Lewis Hamilton has been crowned Formula One champion once again, but there was a point at which his title defence looked under serious threat.

Having won all but four of the first 12 races this season, Hamilton could have been forgiven for going into the mid-season break thinking his sixth championship success was effectively wrapped up.

When the Briton made the most of Mercedes' decision to pit him a second time at the Hungarian Grand Prix by using his fresh tyres to overcome a 19-second gap to Max Verstappen in the final 20 laps, it looked like nothing could stop the Silver Arrows.

That all changed when the second half of the season got under way, with Charles Leclerc claiming back-to-back wins in Belgium and Italy before his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel triumphed in Singapore.

Hamilton still held a 65-point advantage over closest rival Valtteri Bottas, but Leclerc and Verstappen – who won in Austria and Germany – had made it clear they were not going to make things easy.

However, hopes of the drivers' championship turning into the sort of entertaining battle that has been absent from F1 for years were quickly scuppered when Hamilton took the top step of the podium in Russia.

The challenge was short while it lasted, but the 34-year-old Hamilton was finally forced to scrap with an opposing team again, having until then found team-mate Bottas his nearest rival.

Now, after wrapping up the championship in the United States, his sights will be set on equalling Michael Schumacher's record haul of seven drivers' titles.

Asked about his chances of reaching milestones set by Ferrari great Schumacher, Hamilton last month told Bild am Sonntag: "I'm not even anywhere near. I'm so far from his records.

"Michael's records are the summit of a huge mountain, and I'm still at base camp.

"The closer you get, the bigger your footsteps get, but of course I'm unbelievably honoured to be placed in that category and I've made it so far.

"I grew up watching Michael, and what he did is unbelievable."

The Mercedes driver's seemingly modest take may not be too far off the mark – 2020 could well prove to be Hamilton's biggest test yet.

Ferrari have made significant strides over the course of the season and proved they can outperform the Silver Arrows on high-speed tracks. Leclerc now has wins under his belt, having earlier agonisingly missed out in Bahrain and Austria, and will inevitably be a force to be reckoned with if the Scuderia are brave enough to back him.

Leclerc was denied in Spielberg by Verstappen, whose controversial move down the inside ensured it was he who triumphed – though he faced a lengthy wait to have it confirmed while the stewards investigated the contact in his overtake of the Monegasque.

That was the first of Verstappen's two victories for Red Bull this season and he will be keen for more when their partnership with Honda enters its second campaign.

Vettel cannot be discounted either, the four-time champion having ended a year-long wait for a win in Singapore, while Renault will hope to get themselves in a position to mix it with the big three.

This year, Hamilton batted down the competition to seal success. It could prove a very different story next time around.

Lewis Hamilton has been crowned Formula One world champion for a sixth time after getting the points he required to seal glory with a second-place finish at the United States Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver has won five of the last six drivers' championships, adding to his first success with McLaren back in 2008.

He now stands just one title away from the legendary Michael Schumacher, who won the last of his seven world titles four years before Hamilton's maiden championship win.

Hamilton's title-winning season has been one of the more comfortable of his career.

He fought off an early challenge from team-mate Valtteri Bottas and built up a lead too great for any of his other rivals to claw back, despite the improvement shown by Charles Leclerc, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen later in the year.

Here, we look at five key races in the Briton's successful 2019 campaign.


Bahrain: Hamilton pounces as engine woe costs Leclerc

Mercedes had dominated the first race of the season, but Ferrari looked poised to bounce back emphatically in Bahrain at the next meeting only to endure a nightmare finish.

Leclerc had qualified on pole, dropped down to third in a poor start but fought back to control the race and was leading Hamilton by eight seconds with three laps to go.

But Leclerc was cruelly denied a first career win by an engine issue that led to him being passed by eventual winner Hamilton and team-mate Bottas, with a late safety car the only reason he was able to limp home in third, while Vettel had earlier spun from second spot.

It was part of a series of technical issues, driver errors, strategy mishaps and strokes of bad luck that plagued Ferrari early in the season and meant they did not win a race until the 13th grand prix of the year.

Hamilton said: "That was extremely unfortunate for Charles, he drove such a great race.

"I had to go and see him. I'm sure it was a devastating result for him because he'd done the job to win. We were lucky. He's got lots more wins coming in the future."

Monaco: Holding off Verstappen to honour Lauda with victory

At the previous meeting in Spain, Hamilton had overtaken pole-sitter Bottas and won to halt his team-mate's early season momentum and claim the championship lead.

He then followed that up with a famous triumph around the streets of Monaco.

In a race where Mercedes' non-executive chairman and three-time world champion Niki Lauda was honoured after his death, Hamilton made the perfect tribute by winning from pole position.

Hamilton's magnificent battle with a charging Verstappen - where he held on to win despite driving for 66 laps on medium tyres that were supposed to last 50 - thrilled F1 fans and was much needed after a dour start to the season.

"That was definitely the hardest race I've had," said Hamilton, whose title hopes got a further boost when Leclerc retired from the race.

"I really was fighting with the spirit of Niki - he's been such an influence in our team and I know he will be looking down and taking his hat off."


Canada: Vettel controversy extends Hamilton lead

Hamilton's seventh win in Canada included one of the most controversial F1 moments in recent memory and led to a failed Ferrari appeal.

The 34-year-old crossed the line in second place behind Vettel, but was handed the win because of a five-second time penalty issued to the Ferrari driver.

Vettel was furious after the race in Montreal and moved the number one marker from the car of Hamilton – who was booed on the podium – to the front of his own in parc ferme, having accused stewards of "stealing" the victory on team radio.

He had led the race from pole but was being pursued by Hamilton with 22 laps left. He then went wide at turn three and re-joined the track from the grass to block his rival and hold the position in a way that stewards deemed to be unsafe.

Hamilton said: "Naturally that's absolutely not the way I wanted to win. When you come back on the track you are not meant to come back straight on the racing line. You're meant to re-join safely. I forced the error and he went wide - we nearly collided."

The win was his third in a row and was followed by a fourth in France at the next meeting. 

Mercedes won all eight of the opening races of the season, Hamilton claiming six of those to lead Bottas by 36 points and Vettel by 76.


