Tag Archives: soccer

Tuesday musing – Farewell Ange and Aussies off to a bolter in the Ashes

I have been a longtime supporter of Ange Postecoglou and was especially pleased when he was appointed as Socceroos coach to replace Holger Osieck. There can be no doubt that Ange has turned the team’s fortunes around as at one stage the Socceroos had slumped to number 100 in the FIFA world rankings but he now has them back at 39 after qualifying for the World Cup. Ange also managed to win an Asian Championship along the way so he is definitely leaving the National team in a lot better shape than when he took over. Given that success I was most disappointed that he decided to pull the pin on his time as the manager of the team. A bit like David Gallup, I am puzzled as to why you would walk away after having scaled the mountain the hard way. It reminds me of David Hall, who was the original trainer of Maykbe Diva. After the first Melbourne Cup win he went overseas to pursue a training career leaving the Diva with Lee Freedman to chalk up two more wins. At least he had the first win! The search is now on for a new manager and I have heard many names mentioned including current Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold, Brisbane Roar coach John Aloisi, former Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic, Melbourne Victory’s Kevin Muscat and, in a blast from the past, Aussie Guus Hiddink. I hope the powers that be stick with a well credentialled Aussie coach. Personally I think Arnold has the ability to do the top job. He already knows the difficulties having been the Socceroos coach from 2006-2007 and he has been a success in the national competition with his A League side currently holding all three trophies.

Great to see the Ashes series has started as it is the most anticipated series in world cricket. In the recently completed First Test, the Australians gained the ascendancy after being able to scratch out a slim first innings lead then managed to take some crucial, early second innings wickets. The Aussie speed trio of Hazlewood, Cummins and Starc were wonderful and had the English on the back foot in both innings. Providing the three can stay fit, they will be more than a handful for the English over the final four tests. A special mention to the skipper too. Steve Smith’s innings was the real difference between the sides and the only reason the Aussies had a first innings lead. Without his contribution we would have been facing a sizeable deficit to make up and that would have completely turned the tables. Our top order needs to take a leaf out of Smith’s book and seek to occupy the crease rather than go after quick runs all the time. After all it is a ‘Test’ not a 20/20 game.

Weekend musing – World Cup qualification, Socceroos, Elyse Perry, the Ashes, Shaun Marsh….

It was great to watch the Socceroos qualify on Wednesday for the World Cup in Russia. I didn’t think they played that well, but deserved the win and deserved the free kick and penalties which resulted in the goals. It is hard to fathom how the Honduras captain could come out and suggest the referee was on the take! While I didn’t think the Australians played to their potential, the Hondurans were very ordinary. Australia’s big problem is the best finisher in the side is Tim Cahill and he is now 38 years old. Cahill himself wants more game time for Melbourne City to hone his skills for the World Cup, but at 38 he doesn’t get to as many contests as he may have in his prime. His finishing against Syria won the game for Australia, but his contribution between goals was negligible. This is a delicate balance because they need him in and around the team. I do not envy the task of Melbourne City manager, Warren Joyce.

Also great to see Elyse Perry get a 200 for the Australian women’s cricket team. She is a genuine all-rounder in all forms of the game and a match winner. I doubt Australia has produced a better all-rounder in men’s or women’s cricket. Not only that, she has also represented Australia in women’s soccer. What a player!!

Speaking of cricket the men’s squad for the first test was announced today with a few surprises. Shaun Marsh being re-called for an 8th time was a big shock, but Cameron Bancroft almost picked himself with his recent record. Also out of left field was the selection of Tim Paine as the keeper. Before he started breaking fingers he was the heir apparent to Brad Hadin, but Paine isn’t even the first choice wicket keeper for Tasmania so what do the Australian selectors know that the Tasmanians don’t? While it was out of left field I support the move because he is a very good keeper and a very accomplished batsman. Marsh effectively taking Glenn Maxwell’s spot is the real bolt from the blue. Maxwells’ shield form has not been that bad with a couple of 50’s and a 45 not out in the most recent game so his form had been okay compared to Matt Renshaw. I have questioned the selectors before and most of the time they seem to get it right, but Marsh has more often than not been a disappointment when selected for Australia so I can’t agree with them there.

Have a great weekend!

