Saturday, August 28, 2010

Experiencing the World Cup first-hand...In Europe

For most football fanatics, a trip to Europe means one thing, football! Yet, as I jetted across land and sea to a faraway place, I pondered just how I managed to arrange my Europe trip for the one time football won’t be plentiful in Europe.

But ohh how wrong I was. The 2010 FIFA World Cup may have been in South Africa, but sitting in pubs in Austria, Slovakia, France, Belgium and Germany, you wouldn’t know it. In those pubs, the World Cup could have just been down the road, such was the intensity that radiated through their walls.

First stop on the World Cup bandwagon was a day trip to Slovakia, from my base of Austria, to watch the Slovaks play Paraguay. After a train ride to the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, and some quick site seeing, my friends and I settled down at an Irish pub in the centre of the city, ready to watch the game.

And wow. The pub wasn’t that full, but nevertheless the atmosphere was great. Not having to watch the game while trying to keep open your eyelids also added to the experience.

The next trip also involved an Irish pub, but this one much closer to my home away from home, in Vienna, Austria. A quick jaunt down to the city centre took me into Flanagan’s Pub, a hearty place with televisions everywhere, and quality beer on tap.

After settling down for a beer...or three, I set my eyes on the afternoon’s entertainment, Chile v Switzerland. After the Swiss beat eventual champions Spain, and Chile had been unspectacular against Honduras, everyone was expecting a tight encounter. Well everyone in my area of the pub, two Germans, my friend who doesn’t follow football, and myself. Ok, I expected a tight encounter.

However, an early bath for Valon Behrami, after the West Ham United midfielder was sent off in the 30th minute, swung the game towards Chile. Despite failing to capitalise on many chances, the man advantage eventually proved decisive, and Mark Gonzalez headed the ball home with 15 minutes to go, pushing Chile towards the next round.

The final game to be watched in Austria, once again at the local Irish hangout, was the big one for any Aussie, the Socceroos v Serbia. Wearing my colours in the form of a Socceroos jersey, my Aussie friends and I eagerly awaited a thrilling game.

Sadly, despite the victory, the aged Socceroos didn’t progress, but the atmosphere in the pub almost made up for it. Almost.

With one half of the establishment crammed with German and Ghana supporters, and the other half full of Serbians and a few Aussies, the atmosphere was electric. As the Socceroos progression relied heavily on the other game, multiple trips were made to the other side, seeing if a favourable result was in progress.

Alas it was not to be, and as friendly banter between Serbian and Australian fans started to get heated, I decided to cover up my Socceroos shirt and head home.

After my sojourn in Austria, I headed to France, where I had to contain the urge not to shout out how pathetic their football team was. While in France I spent many nights in various hotel bars, watching all manner of games, but it wasn’t until I headed north to Germany that the real fun began.

A trendy hotel’s bar in Aachen was the scene for Germany v Spain, and after writing for a while on Spanish football, and tipping Spain to win before the tournament, my geographical location was not going to prevent me from supporting La Furia Roja.

After betting a pint on the result of the game with a friend, I sat back and enjoyed Spain’s domination, but was worried about the lack of end result. Thankfully, a Carles Puyol header sealed the deal, and I made some noise while getting death stares from various Germans, and Australians sharing the bar with me.

I must say, the Germans sure know how to prepare for a big game. Walking the streets before the game, I saw all manner of flags, banners and football paraphernalia. A house without something German related on it was a rare sight indeed. And the locals were walking around draped in Germany shirts and flag while drinking beer, at four o’clock, four and a half hours away from kick-off.

The morning after the game I went on a tour of some nearby battlefields, indulging my inner history nerd. Being led around scenes of fighting in the Second World War, by a German soldier who had actually fought in the area, I was somewhat surprised with myself when I started talking to him about football. He was understandably angry that Germany had lost, and I decided to keep my Spanish support quiet.

This moment however, maybe more than any other, truly underlines what I love about football. It is the global game. While a conversation about football may be more difficult in Australia or the US, ultimately, in any country in the world, you will find someone who you can talk to about football. From the Faroe Islands to North Korea, from New Zealand to Qatar, someone will talk to you about football. It is, the world game.

However, Europe tops this off, because in Europe, you don’t have to find someone to talk to about football, anyone will talk to you about football. From random bus drivers to WW2 veterans, from bar-tenders (see below) to...well, to everyone more or less. Football and Europe, practically synonymous.

Possibly the most humorous moment related to the game came the next night when I asked the rather cute bar-tender for a drink. She paused and looked at me before explaining “No, you were the guy supporting Spain last night.” Thankfully after laying on the charm I got myself a drink, although sadly not a phone number...

After listening to police sirens all night after the game, I was pleased to return to France, where my Spanish allegiance was less likely to get me mortally injured. However, upon returning Paris, I discovered to my horror that my plane flight would see my in the air during the World Cup final.

Needless to say I was devastated, and even an exciting 3rd place game couldn’t lift my spirits. Sitting nervously on the plane home, waiting for the pilot to announce the score, I got more and more worried as the minutes ticked on.

My logic that extra-time and penalties would make a win for Spain slightly less likely ultimately proved flawed however, and in a heavy Thai accent our pilot informed us that Spain had won one-nil after 120 minutes. I breathed a deep sigh of relief and went back to my movie.

After assuring quarantine that I wasn’t trying to bring home anything dodgy, I found myself a newspaper before getting ready for a long bus ride home to Canberra. Flipping through The Daily Telegraph, it was perhaps reassuring to see that football (or soccer as they may prefer to call it) is hidden 12 pages from the back cover.

This in an edition that went to print only hours before the World Cup final, the biggest sporting event in the world. It certainly rammed home the fact I was back in Australia, where, sadly, football is not the number one sport. Wait, why did I leave Europe again?

Preview - Málaga CF v Valencia CF

Málaga CF

After spending 12 weeks in the relegation zone early last season, Málaga fans would have been pleased to find themselves sitting comfortably mid table with 10 games to play. However, a disastrous run during the home stretch of the season left the side sitting 18th in the penultimate round, staring relegation in the face.

A 1-1 draw with Real Madrid on the final day of the season may have secured Málaga another year of top flight football, but it may all be in vain unless new manager Jesualdo Ferreira can dramatically improve the side.

Another season in a relegation battle may not please their new owner however, after the Spanish side were brought by Qatari billionaire Abdullah Al-Thani. The new money has certainly helped in the transfer market, with the arrival of Uruguayan international Sebastián Fernández and 26 year old Brazilian midfielder Sandro Silva, strengthening the squad significantly.

