Posts tagged ‘Germany’

Finding Her Identity

Last week’s result by the Socceroos securing a draw with World Champions Germany n Kaiserslautern was another feather in the cap of national team coach Ange Postecoglou. It was also a wonderful result on the back of the team’s Asian Cup victory.

Despite these successes there is something that Ange Postecoglou has managed to achieve that no other Socceroos coach has achieved, and for that the game should be eternally grateful.

Rale Rasic back in the Seventies awoke the nation with is team of part-timers making it to the World Cup in 1974 being one of just 16 teams that participated in the finals. It was almost a surreal experience according to those who remember it.

Guus Hiddink broke the jinx, and in truth had some luck in seeing the team qualify for Germany in 2006; in a penalty shoot-out the result can go anyway, unless you are playing Germany! Yet when the tournament started he showed his tactical acumen and managed to steer the team past the group stage, and almost past eventual Champions Italy.

Pim Verbeek achieved the remarkable steering the team to the 2010 finals conceding just a single goal against Japan in the final round of qualifying, with a team that was clearly on the wane. His mission was accomplished. He has suffered major criticism for the 4-0 defeat against Germany, yet the same team went on to beat England 4-1 and Argentina 4-0 before bowing out to Spain in the semi finals.

No one except the FFA and Holger Osieck will ever know what the total brief was at the time of his appointment. One key factor was another qualification for the World Cup which he achieved. He was criticised for not blooding enough young players, yet he achieved the task that he was set.

What all of these failed to do, that Postecoglou has managed to do in his short time as coach, was play a style of football that taps into the Australian psyche.

In the past week this writer has spoken to three people who confessed they never watched the Socceroos before ‘because they were boring.’ They still admitted they did not watch most of the game but they would tune in because the current team is ‘exciting to watch.’

There is no doubt that the Golden generation featuring the likes of Schwarzer, Viduka, Kewell, Bresciano, Grella, Neill and co, were technically more gifted than many of the current crop of players. There were also more of them playing football at a higher level than most of the current crop. Yet the team never managed to achieve what Postecoglou’s players have achieved.

Postecoglou is without doubt one of the best home grown coaches Australia has produced. Like many of the great coaches an injury curtailing his career – just as happened to Brian Clough – saw him enter management at a very young age. Success in the NSL was a regular achievement. When the A-league started he was coach of the national Youth team, which proved with hindsight to be a great learning experience. Back in club football in the new A-League with Brisbane Roar he again created a team that played attractive football and won championships. When he became national coach many wondered how he would fair and early results were not promising. Yet during those games a pattern was evolving.

A pattern that has seen Australia for the first time have a football team with an identity. By that we mean an identity in terms of the style of football that the national team plays.

Australian football under Frank Arok was again blessed with extremely talented players, many who were still forced to be semi-professional. The team was always combative, the team never ever gave up, but the style frequently changed depending on the opposition or the importance of the match.

It was the late Spurs and Northern Ireland captain Danny Blanchflower who once said “Our tactics have always been to equalize before the other team score.” It may sound crazy but one feels the sentiment is there in this Australian team.

Postecoglou has tapped into the Australian sporting Psyche, that Australians in every sport like to be the aggressor. Look at the Cricket team, the Wallabies, the Kookaburras, all are teams that are immediately on the front foot against their opposition. All of them like to take it up to the opposition and make them know that they are not in awe of them. Previous Socceroos coaches have focussed on trying to limit the scoring opportunities of the opposition and therefore tended to play very defensive football. It appears Postecoglou realises that currently Australia’s defensive stocks are not world class, and therefore the team is bound to concede against quality opposition. However rather than sit back and try and limit the damage, his teams go on the attack. The theory being that Australia will score more than their opponents. It is a style that has resonated with many Australians who have never followed the game, and he may well have finally given the nation a style that becomes synonymous with the Socceroos.

Japan knew they could never compete physically with the bigger European players, so they developed a fast paced game based on speed touch and fitness in order to be competitive and it has paid dividends to their national team and is now a style that is expected from their teams. They focussed on their strengths and improved their weaknesses.

