To all the viewers from across the globe, to the people who posted, the players who were photographed and the words of encouragement (and criticism)from many.
I enjoyed every minute of my Asia Cup experience.
www.nearpost.blogspot.com/ is where I'm normally writing about Canberra and Australian football, A-League, Matilda's and Socceroos with Carl Valeri and Sally Shipard writing weekly. Join me there whenever you wish for coverage of the Womens World Cup(unless i'm in China of course!), and A-League.
Tuesday, 31 July 2007
To all the viewers from across the globe, to the people who posted, the players who were photographed and the words of encouragement (and criticism)from many.
Monday, 30 July 2007
Bandwagoner SBS journo Massi got his Iraqi shirt and no doubt the Italian Aussie was waving his new football shirt all night in Jakarta. Good for you Massi, but remember you live in Sydney, mate!
Amazingly, to me at least, the worn torn and divided Iraqi nation has produced a team capable of winning the Asia Cup.
And here are two of the guys that did it. Younis Mahmoud and Hawar Mulla undoubtedly two of Iraq's star men.
Iraq won one nil in Jakarta overnight defeating Saudi Arabia.
A great result for a nation and football if ever there was one. Well done Iraq and well done Saudi Arabia.
With all players playing in Saudi Arabia they were still good enough to beat Japan and reach the final.
And well done this man. Jorvan Vieira. The Brazilian Coach, and the first man ever to ask me a question in a Press Conference! See earlier post under Jorvan Vieira label.
A gentleman. Jorvan was one of THE great guys of the 2007 Asian Cup.
Saturday, 28 July 2007
What a way to prepare!
AFC stuffed Iraqi sleeping arrangements prior to the semi-final, with 31 players sleeping in 8 rooms.
Could this successful team be more under prepared for the finals and final.
and still they perform.
Imagine some of the Aussie boys from England surviving such an ordeal.
Still tomorrow nights game should be a cracker.
No Saudi Arabian player plays outside Saudi Arabia! Maybe that is where Australia went wrong. All our players should come from Saudi Arabia:)
Iraq have more than football to play for, so I hope they win.
The two coaches have the same agent! They are both Brazilian and say they will share the cup if they win!
Wonder if any Aussie team or FFA have thought about employing such coaches in the future.
Younis Mahmoud to miss a hatful but score the winner, with a pass supplied by the supplier of his Baghdad Caress, Hawa Mulla.
Good luck Iraq.
And if they win a special plea for 48 hours peace in Iraq to allow football and humanity to triumph over war!
Thursday, 26 July 2007
Well possibly the smallest crowd in history will watch the Asia Cup final between Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
If Graham Arnold takes responsibility for the demise of the Socceroos who should take responsibility for the continents best playing their semi-finals and finals before a few thousand?
Iraq made it, albeit on penalties. Coach Jorvan Vieira has done a remarkable job. Amazing what this team has achieved when you think of the circumstances in their country over the last five years.
And Japan is out! Every one's winner is gone. Maybe the Australia game took too much out of them.
Either way conceding three goals was not pretty.
Saudi Arabia, with all of its players playing in Saudi Arabia, reach the final.
There's a thought.
The future of Australian football. It's not the A-League but it could be in years to come when money increases and some of the players stay longer.
So on to Sunday.
Iraq for my heart. They were strong against South Korea and have improved throughout the tournament.
Saudi Arabia have had a difficult route and surprised many, so they will start favourites.
Iraq have struggled to win games apart from the game against Australia:)
Draws with Oman, Thailand, a win over Vietnam and penalties against Korea.
Can you win the Asia Cup by winning two games?
I think not, though Vieira and his mates will not care one hoot if they do.
Wily Coach Vieira may well out-smart his opponent,
Wednesday, 25 July 2007
Massi writes from Hanoi;
Eamonn, I have a beautiful story for your blog...the day after "the defeat" I
had a football match against the local Japanese expats team...have a
look at the photo...I was seeking revenge on behalf of the Socceroos
....I scored twice and became their hairy Italian idol...I have sold the
hairs of my chest for US$15 each...after my performance they took me to
the "absurdest" Japanese restaurant at 9 am (the match was arranged for
6.45 am!!!!)... at 10 am they were all drunk!!!!
Massi has been in rare form in Sydney this season with 9 goals in 6 games. Obviously carried the form into Asia.
And seemingly no problems with the heat and humidity Massi!
Maybe the Socceroos should have kicked off at 6.45AM!
Enjoy the rest of your Asia Cup stay Massi.
Tonight I'm going for Japan and Iraq as my teams to go to the final.
Because of Nakamura, A Celtic player and Iraq because they topped the Socceroos and their coach Jorvan Vieira has a an impressive and persuasive football manner.
Got a better reason?
Tuesday, 24 July 2007
We were rubbish so the people say..and I've said it myself.
But are we that bad really?
We lost on penalties to Japan. On penalties, and we all know shoot-outs can go either way.
So Milligan, Carney, Beauchamp gave us three new defenders to consider for future selections. That is a big plus.
Who's to say Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Adrian Leijer, Dean Heffernan, Matthew Spiranovic, Lucas Neill, Patrick Kisnorbo, Adrian Downes, Neil Kilkenny, Brett Emerton won't give us enough defensive options for the future.
Cahill, Bresciano, Grella, Carle, Valeri, Carney, Emerton, Wilkshire, and one or two boys overseas, Patafta, Broxham or Sarkies may provide enough spark and balance in the midfield.
Kennedy, McDonald, Kewell, Archie, Bridge, Burns, Williams, Djite, and Viduka. A bit short maybe but plenty of hope.
Sure I've missed a few, at least I hope I have!
Better preparation could and should have taken us to play Vietnam. As it was the team were abysmal against Singapore, Iraq, Oman and to a lesser extent Thailand. But we still had an even game against Japan until the send off, no matter Japan played more technically or had slightly more of the ball.
Who could predict who would win when if Grella hadn't been sent off? It was that close. Wasn't it?
So I've never thought we were World Beaters. Five wins out of fifteen prior to this tournament showed that. Any, any fan who has followed the Socceroos know we aren't rated outside the top thirty for nothing.
Also look where our players play. Only Kewell at Liverpool is at a top top club. The rest are in second or third tier clubs albeit in strong leagues.
