The summer of 2019 was one of the most action packed sporting summers in living memory. With football, cricket and netball World Cups, the Copa America, Wimbledon and The Ashes all crammed into a whirlwind 3 months you couldn't move without catching an historic sporting moment. Allow the Courier's sport writers to take you on a trip down memory lane as they look back on some of the most exciting events of the last few months.
ODI World Cup
In a tournament that was more dependent on meteorological reports than any other in recent times, it was England who came out on top with their maiden World Cup win in their own backyard – albeit in extremely controversial fashion.
The first fixture between England and South Africa set the tone for both sides going into the tournament. With an overall solid team and the X-factor in Jofra Archer, this was an England side with hopes higher than ever before. South Africa, however, never found a stable footing in the tournament – bowing out in 7th at the end of the group stages following a loss to New Zealand in Birmingham.
Elsewhere, Afghanistan failed to pick up even a single point at the tournament, but there was no shortage of entertaining games from their side. Wins would have come against both Pakistan and India if not for debutant naivety.
Australia and New Zealand – the two finalists from the 2015 edition – continued to go about their business quietly with both Kane Williamson and Aaron Finch proving efficient leaders for their side. Australia became the first team to qualify for the semis after beating England at Lord’s. Despite the fact that New Zealand had to depend on Pakistan’s result to qualify for the semis, it would have been a shame not to have the Kiwis in the final four given how they had played overall. Joining the two trans-Tasmanian rivals were India and the English hosts.
The first semi-final was interrupted by rain towards the end of the first innings as New Zealand eventually put up 239/8 in their 50 overs over two days, Kane Williamson key in proceedings. After a slow Indian start, MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja (along with a small but key previous partnership from Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya) got India close but the lacklustre start saw New Zealand win by 18 runs.
The second semi-final between England and Australia saw an incredible bowling performance from Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid to restrict the Aussies to 223 in 49 overs. England, meanwhile, had no problems dealing with the Australian bowling attack as Jason Roy’s 85 from just 65 balls set up a first World Cup final appearance since 1992.
The final between England and New Zealand saw the Kiwis choose to bat first and put up 241/8 on the board. Henry Nicholls’ first half-century of the tournament and a further 47 from wicketkeeper Tom Latham helped set a competitive target as Chris Woakes and Liam Plunkett each secured three wickets for the hosts.
When into bat, England soon found themselves down four wickets with just 86 on the scoreboard. However, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler put up a century 5th wicket partnership to steady the ship before Buttler departed. Nonetheless, with five overs to play, England still required another 46 runs. Stokes managed to keep the strike and, more crucially, score runs - leaving England needing 15 to win from the final over. After two dot balls, Stokes hit a six into the stands, bringing their score to 233/8. A comedy of errors with three balls left to play gifted the home nation another six runs before two runs and two lost wickets saw the game left to a Super Over.
England returned Stokes and Buttler to the crease, and they handled Trent Boult’s bowling to accumulate 15 runs without loss. For New Zealand, Guptill and James Neesham went up to face Jofra Archer needing at least 16 to claim the title. Despite a bad start from Archer, New Zealand found themselves needing two off the last ball to win. It wasn’t to be as a Roy throw into Buttler saw Guptill run out. New Zealand finished with 15 runs, the Super Over tied, but England’s superior boundary count (26 to New Zealand’s 17) meant they claimed the World Cup title for the first time in four final appearances.
A final which raises questions in regards to the Super Over’s power, but that’s a rant for another day. England are world champions and controversial as it may be, that’s the way it will be recorded.
Women's FIFA World Cup
The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicked off in June 2019 with the hosts France beating South Korea 4-0. The French went into the tournament as one of the favourites alongside defending champions USA, Netherlands and England. The latter two took some time to get into their stride. The United States, on the other hand, walloped Thailand by 13 goals to open the tournament.
