Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Archie and Oar in the Squad

Archie Thompson and Tommy Oar have both been included in the Socceroos squad to face Kuwait on January the 6th. The squad is made up of 15 A League players and 8 Euroos, but surprisingly none of our Asiaroos (the likes of Josh Kennedy, Mark Milligan or the Griffiths brothers) were in the squad.
As the game isn't on a FIFA sanctioned date our big names (Tim Cahill et al) haven't been called up, but Verbeek was able to call on the likes of Luke Wilkshire, Nick Carle, Nikita Rukavytsya and Dario Vidosic.

Full squad:
Alex Brosque (Sydney FC), Jacob Burns (Perth Glory), Nick Carle (Crystal Palace FC, England), Simon Colosimo (Sydney FC), Jason Culina (Gold Coast United) Bruce Djite (Genclerbirligi SK, Turkey), Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United FC), Scott Jamieson (Adelaide United FC), Mile Jedinak (Antalyaspor Kulubu, Turkey), Matthew Kemp (Melbourne Victory FC), Shane Lowry (Aston Villa FC, England), Matthew McKay (Brisbane Roar), Craig Moore (Brisbane Roar), Tommy Oar (Brisbane Roar), Nikita Rukavytsya (FC Twente, Netherlands), Matthew Spiranovic (FC Nurnberg, Germany), Mile Sterjovski (Perth Glory), Archie Thompson (Melbourne Victory), Matthew Thompson (Newcastle Jets), Tando Velaphi (Perth Glory), Dario Vidosic (FC Nurnberg, Germany), Danny Vukovic (Central Coast Mariners), Luke Wilkshire (FK Dinamo Moscow, Russia).

In other Socceroo news, 442 claim that Pim has strongly hinted A League players will need loan spells overseas if they are to have any chance of a World Cup squad place. (Full article here)

And Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Sydney FC and Young Socceroo striker (and the greatest player in the A League Kofi Danning is out for 6 to 9 months with a cruciate ligament tear in his right knee. 442 is reporting that after meeting with specialists yesterday, Danning decided the best course of action was surgery, which it is believed he underwent yesterday afternoon.

He injured his knee after falling badly in an National Youth League match against Melbourne Victory.

442 quote Danning as saying

“I’m disappointed at the injury because I have enjoyed being part of the first grade squad this year but I know I have to forget my disappointment and focus on doing everything right to make sure I am ready to play at the start of next season.”

So hopefully he can bounce back better than every next year. Goodluck Kofi!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Half Time Heroes December issue

Make sure you check out my article on young Aussie Theo Markelis, currently playing for Valencia, and my round up of La Liga (pp.34-6, and pp.37-8). Enjoy!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Between a Rock, a Merc and a Hard place (Aus WC Group)

1The groups have been drawn and now Australia must set out on a difficult journey. A journey to beat Germany, Serbia and Ghana. In this article I’ll assess each team, before analysing Australia’s chance of progressing to the next stage of the World Cup.


The German National Football team, currently ranked 6th in the World by FIFA, will be Australia’s first target in the 2010 World Cup. Our opening game, on the 13th of June, will see the Socceroos facing off against arguably the toughest first round opponents, the Die deutsche Fußballnationalmannschaft. Germany has won 3 World Cups and has appeared at the World Cup no less than 6 times (Germany that is, not East or West), and will probably see Australia as a beatable team. While there is no denying the strength of the Germans (their FIFA ranking pretty much says it all), I can still see Australia getting a point from the encounter.

The Australia v Germany game will be Australia’s first game of the World Cup, and we will really be up for the game. Despite Germany’s class, if Australia can defend well and hit fast on the counter, we could be a real threat to their defence. Like their next door neighbours the Dutch, the German side lacks a real game winning star (and really pride themselves on being a real ‘team’), and if Mario Gomez is off his game a strong defence could really limit the Germans.


While the Germans are a team which prides themselves on being stronger than the whole of its part, the individual talent of some of the team is still undeniable. Key players for Germany are Mario Gómez (Bayern Munich), Manuel Neuer (Schalke), Michael Ballack (Chelsea) and young star Mesut Özil (Werder Bremen).

Despite this talent, I’m still confident Australia can get a point off Germany, probably a 1 all.


The Ghanaian national football team, also known as the Black Stars, is the second team Australia will face in South Africa. It will be only Ghana’s second appearance in the prestigious tournament, and in 2006 they lost to Brazil in the round of 16.


While FIFA rankings would suggest Australia should comfortably win this game (Ghana is ranked 37th to our 21st), I highly doubt that will be the case. Ghana have a strong team, with a stellar midfield, and their physical presence may affect us. Interestingly, Australia played Ghana in a friendly in 2006, and drew 1 all (at a time when Ghana were managed by none other than Claude Le Roy, the current Oman manager who had an incident with the Australian team manager earlier this year).

The Black Stars topped their CAF qualifying group and will certainly be no pushovers. Ghana does however suffer from having a few stars, and then many, much poorer, fringe players. A star midfield which includes the likes of Michael Essien (Chelsea), Sulley Muntari (Inter), and Steven Appiah (Bologna) is let down by a rather mediocre forward line.

Australia will take on Ghana on the 19th of June, in what is certain to be a vital game. Given the strength of Germany and Serbia, it is crucial that Australia take all three points from Ghana. Despite the Black Stars impressive midfield, I think Australia should still be able to take the game, as our two holding midfielders should be able to neutralise the attacking element of their midfield, while Kennedy and Timmy Cahill cause problems down the other end.



