Despite the Summer coming to an unfortunate end, the Sporting action has been just as heated thanks to a bevy of amazing sports stars and stunning team performances. In this October Sports round-up, SCAN looks at the best, most shocking and greatest controversies that have taken place over the spookiest month of the year.
We start with the Premier League, which in some areas has really lived up to the Halloween moniker by putting in some real horror-show performances. Particular dismal performances often came to those teams at the behest of the utterly rampant Manchester City. The Citizens came into the month on a high after soundly dispatching of last year’s champions Chelsea at their own ground Stamford Bridge. With the big question at the beginning of October looking to be which of the two Manchester clubs would be the ones regaining Premier League glory, Manchester United went to Liverpool and made the emphatic statement of doing nothing but defending for 90 minutes against a team with a defence so weak it made sugar look like a strong blockade against a tsunami.
Meanwhile, Manchester City, against one of the most typically formidable defences in the league of Stoke, were utterly mercurial, scoring seven goals with six different players, demonstrating not only their utter destruction of an often-formidable defence but also that their goals can come from anyone at any time. It was an emphatic statement aimed squarely towards their cross-city counterparts. They continued this with more resounding wins, meaning as November began they had won their last 8 premier league games in a row. Manchester United, meanwhile, followed up a poor showing at Liverpool by losing to lowly minnows Huddersfield. Emphatic.
At the other end of the table, the yearly sack race was won before October had even begun with the, extremely early, sacking of Frank De Boer from Crystal Palace. October had a few tricks up its sleeve too, as last seasons near-miracle workers in Craig Shakespeare and Ronald Koeman were swiftly pulled back down to earth and onto the chopping block. Despite Shakespeare bringing stability and confidence back to an extremely shaky Leicester last year and Koeman finally returning European football to Goodison Park, a poor run of results (especially given Koeman’s massive spending in the transfer window) caused a warranted sacking.
Elsewhere in football, the group stages for the 2018 World Cup came to a close, giving us a look at who will and, more importantly, will not be heading to Russia. Notable absentees include 2010 Finalists and 2014 Semi-Finalists the Netherlands, who crashed out of their group that included France and Sweden; the Dutch managing to outdo the shame felt by their failure to qualify for Euro 2016 and rob the world stage of amazing players like Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder.
Similarly, across the Atlantic Ocean to South America we find Chile, the winners of the previous two Copa América tournaments (also known as the South American equivalent of the European Championships) also missing out n qualification, meaning the World Cup will miss out on players like Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez and Bayern Munich’s Arturo Vidal. But at least we’ll be able to delight in the footballing feast served up by such big-name players as Iceland (population, 500,000), Iran (only ever won one game at a world cup) and Panama (a country best known for being one of the world’s biggest tax havens).
On a more positive note, thanks to both a piece of absolute brilliance in the last qualifying game against Ecuador for the former and a comprehensive qualifying campaign for the latter, the world’s two best players in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will both be there to try and have one, likely final attempt to out-do one another and claim the greatest prize in World Football. And, finally, as reliable as ever, England have ghosted through an unbelievably mediocre qualifying group and we all look forward to an extremely poor start, scraping through the group stages before reaching a crescendo with a meek performance in the last 16.
Speaking of the World Cup, the Rugby League World Cup has just got underway in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. The tournament has kicked off with a real bang, featuring some huge shock results and moments of utter madness, especially for those from the British Isles. The best reflection of this would be the opening game, Wales taking on Papua New Guinea. Wales obviously such a proud rugby playing nation and although they tend to favour Union over League, the two are often so closely linked that you’d be forgiven for expecting a similarly high-standard in both.
As it happens, Papua New Guinea flattened the Dragons with a humiliating 50-6 score-line. Meanwhile, Ireland also found themselves beaten at the hands of PNG (although to a far more respectable score-line of 14-6) whilst England have only managed to win one of their games so far and this was against Lebanon (hardly titans of the Rugby League scene) in a match far closer than expected at 29-10; not only that but winger James McGillvary is facing a potential 12-week ban if found guilty of potentially biting the Lebanon captain.
But despite all this lunacy, the award for biggest scandal of the tournament so far has gone to Scotland. It’s bad enough that last tournament’s quarter-finalists and member of last year’s 4 nations have conceded a combined 128 points in their opening two matches against Tonga and New Zealand (who they drew with only last year), but they have now lost three of their top players, including captain Danny Brough. The veteran, as well as forwards Jonny Walker and Sam Brooks, have all been sent back after all three stayed behind after a team bonding session that resulted in them being deemed too drunk to board the plane to their next match. A real low for a team that has achieved such highs in recent years.