So when was the last time an Australian team walked over anyone ranked in the top 100. We don't, and we never have, (okay we walked over England) but we can beat many on our day, but it will always be close.
But Australia has recently beaten Iran, Jordan and Saudi Arabia..well we came second in the Olympic qualifiers under Rob Baan. This is our future team, and they've done well.
And we do have plenty of players coming through. No Viduka or Kewell but we have many players desperate to step up.
That gives me hope. And we have football now in Australia, a team to support.
For many years no-one argued if I thought a player should be dropped or the manager sacked.
Most people didn't know who I was talking about.
Everyone has an opinion now and that is the passion required to produce long-term results.
The 2006 World Cup team were and are our football legends. But that has gone and the Asia Cup, WCQ give football fans the prospect of seeing our local players challenged and progressed beyond anything we've ever had before.
When we qualify for the World Cup again it will probably be with a Mark Bridge or Nicky Carle or Mark Milligan in the side. How many will have watched these in the A-League?
Few could say that about the last group of players. Not because they didn't play for Melbourne Knights or Carlton or the Canberra Cosmos, but because few fans or media ever saw them.
More football, more often.
The future is bright for Australian football despite the loss to Japan.
A-League pre-season has started and A-League starts in three weeks. Olympic qualifiers start next week. Womens World Cup after that. No time to mope. The game rolls on.
If the following is true:
Three 2011 Asia Cup places go to top three places in this years Asia Cup.
Two places to winners of AFC Challenge Cup. See below. This is for developing nations, so Australia can't get in there.
And presumably the hosts get a slot
Which leaves ten places, and therefore increasing the qualification difficulties.
Personally I'd rather see us play through qualification than automatically qualify. Meaningful games are what we joined the AFC for, and automatic qualification would have meant we would be reduced to lots of tedious friendlies again.
Here's the detail from the AFC:
AFC Asian Cup 2007: Semi-Finalists competing for automatic qualification to 2011 AFC Asian Cup
Jakarta 23.07.07: The four remaining teams in AFC Asian Cup 2007, Iraq, Japan, Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia, are also competing for automatic qualification for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, as well as the prize of being champions of Asia.
As announced following the AFC Executive Committee held on 17th July 2006, the teams which finish first (1st), second (2nd) and third (3rd) in 2007, and the host nation for the 2011 competition, shall receive automatic byes to Finals.
The winners of the AFC Challenge Cup competitions in 2008 and 2010 shall also qualify automatically to the 2011 Finals. Should the champions of 2008 and 2010 be the same team, then the runners-up from AFC Challenge Cup 2010 shall qualify along with the champion.
Therefore, the 3rd/4th place match at this edition of the AFC Asian Cup takes on more significance, as the winner will join the Champion and Runner-up of the AFC Asian Cup 2007 in 2011.
The Aussies may be out, but this blog will run until the final, of course
Japan v Saudi Arabia: I'll be following Japan as a Celtic and Nakamura fan.
Iraq v Korea Republic: In view of my special relationship with Jorvan Vieira and the Iraqi players, its come on Iraq.
Japan v Iraq final. I'd like to see that.
Monday, 23 July 2007
Losing to Japan was good for the game! Ok, Ben Buckley said nothing of the sort, but it got me thinking.
We were always going to have to pay for the team and support staff to stay until the final.
So we saved a week's money there. Hotel fees, The big man's food bill, you know who I mean etc.
Also the players were said to be on $110,000 per man if they won the tournament. With Arnie and others on a bonus, that has to be about $2.5million.
We're rich, we're rich.
That should cover a Youth League or a Women's league. Take your pick.
Until I hear otherwise the FFA must have more money in their budgets now than if we stayed one more week and won the Asia Cup.
Remember there was no prize money, so the longer we stayed the more it cost.
Sunday, 22 July 2007
Here's my Socceroos ratings: They ain't pretty but then the performances weren't.
Positives: David Carney, Mark Milligan, Michael Beauchamp, Tim Cahill and the fact these weren't the World Cup qualifiers:) Football in Asia. We've never had so much and I love it.
Negatives: Team performances, Coaching decisions and Mark Viduka, Vince Grella Lucas Neill, Patrick Kisnorbo and Harry Kewell.
Mark Viduka is 31. This team needs to move our best World Cup player to the bench. This would allow him to maintain his impact and quality as he ages and slows further.
More importantly it will allow the new coach to bring in younger, more mobile forwards which will enable this team to change the way it plays.
We can't qualify for the World Cup with a slowing Viduka leading the line. Until we move him we can't improve as a team.
Sadly, it's time to change the pace of our attack, even if that means in the short-term we lose more games. We will only qualify if we can improve in our forward play. With Viduka ageing, and slowing, we need to look to the next generation.
Do you really want to watch a 34 year old Mark Viduka leading the line at the next World Cup?
Mark Scharzwer..6.Made some great saves against Oman, and Japan. But his distribution was shocking, especially against Japan. His performances were much poorer than what we expect from a guy ten years in the Premiership. Very disappointing overall, but not through lack of effort or character.
Lucas Neill 5..the most disappointing of all the players. Woeful in the first two games. And getting sent-off for back chat! Well, I find that unforgivable for a guy who was so dignified in defeat against Italy twelve months ago. Missed his penalty. Can't criticise him for that, but his run-up was painful to watch.
More importantly he talked up the Socceroos chances, ran down the Omani's, got sent off, got out jumped for the Japanese goal and played woefully against Oman and Iraq. What is wrong with Lucas?
Will be important once he gets his game and attitude back. Probably needs a strong coach to get the best out of him.
Patrick Kisnorbo..4.. Arnold should have read the signs against Singapore. The rest of the country did. Kisnorbo needed protecting and given the chance to improve. Only plays with Leicester in England so clearly playing above himself for the Socceroos. Will get his chance again. Lets hope he is given more support by the Coach and players next time.
David Carney..8..well, well,well. Showed his energy and his left foot. Will undoubtedly give us scares with his defending in years to come. But will play many more times for the Socceroos, and will improve. Well done Carney and well done Arnold.
Mark Milligan..8..did fantastically well, apart from the goal which eventually took us to penalties. But he is quality, sharp and you can see he wants to win. Would always be in my Socceroos team from now on. Arnold must rue the fact that he didn't have the confidence to give the Olyroos Captain a start earlier in the tournament.