The Serbian national team, or the White Eagles, will be Australia’s final group stage opponent, in what could be the deciding game in terms of progressing through to the next round. Even if the other results go our way, it is still likely Australia will need a point against Serbia on the 23rd of June, a point which will be very difficult to obtain.

Serbia qualified for the World Cup by getting past France in their UEFA qualifying group and securing first place. However Serbia failed to take down France, drawing and then losing to Les Bleus, and only held on to first place because of the ineptitude of Raymond Domenech. However, the cold hard truth is that Serbia are a quality team.

A great defence, featuring Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United), Neven Subotić (Borussia Dortmund) and Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanović, combined with a solid midfield with the likes of Dejan Stanković (Inter) Miloš Krasić (CSKA Moscow) and Zdravko Kuzmanović (Stuttgart) forms the basis of a solid Serbian side. However, the team is let down by no quality goalkeeper and a lack of options up front.

Despite their strengths, I still believe Australia can get a point against Serbia. FIFA rankings put us almost on par with Serbia (20th to our 21st), and while this may not always be the greatest measure of a team’s quality, it certainly shows that we should be able to go toe to toe with them. While Germany may be the higher ranked team, I can actually see Serbia causing us more problems (Yer, I’m crazy). Their solid defence will be almost impossible to get past, while their midfield will certainly cause us problems at the back. Despite this, I think Serbia’s lack of star forwards could turn this game into a nil all, with neither team able to break down the opposition’s defence.

So…are we going through or not?

Agree? Disagree? Think I’m a total idiot? Let me know by commenting!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

La Happenings (extended version)

Hey guys, recently I wrote a La Liga roundup for web magazine Half Time Heroes (see below). The version in HTH is actually an edited version as my first version was a bit too long. But i thought some of you might be interested in the full version:

La Happenings

A roundup of everything La Liga...and more

By Kieran Pender
The 2009/10 La Liga season kicked off with all the hype surrounding the new Galacticos era, CR9, the 2009 Champions League winners and a crazy swap deal involving Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto’o. So far it definitely hasn’t disappointed.

Going into the international break, FC Barcelona are sitting proudly atop the La Liga table; on a grand total of twenty six points. One point below them is the Nuevo Galacticos of Real Madrid. However, while one point off the current European Champions may seem a fair effort for a new team still gelling together, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Madrid this year.

Star man, Cristiano Ronaldo, has been the target of a voodoo priest; who claims to have been paid to inflict injury on Ronaldo. And whether a result of voodoo magic, or just the rigours of football, Ronaldo has sustained an injury, which has kept him out of Madrid’s team for a few important games.

But Ronaldo has told the media, and his favourite voodoo priest, that he will be fit to play in the El Clásico; Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, at the Nou Camp on November 29th. El Clásico, possibly the biggest derby in the world, will undoubtedly be extra riveting this year, with the series of events that have transpired recently. So make sure you’re up bright and early (or very, very late) for the game.

Despite the hype in the battle for first place, the real battle of the La Liga season won’t be for first place, the real battle is for third and fourth, the remaining champions league spots.

The battle for these two places is traditionally fought between Valencia CF, Sevilla FC, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal CF, with the two losers dropping into the Europa League. Before the season kicked off it appeared as if things would continue as normal. However, dismal starts from Atletico and Villarreal, and the unexpected good form from the likes of Deportivo La Coruna, RCD Mallorca and even Sporting Gijon has completely blown open the hidden battle of La Liga.

To these clubs, coming third and fourth is the equivalent of winning the league, as the supremacy of Barcelona and Madrid makes that an unachievable dream. In fact, in the last twenty years, only three clubs other than Barcelona or Madrid have won, Valencia twice and Deportivo and Atletico with one each. Furthermore, entry into Champions League football offers these clubs large financial benefits, something some, such as Valencia, desperately need.

After ten games, Sevilla and Valencia seem to be in control of the third and fourth spots, sitting on twenty two and twenty one points respectively. But while the usual challengers of Atletico and Villarreal may not be contenders after their poor starts (the ‘other’ team from Madrid sits in the relegation zone on seven points while Valencia’s neighbours Villarreal sit two above them on nine), it looks to be the year of the outsiders to challenge them for Champions League football.

Super Depor, a club who made their name winning the league in 99/00 are looking good in fifth, only two points behind Valencia. Depor will however have to take down Atletico Madrid in the next game, an Atletico team that have been looking better after the arrival of new manager Quique Flores. Elsewhere, Mallorca is sitting pretty on seventeen points and the team with the greatest name in Spain, Sporting GIJON is level with the boys from Bilbao (Athletic Bilbao).

While in all likelihood the season will end with the big boys being in the top four (and as a Valencia fan I certainly hope Valencia are up there) it could be an interesting season for the real battle of La Liga.

Elsewhere in Spain, Madrid continues its proud tradition of insanity, losing 4-0 to Segunda B minnows Alcorcon in the first leg of their Copa del Ray clash, and only managing a one-nil victory at home in the return leg. Alcorcon ply their trade in the regionalised third tier of Spanish football, and actually play in the same league as Madrid’s youth side. To put it in an Australian perspective, it’s like Gold Coast United losing to, say, Central Coast Lightning (the Lightning play in the NSW Super League), although given Gold Coast’s recent form I wouldn’t say that was out of the question.

