’s men.
By Mitch PhillipsEngland put themselves back in the mix for the Six Nations title when they beat Scotland 25-13 on Saturday to join Ireland and Wales on six points and set up a mouth-watering finale next week but they may come to rue a host of missed try-scoring chances.After Wales had beaten Ireland in Cardiff earlier, England knew a big win against a team they had not lost to at home for 32 years would put them in pole position on points difference but they made hard work of it having somehow trailed 13-10 at half-time despite largely dominating.However, second-half tries by George Ford and Jack Nowell, added to Jonathan Joseph’s score after five minutes, did just enough to secure a narrow victory but with precious little for the Twickenham crowd to get excited about.England, with a points difference of plus 37, complete their campaign at home to France in the final match of next week’s ‘Super Saturday’ finale.By then, they will know what they need to achieve in terms of a points victory to take the title after Wales (plus 12) have played Italy in Rome and Ireland (plus 33) have faced Scotland in Edinburgh.
By Mitch PhillipsNewly-crowned world champions New Zealand have already been installed as evens favourites to win a third successive title in Japan in four years and the northern hemisphere nations will wake up on Sunday knowing the gap is a big as ever.Saturday’s 34-17 victory over Australia in a memorable final secured back-to-back titles for the sport’s superpower, who have now won 14 successive World Cup matches since their shock 2007 quarter-final defeat by France.“The greatest team ever? Possibly. For the moment let’s just all agree that this is the best team in World Cup history,” former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick wrote in the Sunday Times.“This is the most meticulous, best-prepared team in rugby. This is not just about skills but game management, which told in the last 15 minutes when they snuffed out any chances of what would have been a remarkable Aussie fightback.“The world, particularly the northern hemisphere, will now be wondering how they can close the gap — I wouldn’t be getting your hopes up.”The paper’s rugby correspondent Stephen Jones added: “The World Cup was retained and then you had to ask if there was ever a period of 10 minutes in the whole tournament when the issue seriously looked in doubt.”Although a core group of six players boasting over 700 caps between them are retiring — or in captain Richie McCaw’s case — expected to be retiring, New Zealand’s strength in depth means they are unlikely to suffer any sort of major dip.Sonny Bill Williams would walk into any team in the world but has had to be content to spend most of his career on the bench behind stellar centres Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, who are both now leaving the stage.Beauden Barrett also looks well equipped, if, as is expected, to take up the flyhalf duties from Dan Carter, who signed off his 112-cap career with a man of the match performance on Saturday.The country’s remarkable production line of hard-running, high-paced wingers doesn’t show any signs of drying up soon and Saturday’s victory can only spur the dreams of the next generation.Former England coach Clive Woodward described the All Blacks as a “very special team” but was also impressed by Australia.“As a fan I salute both teams and frankly we have got so much to learn from them,” he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.“Ignoring just for a minute their superior handling skills, which England and others in the northern hemisphere must look to match, the over-riding lesson from this tournament is that we must learn to play with pace.“We need much more pace in our game and that comes from improving our fitness and conditioning and we must improve our speed of thought. We have the players out there who can do this but we must start picking and believing in them.”
The head of the German Olympic Sports Confederation on Tuesday said Russian competitors should be banned from the Rio Olympics if the findings of a scathing report about Moscow concealing positive doping tests at the 2014 Sochi Olympics are confirmed.Confederation president Alfons Hoermann told the German NDR Info radio programme that the report by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren showed it was time to think about more significant consequences.“Where there are systematic lies, there must also be systematic punishment,” Hoermann said. “If the McLaren report is confirmed, the logical consequence is a broad exclusion” of Russian athletes,” Hoermann said.Hoermann said it would be important to consider whether to exclude the entire Russian team from the Rio games or just specific teams from sports where widespread doping had been proven.The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday responded to the McLaren report by recommending that the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee consider banning all sportsmen and women entered by the Russian Olympic Committee for next month’s Rio Olympics.The McLaren report revealed evidence of widespread state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and said Moscow concealed hundreds of positive doping tests in many sports ahead of the Sochi games.The Russian Olympic committee said on Tuesday that allegations required fuller investigation and it was ready to provide full assistance in such an investigation.
