Sunday, August 31, 2008

Roar 2 v CCM 4

The Roar off season focus on attack and neglect of defence has come to roost. A-League teams are usually built from the defence forward.

After two games of domination and no result, the Roar either had to show their striking talent has teeth or face the consequences of an off night. The Central Coast defence was a solid wall. There was no way through for the Roar, and both Roar goals came from spot kicks.

At the other end the Roar defence clearly has some holes to fill. But worse than that CCM played negative long ball counter attack all night and their speed and strength made it highly successful.

For the Roar Sergio Van Dijk is starting to look like a Marcus Wedau style mistake - was there too much of the idea of a Dutch striker and not enough of the reality check of the physicality of the A-league? Strangly I read in the paper that he said that the A-League pays players a lot of money. Well I think the Roar pays him a lot. He just isn't strong enough it is as simple as that. He is too weak in the air. He can't run fast enough.

Meanwhile, Reinaldo and Miller are the Roar's strongest players but have an inadequate target man to bounce the ball off.

Overall the Roar remind of their season one team - not mature enough to win penalties and free kicks when fouled, pushed off the ball when goal bound.

And the defence - young Matt Simon made them look slow and foolish, as did MacMaster.

It will be interesting to see how the Roar respond. We don't want to be left behind with Perth and Wellington as not quite there.

The Emperor's New Clothes

Mark Bosnich is over-weight and finds it difficult to more around the field. Fortunately for Central Coast he was only provided two tests tonight. One a Charlie Miller free kick for which he did not move. The second a professional foul in which he dragged down a Roar striker. Bizarrely, the ref gave the penalty but no card. Frank Farina appeared to query the match referee on that one.

Bosnich is taking the spot of some promising young keepers. Further, he didn't add a person to the game crowd. In my view, he is very unlikely to win any sought of keeping contract in Europe. It seems like we have been sold hype and wind. Through the game he seems hyperactive, constantly leaving his penalty area. Towards the end of the game Bosnich appeared punch drunk and staggered around his box.

He opened up well acting like the star, even changing the match ball for an apparently better one.

What a waste.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ashes? Adelaide 3 v Wellington 0

Where did the team that came 2nd in the pre-season go?

Wellington joins Newcastle as a team in trouble. Durante and McKain just are not fixing the defensive holes. If fact, in the last two games they have looked worse at the back than last year. And Kwasnik looks like a different player. Does he want to live in NZ? Maybe CCM, and Newcastle in Durante's case, knew something they weren't telling us. And we know the Roar looked closely at the returning McKain. Yet these players are not on journeyman pay packets.

Wellington's other ex-Brisbane Striker Smeltz (born in Germany, NZ nationality) was in bed with the flu. Lailai Gao played a good solo hand but rare combined. In fact Wellington struggled to put 3 passes together and relied on the long ball game without much chasing up front.

Daniel came on as sub but the game was gone by then. The 3rd of Wellington's ex-Brisbane Strikers - Karl Dodd - was also subbed in late - hasn't he put on weight. Fox were rallying around Riki Herbert but something isn't functioning at this club. There seems to be a lack of passion, commitment and any sought of system or even organisation.

I'm not that convinced by Adelaide's performance, just the resistance wasn't there. Yet the two teams that got Asian Champions time look to be doing the work so far.

After tomorrow we may know more as Perth faces a major test against Sydney. Are Sydney as good as Melbourne? I don't think so. And the Roar must prove their potential by beating Bosnich.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Victory 5 v Jets 0

Bremner makes it 5 with his first touch. A drilled muligruber from outside the box. Huge amounts of space allow Melbourne to deploy 4 strikers.

Jets in disarray.

Three Quarter time at the Telstra Dome - Rapant Victory 4 v Jets 0

Allsopp has picked up 2 more. Plus a deliberate hand ball in the penalty box missed by the ref. Jets look Jaded.

Half Time: Victory 2 v Jets 0: Attack Attack

So far its been end to end but Victory look just too good. Thompson came on after about 20mins with an injury to Thwait. And Melbourne look like they are all strikers. Fab and Thompson have scored but it could easily have been 4, with misses from Hernandes (not Nay Fab) and Vargas put a point blank header into Covic's knee.