And finally, Xerez, the team fighting Grenoble for the tag of ‘worst team in a major European league’, are actually going well, and have even managed to lift themselves to the dizzy heights of….nineteenth. This comes after a win over troubled Villarreal and draws with Espanyol, Valladolid and Malaga, amongst their various losses. So, good luck to the men from Jerez de la Frontera in their quest to avoid relegation.

Half-Time Heroes

Friday, November 20, 2009

A League Round 15 Preview

The internationals are over and a new round of the A League is here!

Adelaide United v Gold Coast United, Friday, 8pm
Gold Coast have managed to claw back some respectability with their win over Sydney before the break, but Adelaide away will be a tough game. Adelaide have looked ok, but haven’t been able to convert their chances. I think Adelaide’s going to finally put on their scoring boots. 2-1 Adelaide

Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory, Saturday, 7pm
Probably the hardest game to tip. The Roar are on the up, and picked up a win last week, while Melbourne were looking good before getting tonked by CCM. Strangely, if this was in Melbourne I’d tip a draw, but as the game is in Brisbane, and Melbourne’s away from is very good, I think Melbourne will edge it. 2-1 Melbourne

North Queensland Fury v Central Coast Mariners, Saturday, 9pm
Central Coast are possibly the most random and inconsistent team in the A League, and currently sit on five wins, five draws and four losses. After beating Melbourne, it would be just Central Coast’s luck to lose to North Queensland. The Fury have moved back to the bottom after a loss to the Jets, so I can see the Fury turning it around and getting a win. 1-0 Fury

Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix, Sunday, 5pm
Wellington have looked decent recently, and are sitting on sixth, but after the World Cup qualifier it wouldn’t surprise me if they were a little off the pace. Newcastle played Wellington in a mid week game, and lost 3-0, and I think they’ll look a little better this week, so I’m thinking a draw. 1-1 Draw

Perth Glory v Sydney FC, Sunday, 7pm
Definitely the pick of the weekend action, and I think this one will be a nail biter. Perth have dropped off the pace of late, and Sydney will be looking to bounce back from their loss last round. I may be crazy (quite possible) but I can see Perth getting something here, as their Socceroo stars will be looking to impress, both to get a loan move elsewhere, and to make it up to the fans. 2-1 Perth

Well enjoy your weekend lads!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Halftime Heroes November issue

Hey everyone, here's a copy of the November issue of HTH. Make sure you check out my article on La Liga (page 30-31).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Schwarz to the rescue as a ten man Socceroos side defeat Oman

Dominant performances from Mark Schwarzer and Luke Wilkshire made a late winner from Brett Emerton enough for a depleted Socceroos side to battle back and beat Oman. An Oman goal in the 17th minute was not enough to hold off the Socceroos, with both Luke Wilkshire and Brett Emerton finding the net for the Aussies.
The game started badly for the Socceroos, as young Middlesbrough defender Rhys Williams saw straight red for a clumsy challenge on Oman striker Emad Al Hosni after just 15 minutes. Not content with having the Socceroos a man down, Oman promptly converted the penalty that had ensued from Williams reckless challenge. It wasn’t all bad news for Australia, as Mark Schwarzer saved the penalty with the first of many heroics saves of the night, but Khalifa Ayil netted from the rebound.

But brilliance from Mark Bresciano in the 42nd minute saw a cross sail over Luke Wilkshire, who promptly levelled the game. Schwarzer’s heroics then saw Australia stay in the game, with the Fulham number one twice made close range saves. Then, in the 81st minute the Socceroos broke down the left, with Wilkshire setting David Carney free down the wing, before Carney crossed to Emerton, who promptly thumped it home.

The win marked a great comeback for Australia, which, finger crossed, will see them (with a little help from their A League counterparts) into the Asian Cup. Lucas Neill summed up the game by saying:

“I think it just summed up Australians tonight. The going got tough, we got our heads down, saw a very difficult challenge, took it on face to face and we were victorious. We really had to dig deep at times, rode a little bit of luck, but in the end really can be happy with they way we performed and won the game…Bring on South Africa.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Interview with Andy Brassell

Andy Brassell, or ‘the Top Brass’ to regular World Football Phone In listeners, is a freelance football journalist, with a knowledge of European football that matches Tim ‘Vickapedia’ Vickery’s knowledge of all things South American.

Not only is he an expert on France, Portugal, Germany, England and Spain, but he also knows his stuff on the Russian league. And to cap it off, he has even written All Or Nothing:A year in the life of the Champions League and launched a web-based video show on football.

Recently, I had the chance to ask Brassell some questions on all things European football, including Barca v Real, Grenoble vs Xerez, Man City’s title aspirations, and a Valencian bat named Joaquin, a bat with a “cheeky grin and electric turn of pace”. So without further ado, the interview:

Firstly, how did you get into sports journalism?

I just drifted into it really. I wrote on Wimbledon for a local newspaper when I was a teenager, then much later went for a job at a European football magazine. I didn’t get it, but was invited to pitch freelance stuff and it snowballed from there.

What has been your favourite interview?
Perhaps one of my first, with Paul Lambert, then of Celtic. His story is an interesting one, and he thinks more broadly about the game than a lot of UK footballers and managers, I’d say – probably because he was quite shaped by his time at Borussia Dortmund.

Realistically, can Manchester City win the title this year?

