Xavi’s health in doubt
As the player that makes the reigning European and world champions tick, fans are hoping Xavi Hernandez can hold off the effects of fatigue and injury to lead La Roja to more glory in Poland and Ukraine. At 32, the outstanding man in Spain’s triumphs at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup has at least one major international tournament left in him. However, is he fit enough, mentally and physically, to live up to the incredibly high standard he has set himself since finally coming to the international fore at Euro 2008, when he was named player of the tournament? Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque — who is having to deal with the loss of Carles Puyol to a knee injury as well as doubts over the physical condition of David Villa — needs the Barcelona playmaker on top of his game if La Roja are to become the first nation to win three successive major international titles. Xavi has averaged more than 60 matches a year since 2008. His body is feeling the effects, with a chronic calf-muscle injury in particular taking its toll, but the player himself insists he feels in good health and has a good few years left in the tank. “I am not thinking about the end of my career. I want to play all the time, I can be a bit of a pain in that regard,” he said recently.
Pirates win second title
The Orlando Pirates have won a second successive South African Premier League title, after two Benni McCarthy goals helped them to a 4-2 win at Lamontville Golden Arrows in Durban on Saturday. The Pirates finished two points ahead of fellow Soweto side the Moroka Swallows, who were the only team who could still overtake them on the final day of the campaign. The Swallows won their last game away in Maritzburg, but it was to no avail, after the Pirates came from 1-2 down to retain the title with a total of 58 points from 30 matches. The 34-year-old McCarthy, released in April last year by West Ham, engineered the turnaround with two second-half goals in front of a crowd of 52,000. The Pirates have now won nine championships, just one behind their arch rivals and current record-holders the Kaizer Chiefs.
Hearts win Scottish Cup
The Hearts won the Scottish Cup for the first time in six seasons, brushing aside Edinburgh rival Hibernian to win the final 5-1 at Hampden Park in Glasgow on Saturday. Defender Darren Barr put the Jambos ahead in the 15th minute and Rudi Skacel doubled the lead 12 minutes later. James McPake reduced the deficit just before halftime to revive Hibs’ hopes of a first ever cup win, but Danny Grainger and Ryan McGowan scored in the first five minutes of the second half to make it 4-1. Skacel added his second goal with 15 minutes remaining to complete the most one-sided Scottish Cup final since the Rangers beat Aberdeen 4-0 in 2000.
Marco Simone parts ways
Monaco have parted ways with manager Marco Simone and his technical staff, the Ligue 2 outfit announced on Saturday. “The management at Monaco has decided not to renew the team of coaches and announces the departure of Marco Simone, Frederic Barilaro, David Barriac and Lionel Iacono,” a club statement said. Simone joined Monaco in September last year, with the 2004 Champions League finalists languishing in the relegation zone, and guided them to an eighth-place finish this season.