Zora has been dropped from the Jets starting team. Hakansson also looks disappointing and fighting to keep up.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Roar are now 'Charlie's boys'

Roar radio promotion has switched to highlight former Scotland international Charlie Miller. For good reason, so far he is a revelation. He brings the same level of class to the A-League that Sydney fans saw in Dwight Yorke.

He always looks like he could score.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Keep me searching for a goal of gold, but I'm growing old... Roar 1 v Adelaide 1

Adelaide. Once Australia's industrial capital. The hills and wineries on one side, on the other a working land, dry and hot. From this land has come an uncompromising survival instinct built into a football team. Win by thinking small. Freely admit you don't care about entertainment (see Friday's Courier Mail). The hard core fans come anyway. Small home ground, don't worry anything more than 10,000 makes you money. Grind them out. Be physical, recruit for tall and wide. Nothing fancy. 'Get working Karl' as Costanzo put it last night. Last night someone in the crowd shouted 'they're a pub side.'

For all our desire to be Dutch, it is the brute physical force of Adelaide that is the A-League's most successful club, into Asia.

The Roar on the other hand is all Dutch, to the boot-straps of its skillful new striker Van Dijk. And Brisbane is a crowded entertainment market with the Broncos still in full flight and the Lions playing their critical match of the season. Not somewhere that boring football can be tolerated.

Unfortunately, yesterday our Dutchness was pushed off the ball at every turn. The night before 10 yellow cards where handed out in a clean game - here Adelaide earned only 1. It was like watching the Roar of the first season - brutalised off the ball and then penalised for any retaliation. For Van Dijk it was to be one neat turn and shoot, one - it has to be said beautiful - flick to set-up Charlie Miller's goal. Two strikes low and hard next to the keeper on the left neither looked like going in (McKay also had a one-on-one with the keeper). But by the 80th he was done, out jumped, bullied and bruised by Adelaide, there wasn't much left. Even in the first half the much stronger Miller had to switch places with him in an effort to bring his skills into the game. He needs to 'get working' - bench pressing 200kgs. Like Reinaldo did.

In contrast, Reinaldo showed us what he could do as a right winger. Out running the sluggish Adelaide defence - even when they had a 10 metre head start. Before half time Frank Farina had made his mind to through Reinaldo and Zullo on, playing at home, perhaps he could hear his own words coming back at him (the 'booed off the park' jibe at Wellington the week before). From the get-go Reinaldo made the difference. And Miller was the best on the park and SUPER FIT thanks. Reinaldo needs to start with him next week. Perhaps Van Dijk will be a good surprise attack from half time when the defence has had its brutality knocked out of it?

The first 15 minutes of the second half was the Roar at its best. This juxtaposed with the classic misses of the first half - Van Dijk, Smits, McKay, and even Miller acknowledged the sitter he missed. The small crowd were talking about the curse of Land Park - my son pointed out 'we score up that end, we usually run that way first', he was soon right. By the late seventy minutes, something new happened, a large part of the Roar was 'done', not Miller, Tiatto or the injured Moore, but the work horses Murdocca (flu), McKay (seemed to hurt his arm badly) and particularly Van Dijk seemed to stop running. Tiatto pushed up field to try to force the issue.

But Adelaide had come looking for a draw. They played for that. Even when the Roar engine faulted they offered not much in attack.

Oh and one more thing we learned, Cristiano is diver. We don't need that type of Brazilian thanks. Having said that, the penalty was legitimate, just after that he got the idea that all he had to do was fall over. He earned himself a special place at Lang Park.

One more thing, the talking point could be whether Eugene Galekovic walked the ball out of the box - he had to turn and hold it in front of him - it looked out of the box to me. Which as Danny V of CCM knows is a straight red, but Eugene got away with it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Central Coast 2 v Sydney 3: Ref stars

FFA have invested heavily in a referee improvement program this year. And so far it is likely that they will be disappointed. In this game 10 cards were handed out, including 2 yellow and a red for one incident. 3 yellows for CCM for 23 fouls and 6 yellows for Sydney for 14 fouls - not much between those that got cards and those that didn't.