Not likely but possible. I wondered pre-season if they really had the quality the money spent would suggest, but at least the players they’ve bought have proven Premier League experience (eg Adebayor, Barry). There’s less between the top four this season and I think it’s very possible that City will at least crack the top four at the expense of one of the others. The great unknown is how they will recover after a few poor results. The dressing room has its share of volatile characters and it will be fascinating to see how successful Mark Hughes will be at keeping a lid on that.

Who does Manchester United need to buy in January to win the title this year?
Not sure they need to sign anyone. It’s impossible to replace Cristiano Ronaldo with just one player because he could fulfil so many different functions for the team – goalscorer, set-piece taker, winger, target man. But the players they have facilitate switches between different systems; 4-4-2, with wide players or a midfield diamond with Anderson at the tip and the full-backs providing width, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3. Valencia is already bringing his influence to bear, Anderson is beginning to have more attacking influence, Berbatov is improving and I’m sure Owen will weigh in with important goals.

Who does Liverpool need to buy?

Where to start? People were surprised when I said 18 months or so ago when I said Liverpool needed to buy five or six to be serious about the title, but if you look at how beholden they are to Torres and Gerrard, I think that was justified. They need a) a midfielder who can sit in front of the defence and pass to replace Alonso. They should have asked Real Madrid to include Esteban Granero in the deal, I think. b) A creative midfielder. Relying on Aquilani is dangerous in light of his injury record and how long he may take to adapt to the English game. Benayoun is a fine player but not really of the level that he should be propping up a team with Liverpool’s ambitions. c) Better quality reserve strikers. They may well regret letting Keane and Crouch go.

Can Portsmouth stay up?
Yes. There’s a lot of rubbish in the bottom half of the league, Portsmouth are not yet stranded and they do have some decent players (Yebda, Boateng), though it’s difficult to build a team from scratch. If they have money to spend in January a good striker is a must though.

Lyon has started the season well, but given Montpellier is equal with them, and Bordeaux are only a win away, do you think Lyon can maintain their strong start and win the title?
Montpellier are over-performing at the moment, but deserve a lot of credit. They have a steady coach (Girard), and a good mix of talented young ones (Alberto Costa, Montano) and experienced Ligue 1 players (Dernis, Pitau, Compan etc), so their success isn’t a total mystery, but ultimately they’ll do well to finish in the top eight. Bordeaux and Lyon have both had a little wobble of late but there’s little wrong with either squad. I had these two down as competing closely for the title pre-season and see no reason to change my mind – Marseille are a tad behind them both. They both look strong physically and mentally, and Lyon have a lot more stickablility and guts than last season, as well as the players to open up tight games. I think Lyon will just edge it on the basis they have slightly more quality on the back of the summer signings.

Bordeaux and Lyon have both started the Champions League group stage well, do you think any of the French teams can go far this season?
Bordeaux have looked excellent so far, and they’ve clearly leant a lot from last season’s participation. This shows what a good coach Laurent Blanc is. If, as seems likely, they get to the last 16, I do wonder how they will balance this with domestic demands. Recently they rested a few for a league game with St Etienne (after the Maccabi Haifa game) and were consequently roasted. Lyon’s first choice XI will give anyone a game. I still think they could do with greater squad depth, but they will really hope to get a favourable draw for the last 16 this team – they’ve pulled the eventual winners in the last two seasons.

Grenoble or Xerez, who would win?
Simply on the basis that Grenoble are still pointless you would have say Xerez! Grenoble have been a touch unlucky but their success last season was based on a good start, a surprise factor and a solid defence, none of which they’ve had this season. Their failure is just the logic of gravity really – they are of modest means, as shown by their signings, like Daniel Ljuboja, a decent player but one who has barely played for three years. Likewise with Xerez. They are certainties to go down, but hopefully for them they can take experience (and some money) with them so they can come back stronger.

Being a Valencia fan I’ve been followed S.C Braga pretty closely this season because our loanee Hugo Viana is playing pretty well there. Do you think Braga and Viana can maintain their current form and keep Porto from yet another title?
It’s a great story and coach Domingos Paciencia has done a good job, but their squad isn’t deep enough to maintain. Viana’s form however is very encouraging and if he should keep it going there’s definitely room for a playmaker of his talent in the Portugal squad.

Sporting Lisbon hasn’t had the greatest start and they find themselves sitting in 4th. Do you think they’ll push up and make it to next years Champions League? And if not, will some of their stars (João Moutinho or Miguel Veloso) move on
Paulo Bento is on thin ice. They’ve not really progressed and the new signings (Caicedo, M Fernandez, Angulo) have yet to prove themselves. They’re finding it hard to strike the right balance and I think they will miss out on the Champions League. Moutinho and Veloso will certainly move on but if I were in the shoes of either of those two, I would look at myself and ask why it hasn’t happened already, especially in the case of Veloso. They have the talent to become mainstays for Portugal and strong European club sides but are no longer just promising youngsters and need to start properly fulfilling their potential.

As I said before, I’m a Los Che fan, so do you think that Valencia can avoid multiple disasters this season and make their way to a Champions League spot?
You always have the feeling there’s another disaster around the corner, don’t you? The squad is very good quality, and they definitely have a chance. The fact that they can’t really spend could work for them – take Banega, who has had a chance to play himself back into an important role in the team. Also, Emery is able to create a camaraderie in the squad, aided especially by Villa and Silva, great players who have shown real commitment to the cause as well.