Despite a dismal previous season, Málaga is strong at the back, and had the 7th best defense in La Liga last term. While this may have been nullified by their inability to score, they only found the net 42 times, the side does still have the potential to cause Valencia problems. Málaga won't be relying on their home form though in their first encounter of the 2010/2011 season, as they had the 4th worst record at home stadium last season.

Key for Málaga against Valencia, and indeed throughout their season, will be defender Jesús Gámez (pictured). The 25 year old Spaniard started 32 games for the club last season and was a key reason for their defensively solid performances. If the right sided defender can keep Juan Mata quiet this weekend, Valencia could be in for a tough night at La Rosaleda.

Málaga CF squad:

Goalkeepers: Francesc Arnau, Rodrigo Galatto

Defense: Jesús Gámez, Welington, Manu Torres, Iván González, Patrick Mtiliga

Midfield: Fernando, Apoño, Eliseu, Sandro Silva, Juanito

Strikers: Albert Luque, Edinho, Sebastián Fernández, Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, Juanmi, José Rondón

Valencia CF

A turbulent summer in the transfer window will see a vastly different Valencia side taking the pitch on Saturday night. While a full season preview can be found by clicking here, the biggest piece of news regarding the new look Valencia is that striker Roberto Soldado will miss 2-3 weeks with an injured hamstring. Fellow new signing Aritz Aduriz (pictured) is sure to get the start for this match, when also taking into account the fact that Chori Domínguez has failed to recover from his lingering knee problem.

Another interesting thing to look for v Málaga is to see which formation Unai Emery decides to go with, 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Spanish newspaper Super Deporte reported during the week that Emery has decided against employing a 4-3-3 formation, and will instead be sticking to last season’s 4-2-3-1.

With the squad for this weekend's match being released on Friday, Emery raised some eyebrows by deciding to leave Portuguese midfielder Manuel Fernandes at home. Fernandes had a pretty solid preseason for VCF, and this will surely just increase his desire to leave the club, as he has wanted to do since last January. Another interesting player left out of the squad is Vicente Guiata. The young goalkeeper had a far superior preseason to Miguel Ángel Moyà, but it seems that, for now, Emery is sticking with the player he signed last season for €5 million from Mallorca.

Sofiane Feghouli and Ángel Dealbert have also been left out of the squad, while Chori and Soldado will miss the match due to injury.

Valencia CF squad:

Goalkeepers: César Sánchez, Miguel Ángel Moyà

Defense: Bruno Saltor, Miguel Brito, David Navarro, Hedwiges Maduro, Ricardo Costa, Jérémy Mathieu, Jordi Alba

Midfield: David Albelda, Mehmet Topal, Éver Banega, Tino Costa, Joaquín Sánchez, Pablo Hernández, Juan Mata, Vicente Rodríguez

Strikers: Aritz Aduriz

La Happenings: World Cup review special

After over two years of beautiful passing football, with exquisite goals to match, Spain had to play ugly to win the World Cup, and with close one-nil wins and goals from headers, they did just that. La Furia Roja became world champions after Andres Iniesta slotted home a pass from Cesc Fabregas in the 116th minute of the final in Soccer City, Johannesburg.

They were hailed as the kings of champagne football, as the most watchable side in the world, yet they were also critiqued for their lack of a plan-B, the lack of an ability to break teams down. A loss to Switzerland in Spain’s opening game only increased these worries, fears that the World Cup would be won by the Inter-Milan of the international scene, rather than the Barcelona.

However, wins over Honduras, Chile, Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and finally Holland saw the European champions lift the ultimate honour in football, the World Cup. For the first time in their history, the Spanish national team became World champions.

And oh did they celebrate. Cities all around Spain went wild, with huge parties in Madrid and Barcelona. However the victory was sadly not as dramatic as was widely tipped. Many labelled it beforehand as a game of passing football, pitting two of the ‘prettiest’ teams in world football in the ultimate spectacle. Spain v Holland was only just behind Spain v Brazil in the hoped for final.

But when it came, the victory was soured by a poor 120 minutes of cynical play. 13 yellow cards and a red to John Heitinga turned the opportunity for a brilliant display of passing football to a game of rough tackling and bad football.

While some may argue that Holland had every right to use such tactics, seeing it as a perfectly legitimate way to play, there is no denying that it ruined the possibility for a night of gorgeous football.

Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque said after the match that, Holland made it very difficult for us to play comfortably. I’m here to speak about the beautiful things in football. It was rough at times, but that’s part of football.” Sadly, these things happen, but ultimately the better team won, and justice was served.

Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk also felt like adding that “It’s not our style to commit horrible fouls. It’s not our kind of football. But I would love to have won it with football that was not so beautiful. Both sides, also the Spaniards, committed terrible fouls.” Wouldn’t we all have loved to have won the World Cup?

Spain played like Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final, Holland as Inter. Only this time, tactical genius Jose Mourinho was not involved, and La Furia Roja, a large chunk of the side made up of Barca players, were too good. Just too good.

The Spanish side are now both European and World champions, and despite having won everything available to them, the side will not be slowing down yet. Stars David Villa, Xavi and Iker Casillas all have another World Cup in them, while other important members of the squad, David Silva, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres, are still relatively young. Even if Xavi, at 30 the third oldest member of the World Cup squad, was to call it a day soon, he would be replaced by Fabregas or Javi Martinez, two world class midfielders.

Spain has always enjoyed incredibly talented players, from Telmo Zarra to Raul, Alfredo di Stéfano to Fernando Hierro. However there was always that doubt, that lack of confidence in a team that never before made a World Cup final. After taking the Euros in 2008, a team brimming with star quality finally found its feet.

They surpassed negative football and foul play to win the World Cup in South Africa 2010. With such confidence now instilled in the team, a second and even third World Cup does not look doubtful. After years as the ‘coulda beens’ of world football, La Furia Roja, the Spanish national team, is now ready to write themselves into the history books. World, watch out.

The best part of the victory? I tipped it! I predicted in the Half Time Heroes World Cup special that Spain’s “...time has finally come,” and I was right. Pity I didn’t put my money where my mouth was...

Featured in Half Time Heroes World Cup Special, the best web magazine around!

Persecution of the Precious

Persecution of the precious

The French Football Federation (FFF) last week announced its response to Les Bleus’ disastrous World Cup campaign, with Nicolas Anelka, Franck Ribéry, Jeremy Toulalan and Manchester United star Patrice Evra all receiving serious punishment. However, the sanctions handed down by the FFF raise a more intriguing question…

Are the players to blame for making a stand against a coach whom they had lost faith in?

After guiding France to an unexpected spot in the 2006 World Cup final, former French international Raymond Domenech failed dismally at the 2008 Euros, finishing last behind Romania in their group. Despite calls for 58-year-old Frenchman to step down or be sacked throughout the two years between the Euros and the 2010 World Cup, Domenech was handed the task of leading a talented French squad in South Africa.

