Great Britain set to field women’s football team at Tokyo 2020

London 2012 was the first time ever a women’s football team was put forward by Team GB at an Olympic Games.

By Matt Slater, Press Association Chief Sports Reporter

Great Britain’s best female footballers will be given the chance to compete for Olympic gold for only the second time in history, Press Association Sport understands.

While the British Olympic Association and Football Association have been keen to enter Olympic tournaments in the past, the FAs of the other three home nations have objected because of fears about the precedent it would set for a combined team and, therefore, their independent status within football.

These concerns were sufficiently addressed in 2012 to allow Team GB to field men’s and women’s teams on home soil – the first time for the men’s side since 1972 and the first time ever for the women’s team.

Thanks to England’s third-place finish at the 2015 World Cup, Team GB qualified for the women’s competition in Rio but the old worries about independence reemerged and ruled out a genuine medal opportunity.

The BOA and FA are determined to avoid this happening again and have now reached a similar compromise with the Football Association of Wales, Irish Football Association and Scottish Football Association as to the one agreed before 2012 – they will not stand in the way of any player or coach who wants to join the combined team.

A BOA spokesman told Press Association Sport it “remains committed to the participation of a women’s football team in Tokyo 2020” and it has responded to a request from FIFA for an update on the British position.Team GB made it through to the quarter-finals at London 2012 (Adam Davy/PA)

A spokesman for FIFA confirmed that it has received a letter from the BOA “on eligibility matters concerning the potential participation of a GB team” in 2020 and will announce further details in due course.

It is understood, however, that with all major concerns now addressed, the way is clear for a GB women’s team to try to improve on their showing in 2012, when they memorably won their three group games, including a 1-0 victory over Brazil before 70,000 fans at Wembley, only to lose 2-0 to Canada in the quarter-finals.

Phil Neville, England’s new manager, has made no secret of his ambitions to follow Hope Powell’s example by taking the GB job and he wants gold, providing they qualify by finishing among the top three European teams at next year’s World Cup.

Speaking to reporters at St George’s Park on Monday, Neville said: “Finishing third is not in my mind. When we go to the World Cup, the Olympics or the European Championships I want to finish first.”

Powell’s team was made up of 17 English players and two Scots, and while England have since improved their ranking to third in the world, Scotland are at 23, Wales 35 and Northern Ireland 55, so there is a chance the team will include players from all four nations.

There is, however, no chance of Team GB fielding a men’s team in Tokyo, as the clubs would be opposed to another summer tournament to accommodate.

The FAW, IFA and SFA are also more sensitive about their independent status when it comes to the men’s game and it is not felt the players themselves need the extra publicity.

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Ronda Rousey is joining the WWE – and she announced it in the most dramatic way

The pro-wrestler will return for WrestleMania in April.

By Grace Rahman, Press Association

Former UFC champion Ronda Rousey announced she is joining the WWE by making a dramatic appearance at the pay-per-view Royal Rumble.

The mixed martial arts fighter surprised the crowd at the end of the first ever women’s Royal Rumble, won by Asuka.

“This is my life now,” she told ESPN after appearing in the ring.

“First priority on my timeline for the next several years. This is not a smash-and-grab; this is not a publicity stunt.”

There is little information on the deal between Rousey and the WWE, but reports suggest she has signed a full-time contract.Ronda Rousey is joining the WWE

Rousey’s switch to wrestling comes after she was defeated in her last two UFC bouts – Amanda Nunes knocked her out in just 48 seconds in 2016, and she lost to Holly Holm in 2015.

A longtime fan of the WWE, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey takes her nickname from WWE superstar Roddy Piper, who granted her permission to use the name.

She came out on Sunday night wearing the late Rowdy Roddy’s leather jacket, which was given to her by the Canadian pro-wrestler’s son.

“I’m just so incredibly lucky,” she told a WWE reporter, “I’m aware of it, I’m very aware of it.

“This has been a dream of mine since before I could talk.”

Joining Royal Rumble winner Asuka, Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss in the ring, the former UFC bantamweight champion said little to her fellow wrestlers before pointing at the WrestleMania sign above her, hinting at when she would make her WWE debut.

Performing in the WWE should not be too much of a stretch for Rousey, who had roles in The Expendables 3, Furious 7 and the Entourage film.

She began her career in judo, winning a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

At just 21 she retired from the sport and entered the world of mixed martial arts, becoming the first female fighter signed with the UFC in 2012.

She defended her bantamweight champion belt six times before her losses to Holm and then Nunes.

Caroline Wozniacki has plans for her new best friend Daphne

Wozniacki defeated Halep in a dramatic three-set struggle to win the Australian Open and become world number one.

By Eleanor Crooks, Press Association Sport Tennis Correspondent, Melbourne

Caroline Wozniacki was planning a night cuddling her new friend Daphne after breaking her grand slam duck at the Australian Open.

It was fitting that the prize the Dane has been chasing for so long did not come easily, with Wozniacki eventually out-lasting Simona Halep 7-6 (7/2) 3-6 6-4 after a battle royale on Rod Laver Arena.

The victory means Wozniacki also takes over from Halep as world number one exactly six years after she last topped the rankings.Caroline Wozniacki has plans for her new best friend Daphne

She said: “Obviously that’s very special. I think being a new grand slam champion and world number one sounds pretty good. I’m very excited for that. It’s a dream come true.”