Britain: Home victory provides major blow to Bottas

Despite Hamilton winning four straight races prior to Verstappen's victory in Austria, the lead over Bottas was only 31 points going into his home grand prix at Silverstone.

Hamilton earned a difficult victory – a record sixth win in Great Britain – after duelling with his team-mate throughout the race weekend, moving the title race decisively in his favour.

The championship leader lost out to Bottas in qualifying and came out second best in a battle for the lead over the first few laps.

But staying out longer when the Finn pitted in a different race strategy already looked like it was going to work in Hamilton's favour before a timely safety car made absolutely certain he could pit and hold onto the lead.

"It's so hard to win this grand prix," said Hamilton, who added an exclamation point to his victory by taking the fastest lap with hard tyres that were 32 laps old. 

"When you achieve something like that and you see all those British flags, I thought, 'Someone give me a flag' because one day I'll look back and have that picture of me in the car with that flag and I'll always be able to smile until my dying day."

Following this win, Hamilton pushed on and extended his lead to 65 by the time the F1 calendar had reached Monza.


Russia: Safety car luck ends Ferrari's winning streak

While Mercedes had dominated the first half of the season, their rivals fought back emphatically after the mid-season break.

Ferrari claimed three consecutive victories in Belgium, Italy and – most surprisingly – in Singapore, a track that was not supposed to be well suited to the Scuderia.

They were poised to continue that dominant run after Leclerc claimed pole position in Russia, where Mercedes had won every grand prix held since the race's return in 2014.

Despite bickering between Leclerc and team-mate Vettel over who should lead the race after Ferrari deployed team orders at the start, they still appeared to be in control of the race.

But everything changed when Vettel had to retire on lap 26 after his pit stop due to an engine issue. He was told to stop immediately, resulting in a virtual safety car that meant Hamilton - who led on track having not yet stopped - could box and still retain the lead.

Suddenly Mercedes were in control and Leclerc, the lone Ferrari left, ended up third after being unable to pass a resolute Bottas in the closing stages. 

"Ferrari are still quite dominant at the moment so it's taken quite a special job from us to come out ahead of them," said Hamilton, who ended the race 73 points clear of Bottas and 107 ahead of Leclerc.

With that win, any hopes of a dramatic late championship swing were at an end.

Niko Kovac has finally paid the price for a tough start to the season for Bayern Munich, with the head coach departing after a humiliating 5-1 defeat to former club Eintracht Frankfurt.

That result left the Bundesliga champions fourth - four points off leaders Borussia Monchengladbach - having won just one of their past four league matches.

Of course, Bayern also claimed an incredible 7-2 Champions League triumph away at Tottenham, but pressure had been building on Kovac for some time.

So where might Bayern turn next? We examine six potential candidates - including some big names.
 

JOSE MOURINHO

There is scarcely an elite club Mourinho has not been linked with since departing Manchester United, so could he finally end up at Bayern?

After winning trophies and plaudits in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, the 'Special One' would surely relish the opportunity to conquer Germany, too. Mourinho passed up the opportunity to give France a go when he told Lyon he had already chosen his next club, but Bayern would be tough to turn down.

MASSIMILIANO ALLEGRI

Allegri said he planned to take a year out after surprisingly leaving Juventus at the end of the 2018-19 campaign, but he might be persuaded to cut short his sabbatical if Bayern come knocking.

The 52-year-old was untouchable domestically with Juve, guiding them to five straight Serie A titles, although he was unable to secure a first Champions League title since 1996 for the Italian heavyweights.

He has a proven track record of getting the best out of high-profile names and would certainly be a safe pair of hands as Bayern look to steady the ship after a challenging start to the season.

ARSENE WENGER

Wenger has been out of football for over a year now, but he has repeatedly talked up the possibility of a return - and a man with his resume would expect to go back in at the top.

While there has been talk of directorial roles, few coaching gigs could appeal more than Bayern. After years of fending off the top-spending clubs as Arsenal boss, Wenger would find himself the biggest fish in the Bundesliga sea were he to take the job.

RALF RANGNICK

Any Bayern boss would command lots of scrutiny, leading the biggest club in the country, but Rangnick knows all about being a target for rival sides having led RB Leipzig into the Bundesliga.

Rangnick worked as sporting director for a time at Leipzig, yet he proved his coaching chops, too, and had the team third in the league as recently as last season. He is an out-of-work yet established domestic option.

HANS FLICK

Some of Kovac's public comments might have rubbed players, officials and fans up the wrong way, but it is not necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The 'baby', in this case, could be Flick. The former Hoffenheim boss returned to coaching as Kovac's assistant this season, forming part of the staff that delivered some hugely impressive results - remember Tottenham? 

Flick is familiar with the squad and a seemingly easy hire, and he will take temporary charge for the next two games.

ERIK TEN HAG

Ajax coach Ten Hag was linked with a return to Bayern at the end of last season and, discussing a potential switch as pressure built on Kovac, he refused to rule out the possibility of joining Germany's top club, having previously worked with the team's reserves under Pep Guardiola.

Ten Hag established himself as a leading light in the 2018-19 Champions League, overseeing a pair of gripping draws against Bayern before reaching the last four. Six years on from their most recent European triumph, such a CV would appeal to Bayern.

As South Africa celebrate a record-equalling third Rugby World Cup triumph, the newly-crowned champions are among a host of top international sides heading into a new era.

Rassie Erasmus worked wonders in a short space of time to transform the Springboks from failures into the best side in the world after taking over as head coach last March.

He has now relinquished the role to concentrate solely on his position as director of rugby, having juggled both jobs, and he will be a tough act to follow.

Steve Hansen's glorious New Zealand reign also came to an end in Japan, while Warren Gatland's long Wales tenure is over and Ireland will start life without Joe Schmidt following their quarter-final exit.

Australia are in the market for a new head coach too, and France have moved on from the man who led them in Japan. We take a look at their situations.

 

SOUTH AFRICA

Erasmus only agreed to fill in as head coach when Allister Coetzee's turbulent spell in charge came to an end, but he has ruled out staying on.

The 46-year-old became the first man to oversee a Rugby Championship and World Cup triumph in the same year, but will now focus on a job with a wide-ranging remit.

South Africa are reportedly expected to promote from within to replace Erasmus, with defence coach Jacques Nienaber the leading contender.