Weekend musing – Drew Morphett, Nathan Buckley, All Australian team, Chris Scott, Ange Postecoglou

One of things I want to discuss is the tragic passing of Drew Morphett. Drew was one of those classic ABC commentators who was comfortable commentating on anything from football to athletics to tiddlywinks. He was always interested in presenting the picture to the audience and not pumping up his own tyres. In a pretty cut-throat industry I think he was universally liked by his peers. He will be missed.

I was also pleased that Nathan Buckley was reappointed as Collingwood coach for another two years as this will consign Collingwood to another two years out of the finals. It has to be good for the competition.

It was interesting to see that three of the banned Essendon players made the All Australian team with Hurley the only player to have made the team previously. Unfortunately for Essendon, Paddy Ryder (Port Adelaide) and Michael Hibberd (Melbourne) no longer play for the club. What it does show is that a year out of the game is not fatal for a player in his 20’s, but perhaps once you get to thirty it is not a positive experience.

Chris Scott took Geelong into another finals series last night and his fellow coaches recently voted him as the hardest coach to coach against. He certainly has had a lot of success since taking over from Bomber Thompson, however, his finals record needs some scrutiny. Since the 2011 finals series where Geelong won three games, including the premiership, but with the loss to Richmond, he has now contested a further nine finals for only two wins and one of those wins was over Hawthorn last year when Isaac Smith had a shot after the siren that could have taken the game away from Geelong. I think a few questions need to be posed as to Scott’s finals coaching record.

Speaking of coaches I cannot believe that Ange Postecoglou has come under so much pressure recently. He got the Socceroos an Asian Cup and in the current qualifiers the Socceroos have only lost one game. They do have an issue with scoring, but I put that down to personnel, not system. His system creates scoring chances, but we don’t seem to have the quality of strikers to put the goals away and this was no more evident that the recent game against Thailand. I think Tommy Juric is a good developing striker in the Mark Viduka mould, but we need a Harry Kewell or Tim Cahill at his best to compliment Juric. This is not Postecoglou’s fault, he has tried to develop players, but Australia just does not have genuine strikers playing at the highest level. Let the World Cup campaign pan out and reassess at the end.

Have a great weekend!

Weekend musing – Jumper punches, World Cup qualifiers…..

Whilst there was not all that much to tweak my interest this week, I did think Tom Hawkins was dead set stiff for copping a suspension when his hit was quite minor compared to the Cotchin, Cunnington & Jones hits of the previous few weeks. Having said that, you would think with all the publicity attached to those recent hits, he wasn’t using his brains to grab a jumper and then punch someone. The AFL were going to make a stand at some stage and Hawkins was the first one to be subject to the Match Review Panel’s crack down.

I was pleased to see that Josh Schache re-signed with Brisbane. Brisbane have coughed up a lot of players over the last couple of years and it is good to see one of their top draft picks choosing to stay. It’s about time things started to run their way.

It was also good to see the Socceroos succeed against Saudi Arabia on Friday night. Despite an indifferent performance they got the win and evened up the points with the Saudis and now only trail by goal difference. The pressure is on this team to make the World Cup finals and, if they make it, it will be a testament to the coaching of Ange Postecoglou. From what I see this current Australian team is a bit short on talent compared to more recent World Cup campaigns and while they have not yet confirmed qualification for the World Cup, they are still the only team in the group to be undefeated. Clearly, the match against the Blue Samurai in Japan in August will be crucial to qualification for both teams. Japan has the harder draw as they then play Saudi Arabia away in their last game while the Socceroos play bottom of the table Thailand in Australia.

Have a great weekend!

Weekend musing – Arsenal’s FA Cup, Wenger re-appointed, AFL, Dreamtime game controversy, Huddersfield Town promoted to Premier League

I was pleased to see that Arsene Wenger re-signed with Arsenal for another two years. While I understand there is a lot of discussion about him being moved on by Arsenal supporters, in the end he has still had a good year. The Gunners accumulated 75 points this year finishing fifth in the EPL. That would have got them into the top four on eight of the previous ten years and in two of those years they would have finished second. Arsenal also won the FA Cup last weekend with a great win over Premier League Champion’s, Chelsea. So the year, while frustrating, has not been a disaster. The key now is to ensure Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez remain at the Club on a long term basis. That is the biggest challenge facing Arsenal and Wenger at the moment.