Brett Emerton..7 Still super fit. Showed his energy and ability in the last game. This is where he's needed despite his poor distribution and threat in final third. Slow to start the tournament in terms of fitness which suggests the whole team was underdone. If this guy can't run, who can!
Michael Beauchamp..7..did well I thought. Gained confidence since last Socceroos appearance and showed he can handle the pressure. Should improve from here for the Socceroos if guided correctly.
Vince Grella..5..poor Vinnie. Not fit from the off, and Arnold unwilling to take him off and give him support early in games. Vinnie undoubtedly a player of ability in a certain role. But when his team-mates aren't moving Grella will always look less effective, and for many games no-one was moving. Grella probably just needed a rest and Coach's support. He got neither.
Jason Culina..6 ran hard and got fitter as the games went on. Didn't produce anything in the final third of the field. With Grella not expected to, surely one of the two centre mids have to produce something occasionally. The team requires something more at international level. Culina has the ability and engine to score but needs to pick some moments when he can influence forward play.
Distribution was shocking in first three games. But Culina gives his all. Unfortunately it wasn't enough. Still a vital member of future campaign.
Harry Kewell..5..Not sure what Harry did. Not sure what he can do anymore. Him and Dukes beat Uruquay and got us to the World Cup last sixteen. Our golden players.
But Harry did not create much if anything in Asia. Was unfit. In fact such was his defending against Thailand that he was quickly shifted to right wing, from where he scored a great meaningless goal. Has he got more to give the national team? Maybe, but at 28 is he going to be fit enough to play?
Maybe it's time to move Harry on. Hard as it is, but maybe with the World Cup three years away, his time is over!
Mark Viduka..6..yes he scored three goals. Two against Thailand. But he didn't really turn up. in fact he didn't run until the third game and came off early in the fourth. I'm a big fan of Viduka, but until he ends his days we are restricted by his lack of pace but undoubted strengths. The big man should step back, but not down. Call him in occasionally and play him when we need him. But his talents are so big he demands a place. His lack of pace demands a certain style.
This is now restricting the growth of the team. Kennedy and McDonald, younger more mobile are not Viduka but they are the future. Viduka, sadly I say, it's time to be a bench man.
John Aloisi 6..Aloisi fought hard and always wants to play. He scored and that is what he is there for, but did he gives us much more.
Against Japan he kept the ball for way to long, was unable to find his team-mates and often lacked control. Not always his fault as support was distant, but didn't really perform. Best days are behind him. Good squad man in years to come. What's new!
Tim Cahill...8 can hold his head high. Ran hard, created goals, and scored. Probably one of the few to play as we know they can.
Nicky Carle..6..well he didn't get much game time, but sometimes a star makes his name in such a way. Can't criticise him for not winning the game against Japan single handedly, but if he had he'd be remembered for ever.
Needs more opportunities at this level. Do you really put him on at this time of the game, in this game with his experience. Coaching blind I call that.
Luke Wilkshire....5 played out of position. Silly bookings. Limited ability to attack from full-back. Carney showed what an Australian left-back is required to do in terms of attack.
Brett Holman..5 poor first touch, missed chances, didn't perform. Seemed nervous and too keen.
Jury still out, but needs more game time.
Marco Bresciano: 5 Played in patches, but reflected the team. Not fit, seemed like it was too hard at times. Lifted against Japan. As one of our creative players, what did he create in the whole tournament? Looked like a man who had played too much football in the last few years. Coach should recognise this.
Graham Arnold: 4 Poor performance. Failed to get his squad to perform. Culturally Australia need a guy that is more than just a football manager. We are in Asia. We need an intelligent man beyond the tactical stuff.
Arnie learnt as the tournament taught him lessons. He now knows it's okay to play A-League players, but he would never have done it. How many j-League players waltzed all over the Aussies, and Iraqi and Thai for that matter.
Arnie blamed his players, the referee, the heat, the different seasons. Where was the ability to celebrate our journey into Asia. The ability to use Nicky Carle instead of a non-performing Bresciano, or Carl Valeri for an exhausted Vince Grella. How long would he have persevered with Kisnorbo and Neill. Did he not see the Singapore debacle?
Arnie needs to move on. And maybe return later in his career. For me, right now, he cannot take us towards 2010. It wouldn't be fair on him.
This Australian team is the most important job in sport. This team will take us across Asia. We need a football tactician and much much more.
The Government should fund the position!
Australia produced their best performance of the Asia Cup, but it was not good enough to beat Japan.
The game ended 1-1 after extra time, and Japan won 4-3 on penalties.
Australian fans went into the game with some concerns given their defensive performances over the last twelve months.
Japan had a new coach, Ivica Osim, since the last world cup. He'd also made six changes to the team.
It was a good game. Tense and tactical. Both teams playing to their maximum. Japan kept the ball, moved it around and changed tempo.
Australia produced flashes of play from David Carney and Brett Emerton on the flanks. But Mark Scharzwer's distribution was woeful all night. And Mark Viduka and John Aloisi found it very difficult to find other Australian players when they did receive the ball.
But Australia scrapped and the defence was stronger than its been for months.
Mark Milligan Michael Beauchamp and Lucas Neill all started the game well.
Finally Australia took the lead in the Asia Cup. A Kewell corner bundled home by Aloisi.
The reward for effort and determination throughout the night.
They kept the lead for one minute. Just one.
Woeful defence from Neill and Milligan allowed Naohiro Takahara to turn in the box and shoot home.
Then disaster struck. A great game of football was ruined, once more by the referee. The ref, from Kuwait, had a strange game all night. Booking Carney and Kewell for diving. But more amazingly refusing free kicks on Aloisi time and time again.
Vince Grella jumped for a ball. His arm was out, but little intent or power. Takahara coming in from behind went down like he'd been hit by a tank.
Ref showed Grella a straight red, and he was gone.
Pity because this was an epic battle.
And the Aussies battled on. For the last fifteen of the game...and then all through extra-time.
Shunsuke Nakamura should have won it in the ninety. Scharzwer made a superb save. But apart from a similar chance at the end of extra-time, Australia played exceptionally well with ten men. Sure Japan had plenty of the ball but the Aussies were compact and kept the Japanese threats to a minimum.