FFA's ref investigation uncovered what we all knew, that suspensions mean fans miss out on seeing their favourite players. So they added a yellow to the mandatory suspension haul (up to 5 from 4). Still, will 10 going in a game that won't make much difference. It is particularly bad when juxtaposed with last night's game where most got away with their fouls. At least consistency please!

Socceroos coming to Brisbane 15 October

Tickets onsale next week - Football family Tuesday, general public Thursday.

Category A - $122 all tickets

Category B - $82 Adult, $42 Concession, $206 Family

Category C - $52 Adult, $27 Concession, $131 Family

And the its Brisbane Stadium - also know as Lang Park and Suncorp - so named due to Cup rules.

10 September 2008, Uzbekistan v Australia

15 October 2008, Australia v Qatar

19 November 2008, Bahrain v Australia

11 February 2009, Japan v Australia

1 April 2009, Australia v Uzbekistan

6 June 2009, Qatar v Australia

10 June 2009, Australia v Bahrain

17 June 2009, Australia v Japan

Rich Man's humour

From Fox Sports:

'MEDIA mogul John Singleton likens the A-League grudge between Sydney FC and Central Coast to that of bitter league rivals Manly and Western Suburbs in the 1970s.

"Central Coast work on a minimum budget, yet whenever they get a good player Sydney try to knock them off," said Singleton, on the eve of the first showdown between Sydney and the Mariners on Saturday night at Bluetongue Stadium.'

Perth Robbed: Glory 3 v Jets 3

You wanted goals in the A-League. Here they are. Here's how they happen.

Make no mistake Glory were duped, dudded. After fighting back and scoring some great goals, they were beaten by poor ref / linesmen decisions and communication, and their defence.

Ref Zetter did not have his best game. The assistant (running on Newcastle's right in the first half) had a worse game. The Glory defence and the Newcastle defence were both poor.

First up Joel Griffiths was brought down outside the penalty area on the left - decision = penalty 0-1 Newcastle (yellow card given). Then Adam Griffiths cuts down Amaral from a corner. Penalty Glory 1-1 (no yellow). Then in the second half Adam Griffiths drags down a Glory attacker in a cynical foul. Only a yellow but Griffiths could have been on his way.

Then with 3 minutes of 4 minutes of extra time gone - Amaral takes on two Jets defenders deep into Jets territory, Amaral goes down and keeps the ball between his legs. Presumably the whistle blows as the right assistant enters the pitch and drags Thompson, who is kneeing Amaral in the body and head (nowhere near the ball) off. Mellay. A jets player drags the ball from Amaral - still on the ground - takes a free kick and Jets get up the other end and score 3-3. The Jets had been working on Amaral for a while - his right eye seemed to be closed from half way through the second half.

The home crowd couldn't believe it - neither could I. Surely Amaral had been fouled. Surely with the Assistant on the field drapping a player off another cards must be shown - probably red for Thompson and two weeks on the sideline?

This took the gloss off Dada's headed goal from Amaral's cross brilliant goal.

By the way, Zora for Jets is fast. he gets behind defences on the right but his finishing is very poor. He was even running into the bos doing step overs.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Where's Robbie?

We spotted him in Wellington is a huge coat - weighting on the bench. Hope he gets a go Sunday - I'd like to see him feeding and feeding off Charlie... Running at Sasa... Scoring goals... 4 would do. And Reinaldo - same number...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Grudge Match: Roar v Adelaide Sunday Lang Park 5pm

First it was Kozzie v Miron. Now its Og man v Zullo, apparently.

Adelaide's grind em out game can't be allowed to stand.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wellington 1 v Roar 1: cold wet and full on

Kwasnik hit the bar in the first half, but it was the Roar that made the most chances across the game. Particularly, Reinaldo (on for Smeltz) - hasn't lost his touch after sitting waiting for a game that wasn't coming in Korea - ran into the box from the right, up to the six yard box and across but the Wellington defence were able to scramble away for the two Roar players waiting, and Zullo (on for Miller) who used his speed to run right to left in front of the keeper only to shoot into Moss's legs. While the shot count was even in the first half, in the second, apart from the Daniel to Smeltz goal, it was mainly the Roar.

