The Hunger Games Trilogy

 
 
 
 
COULD YOU SURVIVE ON YOUR OWN, IN THE WILD, WITH EVERYONE FIGHTING AGAINST YOU?
Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives.

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.

Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

 

 

 Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Suzanne Collins continues the amazing story of Katniss Everdeen in Catching Fire, the second novel of the phenomenal Hunger Games trilogy.

 

 

 

 Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year

 

 

 
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Fifty Shades Trilogy

 

Book 1
Fifty Shades of Grey
Book 2
Fifty Shades Darker
Book 3
Fifty Shades Freed

 

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY: When college student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating.  The unworldly Ana realizes she wants this man, and Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian’s secrets and explores her own desires.
 
FIFTY SHADES DARKER: Daunted by Christian’s dark secrets and singular tastes, Ana has broken off their relationship to start a new career. But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and while Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Ana is forced to make the most important decision of her life.
 
FIFTY SHADES FREED: Now, Ana and Christian have it all—love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Just when it seems that their strength together will eclipse any obstacle, misfortune, malice, and fate conspire to turn Ana’s deepest fears into reality.

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Spain does not need a bailout – Luis de Guindos

Demonstrators against government cuts in Madrid The prospect of more government cuts has sparked violent protests in Madrid

Spain’s economy minister Luis de Guindos has denied that his country needs a bailout.

His speech in London was interrupted by a group of protesters who waved placards saying “Spain for sale” – opposition to austerity cuts is high in the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy.

Rumours have circulated that Spain will ask for a bailout, as soon as this weekend.

But he said: “Spain does not need a bailout at all.”

The Spanish government has found itself in financial difficulty since the 2008 global financial crisis caused a big crash in the country’s over-heated property market.

The latest austerity measures unveiled in Spain’s last budget, which came against a backdrop of violent protests, aim to make savings of around 13bn euros next year, by cutting public sector wages, education, health and social services.

‘What is best’

“What we are doing is what we think is the correct thing not only for Spain but for the future of the eurozone,” Mr de Guindos said at the London School of Economics.

Mr de Guindos is in the city to sell foreign investors on the so-called “bad bank”, where Spain will park the poor property assets that are weighing down its lenders.

Spain’s banks will need an injection of 59.3bn euros to survive a serious downturn, an independent audit recently calculated.

“We are convinced that we will be able to bring in investors interested” in the bad bank’s assets, he added.

Spain said in July that it would request eurozone support for its banks.

The Iberian nation is struggling with a shrinking economy and 25% unemployment.

The government is still hoping to avoid requesting a bailout from the eurozone rescue funds, but many think this is inevitable.

Spain Recoils as Its Hungry Forage Trash Bins for a Next Meal

Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

In Spain, the unemployment rate is over 50 percent among young people. More Photos »

MADRID — On a recent evening, a hip-looking young woman was sorting through a stack of crates outside a fruit and vegetable store here in the working-class neighborhood of Vallecas as it shut down for the night. 

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At first glance, she looked as if she might be a store employee. But no. The young woman was looking through the day’s trash for her next meal. Already, she had found a dozen aging potatoes she deemed edible and loaded them onto a luggage cart parked nearby.

“When you don’t have enough money,” she said, declining to give her name, “this is what there is.”

The woman, 33, said that she had once worked at the post office but that her unemployment benefits had run out and she was living now on 400 euros a month, about $520. She was squatting with some friends in a building that still had water and electricity, while collecting “a little of everything” from the garbage after stores closed and the streets were dark and quiet.

Such survival tactics are becoming increasingly commonplace here, with an unemployment rate over 50 percent among young people and more and more households having adults without jobs. So pervasive is the problem of scavenging that one Spanish city has resorted to installing locks on supermarket trash bins as a public health precaution.

A report this year by a Catholic charity, Caritas, said that it had fed nearly one million hungry Spaniards in 2010, more than twice as many as in 2007. That number rose again in 2011 by 65,000.