The USA played some of the best football of the tournament. Youngsters like Rose Lavelle gelled well with veterans like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe to give them the best chance going into any game. That didn’t mean they didn’t have problems against teams. Spain gave them the most trouble with Jenni Hermoso and Lucia Garcia proving especially troublesome to a United States backline that has occasionally come under fire.
England against Cameroon turned out to be hot-tempered as the African side felt aggrieved by a perceived bias from the referees towards the Lionesses. England coach Phil Neville had a rare moment of anger in his post-match press conference as he expressed his displeasure against a Cameroon team that committed cynical fouls and disagreed with every decision in the game.
Late drama characterised some of the games in the World Cup, with Italy coming back from a goal down to beat Australia in the group stages . The Netherlands and Japan also served up a good second round finale as a last minute penalty put the Dutch through despite a spirited performance from Japan.
The first big test for the United States came in the quarterfinal as they took on France. In a test of nerves, it was France who crumbled under the expectations of being both the favourites and hosts. They wilted as the USA ran riot around them for most of the game. Wendie Renard’s late consolation proved too little, too late as Megan Rapinoe’s brace sent the States through.
Meeting them at that stage were the other favourites – England. A confounding change of approach from Phil Neville saw England struggle despite Ellen White cancelling out Christen Press' opener. A second USA goal from Alex Morgan capped off by a tea-drinking celebration sealed the deal as England finished the tournament limply.
The Netherlands meanwhile grew from strength to strength as the tournament went on, goalkeeper Sari Van Veenendaal, Lieke Martens and Jackie Groenen were especially impressive. A thrilling extra-time semifinal against Sweden where neither side was willing to give an inch was settled only by a long range Groenen effort.
The final between USA and the Netherlands was as engrossing as it could have been with the Netherlands managing to hold the USA to a 0-0 draw at halftime. However, a sixtieth minute penalty, awarded to the USA by VAR, changed the complexion of the game. With Rapinoe slotting it home for a 1-0 lead, the Dutch were now drawn out into a more open game, eventually allowing Rose Lavelle to cap off a brilliant tournament with a second goal, sealing a 2-0 victory for the US.
The 2019 Women’s World Cup was the most widely viewed of all the editions of the tournament and was a testament to how much the game has grown , but also how much it has to grow considering the gulf in quality between various countries. The World Cup also proved a testing ground for VAR and some new rules of the game, a lot of what we see today in the men’s Premier League was tinkered with in France across the one month period. It was not the most perfect World Cup in terms of quality but it is a promising start.
This summer saw the 71st Ashes test series played out in England at 5 different grounds up and down the country (Edgbaston, Lords, Headingley, Old Trafford and The Oval). Although the series was eventually drawn 2-2 and so Australia retained the Ashes as the previous holders, the score really only scratches the surface of a series that had many ups and downs and moments that will go down in history. In the first test one player truly stood out - Steve Smith, his class was truly shown as he scored 144 in the first innings and 142 in the second. Australia eventually won the first test by 251 runs but this wasn't just a result of Smith’s class. England suffered an embarrassing second innings collapse with no player scoring higher than 37, partly thanks to a great display of off-spin bowling by Nathon Lyon, who posted figures of 6 wickets for 49 runs.
The second test was impaired by rain, meaning no play at all was possible on day one and days three and five were shortened - this meant the second test was eventually drawn and the series remained 1-0 to Australia.
Test match three at Headingley will go down in history as one of the most dramatic matches ever. It was a game England had to win to still be in with a chance of winning the Ashes. Following a good bowling performance by England in the first innings, Australia were all out for 179. However England’s batting order collapsed again as they scored a dismal 67.
The pressure now really was on as England already trailed by 112 and following a solid batting performance by Australia, who scored 246, the deficit was extended to 358. This meant that by lunch time of day three England's chances of winning the Ashes were hanging by a thread as they were faced with their highest ever run chase in test cricket. They got off to a poor start with both openers getting out, leaving England with a score of 15 for 2 wickets. Joe Root, England’s captain, rebuilt well and they finished the day on 156 - needing 203 more runs for victory.