It felt like the goal was to get to penalties, and that would be our best chance.
We did it. But of course the penalties are always a lottery.
Significantly Scharzwer saved nothing int he shoot-out. And Harry Kewell missed, followed by Lucas Neill. 0-2 is not how you win penalty shoot-outs.
And why did Neill take a two step walk up. Is it just me or do fans hate this approach, especially when they miss.
So Japan the Asian Cup Champions march on.
It was a great game. I loved every minute, but the ref spoiled the fare.
Australia may say they were unlucky, but in truth they lost this tournament they day they produced insipid performances against Oman and Iraq.
Arnold improved his defence only because Patrick Kisnorbo needed a break under the United Nations Human Rights Charter. Rule 30: All Centre Halves who make simple errors in major tournaments mus t be given a two week break form the glare of the fans and media. Without this rule Arnold would still have played him. Of that you can be sure.
And secondly when Neill was suspended he had to change his defence. And it worked against Thailand and against Japan despite Milligans error.
Australia were good enough to be playing Vietnam for a place in the semi-final not Japan.
And who takes responsibility for that?
It has to be Arnold.
Football is a tough business. Arnold should recognise his achievements and do the honourable thing.
Saturday, 21 July 2007
Friday, 20 July 2007
Well it is for me, because I'm back in Canberra where the temperature is around 2 degrees at the moment!
My trip is over, I did it!
But the games go on.
Saturday's will be a cracker.
The winners of the Asia Cup get to play in the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2009. Lots of dosh for that one. Australia could do with it.
If we win tonight we play in the semi's and obviously assured of a top four position. Top four Asian Cup finishers are seeded for World Cup qualifiers which start next year.
Can we win?
Of course. Japan have a new coach and new team and are playing the best football of the tournament.
But in many ways they are more professional and more predictable than other sides. This will help Australia.
The Aussies will lift. They have been clearly lifted by moving hotels, and countries.
And they know this is a d0-or die game.
Arnold will not drop Neill, so expect Emerton to push into midfield to replace the suspended Luke Wilkshire.
Milligan may go to right back, but he must start surely.
One forward will be the go, in the first part of the match. Can we afford two attackers as our midfield and defence got over run against Thailand on Monday. How would we keep out Japan?
Vinny Grella, Jason Culina and Marco Bresciano are key men. Can they lift. Can they stay the distance.
Bresciano linked well with Emerton against Iraq for periods, but beyond that has found it hard to play decent forward balls despite receiving plenty of it.
Grella. What is wrong with Vinnie? Looks exhausted and doesn't seem to be able to dig himself out of this whole. Culina meanwhile slashed and thrashed the ball against Thailand. Maybe he too, was tired.
Grella and Culina are our core, if they can't keep the ball and play the other guys in, then Australia will have a torrid night.
I expect the spirit of the team to shine through. The team is now fitter, so no more fitness excuses allowed.
The players all seemed lighter after the Thailand victory. Clearly pleased to be moving on.
It's do-or-die stuff now and Australia will not go down without a fight.
Can we win. Of course we can.
Keep a clean sheet for as long as possible. Mess with Japanese minds, and then release Cahill and Kewell and seal it in the last ten minutes.
We haven't scored the opening goal in any World Cup or Asian Cup qualifier, bar Thailand.
Tonight if we go behind, we may not be good enough to get back.
Throwing four forwards on is fine, but Japan have seen it before. Also Ivica Osim is a coach, Zico, Coach in the World Cup, wasn't.
Do we have the Aussie equivalent?
Time for that analysis later.
Now it's time to support the team and whoever is chosen to play. Come on Australia. This could go to penalties, it could be that sort of night.
Australia v Japan.. the game we all wanted, even FoxSports.
Simon Hill, "It could be the biggest PayTV rating show of the year. Prime time on Saturday night, Australia v Japan."
Tuesday, 17 July 2007
Football Federation Australia has been stung by criticism earlier this week as The Socceroos struggled to live up to their pre-tournament tag as Asia Cup favourites.
Fans in Australia were shocked at dismal performances against Oman and Iraq, which left Australia in a do-or-die battle with Thailand. Australia won 4-0 easing pressure on Coach Graham Arnold, the players and the whole FFA organisation but the previous performances haven’t been forgotten.
Many fans have called for Graham Arnold’s resignation. Others blame a lack of preparation. Some say the players don’t want to be here. A lack of knowledge and respect of Asian football within the FFA structure has also been raised.
FFA CEO Ben Buckley admits seeing the Socceroos play in their first Asian Cup is a big learning curve for everyone.
But Buckley, clearly disappointed by the criticism, strongly refutes the team is under prepared.
“Not at all. We invested a lot of time and money in reconnaissance. We sent a team to the various locations to check training facilities and hotels. We worked hard on having a preparation plan; we went to Singapore where we acclimatised. We had a very strong game plan in place. But it’s like anything when you are first time participants. Entering a new tournament for the first time, when you sit down afterwards you will learn a lot about what went right and what you can improve on.”
Within the FFA Coaching structure is there anybody with Asian Cup knowledge?
“The Coaches have studied the teams. The coaching staff watched tapes and saw them play in some games so I don’t think we have been deficient in our preparation but there is always going to be a team who comes and plays a different way from what we’ve seen or a player who plays better than we anticipated he could. That’s the same in any sport.”
Despite the rocky start the FFA is delighted with the interest back in Australia.
“We were unsure how the Australian public would embrace the Asia Cup. But the TV audiences have been extremely strong. Clearly there is a lot of interest and that’s really pleasing. The scale of the tournament; the reach around such a large region can only be beneficial to Australian football in the long run.”
If Australia goes out of the tournament early will this hinder the growth of the sport?
“Sure it would help if we are successful here, but our long term strategy is governed by a range of factors; not just success at one tournament. We want to grow the A-League, bring in quality players and get the huge grass roots participants through the turnstiles. Our long term growth doesn’t depend on success at anyone tournament.”
“There is no one silver bullet for the growth of football in Australia. But getting the participants and people who have an interest in the game through the turnstiles of an A-League club would result in higher attendances, bigger revenues for clubs and more income from TV and Sponsorships, and this would allow us to reinvest back into the community.”