The Dreamtime game between Essendon and Richmond produced a couple of controversial issues. Firstly the rushed behind resulting in an easy goal to Essendon and then Dustin Martin being named the best player on the ground. I thought the rushed behind decision was technically correct, but I certainly would not have been happy if my team was on the receiving end. A good question was raised during the week on the issue – would the Richmond player have rushed the ball through if the scores were level with little time left on the clock? I think the answer would be “no”, he would have tried to tap it to his team mate who was nearby at the time. As regards Martin being best on the ground, last year he clearly was the best on the ground, but this year I didn’t think there was a clear stand out player. In my opinion Brandon Ellis was Richmond’s best and Brendan Goddard was Essendon’s best. Martin got close to 30 touches, but his disposal efficiency was similar to the major Essendon ball winners. I was a bit surprised when Martin also got both coaches votes. I must be a poor judge!

Also great to see Aaron Mooy’s Huddersfield get into the EPL with him scoring in the penalty shoot out.

Have a great weekend!

Weekend musing – AFL, sledging, EPL final week……

There have been instances of good sportsmanship and bad sportsmanship in the AFL last weekend.

On the good side it was pleasing to see Dyson Heppell and Joel Selwood chair James Kelly off after last weeks game to celebrate Kelly’s 300th game.

On the flip side, you had the sledging allegations levelled at St Kilda players for targetting Marc Murphy in the game against Carlton targeting. This is a difficult issue and hard to assess and monitor. By drawing attention to the sledging and the content of the sledging, it brought to light rumours that I and a lot of other footy fans who aren’t on social media sites were not aware of. Where do you draw the line when it does not involve issues that are currently in the code of conduct?

Another good story in the AFL this week is the appointment of the female umpire, Eleni Glouftsis for the Essendon v West Coast game this Sunday. By all reports she has got there on her merits and deserves the chance. Another way of getting females involved in the game of Australia Rules Football.

The EPL concludes this week with Chelsea and Tottenham wrapping up the top two spots before the weekend and Manchester City almost safe in third spot. That leaves Liverpool and Arsenal in the fight for fourth position and the all important Champions League qualification. Liverpool have the easier game, but the Gunners have come with a rush in the last month and are not without some chance of finishing fourth. With Manchester United playing off for the Europa Cup and possible qualification for the Champions League, more may need to play out before the final positions are known. I have had a look at the qualification criteria and it is by no means clear. My personal view is that it would not be a bad thing for the Gunners to miss out on Europe and only concentrate on the League next season. Chelsea and Leicester have won the League in the last two years without having to worry about the Champions League.

Have a great weekend!

Weekend musing – A- League Final, Collingwood’s good recovery after playing Anzac Day game…

The A-League grand final is on this Sunday with Sydney FC the clear favourite going up against Melbourne Victory. Sydney have only lost one game this season and has beaten Victory on three occasions, but the pressure is on Sydney as they are expected to win. The Victory have nothing to lose and an early goal could cause panic in the Sydney ranks. The Victory certainly have the talent to win the game and as with most cases involving the world game, they just need to take their chances. I am going to go out on a limb and pick the Victory to win 2-0.

Whatever the Collingwood fitness staff have at their disposal the other teams should be trying to emulate it. Back in 2010 they backed up for the grand final replay in a lot better shape than St Kilda and last Sunday they did it again with a five day break after the Anzac Day game. Essendon were clearly off their game on Sunday against Melbourne who had a similar break, whereas Collingwood faced Geelong who had two clear days break on them and yet Collingwood finished strongly and won the game easily in the end.

Just on the Melbourne/Essendon game, the Bombers finally got to play the Demons at Etihad instead of the MCG, however, the Demons had already played twice at the venue this year and it was the Bombers first appearance there so any perceived advantage was lost. he first half was one of the worst halves of football I have seen from both teams. Melbourne were a lot cleaner in the second half and deserved the win.

Have a great weekend!

Weekend musing – records fall at Racing.com Park and possible strike by AFL players……

Sfan OB6pakenhamIt was interesting reviewing the results from the stand alone meeting at Racing.com Park last Saturday afternoon. I know the complex has not been open for all that long, but six track records were broken on the day, with the 1400m record broken twice. It does reflect the calibre of horses that were in attendance for a stand alone Saturday meeting, but six records in one day must be some sort of a record in itself!