Also apart from the Smeltz goal, the Roar defence Seo, McCloughan, DeVere and Tiatto held. Dodd looked OK, his kicking style is eerily similar to his brother who was playing for the other team. And he worked hard all game. As did Murdocca who continues a more attacking role.

Miller (played the whole pitch all game) and van Dijk were the stars. In fact it was a bit like total football where players drop into roles as others move forward or backward.

Smits has more work to do to get onto back heels and flicks from Miller and van Dijk. McKay also had a hard working game and was very visible.

The new boys in defence were the stars for Wellington. Without them .... Writing this I don't see any need for me to be even but listening to the local commentators is always a bit of a laugh. Like 'Daniel is the most fouled player in the A-League. Yeah they aren't missing him.. oh Daniel gets a yellow card for diving... ' and 'The crowd are getting stuck into Seo. It harks back to last year when he milked a foul and got a Wellington player sent off... '

56 mins Smeltz evens it up Well 1 v Roar 1

against run of play...

Charlie Miller, Charlie Miller 46 mins Well 0 v Roar 1

Van Dijk nearly lets it go for a goal kick then bang McKay lets it through to Miller who beats his man...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Two matches two draws: Close again

Newcastle 1 v CCM 1 and Sydney 0 v Melbourne 0

Highlights are debuts of young players and overseas signings not finding their feet. Overall, looks good. Both matches had crowds of around 16,000. Which is pretty good given the Olympics is on. 

The highlight has been Kevin Muscat getting away with an after the ball chop to the back of 17 year old Chris Payne - right in the penalty box. Bold stuff indeed.

The A-League's new website is worth a look. Takes up a fair bit of bandwidth which slows things down. And the 'live' match summaries don't seem to be working yet (and are hidden). Otherwise looks great.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Post from our Correspondent in Japan

Being down in the southern hemisphere, and being relatively isolated, I think we aussies get a skewed view of the world.

Non-football example: the illegal immigrant debate (our numbers pale in comparison to the # of people going into Europe or the US). The local papers made it sound so heavy, when it isn`t.

So then Olympic football comes along, we have no sense of where we fit into the big picture. Or what we should expect from our team.

Could our Olympic squad play better football than they have (with a different coach)? I think yes. Could they improve so much that they win a medal? No.

Should we be cheering for the team? Yes.

Re Olympic funding, I saw a similar sentiment over here in Japan recently. Someone on TV was saying that the Japanese media shouldn't obsess so much about high school baseball, but rather try to support other sports as well. Because right now not many young athletes are going into Olympic sports in Japan. But I feel like that is false advertising. Japan loves high school baseball. Highlighting other sports which japan doesn`t love to try to increase a medal count feels ... cynical.

So I think the money / support should follow the love. And right now, AFL is the top dog in oz. But, having said all that, here`s looking forward to a medium term future with 40,000 people having a great time at every Roar homegame. And every other A-League team pulling between 25,000 - 60,000 every week.

... And other countries talking about the amazing footballing culture we are developing. Our own. The same way people talk about Brazilian football, Italian football, Dutch, French, German, English ...


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olyroos 0 v Argentina 1: Nikita Rukavytsya almost the hero

I got to see the 2nd half live on channel 7. Argentina were clearly on another planet to the Olyroos. And yet they couldn't score and were becoming increasingly penulant, firing off at everything. Thompson off Rukavytsya on. 15 seconds later he is away, running into the box from the left and firing a bullet - into the side netting. Then an amazing combination from just about the whole Argentinan team and they score. Then they close the game down. Respect to Australia for holding them out. Boos from the crowd bored by their tactics. Half chances for Australia to catch up. Real chances for Argentina. Then it is over. But they, we, nearly made it.

I can see the funny side: When are Olyroos playing Argentina

At this, largely under 23, level Argentina are probably the world's best. So the Olyroos v Argentina would attract capacity crowds at a ground in Australia.

