Thursday, April 30, 2009

Boxing on...

Great to see the Roar on ABC TV news tonight. With Mitch in the background, great plugs for Sergigoal, Craig Moore looked like he had a few fights before, and Henrique was fearlessly swinging away.

... And Robbie Kruse off to try out for Wellington (according to the Courier Mail) after lots of per-season work outs in an effort to re-start his career. Has he done enough to regain his match confidence?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A sobering sight...

Last night the news, covering swine flu, showed Mexican teams playing without crowds...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

FFA's investment strategy?

It will be interesting to see if (when?) the FFA ends up with interests in Adelaide and the Roar. And if they do, whether they will be buyers or sellers of players. So far, in lead up to any new administration, Adelaide seems to be a seller.

The Roar spent last year tieing up the loose ends so Gold Coast had to pay mega bucks if it wanted to cash in on the local following of Roar players (Tahj). But now the stories have switched to who is for sale - Zullo knocked back $600,000, will Van Dijk go to Indonesia, will Matt Mckay stay in China, etc.

However, now the FFA will feel the pain of the cost of Suncorp if they don't put out a winning team, I can't see them letting too maany go whatever the financial attraction. In fact, FFA may be tempted to look at guest player to tap the massive Brisbane Eurofile TV market...

Lessons from other sports: Union on the brink

Rugby union in Australia consolidated and then expanded. Mining money from Western Australia, reputed to be backed by South African expats, formed the Western Force. In doing so, stripped some of the best players and the young up-and-comers from the other 3 Australian teams. Result, Australian club teams are not competitive in the Super 14 and there is barely life in the domestic (local teams only) competition.

John O'Neill switched back from the A-League to union in an attempt to unify the fragmented and, occasionally, warring state bodies. And to negotiate the next round of TV deals. Interestingly, under O'Neill exclusivity to Foxtel was, like for football, seen as the answer. Ooops. While Foxtel may have seen its audience grow, like football, the overall audience has declined and this has hit home gatetakings. And the long term future of the sport via dropping interest from kids who can no longer recognise heroes. A big thank you from the free-to-air prime time guys at AFL and, the beleaguered rugby league.

The once powerful Queensland Reds have been hard hit. For years they have struggled to win games and keep coaches. All but die-hard fans can watch their team smashed every week. The financial crisis is right on their door-stop with one of their major sponsors, a sports clothing company, reported in today's Sunday Mail as running out of money. This compounds the problems the club has had from its commitment to Ballymore. Like the Roar, the Reds play at Suncorp and train at Ballymore (their traditional home). The Reds $100m plan for Ballymore was struck a blow by the change in Federal government which reversed a funding pledge - you could say that between the State and Commonwealth this money has now gone to the Gold Coast for a new AFL ground. Anyway, now the proceeding Ballymore upgrade is weighing Queensland rugby union down. What happens next is a real question.

Meanwhile, the cause of the Reds playing demise, the Force is also reported to be in dire straights (Offsiders ABC TV Sunday). One plan, said to be reasonably advanced, is to switch them from WA to Victoria and to get them to share the proposed new football stadium. This stadium would house - say - in summer Melbourne Victory and a new A-League team from 2012, and in winter, probably, a re-badged Western Force. This would keep games at the new ground week in week out.

Plus, South Africa is continuing to talk big about leaving the Super 14 and moving into a European competition. This would open up more sponsorship dollars, link expat Brits and others with their Europeans origins, open mass markets, and, perhaps most importantly, allow more South African teams into the top flight - a major problem with Super 14 where Australia is claiming any new spots (although they want them to go to Asian teams - particularly Japan).

Hmmm. What this space.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Newcastle 0 v Nagoya 1 / Kawasaki 2 v CCM 1

Something for these prepared to look beyond the results. The A-League teams were as good as the top level Japanese teams.

The turnaround from a 0-5 walkover was massive for CCM. And Newcastle can be seen to have improved as well despite going backwards from an away draw.

CCM continue to be let down by their set piece performance (both goals). However, they more than held their own and created worthwhile chances. I thought they were let down by the UAE ref who appeared influenced by both the Japanese reputation and the home crowd. Such as it was in torrential rain. The rain suited CCM. The mega dollar Brazilians in the Japanese team were the difference and they scored the goals. But their production was limited by the rain, as they slipped around. The local Japanese team members looked ill disciplined and bad tempered, often resorting to arguing with the ref rather than playing the decision. At least two Kawasaki players, including defensive star Mori, were lucky to miss two yellow cards for desent.

Anyway I enjoyed CCM's game and Matt Simon, perhaps in his last few games for the club, looked back to his best. Except he missed adding two more goals to the one brilliant catch out of the keeper.