Simple question now, Barca or Madrid?

Barca by a whisker, simply because they already had a good team structure in place. Real Madrid will be interesting to watch but it’s open to question how long they will take to come up with a tactical system that everyone’s happy with. Also important is how long Pellegrini will have to get it right, and will he be able to cope with pressure from upstairs to play the stars in every match?

Just a quick question on the Russian League, do you think that Russia will soon be one of Europe’s leading leagues?
It has made big strides already, as CSKA (2005) and Zenit’s (2008) UEFA Cup wins prove. But the geography and climate is a problem, and of course not one that can be changed. Russia has been able to attract young South Americans in particular with large wages, but they and other leading players still aspire to England, Spain and Italy. Big players are reluctant to go and if the investment tails off at any point, how will Russia maintain the status quo, let alone develop and expand?

Now while I was researching for this, I found out that you have a stuffed Valencian bat called Joaquin. How did that come about and do you have a soft spot for Los Che?
I picked him up whilst working in Valencia some years ago. His cheeky grin and electric turn of pace were just irresistible! Valencia’s a great city, vibrant and with a great football tradition, even if it’s less celebrated than Madrid or Barcelona. Definitely recommended for a long weekend and the Mestalla is very atmospheric.

And finally, are you going to make the journey out to Australia anytime soon and admire the next world footballing superpower?
If you lot get the World Cup, then maybe! I’ve already been to Australia a few times and thoroughly enjoyed it. Australia is such a terrific sporting nation I’m sure a World Cup there would be fantastic (and it will, without doubt, happen at some point). I went to a day of an Ashes Test at the MCG in December 2006 and it’s such a great arena that the inevitable three-day pasting from the Aussies was surprisingly bearable!

Thank you to Andy for agreeing to answer my questions, and providing such great, detailed answers.

Interview with Andy Brassell

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Becoming a 'real' football manager

Instructions, mentality: attacking, passing style: short, tempo: quick. Ohh hang on a second, I can do this for real now.

Last weekend I completed my Football Federation Australia junior coaching license, so am now a ‘proper’ football manager. Sure I’ll be coaching under 12’s, but thats not what counts, I can pretend to be educated about the game, shout at my young winger to take more shots, and go to official FFA conferences. WOO!!!

But actually, it was great fun. The junior license was a two day course, 9 to 5, something I thought I’d struggle with considering it was my first day of holidays. But really, it was just playing football.

I arrived, sat down, and looked at the imposing FFA folder. Ohh crap. This is going to be a long day. As is inevitable when you get twenty football lovers together in a room, it didn’t take long for the football banter to start, but then our ‘coach’ for the next two days walked in. His name was Pat McCann, and it turns out he used to play for Yeovil Town. But at the time all that mattered was that I was going to have to spend the whole weekend listening to him talk about little kids running around. Borriing.

But no, he soon explained that the majority of the two days would be outside, playing football :). After some short theory, we were soon out on the pitch running through some drills. And bamm the day was gone. The second day was slightly more stressful, as we had to run a training drill under the eyes of an ‘assessor’ but it went smoothly, and the assessor liked my dribbling to beat an opponent exercise. Soon we had parted ways, after yelling “see ya in the dugout” at each other, and we were all now proper football coaches. The 16 hours had passed in a heartbeat, and whats more, it was great fun.

But why am I telling you this? Two things (well maybe three). Firstly, I would greatly encourage all of you to get out to your local football organisation and do a coaching license. It took two short days, was mostly spent on the pitch playing football, and overall was great fun.

Secondly, it taught me so many things about football that I never knew. I’ve been playing for eleven years and every training session go for a run. But according to our instructor, this is a waste of time and we should warm up on ball. I always static stretch before a game, but apparent this is actually bad for our muscle elasticity, something needed during a game (instead you should static stretch at home and dynamic stretch before the game). In two days I learnt more about ‘body shape’ then I had in eleven years of playing. And after just sixteen short hours, I now look at football in a completely different way.

Ohh and thirdly, who doesn’t want to be coaching our next generation of World Cup winners. So get out their, have some fun, coach some kids, train your countries next football saviour! Get involved, get coaching and become a real football manager!

If your in Australia, visit FFA to enrol in a course. If not, find you local organisation, and get coaching!

A League Round 12 Preview

Well a big weekend ahead for the A League, with the F3 derby, a Grand Final rematch, and Perth Glory taking on Robbie Fowler (well…North Queensland Fury).
Newcastle Jets v Central Coast Mariners, Friday 8.00pm
The F3 Derby. The big game. What more needs to be said. Well, there is the fact that the game is between 5th and 9th, so not exactly the game of the week, but still it will make for an interesting game. While Central Coast dished it out to Brisbane last week, and Newcastle were on the end of a Melbourne Victory barrage, it’s still a derby, and any derby is difficult to call. But still, the Mariners will be much too strong for the Jets, so 2-1 Jets.

Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United, Saturday, 6.30pm
The Grand Final rematch! and a game that could be a decisive one for both teams. Melbourne are in 3rd and pushing for top spot, while Adelaide are sitting in 6th, looking to push upwards for the top four. A loss for either team will set them back, and a win would be most welcomed by either. And therefore, it’s clearly going to be a bore draw. So fearless forecast for the week, 0-0 Draw.