As Spain tries desperately to meet its budget targets, it has been forced to embark on the same path as Greece, introducing one austerity measure after another, cutting jobs, salaries, pensions and benefits, even as the economy continues to shrink.

Most recently, the government raised the value-added tax three percentage points, to 21 percent, on most goods, and two percentage points on many food items, making life just that much harder for those on the edge. Little relief is in sight as the country’s regional governments, facing their own budget crisis, are chipping away at a range of previously free services, including school lunches for low-income families.

For a growing number, the food in garbage bins helps make ends meet.

At the huge wholesale fruit and vegetable market on the outskirts of this city recently, workers bustled, loading crates onto trucks. But in virtually every bay, there were men and women furtively collecting items that had rolled into the gutter.

“It’s against the dignity of these people to have to look for food in this manner,” said Eduardo Berloso, an official in Girona, the city that padlocked its supermarket trash bins.

Mr. Berloso proposed the measure last month after hearing from social workers and seeing for himself one evening “the humiliating gesture of a mother with children looking around before digging into the bins.”

The Caritas report also found that 22 percent of Spanish households were living in poverty and that about 600,000 had no income whatsoever. All these numbers are expected to continue to get worse in the coming months.

About a third of those seeking help, the Caritas report said, had never used a food pantry or a soup kitchen before the economic crisis hit. For many of them, the need to ask for help is deeply embarrassing. In some cases, families go to food pantries in neighboring towns so their friends and acquaintances will not see them.

In Madrid recently, as a supermarket prepared to close for the day in the Entrevias district of Vallecas, a small crowd gathered, ready to pounce on the garbage bins that would shortly be brought to the curb. Most reacted angrily to the presence of journalists. In the end, few managed to get anything as the trucks whisked the garbage away within minutes.

But in the morning at the bus stop in the wholesale market, men and women of all ages waited, loaded down with the morning’s collection. Some insisted that they had bought the groceries, though food is not generally for sale to individuals there.

Others admitted to foraging through the trash. Victor Victorio, 67, an immigrant from Peru, said he came here regularly to find fruits and vegetables tossed in the garbage. Mr. Victorio, who lost his job in construction in 2008, said he lived with his daughter and contributed whatever he found — on this day, peppers, tomatoes and carrots — to the household. “This is my pension,” he said.

For the wholesalers who have businesses here, the sight of people going through the scraps is hard.

“It is not nice to see what is happening to these people,” said Manu Gallego, the manager of Canniad Fruit. “It shouldn’t be like this.”

In Girona, Mr. Berloso said his aim in locking down the bins was to keep people healthy and push them to get food at licensed pantries and soup kitchens. As the locks are installed on the bins, the town is posting civilian agents nearby with vouchers instructing people to register for social services and food aid.

He said 80 to 100 people had been regularly sorting through the bins before he took action, with a strong likelihood that many more were relying on thrown-away food to get

Spanish congress braces for protest against austerity

 

Police guard the Spanish parliament in Madrid, 25 September Police were out in force at the parliament

Riot police have ringed the Spanish parliament in Madrid ahead of a planned mass protest against austerity tagged “Occupy Congress”.

Metal barriers have been placed around the building to block access from every possible direction, correspondents say.

Indignants, as the protesters are known, say they are protesting at the “kidnapping” of democracy.

Spain’s new conservative government has been cutting pay and raising sales tax in an effort to reduce debt.

There is real concern in Europe that Spain may need an international bailout going beyond the 100bn euros (£80bn; $125bn) pledged by eurozone finance ministers in June to rescue its banks.

‘Non-violent action’

Tuesday’s rally, due to begin at 17:30 (15:30 GMT), is expected to draw thousands of people, with buses reportedly laid on to ferry demonstrators into the capital from the provinces.

An old man dips into a rubbish bin in Madrid, 22 September Many Spaniards have been pushed into poverty by the recession

One of the main protest groups, Coordinadora #25S, said the Indignants did not plan to storm parliament, only to march around it.