While rumours had brewed that Domenech was unpopular with the players, the abysmal nature of the French World Cup campaign and the subsequent scandals left a nation shocked at the FFF’s failings. Letting Domenech, a man hated by his team, guide them through a World Cup seems nonsensical, and this was only reaffirmed by the antics of the squad in South Africa.

After Chelsea striker Anelka was sent home following a row with Domenech, the team revolted and refused to train, retreating to the sanctuary of the team bus. This eventually led to France exiting the World Cup after the group stage, suffering a humiliating defeat to hosts South Africa in the final game.

In response to the failure of the French squad at the 2010 World Cup, the FFF handed down match bans to four of the players involved in the so-called ‘mutiny’. Anelka has been banned from international football for an astonishing 18 matches, while United star Evra will miss five pending an appeal launched yesterday. Bayern Munich winger Ribéry, absent from the hearing, was given a three match ban, and Olympique Lyonnaise star Toulalan will miss a single game.

Unsurprisingly the decision has been greeted with disgust and derision from the players involved, and others involved in the world game have followed suit.

Before the sanctions were handed down, Evra started his pre-emptive defence, questioning the FFF’s hearing

“Why punish us more than others? It’s over now,” said the French captain.

“The penalty of not selecting the 23 players from the World Cup for the Norway friendly is consistent. That showed there were not five or six ‘ringleaders’ as had been written.”

But the FFF had to act, had to turn attention away from the failure of a federation that allowed a manager, who clearly no longer had support of the players, to lead the side to the World Cup.

“I am surprised, as I thought everyone wanted to turn the page after the World Cup. We must think about the future,” Evra adds.

However, the FFF clearly thought differently, and wanted to punish those who had apparently led a strike in protest against the decision to send Anelka home. While the comments attributed to the French striker that led to his exclusion were less than kind – “Go &@$% yourself, you son of a whore” – the real issue is that the FFF is trying to hide its woeful inadequacy.

Another to receive a ban, Ribéry, has tried to play down the decision to keep his international spot once the ban is over. The 27-year-old winger questioned the wisdom of not punishing the squad as a collective.

“I do not understand why some players were sentenced to a five-match ban while others have not been punished. All these players participated in what happened at the World Cup,” said Ribéry last week.

Ribéry has a valid point, the judgment to sentence only some players, predominantly those in leadership positions among the team, is intriguing. Ultimately, didn’t those players, as the leaders of the team, have the right to question manager’s authority they no longer believed in? After Domenech made a decision, which they felt left the team in an untenable position.

Such an occurrence is common-place in Premier League sides when managers get the boot. Often the old heads of the team will have questioned his position at the club. The FFF’s decision, therefore, can be seen as trying to lay the blame for a poor World Cup on those who do not deserve it – ultimately using Anelka, Evra and co as scapegoats.

Not everyone agrees with such a view though, and French legend Lillian Thuram wasn’t supportive of United’s beloved defender Evra. One of the most successful figures in French football, Thuram belittled Evra.

“I demanded that the players be harshly punished and that Evra never returns to the France squad. When you are captain of the France team, you must have a responsibility to the jersey and the people,” said the 142-cap legend.

“When the players shut themselves in the bus…that showed that the coach was no longer respected.”

However, if the coach was no longer respected, is it not the captain’s job to make this known? While a safer option was to grin and bear it until the end of the tournament, Evra made a stance and demonstrated to the world how flawed the FFF’s decision making is.

Unsurprisingly there are many who are ready to back Evra and his role at the World Cup. Newly signed Tottenham Hotspur defender William Gallas was quick to redirect the finger of blame.

“If it was a fiasco, then there are reasons for it,” the former Arsenal captain told the Daily Telegraph.

“And for me there is no need to draw a veil over why: they emanated from the coach. The real problem is the coach. Ok I wasn’t good, we weren’t good. But the coach wasn’t up to scratch either.”

“Anelka’s incident was a case of him being fed up for a few weeks prior to that. Domenech hammered into us time and again: ‘Put your egos to one side’. But I believe that he forgot to do that himself.”

While Gallas was already disenfranchised with Domenech after a disputing the side’s captaincy he makes a valid point.

Even new French manager Laurent Blanc isn’t positive about the punishments.

“I thought the collective punishment [the Norway friendly] was both necessary and sufficient…Our only concern is to establish the best possible squad for those fixtures in early September against the Belarus and Bosnia-Herzegovina,” said the former United defender.

Given the man charged with turning around the fortunes of French football disagrees with the punishment, one must wonder why the FFF felt compelled to act and not move on.

Finally, the man at the centre of the controversy, Anelka, sums up the farce.

“For me, this whole thing with the commission is an aberration, a masquerade to make sure they don’t lose face,” said the Chelsea striker.

“They have punished a void, as Nicolas Anelka never existed in this pitiful and colourful affair. They are real clowns, these people … I am doubled up with laughter.” While the laughter claim may sound arrogant, his argument is striking and direct, much like the Frenchman’s playing style.

While the decision to exclude the players from France’s recent friendly is widely seen as justifiable, the bans handed down by the FFF recently are not. Instead, it is a crude attempt to hide the organisational failures at the top level of French football.

There is however one benefit the punishment brings United fans; Patrice Evra won’t have to attend any pesky international games in the next few months!

I'm back!

After a bit of an absence as I traversed Europe, thoroughly enjoyed the World Cup, and then sadly returned home, I'm back!

And with good news. I have multiple articles in Soccer International's Leagues of Europe Season Preview magazine; including articles on Manchester United, Barcelona, Valencia and Sevilla. I have also been working away on a veritable thesis on the future of the Socceroos, which will be in next month's Soccer International.

In between I have been interviewing Nathan Coe, who I must add is a great guy, and trying to secure interviews with a whole host of Young Socceroos.

So, I'm back, and have a heap of articles for your enjoyment (hopefully)!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Kiwis get a point, while the Socceroos wait for Ghana

As if to compound our disappointment at the Socceroos' opening result, a dogged New Zealand performance saw the Kiwis take a point from their game against Slovakia last night. An equaliser from Winston Reid in the dying minutes of the game was enough to secure the All Whites are draw after a 50th minute goal from Slovakia's Robert Vittek.


It was actually quite a good game, with some interesting keeping from Wellington Phoenix custodian Mark Paston, including letting a ball in sail across the goal-mouth and a remarkable tip over the bar after long range bullet.

The Socceroos are now back in training ahead of their Sunday morning (AET) clash with African side Ghana. Australia will need to get at-least a point from the game to have any hope of qualifying for the next stage, but a win would be preferable (thanks lads, would do nicely!)