Postecoglou has done exactly the same. He has tapped into Australia’s desire to be the team on the attack and a new style of football has evolved. A style that seems to have captured the public’s imagination. Hopefully is a style that can be maintained, and will just like Japan become synonymous with the Socceroos.

To quote the inspirational Danny Blanchflower again ” The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.” It would appear that Postecoglou shares those sentiments.

Blanchflower was a part of a Tottenham team that won the double and also steered Northern Ireland to the quarter finals of the 1958 World Cup in the same year he lost his brother Jackie in the Munich Air disaster. Spurs with him in the side played an attractive brand of football, a brand of football where they believed if the opposition scored one, they would score two.

It would appear the Socceroos under Postecoglou have the same sense of belief. It certainly appears that they have found a style that resonates with the people of Australia. Let us hope they continue to win fans over playing football in this manner and like Spurs and Northern Ireland with Blanchflower in their side are rewarded with success. Most of all let this be the style of football for which Australia is known.

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March 30, 2015 at 10:35 am Leave a comment

Football Must Unite for Change

It is refreshing to witness that Football appears to be finally be awakening from a slumber that has lasted almost four decades.

The BBC and Sky Sports have cleverly offered to host a live television debate amongst the candidates for Football’s top post the Presidency of FIFA. As they quite rightly state the current incumbent Sepp Blatter has frequently claimed that the rille is the equivalent to that of a head of state, so why not treat the run in for the Presidency in the same vein and have a televised debate, where all candidates get to air their views on key issues?

For too long Blatter and his acolytes have ruled with a complete air or arrogance and untouchability. Their lead has sadly been followed further down the pecking order by individual national Federations. On occasion FIFA has pulled them into line despite the hypocrisy of such actions, and on other occasions they have let sleeping dogs lie. On both occasions the game has been the one to suffer, along with those who support and participate outside of the professional game.

FIFA’s mission statement has been “For the Good of the Game.” Yet such a statement is ridiculous when one looks at the actions of the men in FIFA and insults the intelligence of those fans of the game. “The Football Family” is another annoying and equally condescending mission statement, especially when only the head of the family has a say.

News that there may in fact be a breakaway from FIFA is refreshing and long overdue. When you are unable to change something from the inside, that is if you can in fact get inside, then it is time for change.

The awarding of the next two World Cups to Russia and Qatar may well be the tipping point for change. How can a country where racism is endemic, as is the case in Russia host such a global party? How can a tournament traditionally played at the same time of year be moved and hosted by a nation built on slave labour and where the stadia construction has resulted in hundreds of deaths?

To show just how much FIFA does not care about due process, Secretary General Jerome Valcke has effectively admitted that FIFA bought off the threat of legal action on the timing of the 2022 World Cup by awarding the USA television rights to the 2026 tournament to Fox and NBC- owned Telemundo without going through the usual tender process. Compensation to all of the European Football leagues that will be disrupted by the 2022 World Cup being run in the lead up to Christmas will no doubt be settled in a similar way, because money talks. Greed saw the World Cup awarded to Qatar and greed will see many Football Federations roll over and have FIFA tickle their tummies with wads of cash, when it comes to compensation for a December tournament. Although Mr Blatter has assured his member nations the tournament will not run past the 18th of December; the final day of the tournament no doubt, as this is also coincidentally the National Day of Qatar!

Should the European and South American nations boycott the 2022 World Cup? Many fans believe that they should. Whether they do will be a different matter altogether, although momentum for such a move is building.

Germany, Spain and Italy are believed to be strong supporters of a new world order, and they have the support of the home nations in the United Kingdom. Emerging power bases in Asia, Africa and South America are also said to be aligning themselves with these nations. The question is are all of these nations prepared to get their own houses in order, and crush the corruption within their own Federations?

This is a great opportunity for Football to act, the time has never been better. If Football fails to act it may well get left behind.