North Queensland Fury v Perth Glory, Saturday, 8.30pm
Ohh, now this is a game I’ll be watching. Glory were going well, but will their campaign be derailed after a loss to Gold Coast? Fury have looked ok, but really need to start picking up three points rather than just the one. But I really think the Glory will bounce back from their lost to Gold Coast, and take this game. 2-1 Perth.

Wellington Phoenix v Gold Coast United, Sunday, 3.00pm
Gold Coast managed to pick up all three points against Perth on the weekend, but away to Wellington will still pose them problems. Wellington kept the Fury to a one all draw in Townsville and I can see them holding Gold Coast as well, so for my bold prediction for the week I’m going for a 1-1 draw.

Sydney FC v Brisbane Roar, Sunday, 5.00pm
Now this is a big game. Both teams lost last weekend, and will both be looking to bounce back. Sydney will be looking to prove the loss to Adelaide was just a blip, while the Roar will be looking to regroup and get their season back on track. However, I can’t see the Roar getting past a strong Sydney time, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Sydney put two or three past Brisbane (especially if Kofi is playing). So with that said, I’m tipping a 2-0 victory for Sydney.


Monday, October 5, 2009

(U-20 WC) Brazil 3-1 Australia

The Young Socceroos bowed out of the FIFA Under 20 World Cup to the A Seleção (Brazil U-20) after an Aaron Mooy freekick was cancelled out by three Brazilian efforts. However, despite the scoreline, the Australian’s matched the Brazilians for much of the game, and were unlucky not to score a number of times.

Australia started well, with a half chance in the 1st minute, and this coming from a vastly changed Socceroos lineup. However Danning was still in the line up, so Australia still had an attacking threat, and their passing was looking vastly improved from the sloppy play against the Czechs. Brazil then almost scored, with a ball put through across an empty goal, but no Brazilians were close enough to put it in. They then almost scored in the 7th minute, when a Brazilian corner was poorly cleared, but the South Americans couldn’t finish it off. However, despite the many chances from Brazil, the Socceroos were matching them in attack, with many chances throughout the first period of play.

Then, in the 14th minute, a goalkeeping error from the Brazilian Rafael saw an Aaron Mooy freekick bumbled into the back of the net. The Aussies almost doubled their lead a minute later, with Danning hitting the post. However Brazil immediately countered, and were through on goal in the 20th, but they put it wide. Then, in the 33rd minute, the inevitable happened, with striker Ciro putting the ball past Redmayne. Now while it was an amazing goal, the following goal celebration was stupidly out of proportion, the way he acted you would have think he’d won the World Cup. Also, Ciro seriously needs a haircut (see above picture).

So the teams went into halftime at 1 all, and Australia still had a chance of making it through to the next round. The second half started slowly, and in the 55th Tommy Oar was substituted for Sean Rooney. A minute later Ciro just put a ball over, but then another freekick from Mooy, in a similar position almost put Australia up, with another fumble from the keeper, but he recovered. However, then in the 63rd, apparent Manchester United target Douglas Costa scored, and put Australia’s chances of progression to bed. After his goal Australia started to unravel, with some very poor passing, and then in 81st minute an amazing curling goal from Henrique finished it off.

Melbourne Victories Nathan Elasi came on an caused trouble, with numerous attacking runs, but it wasn’t enough for the Socceroos, and they with the final whistle left the tournament empty handed.

While they didn’t manage any points from the three games, it wasn’t all negative for the Young Socceroos. Craig Foster pointed out on The World Game that we managed to ‘play football’ with the other teams, which is a good sign, and it shows our youth is developing. In the future I’ll put a full wrap up of the game and an analysis of the overall performance, but I thought Danning and Bouzanis looked promising, as did McGowan and Ben Kantarovski.

Monday, September 28, 2009

(U-20 WC) Czech Republic 2-1 Socceroos

A sloppy U-20 Socceroos side went down to the Czech Republic this morning.

After a scoreless first half, comprising of poor passing and overall sloppy football from both sides, the Czech Republic opened up the scoring in the 50th minute, with a header from young striker Michael Rabusic. Then, after a number of half chances for the Socceroos, a reckless tackle in the box saw Ryan McGowan given his marching orders, and Tomas Pekhart converted the ensuing penalty. While McGowan made contact with the ball, given how tightly Mexican Marco Rodriguez had been refereeing, and that McGowan already had a yellow card to his name, it was no real surprise to see him sent off.

While it looked as if the Czech’s had the game closed up at 2-0 with only injury time remaining, a moment of strangeness in the Czech box changed that. A slight push in the box on Brisbane Roar’s Luke DeVere, a push that didn’t even draw protest from DeVere, resulted in Rodriguez pointing to the spot. Then, a poor penalty from James Holland that saw the Czech keeper leap to his right and save, left the Australia team downhearted, and it appeared as if they would be going to their next game with Costa Rica without a goal on the board. It appeared to be so. But, Rodriguez point back to the spot, claiming encroachment. A dubious decision, but the Socceroos weren’t complaining, and Holland stepped back up to the spot to score. However, despite the moments of craziness, which should have surely seen more time added to the 3 minutes of extra time, Rodriguez blew his whistle, and Australia didn’t have a chance to get the equaliser. So the U-20 Socceroos will move onto their next two games needing a win against Costa Rica and probably a draw against Brazil to achieve coach Jan Versleijen’s goal of 4 points.