In other World Cup news:

Cahill decision expected shortly (SBS:TWG)

Two strikers? (Fox Sports)

Good ratings, poor game, for first Socceroos match (SBS:TWG)

Youth or Experience? (NineMSN)

Wilko: We will fight (442)

And remember, you can check out all of my work at An Aussie's View. You might have to scroll down a bit to get to non-Aus WC Blog stuff. But hopefully it's worth it!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Well, that didn't quite go to plan...


Tim Cahill suspended for our encounter with Ghana, possibly also not available for Serbia.
The Socceroos humiliated on the world stage.

What went wrong?

A high defence line
Pim has a dilemma. He has two very slow centre-backs, one of them is really getting on in age. He is about to face a fluid attacking outfit. What does he do? Instead of being sensible and playing with a deep defensive line, he tries to play a pressing system which ultimately utilises a very high defensive line. Did you realise how many times the Germans were pinged for offside? This was because we were playing a high line with the offside trap. Worked some of the time, not so much for most of the game.

When SBS showed the line-up at 4:20 in the morning, I was dumb-founded. We have played 4-2-3-1 pretty much throughout the qualification campaign, so why we switched to a classic 4-4-2 formation for the biggest game of the last four year is beyond me. Sure, if one of the Socceroos had netted from the opening corner, and we had held on for a one-nil victory, Verbeek would have been hailed as a tactical genius. But we didn't. If anyone has any suggestions as to why the sudden switch away from the Verbeek defensive system, feel free to comment.

Playing Tim Cahill as a striker
It is easy to criticise this decision with hindsight, but Cahill looked isolated and frustrated up-front. Although we don't know what went through his mind when he made the tackle (and I don't think it should have been a red anyway), it's possible this frustration played a part.

Who didn't disgrace themselves

Monday, June 14, 2010

Germany embarrass Australia after dodgy dismissal (Germany 4-0 Australia)


A controversial decision may have added insult to injury for Australia, but even before the dismissal of Tim Cahill the Socceroos had been outplayed by a superior German side. Two goals in either half gave Germany a comfortable win and despite a strong start the Socceroos were unable to capitalise on their opportunities.

Australia started the game positively, and could have gone one-nil up in the first few minutes after a Luke Wilkshire cross bounced dangerously in the area. However, despite attempts from numerous Socceroos, the ball could not find its way into the back of the net. The Socceroos continued to look threatening, and it looked as if an upset could be on the cards.

However, Germany then opened the scoring in the 8th minute after young-star Mesut Ozil played a brilliant ball to Thomas Muller, who crossed it back from the by-line for the lurking Lukas Podolski. The Cologne striker smashed the ball in the top corner and Mark Schwarzer, despite getting a hand to it, was unable to keep it out.

The Germans soon doubled the scoring, with Miroslav Klose beating Schwarzer to a Phillip Lahm cross and heading into an empty net. Ozil and company continued to create chances, and the Australians were more than happy to hear the sound of the half-time whistle.

The second half kicked off with Vince Grella substituted for the more attacking-minded Brett Holman, and he made an immediate effect. A hand-ball from Per Mertesacker in the area should have led to a penalty, but neither the referee nor the linesman spotted the incident. Holman then demonstrated why he had been brought on, as the substitute turned Arne Friedrich before firing just wide.

The controversy then continued with Australian talisman Tim Cahill sent off for a challenge on Bastian Schweinsteiger. Despite hitting the Bayern Munich star from behind, replays seem to suggest that Cahill was trying to pull out of the tackle, and it probably only warranted a yellow card.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The big one! Australia v Germany World Cup preview!


Exactly four years and one day after Australia kicked off their 2006 World Cup campaign in spectacular style, the Socceroos will today (or tomorrow Australian time) be heading into battle against a slightly tougher opposition than 2006, but with the same intention, to show the world that we mean business! After a weeks talk of Germany threatening to embarrass Australia, the pragmatic Dutchman Pim Verbeek will be looking to show his Germany counterpart, Joachim Low, that he was seriously mistaken.


Kieran: Can we beat Germany? Can we beat the sixth rank team in the world? That's what it all comes down to. Germany have a solid goalkeeper, with Manuel Neuer a capable replacement for the injured Rene Adler. At the back, only Phillip Lahm will stand-out to many, but Germany certainly have a quality defence.

The midfield however is where Germany will really shine, with the absence of Michael Ballack providing the perfect opportunity for youth sensation Mesut Ozil to show why he is one of the most highly rated young stars in Europe.

Alongside Ozil may be another young star, 23-year-old Sami Khedira. The Stuttgart midfielder captained Germany's youth side to the U21 European Championship, and will be looking to reproduce his form for Germany on the big stage. On the wing for Die Mannschaft will be Bayern Munich star Bastian Schweinsteiger, and after helping his side to a Champions League final this year, Schweinsteiger will be looking for glory in South Africa. Australia will have to keep him quiet if they are to get anything out of the game.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The World Cup is here! Along with an assortment of news!

AND IT'S HERE!!!!!!!


With two entertaining draws, the FIFA World Cup has now officially kicked-off. So, what better time to give you a quick little wrap of the Socceroo/Australian football news.

First up is the news that Australia has officially pulled out from the 2018 World Cup bidding process. It seemed inevitable after the Asian Football Confederation claimed they would be backing Europe for 2018, and yesterday Frank Lowy made it official. However, this may actually be beneficial for our 2022 bid, as we seemed to have earned some good-will from FIFA, and it will mean that neither Europe or South America can bid, effectively leaving North America and Asia. Despite competition from a strong US bid, the temptation to bring the World Cup to a new stage may be all Australia's bid needs if it can get the backing of the AFC.

Secondly, German manager Joachim Low has told the media that he believes his side can embarrass Australia in their opening game of the World Cup. However, with the mighty Carl Valeri (dinho) in midfield, and pragmatic Pim Verbeek at the helm, Australia will be looking to spring a surprise...

In other news, Fulham have rejected an offer from Arsenal for goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. British newspaper the Daily Star also claims that Schwarzer has told Fulham manager Roy Hodgson he would be interested in the move, but I stress that the Daily Star isn't exactly known for their accurate reporting. Personally, if Schwarzer was to become first choice (which would only be logical, I can't see Arsene Wenger spending money on an ageing second-choice keeper), I think it would be a great move for the Socceroos custodian. What do you think?


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Emerton joins Ruka on the 'need a new club' list


Brett Emerton has been told by English club Blackburn Rovers that he will not be needed next season. The 31-year-old has been transfer-listed by the Ewood Park club, despite still having two years on his current contract. The news will come as a serious blow to Emerton, who is currently trying to overcome a calf injury, but will be hoping to show any potential suitors his skills over the following weeks.