Mzwandile Stick and Matt Proudfoot are also members of the current coaching step up who could be in the running.

 

NEW ZEALAND

The All Blacks are likely to opt for continuity as they consider who should be charged with the task of succeeding Hansen.

New Zealand were unable to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for an unprecedented third time in a row, but Hansen has left a lasting legacy.

The 60-year-old spent 15 years on the coaching staff and was a huge success in the top job after earning a promotion.

Hansen championed his assistant, Ian Foster, to replace him. Crusaders coach Scott Robertson and Glasgow Warriors chief Dave Rennie are other possibilities.

 

AUSTRALIA

The under-pressure Michael Cheika quit as Wallabies coach after an emphatic quarter-final defeat to England.

Cheika's position had long since been called into question and the new man will take over a side sixth in the rankings and in need of a shake-up.

England head coach Eddie Jones has been linked with a second spell in charge of his country, but said before a defeat to the Springboks in the final that he has not been in contact with Rugby Australia.

Cheika said an Australian should replace him and Stephen Larkham could be in the reckoning, though Rennie may get the nod if they look overseas.

 

WALES

Wayne Pivac was confirmed as Gatland's successor last year - a reward for his success with the Scarlets.

The former policeman will have big shoes to fill, with Gatland having turned Wales into a consistent force and winning the Grand Slam in his final Six Nations.

Gatland parted by stating it would break his heart if Wales returned to the doldrums, as if his compatriot Pivac was not already aware of the standards he would be expected to maintain.

 

IRELAND

Andy Farrell gets his chance to be Ireland's main man after Schmidt decided it was time to take a break.

The experienced Englishman has made a big impact as defence coach and Irish Rugby Football Union chiefs are confident he can be a success.

One of Farrell's first jobs will be to appoint a new captain after Rory Best's retirement and he will take over a strong squad, one smarting from a World Cup quarter-final exit.

 

FRANCE

France are in need of some stability with a World Cup to come on home soil in four years' time and they will be hoping Fabien Galthie is the man to provide it.

Galthie takes over from Jacques Brunel after Les Bleus were knocked out by Wales at the quarter-final stage in Japan.

Former France captain Galthie is contracted until 2023 and could be assisted by Shaun Edwards, who has played such a big part in Wales' success under Gatland.

Manchester City's battling 2-1 win over Southampton meant they stayed in touch with Premier League leaders Liverpool ahead of a blockbusting trip to Anfield next weekend.

The gap at the summit remains six points after Sergio Aguero cancelled out James Ward-Prowse's first-half opener from a rare Ederson error, before Kyle Walker proved to be an unlikely matchwinner.

But Pep Guardiola's champions are undeniably some way short of the supreme form that saw them amass 198 points over the course of back-to-back Premier League titles, having laboured for long periods against a Southampton side that shipped nine goals eight days ago.

A repeat of Wolves' win at the Etihad Stadium last month appeared on the cards until Aguero intervened.

Liverpool retained their advantage at the top thanks to a stoppage-time winner from Sadio Mane at Aston Villa, coming after Andy Robertson set up the 2-1 win with an 87th-minute equaliser.

It means that if City's visit to Merseyside is not quite "must-win" it is almost certainly "must-not-lose". Guardiola raged at the officials during the closing stages against Saints, but here are some of the issues with his own players that will be causing concern.

Slow starts

"The intensity must be there from kick-off," Guardiola implored in vain in his matchday programme notes. Aside from the 8-0 demolition of Watford in September, the fast starts with which City frequently blitzed opponents during their title-winning seasons have been largely absent this time around.

Their goalless effort before the break in the 3-0 win over Aston Villa last weekend was dubbed a "relegation" performance by their manager. Atalanta scored first at the Etihad Stadium before being beaten in the Champions League and if the sluggishness beginnings against Wolves, Villa and Saints are on show at Anfield, City are likely to pay dearly.

Defensive stability

Since Aymeric Laporte was laid low by a meniscus injury at the end of August, City have conceded in six of 12 matches in all competitions. Not a howling record by any means, but Guardiola is still searching for solutions without his ball-playing defensive lynchpin, both in and out of possession.

Fernandinho is having to acclimatise to a new position quicker than was originally planned, while Nicolas Otamendi's nightmare showing against Wolves appears to have cost him Guardiola's trust.

John Stones and left-back Benjamin Mendy – the latter rested against Southampton – are working their way back to form and match sharpness, while Walker is only recently back from a bout of illness. Overall, the picture painted is not one of the robust unit required to repel Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.

Under-performing attacking stars

If City were at their free-scoring best in attack, it would mask plenty of the defensive deficiencies. The problem is, they aren't. Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne are the only members of City's creative department who can claim to have reached top form this season, and both were way short of their best against Southampton.

Aguero pilfered the equaliser to move on to 13 goals from as many appearances this term but it is notable that Gabriel Jesus is pushing him harder for a starting place than he has for at least 18 months.

Riyad Mahrez's impressive start to the season has tailed off, while Bernardo Silva – City's player of the season in 2018-19 – was often utterly awful as Southampton's massed defensive ranks inflicted an afternoon of rain-sodden anxiety upon the champions.

Guardiola: Season four

This is only the second time the famously meticulous and intense Guardiola has entered a fourth season in charge of a club. The last time that happened in 2011-12, Barcelona were unable to hold off a relentless Real Madrid and conceded their LaLiga title.

This is a different time in a different league with a different set of players, with Guardiola older and wiser. But the common features of City's poor performances this season – predictable attacks, edginess under pressure and an endless parade of crosses (although those belatedly paid off on Saturday) – indicate the message from the dugout might be at least a little careworn.

When Evan Holyfield makes his professional debut on the undercard of Sergey Kovalev and Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez's blockbuster WBO light-heavyweight clash it will not be the family affair it was the first time he pulled on boxing gloves in public.

Holyfield is the son of all-time cruiserweight and heavyweight great Evander Holyfield, while his brother Elijah is part of the Carolina Panthers practice squad on his rookie season in the NFL.

When they were children, there was briefly a possibility of Elijah following his sibling's career path – naturally with some final pointers from their father and a touch of sparring before entering the Georgia Games - a community multi-sport event in their home state.

"We both had our first fight on the same day," Evan recalled when talking to Omnisport. "We were eight years old and it was just me and him.