The game had started poorly for the Young Socceroos, with a dangerous freekick in just the second minute for the Czechs, but it went over. Then in the 5th minute striker Michael Rabusic was cautioned for simulation, which was rather amusing. Australia continued to create opportunities, only for poor passing to let them down, until individual brilliance from Kofi Danning on the break presented a chance for Jason Hoffman, who put it over the bar. Then in the 27th a Czech shot hit side netting, but Australia quickly responded with a Kofi Danning cross causing trouble for the keeper, and a rebound created more trouble, but the second shot was saved. In the 34th a long passage of passing for Australia looked dangerous, but it came to nothing. Other than a Australian corner and an Aussie freekick which was easily saved, the next ten minutes of play passed rather uneventfully, and they went into half time at 0-0. A half time sub, with Sean Rooney coming on for the rather disappointing Jason Hoffman, and then SBS commentator Vitor Sobral’s amusing slipup, Wayne….Sean Rooney, were the only highlights until the goals started flowing.

Overall a very disappointing game for Australia, as they took forever to calm down and start playing well, and while enjoying many chances, could only convert one, from the penalty spot, and even then Holland had to make two attempts. Unsurprisingly, Versleijen was very disappointed at the post match press conference, and thought that the team could play much better,

“It was disappointing not only with the result but the performance because we didn’t reach the level that we should reach. If you want to get results in a World Cup you have to play at a high level and we didn’t see that today….But that aside, I know we can do much better and everybody knows we can do much better and that’s the positive coming out of it. The important thing now is to get a result against Costa Rica to have a chance of qualifying for the next round.”

I woke up early and watched the game, and other than the things mentioned above, my main two points have to be that Kofi Danning is awesome, and that as good as the Czech keeper is, he badly needs a decent haircut. Also, Bouzanis looked rather assured in goals, and was unlucky not to save the penalty, as he dived the right way, but couldn’t quite get his hand on the ball.

So make sure you watch the Young Socceroos take on Costa Rica (who lost 5-0 to Brazil) on Wednesday night, coverage starting at 11.30 on SBS.

A League Round 7 Preview

Hey everyone, lots of action in round 7, so here it is in all its resplendent glory:

Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory

An early and late goal moved Melbourne back into the top 6, and gives them a much needed boost ahead of this weeks game against Bling FC Jnr, or Gold Coast. Thanks to Marcus you can read a full match report on Melbourne Victory Offside

Central Coast Mariners v Gold Coast United

So…This unbeaten season hey…going pretty well so far. Bling FC Jnr (Gold Coast United) lost their second game of the ‘unbeaten season’, going down 3-nil to a convincing performance from Central Coast. Goals from Nicky Travis, Matt Simon and John Hutchinson moves CCM up to third, but a red card to Gold Coast’s Shane Smeltz could spell trouble for GCU, as they face Melbourne next week in an important clash. Most disappointingly however for us is that teenager Golgol Mebrahtu, who has a very heartwarming story about being found by Miron playing in a park, didn’t score. Come on, imagine the headline’s I could have used? Golgol goal! or Goal for Golgol, or GOAL GOLGOLGOLGOL GOAL! But no :( maybe next time. While Bleiberg will not be pleased by the performance, Gold Coast are still in 1st place, leading Sydney on goal difference (or Golgol difference :P), and will be hoping to get their campaign back on track against Melbourne this week. For Central Coast, they could hardly of had a better start to the season, with the team who everyone (including me) wrote off, not to mention the team that hadn’t won since New Year, being in third place on 11 points.

Wellington Phoenix v North Queensland Fury

A stoppage time winner kept North Queensland’s hopes of avoiding the wooden spoon alive, with Chris Grossman smacking it home in the 94th. Wellington had earlier troubled the scorer in the 6th minute, after a well executed move combining Daniel and Paul Iffil, before Ifill lobbed the ball to Andrew Durante, who sent it to an unmarked Leo Bertos, who promptly fired it home. Wellington then piled on the pressure, but were unable to find the back of the net, and waited until the 94th minute to let the Fury back in. The point for NQ is a positive step in their quest for avoiding the wooden spoon, but they may have to convert the ones into threes if they’re going to challenge for 6th. Wellington will be thoroughly disappointed with the result, and will need to lift their game against Central Coast if they are to come away with a result.

Sydney FC v Newcastle Jets

Bling FC senior were out in force to shoot down the Jets, and remain in equal first. A Mark Bridge wonder goal opened the scoring before Matt Thompson put it back on level pegging. Then a Steve Corica penalty put Sydney back on top. The Jets also ended the disappointing afternoon with a red card to Tarek Elrich, and had to endure the embarrassment of a saved penalty, after Clint Bolton saved Matt Thompson’s spot kick. While Thompson may have later redeemed himself, and the Jets looked significantly better in the second half, their overall performance, and Sydney’s tactics angered manager Branko Culina, who went on a rather amusing rant,

“There was only one team that really deserved to win that game…I don’t care what their coach says and the fact that he’s on $500,000 and I’m on 50 bucks or whatever it is. But if that’s what the foreigners are going to bring to this game let’s have more local coaches…I’m not having a go at him, I’m just saying that as far as football is concerned, I thought we played some great stuff. “

And while Culina has since apologised, I thinks its pretty funny (and he thinks he’s on 50 bucks, I earn more than that :P)
A good win for Sydney, considering their missing players (Kofis away on international duty), but as Culina’s rant proves, it was an unhappy afternoon for the Jets.

