Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Schwarzer takes away Chinese chance of Kumming glory

The roar that erupted in the Charles Dickens Tavern when Mark Schwarzer made his penalty save was as loud as any I have heard within its walls. I wanted to yell out: "That one's for Tibet!" but I kept my mouth shut. I did say to the two guys in front of me on the noise generated: "Its like we've scored." Their response: "Its even better than that!" And I think that most people in the extremely crowded pub agreed. A pub so crowded that my late arriving girlfriend almost didn't make it inside. Many people obviously finishing their working day early, as I had done, to take in the game.

I would have to agree with The Football Tragic that we were pretty luck to get away with a point in Kumming. It was clear early on that the Chinese had set out to frustrate a clearly undermanned Australian outfit by packing their defensive half. This seemed an odd tactic considering that the Socceroos were clearly lacking an out an out striker, particularly after the injury to Thompson and probably showed the lack of confidence within the Chinese team in front of their home crowd.

I think Verbeek got his tactics right on the night (or day as it was) with our lack of firepower that was available for the game. As said above it was helped that the Chinese played into his hands. The combination of Grella and Valeri as two holding midfielders was excellent and provided perfect foils for each other. Tactially, it was almost Capello-esque. For this combination to work in other situations a more creative midfielder is required rather than having Cullina in there as well. Myself along with the masses that were crammed into the bar, let out a groan as they realised that possibly Thompson would probably miss upcoming ACL games and that his replacement would be Brett Holman. I have never really been a big fan of Holman. Too often he appears to run around like a chicken sans head. Although at times he did appear to reverting to old habits he did his thankless job well, although not quite as well as a lot of pundits would make out.

A lot of credit for the point must also go to our defence with both North and Neill putting in outstanding performances ably assisted by Beauchamp after a slow start. Their only mistake was the failure to cover the long ball that resulted in the referee pointing to the spot. North looked really comfortable in the team and if the rumours are true he will be soon heading overseas in order to gain more game time in order to maintain his position within the squad. Newcastle's loss, but the Socceroos gain. Of concern would be the lack of width provided by both Carney and Wilkshire on their respective sides of the park.

A comment must be made about the poor performance put in by the referee, only moments after Holman received a soft yellow card for a minor shirt tug, Sun Ji Hai puts in a studs up, ankle destroying type tackle on Wilkshire and walks away without even a yellow card. It should have been a straight red and it had the patrons incensed. Although they were appeased somewhat when Valeri put in a strong tackle only moments before full time.
There was also a number of dodgy calls that appeared to go against the Australians - but they always seem to do for the away team

With Qatar pulling off a surprising 2-0 victory over Asian Champions, Iraq, the Socceroos are now in a good position to progress to the next stage of the qualification process. The two games against the Iraqis, both home and away will more than likely decide who will be advancing from the group. June will also provide a feast of international football with the last four games of this qualification stage occurring in a torrid three weeks. It also provides a great opportunity for all European-based members of our squad to play regularly together in high quality games as it will be their off-season.

A more comprehensive analysis of the game can also be found here, here and here.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Word of the day: Impressive

impressive adj. capable of impressing, esp. by size, magnificence, etc.; awe-inspiring; commanding

I made my way down to Bob Jane Stadium yesterday to take in the clash between South Melbourne and the AIS and put it simply I was impressed. Impressed by the AIS and their quality of their play. Impressed by a team that wasn't intimidated by a much physically stronger and more experienced team and even took it up to their opponents. For the record the AIS team picked up a 2-0 victory, which put them in second place on the VPL table only a point behind leaders Oakleigh and with a game in hand.

Players that impressed me were Jason Naidovski, scorer of both goals and leading scorer in the VPL with 8 goals to his name; Matthew Theodore, who controlled the AIS midfield and almost got on the score sheet himself; and Luke Devere in the centre of defence, who was rarely beaten and marshalled his defence well. I am looking forward to seeing these players on a more regular basis as I am sure most of this team will be picked for either A-League youth squads or their senior squads.

To read my report on the match, click here, where I impressed myself by not using the word impressive as much as I thought I would. And as bonus you can hear me talk about the game by listening to Eamonn's Nearpost Radio Show here.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Lack of motivation and Pele reviewed

There has been a severe lack of motivation lately on my part to write anything of substance down in recent times. This is probably due to a combination of work pressures and social and sporting commitments. Although to be fair I still have been writing about football, just not on these pages. And who would have thought that after the end of the A-League season that I would be watching more football than during it. I have been in attendance at all of my newly adopted team, Richmond's first four games in the VPL which included on away trip to Fawkner. Plus doing some match reports on other games means that on most weekends I will be watching at least two games of football.

I have also been doing a fair bit of reading, most of it not necessarily football related but I am halfway through Australia United by Tony Wilson (only halfway through because my girlfriend has borrowed it and is now reading it herself) and finished off Pele: The Autobiography (Simon & Schuster, 2006). The Ball Is Round by David Goldblatt is also taunting me from my bookshelf but its number of pages and comprehensiveness is scaring me a little.

Back to that book about Pele, a player many consider to be the best that has ever been. For me, Diego Maradona is the best only because I got to see him play at his best (only on TV mind you). The book is an enjoyable read and of course it is an amazing story and is probably a better read than Maradona's own autobiography. One thing that amazed me was the number of exhibition matches that were played by Pele with his club Santos. Unfortunately for Santos they have never really again reached the dizzying heights they achieved with Pele again since his departure. For the most part, Pele is pretty up front with the things that going on in and around football but I would have to agree with Hamish, that his current career is reducing his ability to be so candid. Pele's achievements will probably never be challenged and to read about how these records were achieved is truly riveting reading. A must read for all football fans.