Emerton will join Nikita Rukavytsya as Socceroos looking for new clubs, after the Ukrainian-born forward was not kept-on by Dutch side FC Twente at the end of the season. Ruka, who could play a key role at the World Cup, coming off the bench looking for an impact, has told SBS he is hoping to stay in Europe, and was not thinking of a return to the A-League.

Got to feel for the lad really, but I suppose no better time to be transfer-listed than just before the Cup.

In other news, 1 sleep till the WORLD CUP!!!! GET EXCITED :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Half Time Heroes World Cup Special

Australia's best web magazine has just released its World Cup special. So have a read.

I'm in there on page 32 with a preview of Spain's World Cup hopes, and again on page 35 with a wrap of the Spanish domestic season. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Scoring goals with Golgol


When Golgol Mebrahtu stepped out onto the pitch at Members Equity Stadium in Perth it marked the end of a remarkable journey that had taken him from Eritrea to Australia and finally to an A-League contract with Gold Coast United. But his debut was just the first step on his journey to hopefully represent Australia at the 2012 Olympics.

Mebrahtu’s fairytale football story started when he was spotted by Gold Coast manager Miron Bleiberg while playing football on a Brisbane pitch. Impressed by what he saw, Bleiberg suggested Mebrahtu attend trials, and a few months later he signed for Gold Coast.

Stepping up from the Brisbane Strikers to an A-League team was a huge step, and Golgol was initially nervous, but he soon settled in. Recalling the transition, Mebrahtu says, “I knew it would be a big step and I was nervous when I saw the likes of Michael Thwaite and Shane Smeltz at training, but after a couple of weeks I got used to it and really settled in well.”

Mebrahtu had started playing football while still living in Africa, but didn’t have much time to play. “There was little in the way of organized football for us kids to play and my family were very focused on education, so most of our time was spent learning more academic things. Occasionally a bunch of kids from the neighbourhood would gather together for a kick-about, but that was about it.”

But a move to Australia when he was ten changed this, and shortly after he was turning out at under eleven level for Brisbane Olympic. Not long after this he was kicking the ball around regularly and playing whenever he could.

A more detailed wrap of Australia's 23-man World Cup squad

So the squad has been announced, the shocks have occurred and it’s now down to business for the 23 remaining Socceroos. The biggest surprise was the exclusion of Rhys Williams from the squad, while the cutting of Tommy Oar, James Holland, Eugene Galekovic and Shane Lowry were all fairly self-explanatory.


Williams’ absence from the final squad has led to a war of word between Pim Verbeek and Middlesbrough manager Gordon Strachan. Verbeek has claimed that his decision to exclude Williams was based on his pelvic injury, which he claims Strachan only made worse in the final few weeks of the season. Strachan however has angrily hit back, claiming that he never put Williams under pressure to play. You can read the full war of words here and here.

But in more important news, the squad!

Goalkeepers: Adam Federici, Brad Jones, Mark Schwarzer

No surprises here. Galekovic was only ever in the squad as a back-up, and I doubt he will have had any realistic expectations of making the final squad barring any injuries. In terms of the pecking order, Schwarzer is obviously the undisputed number one. Federici and Jones will then fight it out for the spot on the bench, and I would think that Fed will win, due to his good season at club-level this year.

Defenders: Michael Beauchamp, David Carney, Scott Chipperfield, Mark Milligan, Craig Moore, Lucas Neill, Luke Wilkshire

Defence is the area that came under most scrutiny from Pim’s knife, with three defenders (Lowry, Williams and North) all missing out on the final 23. While I feel that the decision to cut Williams is harsh, if Verbeek’s claims of medical issues are true, the decision is probably justified. Sadly, Craig Moore and Lucas Neill will probably be starting together, with Wilkshire on the right and either Chipperfield or Carney on the left. While we will miss the versatility of Williams, Beauchamp and Milligan will hopefully hold us in good stead.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The squad is announced...finally.

After a long wait, Pim Verbeek has finally announced his squad of 23 for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. While the team list had to be in at 8am this morning (Australian Eastern Time), Pim kept the list under wraps so he could confer with players and the medical team. But finally, Verbeek has announced that (as expected) James Holland, Tommy Oar and Eugene Galekovic will all miss out. Less expected however is the news that Rhys Williams and Shane Lowry will also miss the cut.


The decision allows both Dario Vidosic and Richard Garcia the opportunity to remain in the squad. It will however leave the Socceroos light at the back, with Jade North already cut from the squad.

The squad is:
Goalkeepers: Adam Federici, Brad Jones, Mark Schwarzer

Defenders: Michael Beauchamp, David Carney, Scott Chipperfield, Mark Milligan, Craig Moore, Lucas Neill, Luke Wilkshire

Midfielders: Mark Bresciano, Tim Cahill, Jason Culina, Brett Emerton, Richard Garcia, Vincenzo Grella, Brett Holman, Mile Jedinak, Carl Valeri, Dario Vidosic

Forwards: Joshua Kennedy, Harry Kewell, Nikita Rukavytsya

More to follow.

So what do you think? Right move by Pim, or is he an idiot?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Macca gets the axe as the Socceroos edge past New Zealand

Today's big story is the somewhat surprising news that Scott McDonald has been cut from the Australian World Cup squad. Although the move was expected in some quarters, given his inability to fit Pim's system, others (such as myself) thought that the need for a plan-B would secure him a spot. However it was not to be, and McDonald has been cut along with Nicky Carle and Jade North.


In other Socceroo news, a beautiful pass from Carl Valeridinho created the winner against the All-Whites in a poor encounter, with Brett Holman securing the win in the dying seconds.

I'm afraid I do not have time to write a more comprehensive wrap (history seminar needs finishing), but you can find more news on the squad cuts here and on the Kiwi game here. Watch out for a Socceroos wrap sometime this weekend!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Semi-exclusive interview with Young Socceroo and Bolton midfielder Aaron Mooy

Let's hear it for the Mooy
By Kieran Pender

While playing for the Bolton Wanderers Reserve side, Aaron Mooy may not get the plaudits he deserves. Many Australians wouldn’t know his name, he doesn’t get to play every week in televised games, and he has to take on other reserves teams on freezing Monday nights. But Mooy is one of the future Socceroos developing his game in a top European League, honing his game in an effort to eventually play for the Bolton first team, and hopefully one day for the Socceroos in a World Cup.


Mooy joined Bolton Wanderers ahead of the 2007/08 season from Westfield Sports High School, a school which also produced ex-Bolton, current Adelaide United defender, Scott Jamieson. As Mooy puts his story, “I was spotted playing in Australia by a Bolton Scout and was asked to come on trial, and from there I signed.”