This may sound a strange statement for a game that dominates world sport in terms of participation and spectators, but other sports are changing the way they operate in order to survive.

Rugby Union is looking at a similar closed shop operation that sustains Baseball and American Football so well in the USA and sees both of these sports with strong and healthy bank balances. Cricket is going through a metamorphosis as its commitment to traditional Test Cricket is being eroded by commercial necessity driven by Indian administrators and ably supported by England and Australia. Even the Olympic Games market is being manipulated to try and pull in a younger average age of viewer, this is being done courtesy of new sports being introduced and traditional ones being thrown out.

Fans across the globe are no longer happy funding multi-millionaire players who behave abominably and fail to perform. With more and more internet viewing, and some via illegal streaming, football has to change. Just as the music industry has had to adapt, so too does football have to change.

Apart from crushing corruption football needs clear thinkers to be driving the game forward at this point in its history. If key nations do boycott the 2022 World Cup, there will be a great deal of shouting and posturing from those at FIFA unwilling to relinquish control, they will try and issue bans but guaranteed new similar competitions will spring up and will thrive, history has shown that. It just takes the courage of a few to stand up and be counted.

Maybe it is time that UEFA President Michel Platini did follow through on making the European Championships the biggest tournament in the world and just like the Copa America invite the top nations from South America and Africa to perform as guests at their tournament. (World Cup By Invite Only).

In football there are too many top dogs for whom the game is not their true passion. It is a job, a steeping stone to big money illegal or otherwise, as well as free tickets to plush events. Administering sport should be more than that, as the great Bill Shankly believed, it must be a passion. Then you can guarantee the person will go the extra yard for what is best for the game, and they will be happy to do so and put in that time. They will never want to harm their club or the game itself.

There is a line in Don Quixote that reads “Tragedy is to see life as it is, not as it should be.” This is how football is at the moment. Yet through times of difficulty come opportunity. The question is will those nations with the power to make change grasp that opportunity. Hopefully they will try, and when they do they would do well to remember the words of Martin Luther King, “Right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.” Something Mr Blatter will hopefully be beginning to realise, along with many others in the game who are not there for the real ‘good of the game.’

March 3, 2015 at 10:20 am 1 comment

Referral System Worth Copying?

Having just returned from the Hockey India League in India where teams were allowed one referral to a video umpire per game, which if they were correct in their assessment of a situation they kept to use again, but lost if the video umpire was wrong, one had to ask whether or not football could adopt a similar system.

Hockey’s system is currently not flawless, and one feels that the games governing body has overcomplicated the system by making the players request a specific offence.

Having watched La Liga in the evening following an HIL game, there was one game where an attacking player was clearly offside, the referee’s assistant missed it, so too did the referee. The defender widest, and in the best position raised his arm in appeal immediately. The goal stood.

Had football had the same approach as hockey, the player could have given the signal for a referral to the referee. The game was already stopped and the referee could have conferred with his video official with a simple question, ” Is there any reason why I should not award a goal” or “X team are claiming number 10 was offside, I felt he was not can you check and confirm whether the goal should stand.”

Similarly if as in the World Cup in South Africa England believed Frank Lampard’s shot against Germany had crossed the line they could have asked for a referral.

If of course the video referee deems the ball did not cross the line in that case when play has been stopped to view the footage, a drop ball would take place level with the penalty area. In hockey they have a bully-off.

There will be people who claim that this stops the flow of the game. It does but only momentarily. Hockey moves at a much faster pace than football yet the referral system has not harmed the game; only some of the interpretations have!

Football has increased in pace, referee’s and their assistant’s will make mistakes, but this way they have the opportunity to correct them. It may in fact build the drama in a stadium rather than slow the game down. For teams fighting relegation, or to qualify for Europe or to win the League this could be the difference between success and failure. Too often we have seen teams lose vital points because of what appears a blatant mistake. In England’s case they went out of the World Cup; although were they really good enough to beat Germany?