"My Dad brought us downstairs and taught us the 'one-two' and, before you know it, me and Elijah were having our first fight.

"We ended up in a tournament on the same day at the Georgia Games."

Evan and Elijah, both 21, remain close as they aim to write the next chapters in the story of one of America's most famous sporting names

"All our other brothers and sisters are older and there's a couple younger than us - he [Elijah] was like my best friend," Evan said.

"We have a really good relationship. I Facetime him often and we always ask each other what's going on with our football and boxing.

"At this point I feel like I'm one of his big fans as well as his brother. I just get a kick out of watching him as a football player. I'm really proud of him."

It will be Elijah's turn to play loyal supporter when Evan steps through the ropes at the MGM Grand against fellow novice Nick Winstead, who was stopped on his own debut five months ago.

Campaigning in the light-middleweight division means Holyfield Jr takes his stylistic cues a little further away from home than a father who reigned during one of the most celebrated era for boxing's big men in the 1990s.

"The person I most look up to other than my father when it comes to boxing is Manny Pacquiao," he said. "I grew up watching him and besides my Dad he's the one person who really got me into boxing.

"I feel like I take a lot of stuff from him, including his footwork. Even though his speed and combinations are realty hard to duplicate, I try to work on that too.

"I also take stuff from 'Sugar' Ray Leonard, 'Sugar' Ray Robinson – all those people and try and mix it in and make something that's my own."

When it comes to his son's boxing career, Evander has been happy to take a back seat and hand over the reins to esteemed trainer and former light-welterweight contender Maurice 'Termite' Watkins.

In Evan's eyes, the four-time heavyweight ruler was always a parent first and a superstar fighter second.

"When I think of my father as a boxer, it actually took a couple of years for it to soak in and for me to really understand him as a boxer," he added. "When I was younger I really only saw him as a father.

"It was only when I got into boxing and really started to study boxing that it really hit me – him as a legend.

"I have memories of going to some of his fights but I was about eight or nine and wasn't really into it.

"A couple of years down the line I was watching all his fights, studying and asking questions. Now I know him as a person and a fighter."

Getting to know Evan Holyfield as a fighter is a process the boxing fraternity will begin with no little excitement at the MGM Grand.

There is a train of thought that Manchester United would be better off without Paul Pogba.

Move on from an inconsistent performer, cut your losses on your record signing, and perhaps United could benefit without 'the headache' of their World Cup-winning Frenchman.

Yet that theory gained little support on Saturday.

United, shorn of their only dynamic midfielder for a fourth successive Premier League game, reverted to type, displaying a lack of creativity and ideas in going down 1-0 to Bournemouth, whose winner was scored by Manchester United academy graduate Joshua King.

The Cherries had not kept a clean sheet prior to their last home game against Norwich City and yet their defence enjoyed a largely worry-free afternoon in the wind and rain.

A central-midfield three of Fred, Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira might have impressed in the win over Norwich City on Sunday, but the trio epitomised everything that is wrong with this United, producing ponderous, pedestrian play and failing to conjure up anything of note in an attacking sense.

Pereira was the chief culprit. The Brazilian made only 25 passes and completed just 60 per cent of them - the fewest of any outfield United player. The most damning statistic, though, was that he failed to complete one pass to his team's centre forward Anthony Martial.

His performance was not an anomaly. Pereira has scored just once and contributed only two assists in 30 Premier League appearances, while making four big chances and providing one throughball.

Given he turns 24 on New Year's Day, you have to wonder whether Pereira is ever going to be good enough for United.

His infuriating moments on Saturday included failing to beat the first man from a set piece and overhitting what should have been a routine pass to Martial as he approached the Cherries' penalty area.

And when Solskjaer looked to his bench to replace his underperforming midfielder 68 minutes in, his only real option was the woefully out-of-form Jesse Lingard - a man who is yet to have a shot on target, provide an assist or deliver a throughball this season.

Solskjaer had spoken of the "good relationship" Fred and McTominay have in the build up to this game, but neither man is known for their creativity or flair.

Fred at least tried to take the challenge on, creating more chances than anyone else on the pitch on Saturday, but in seven appearances this season he not scored, provided an assist or a big chance.

The problem is, without Pogba, who can make something happen in that United midfield?

Saturday's showing should serve as a cautionary tale for those wanting Pogba gone.

Maro Itoje was named England's man of the match after their eviscerating 19-7 semi-final win over New Zealand. It was a crowded field for that particular honour but England's imperious lock touched perfection. Within three minutes of the 32-12 final defeat against South Africa, Itoje had inadvertently knocked a team-mate out cold. A missed catch from a restart 20 minutes later surrendered one of the England's brief periods of first-half parity.

Tom Curry was tenaciously terrific against the All Black, the 21-year-old underlining his status as one of this World Cup's breakout stars. Against the relentless Springboks, he was already finding the breakdown to be an entirely different proposition. When Itoje failed to claim, Curry knocked on. England then conceded a scrum penalty and Handre Pollard kicked the points, in what became a repeated narrative in Yokohama.

Ben Youngs was a frenetic metronome versus New Zealand, judiciously maintaining England's furious tempo. The team were unable to find any rhythm early on against South Africa – their attempts to avoid the Springbok arm wrestle amounting to haphazard windmilling. Given a chance to attack in the 11th minute, Youngs launched a howling pass over Anthony Watson's head and into touch.

George Ford's midfield combination with Owen Farrell has been the spark for all their best rugby under Eddie Jones. A footballer of immense skill and precision enjoying a fantastic tournament, Ford's most notable first-half contribution was a 27th-minute kick out on the full. He was replaced early in the second half.

Warren Gatland's mischievous words after his Wales team were edged out by South Africa in their semi seasoned this error-strewn stew.

"We have seen in previous World Cups that teams sometimes play their final in semi-finals and don't always turn up for a final," he said.

England undoubtedly left a peak they never troubled on Saturday, but not turning up suggests a team shrinking from the challenge and disappearing from view. All of England's toils, from errors with ball in hand to being obliterated at the set piece, came in plain sight. Only during a period of herculean Springbok defence after the half hour did they look something like the world's number one team.

