Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Break

Well it’s the Christmas break for Australian football and with the League winners confirmed as Melbourne with their 4-0 Victory (excuse the pun) over the playing-wise and financially dire New Zealand Knights, the attention now turns to the race for the remaining finals spots as well as the Asian frontier that Sydney and Adelaide are now preparing to enter.

Many ‘experts’ within the media are writing off both Perth and Queensland for a finals berth but the chance is still there for them all. Only 6 points separates 3rd place from 7th place which tells me that anyone in there is still in with a chance to make the finals and I am not prepared to stick my neck out yet and call who the top 4 will be.

The real interest for me over the last few weeks has been Asia. Both the Asian Cup and Asian Champions League draws were made last week with results that I think are both great for football and exciting. The Asian Cup sees the Socceroos drawn into Group A alongside co-host Thailand, Iraq and Oman. With who I believe to be our biggest threat within the tournament Japan being drawn into Group B, we need to win our group to try to avoid playing the Group B winners in the Quarter Finals.

I do however agree with Craig Foster in thinking that Graham Arnold should consider anything less than winning the tournament a failure. Don’t lower our expectations Arnie, if you don’t win the tournament, you most definitely will be replaced as coach…. You should be replaced even if we win…. But moving on…

As for the regions club tournament, the Asian Champions League, I think that the contrasting hard draws that Sydney and Adelaide have been handed will be a positive. I was worried that we would be seeing Sydney vs the Uzbekistani or some other obscure minnow facing at Aussie Stadium on a Wednesday night in front of a less than 9000 crowd with the majority of the city registering a care factor or zero! Sydney however drew a dream draw for me, being placed in Group E alongside Japanese champions and the biggest drawcard in the tournament, Uruwa Red Diamonds, Chinese runners up Shanghai Shenhua and the Indonesian champions Persik Kediri.

Adelaide were just as lucky… or unlucky depending on how you choose to look at it, in being placed in Group G with similarly tough opponents. They will face Korean Champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, Chinese league and cup champions Shandong Luneng and Vietnamese champions Dong Tam Long An. They should have similarly no problems in selling out Hindmarsh for their matches.

Football in this country just keeps getting better and better and this new Asian frontier is no exception. Bring it on!


Friday, December 15, 2006

Sydney vs Perth

A Thursday night game against struggling Perth was never going to bring in the hoards but if I had have been offered the 11 000 crowd that was there, I would have jumped on it. (Sounds like my new hobby of bet trading but that’s another story…..) For the 11 000 that did bother to show up they sure saw some action and excitement which I have to say has been a regular fixture at Aussie Stadium over the last few weeks.

Of course I gave referee, Simon Przydacz an earful when he pulled the red card out of his pocket for Rudan’s tackle on Bertos but deep down I knew I had nothing to complain about. Obvious goal scoring opportunity, man heading towards goal with the ball, brought down from behind by the last defender. Take your pick at what you think he chose to write on the report he had to fill out saying what he was sent for.

From that moment it was looking bleak for Sydney and I was waiting for us to sit back and try to take a point. If Perth were to give themselves even the slightest chance of still making the finals they had to win and I thought they would go much more ‘all out’ for the win than what they did. I want to give credit to Bolton who made some amazing saves from breakaways but other than that Perth never kept possession and tried to stretch the 10 man Sydney.

Sydney on the other hand were able to keep attacking and I want to finally give Terry Butcher a pat on the back for his tactical set up both before and after the red card. Although he did not really have a defensive option on the bench, the substitution of Carney for Zadkovich was definitely not a defensive move. Carney was noticeably not on song, holding the ball when he should be laying it off to an overlapping player and passing when he should have been shooting on numerous occasions throughout the first half. Sydney kept their attacking wide play with Middleby and Zadkovich playing alongside the still very attackingly positioned Brosque.

Sydney started with Brosque as the lone striker, an experiment which we as fans have been crying out to be tested. Now yes Brosque was the goal scorer tonight but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it quite worked. I think it is fairly accepted now that Bosque’s ideal position is sitting just behind the striker in the 4-2-3-1 that Butcher loves to play or playing just off the striker in the alternative 4-4-2.