Sepp Blatter has said if such systems are to come into football they should be at all levels of the game, but this is not at all levels of hockey and yet it works. It is also an ideal opportunity to educate viewers as to the rules, and let us be honest how many viewers really do understand the current offside rule?

Surely it has to be worth considering? How knows maybe a new head of FIFA will be more open-minded.

March 2, 2015 at 7:35 pm Leave a comment

Attracting A Global Audience Key to Opening Game

It is quite laughable the reaction of the AFL affiliates and the media covering the sport in Western Australia to the news that there is a bid for the Socceroos to play England as the focal point of the New Stadium at Burswood. All it has done is show how stuck in the past they all are.

Sure a Western Derby is a big attraction in Western Australia for those who follow the code, but how does it compare to a top class international in football? That is the trouble AFL does not have a higher level than the AFL. Its hybrid games against the amateur Irish teams have an equally limited appeal as does the game itself does. Like many other national sports around the world if it is not going to catch on internationally in the first 100 years of its existence it is unlikely ever to.

We will be fed that old line that Perth is a “Football town,” a line fuelled by those with a vested interest. No city is more of a footy town than Melbourne, yet look how they embrace every sport at every level, by creating decent facilities and attracting major events. They are not so insular in their views and have now established themselves as the Sporting Capital in the country.

It is incredible to read Mr Cransberg, Chairman of the West Coast Eagles say that as the sport most likely to be the main user of the stadium they should be afforded primary consideration. Why? This stadium does not belong to the AFL it belongs to the taxpayers of Western Australia. The West Coast Eagles will merely be tenants just as will many other sports and musical acts.

Head of the WA Football Commission Gary Walton was quoted as saying, “International events come with pretty significant up-front investment where a derby will in my view guarantee a capacity crowd and it’ll come at no cost to the state.” What small minded insular thinking. It is people with attitudes such as this that hold Western Australia back.

This is supposed to be a state of the art stadium when it is completed, so why would you have as your opening event something that will only garner minimum media coverage within Australia. By hosting a top international sporting event you are immediately putting the stadium, and Perth on the world map as having a venue suitable for world class events. If England or World Champions Germany played the Socceroos you would be assured a sell out crowd. If the Wallabies played whoever lifts the Rugby World Cup at the end of this year it is just as likely to sell out, as would an Ashes Test match. The true code of Football however has to be the biggest drawcard, as it is a truly global sport. The fact is all of these sporting events played between international teams will have far more global and national appeal than a local AFL match, and anyone who says otherwise needs to get on a plane and go and experience the real world outside of Western Australia.

What is worrying is the bias and factual inaccuracies run by the West Australian Newspaper. Mark Duffield wrote that ‘the state government will, in three years time have forgiven Australian soccer officials for leaving Perth off its map of Australia when it drew up the Asian Cup Program.” Yes, they did fail to promote the tournament in the West, have any ambassadors or fan Parks, but the biggest problem was the only feasible venue, NIB Stadium fails to meet FIFA requirements. The FFA stated after the game against Indonesia at Subiaco Oval in 2005 that they would never host an international there again because it was unsuitable for television and spectators. Had the State Government spent some of the money allocated to the refurbishment of NIB stadium on upgrading the changing rooms, then Western Australia would have a case to answer as to why we were left out of having any games. The truth is it was our own government who are at fault on this occasion. (Build it Properly and they Will Come). Some cynics have questioned whether the Sports minister did this deliberately so that Football would not be able to challenge his beloved AFL; It is extremely unlikely that a politician would be that petty and small-minded.

So why would Mr Duffield mislead his readers? Then again you cannot expect Mr Duffield to know these things as being the Chief Football writer, his time would be taken up finding inane stories to keep AFL on the back page of the paper for 350 days of the year. It is also interesting to note that the WA Football Commission has in the past paid for editorial coverage in the West Australian, to ensure that they received two or four pages coverage, yet never did the paper reveal that the space was paid for.

