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.
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!
Well the 2nd Test in Perth petered out to a draw with some monumental batting displays from both teams. Steve Smith was criticized for the timing of his declaration not dangling enough of a carrot for the Kiwi’s to chase. I thought the timing of the declaration was based on the fact that his bowlers had toiled in the stifling heat for two days and could not be expected to front up again “full of beans” unless they got a decent break. In the end, the Australians held the whip hand and I would be more critical of the defensive fields set by Brendan McCallum instead of Steve Smith’s declaration. In his defence, it also should be remembered that Steve Smith has declared in each of Australia’s innings so far this series.
The second Test also saw the last match for Mitchell Johnson and while he has been a great servant for Australia I don’t think we ever saw the best of him for long enough. A lethal unplayable bowler one series and cannon fodder the next. I am a fan, but not with blind faith and I think he chose the right time to go. James Pattinson has been chosen to replace him and I am a fan of his, but I do feel a bit sorry for Peter Siddle. Siddle was Australia’s best bowler in the last Test in England and has not bowled badly in the Sheffield Shield so far this season and can count himself as unlucky. I can’t wait to see Mitchell Starc, Patrick Cummins and James Pattinson in full flight bowling for Australia.
Good to see the Socceroos go to the top of their group in the World Cup qualifier during the week. Tim Cahill was on fire with a hat trick before half time. With Jordan losing and Australia still with two games at home, the Aussies should finish on top of this group and progress to the next stage quite comfortably.
Finally, good to see Adam Scott away to a good start at the AustralianMasters. He has had a poor year to date by his standards and needs a win to build his confidence going into 2016. Given the field, it would be a big disappointment if he couldn’t end up leading at the end of day four.
Have a great weekend!
“We deserve some respect’….so says Socceroo forward Robbie Kruse. Personally, I think Robbie is getting just a little ahead of himself with that comment. Australia, on the back of some poor results over the last eighteen months has slumped to a lowly ranking of #100 of the 209 teams ranked by FIFA. It will take more than a few wins over fellow strugglers to earn recognition from the fans.
If one looks at the results the Socceroos have turned in (not including the Asian Cup currently underway) in the 15 matches played since September 2013, their record is won 2 drawn 2 and lost 11 – goals scored 12 – goals conceded 37. Not a flattering scoreline at all. In that run of matches we managed to lose to Qatar (ranked 92) and Canada (ranked 112). Sure we played some powerhouse teams like Brazil, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and France along the way but that will always be the case in the world game.
After two rounds of the Asian Cup we have beaten up on Oman (ranked 93) and Kuwait (ranked 125). My expectation is that we should beat these teams at home, so I am not getting carried away just yet. Let’s see how we go against the Korean Republic (ranked 69) in our next game and some of the other heavy hitters of the region in the rest of the competition.
If Kruse wants ‘respect’ it needs to be earned on the pitch with the Socceroos performing well against quality opposition!
Well the World Cup continues to dominate the world sporting landscape with the quarter finals coming up this weekend. It is interesting to note that former winners in Germany, Brazil, Argentina and France comprise four of the eight places available and the Dutch are three time finalists, so there is a familiarity about the remaining participants. The real interest may come from those outside the usual suspects with Colombia given a real chance of knocking off the hosts, Costa Rica not without a chance against the Netherlands and Belgium were considered a good outsiders chance coming into the tournament. My tips for the quarter finals are Colombia, Germany, Netherlands and Argentina.
Turning to Wimbledon, I have said in the past that I am not a great fan of watching tennis, but I had to watch the abbreviated replay of Nick Kyrgios knocking off Rafael Nadal. I must say it was pretty exciting to see a young Aussie do that on the world stage and it was a bit of a shame that the scheduling meant he had to front up the next day to play again. After taking the first set he tired and fell away, but it would appear we finally have a junior star translating to the adult stage. It reminded me of Mark Philippoussis knocking off Pete Sampras at the Australian Open, but then losing the next round match. Philippoussis went on to produce some pretty good tennis, but probably did not go as far as his talent suggested he should.
I was bemused during the week to hear Eddie Maguire call for compensation for Collingwood due to the poor drawing fixture against Carlton last Sunday night. He has often trumpeted that Collingwood fans would turn up any time any place to see their team play, but in the space of three weeks they have had two poor drawing matches. The other game against the Bulldogs at Etihad stadium three weeks ago failed to get 28,000 spectators and that was an afternoon fixture under cover! Given Collingwood gets a lot of scheduling favours due to their supporter base, I do not think Eddie would have gleaned much sympathy from any of the other clubs.
Have a great weekend!