“It will be a non-violent action,” she told AFP news agency, asking not to be identified.

“We are not going to prevent members of parliament from entering.”

Under Spanish law, people who lead demonstrations outside parliament that disrupt its business while it is in session may be jailed for up to one year, AFP notes.

The Coordinadora #25S manifesto reads: “Democracy has been kidnapped. On 25 September we are going to save it.”

Clashes have broken out at previous rallies and marches against the cuts and at least 1,300 police are said to be on duty at the Congress building.

The Spanish government is having to borrow heavily to cope with the effects of a property values collapse, a recession and the worst unemployment rate in the eurozone.

After nine months in government, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is still resisting pressure to request a bailout.

His government insists the 100bn-euro pledge does not constitute an international financial rescue.

If Mr Rajoy does request a bailout, it may not happen before late October because of a regional election in his home province, Galicia.

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Euro 2012: Are Spain the best team of all time?

Spain thrashed Italy 4-0 in the final of Euro 2012 in Kiev on Sunday to win their third major tournament in a row.

Vicente del Bosque led his side to an emphatic victory in Ukraine to become the first coach to win a World Cup, a European Championship and a Champions League title.

Spain have now won the last two European Championships and the last World Cup in South Africa.

So are they the best national side to play the game?

BBC Sport looks at the contenders and asks the experts for their views.

Who do you think is the best team? Get involved at #bbcfootball.

Spain 2008-12

BBC chief football writer Phil McNulty:

The debate began long before Spain’s goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas lifted the trophy at the end of the Euro 2012 final. In fact the debate began long before the end of the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

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Iker Casillas lifts the World Cup for Spain

 

Spain beat Netherlands to win 2010 World Cup

Such was the scale and artistry of their 4-0 win against Italy that they staked the most eloquent claim to be the greatest international team in history.

When the template for the all-time great sides is assembled, Brazil’s legendary World Cup-winning side in Mexico in 1970 is invariably used. It was built around legends like Pele, Tostao, Jairzinho, Rivelinho and Gerson – and many more besides in a marriage of team work and individual brilliance.

Analysis

Image of Martin Keown Martin Keown Football Analyst

“Spain are going to dominate for years to come. They have to be the best side ever. I can’t see any other team getting near this. Spain have really set the bar high and they have time on their side. They’re beautiful to watch and there’s something extra special about this team. They’re a group of winners.”

Germany have had great sides through the ages and Argentina won World Cups in relatively quick succession in 1978 and 1986 – but has anyone ever had a tighter stranglehold on the world game than Spain?

They have now been untouchable in three major competitions and already few would back against them in South America when the World Cup goes to Brazil in 2014.

They are the ultimate combination of silk and steel. They conceded one goal in Euro 2012 and have the Barcelona “carousel” of Xavi and Andres Iniesta augmented by Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso in midfield.

Del Bosque felt confident enough in this brilliant side to ignore the claims of a conventional striker such as Fernando Torres, although he made a devastating late contribution against Italy.

David Silva and Cesc Fabregas more than compensated – and it was all done without their great goalscorer David Villa and iconic defender Carles Puyol.

The greatest? It would have to be a very powerful argument against Spain.

Brazil 1958

Tim Vickery, South American football expert:

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Sweden goalkeeper Kalle Svensson and Brazil striker Pele

 

Archive – Pele inspires Brazil to first triumph in 1958 (UK users only)

Brazil 1970 are usually wheeled out when the debate gets going on the best international side of all time. But take away the advantage of television – Mexico 70 was the first World Cup screened all over the globe – and their predecessors from 12 years earlier have a much better claim.

Man-for-man, it is no contest. It is hard to think of anyone from the 1970 side who would have walked in to the 58 team, who had so much that was new. Their pioneering use of a back four gave them defensive cover, and they did not let in a goal until the semi-final, where they beat France 5-2.