The Socceroos are reported to be on $110,000 per person to win the Asia Cup. Given the wages of some of these players, plus the fact there is no national women’s league or men’s youth league due to a lack of funds within the FFA, are these player incentives warranted?
“Well, I think you are being selective in your numbers. But the players are the games greatest asset. These are the ones young people aspire to. It’s the players who generate huge interest in the game. They need to be appropriately rewarded, and to be fair, they could have asked for more. But they sat down and we went through our four-year business plan and they saw what we are trying to do for the growth of the game. The players accepted our plan.”
I met up with Canberra's Socceroo Carl Valeri in the mixed zone after the Thailand match.
Carl was warming up ready to replace Vinnie Grella when Mark Viduka scored.
"I almost got on, almost got on. But (Graham Arnold) changed his mind at the last minute," said Carl.
"Thailand were one of the best teams in the Group. It's a pity they aren't going through. Technically they were very good."
"Preparation has been good throughout the tournament but tonight we seemed to mentally be sharper. Maybe it was the atmosphere, the crowd were fantastic and seemed to lift us.
It wasn't easy for The Socceroos. They were pinned back for most of the second half.
"That's normal in football as they chase an equalizer, they'll push forward. It was a tactical game of soccer. And then they leave gaps and we can expose them, as we did. I'm just happy that we got through."
"It gives me a bit of an extra chance to play in the Asia Cup which would be great."
What about the mood in the camp.
"Mood hasn't change, We've always been a tight group."
"After the game the mood was relief. We can forget the last performances and look forward to Japan now. It would have been disappointing to go out now without showing what we can do."
Is the squad getting fitter?
"I don't know about me as I haven't be tested. But the team look sharper tonight."
Are you looking forward to Hanoi and the Japan game?
"Yes, it'll be a great game. Can't wait."
Well we did it, and players and press were happy to chatlast night
Here's a few snippets of what was said.
Graham Arnold, "Well tonight we played well for 85 minutes."
An insider, "We gave the ball way too much in the second half. If Vinnie has it and players aren't moving he's wondering do you want it or don't you. We need to improve, it's not good."
Mark Milligan, "Great to have two Sydney boys in the team. No I didn't know Dave (Carney) was defender. I've never seen him play there, and I've never seen him defend before." he laughs
Dave Carney, "No I've never played left back in my life. I thought I did well, and I felt pretty comfortable."
Simon Hill, "Could be the ratings of the year on Saturday 8:30 against Japan."
Robbie Slater, "Everyone's smiling now."
Simon Hill, "They will have to improve for Saturday."
Carl Valeri, "I was just about to get on and then we scored."
Thai Coach, "Australia were lucky tonight. The weather helped them."
Mood was good. It was great to be around after a win. I've seen the ugly, after Iraq, so nice to see The Australian manager and players relaxed.
It's been a tense time. Saturday is what joining Asia is all about.
Atmosphere was tremendous last night. Well done Thailand a fantastic performance. Hard to believe they are semi-pros!
Monday, 16 July 2007
Surely Australia can beat Thailand.
Need to score first I think
The crowds have been small for the Australian games so far. Walking around the stadium there have been plenty of Aussies but that's about it.
Today feels different. The drums are already here three hours or so before kick-off.
There is a buzz about the ground.The Thai people have been delighted by their team and incredibl noisy in their continual ear-splitting support. Expect more of the same today.Possibly an even bigger crowd as this is the first game played in the evening Thai time.
Most games have been played at 5.20...when most Thai's are at work, plus it takes a good hour or more in heavy traffic to get to the ground.
A good crowd is expected. Surely the Aussies will lift.
They were much fitter in the last game. With Kewell expected to start on the bench and provide class late on. Australia should finish strongly.
Five wins out fifteen is hardly Asian Favourites material.
But the team need desperately to win this one, to save face.
At least a knock-out place and suddenly things aren't so grim.
Of course Australia can do it. But it will all, I believe, hinge on our defensive performance.
If we concede a goal, Arnie tends to throw forwards on. This defence isn't good enough to go man on man at the back. Although Thailand may struggle if Australia score first.
It will very interesting to see Arnold's chosen team and how Australia approach the game.
Australia's Number One Football Analyst Craig Foster and the man who knows more about Asian Football than any Aussie I've met on this trip, Scott McIntyre.
This article first appeared in the CANBERRA TIMES on Sunday 15 July.
The Socceroos crashed 3-1 to a war torn and poorly prepared Iraq on Friday in Bangkok. Australia fans could hardly believe what they saw just twelve months after The Socceroos triumphant World Cup campaign.
Australia were favourites not just for their group but for the whole tournament, but is now in real danger of coming bottom of their group!
SBS Football analyst and former Socceroo Craig Foster believes the responsibility lies with Football Federation Australia and Graham Arnold.
“Can you imagine any other top thirty countries in the World sending a team to a major tournament with a Coach who has no experience in Coaching in a major tournament; apart from six months under Guus Hiddink at a World Cup?
The guy is still learning how to solve major problems which only appear in such a tournament.”
“What was the FFA thinking, they must have been out of their minds?”
But surely Arnold would have learnt from Hiddink about meticulous planning and preparation.
“Yes but Hiddink understood Asia and its football and major tournaments,” points out Foster, “Arnold has changed training sessions, blamed players and lost the group I believe. How else do you explain Lucas Neill being allowed to criticise the Omani team. We are guests in Asia, for the first time. Hiddink would have understood this so much better.”
“Japan has only two or three players from the team which lost To Australia in the World Cup. A team full of J-League players. Look how Branko Culina’s Sydney FC did against J-League Champions Urawa Reds in the Asian Champions League. Culina would probably do a better job than Graham Arnold.”
SBS reporter in Bangkok Scott McIntyre, believes Australia seriously underestimated the quality of Asian football.
“Take Iraq. They beat Australia and Portugal in the Olympics. Portugal who had Ronaldo in their line-up! Oman had great success in the Gulf Cup and other Middle East games in recent years. Walking round Bangkok with Iraqi Number 5, Nashat Ali, we were stopped seven or eight times. Everybody knows him. He’s a fantastic player, a superstar across Asia but few Australian players, Coaches or fans would have heard of him. Why?”