To be fair to Mr Duffield he does make a valid point asking why should it be a sporting event that opens the stadium, why can’t it be a concert of epic proportions? The most obvious answer would be because it is first and foremost a sporting venue.

If we wanted mass exposure maybe looking at hosting the T20 Champions League in Perth would be an option. That would attract a massive audience in the subcontinent and would give thousands of people the chance to be a part of an opening event.

The truth is whatever event or events in what should be an opening week of celebrations are staged, they must be ones that attract global attention. Perth needs to shout about this stadium and the fact that finally we have a stadium to match the best in the world – if it in fact does. Only by global exposure will we attract future events.

It is also important to realise that only by hosting the Socceroos will we see European clubs put pressure on the FFA to have more games here as the flying time will be less for their players returning home! So Football’s case actually would have a long term gain.

 

 

February 13, 2015 at 6:33 am 1 comment

Searching For That “X” Factor

There is nothing better for a sporting tournament than when the host nation starts the competition well, and Australia have done that in the Asian Cup, winning both their opening games and scoring four goals in each. They are now assured a place in the quarter finals. That is before they play their last group game against their toughest opposition South Korea.

This is where the competition will start to get harder.

Despite this being the third Asian Cup competition that Australia has competed in, to many diehard fans and this writer it is still a competition that is a little underwhelming. However it is a competition Australia needs to be a part of and far better than what was on offer in Oceania.

Why is it hard to get enthusiastic about the competition as a whole? Is it because Asian football is currently going through a bit of slump? Based on last year’s World Cup which was only six months ago Asia had little to get excited about. All the Asian teams failed to progress from the Group stage and all failed to record a win. The coaches of Iran, Japan and South Korea all were sacked or quit; Australia had only just appointed theirs so that was never going to happen. To add to the misery one must also remember that the fifth best team in Asia, Jordan were thrashed by Uruguay in a play-off to get to the finals.

There is an argument that the gulf between those nations who qualified for the World Cup and the rest is what causes the lack of interest in the early stages of the competition. Without taking anything away from Australia’s performances which have been impressive, -although defensively this writer still has concerns – surely the Socceroos would have been expected to see off Oman and Kuwait? The same with South Korea, although they were less convincing than Australia in their victories. Iran were expected to beat Bahrain and Japan to beat tournament debutants Palestine. Iran would be expected to continue winning ways tonight against Qatar and Japan to do the same against Iraq. It is that predictability that makes the group stage hard to get excited about. The real competition comes alive when the Quarter Finals start; although one should never underplay the importance of momentum from the group stage, and Australia currently have that.

One cannot help feeling that the AFC have tried to run before they can walk with this tournament. In that there are too many teams who just aren’t up to a suitable standard. However the argument is that by playing at tournaments such as this one is an incentive to improve, creates interest, and the financial opportunity to improve. It is a very difficult balancing act.

With only sixteen teams competing at the Asian Cup there is little that the AFC can do to create more excitement and interest. They could cut the tournament back to being a ten team tournament, playing in two pools of five with the top two teams in each pool progressing and crossing over. The top teams playing the second placed team in the opposite group. Hockey has used a similar format very successfully. However one has to feel that to reduce the number of teams at the finals would be regressive; All the AFC can, and must do is work with the various associations in the region and try and raise the bar in terms of performances.

Sadly the same is true of the Asian Champions League. The group stages do not generate the interest that they should, as most of the big teams in the stronger leagues in Asia are almost always assured of progressing, because the weaker nations’ Champions are not good enough.

In the Asian Champions League 47 teams compete in the competition, many eliminated prior to the 32 team group stage. Yet those 47 places are not made up of the Champions of each of the 47 member associations of the Asian Football Confederation. Australia for example has three teams in that 47 when its league only has ten teams; nine in truth as Wellington Phoenix are part of Oceania and no one is sure if they would be allowed to participate should they qualify.

Surely the AFC would be better served to make this tournament one purely just for the Champions at this stage in its development? Have two tiers of competition. The lesser league’s Champions play off to win a second tier competition and that in turn wins them a place in the “main event,” the Asian Champions League.

