Big feast ahead for sport fans

ONE TO WATCH: Dani Alves of Brazil.
ONE TO WATCH: Dani Alves of Brazil.

The big showcase for the world's biggest sport has got off to a thumping start but football will be far from the only sport enjoying its time in the sun in the next few weeks.

Televisions across the nation will be tuned in to rugby, tennis, cricket, rugby league, netball and less-publicised sports, and the Commonwealth Games are just around the corner.

The Fifa World Cup, though, is where much of the attention will be, and some of football's better exponents have been quick to show why.

If tournament hosts Brazil looked a little nervy in accounting for Croatia, there were no such problems for the Dutch, who not only had jaws dropping with a stunning goal by Robin van Persie, but somehow produced this within an extraordinary 5-1 demolition of world-champions Spain.

Costa Rica upset Uruguay, and the match between Italy and England was graced by beautiful goals and a masterful display by Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo.

If tournament organisers were hoping the on-field action would make a few questions - about Brazil's readiness to host the World Cup and how exactly Qatar won the rights to host the event in 2022 - fade into the background, they cannot have dreamed of more.

It seems the questions about the Qatar bid are not going away quickly, however, and it will be in the sport's interests to have them dealt with.

New Zealand Cricket, too, will be pleased that off-field troubles in the form of alleged fixing by former players can take a back seat in the publicity stakes to the performances of the national side on the field.

Even so, we await with interest the International Cricket Council's conclusions on the fixing scandal and it will be interesting to see just how serious the game's guardians are about stamping out corruption.

It may be perceived that off-field drama is sometimes helpful for a sport because the headlines make sure it is well-discussed, but cycling and cricket are among the sports that could have done better without it.

A clean cyclist cannot now win the Tour de France without the achievement being greeted with some scepticism.

Tennis is one sport that has shown it can flourish when the focus is where it ought to be - on skill, fitness, artistry, rivalries and mental toughness.

This year's Wimbledon will again be eagerly anticipated.

In New Zealand, many minds will still be occupied by the question of how well the All Blacks are shaping up for next year's Rugby World Cup.

The English provided stiff competition in the past two tests, giving us much to ponder.

Whatever unfolds in the next few weeks, there will be plenty for sports fans to savour.

Manawatu Standard