SUNDERLAND boss Sam Allardyce is set to be appointed England’s next manager in the next 24 hours, Sky Sports reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.England have been without a coach since Roy Hodgson stepped down following their Euro 2016 exit to Iceland in the last 16 and Sky said Allardyce would be ratified as his replacement at a Football Association board meeting on Thursday.Allardyce, 61, has been manager at Sunderland since last October and managed to steer them clear of relegation last season.His coaching career has included spells at Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United and he has never been relegated from England’s top flight.Allardyce has been the favourite for the job, since Sunderland confirmed last week that they had given the FA permission to speak to their manager about the vacant England position.Hull City manager Steve Bruce was also interviewed for the job, while British media reported the FA had spoken to United States’ German head coach Juergen Klinsmann as well as Bournemouth’s English coach Eddie Howe.
FIFA announced its proposed slot allocation for the expanded 48-team World Cup, including an automatic place for Oceania, 16 places for Europe – up from 13 – and a six-team inter-zonal playoff tournament for two more spots.The proposals will be submitted to the FIFA Council at its next full meeting in Bahrain in May for a final decision, FIFA said.Under the proposal, made by the FIFA Bureau, for the enlarged tournament beginning in 2026, Europe would get 16 direct places, Africa nine, Asia eight, South America six, CONCACAF six and Oceania one, totalling 46 teams.The host nation would qualify automatically and its slot would be taken from the allocation of its confederation.In the most innovative part of the proposal, the two remaining places would be decided by a six-team playoff tournament which would take place in the World Cup host nation, possibly in the November before the finals, FIFA said.That tournament would include one team from each confederation, except UEFA, and an extra one from the continent of the host country.FIFA decided in January to increase the tournament from 32 teams to 48.The current allocation is 13 places to Europe, five to Africa, four to Asia and South America and three to CONCACAF. Asia, South America, CONCACAF and Oceania also get a place in two inter-zonal playoffs.The proposal shows how football has grown around the world over the last 40 years.As recently as 1978, when the World Cup had only 16 teams, Africa and CONCACAF were given only one place each while Asia and Oceania had to share one place between them.According to the FIFA world rankings, the top nine teams in Africa currently include Burkina Faso, who have never played at a World Cup, and Democratic Republic of Congo, who took part only once as Zaire in 1974.CONCACAF’S top six include Panama and Haiti while St Kitts and Nevis are seventh.Asia’s top eight include Uzbekistan and Qatar while China are ninth and Syria 10th.UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said in a statement that he was “satisfied” with the proposal.“We feel that UEFA will be fairly represented with a total of 16 national associations competing in the new format of the World Cup,” he said.
The UEFA President has written to all 209 member associations of FIFA to inform them of his intention to stand, having received indications of support from five continental confederations.”There are times in life when you have to take your destiny into your own hands,” said the Frenchman in the letter. “I am at one of those decisive moments, at a juncture in my life and in events that are shaping the future of FIFA.”This was a very personal, carefully considered decision, one in which I weighed up the future of football alongside my own future.”I was also guided by the esteem, support and encouragement that many of you have shown me.”Swiss incumbent Blatter announced last month he is to step down following the recent crisis which has engulfed FIFA.He took up the role in June 1998, succeeding Brazil’s João Havelange, who was in office for 24 years. “During this last half-century or so, FIFA has only had two Presidents,” said Platini.”This extreme stability is something of a paradox in a world that has experienced radical upheavals and in a sport that has undergone considerable economic change.”However, recent events force the supreme governing body of world football to turn over a new leaf and rethink its governance.”Platini has been the President of UEFA since 2007 and a member of the FIFA Executive Committee since 2002.The former France international has overseen the expansion of the European Championship with next year’s tournament set to feature 24 teams, up from the usual 16, and the 2020 edition to be staged across 13 cities in as many countries. Among those backing Platini is Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, President of the Association of National Olympic Committees and a member of FIFA’s Executive Committee, who is considered a key power broker. “I am counting on your support and our common love of football so that, together, we can give the tens of millions of football fans the FIFA that they want: a FIFA that is exemplary, united and shows solidarity, a FIFA that is respected, liked and of the people,” added Platini. Polling for the election takes place at an Extraordinary FIFA Congress in Zurich, due to be held on February 26, 2016. Nominations to stand for FIFA President are due to close on October 26.