Analysis

Image of Alan Shearer Alan Shearer BBC Sport

“This Spain team is the best ever. We mention the Brazil sides with Pele but this is absolutely unbelievable what they have achieved.”

There were attacking full-backs and dangerous free-kicks. Their preparation – with physical specialists, doctors, dentists and even a premature experiment with a sports psychologist – broke new ground. And with the collective side of their game right, the individual talent could flourish. While Pele and Garrincha were both on the field, Brazil never lost a game.

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Pele celebrates after scoring in the 1970 World Cup final

 

Archive – Brazil beat Italy in the 1970 final (UK users only)

They were the first Brazilian winners of the World Cup – and remain the only South American side to have lifted the trophy in Europe. And they also kept on winning. Only a controversial last-minute refereeing decision prevented them claiming the 1959 Copa America, and they successfully defended their title in the 1962 World Cup, despite losing Pele, then at the peak of his powers, in the second game.

They beat Spain on the way – it would be fascinating to see them up against the Spain of today.

France 1998-2000

French football journalist Matt Spiro:

France’s crowning moment came when they won the 1998 World Cup on home soil, yet the team that clinched the European crown two years later was a far more complete side and is widely regarded as the nation’s best ever.

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Italy's Luigi Di Biagio and France's Thierry Henry

 

Euro 2000: France victorious over Italy

While goalkeeper Fabien Barthez and the powerful back four of Lilian Thuram, Laurent Blanc, Marcel Desailly and Bixente Lizarazu were imperious in both competitions, Roger Lemerre’s team also displayed an enviable attacking swagger.

Patrick Vieira excelled in 2000, adding steel alongside canny skipper Didier Deschamps, and the inimitable Zinedine Zidane was by then established as the world’s leading player. His mesmerising performance against Portugal in the semi-final remains one of the most stylish in the competition’s history.

Analysis

Image of Alan Hansen Alan Hansen Football Analyst

“The first-half performance by Spain in the final was superlative and they should go down as the best team in history. Their technical ability is better than anyone we’ve seen.

“We will be talking about that first-half display for 30 or 40 years.”

In attack, Les Bleus were blessed with a deadly cocktail of talent. The speed and skill of Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka, David Trezeguet’s potency, Youri Djorkaeff’s trickery, and the guile of Christophe Dugarry invariably left opponents floundering as 13 goals were plundered in six games – one more than Spain this year.

Like Vicente del Bosque’s current Spain team, France had extraordinary depth – as the final victory over Italy demonstrated.

They were on the verge of defeat when substitute Sylvain Wiltord struck a late leveller. In extra-time, two more players sent on by Lemerre – Robert Pires and Trezeguet – combined to conjure a sublime golden goal.

It was a fitting way for this incredibly tough, gifted and ruthless team to sign off.

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Victorious Spain football team welcomed by thousands

 

The Spanish national football team celebrated their Euro 2012 win by touring Madrid in an open-top bus

Tens of thousands have turned out in the streets of the Spanish capital Madrid to welcome the national football team after their victory at Euro 2012.

King Juan Carlos received the team at Madrid’s Zarzuela Palace before they began a parade in an open-top bus.

The parade ended in a victory rally in the central Plaza de Cibeles.

The squad’s 4-0 victory over Italy in Kiev on Sunday made them the first-ever team to win three successive major international tournaments.

The crowd at the rally, most of them wearing the team’s red and yellow kit, were entertained by musicians who joined the players on a stage.

“Each of you is a good player, but as a team you are formidable,” King Juan Carlos told them.

“You know how to play together, how to combine your own skills with those of your teammates,” he added.

Coach Vicente del Bosque hailed Spain’s “great generation of footballers”.

Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas told the BBC: “It’s one of the best days of my life.”

‘Indirect relief’The Spanish team – nicknamed La Roja – retained the title they first won in Vienna four years ago by the biggest margin ever in a Euro tournament final.

Between these two, the team also claimed their first World Cup title in South Africa in 2010, making them one of them most successful international sides in history.