What followed on day four was historic. The pressure was on and it showed as wickets kept falling. England were eventually down to their last wicket with a score of 268 and Stokes and Jack Leach at the crease needing 73 more runs to win. Through pure resilience they pulled it off, completing England’s highest ever test chase in history as they pulled the series back to 1-1 with 2 tests yet to play. Stokes finished with 135* and was ultimately the main reason England won this test.
Unfortunately all of this was in vain as in the fourth test Australia (and mainly Steve Smith) bounced back and showed their class, winning by 185 runs to therefore bring the series to 2-1, meaning they retained the Ashes as with only one match left England could only draw the series. But in the final match with only really pride to play for England put on a good show and won by 135 runs, meaning the series finished 2-2 but Australia retained the Ashes as previous holders. Looking towards the 2021 series, which will be played in Australia, England have many things to work on but should be excited by the prospects of Archer and Stokes who really shone this summer.
Hosts Brazil beat Peru 3-1 to lift the Copa America in front of 70,000 fans at the Estádio do Maracanã. The Seleção were easily the most superior team throughout, even without their talisman Neymar who missed the tournament with an ankle injury.
Having said that, Brazil begun the tournament facing immense pressure to deliver. The last time they hosted a tournament was the 2014 World Cup, who can forget when Germany obliterated Brazil 7-1? The injury to Neymar increased anxiety amongst Brazilian fans, as well as manager Tite who had never won a trophy managing the national team.
Although they were clear favourites, Brazil faced fierce competition from the likes of: Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay. The group staged proved effortless as they scored eight with Allison not even conceding a single goal. They dispatched Bolivia 3-0 and Peru 5-0 with ease, the only hiccup coming in a 0-0 draw with Venezuela where VAR became their arch nemesis.
Elsewhere, Colombia also achieved an 100% record whilst Uruguay also remained unbeaten. Argentina struggled to gain consistency losing to Colombia and drawing with Paraguay, 4 points from 3 matches was underwhelming for Messi and Co. Foreign invitees Qatar and Japen both failed to qualify or win a single game.
The quarter finals proved uninspiring as 3 out of 4 matches were 0-0 draws decided by penalty shootouts, including Brazil who nearly faced a shock exit at the hands of Paraguay. Barcelona striker Luis Suarez stole the headlines as his penalty miss seen Peru advance at Uruguay’s expense.
The two giants of South American football Brazil and Argentina played the match of the tournament in the semi-finals. Goals from Jesus and Firmino secured Brazil’s place in the final, but the referee stole the limelight as he denied Argentina several penalties. The surprise of the tournament came in the other semi-final as Peru shocked holders Chile 3-0.
The final proved a tighter affair than expected, Brazil took the lead through the surprise star of the tournament Everton. Peru then equalised from a penalty from their record goal scorer Paolo Guerrero, however the lead lasted just 2 minutes as Jesus fired Brazil back in front. The twist came Jesus was then sent off for two yellow cards, he left the field in tears before pushing the VAR monitor. Peru pushed hard for an equaliser, but their triumph was completed when substitute Richarlison converted an injury time penalty.
All smiles for Brazil overall, the focus now will be on their preparation for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar where they will be hot favourites.
Wimbledon 2019 was one of the greatest summers ever seen at SW19, The Courier reviews the best of the action.
Mens Champion: Novak Djokovic won his fifth Wimbledon title, retaining his title against Roger Federer (7-6,1-6,7-6,4-6,13-12) in what was the longest men's singles final in history, lasting a monumental four hours and 57 minutes. Federer had two championship points before a Djokovic fightback led to the first ever Wimbledon final to be decided by a final set tie-break, Djokovic won the tie-break 7-3; breaking the hearts of Federer fans everywhere.
