The Sports Matrix: Thursday 21 June 2012


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Preparation for Italy starts now, admits Hodgson

Roy Hodgson has admitted that quarter-final opponents Italy remain something of an unknown quantity to him, after he opted to watch Spain's final group match on Monday instead of Italy's victory over Ireland.

"I watched the game between Spain and Croatia rather than [Italy], probably partly thinking that maybe if we were to do well, Spain would be a possible opponent," said the England manager. England qualified for the last-eight as Group D winners after beating Ukraine 1-0 on Tuesday, thus avoiding Spain.

"I know some of the [Italy] players," Hodgson said. "But frankly our preparation starts now. I've seen them play but I haven't studied them and how good they are. But they have been good enough to get out of the group." MORE

So You Think raises the Stakes

Favourite So You Think won the Prince of Wales's Stakes yesterday, denying the Queen's runner, Carlton House. The Aidan O'Brien trained winner performed better over the home straight to win by two and a quarter lengths on the race's 150th anniversary.

Aplon handed place for final Test

South Africa's coach, Heyneke Meyer, has recalled Gio Aplon for Saturday's final Test against England, following injuries to Pat Lambie and Willem Alberts. Jacques Potgieter wins a first cap and Wynand Oliver replaces Frans Steyn. MORE

Bell: Centuries can see England home

Ian Bell highlighted the importance of centuries after tons from him and Alastair Cook this week helped England to a sixth successive ODI win – each featuring a centurion. "If one of our top four can get a hundred we're on for a good total," the 30-year-old said. MORE

Murray defends Nalbandian tirade

Andy Murray has defended David Nalbandian after his outburst following his Queen's Club default. "They should have taken him off the court and protected him," the Scot said, after Nalbandian criticised the ATP in a TV interview. MORE

Ovett words inspire Osagie

Andrew Osagie said a chance meeting with Steve Ovett had inspired him as he looks to win 800m gold at the Olympics. "It's someone who's been there and done it," the Harlow-born athlete said. "It was inspirational. It's spurred me on for the next five weeks." MORE

Meireles looking to Chelsea example

Raul Meireles believes Portugal can evoke the spirit of Chelsea as they prepare for their quarter-final against the Czech Republic. "Nobody regarded us as favourites," he said. "Just as nobody regarded Chelsea as favourites in the Champions League. It's our dream." MORE

Drogba follows Anelka to China

Didier Drogba will link up with his former Chelsea colleague Nicolas Anelka after signing a two-and-a-half year deal with the Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua. Drogba left Chelsea last month, after eight years at Stamford Bridge. MORE

Balotelli warned over conduct

Daniele De Rossi has warned his team-mate Mario Balotelli to keep his cool ahead of Sunday's quarter-final with England. "He's a great player," the Italian said. "If he wants to grow up he has to know how to react to this high-pressure game." MORE

Opinion: James Lawton

Against a brave, impassioned and in the end luckless Ukraine, the fierce drive and commitment of Steven Gerrard, while not always flawless, burnt with magisterial defiance. MORE