Bolton Academy boss Peter Farrell last year told the media that "He came over here when he was 14 years of age after being spotted in Australia. He got his education here at Bolton School, but he is a tremendous footballer.”

He continued to heap praise on Mooy, saying that while "...He still needs to work on his game, like the times when he hasn't got the ball, ability-wise, he oozes class. It doesn't surprise me that he has been selected for his country."

This selection for Australia has come both in the form of Youth team selection, and more recently a senior squad call up. Mooy was selected for the Young Socceroo World Cup squad, and despite a strong build up, the team failed to excite at the FIFA U20 World Cup, losing all three games.

While Mooy was disappointed with the result, he still felt there were positives. “I was disappointed (not to progress) as I thought we had a good enough squad to go past the group stage, but we just didn’t perform at our best and it cost us. However it was good to see that we were trying to play the right way, keeping the ball on the ground and moving it around, so that was a positive.”

Mooy was unexpectedly called up to the Socceroos squad for a friendly against Ireland last August, and although he didn’t make the match day team, he still thoroughly enjoyed the experience. “I was over the moon when I found out (I’d been called up). It was something I didn’t expect and it was a great experience.”

He was also the star of the prestigious Terborg Toernooi youth tournament in early 2009, earning player of the tournament award, in a tournament featuring youth sides from Ajax, Liverpool, Valencia. Young Socceroos Head Coach Jan Versleijen was full of praises for Mooy after the tournament, telling the press that “To have Aaron Mooy named as player of the tournament is a great achievement for Aaron in a very famous and high standard tournament.”

Unsurprisingly, Mooy enjoyed the tournament, in which the Young Socceroos finished third. “It was a great experience playing at the Terborg tournament as there were so many good teams and players involved in the tournament.”

Mooy has also been in good form for the Bolton Reserves, and starred for the side in their victory against Manchester United Reserves in the Manchester Senior Cup. He hit back for Bolton after United’s Paul Pogba had opened the scoring, and Mooy also proceeded to score the winning penalty in the penalty shootout.

Scoring twice against such a highly regarded youth side was a great achievement, and Mooy was pleased with the game. “It was a great win that day and the team played really well, so overall I was very happy.”


Mooy has featured prominently for the reserves team this season, and will be hoping to soon make the step up to the senior squad, or move out on loan. While Mooy believes a move on loan to a lower division side would be beneficial, he is wary of moving to early. “It would be a great experience to go on loan, but I’ve just got to concentrate on playing for Bolton at the moment.”

While moving to a foreign country at such an early age must have been hard, Mooy has found it easier to adapt because of the other young Australians currently playing in England. “Dean Bouzanis (Liverpool youth keeper, currently on loan at Accrington Stanley) and I hang out every week, I’m always in Liverpool with him! It’s great that he’s not too far away, as we’ve been hanging out since we were young.”

Mooy is hopeful of his chance to play in the Bolton first team soon, but he definitely isn’t getting ahead of himself. “All I have to do is keep trying to play my best, keep my head down, and keep trying to improve my game!”

Many thanks to Aaron Mooy for agreeing to an interview.

This article featured in Goal Weekly, Australia's best weekly football newspaper. Check it out at your local newsagent.

A reason to buy this month's Soccer International Magazine

I'm in it!


That's right, my first every feature article to be published in a magazine is now out! Check out my article/interview on/with Ryan McGowan in this month's Soccer International!

And if you do decide to give it a look, let me know what you think!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A-League fixtures announced and an odd assortment of news

The A-League fixtures for the 2010/11 season have been announced, and the first week of football will see a grand final rematch as Melbourne Victory travel to the Sydney Football Stadium. New team Melbourne Heart will kick off the season at AAMI Park on Thursday the 5th of August, while Wellington have the first bye. Every week one team will have a bye, and Central Coast have back-to-back byes in rounds 10 and 11. The season will end with the F3 derby, and this match will hopefully not have the same hype as this season's ending Sydney v Melbourne game, therefore not overshadowing the final series.


A full fixture list can be found here.

Random News Assortment:

Kasey Wehrman is back (442)

Fury appoint assistant (Fox Sports)

Beauchamp signs for the Heart (442)

Langerak off to Germany (Fox Sports)

Carle to Sydney? (442)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pim names squad...of 31


Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek has today announced his provisional World cup squad for South Africa 2010. Verbeek announced a squad of 31 instead of the usual 30, with Eugene Galekovic joining the squad in-case of injury to Mark Schwarzer, Brad Jones or Adam Federici.

The full squad is:

Michael Beachamp, Marco Bresciano, Tim Cahill, Nick Carle, David Carney, Scott Chipperfield, Jason Culina, Brett Emerton, Adam Federici, Eugene Galekovic, Richard Garcia, Vincenzo Grella, James Holland, Brett Holman, Mile Jedinak, Brad Jones, Joshua Kennedy, Harry Kewell, Shane Lowry, Scott McDonald, Mark Milligan, Craig Moore, Lucas Neill, Jade North, Thomas Oar, Nikita Rukavytsya, Mark Schwarzer, Carl Valeri, Dario Vidosic, Luke Wilkshire, Rhys Williams

A selection of interesting pieces on the squad:

Con Stamocostas, editor of Half Time Heroes, runs the rule over the squad (A Football Story)

Pim: GloryRoos had to miss out (442)

More Pim: Why I picked the players I did (442)

Pim Quote of the Day:

"David was one of the players who was champion with FC Twente this year. I saw the celebration and I promise you David was part of the celebration. Aussies like celebrations and parties and he did very well in his team." (On David Carney's selection. WHAT? I'm not criticising the selection, Carney is a good player. But WHAT? He likes partying...great.)

A more detailed review of the squad will follow in the coming days.

So what do you think? Who will get cut from the squad and will moving to Norway and being a bench warmer help my bid for World Cup selection? Let us know!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Preview - Valencia CF v Xerez CD

Valencia CF

A poor game against Espanyol from a tired David Villa may see Nikola Žigić start ahead of the Spanish striker, as the Serbian was in cracking form with two goals against the Catalans. Elsewhere in the squad Chori Domínguez may be back from a club imposed suspension, but it is unlikely Emery would start the Argentinean after last week’s ‘disagreement’ with trainer Pako Aiestaran.

Another interesting battle for a spot in the starting lineup is out on the left wing. Juan Mata, Vicente Rodríguez (pictured), and Jordi Alba are all fit and ready to play. The chances of Alba starting in midfield are slim, as it seems very likely he will remain the team's emergency left back for the remainder of the season.

Vicente has been back from injury for about the past two months, and is only getting better with each match. His accurate crossing and willingness to take on defenders has really changed the way that the ball is delivered in from the left side of the midfield. Mata has been struggling recently, and with the World Cup just around the corner (and the fact that he has probably played the most minutes out of any player over the last two seasons), Unai Emery seems content with letting Vicente start at the moment.