Vignaroli looked very smart for Newcastle for the 30 minutes his hamstring lasted. Patafta got his chance. And he looked than I have seen him before, openning up the park and creating chances. Van Egmond most be giving Donny De G his chance to justify a season, as he left Petrovski on the bench. I think it is thumbs down for Donny. But we will see. I've been wrong before with Dutchmen. Angelo Costanzo had his first start and looked OK dispite the hupe about his header from a Vignaroli free kick. Poor old Petrovski though, none was getting the ball once he had won the penaly - but shocking kick.

Have Newcastle lost patience with Ljubo Milicevic?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Draw. 6 August 2009 to 20 March 2010 - 135 games - 6 finalists

Thursday 6 August - Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners.

Friday 7 August - Adelaide United v Perth Glory

Saturday 8 August - 'Brisbane-based Roar' v Gold Coast

North Queensland Fury v Sydney FC (Fowler v Aloisi)

Sunday 9 August - Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pre-season cup axed? Good move - let's wait for the main game to see Fowler

I always thought the pre-season cup was a waste. An ineffective way of getting A-League teams to regional areas.

Here is the rumour on the 442 site.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Brisbane Roar to play Celtic and Fulham?

The Courier mail is reporting negotiations on these two games. The Fulham game is penciled in for 12 July as the Roar Against Racism game - at last a game likely to attract a crowd (particularly with the big guy in goal). And Celtic for later in July.

Are Roar about to drop a foreign player?

The Courier Mail is reporting that Brisbane Roar are trialing Motherwell's Bob Malcolm (28).

Malcolm has played 14 games this season for 3 goals and 5 yellow cards. Wikipedia report 20 games in 2008 and 2009 and injury limiting him to 45 games since 2006. He has played for Rangers, Derby County and QPR. Malcolm has a controversial record. My guess is that his temperament is about the same as Danny Tiatto.

Their current foreign player list includes:

- Charlie Miller (Scotland)
- Reinaldo (Brazil)
- Sergio Van Dyk (Holland / Indonesia)
- Henrique (Brazil)

Seo (South Korea) has left the club. Malcolm would be a replacement for Seo. To keep under the 4 foreigner limit (Fury and Gold Coast have exemptions to 5) who is management thinking of releasing?

Malcolm is reported to be a former play mate of Miller and Craig Moore. There is a story on Reinaldo's path back to fitness on the Roar website. But will he be ready? Is it the Henrique deal reported to been signed in March?

Most likely outcome - nil result I'd guess. But Moore and Miller has influential at the Roar.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Await more Roar news...

My tip is the Roar will announce new ownership in the next few weeks. Already the news is reporting that the FFA will take a stake in the club. My suspicion is that new owners may have been found. The Roar is in the best position of A-League clubs to attract a new owner. Football has massive family support in Brisbane that just has not been reflected in crowd numbers. Just why can be speculated. But a new owner, with new promotion ideas, perhaps untied to existing club structures may be able to do for the Roar what Geoff Lord has done for Melbourne Victory. Tapping the family market - getting them to go to the Roar they way they go to the Broncos - is the key.

Brisbane Roar CEO Lawrence Oudendyk resigned today leaving the club in the hands of an interim CEO. I greatly admire people like Lawrence Oudendyk. He has been prepared to back football in Australia with his money. He has helped build a club that is clearly in the top 3 and perhaps plays the best game in the A-League. We need more like him.

There has been speculation for a month or so about the Roar's financial position. I saw 2008-09, version 4, as the A-League's sacrifice year. The season it had to have. The season before Socceroo World Cup qualification and the entry of 2 new teams. A sacrifice because it was clear that the essential, casual 'walk-up' fans of football needed new interest after intermittently watching 8 teams play each other 3 times, plus pre-season and finals for 3 years.

For the Roar, with the best football watching stadium in the land, 15,000 seats to sell before breaking even was too many. With around 3,000 season ticket holders, the early season 'news' about how they couldn't win at home was back-breaking. Gold Coast United FC may be partly accountable for the Roar not selling more seats. Not because it cannibalised fans, but because it walked in and bought 5 key Roar managers including the Roar's ticket selling expertise. The FFA had protected the Roar's players but not its business experience. The club rallied and the new staff did well. But market experience is hard to find and costly to buy. In season 4, some aspects of the Roar's publicity machine were starting again. Then the financial crisis hit.

In 2009/10, it will have derbies with Gold Coast and Nth Q Fury (including Robbie Fowler - please make this game 1 FFA). Plus a new Suncorp deal for only 13,000 seats to breakeven. Still, we will all be hoping the Roar can hang onto its players.
'With great regret, I have decided to resign from my position as chief executive officer of the Queensland Roar Football Club effective immediately. The prevailing economic conditions have made it very challenging to manage a professional football club which is still very much in its infancy. With the FFA committed to supporting the club moving forward, I believe the timing is now right for me to stand down and let my successor – whoever that may be – take the club to the next level. I have been with the club since its inception in 2004 and have given everything within my power to establish the club in a highly competitive Brisbane market.