Scrum half Faf de Klerk caught the eye as a yapping nuisance behind a formidable pack, although the introduction of South Africa's "Bomb Squad" replacement forwards did not turn the screw as expected, at least not initially.

The changing personnel after half-time coincided with the penalty count climbing. Referee Jerome Garces was a busy man as each passage played out on the borderline of fair and unfair. Owen Farrell and Handre Pollard stepped up to kick the points and we were moving in accelerated three-point bursts.

South Africa won their previous two World Cup finals without touching down. That arrangement would have suited the majestic Pollard and the Rainbow Nation roaring him on down to the ground.

Makazole Mapimpi had other ideas, popping a devilish kick over the England defence that Lukhanyo Am gathered smoothly. Two men hailing from South Africa's townships ensured another, Siya Kolisi would lift the Webb Ellis Cup – a triumph of symbolism and significance to arguably outstrip Nelson Mandela, Francois Pienaar, 1995 and all that. 

England were now a bedraggled, disconsolate rabble, barely recognisable from the team that brought the All Blacks to their knees as they wearily stooped to their own haunches. Cheslin Kolbe rubbed their noses in it with a delirious romp down the right wing. The Rugby Championship winners were world champions again, having made a total mockery of their pre-match underdog status.

As the trophy engraver got to work before full-time, it was a wonder South Africa did not score more points. Wearing the same number six as Pienaar and Mandela did 24 years ago, the inspirational Kolisi stood on the sidelines with no need to conceal his infectious smile. There could be no doubt when his supreme Springboks had played their final.

Maro Itoje was named England's man of the match after their eviscerating 19-7 semi-final win over New Zealand. It was a crowded field for that particular honour but England's imperious lock touched perfection. Within three minutes of the 32-12 final defeat against South Africa, Itoje had inadvertently knocked a team-mate out cold. A missed catch from a restart 20 minutes later surrendered one of the England's brief periods of first-half parity.

Tom Curry was tenaciously terrific against the All Black, the 21-year-old underlining his status as one of this World Cup's breakout stars. Against the relentless Springboks, he was already finding the breakdown to be an entirely different proposition. When Itoje failed to claim, Curry knocked on. England then conceded a scrum penalty and Handre Pollard kicked the points, in what became a repeated narrative in Yokohama.

Ben Youngs was a frenetic metronome versus New Zealand, judiciously maintaining England's furious tempo. The team were unable to find any rhythm early on against South Africa – their attempts to avoid the Springbok arm wrestle amounting to haphazard windmilling. Given a chance to attack in the 11th minute, Youngs launched a howling pass over Anthony Watson's head and into touch.

George Ford's midfield combination with Owen Farrell has been the spark for all their best rugby under Eddie Jones. A footballer of immense skill and precision enjoying a fantastic tournament, Ford's most notable first-half contribution was a 27th-minute kick out on the full. He was replaced early in the second half.

Warren Gatland's mischievous words after his Wales team were edged out by South Africa in their semi seasoned this error-strewn stew.

"We have seen in previous World Cups that teams sometimes play their final in semi-finals and don't always turn up for a final," he said.

England undoubtedly left a peak they never troubled on Saturday, but not turning up suggests a team shrinking from the challenge and disappearing from view. All of England's toils, from errors with ball in hand to being obliterated at the set piece, came in plain sight. Only during a period of herculean Springbok defence after the half hour did they look something like the world's number one team.

Scrum half Faf de Klerk caught the eye as a yapping nuisance behind a formidable pack, although the introduction of South Africa's "Bomb Squad" replacement forwards did not turn the screw as expected, at least not initially.

The changing personnel after half-time coincided with the penalty count climbing. Referee Jerome Garces was a busy man as each passage played out on the borderline of fair and unfair. Owen Farrell and Handre Pollard stepped up to kick the points and we were moving in accelerated three-point bursts.

South Africa won their previous two World Cup finals without touching down. That arrangement would have suited the majestic Pollard and the Rainbow Nation roaring him on down to the ground.

Makazole Mapimpi had other ideas, popping a devilish kick over the England defence that Lukhanyo Am gathered smoothly. Two men hailing from South Africa's townships ensured another, Siya Kolisi would lift the Webb Ellis Cup – a triumph of symbolism and significance to arguably outstrip Nelson Mandela, Francois Pienaar, 1995 and all that. 

England were now a bedraggled, disconsolate rabble, barely recognisable from the team that brought the All Blacks to their knees as they wearily stooped to their own haunches. Cheslin Kolbe rubbed their noses in it with a delirious romp down the right wing. The Rugby Championship winners were world champions again, having made a total mockery of their pre-match underdog status.

As the trophy engraver got to work before full-time, it was a wonder South Africa did not score more points. Wearing the same number six as Pienaar and Mandela did 24 years ago, the inspirational Kolisi stood on the sidelines with no need to conceal his infectious smile. There could be no doubt when his supreme Springboks had played their final.

England went into the Rugby World Cup final as strong favourites to defeat South Africa, only to go down to a 32-12 defeat in Yokohama.

Eddie Jones' side were stunning winners against New Zealand in the semi-finals, destroying the title ambitions of the mighty defending champions.

That 19-7 triumph set England up for a shot at the Springboks in Saturday's final and they were quickly tagged as firm favourites.

But the South Africa side that edged past Wales to reach the showpiece match defied expectations, with Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe scoring the only tries of the game, as Handre Pollard added 22 points off the tee.

England's shock defeat is one of many notable examples where a highly fancied team has fallen at the last hurdle.

Indeed, history is littered with examples of teams bringing out their best for semi-final matches, only to fall short on the big day.

Here is a look at some of the occasions when sides have not saved their best until last.
 

1987: Rugby World Cup - France stun hosts, surrender to All Blacks

In the days before World Cup semi-finals were automatically played in super stadia, Sydney's modest Concord Oval staged Australia's semi-final against France. A thriller was locked at 24-24 going into the dying moments, with Michael Lynagh having missed kicks to put the game to bed, when a jaw-dropping French attack resulted in Serge Blanco diving in at the left corner for the winning try. France were ecstatic, through to the first World Cup final, but New Zealand were behemoths lying in wait and the Eden Park final was a one-sided affair, the All Blacks powering to a 29-9 victory.