For many in Spain, the victory has provided welcome relief from the country’s financial crisis.

“The country is more united and people can forget their problems for a while,” 27-year-old supporter Jessica Pino told the AFP news agency.

Spain’s El Pais newspaper said: “The success of Spanish football are an indirect relief, albeit ephemeral, from the destructive consequences of recession and unemployment that Spanish society is suffering from.”

“It will be a sort of flower that blooms for just one day, because economic problems do not go away just because Spain wins,” Maria Jose Herraiz, a 54-year-old housewife, told the Associated Press.

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Spain success built on clear football identity

Tim Vickery | 08:00 UK time, Tuesday, 3 July 2012

With a goal scrambled in from a set piece, Brazil beat Spain 1-0 in the final of the 2003 Under-17 World Cup in Finland. Spain, though, played most of the football.

“We were the Brazilians today,” said their coach Juan Santiesteban, after his team of little ball-players had lost out to opponents who carried much more physical presence.

The overriding objective of youth football is to groom players for the senior side. Nearly a decade on, then, it is clear who really won the game. Not one of the Brazil team has played a serious competitive international.

Cesc Fabregas and David Silva, meanwhile, have gone on to better things, combining on Sunday to put Spain on the way to a third consecutive major tournament win.

Claudio BorghiArgentine coach Claudio Borghi (left) has helped Chile to go top of the South American 2014 World Cup qualification table: Photo: Getty

Spain’s run of success is no coincidence. Anyone who has seen their youth sides in recent years will have been struck by the excellence of their passing – not only the technique of receiving, delivering and moving into position to receive again, but the patience of their play, and their commitment to a certain idea of football.

What Spain have is a footballing identity – a successful assimilation of Dutch ideas plus a twist of their own making.

This question of identity is fundamental. Football is such a fluid game, with myriad options available to the man on the ball. Defining which of these options is preferable determines the objective and the style of the team.

Tactics have their importance, but they spring from the central thing – the idea.

I understand that Jurgen Klinsmann was explaining this in midweek to a British TV audience. Back in 2005 I saw him make similar points to a conference of Brazilian coaches.

As he set about rebuilding the German national team, he had to think long and hard about what he was trying to do. His conclusion was that Germany had to be aggressive and attacking, playing high tempo, physical football.

Putting this into practice entailed a tactical switch – the belated adoption of the back four for German sides at all levels. His big regret was the lack of players with genuine, special ability.

They have since appeared – a process surely eased by the fact that the central idea had been well defined.

This question of identity is making Chilean football especially interesting at the moment. After falling well short of qualifying for the World Cups of 2002 and 2006, Chile were the neutrals’ favourites two years ago in South Africa.

They currently top the South American qualification table, and with a third of the campaign gone already have half the points necessary for a slot in Brazil 2014.

And the clubs are looking stronger too. Over the past decade it has been rare for Chilean teams to get out of the group stage in the Copa Libertadores, South America’s Champions League. Now Universidad de Chile have reached the semi-finals in two of the last three years, as well as winning the continent’s Europa League equivalent.

Universidad Catolica reached the quarter-finals of last year’s Libertadores, while Union Espanola made a good impression getting to this year’s second round.

Financial changes underpin this progress, with Chile’s clubs moving towards a business model which, if no panacea, is an improvement on the administrative free-for-all that ruled before. Events on the pitch, however, have been even more interesting.

In early 2004 I was told by Elias Figueroa, Chile’s all-time best player, that his country’s football lacked a defined identity. “We’ve tried to imitate Argentina,” he told me, “we’ve tried to imitate Brazil. We’ve tried to imitate Germany and Spain. There’s been no continuity.”

More than eight years later he might see things differently. Much has changed since the reign of Marcelo Bielsa, the Argentine coach who took Chile to the last World Cup.