Valencia are currently sitting in third place with 65 points, six ahead of fourth placed Mallorca. With three games remaining, they need only one point to all but secure a Champions League spot, while four points will guarantee them third spot. Los Che will be looking to find three of those points on Tuesday night at the Mestalla.

Valencia CF squad:

To Be Announced.

Xerez CD

Xerez secured an important win with a 95th minute goal against Almería on Saturday, but still find themselves rock-bottom in 20th place. Six points in the remaining three games would give the Azulinos a chance of survival, but realistically they need nine points if they are to have anything more than a slight chance of staying in the top flight. With fixtures against Real Zaragoza and Osasuna after playing at the Mestalla, a win is vital for Xerez as they look to close out the season strong.

Valencia’s young keeper Renan Brito could be key for the visitors, and has played well for the relegation threatened team all season. Although Xerez have the second worst defensive record in the league, it would be a lot worse if it wasn’t for the Brazilian.

Mario Bermejo (pictured) will also be important, and will be looking to continue his run of form after scoring against both Almería and Barcelona. The experienced striker has netted 12 times this season for the Andalucían side, and is currently the 10th highest La Liga goal-scorer for the 2009/10 season.

A worrying trend for Xerez, however, is their lack of discipline. They have been down to 10 men in both of their last two games. If they fall foul of the referee at the Mestalla, they will most likely be enjoying second division football next season.

Xerez CD squad:

Goalkeepers: Renan Brito, Chema

Defense: David Prieto, Juan Redondo, Jesús Mendoza, Aythami, Leandro Gioda, José Manuel Casado

Midfield: Álex Bergantiños, Victor Sánchez, Abel Gómez, Vicente Moreno,

Strikers: Antoñito, Mario Berjemo, Emiliano Armenteros, Matías Alustiza, Míchel, Fabián Orellana

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Preview - Valencia CF v Deportivo La Coruña

Little piece I did for Loco For Los Che

Valencia CF

Although Deportivo La Coruña’s trip to the Mestalla may not have the significance it would have had earlier in the season, both teams still desperately need the points and neither will be playing easy on Saturday night.

Valencia looked to be moving well clear of the chasing pack only a few weeks ago, but losses to Real Madrid and Mallorca has seen Los Che drop to only four points clear of Mallorca, and five of Sevilla. A loss to Deportivo and wins for Mallorca and Sevilla could potentially put Valencia’s Champions League aspirations under severe threat.

In other competitions, Los Che were recently eliminated by Atlético Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Europa League, after a 2-2 draw at the Mestalla, followed by a 0-0 draw in Madrid. While controversy was rife in the second-leg, ultimately Valencia should have played better in both.

With Villa and Silva both in good form, Deportivo will have to be weary at the back. What more can be said about Valencia’s sublime attacking threat? In full flight, the dynamic attack of Villa, Silva, Mata and Pablo/Joaquin, is the best attack in the world, capable of putting any team to the sword.

Valencia CF squad:

To Be Announced

Deportivo La Coruña

Deportivo had a solid start to the season and were looking to push on and secure the final Champions League position, but a poor run of results has seen them slip out of the Europa League places. Currently sitting in 9th place, Super Depor need a run of results to get back into contention for European football, and will be looking to start that run with a win against Valencia.

Andrés Guardado (pictured) has been key for Deportivo this season, and had a great game against Valencia back in December, but unfortunately for Depor he will miss the game with a muscular injury. Guardado is not the only injury facing Deportivo, as they will head to the Mestalla without eight players. In the midst of the injury crisis, reliable midfielders Sergio González and Juan Carlos Valerón could be crucial, as Depor look to break up Valencia’s attacking options. Up front, seasoned striker Riki could be as crucial, as he and Adrián López look to create chances without the help of Guardado.

While Deportivo may not have had the season they had hoped for, Valencia fans should not underestimate the team that has already drawn with Los Che twice and in the Copa del Rey this season. Back in December the two sides ground out a 0-0 stalemate at the Estadio Riazor, and Deportivo improved on this with a 2-1 victory in the Copa del Rey, followed by a 2-2 draw in the second leg.

Deportivo La Coruña squad:

Goalkeepers: Daniel Aranzubía, Manu

Defense: Laure, Manuel Pablo, Piscu, Zé Castro, Raúl, Rochela

Midfield: Antonio Tomás, Iván Pérez, Juan Rodríguez, Juan Carlos Valerón, Pablo Álvarez, Sergio González

Strikers: Mista, Adrián López, Lassad Nouioui, Riki

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Head of A-League quits

Archie Fraser, the head of the A-League, has resigned after just thirteen months in the job. He will however stay on at the FFA, in a new role trying to ensure a future for the three Queensland A-League club.


It is believed Fraser will now take up the reigns as acting chief executive at North Queensland, as well as being a consultant for the FFA on all three Queensland clubs. Talking to the media, FFA CEO Ben Buckley said:

“I want to thank Archie for his outstanding contribution in the role of Head of Hyundai A-League since joining us last February. It has been both a very challenging and very successful year for the A-League with the expansion to a ten team competition, and whilst presenting some challenges, it underpinned a growth of over 300,000 in additional spectators."

Buckley also confirmed that the FFA will now begin the process of finding a new A-League head.

So what do you think of Buckley? Was his year and a bit in charge successful or are the failures at North Queensland and Gold Coast partly his fault? Let us know!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Roar trio sign for Utrecht

The Brisbane Roar have lost three of their most promising youngsters with Tommy Oar, Micheal Zullo and Adam Sarota all signing for Dutch side FC Utrecht. Oar, 18, Zullo, 21 and Sarota, also 21, have all been trialling for Utrecht for the last few weeks, and finally signed this week.


Oar has signed for the Dutch club for five years, while the other two have both signed three year contracts. The loss of three promising youngsters will be a massive blow to the Brisbane club, and Roar chief executive Peter McLennan expressed his mixed views to the media:

"You can't help but be disappointed to lose three young players who have the undoubted potential of Tommy, Michael and Adam. However, for the Brisbane Roar this is tempered by the knowledge we have provided each of them with the platform to potentially become the next generation of Socceroos. Our aim as a club has always been to identify exciting young talent, provide them with an environment to develop and the opportunity to prove themselves in the Hyundai A-League. The unfortunate downside of this is when these players display the talent we've identified it becomes very difficult to hold onto them."

