Cubs triumph goes beyond sport

After months of competition, the World Series comes down to this. In one corner, the Cleveland Indians. They haven’t won it all since 1948, and they are playing in a bad city for professional sporting teams. The Cleveland Browns are the NFL’s longest running joke, and before the return of prodigal son LeBron James the Cavaliers were no different when it came to the NBA. Now, the Indians have the chance to change that. With a win in the World Series, they would deliver a second major sporting title to Cleveland in less than six months. If you consider all of this, the Indians sound like the sentimental favourites. In fact, they’re not even close.

Euphoria: Chicago Cubs players celebrate their win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS.

Instead, an Indians win would be less akin to a fairy-tale and more like the Grinch stealing Christmas. Their opponents? The Chicago Cubs. If the Indians think they have it hard, they have nothing on the long-suffering Cubs. Chicago have not been to the World Series since 1945, and the last time they actually won it was over 100 years ago, in 1908. Over the last 71 years, they have built up a reputation as Major League Baseball’s loveable losers. They have been so remarkably inept over that time that no-one sees them as a worry, and while the faithful keep turning up the wins don’t come too. To add to their placid image, the so-called “curse” which has plagued the club since 1945 is linked to an evicted billy goat in 1945. No kidding.

The Cubs have made the World Series, and in doing so they have crossed a bridge that has long been impassable. That one throw against Los Angeles, from Javier Baez to Anthony Rizzo, has changed everything. It has brought joy to those who have waited decades for it, but Cubs fans will know it’s not over yet. None of them will see it as a sure thing, instead looking at all the things that could so easily derail the Cubs bandwagon. It is nowhere near a sure thing against a team like the Indians. But this World Series goes so far beyond the seven games between Cleveland and Chicago. It represents seventy years of suffering, of constant losses and the Billy Goat curse. The Wrigley faithful, who have kept turning up in all conditions despite loss after loss, just deserve this. They’ll be turning up again throughout this World Series, loud and joyful as ever. They have the support of the neutrals, they have the team, and they have the confidence. Now all they need is the ring.

UEFA Euro 2016 Knockout Stage Preview – Hungary vs Belgium

Hungary vs Belgium, Stadium Municipal, Toulouse


Match Log

Hungary

Austria 0, Hungary 2 (Szalai 62, Stieber 87)
Iceland 1 (G Sigurdsson 40 pen), Hungary 1 (Saevarsson 88 og)
Hungary 3 (Gera 19, Dzsudzsak 47, 55), Portugal 3 (Nani 42, Ronaldo 50, 62)

Belgium

Belgium 0, Italy 2 (Giaccherini 32, Pelle 90+3)
Belgium 3 (R Lukaku 48, 70, Witsel 61), Republic of Ireland 0
Sweden 0, Belgium 1 (Nainggolan 84)

Team News

Hungary

The Hungarians are not likely to make any changes from the team that drew 3-3 with the Portuguese in Lyon, although Bernd Storck may consider selecting Laszlo Kleinheisler in midfield. Adam Szalai has been effective and should be retained up front, while Gabor Kiraly will continue in goal despite poor form in the group stage.
Likely team (4-2-3-1): Kiraly – Lang, Guzmics, Juhasz, Korhut; Gera, Pinter; Dzsudzsak, Elek, Lovrencsics; Szalai.

Belgium

Marc Wilmots has no injuries to deal with, and he seems to have settled on his preferred starting line-up. Radja Nainggolan should edge out Marouane Fellaini and Mousa Dembele to partner Axel Witsel in the centre of midfield, and Kevin de Bruyne will play in a number 10 role after starting the tournament on a wing.
Likely team (4-2-3-1): Courtois – Meunier, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Nainggolan, Witsel; Carrasco, de Bruyne, Hazard; R Lukaku.

Keys to success

Hungary

Hungary provided one of the surprises of the tournament when they finished first in their group, and they have the ability to provide a further upset by taking out the Belgians, who are ranked second in the world. Balazs Dzsudzsak has been in brilliant form, and Hungary will rely on him and Szalai for goals. Kiraly will need to improve upon his group stage performances against a Belgian side who are sure to create plenty of chances, and the defence as a whole will need to step up.

Belgium

Belgium have not played at their best this tournament, and they will be looking for their stars to perform against Hungary. The use of de Bruyne on the wing was a disaster, but he has been in great form since switching back to the centre. He will need to get Romelu Lukaku, Yannick Carrasco and Eden Hazard involved in the game, and he will need to create plenty of chances from set pieces. The defence has not communicated as well as it should have throughout, and Wilmots will be hoping for a cohesive defence against Hungary.

Prediction

Belgium are a huge step up in quality for Hungary, but while there is plenty of individual talent in the Belgian side their team play has never really been a strength. Even still, with two of the best players in Europe playing just behind the attack Belgium should create better chances and should win. Belgium 2-0.