Something has to be done to try and stimulate these two major tournaments in the region. Many will claim that they are both young competitions and will take time to get into the psyche of fans, but this is simply not true. The Asian Champions League – although it was called the Asian Champion Club Tournament in a previous life started in 1967. It folded in 1971 due to a lack of professionalism and was restarted again in 1985/86 as the Asian Club Championship, and in 2002 became the Asian Champions League. It has been around for a while in different guises and formats, but has it still not managed to capture the public’s full attention?

The Asian Cup commenced in 1956. It has been going for over 50 years, but even within Asia you can ask people which nation won which tournament an in what year and will struggle to find someone who knows. It should come as no surprise that in 15 tournaments Japan has won four, Saudi Arabia and Iran three each and South Korea two. Three of last year’s World Cup qualifiers have won nine of the 15 tournaments. Only Israel – who no longer compete under AFC – Iraq and Kuwait have been other nations to win the cup.

Iraq won in 2007, but you have to go back to 1980 to find another country outside of the four main winners to have lifted the cup. Which many may claim means that development is the issue. Yet is it?

In Europe, with their UEFA European Championship the dominance is similar, where Germany and Spain have been victorious on three occasions each and France twice. Their competition is four years younger than the Asian Cup, so there have only been 14 tournaments and eight have been won by three nations. However the remaining six competitions have been won by six different nations. Yet like Asia, Greece won in 2004 and one has to go back to 1992 to see a nation outside of France, Spain or Germany lifting the cup; Denmark being the victors that year.

So maybe it is nothing to do with development, maybe it is the way of the footballing world. However one cannot help feeling that the Asian Cup is still lacking something to capture the imagination and pull everyone in. The question is what is that something?

January 14, 2015 at 10:37 am Leave a comment

The Cream of the A-League?

Goalscorers will always steal the headlines; ask any goalkeeper. Besart Berisha did it at Brisbane Roar, Archie Thompson at Melbourne Victory and Michael Theo was in goal for both teams while they did. At Perth Glory this season Andy Keogh is doing the same, and the performances of Danny Vukovic are often being passed over. That is football.

Andy Keogh’s strike for the opening goal against Melbourne Victory was quality. He eased passed a labouring Adrian Leijer and then fired a superb angled shot past Nathan Coe.

This was a goal that showed the quality of Andy Keogh, and how important a striker who can finish opportunities is to a team.

The A-League has in truth lacked true goalscorers in the mould of Keogh and Berisha. Shane Smeltz has been the only player to win the golden boot two years in a row at Wellington Phoenix and then Gold Coast United, but none of the other winners of this award have had their name on the lips of fans across the country, with the possible exception of veteran Daniel McBreen in 2012/13 when his goals helped the Central Coast Mariners to their first Championship.With McBreen it was the romance of a veteran who appeared unwanted, scoring consistently to win a new contract and a League title.

Keogh and Berisha though stand apart. They are special, in that both players have the ability to make you watch the game closer when the ball comes near them. Both make intelligent runs, both are physically strong, both know where the goal is and can arrive at the perfect moment to tap a ball over the line, or turn a defender and rifle a shot home from the edge of the area. They have that “X factor.” Both are what the A-League needs. These are true marquee players, as they pull people through the turnstiles.

It is interesting to compare the two. Keogh played in the English Premier League with Wolverhampton Wanderers, having been a key player in helping them gain promotion playing 42 of 46 games, despite scoring their first goal in their return to the Premier League his opportunities were limited due to injury.

Besart Berisha signed for Bundesliga side Hamburg in 2004 but struggled to break into the side and was sent out on loan. In 2006 he made his Bundesliga debut and also became the first Albanian to score in the group stages of the Champions League. Having made 14 appearances that season a change in coach saw Berisha out of favour.

Berisha tried his luck with Burnley in England but struggled and eventually returned to the second division of the Bundesliga before heading to Australia. His form in Germany was again far from impressive with his appearances limited, just 2 goals in 28 appearances.