“Because we look to Europe, to England. But was Mark Viduka better, faster than Iraq striker Younis Mahmoud just because Viduka plays for Newcastle United in England? Clearly he wasn’t, and Younis was carrying two broken ribs from the first game.”
So are the players just not good enough? Did Australia over perform at the World Cup?
Foster supports the players, “Of course the players are good enough. I believe they are. But Hiddink coached them so that any of the twenty three players can slot into the same spot. Hiddink would have sent an outspoken player home, because the team didn’t need individuals. Hiddink would ensure Lucas Neill played for the team. “
“I feel for Patrick Kisnorbo, it’s not the kids fault. If Kisnorbo had played under Hiddink he would have improved as a player. Now his International career could be destroyed. It is not the players fault.”
“The Coach needs to Coach. It’s a problem we have across Australian football. The FFA need to urgently address our coaching across all levels of the game. For the National team I wouldn’t be surprised if they ask (Dutch Coach and Australian Technical Director) Rob Baan to take over for the third game.”
Scott McIntyre, long time Asian football analyst from his days supporting FC Tokyo whilst living in Japan, believes Arnold should have introduced younger players like Sydney’s FC‘s Mark Milligan and Melbourne Victory’s Adrian Leijer.
“Other sides have players of 17 and 18 not just in their squads and playing. Do you think Nathan Burns (Adelaide United’s Olyroo) would stop running after half and hour. Of course not, players like him are young and desperate to play.”
Foster adds, “We have been given the gift of being allowed to play in Asia. Asia football is technically gifted and is full of intelligence. Our players are strong and fast. We need to learn and learn fast if we are to qualify for the next World Cup.”
Speaking from Canberra, long time Football analyst Richard Jones has announced his team for tonight.
Jones says, "I don't think it matters if they play 3 or 4 at the back. It's the midfield cover that is the problem as much as anything."
"And Viduka needs Archie up with him. He's been too isolated. And Harry needs to fire.
Schwarzer (probably doesn't deserve it)."
"Milligan Beauchamp Kisnorbo (only cos Neill is suspended) or Thwaite
Kewell Bresciano (doesn't deserve it but who else is there)Valeri (in for Grella)Cahill Carle
A youthful and aventurous team Mr Jones, but it could just win the game. Will Arnold be so bold?
We can only hope. Interesting at training on Saturday, Breciano and Grella did nothing, merely light light jogging around the pitch.
Given Grella was taken off in the first game and his surprisingly for him, poor performances in his key roll, he may well not be match fit.
Will Anold risk Valeri? Seems like big reputations get the nod, no matter how bad the performances.
What star man has he dropped? Is he content just to keep picking guys who are not performing when he has a few younger keener guys on the bench.
He better do something before it's too late. His job is lost already even if he wins the tournament but it feels like the Coach is trapped in the headlights unable to move left or right.
Will we win?
Sunday, 15 July 2007
"Do you know you can still win the tournament," asked a journo.
"Yes." said Harry.
Everyone roared. It was the way he delivered it.
Arnie well he was given an easy ride today. I guess everyone knows it's all going pear shaped.
Who would have thought Australia would fear Thailand, yes that's right Thailand.
Some say will we win, others are sure we're gone.
Arnie inspired few.
I asked, "Given our defensive performances against Denmark, Singapore and the two games here, do you have confidence that the defence can remain goalless tomorrow night."
"Yes, we're working hard on defence, but it's not about the four guys at the back, it's about the whole team. Your defence starts with your forwards."
Hmmmmn I wasn't convinced, and Arnie is a good bloke but clearly he doesn't seem to be ready for the challenges of the second biggest football tournament that our national team can play in.
Still you can hope if the defence performs, and maybe Olyroos Captain Mark Milligan is about to grab his chance. He looked like he was going to play as he walked through the lobby today. Looks can be deceptive.
Either we win and the journey continues. Surely we can beat Thailand, surely.
Thanks for coming together for the photo. Appreciate it. And I can tell you that you are in the Canberra Times today, Sunday.
Not sure if the story go in or not but here's what I sent through.
From the left:
Walnuts, Macca, Jozo, (All Tuggeranong United boys) Rod Lynes, Ian Price, Chris Conti, Kate Parker, Sean Blunt, Stephen Blunt, and Gordo with Koala.
When Socceroo and Canberran Carl Valeri looked up into the stands at Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok on Sunday night he saw the symbol of the Canberra junior club he once played for amongst the Green and Gold Army.
“I was on the bench during the Oman game and I thought I recognised the symbol. Then I read Tuggeranong United. It was awesome, really inspiring.”
Walnut, Macca, Jozo and Gordo, as the lads are known are all Tuggeranong United players following the Socceroos Asian Cup adventure in Bangkok. Gordo carries his cuddly good luck charm, Koala, with him to games.
“Koala was at the World Cup in Germany so I thought he should come here as well.”
Rod Lynes, ANU Technical Director wanted to see the Socceoos first venture into the Asia Cup.
“I’ve been to four World Cup’s including Germany. Playing in Asia allows us to engage with Asian countries on a number of levels. The other day we were playing football on the beach with a group of Omani’s. Which other sports code enables that.”
Kate Parker had seen her parents go to Germany last year.
“They love the Socceroos and when they asked me if I like to come this time, I jumped at the chance.”
The group were in good spirits before the Iraq game. All were confident of victory.
Sean Blunt had been watching the Oman game which ended in a 1-1 draw with a late equalizer from Tim Cahill.
Sitting at home in Belconnen he thought, “These guys need all the support they can get. Wouldn’t it be great if I could get over? I got the last seat on the plane, and here I am.”
Australia plays Thailand in their last group game on Monday night 10:30AEST. If Australia win and Iraq draw or beat Oman, Australia and Thailand will both have four points. The team who won the game (in this scenario Australia) between these two sides will go through.
Kate Parker said “I’m booked through to the final. So I hope the Aussies make it.”
Good turnout from the Aussie fans today. A positive spirit prevailed.
Players were a little cautious at first, to say the least. But they were welcomed by the Australian travelling fans.
A good exercise planned months ago, but it probably gave everyone a lift.
Chants of "Right foot," were bellowed to Sydney FC's notoriously left-footed David Carney.
"He's such a goalie," as keeper Mark Scharzwer was asked to join in a dribbling drill.