The signings will however provide the Roar with some funds (the deal is rumoured to be around 1.8 million dollars), and salary cap room, with which manager Ange Postecoglou can rebuild the squad. Whether he has the ability to rebuild a squad shattered by the loss of firstly Craig Moore, and now the young trio, is another question though.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Half Time Heroes March/General Update

Hey everyone, sorry for the lack of posts recently. Have been really busy with school. But, holidays in two weeks time! In football related news, I am going down to Melbourne in the first week of the holidays to do work experience at Soccer International magazine, which should be a blast :).

In other news, I've started getting articles published in weekly Australian football magazine Goal Weekly. So you should definitely check it out. A list of the newsagents it is available from is here.

I'm also currently writing an article on Gold Coast United striker Golgol Mebrahtu, after I conducted an interview with him last week (well, via the GCU press officer), and finally two weeks ago I interviewed U20 Socceroo Ryan McGowan, who is currently on loan from Hearts at Ayr United. Ohh and I have an article on Aaron Mooy (Young Socceroo, currently at Bolton) that should be in Goal Weekly this week or next. Until then, enjoy this months HTH, and check out my article on Spanish progress in Europe.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bling FC v The Sprightly Upstarts: Preliminary Final preview

Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix, Preliminary Final, Sydney Football Stadium, Saturday March 13, 8pm (EDT)


After a disappointing loss to Melbourne on aggregate, the Sky Blues will be looking to bounce back against the high flying Phoenix. Wellington had a great last month, and have been flying high with the massive support of their supporters. But after two home games they may struggle to be playing in-front of a (hopefully) hostile crowd. Sydney however will be focused on bouncing back from last weekend's defeat, and while there is speculation Shannon Cole could still be out, they will otherwise have a strong team.

My Tip: As much as I'd like to tip Wellington to continue on their amazing run, I think it will be a bridge too far for the Phoenix. Sydney will probably bounce back stronger after their aggregate loss to Melbourne, and take down Wellington on their road for a Melbourne rematch. Sydney 2-1

Some words from Luka:

The biggest mistake Sydney FC has made over the course of it's short history (a noteworthy achievement) was strenuously denouncing their marvelous "Bling FC" moniker:

"When people think of Sydney FC, we don't want them to think of Bling FC but as a team associated with quality, aspiration and as a club that represents everybody, whether you're talking about the bloke in the local pub or the senior business person," Former (or current, I've lost track really) chief executive Stefan Kamasz said last year.

However, this nickname was at least a fan/media observation and view of the club that occurred naturally. It was not marketed, Sydney's "posh-ness" was not fabricated by some suits up in Moore Park or Frank Lowie's office in Martin Place. This epithet was an antithesis to what the A-League still is - gimmicky, plastic, lacking characters and, most importantly of all, lacking real club identities. Look at Kamasz' words - who is he, or club management, to forge or remove a club's nickname? I loved to be associated with "Bling FC", rather than "Rags FC", the soon-to-be nickname given to our poorer cousins Sydney Rovers (think of the Clippers to the Lakers, the Mets to the Yankees, the Citehs to the Uniteds before the Arab Invasion). Of course, all that talk has led to nothing.

Sydney FC are still the same team as they were 5 years ago, for better or worse, and let's keep it that way, eh? No need to appeal to the paupers. We're not in Penrith. At least Harry Ngata still agrees with me. It's what has given us consistent success over the years (Uncle Lowy's generous helping hand aside).


The same cannot be said about Wellington, who chose the right nickname in the Phoenix - think the Phoenix which rose from the ashes of that shockingly bad Auckland team - to describe their meteoric rise to prominence. The 'Nux ("Nix" in a lovely NZ accent) stand one match away from the A-League grand final, and by God do they deserve it. They couldn't have ridden the crest of their wave of good form better had they been the love-child of Layne Beachley and Kelly Slater. They have John McKain back at CB, while Paul Ifil will play with a slight injury but would probably be willing to play missing a limb or two. Their gameplan borders mostly on a simple application of physics - hoping that their momentum trumps Sydney's inertia. Though, no level of inertia is a match for Pep Guardiola's masterpiece of motivation:

which Vitezslav Lavicka will no doubt have given to each of his players as homework to study, to learn, to love and to ignite the burning desires within.

My tip: to win 1-0. Aloisi.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Semi final preview

Four games to go. Two semi finals, a preliminary final and a grand final. So here's a preview of two of those games, the minor semi-final and the second leg of the major semi final.


Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets, Minor semi-final, Westpac Stadium, Sunday, 2.00pm (both times EDT)

Luka: Mark Jones, Branko's right-hand mand man with the Jets, foreshadows (indirectly) an opening onslaught by the Phoenix: "It is important that we keep that shape especially for the first 30 minutes. It is important that we don't break down in the first 30 minutes and basically making sure in a nutshell that we have a system of play that we follow." In other words, defend and hope for the best in what is going to be a white-hot atmosphere at the sold out Cake Tin stadium (fitting name really) in Wellington. Tickets for the game were snapped up like hotcakes (ok I'll stop) in what are exciting times for football in New Zealand.

Kieran: Wellington have been building over the past few weeks, and although they had to go to penalties against Perth, they're still on hot form. Newcastle were very against Gold Coast, and will once again probably struggle up front (unless Kaz Patafta puts on a masterclass...). With a capacity crowd behind them I can't see anything other than a Phoenix victory. Wellington 2-1

Marcus: I can't see Newcastle winning this game. With a sold out Westpac Stadium and form on there side Wellington should do it relatively easily. On the team sheet Newcastle get Ben Kantarovski back and Wellington lose McKain through suspension, but I can't see it making a difference. Newcastle have been struggling especially without Michael Bridges up front, they were lucky to beat GCU last week as they rarely threatened for large periods during the match. Wellington 3-0

Friday, February 26, 2010

News round

Lots of news is flying around in the A-League world, so here is a quick wrap and lots of links.


Sydney's move for Carle unlikely
Sydney FC's bid to replace retired Steve Corica with Nicky Carle looks to have failed. The World Game reports that the Sky Blues were very interested in Carle but believe Crystal Palace valuation is to high.

Worm in the Heart
Melbourne Heart have signed Dutch winger Rutger Worm from NEC Nijmegen. Worm will join the likes of Matt Thompson, Clint Bolton, Kristian Sarkies and Jason Hoffman ahead of the club's A League debut season.

Viduka has decided!
Mark Viduka has decided on which Melbourne club to join, the Melbourne Knights. The club today announced that Viduka will be their number one season ticket holder this season. The news does seem to suggest that the V-Bomber has given up on any future playing career.

Interesting news and opinion:

Asians head home for World Cup while Australians look to leave (Goal)

GCU sack Okon (Fox Sports)

Heart sign teen star Ibrahim (TWG)

Culina move still a mystery (Fox Sports)

Roar bring Paartalu back home (Soccernet)

Milligan: Asia is good for me (TWG)

Allsopp: Roo dream no more (442)