1999: Rugby World Cup - Quelle horreur! France falter at the last again

Jean-Claude Skrela's apparently formidable French swept through the group stage unscathed before dropping 47 points on Argentina and - mon dieu! - demolishing the All Blacks 43-31 in the semi-finals. France scorched back from 24-10 behind to sink the Kiwis in a Twickenham classic, inspired by the brilliant kicking of Christophe Lamaison and the gallivanting Christophe Dominici. Having edged out South Africa a day earlier, the Wallabies had considerably more left in the tank than Les Bleus when it came to the final, Rod Macqueen's men roaring to glory as 35-12 winners on the back of 25 points from the boot of Matt Burke and tries from Ben Tune and Owen Finegan.

2003: Premiership - Twickenham agony for dominant Gloucester

Gloucester looked bankers to be crowned kings of English rugby for the first time, after a stunning 2002-03 regular season saw them finish 15 points clear of distant nearest rivals Wasps at the pinnacle of the Premiership. Nigel Melville's side were far and away the best team over the campaign but then collapsed when it mattered most. The Cherry and Whites went straight into the final, which was the privilege at the time for the table-toppers, with Wasps and third-placed Northampton scuffling it out in a single semi-final for the right to join them. Wasps edged that game and then the side captained by Lawrence Dallaglio defied all logic by thumping Gloucester 39-3 at Twickenham to take the trophy.

2007: Premiership - Cherry and Whites off colour as Tigers pounce

Dean Ryan this time led Gloucester to the top of the Premiership table, albeit only marginally ahead of Leicester, but again there was crushing disappointment around the corner. A seven-try, 50-9 destruction of Saracens in their Kingsholm semi-final pointed to Gloucester being in great shape to gun at glory. At the very least they should have been highly competitive against Leicester in the championship match, so the 44-16 outcome in favour of the Tigers was a baffling outcome. Ryan admitted there was "mismatch.... across the field", while the Guardian memorably described the final as being "like watching field mice fleeing a combine harvester".

2015 Super Rugby: Hurricanes' hopes blown away

Everything was set up for the Hurricanes. They played a supreme regular season, finishing streets ahead of the Super Rugby pack with 14 wins from 16 matches, and after bulldozing the Brumbies 29-9 in the semi-finals they had home advantage at Westpac Stadium in Wellington for the title match. Chris Boyd's team looked nailed on, yet sport is rarely that straightforward. The Highlanders, who had never before won the competition, produced a powerful performance in the final and emerged 21-14 victors, silencing the home support who had showed up for a coronation. As Boyd said: "We were just a little off." And that can be enough in finals, where the switched-on invariably get their reward.

South Africa made history on Saturday after beating England 32-12 in the Rugby World Cup final.

The Springboks had already lifted one trophy this year after winning the Rugby Championship in August, and, in Yokohama, Rassie Erasmus' team achieved something that had eluded rivals New Zealand and Australia in the past.

In the previous five years when there has been both a Rugby Championship – or its previous incarnation the Tri Nations – and a World Cup, the winners of the first tournament had subsequently failed to also deliver success on the global stage.

South Africa succeeded where these teams failed...
 

1999: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – AUSTRALIA

The All Blacks won the first two Tri Nations and made it three in four years by thrashing South Africa 28-0, beating Australia 34-15 and claiming another victory over the Springboks.

However, a 28-7 loss to the Wallabies in the final fixture suggested New Zealand were not so invincible...

At the World Cup, the great Jonah Lomu scored eight tries yet France stunned New Zealand 43-31 in the last four, with Australia then winning the final against Les Bleus.

2003: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – ENGLAND

Four wins out of four delivered another Tri Nations triumph for New Zealand.

The All Blacks scored 282 points in their four World Cup pool games in Australia too before easing past South Africa 29-9 in the quarter-finals.

But Elton Flatley's accuracy from the tee consigned New Zealand to another semi-final loss and sent Australia back to the final, where Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal in Sydney delivered a famous success for England.

2007: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – SOUTH AFRICA

Neither Australia nor South Africa could deny the All Blacks another Tri Nations title in 2007, though it was a Northern Hemisphere nation who would stop their run at the World Cup.

New Zealand led 13-3 in the first half of their quarter-final against France only to suffer another knockout loss to their World Cup nemesis as Yannick Jauzion scored a brilliant converted try 11 minutes from time to seal a 20-18 success.

Defending champions England beat France in the semi-final but Percy Montgomery won the battle of the boots with Wilkinson in the final as South Africa secured their second World Cup.

2011: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – AUSTRALIA, WORLD CUP WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND

In the final Tri Nations before Argentina joined to form the Rugby Championship, Graham Henry's team lost their last two matches as Australia triumphed for the first time in a decade.

The World Cup was hosted in New Zealand and after years of being the nearly men, it was the All Blacks' turn to taste global glory again.

France were their final opponents and, in a tense, low-scoring contest, New Zealand won 8-7.

2015: RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS – AUSTRALIA, WORLD CUP WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND

Four years ago, Australia beat the other three nations to win the Rugby Championship, and came out on top of a World Cup pool that included Wales and hosts England.

The Wallabies narrowly saw off Scotland 35-34 and ousted Argentina 29-15 to set up a final with a New Zealand side that had hammered France 62-13 in the last eight.

No team had ever retained the World Cup before but Dan Carter shone on his international farewell to ensure Steve Hansen's side lifted the Webb Ellis Cup again.

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez will be following in the footsteps of some of the most famous names in boxing history when he challenges Sergey Kovalev for the WBO light-heavyweight title.

Mexican Alvarez is already a three-weight world champion but will be moving into the unknown when he fights at the 175-pound limit for the first time on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The 29-year-old was last in action at middleweight, defeating Daniel Jacobs via a unanimous decision on the scorecards to add the IBF title to the WBA and WBC versions already in his possession.

Now, though, he is climbing two divisions to face 'Krusher' Kovalev. Will Canelo cope against the Russian, or has he bitten off more than he can chew in the hope of growing his legacy?

Alvarez is not the first notable fighter to take the giant leap from the middle(weight) - and history tells us skill can make up for the size difference.