Bielsa, who has gone on to success with Athletic Bilbao in Spain, has a fixed idea of how he wants his side to play – high tempo, in the opponent’s half of the field, with a front three and a constant quest to create two-against-one situations down the flanks.

There was always tension when Bielsa was in charge of his native Argentina. The demand for dynamic play left no room for an old-time playmaker such as Juan Roman Riquelme, and was thus often seen as a betrayal of Argentine identity.

In Chile there was no such problem. The lack of identity gave Bielsa fertile soil in which to plant his seeds – indeed, his favoured style of play dovetailed nicely with the kind of quick, stocky players Chilean football produces.

Current Chile coach Claudio Borghi, also an Argentine, clearly has a problem with Bielsa and enjoys criticising him in the media. He should save his breath. True, there was life before Bielsa.

Borghi was crafting attractive, attacking sides with Colo Colo in Chile long before Bielsa came to the country, and he helped bring on some of the players who have become fundamental to the national team.

But the Bielsa years have eased Borghi’s task as national team coach. The success of the team in South Africa has legitimised an attacking mentality, and has helped ensure an interesting rise in the level of play in the Chilean Championship.

The current tournament came to a close on Monday with a two-legged final showcasing the debt owed to Bielsa.

Little O’Higgins of Rancagua were seconds away from winning their first title. They won the home leg 2-1 against Universidad de Chile, and went into stoppage time in the return game level at 1-1. But they conceded a goal, forcing a shoot-out and, their nerve gone, O’Higgins missed all their penalties.

The final produced two pulsating matches, as might be expected given the background of the coaches.

O’Higgins boss Eduardo Berizzo is a Bielsa protégé, both as player and coach, and former assistant to his mentor with the national team. And Universidad de Chile, who have played some of the most attractive football in the continent over the past year, are coached by Jorge Sampaoli, a self-confessed Bielsa disciple.

Their two teams went for each from the first to the last. Indeed, with the muddy pitch in O’Higgins’ small stadium and the gung-ho approach of the teams the first leg was a game with an old world air, like a rerun of ‘The Big Match’ from the early 70s.

But if it was retro then this is Chilean football going back to the future, forging an attacking identity which should ensure that the national team remain the neutrals’ favourites.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I’ll pick out a couple for next week.
From last week’s postbag:

Q) I really like the look of young Romarinho of Corinthians. Is he highly rated at the club?
Neil Badmin

A) You sent this in after his first start for the club, last weekend when Corinthians fielded a reserve side and he scored both goals in a 2-1 win over historic rivals Palmeiras.
Since then the story has got even better.
Last Wednesday he came off the bench in the last 10 minutes of the first leg of the Copa Libertadores final away to Boca Juniors. With his first touch – not just of the game but of the entire campaign – he came up with a subtle little finish to score the equaliser.
He’s only been with Corinthians a month. Two weeks ago he was not even a household name in his own home. Now he’s scored one of the most important goals in the club’s history, and Ronaldo is talking up his chances for the World Cup. What a story!

 

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Jaime Alguersuari column: ‘Strange’ European Grand Prix

By Jaime Alguersuari BBC Radio 5 live analyst

Fernando Alonso drove a fantastic race to win the European Grand Prix in Valencia on Sunday.

He made some amazing moves to climb up from 11th on the grid and he showed a very good pace throughout the race, very consistent and very fast, which was not the case in practice and qualifying.

It was a strange, slightly chaotic, race. A lot of people crashed, there were a lot of retirements and a few things helped Alonso along the way, but he did the job and deserved the win.

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Fernando Alonso

 

My most emotional win – Alonso

In that sense, it was a little bit like his victory in Malaysia in March – he put himself in a position to win and the cards fell slightly in his favour.

It was an emotional day for Fernando, winning at home when he did not expect to, with the crowds waving Spanish and Ferrari flags.

The people went crazy when he won – it was just the day after Spain had qualified for the semi-finals of Euro 2012.

The Spanish people are never going to be as interested in Formula 1 as they are in football. In fact, F1 was never really followed in Spain until Fernando came along.