A great roar went up when Our Harry scored an overhead kick in training. Harry played the crowd and seemed the most relax he's been all week.
And Tim Cahill's kid who is about three or four, took off across the stadium and dribbled the ball into the net.
A great cheer from the fans, and of course, "Sign him up."
So it was all smiles.
But who will be smiling come Monday night? Let's hope it's Graham Arnold.
Doesn't it sound like Iran, just a little, or maybe that's just my twitch.
Anyway I wonder what our CEO Ben Buckley makes of it all.
An open training session today and the Australian players must have been lifted by the amazingly positive support.
We might come bottom of the group in our first Asian Cup tournament. Laughable really if it wasn't football.
Still if we win on Monday and results go our way, ie Iraq win or draw then we're off to Hanoi.
And as Mile Sterjovski said today, "A change of scenary may be just the thing to lift us."
With some defensive stability, we can win. Then we'll play Japan. A big ask on our present form.
Please ask Rob Baan to sort out the defence, or ask Arnie to explain to the nation what the heck he is trying to do with our defence because it is driving me mad. Has been for months.
Imagine if we get out of the group, then sure we're disappointed because, face it,we thought we'd walk it, but we can still progress and then every game is a sudden death.
Come on Australia. What could be better than four more do-or-die games with Aussie pride on the line.
Come on Arnie, sort the defence. Put Mark Milligan in. Michael Thwaite or Michael Beauchamp as well. Shift Emerton up the park. Give Harry a rest. Bring him on later.
Tell Viduka he has 60 minutes and no more, and get him to run like the wind for 60.
Fire up Australia we can still do it.
We were much more mobile yesterday, more offensive. So with an improved defensive performance I think we can win.
I do I really do.
Friday, 13 July 2007
Ouch that hurt but Australia can still go through.
If the Aussies beat Thailand and Iraq draw or beat Oman, then Australia have the same points as Thailand
And then it goes on the Aussie Thai game,not goal difference, therefore Australia would go through.
Almost embarrassing really, but I'd take it.
Every cloud has a silver lining so they say. Lucas Neill is suspended and Paddy Kisnorbo should be rested. Maybe this was the only way Arnold would change his defence.
It's time to try the new blokes.
So we lose, Beauchamp and Milligan will at least be better for the experience. And we'll need them for the next four years or more.
If they aren't considered good enough, well who is in the back four really!
Arnie never got his defence sorted, against Denmark, Uruguay, Singapore, Oman and now Iraq.
It was horrible tonight and embarassing to the sport. And it has showed up Arnie's coaching and the lack of depth in our squad.
But we can still go through, so come on those Socceroos.
That word almost sounds like Iran.
Iraq 3..could have been 6 Australia 1
We were there!
Sort of like saying you were there when Australia beat Uruguay.
Full fan report should appear in Sunday's Canberra Times, and I'll have a full write up on Monday on this blog.
Names, attitude, and wit. Yes Canberra wit was alive and kicking.
Glad I didn't ask them for a photo after the game......aaaaggggghhhhhhhhh!!
Full scale security for the Australian game but with my small frame I nipped in unnoticed.
And there was Arnie's seat. And it is hot.
Reckon Arnie could do with my help, so if you're reading this Arnie just three hours before the game it's not too late to ask.
I know I know I've just become a football writer and already I want to be the Coach of the whole thing.
Anyway defence is a problem, so here's some advice. There's more but I'll keep it for Arnie.
Play Mark Milligan at right back..and push Brett Emerton forward. Left back...maybe play Mark Milligan there as well. He's so good he play both positions, sure why not!
I know Spike, as he is known by Sydney fans, is a right back, but Luke Wilkshire isn't a full back on anyside.
Failing that Arnie, just get the boys to do it, for Australia, for yourself.
It's all a bit tense but don't lose Australia, not tonight.
It's a bit cooler today at the moment but it could change. Bangkok is that sort of place.
I can't bare it....but we're going to win.
We are, aren't we?
update:2:51...it's stinking hot...just been out into the stands...blazing sun and hot hot hot.
Thursday, 12 July 2007
Canberra's Carl Valeri at the Socceroos Hotel in Bangkok.
I caught up with Carl after the Oman game.
"It was a tough game, but I'm absolutely convinced we'll get better."
We discussed the game and during the discussion, Carl sparked.
"Did you see the banner, the Tuggeranong United banner."
"Where, in the Stadium?"
"Yes, in the middle of the Aussie fans. I looked across to the fans during the game, and saw a sign on a banner. I thought I recognise that sign. And then I read the banner Tuggeranong United. It was awesome, so inspirational. Do you know who they are?"
"No, I actually didn't see it."
"Well tell them thanks from me if you find out."
So well done the boys from Tuggeranong. Great to see the local support for the Australian team and hope you are having a ball.
And of course Carl played for Tuggeranong United as a junior.
ED; I'm planning to meet Canberrans in Bangkok at 4pm at the media gate at the stadium w1. Hoping to organise a photo and story for the Canberra Times.
If you know anyone in Bangkok, let them know. The more the merrier.
Hawar Mulla Mohammed gave his Captain a Baghdad caress during the last Iraqi game against Thailand.
So I asked the question at the Press Conference
"Hawar, given you gave your Captain a Baghdad Caress in the last game, how is your relationship with Younis Mahmoud now."
Hawar was apologetic, said he didn't mean and things are fine.
But then the Iraqi Coach Jorvan Vieira, who is a tremendously warm and friendly man, it must be said, asked me a question!
In the middle of the Press Conference. That will teach me to open my mouth.
What did he ask?
"Do you have brothers?"
To which I replied, "I do, three." Because I do have three.
"When you were young (nice dig Jorvan) did you not fight with your brothers."
Well I'm not going to let him a way with that am I.
"Yes I did, but now I'm older I don't," I replied. "And wouldn't you be concerned such indiscipline could be punished by the AFC?"
"It's not a problem. We deal with things in our own way."
No worries Mr. Vieira, and I'm impressed the way you defended your player. But in England Lee Bowyer and Kieran Dyer earned suspensions for having handbags in the middle of a game, so why not your player?
Anyway I didn't ask another question at any press conference for the rest of the day:)
Here's what www.sportal.com.au Chief of Staff, Bren O'Brien wrote the next day.
