England 1-1 Italy: The view from the press box

It is that time of year when cautious optimism begins to creep in. The tide turns on England’s prospects, the no hopers become the outside bet. Maybe this group of players, under this manager can perform at a major tournament? 

In many ways, it is the same this time around, despite Lorenzo Insigne’s late penalty at Wembley to deny England a sixth successive clean sheet. Gareth Southgate’s inauspicious start has been largely forgotten, as England have become a defensive force and a side with attacking verve, not overly reliant on Harry Kane. The manager is at ease with the press, his players look comfortable and he commands the respect of his men. 

WATCH: Nizhny Novgorod City Preview

England's World Cup fate has been decided. Gareth Southgate's men will have to navigate their way through a group containing Tunisia, Panama and Belgium to go one better than four years ago and reach the knockout stages. 

Of the three cities England will play in, Nizhny Novgorod is without doubt the most appealing. Centrally located, with excellent transport links and a rich history dating back to 1221, it is simply more enticing than Volgograd or Kaliningrad. England will play Panama in Nizhny, on paper their easiest fixture, so it could really be a city that the players and fans will enjoy. 

Drugs In Sport: Who Do We Trust Enough To Cheer?

Three hundredths of a second. The difference between success and failure; jeers and adulation; Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt. The margins in sport are incredibly tight: hopes are dashed, careers made, and legacies secured in the blink of an eye. As such, athletes go to extraordinary lengths to gain even smallest advantage in competition. Training innovations, recovery and nutrition plans, fine-tuning technique and marginal gains in fitness are just some of the ways athletes seek to improve their performance.

Another is doping. Those who dope are labelled drug cheats, and ‘doping’ is a dirty term. But is a doper necessarily a cheat when some drugs are legal in regulated quantities? To what extent is the issue of drugs in sport a moral one?

A Tale of Two Tournaments

Dickens; A Tale of Two Cities; social justice championed; aristocracy exposed. Using this heavily-simplified analysis of one of the greatest novels of all time, I can make a tenuous, but perhaps feasible, sporting comparison: A Tale of Two Tournaments – the Rugby World Cup 2015 and the Football World Cup 2014. All fans want from these tournaments is to enjoy watching the sport they love in a global setting, but all to often the governing bodies responsible for the organisation seem incapable of making this happen. While World Rugby seem to have coped well with their mandate, with FIFA it’s a very different story. I am one of many who would advocate the revolutionary overthrow of football’s ruling elite, though perhaps not with such murderous vigour as the French efforts of the 18th century.