Women's Champion: Simona Halep reigned supreme in the Women's Championship, beating Serena Williams 6-2,6-2 in a final that lasted a mere 56 minutes. Halep dropped only one set en-route to the final against compatriot Mihaela Buzărnescu. Halep's victory meant Wimbledon 2019 was the first ever in which both singles titles were won by players born in the Balkens.
Star of the tournament: Cori "Coco" Gauff entered Wimbledon as a world no.301st ranked qualifier, she left Wimbledon as the new star of women's tennis. Born on March 13th 2004, After defeating world no.92 Aliona Bolsova in the qualifiers, Coco became the youngest ever player to qualify for the Wimbledon main draw. In the first round Gauff defeated five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in straight sets. The world was shook. Venus had won Wimbledon twice before Gauff was even born! Victories ensued for Gauff, defeating Magdaléna Rybáriková and Polona Hercog, before her eventual fourth round defeat to eventual champion, Simona Halep.
Moment of the tournament: The moment of the tournament has to be the shock mixed-doubles partnership of Andy Murray and Serena Williams. In a bid to regain fitness following major hip surgery six months earlier, Andy Murray tweeted he needed a mixed doubles partner, Serena reciprocated and 'Mur-ena' was born. Mur-ena without any prior experience playing together made it to the third round before losing to no.1 seeds Bruno Soares and Nicole Melichar.
Villain of the tournament: Nick Kygrios is never far from controversy and despite being knocked out in round two, Wimbledon was no exception. Pictured in a pub the night before his loss to Nadal, Kyrgios was asked whether he regretted the decision, bluntly replying "no", while adding the journalist " must have a boring life". Kyrgrios also refused to apologise for deliberately smashing the ball at Nadal during his defeat," How many slams does this guy have?". Never change Nick!
A summer to remember at SW19.
Netball World Cup
Amongst all the sporting chaos of this summer, the Netball World Cup came to England in July. Hosted in Liverpool and sat in the healthy position of third best in the world, England’s Roses were aiming to seal their first ever World Cup win on home turf.
With nine days of play, and matches being played at the same time on two courts, the competition kicked into gear on July 12, with the Roses taking on Uganda in the opening match. A comfortable 64-32 victory being exactly what the girls needed to open up their campaign.
As the tournament went on, England were getting the results under their belts. A 70-34 victory over local rivals, Scotland, came next, followed closely by a 90-24 win against Samoa, and a close 56-48 win against a strong Jamaican side- who at the time were ranked second best in the world- ensured that England had booked their place in the semi-finals of the competition.
However, whilst England racked up the goals and wins, their close rivals from the other side of the world, Australia and New Zealand, were up to their old tricks. England had pulled a last gasp win over the Aussie Diamonds in the Commonwealth Games last year to win gold. The Diamonds were eager to show the world that they deserved their top spot in the world rankings, cruising through the tournament with wins against Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Barbados and Malawi to secure a place in the semi-finals.
Semi-finals have been painstakingly heart-breaking for many England supporters in the last year alone. Many people describe Kieran Trippier’s free kick into the top corner of the Croatian net in last year’s football World Cup as the peak of their life, before Croatia knocked two in to ensure England suffered 52 years of hurt, and no World Cup final. Even this year, the women’s side in France suffered semi-final heartbreak against the USA, losing 2-1 and failing to progress to the final. This was the chance for netball to break the semi-final spell and reach the final of a tournament.
Alas, fate was not on the Roses’ side, and England’s semi-final curse has not been broken. Coming up against a strong New Zealand side, England missed out on the final by the skin of their teeth, falling to a 47-45 loss. New Zealand went on to beat Australia, in another tense final, eventually winning by one single goal, 51-52.
The tournament has given the Roses a lot to mull over. They are a side who are on the cusp of winning trophies. With Tracey Neville stepping down from the role of coach, this is a team full of potential who need a coach with a similar ethos as Neville, who isn’t afraid to take risks and experiment with tactics.