Lucas Neill obliges for a photo after today's press conference. A little tension in the air, between Coach Graham Arnold and the press.
I guess the importance of the game is hanging on Arnold's mind. Plus the press, in general, appear to focus on the negatives.
Still a win could relax everyone.
Lucas Neill? Well, he was relaxed, and smiling. Took it all in his stride.
Lucas Neill's salary has been discussed often in the Press recently. Not so well known is his contribution to young Australia players.
He contributes to two Australian players going for a week's trial in England every year.
Very impressive. Makes my heart warm to hear such a positive story from one of Australia's star men
Two of the best players in the A-League are rumoured to be heading overseas.
Will they stay or will they go?
David Carney is off to Sheffield Wednesday (It's not Sydney Dave) and Mark Milligan, well I'm surprised he hasn't been picked up already with the quality of his performances for Sydney FC and The Olyroos.
Hope they stay a bit longer, but you can understand why they might go...even to Sheffield.
Thailand 2 Oman 0
Thailand produced a wonderful performance in the Rajamangala Stadium tonight. The crowd, although not large, was passionate and very knowledgeable in their support for a Thai team full of running, skill and enterprise.
And running is not a word we've heard much of in this tournament but boy did they run, and fast.
Did Oman played their best game against Australia? Or could so-called easy beats Thailand top the group?
Can Australia overcome Iraq and face Thailand in a play-off for the right to stay in Bangkok.
Mood in the Aussie camp is a little tense. Coach Graham Arnold seems ill at ease when facing an increasingly negative press.
A win would help against Iraq. Australia have to lift. And find some pace. Do we have enough in the sapping conditions?
Thailand went the full ninety. Can Australia? Let's hope so.
Should be a cracker tomorrow at the Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok. Kick-off 5:30 Thai time, 8:30 EST.
Fire up Australia. Can't wait.
The Socceroos success at last year's World Cup was in part due to this man. Brett Emerton's pace and energy is so valuable it's like having an extra player.
And no coincidence that Grosso, the Italian, went past a tired Marco Breciano in the right back area. Would Grosso have got past Emerton.
I think not, but we'll never know because Emo was suspended for that game.
Having Emo at full back for the Asian Cup is reducing, I believe, this guys exceptional qualities.
There are fit and mobile players and then there is Brett Emerton. His fitness gives The Socceroos a tactical weapon.
Is it being used effectively at full-back. I don't think so.
Taking time out from a hectic schedule to speak to the Canberra Times in the Socceroos hotel lobby in Bangkok, Young appeared calm and relaxed, despite the Socceroos worrying performance in the opening game against Oman.
“If we win I’ve done my job. If we lose I could be held responsible. Obviously there are many other factors, but people look to how the team were prepared if we lose.”
Australian has been marked as favourites by many, but Sunday’s performance was uninspiring.
“The players know it was a mediocre performance. They are a determined group of players who take nothing for granted. We knew the Omani’s were physically strong and very skilful,” said Young
“Somebody had written the schedule for the games until the final on our planning board in the hotel. One of the senior players rubbed it out. They have no illusions. They take a game at a time, and are aiming just to get through the group at this stage. There are some quality footballers in Asia. It was always going to be tough.”
“Our guys have all come in from a very short break after a long season in Europe. All have different levels of fitness. Marco Bresciano hasn’t had a break for three years. Tim Cahill has been out for four months. You can’t train all players the same. My job is to plan and prepare the programs to ensure these guys are as fit as they can possibly be.”
But Australia looked slow and lethargic on Sunday night.
Young nods, “We had a short three week pre-season in some of the harshest conditions in the World for playing football. The players will get stronger as the tournament goes on. I’m absolutely sure of that.”
“We had players losing between 3-4kg against Oman, so we need to track each player, and we do.”
Young who started football with Woden Valley, was the first ever captain of the Australian Institute of Sport football programme.
“I went through with Frank Farina and Tony Franken (Socceroos Coach) and Ray Junna (AIS Coach). In those days we toured England for four weeks and nobody was offered a contract. Now if the AIS team went over, half the team wouldn’t come back!”
But Young has gone back to England. He is in the management group at Fulham in the English Premier League.
“I work alongside new manager Lawrie Sanchez (ex-Northern Ireland Coach); I have been here for two years and just extended for another year.”
“It’s a buzz. It’s tough, but I get to sit on the bench at Manchester United’s and Liverpool’s home grounds so that’s great.”
“Australian Sports Science is the best in the World, and English Premier League sides recognise that. With the Socceroos we are constantly measuring weight loss, hydration levels, and muscle fatigue. I’ve introduced a GPS tracking system for the first time so we can assess player’s performance.“
“I’m pleasantly surprised at how many Australian players got released by their clubs in England to play in the Asian Cup. It also shows the desire of these guys to play for Australia. Many of them have not won anything at club level and this is another opportunity.”
“Fulham weren’t excited about releasing me either. But I’m honoured to be involved in the National team. I’m representing Australia and it’s a tremendous experience.”
Wednesday, 11 July 2007
Of course I sat in the front row.
It's Michael Beauchamp, Brett Emerton and FFA Communications Manager Stuart Hodge.
Yes I asked two questions at my first ever Presser (Press Conference apparently)
Well what would you ask the day before Australia play Iraq?
1. Brett are you comfortable playing right-back or would you prefer to play further forward. (implication being I don't think he is.)
Brett: I've been playing there all season so I'm pretty happy. I'll play where I'm picked.
Dynamic question number two.
2. Are you and the Australian players aware that the Iraqi team each lost a member of their family in the war in Iraq?
Brett: No, we're just concentrating on our preparation. We haven't been thinking about the other team.
So marks out ten for me....no actually, keep it to yourself!
Press Conferences are dead dead boring if this is anything to go by.
Are you fit?
Do you think you'll play?
How is your knock?
Did you expect to play last time?
How is the team?
How is the heat?
Did you underestimate Oman?
And so on and so forth.
Given we are playing Iraq and the significance of that in view of Aussie troops being at war in Iraq if not with Iraq, you think someone would have asked something along those lines..wouldn't you.
Maybe no-one cares.
Or can someone from The Chaser come in and just liven it up.
So my mate wants to know Red Curry or Green Curry? Which is their favourite?
Arnie's up tomorrow, what should I ask?