But he has done a fantastic job to make people understand a little bit about F1 and he has been great for motorsport in Spain to the extent that more children are starting racing in go-karts and we have more drivers racing in different series around Europe.

RED BULL LOOKING GOOD

Alonso’s win, together with retirements for Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, has put him in a good position in the championship, but there is a long way to go yet.

Red Bull produced a fantastic development for their car in Valencia, modifying the rear aerodynamics, and it was pretty obvious from Vettel’s pace all weekend that they now have the most competitive car.

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Sebastian Vettel

 

Vettel stumped by Valencia exit

This year is not just about winning races – as Alonso and Red Bull’s Mark Webber have shown by being first and second in the championship at this stage.

It is about being there at the correct time, maximising what you can get out of a given weekend and, if you can’t win, it’s better to come third or fourth and get some points than risk too much.

Red Bull now have a good performance difference between them and their competitors, and they can recover the gap.

The championship is long and anything can happen, but Red Bull look like they are in the best position at the moment.

A PODIUM AT LAST FOR SCHUMACHER

The other notable thing about the race was that Michael Schumacher scored his first podium since he returned to F1 at the start of 2010.

Image of Andrew Benson Andrew Benson Chief F1 writer

“There was a certain inevitability, given the history of Michael Schumacher’s career, that his first podium finish since his comeback involved a degree of controversy.”

He has been criticised since his comeback but I don’t think he has suddenly improved this year. I think he has always been at a good level but that F1 is very different now than when he was in it.

Schumacher had different tyres than the others; now the tyres are the same for everyone. He had a bespoke car and engine; now the engines are at the same level. He had unlimited testing; now there is no testing, so developing a car is more difficult.

F1 is now about what you can do at a race weekend, improving the aerodynamic and mechanical set-up of the car and understanding the tyres.

Michael has been doing a good job this year, but I still think his team-mate Nico Rosberg is a step ahead of him.

I respect Michael enormously. He has a big history in F1, he is a reference for everyone and he will always be a great driver.

BACK IN THE COCKPIT

Former Toro Rosso driver Jaime AlguersuariJaime in the Toro Rosso garage in 2011

For me, although I was happy for Fernando, Sunday was a tough day because I really wanted to be part of the race after being there for the last three years.

I’m really missing F1 – this would be a great year to be involved. Everything is so close, you can play with the strategy a lot, tyre management is so important.

But I just have to bide my time. I am pretty sure I will be driving in F1 again next year with a good team. Everything is looking very good at the moment.

I am only 22. I have scored 31 points in F1. And what I am trying to do with my work with BBC Radio 5 live and as Pirelli’s F1 test driver this year is to develop and understand myself better and give myself a much better future in F1.

My aim is to follow in Fernando’s footsteps. My dream is to become Spain’s number one and be a world champion myself in a few years.

This week, I am at Spa in Belgium working with Pirelli to develop the F1 tyres for next season.

I’m really looking forward to it. I love the track, we are using a 2010 Renault F1 car, which is a really nice car, and it is fascinating developing the tyres, trying to improve them and understanding how they work.

Jaime Alguersuari was a Toro Rosso F1 driver from 2009-11. He is currently BBC Radio 5 live’s analyst and a Pirelli F1 test driver. He was talking to BBC Sport’s Andrew Benson

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Euro 2012 analysis: Why Germany could not handle Balotelli and Pirlo

Germany were favourites to reach the Euro 2012 final based on four straight wins during their march to the semi-finals against Italy.

But like so many of Italy’s opponents in Poland and Ukraine, Joachim Loew’s team encountered midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo and a wily backline.

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Mario Balotelli

 

Euro 2012 goal: Mario Balotelli puts Italy in the lead

This time, too, the Azzurri had Mario Balotelli in clinical form as his two first-half goals created a base for Italy to defend and they ran out 2-1 winners and clinched a place against Spain in the final on Sunday.