Keogh left Wolves and went back to the Championship first of all on loan to Cardiff City, Bristol City and Leeds United, before a permanent move to Millwall. Like Berisha his goals per game ratio was nothing to write home about, but the word is he was often used as a holding striker, which is something many fail to take into account when judging statistics.

Unlike many other players from overseas Keogh has come to Australia aged 28. Berisha was 26 when he signed for Brisbane Roar. Both still have plenty of game time left in them.

Berisha scored 48 goals in 76 games for Brisbane Roar, and has 7 goals in 12 games this season for Melbourne Victory. Andy Keogh in his first season, one where many new players struggle has 8 goals from 13 games.

Fans love goalscorers. These two players show that the A-League needs players who have played at the top level but maybe did not get the breaks required. These types of players need to come to Australia while they still have age and a desire to play on their side. There is no need to be bringing over big name players who are well past their best. The likes of del Piero may bring Sydney FC publicity, but they cost the club financially and they won nothing.

Australia has an obsession with South American players but once again how many have performed at a continually high level in the A-League? Fred was outstanding for Melbourne Victory but never had the same impact at Wellington Phoenix or Melbourne Heart. Amaral was sheer class for Glory until he was injured. Marcos Flores shone brightly but only momentarily. The same could be said for Henrique and Sidnei at Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory respectively, both show glimpses of the talent they possess, but lack the consistency to bring it week in week out; that is why they are playing in the A-League. Finkler at Melbourne Victory is more consistent but still not influencing the games from midfield as much as his coaching staff or the fans would like, although one feels that day is not too far away. Even Carlos Hernandez from Costa Rica only showed A-League fans a glimpse of his talents, and like Fred and Marcos Flores, never matched his form at Melbourne Victory.

Is it to do with geography or is it simply the age at which a player is brought to the A-League? Is it a gamble in as much as a coach can never be 100% clear on a player’s attitude until he sees him at training? Look at Western Sydney Wanderers who identified Vitor Saba two years ago and now want offload him not even halfway through a two year contract. It is never an exact science. Some players play better under certain coaches, some players suit a certain style of play, some players do get homesick and struggle to settle. There are so many variables to consider when recruiting a player.

Despite all of that two of the best recruits to the A-League in terms of their quality, their ability, their desire, and their ability to excite, would have to be Besart Berisha and Andy Keogh. Will coaches analyse why they have been so successful, what their pedigree was and the ages at which they have come to Australia? We will all have to wait and see. Let us hope that they manage to unearth more of the same.

January 5, 2015 at 1:47 pm 5 comments

Champions to Receive Top Billing

An impending rule change in the European Champions League is set to make fans happy and also many of the successful clubs who are not necessarily one of the big name clubs in their national leagues.

Top seed status will only be given to the winners of the highest ranked leagues and titleholders. Currently UEFA ranks clubs based on five years of results which meant that national Champions such as Manchester City in the EPL Juventus in Serie A and Paris St Germain in France were placed among the teams seeded Number two.

Whereas clubs like Arsenal and Porto who finished fourth and third in their respective leagues in the season just past were seeded in the pot as number one ranked teams. This in turn meant that they avoided other top ranked teams such as Barcelona and Real Madrid. It was a case of the successful teams being protected and ensuring continued success and revenue.

The leagues that saw their teams given top seed status were Spain, England, Germany, Italy, Portugal, France and Russia.

The rule change that is due to be ratified by UEFA’s executive Committee in December has come about as fans failed to understand how the Champions of one of these top nations was in a lower seeded pot than the teams that came third or fourth.

Some would say UEFA could easily have resolved this problem by once more making the competition open only to those teams who are in fact crowned Champions of their respective leagues. However that is never likely to happen with the Champions League now generating more income than the World Cup.  This is however a step in the right direction and may prevent a lop-sided and almost predictable outcome.

October 12, 2014 at 12:38 pm Leave a comment

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