 

RAY ROBINSON

Wherever 'Sugar' Ray sits in your all-time list – and plenty would put him right at the top – there is no doubting his stellar resume. He built his reputation at welterweight and middleweight, reeling off a 91-fight winning streak at one stage in a career that spanned three different decades. After knocking out another great in Rocky Graziano in April 1952, Robinson returned to the ring just over four months later to fight light-heavyweight champion Joey Maxim. The move, however, was unsuccessful. After controlling the early stages, the challenger wilted in the New York sunshine at Yankee Stadium, eventually retiring on his stool with exhaustion after the 13th round.

THOMAS HEARNS

'The Hitman' fought in six different divisions, winning world titles in five of them. He is perhaps best remembered for his rivalry with 'Sugar' Ray Leonard, the pair first meeting in a unification bout at welterweight that was named Ring Magazine's fight of the year in 1981. Leonard won by stoppage in the 14th round on that occasion, while the long-awaited rematch eight years later ended in a draw at super-middleweight. Hearns carried on climbing up the divisions after that bout, going on to be crowned WBA champion at light-heavyweight when he out-pointed Virgil Hill. His reign was brief - the American lost to Iran Barkley via a split-decision verdict in his next outing.

RAY LEONARD

Leonard, along with Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran, was a member of boxing's 'Fabulous Four' during a golden age. 'Sugar' Ray twice retired - the first time following eye surgery to repair a detached retina - but his second comeback began with a daring challenge for the WBC light-heavyweight strap against Don Lalonde. There was a twist, however, with the governing body also putting their newly created super-middle belt up for grabs. Lalonde had to drop down to fight at 168 pounds; despite scoring an early knockdown, he was stopped in the ninth round.

ROY JONES

Forget the final stages of Jones' career - the Floridian was considered unbeatable in his pomp, becoming the first former middleweight champion to climb all the way to the top and win a world title in 106 years when he prevailed against John Ruiz in March 2003. Along the way, Jones had a lengthy stop at light-heavy, where he suffered his first career loss when disqualified for striking Montell Griffin while his opponent was down on one knee. He also dropped back down after beating WBA champion Ruiz, though his aura was shattered with three successive losses, two of them to Antonio Tarver.

BERNARD HOPKINS

The evergreen Hopkins lost his professional debut at light-heavyweight back in 1988, but initially rose to prominence as a middleweight, where he claimed the IBF belt at the third attempt. 'The Alien' kept on going through to 2016, the twilight of his career spent at the 175-pound limit. There were world titles along the way but also some forgettable fights, including a lopsided points reverse against Kovalev. Eventually, even Hopkins was unable to keep Father Time at bay, suffering a painful stoppage defeat - the first of his career - to Joe Smith Jr at the age of 51.

Sergey Kovalev defends his WBO light-heavyweight crown against pound-for-pound superstar Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez this weekend.

Kovalev is enjoying his third stint as a world champion in the 175lbs category, having been a dominant force in the division for a large chunk of the past decade.

By contrast, Alvarez is stepping into unknown territory as he moves up from middleweight in an attempt to become a four-weight world champion.

Whoever emerges victorious in Las Vegas on Saturday will be able to point to a win that significantly enhances their reputation and legacy.

Here, we look a three factors that could lead each man to glory.

SAUL ALVAREZ - KEYS TO VICTORY

Body shots

Canelo's economical counter-punching style means he is hardly the archetypal Mexican boxer, but his potent body attacks bear comparison to the finest his country has produced. Kovalev was hurt to the body in his losses to Andre Ward and against Anthony Yarde last time out. Canelo's technical proficiency to take advantage of this chink in the armour is likely to have caused plenty of consternation for Team Kovalev.

Cut off the ring

Earlier in his career, most glaringly in his sole loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2013, Alvarez's footwork appeared a plodding weakness against the very best. Over the intervening six years, however, Canelo's feet are his most improved asset. He frequently out-manoeuvred Gennady Golovkin during 24 titanic rounds and he must be sharp in this department to offset Kovalev's physical advantages and set up those body assaults.

Stay busy

Canelo boasts plenty of impressive wins over the championship distance, but a glance at the scorecards from wins over Golovkin, Erislandy Lara and Daniel Jacobs show plenty of scorecards returned in the region of 116-112 and 115-113. Alvarez typically takes portions of rounds off and selectively decides when to catch the judges' eyes. These are priceless traits to have mastered at world level but the threat of Kovalev's punch power means taking the odd round - or even minute - off might be fraught with danger on this occasion.

SERGEY KOVALEV -  KEYS TO VICTORY

The jab

Unusually for a man who sprung to prominence as a bludgeoning knockout artist, Kovalev's best punch remains a left lead thrown with intelligent authority and, of course, no little power. The shot saw him through the other side of choppy waters against Yarde and ultimately finished off his exhausted foe. Golovkin's jab caused Alvarez plenty of problems and that should be a huge source of encouragement to Kovalev.

Power and size

Youth, speed, punch variety, defence, age, recent form – Canelo certainly has plenty of factors in his favour for this blockbuster. It means Kovalev must make his natural attributes count early and often, persuading the Mexican from slipping into his desired rhythm of pot shots and counter-punching. Alvarez's chin stood up to Golovkin's best punches superbly; Kovalev must convince him being caught flush by a career light-heavyweight is an even more sickening proposition

Listen to Buddy

Following back-to-back losses to Ward and a shock stoppage defeat against Eleider Alvarez, Kovalev's time among the elite looked to be over. Joining up with esteemed trainer Buddy McGirt has proved an inspired move. In an immediate rematch, Kovalev parked the macho schtick in favour of refined boxing to regain his WBO belt via a wide points decision. There could be a temptation to try and bulldoze the smaller Canelo early but McGirt's tactical tweaking of the Kovalev style means this is unlikely to be part of the plan.

With another slate of games set for Sunday, we take a look at all that is happening around the league. 

From a few injury updates to a rookie getting his first NFL start, we cover it all in this edition of NFL news and notes.

Three things that matter Dwayne Haskins to make first NFL start

It is official. Dwayne Haskins, selected by the Washington Redskins with the number 15 pick out of the 2019 draft, will make his first NFL start on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

Washington interim coach Bill Callahan announced on Friday that Haskins would get the nod, with Colt McCoy serving as the backup while Case Keenum remains in the concussion protocol.