Brisbane Roar v Perth Glory

My prediction of a strong march home for Perth Glory is already coming home, only seven games in. Glory defeated a comical Brisbane side, mainly due to errors from the Roar. The main talking point of the game was Chris Coyne push on Brisbane keeper Liam Reddy, which led to Perth’s fourth goal. I saw it and personally think that Reddy had already pushed the ball into the back of the his net, but the debate will rage on… Read a full match review courtesy of Ahmed on the Roar offside.

Well that be all, hopefully I’ll have a round 8 preview by Friday. Also, in others news I’m doing my FFA Junior Coaching Licence on the weekend, which should be fun. I might even write up an article about it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The end of SAF: Is Manchester United really in danger of decline?

The end of SAF: Is Manchester United really in danger of decline?

By Kieran Pender

So the new season has started, and Manchester United have once again gotten off to their normal sluggish start. But with the new season underway, and Sir Alex Ferguson a year older, we have to once again ask ourselves, what will happen when the legend retires? Will we continue to fly high, or will we flounder into middle table mediocrity?

Sir Alex Ferguson has brought great success to Manchester United Football Club. 11 league titles, 5 FA Cups and 2 Champions League trophies, making him arguably the greatest football manager of all time. However, he is growing ever older and will inevitably have to retire sometime soon. But will the end of Sir Alex really spell the end of Manchester United?

In short, No. At least in the short term, Sir Alex’s reign will ensure at least another ten years or so of success. Looking at the current Manchester United reserves team, it is obvious that there is another era of great players coming through. The Da Silva brothers, Macheda, Welbeck, Evans, Petrucci, the list goes on. These talented young players should ensure another decade of silverware, but what beyond that.

Possibly the most worrying aspect of Manchester United is the financial insecurity. The Glazer family has plunged United into unimaginable debt, which could possibly result in the ultimate downfall of Manchester United Football Club. In the 2007/08 season, United won the Champions League and Premier League double, so apart from the other minor trophies (sorry FA Cup), they delivered the best possible season. However, they still recorded a loss. This is worrying, as what will happen when United have an inevitable ‘off’ year. Will it force United to sell off prized ‘assets’? Or will the club be plunged further and further into debt, and eventually go into the ever dreaded arms of ‘administration’?

Once again, luckily I believe the answer to be no. While I may not be the most economically minded person, I do understand the basics, and the basics being that Manchester United Football club is arguably the biggest football club in the world, and therefore the most attractive to buyers. When, and the time will definitely come, the Glazers sell up, they will pay off the debt and make a tidy profit.

Finally, the legacy left by Ferguson when he finally calls it a day will keep United in good enough stead that they can attract the greatest managers in the world. And with the greatest managers in the world you would hope would come more trophies…

So Manchester United fans, rest easy, the work of Sir Alex Ferguson, the greatest manager of all time, will keep us winning for decades to come.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Valencia: Football Club or Soap Opera

Following Valencia Club de Futbol has always been a rollercoaster ride. Crazy managers, amazing strikers, bad players being paid too much, good players being paid too little, shock wins and unexpected losses are all part of being a fan of Los Che.

However the last season has been even worse, leading me to wonder, is my beloved Los Che really a football club, or infact just a really bad TV show.

Hey if we don’t pay them, they’ll play better

Some of you may know that Valencia is a club riddled with debt. Unfortunately for them, they were in the middle of building a new stadium, the Nuevo Mestalla (a very nice stadium by the looks of it, I must add), when the global financial crisis hit. The buyer for their old stadium suddenly offered a much lower sum, and the deal collapsed. From here things only got worse. A debt of almost 400 million Euros, which was to be mostly paid off by the sale of the stadium, was now sitting on the books, looking pretty ugly.

Eventually things got so bad that Valencia had to stop paying their players, and a very promising start to the season descended into chaos, with a loss, and another, and another… Finally, after almost giving up hope of a Champions League spot, money appeared and the players could be paid again. And guess what? They started winning, unfortunately narrowly missing out on the CL sports. But it does prove that footballers are just like normal people, they don’t like working for free either.

Pornstars and player movement

So after another rollercoaster season, Valencia fans thought they could finally relax. And then…the transfer window opened. David’s Villa and Silva were names on every bad English newspaper headlines (and Marca, can’t forget Madrid Mail can we). Villa had signed for Barcelona, Villa had signed for Madrid, Villa was wanted by every man and his dog, Silva was wanted by Manchester United, Silva was wanted by… etc etc etc. And it went on, and on.

But guess what? They’re still here (well, as I write the transfer window hasn’t yet closed, but it looks likely they’ll be staying). However, the more surprising transfer rumour of the summer wasn’t about any of our stars. Infact, it was about none other than our resident porn star, Ever Banega. For those of you who don’t know, Banega was a promising young Boca star, who then signed for Valencia, and promptly took his pants off on the internet (or, as Roy Meredith from Championship Manager said on Chappers podcast the other day, “concerned about his off field antics”).

But enough about his porn star antics, for some reason, various British football publications got it in there heads that Banega was off to Everton on a season long loan. Even Everton Gaffer David Moyes claimed that he thought the move would go through. However, their was a slight problem for the Scotsman, neither Valencia nor Banega had heard about the move. Valencia denied having any contact with Everton, and Banega said he wanted to stay at Valencia (only to be promptly mistranslated to “I want to leave” by some new sources). So yes, a case of lost in translation for Everton.

Read the rest