I feel both mentally and emotionally drained by the challenge and I now look forward to spending time with my incredibly supportive family. I also look forward to enjoying watching football and the Queensland Roar as both a passionate football follower and Roar fan, rather than as a business activity.

I would like to publicly thank all the investors, staff, sponsors and fans who have been so passionate in their support of the club since its inception. I have greatly appreciated the dedication and loyalty shown over the five years the club has been in existence.

I wish the club much success for the future and believe that with Australia’s imminent qualification for the World Cup finals next year the game will continue to grow to its rightful place in Australian sport with Queensland Roar at the forefront. Until such time as a new chief executive is in place, Roar general manager Peter McLennan will oversee the day-to-day operations of the club.' LAWRENCE OUDENDYK

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nzube Okafor - Fury's for the taking?

Olympic FC 8- Bundaberg Spirit 1 - with Nigerian Nzube Okafor (26th, 41st and 74th) taking home a hat trick. With 4 goals in 3 games, perhaps a valuable add to Fury's 5 foreign spots?

There are at least three former Roars in the QSL - Stuart MacLaren (Brisbane Strikers), Seo (Olympic) and, who would have thought, Remo Buess (Logan City).

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Central Coast 0 v Kawasaki 5

Brazilians and no match practice. The Kawasaki Brazilians probably should be earning big bucks in England or Spain or Italy. Rather than medium sized bucks in Japan. But there is not much you can do if you were top 2 in the A-League more than a year ago, and you are still covered by a salary cap. And your club can't fork out $5 million for a player anyway. And 2 of your stars are suspended.

And the only games you are getting - last before the international break - are ACL.

Too big a hill for CCM.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Nagoya 1 v Newcastle 1: unlucky not to be top of group

Newcastle should have won this game. The Japanese and their Brazilian teammates were absent from the final 3rd and very poor in their defensive 3rd. Saved by their keeper. Up the other end, Ben Kennedy was virtually untroubled.

Jesic made the first goal on 7 minutes, running forward and into the centre untroubled by the Nagoya defence. His shot rebounded for Elrich to finish. And Newcastle led most of the match.

In the 2nd half the Japanese threw wave after wave at Newcastle. And finally drew a foul from Adam Griffith, for a brilliant set piece goal that left Kennedy standing still.

Gary Von Egmond will be hoping he can play this team for the A-League. But he won't get it for the next game. In some unbalanced refereeing Newcastle picked up 5 yellow cards to Nagoya's 0. yet at a minimum one of Nagoya's Brazilians earned a yellow for repeated abuse and decent to the ref and assistant. This is how you ref to home crowds!

Ljubo, despite disappearing to Melbourne and being coached back a week ago, had a great game and will be an asset if he can hold it together. Thompson was fantastic and nearly fashioned a goal from nothing with a cross from the right in the 2nd half.

So far Central Coast and Newcastle are placing the A-League at least at the heels of the best in Asia.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Brisbane Roar

The Roar is going to become the Brisbane Roar. No point in debating the marketing merits, the FFA has decided that the change is necessary to move football supporters outside the State capital behind North Queensland or the Gold Coast. My preference would have been to drop the location and allow fans from Toowoomba or Rockhampton to continue without concern for a location based tribal membership. Some fans would prefer to drop the 'Roar' part of the name - leaving us with Queensland Orange or Maroons.

Still, I am from Brisbane. And its Frank, Matty, Mitch, Craig, Charlie... And the competition must now move to 10 teams.

This week has been a difficult one for Roar fans. First we hear from Matt McKay in China that it is possible that his China stay could be extended beyond the off-season.

Then that the Roar are laying off staff - including the revered former AFL star and conditioning coach Craig Starcevich. As if the Gold Coast's raid on management hadn't been enough last year.

Then we hear that the Sydney press are reporting the owners are handing back the A-League licence. Something that should chill all A-League fans, adding two clubs to loose two would be too much.

Then, that the Roar is desperately trying to re-negotiate its Lang Park costs - the highest in the A-League by far.

Later, it is that Michael Zullo had been for sale for $600,000 but that he had knocked back an offer to play in Holland to stay with the Roar for another year - phew thanks Michael.

By weeks end, the Roar is back on track. The owners are staying. The FFA has helped reduce the Lang Park costs by $500,000 and will help find and negotiate with some Asian investors for the Queensland Lions $2 million shareholding. Maybe a player guest deal - from China or Korea - like the one Sydney is looking at is on the cards?

So that is it. the decks are cleared for seasons start. So far the team is intact. And we are ready for Asia (again).

Just one thing FFA, why not play the season opener Roar v Fury at Lang Park - this will be best use of Robbie Fowler first up. Then match two Roar v Gold Coast also at Lang Park.