"We're really excited about Dwayne's opportunity," Callahan said. "Young quarterback going up against one of the top three defences in the league. It'll be a great challenge for him. Good learning experience. Great challenge for all of us to pull together and rally around Dwayne and go out there and compete against a top team in the AFC East."

However, Callahan would not reveal whether Haskins will remain the starter going forward, but the team has been "very encouraged" by his progress.

Cam Newton's season could be in jeopardy

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is going to need a bit more time before he is ready to return from a foot injury, casting his season into doubt.

Newton travelled to Green Bay on Friday to visit foot specialist Dr Robert Anderson. Carolina ruled Newton out of its Week 9 home game against the Tennessee Titans earlier this week.

"I spent a long time speaking with Cam this week and he's done everything he possibly can in his rehab process to get his foot to 100 percent," general manager Marty Hurney said in a team release. "Unfortunately, we haven't reached that point. The next step is for him to go see Dr. Anderson and gather more information."

While the team's update did not offer any sort of timetable for Newton's return, NFL Media reported "playing football is a long way off" for the quarterback.

Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton could miss 3-4 weeks

T.Y. Hilton has been ruled out of Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a calf injury and he is expected to miss even more time. 

Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich announced on Friday that Hilton is likely to miss three to four weeks as he recovers from an injury suffered during Wednesday's practice. 

Hilton was in a walking boot on Thursday and did not practice with the team, though the injury is not considered to be significant. 

Two things that don't matter 49ers tight end George Kittle played through injury 

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle finished Thursday's victory over the Arizona Cardinals with six catches for 79 receiving yards and one touchdown , but it was not without some pain. 

Coach Kyle Shanahan revealed after the game that Kittle was not only dealing with knee pain, but also an ankle injury and a nagging groin issue.

Kittle was injured on the first play of the game when he appeared to bang his knee on Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones in the backfield. He stayed down before walking to the team's medical tent for further evaluation and went to the bench instead of the locker room.

Despite his injury, Kittle still managed to score an impressive tying touchdown on a 30-yard reception just before the end of the first quarter. 

Cardinals cut Alfred Morris

The Cardinals are cutting running back Alfred Morris after just a week-plus stint, coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed. 

The move comes after Kenyan Drake had a strong performance against the 49ers on Thursday and as David Johnson (ankle) and Chase Edmonds (hamstring) are nearing a return at running back.

Morris was inactive against the New Orleans Saints last week, but played on Thursday while Johnson and Edmonds were out. The veteran will hit waivers and become a free agent if he goes unclaimed.

One video you have to see

Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins spoke about his excitement for playing at Wembley Stadium in London. 

Friday's tweet of the day

Antonio Brown has not stopped tweeting yet.

He took to Twitter on Friday to share the key card he received from the New England Patriots, which has his first name misspelled. He added the hashtags "Boomin" and "Disrespect."

Another football season is in full swing and a new edition of Football Manager is right around the corner following its beta release on Thursday.

The classic football management simulator is set for full release on November 19, but you can get early access to the beta version – which may contain bugs and issues developers Sports Interactive still need to fix – if you pre-purchase the game.

Therefore, it's time to start thinking about which club you might want to take the reins of. However, with playable leagues in over 50 countries, such a decision can often feel a little daunting.

Do you fancy yourself as a miracle worker who can take a tiny club to the Champions League final? Want to test yourself with a newly promoted side in a top league? Or how about managing an established club amid a rebuild?

Whichever's your preference, we've identified six clubs we can't wait to leave our mark on...


Norwich City - Premier League

Football Manager and developing young players go hand-in-hand, so Norwich City will surely be the first port of call for many. With Emi Buendia, Todd Cantwell, Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis and Ben Godfrey, the Canaries have one of the strongest sets of young players in the Premier League, having returned after three years in the Championship. They've also attracted significant praise for their stylish brand of football under Daniel Farke over the past couple of years, something you might aim to emulate. Avoiding relegation will be the target, but their talent gives them a real platform to build on.


Stuttgart - 2.Bundesliga

A former Bundesliga-winning outfit that have fallen on hard times, Stuttgart suffered relegation to the second tier for the second time in four seasons in 2018-19. Last time, they bounced back at the first attempt - and they have the talent to do so again, given they managed to keep the likes of Santiago Ascacibar and Nicolas Gonzalez. The German club have a strong fanbase, massive stadium, history and a well-regarded academy. If you can steer them back on track, you could potentially awaken a sleeping giant.
 

Salford City - League Two

Backed by the wealthy Peter Lim and the Class of '92 crew and into the Football League for the first time in their history, Salford City represent an intriguing option in Football Manager 2020, particularly if you like the idea of taking a club from the lower leagues to the top but want a little helping hand at the start. There are few – if any – small clubs in England with comparable potential.


Paris FC - Ligue 2

That's right, France's capital has another club. Formed due to a split from Paris-Saint Germain in the early 1970s, Paris FC's history is rather less glamorous than their world-famous, Qatar-backed neighbours. They have yet to return to the top flight since their relegation in 1978-79, but last season's fourth-placed finish in Ligue 2 showed promise, even if they lost to Lens in the promotion play-offs. With €7million being poured into their facilities and the fact they're located in a city drowning in young talent, it might be a risky job to take but the rewards could be glorious. Their position at the foot of the table with eight points from 12 games in real life proves you might have your work cut out, however.
 

Sevilla - LaLiga

Revered sporting director Monchi is back at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and, after two years of relative underachievement in his absence, Sevilla's squad has been truly ripped up. Thirteen new players – including highly rated Jules Kounde and Rony Lopes – have arrived and eight departed on permanent deals. Several others left on loan, yet it's still a squad bursting at the seams, meaning there's potential to build up a decent budget as well. European football should ensure you still attract decent additions, while the club's academy is well-regarded. But with so much upheaval, is Champions League football a bridge too far? Because that'll be your target.


FC Andorra - Segunda B3

Although they should be competing in Spain's Tercera Division, FC Andorra – yes, from the country of the same name, as opposed to Spain – find themselves in Segunda B for the first time since the 1990s. Bought by Gerard Pique last December, the club paid a substantial fee to take the place of Reus in the third tier after they were relegated two divisions for failing to pay player wages. Getting out of Segunda B is a notoriously arduous task given there are only four promotion spots between 80 teams in four groups of 20, but defying such odds might be the challenge some desire.

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