The dialogue between the AFL and the Players’ Association seems aflplayersto be ramping up at the moment and while no one wants to see a strike, I must say I would not blame the players if they took industrial action. In most sporting competitions in the world the players get a percentage of the revenue so why should the AFL be any different?

I also think the AFL has to be careful with figures coming out advising that soccer is the biggest participation sport in Australia, some of our brightest stars may choose to stick with the world game.

A quiet week this week but a good one.

Have a great weekend!

Weekend musing – 3rd test wrap up, AFL rookie draft, Melbourne City take the FFA Cup……

Sfan OB6The 3rd test against South Africa was a dead rubber, but it was good to see the revitalised Australian team turn around their fortunes and get a win on the board. There were three debutantes playing in the game and I was impressed with Renshaw & Hanscombe. Unfortunately, Maddinson got a very good ball early in his only hanscombinnings, so it was impossible to say if he will be any good. Renshaw resisted very well on the first night and while he only made 10 in the first innings, he showed similar application in the second innings. In the second innings the commentators were criticising his slow play which was somewhat in contrast with their lamenting in the first and second tests the lack of players that could stick around. He was in his first test, they had plenty of time, so I could not see the issue. He did seem to play and miss a lot, but I think on some of those “misses” he actually deliberately played inside the line. Hanscombe got a 50 in his first dig and then hit the winning run so a very promising debut.

The cricket now moves to a one day series against New Zealand, which seems to be a puzzling piece of scheduling .

Sticking with cricket it was great to see the Bushrangers get up against South Australia after conceding a first innings lead. Just reminding the Australian selectors that there is some quality south of the border.

Monday saw the AFL Rookie Draft and there seemed to be a clear pattern of recruiters getting in ruckmen and taller players. There filipovicwas 27 players (ound half of the draft) over 190cm and ten of those were ruckmen. It does seem clear that clubs are not willing to waste a pick on a ruckman who may take 3-5 years to develop. This is a wise strategy, but does it jeopardise the future of ruckmen picking the AFL over basketball? I really think this is something which could cause long term problems with participation and needs to be monitored by the AFL.

Great to see Melbourne City win the FFA Cup on Wednesday night in a clash of the current top two teams in the A-League. I have been a little concerned about the City defence, but holding Sydney FC to atim cahill clean sheet perhaps indicates that my concerns were misplaced. On present form these two teams will be in contention at the end of the season and a win to City does provide some psychological advantage. Also great to see Tim Cahill amongst the goals….an inspired signing for Melbourne City.

Have a great weekend!

Weekend musing – Australian Test cricket in free fall, Socceroos need to start winning….

Sfan OB6The Australian cricket team sank to a new level this week with another comprehensive defeat at the hands of the touring team proteasfrom South Africa. This is an absolute embarrassment to go down so meekly on home soil. I don’t think I have seen two consecutive implosions like this in Australia since the rampant West Indian teams toured here in the 1980s. It has got a lot to do about the quality of our batsman. The South African bowlers have been good, but not that good.

We now have the chairman of selectors, Rod Marsh step away from marshhis position and I think scrutiny needs to go onto the coach as well. Darren Lehman was brought in at a time when the team needed to relax a little after the regimented approach of Mickey Arthur’s, but it seems to have gone too far and batsmen don’t seem to know how to work through difficult periods of play. To me this is a coaching issue.

The bowlers have been okay, but I could not see how Joe Mennie deserved a spot ahead of Jackson Bird, with Bird being on his home track. I am also a bit surprised by the lack of success by Nathan Lyon. Lyon usually picks up his 2-3 wickets an innings, but he has had a hanscombpoor run recently and will probably be dropped for the next test as long as someone else puts their hand up in this weekends Shield games. It also is a bit strange that Victoria has won the last two Sheffield Shields and yet cannot get anyone in the test team. Admittedly Peter Siddle was injured and may have been picked and the same could be said for James Pattinson, but surely someone is doing something right to win twice in a row. Peter Hanscomb with a century in the current Shield game is surely staking a claim.

There was more bad news for Australian sporting teams with the Socceroos only getting a draw in Thailand. This puts Australia back angein equal third position behind Japan & Saudi Arabia and in danger of missing out on the next World Cup. Thailand were on the bottom of the table with only one goal and no points before the debacle the other night. There is still a bit to play out and Australia is the only team in the group without a loss, but they really can’t afford to drop any more points if they want the direct pathway into the World Cup.

Have a great weekend!