As good as Balotelli’s goals were, both came as Italy sliced through a vulnerable German defence and Cesare Prandelli’s team could easily have made the victory more comfortable as Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Di Natale wasted superb second-half chances.

It showed that even though Germany were the tournament’s top scorers, they had not been truly tested in defence as previous opponents Portugal and Netherlands failed to fire in the group stages. Italy’s victory also maintained an unbeaten run of eight games against the Germans in major finals.

Italy’s victory in numbers

  • Mario Balotelli is the tournament’s joint-top scorer with three goals
  • Following Balotelli’s first strike, there have now been 21 headed goals at Euro 2012, 30% of total goals scored compared with 19% in 2008
  • Balotelli has become the first Italian player to score three goals in a single European Championship tournament
  • Mesut Ozil had a pass completion rate of 91% before the semi-final but it was 79% against Italy
  • Ozil’s goal means Germany have broken a European Championship record by having eight different scorers
  • Germany scored 10 goals at Euro 2012, equalling their tournament record set in 1996 and 2008
  • Despite only scoring from the penalty spot, the Germans managed eight shots on target against Italy, their second best total at Euro 2012 behind the quarter-final win over Greece
  • Italy have not lost to Germany in eight major tournament games (four wins and four draws)

Jurgen Klinsmann on Match of the Day:

Jurgen Klinsmann

“Italy have done what most teams have not done so far and that is have a go at the German defence and they caused lots of problems.

“Putting Toni Kroos on Andrea Pirlo didn’t work out at all, while Mario Gomez looked static and as a whole they could not match Italy. They lost the battles in midfield, and they couldn’t control Pirlo, Riccardo Montolivo and Daniele De Rossi.

“A game like that it needs a special piece, too, and that was Balotelli’s finishing but what makes me a bit upset, is we saw Pirlo play like that against England.

“We said you have to step on his toes and take the risk to look bad by getting to him. But no-one from the German team was willing to look bad. The last piece is sacrificing yourself for the team, and our midfield did not want to do that.

“The future lies in this team. They will continue to grow and mature but they were exploited by the Italians. Against Italy you could see they hit the wall.”

Gianluca Vialli on Match of the Day:

Gianluca Vialli

“Loew paid Italy a massive compliment because I think he has changed the system and the philosophy of the side to match our system. They played with four midfielders in a kind of diamond shape and we controlled the pace of the game.

“For the first goal, Pirlo dropped back like an American quarter-back to find time and space to find Giorgio Chiellini, while for the second German defender Philipp Lahm was guilty because he did not read Balotelli’s movement.

“It was a terrific performance and the way we got to the final confirmed Italy as the most surprising team of the tournament. Look at the way we got those results: controlling the pace of the game against a much-pressured German team; the way we were solid in defence and never panicked; and the way we exploited the German vulnerability, which no-one had done before. We have been clinical.

“Balotelli has the potential to be one of the best in the world. He needs to concentrate on playing football – he has the skill, the creativity and the strength, and if he can combine that he can be the finished article. Don’t forget he’s only 21. Sometimes we are too demanding.

What they said about Italy’s victory:

“The most bitter thing is that this team has so much potential for so much more but we weren’t clever enough. If you don’t show that potential at the right point in time, then you lose a game like that.” – Germany captain Philipp Lahm

“I wanted to strengthen things in midfield, which is why I brought in Toni. The goals we conceded came from mistakes, because we weren’t present enough around the area.” – Germany coach Joachim Loew

“The hurdle of Italy was too high. Perhaps the fact that we had never beaten them was in the back of our minds.” – Germany striker Miroslav Klose

“Tonight was the most beautiful of my life – but I hope that this Sunday is even better. ” – Italian striker Mario Balotelli

“Balotelli’s career has just started.” – Italy coach Cesare Prandelli.

“Milan believed Pirlo was finished and let him go to Juventus. He now won the title with Juve and leads his country to the final. Top player.” – Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany on Twitter 

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