There was always a perception that Brosque was fast. The man has a full box of tricks and even though he is low on confidence and out of form I still defiantly rate the bloke but in absolute no way is he fast. Being outpaced to the ball by David Tarka last night certainly proves this point. The whole game we were saying how Brosque needs the ball at his feet and he is not a scrapper for goals… Isn’t it ironic that he scored with a leaping header after a cross to the back post?

After the goal you could see that when Brosque got the ball at his feet he wanted it and wanted to take players on again. Hopefully the goal gives him some confidence and we FINALLY see Brosque’s real potential realised.


Monday, December 11, 2006

The Derby - 3rd Edition

A 0-0 draw at a packed Telstra Dome was probably once again the expected result with Sydney having never won south of the border and Melbourne wanting to give their massive crowds something to cheer about. I don’t think that there was any doubt that Butcher sent his team in to play for the draw.

It could have backfired so easily though with Thompson having a few clear cut chances that any real Socceroo would have buried! (Like the little subtle dig at my southern rivals there ;) ). In the end the result was beneficial for both teams.

The only blight on the evening is the ‘alleged’ trouble in the crowd between a minority of Melbourne fans and The Cove. We know there is this ‘hate’ between the two teams and sets of fans but open your eyes and think what is best for the league and the image. The rivalry is a good thing, the idiocy of these ‘hardcores’ is just giving our games rivals more bait to take!

I loved hearing that last nights crowd at the Telstra Dome was the biggest at that ground since an AFL match back in 2004! That truly is an amazing acheivment in AFL mad Victoria. I’m going to be lazy and quote an article off the A-League website that certainly puts Friday nights match into the history books.

The attendance shattered the previous record for a domestic football match in Australia set at 43,292 at the NSL final in Perth in 2000. Rudan said the popularity of the Hyundai A-League is fitting reward for those fans who have waited a long time for Australian domestic football to capture the nation.

"Just before we walked out in the tunnel (referee) Mark Shield turned around and said, 'Mate, can you believe this?' From Sydney United to 50-55,000," he said. "Every time we had a goal kick I had to look around and just take it all in, it was something special tonight."


Monday, December 04, 2006

FC vs Mariners

Being a Cove season ticket holder I am quite proud to say I have been to every home game this season. I am however not proud to admit that I have not yet experienced an away trip. With Gosford only being an extra hour or so north of Sydney it is very accessible but different work aspects have come together to conspire against me!

I have recently got a Christmas job during my uni end of session break doing nightfill at Toys R Us and this job has restricted my traveling on both Gosford away trips. The first one was I wasn’t getting enough shifts and had a grand total of $22 in my bank account. Now Christmas is fast approaching I have become a slave, working 5 nights a week doing 8 or 9 hour shifts sometimes to 4am! What makes it even better is thanks to good ol’ Johnny Howard, I get a flat $11.70 an hour with no penalty rates whatsoever! At least I had enough money to go to Gosford on Sunday but just no time thanks to an insane amount of shifts! I can’t win!

I did get to catch a replay today without knowing the result so it was close to watching it live… I thought that a 0-0 stalemate was pretty much the expected result. Although both teams had chances such as Corica’s open header and Mrdja’s thunderbolt of a free kick that cannoned into the post, both teams were very set and solid in defense. With both teams on winning streaks and with Adelaide losing to Melbourne, no team was going to move up or down the ladder with a win or a loss.

What I am more interested in talking about is the relationship and fun that the supporter groups of both teams, “The Marinators” and “The Cove” share when games are played. I was left just shaking my head once again at anti football journalism written in the Central Coast Express Advocate here. Come on… Riot Police… The “firm” in question, the Central Coast Stadium Elite, are a bunch of 15 year old keyboard warriors with a totally riot police worthy MySpace account and a forum name!

As a Rugby League fan from my childhood I was always afraid of “soccer hooligans”. I eventually ended up going to Northern Spirit matches and now onto Sydney FC where the crowd is fun and the total opposite to the stereotype that is out there about the kind of people that football fans are. When will these journalists such as Noone of the Advocate and Fitzy of the Herald attend a game and buck their stereotypes and crazy bias against football that we are all so sick of reading. The Football Tragic has some good pieces on this issue that I recommend you read here.

As expected there were no ‘riots’ or ‘firm battles’ between the so called fierce rival supporter groups, just fun banter and singing which is one of the main attributes that attracts me to football rather than another code.