A teenage prodigy, Wozniacki reached her first grand slam final at the US Open in 2009 and another in New York in 2014 but lost first to Kim Clijsters and then Serena Williams.

It was Flushing Meadows that set Wozniacki off on the latest climb of her rollercoaster journey. In August 2016, she was ranked down at 74 but a run to the semi-finals put her back in the top 30 and it has been an upward trend ever since.

She said: “I’d been through a lot of injuries at that point. Then you start losing to some players who you’re not really thinking you should lose to. It’s frustrating.

“I was hoping eventually it was going to turn around. I made the semi-finals of the US Open. Since then I’ve been playing really consistent and really well.

“Being here tonight as a grand slam champion, Australian Open champion, it’s very special. Daphne here is going home with me tonight. I’ll be cuddling with her.”

The Daphne in question is the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, and whichever one of Wozniacki or Halep was left holding it, it would be tough to argue they did not deserve it.

Halep also lost her first two grand slam finals, both at the French Open, while both women had saved match points on their way to the final, with the Romanian doing so against both Lauren Davis and Angelique Kerber.

Ultimately the extra energy the Romanian had expended may have made the difference. She was fighting off cramp during the second set and had her blood pressure checked by the doctor after feeling dizzy in the hot and humid conditions.

Wozniacki led 2-0 and 3-1 in the decider but Halep dug her heels in and looked to have the momentum when she broke for 4-3. But a medical time-out for Wozniacki to have her left knee strapped changed things again and, when she got a chance on the Halep serve, she took it.

The final two points summed up the encounter and the women’s tournament, which has been utterly compelling. Wozniacki showed tremendous powers of defence to repel Halep and then collapsed to the ground in tears when the Romanian’s final shot hit the net.

“When I saw that ball go into the net, it was crazy emotional,” said the 27-year-old, who becomes the first Dane to win a grand slam singles title.

Wozniacki was all too aware, though, that the emotions were very different across the other side of the net as Halep was forced to come to terms with another near miss.

But the 26-year-old reflected proudly on her efforts and looked ahead to the future with optimism.

“I can still smile,” she said. “It’s fine. I cried, but now I’m smiling. It’s just a tennis match in the end.

Thanks for all of the support, we gave it our best shot. Thank you Australia for an amazing two weeks. #seeyounextyear#🤗🤗🤗

A post shared by Simona Halep (@simonahalep) on Jan 27, 2018 at 5:30am PST

“She was better. She was fresher. I was really tired. I had so many problems in my feet, pain everywhere. But I think I did pretty well with all the things that were going on. I came back in the third set, but when I had to serve for 5-3, the gas was gone.

“I did 100 per cent what I could today. That’s why I can say that I’m not sad for that. I’m sad that I lost the match, I was not the winner, but life goes on. For sure in the future, if I keep working like this and I keep playing like this, I will be in a good position again.”

Caroline Wozniacki fulfils potential with Australian Open victory

Dane finally lands a grand slam in Melbourne

By Eleanor Crooks, Press Association Sport Tennis Correspondent, Melbourne

Caroline Wozniacki won her first grand slam title at the 43rd attempt with an emotional victory over Simona Halep at the Australian Open.

Wozniacki’s 7-6 (7/2) 3-6 6-4 triumph, which was fittingly hard won, also means she will overtake Halep as world number one exactly six years since she last held top spot in the rankings.

A teenage prodigy, Wozniacki’s career has been a story of perseverance, with only three players taking longer to win their first title. But now, nearly a decade after she reached the first of two finals at the US Open, the 27-year-old can finally call herself a grand slam champion.

While this was a great moment for Wozniacki, it was a crushing one for Halep, who was also playing in her third slam final after twice losing in the French Open decider.

The key lesson both women have learned in their years of knocking on the door is that grand slam titles have to be won with bravery and belief.

Both had to show those qualities on their progress through the draw, with Halep becoming the first player in the Open era to reach a slam final having saved match points in multiple matches, while Wozniacki recovered from 1-5 15-40 against Jana Fett in round two.

There was certainly nothing passive about Wozniacki as she stormed into a 3-0 lead, Halep simply unable to deal with the Dane’s backhand down the line.Caroline Wozniacki is a grand slam champion (Dita Alangkara/AP)

She was virtually flawless until she served for the set at 5-3, when the nerves kicked in and Halep broke back. But Wozniacki stepped things up again impressively in the tie-break and this time did not blink.

This was already new ground for Wozniacki, who had never previously won a set in a slam final. She looked determined not to let her momentum slide but Halep, whose marathon matches appeared finally to be catching up with her, dug in with grit to save four break points in the third game of the second set.

I have dreamt of this moment for so many years, it’s a dream come true and I’m very emotional

Caroline Wozniacki

Two games later she called for the doctor and had her blood pressure checked, with the hot and humid conditions sapping the strength she had left.

However, it was Wozniacki who showed the first sign of weakness in the set, her forehand losing its penetration as Halep broke for 5-3 despite appearing close to cramping.

Wozniacki had three chances to break back but Halep’s tournament has been characterised by an absolute refusal to be beaten and, with the carrot of a 10-minute break with the heat rule in effect, she battled across the line.

The final set was a mental and physical examination for both. Wozniacki led 2-0 and 3-1 but both times Halep battled back and, when she broke for 4-3, the momentum seemed to be with the top seed.

But Wozniacki took a medical time-out to have her left knee strapped and promptly turned the match around again. A sublime point, showcasing her defensive and offensive skills, set up match point, and this time Halep had no resistance left.