But on Channel 7 they won't tell when their delayed telecast starts. So there will be no pub loads of fans watching that then. And all the kids whose parents can't afford Foxtel don't even get fair warning and promotion on the free stuff.

By the way the actual kickoff is now 5pm China or 7pm Brisbane. And it could be shown on channel 7 or SBS.

Sport with the Olyroos

Back off our Olyroos.

Reading the reviews of the Serbia game I felt quite cheesed off. It is almost like people thought we were going over there as favourites and 'medal hopes.' If Australia were prepared to invest and focus the time an effort on this football code - then yes I think we would be the best in the world. This syndrome is best typified by the 'Olympic station' that is running an ad to get people to watch its coverage of the Olympics that starts with AFL players going up for a high ball, then covers a whole series of sports that are at the Olympics. The message was - Australia is a world class sporting nation. Well, we divert a lot of resources into three codes of football that aren't regarded as world games. And our number one code AFL is not played by any other nation and will never be at the Olympics.

Each AFL team spends between $30m and $40m per year on players, officials and supporting equipment. AFL player preparation and conditioning is probably world's best practice (Jason Ackermanis put this view some months ago comparing the AFL warmdowns to the EPL where players are gone in 15 minutes).

My guess is that an A-League team may spend $5m to $10m with only around $2m to $2.5m (including the marquee) on players and their fitness. So when audiences back A-League teams to AFL standards, or Japanese or Qatar standards, then we can expect an A-League backed team to win a medal at the Olympics.

Australia wins medals in sports where we do more than other countries to back that sport - eg swimming in America struggles for any profile, and we focus more than other countries on shooting, horse events, rowing, hockey ...

The interesting thing is that Australian Olympic officials are warning than the mood is changing in other countries. So, for example, England will host the 2012 Olympics and wants to match the event with increased medals. It has chosen sports where Australia is relatively strong to focus its $1 billion talent development funding. They are also hiring Australian coaches in sports where we excel. We are also seeing the bizarre in other codes like a small French union team being able to pay more for Sonny Bill than an established Australian league team.

Are we prepared to shift our sporting dollars to match this? Not just in football, but in all our Olympic sports?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

half time 0-0, and no points for free to air TV rubbish

So much for free to air TV riding into football. Here they are the Olympics are on, a game Australia has every chance of winning (Serbia) and its on delay telecast. Meaning hardly any kids will get to see the match - putting free-to-air behind Foxtel for accessibility.

Three cheers for the ABC radio who have it live with their best commentators on it.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Lucky Melbourne: Pre-Season Cup Wellington 0 v Melbourne 0 (Victory on penalties)

Lucky Melbourne. Lucky Lucky Michael Theoklitos. He should be watching the first few games from his lounge room. He still may if the FFA decides to review the DVD of the game.

Melbourne won but it took them 9 kicks in the penalty shootout. Theoklitos saved them. But he may have been sent off in about the 50th. A free kick swung in, man-of-the-match Jon McKain connected heavily with Theoklitos and the ref blows the foul. Then Theoklitos takes the game into his own hands appearing to punch McKain once in the face and at least another one or two to the body. McKain went straight down. In the following ruckus with other players pushing and shoving, McKain goes in the book and Theoklitos gets to take the free kick.

From then on Theoklitos pulls out two great saves and stairs down Wellington in the penalties. Lucky lucky.

This match really was from the floorboards up. With the quality of defence, particularly Wellington's, out classing the attack. The strikers failed to create more than brief danger and, perhaps, made it too easy for defenders.

Jon McKain was the stand out, injured or not, he was a class above. The best for Melbourne was Evan Berger on the left. But the Costa Ricans were very quiet. Perhaps this was just an off night for Lopez? Brazilian Ney Fabiano was disappointing and too prepared to foul if he didn't get his way. He will be outsmarted by the old hands in the A-League if he keeps down that path.

The best new player was Wellington's trialist Muscat (the only one on the ground), another defender. Apart from McKain, Wellington have focused on the A-League proven talent for their off-season buying - Andrew Durante (suspended tonight) and Troy Hearfield from Newcastle, Leo Bertos from Perth Glory (the Wellington site omits this) and Adam Kwasnik (only played half a game) from CCM are real talents.

