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My sporting month: February 2011

Despite being the shortest month of the year, February is a busy month in the sporting calendar. The next four weeks see some competitions beginning, while at the same time others draw to a close.

Here are my five personal highlights to watch out for over the next weeks, spanning the globe from the USA to Europe and Asia. But there is also a wealth of other great sport to be seen this month, including the Alpine World Championships in Garmisch (8th-20th) and cycling‘s Track World Cup in Manchester (18th-20th).

1. Rugby union: Six Nations (starts 4th)

France begin their defence of the Six Nations Championship at home to Scotland tomorrow evening, but the tournament kicks off tonight at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff as Wales host England, with both teams looking to improve on a 2010 performance which saw each side win just two of their five games.

With the World Cup in New Zealand only seven months away, the Six Nations represents a vital staging post as the top northern hemisphere teams seek to challenge the hegemony of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

2. Super Bowl XLV (6th)

The grand climax to the NFL season sees two of the league’s most storied franchises – the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers – facing off against one another for the first time in a Super Bowl for the right to lift the trophy named after legendary Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi.

The match will pit the blue-collar, smash-mouth Steelers – led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the league’s number one-ranked defense – against the finesse of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense. Between them, the two teams have won nine of the previous 44 Super Bowls, with the Steelers already holding the record for most wins with six. A win for the Packers would be their fourth overall, elevating them to fourth all-time behind the Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers (who both have five wins).

3. Champions League round of 16 (starts 15th)

Strung out over four consecutive mid-weeks, the Champions League returns for the beginning of its knockout phase with all four English teams hoping to progress to the quarter-finals.

Chelsea have the most favourable draw, with a home-and-away tie against FC Copenhagen, while Manchester United will also strongly fancy their chances against French champions Marseille.

The two North London clubs face trickier engagements. Tottenham, in their first Champions League campaign, must play AC Milan, who currently lead Serie A by five points. But the most difficult – and most mouth-watering – tie of the round sees Arsenal once again pitted against Barcelona, who last season beat them 6-3 on aggregate at the quarter-final stage after Lionel Messi scored four times at the Camp Nou.

4. Cricket World Cup (starts 19th)

Cricket‘s quadrennial showpiece takes place in three countries – India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – over a span of six weeks, opening up with a match between India and Bangladesh on the 19th. The tournament is a marathon rather than a sprint, taking nearly five weeks of group games to whittle the 14 qualifying countries down to eight quarter-finalists, with the final eventually taking place on April 2nd.

Australia, still smarting from their Ashes humiliation, remain the team to beat in the 50-over format. They will be looking to win the tournament for an incredible fourth time in a row (and fifth overall). England will be hoping for a better performance than in 2007, where they fell at the Super Eight stage.

5. Carling Cup final (27th)

The English season’s first trophy will be decided at Wembley at the end of the month as Birmingham City take on Arsenal, with the two teams at opposite ends of the Premier League table. Arsenal sit in second place behind only Manchester United and are the only English team still in with a chance of winning four competitions this season (Premier League, FA CupCarling Cup and Champions League). Birmingham are currently 17th and only outside the relegation zone by virtue of having a superior goal difference to West Ham, who they defeated in their semi-final.

Arsenal will rightly start as favourites, but neither the bookies’ odds nor league positions will make any difference in a one-off final. It may only be the third most important domestic trophy of the season, but it is nonetheless the first one to be decided, and both teams will be desperate to win for entirely different reasons. For Arsenal, it would end a trophy drought of nearly six years and give their young team the confidence to kick on in other competitions. For Birmingham, the cup would give them a fillip in the battle against relegation, and yield a place in next season’s Europa League.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

7 Responses to My sporting month: February 2011

  1. aardvarkian says:

    At the risk of repeating myself: GO STEELERS!!

    • Tim says:

      Have you said that before? 😉

      I’m going to be watching as a neutral on Sunday night. I’m a big fan of Big Ben, and as a former defensive player I can’t help but love the Pittsburgh defense, but I’m also a huge admirer of Aaron Rodgers. All I ask for is a close and exciting game …

      • txtmstrjoe says:

        Go Niners!

        Oops. Wrong year? 😉

        Purely because I want the 49ers to not be too far back on the all-time Super Bowls won list, I’d rather see the Packers come out on top. That, and I’ve long been an Aaron Rodgers fan (going back to his college days at Cal).

        Otherwise, I’m like you. I’ll be watching as a neutral and will just be hoping for a well-played game by both teams.

      • aardvarkian says:

        Oh, and Ireland for the Grand Slam and to beat England at some stage in the ICC World Cup. Don’t ask me what I’m smoking, because I don’t know 🙂

  2. Tim says:

    Interesting though it’s been to see new teams like the Cards, Seahawks etc reach the Super Bowl in recent years, it’s great to see two of the NFL’s heavy hitters slugging it out on Sunday. Now if only it can be the 49ers’ turn next year …

  3. I seem to recall the Super Bowl used to be played in early January. It wont be long before the Super Bowl is played in June.. ?? Season just gets longer and longer and the league wants to expand to 18 games..

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