It seems only fair if we have to give up our name.

Socceroos: A beautiful set of numbers

Five teams will represent Asia at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Two will come from group A and two from group B. The fifth team will have a torturous set of matches between now and the World Cup kick off over the next 12 months.

The fifth spot will be filled by either a team that comes 3rd in group A or B or a team from the Oceania group (the group the Socceroos were part of for the 2006 World Cup). The 3rd placed teams in group A and B will play each other for the right to play New Zealand - the winning team from Oceania. The winner of this home/away set will join the other 4 teams at the World Cup 2010.

So you don't want to come 3rd in your Asian group. You will be fighting for the final spot for a year.

The chance that the Socceroos will come 3rd rather than 1st or 2nd is very low. Here is the maths.

The points and goal differences are:
Australia 13 points and 8 goal difference
Japan 11 points and 5 goal difference
Bahrain 7 points and -1 goal difference

If the Socceroos score another point, the minimum is one draw and two losses, we will qualify.

From here, any team getting to 14 points will be top 2. The maximum points Bahrain can get is 13 points. Australia and Japan both have 3 games to play, this includes playing each other in Australia. The only other team that can finish in the top 2 is Bahrain. Bahrain has only 2 games to play.

If Bahrain wins both its matches, against Australia on June 10 and Uzbekistan on 17 June, it gets to 13 points. It could qualify ahead of Australia as long as it reverses the 9 goal difference.

Scenario 1:
Qatar 1 v Socceroos 0
Socceroos 0 v Bahrain 1
Socceroos 0 v Japan 1
Bahrain 6 v Uzbekistan 0

Under this scenario Japan must finish top and Bahrain second.

If Japan wins one game, or draws all three, it will qualify.

The 2nd scenario is the easiest for Bahrain to qualify top 2. Over Japan, both on 11 points and on goal difference. The minimum for Bahrain to qualify is a win and a draw and Japan loose all three games. And Bahrain pick-up a significant goal difference boost to take Japan's spot.

Scenario 2:
Socceroos 1 v Bahrain 1
Uzbekistan 1 v Japan 0
Japan 0 v Qatar 1
Socceroos 1 v Japan 0
Bahrain 3 v Uzbekistan 0

Under this scenario, the Socceroos qualify without needed extra points but would get at least 3 - from beating Japan. The problems are Qatar suddenly getting good enough to beat Japan away. And the Uzbeks beating Japan at home but losing to Bahrain. Going into this last match the Uzbeks would have a shot at 3rd and would be playing their hearts out.

In the 3rd scenario, Bahrain give themselves more room. They win both games and get to 13 points. They can then afford for Japan to draw 2 games and lose one, as long as they reverse the goal difference. If not, they can only afford Japan to get 1 point from its 9.

Scenario 3:
Socceroos 0 v Bahrain 1
Uzbekistan 1 v Japan 0
Japan 0 v Qatar 0
Socceroos 0 v Japan 0
Bahrain 4 v Uzbekistan 0

Japan's draws mean that Bahrain must score more goals to get the goal difference back.

Under the most likely scenario, based on the games so far, Bahrain or Uzbekistan or, unlikely of unlikely, Qatar will take 3rd.

Scenario 4:
Qatar 0 v Socceroos 4
Uzbekistan 1 v Japan 1
Japan 3 v Qatar 0
Socceroos 1 v Bahrain 0
Socceroos 0 v Japan 0
Bahrain 1 v Uzbekistan 0

The points and goal differences from scenario 4:

Australia 20 points and 13 goal difference
Japan 16 points and 8 goal difference
Bahrain 10 points and -1 goal difference

An interesting note from the results so far, through its matches New Zealand lost twice to Fiji (rd 1 and 2).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Socceroos 2 v Uzbekistan 0: Joshifi we is

The first half looked ominous. Only Marco Bresciano looked world class in a team led by McDonald because in Pim's words 'Josh couldn't play 90 minutes'. But clearly training in Germany is better than playing and scoring in Scotland. As soon as McDonald came off at 60 minutes, the Australians began playing with their heads up and in a brilliant flowing movement up from the back and across to Bresciano who beat his man, took the ball up field far right before whipping across for Kennedy to flick into the near post.

Australia did not have the game until the second half. Harry Kewell's game was redeemed by the needless penalty box foul on Garcia. Kewell made no mistake and soon after was subbed. Up to that time he was unstaged by the running play of the Uzbek forwards and marked out by their 11 behind the ball.

The Socceroos win provides more foundation to Australia's bid for the 2018 World Cup. It means that Australian governments that just committed $120m for an AFL stadium for the Gold Coast now need to insist that some of that money goes into making the stadium convertible for football matches. This would include allowing the capacity to be upgraded to the minimum seating capacity.