Well this was either the shape of things to come for a resurgent Wellington, or opportunities for teams with quality upfront. The trophy that got away for Wellington?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Robbie Kruse

The Courier Mail pointed to talks between Frank Farina and Robbie today. Robbie is a great player with massive potential. I hope we see a lot of him, Tahj, Mitch, Zullo, Charlie brown, Isaka, Mass, Van Dijk and Reinaldo (this list could go on and on and I probably will) running rings around the opposition.

Maybe that is the issue... game time for stars?

Get well soon Robbie!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Roar can afford a brave face: Roar 1 v CCM 2

It was a funny comment attributed to Frank Farina in the Courier Mail today. It was suggested that the pre-season cup should be scrapped because it exposed players to suspensions for the real A-League season. Craig Moore's send off yesterday was the case in point. However, John Kosmina could be running this argument with 3 off on suspension (1 red and two - two yellows for the pre-season cup). But the Craig Moore argument is obviously flawed. If it were not for the pre-season cup Moore would not be playing until round 3. The Cup gave him the opportunity to serve 2 weeks on the sideline for official games for a ban from last year's finals. As it is, his sending off yesterday will mean he will be back for game 2. So which would you prefer Frank? Maybe either better refs or better tackling.

My trip to the game didn't happen yesterday. But by all accounts the Roar dominated, a cameo by Bosnich saved CCM at least twice with super human saves - will CCM be sorry to have to see him go? and the Roar let in two very quick goals to defensive mistakes. DeVere was not on the field at the time, Ben Griffin and Craig Moore were. Unfortunately, Moore was red carded after half time for a two footed tackled. Good decision? It would be very interesting to see a TV replay. The Roar mixed it well with Sydney, Wellington (draw) and CCM - just didn't get the results.

John Kosmina seems to be on the same track as me about Alex Brosque if reports in the Australian are correct (and Ray Gatt is one of the best). I think he dives, John thinks he argues with the ref too much. Kosmina also thinks Des Giraldi has done his go at an A-League return by picking up another yellow card - he didn't mind him giving away a penalty, causing Sydney to have no strikers for their first game was unforgivable. You need to go find some of the great teenagers playing around Sydney and fill your squad John.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Sydney 2 v Wellington 3: Sydney's limited player roster backfires (again)

This match sounds like it just about turned into a fight. With Mitchell Prentice earning a straight red (Wellington Captain Andrew Durante go his 2nd yellow in this incident), and Alex Brosque and Dez Giraldi earning suspension causing yellows. With Sydney now out of the pre-season cup, and only 19 signings and Giraldi as cover for injured Aloisi, born again Melbourne Victory have been prized an easy round one for the start of the A-League season.

Meanwhile, both Wellington and Melbourne get their first pre-season cup final experience on Wednesday night. Could New Zealander's get their first silverware?

Sydney FC's game report is here. Up 2-0 at half time the second half was a disaster. Giraldi is trying to save his career and it sounds like he was leading the Sydney charge.

The Roar play Wellington in two weeks in NZ for their season opener. It will be a test of just how far both teams have come.

Newcastle Jets have signed 24 year old Ecuadorian Edmundo Zura as their marque. 23 goals in 53 games sounds impressive as does a loan to Barcelona. Zura has also scored a full cap goal for his country. However, his loan was to Barcelona Ecuador not Spain. So far he is one of the many who looked fantastic for their country at 18 but haven't got there yet. On close inspection of his scoring record most of it is in the Ecuador 2nd division in 2006 (18 goals in 32 games). On promotion to the first division in 2007 he managed 5 goals in 20 games. In 2008 he hasn't scored in 7 games. So he is seeking fame and fortune in the Australian A-League. And he puts on a spiderman mask, in memory of a friend who died in a car crash, when he scores. I sourced this information from Wiki. OK could be interesting.

It's like... Charlie Brown, Snoopy AND the Red Baron...

Charlie Miller, Reinaldo and Sergio Van Dijk.