Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And the Experts Prophesy Round 11

Yes, this post is for tips.

And for some indulgent prattle as well...

Namely a quick report on those other fighting football teams, The West End Terror(ist)s, my son's Indoor team, and the Red Eye Pirates, the Futsal team I play for.

West End defeated Swiss Cheese (not a fortuitous name I would think) last Saturday, 8:3. Goals to Stav (5), Max (2) and Liam. All the kids were brilliant, and if anything should have scored more goals still. As their name implies, Swiss Cheese simply did not know how to maintain a defense. The guys have now won three of their four matches, and have established themselves as one of the teams to beat.

The Red Eye Pirates lost their first competition game 4:2, and their second, last night, was a draw 3:3.

The loss in the first round was actually more gratifying than the draw last night. Last night we were missing a few players and we really should have won anyway, but fell apart in the last five minutes allowing them to equalise from us being 3:1 up. Goals to Abel (2) and Lara. Heaps of fun all round. I honestly think an all-round not just sporting but friendly environment brings out the best in all the players, and this is one of those comps. Btw, for anyone following, Kitty was back - she had slightly torn a ligament perhaps - but it got tender again after about 10 minutes so she got off it.

Heaps of fun all round. May the Great Green Dancing Goddess smile upon Leagues A to Z across the world this week. I'll place my own tips in comments soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tipping is Open

Tipping for Round 10 is open. Dane, Wayne and Peter, I hope you come back. Well done Neil for getting close to Mike, who is struggling without the performance enhancing drugs.

Here's a few widely held assumptions that could use challenging, or at least watching.

1) The Crawford Report cleaned up soccer in Australia. Did it? Or did it just replace the system of regional football mafias with a single football mafia?

2) Lowy was the magic man for the job. See assumption 1.

3) FOX is football's media saviour. FOX has contained and monopolised professional soccer such that the elite game is only for the elite audience. I know I've said this before but it is NOT in FOX's interests for the game to grow. They depend on an inherently archaic technology, and their business plan depends on a wide range of marginally followed sporting events, big enough to entice their respective audiences to subscribe, given they have no choice, but small enough to be unviable to a free-to-air option. Any sporting code that is big enough to be viable for a commercial free-to-air bid is a THREAT to FOX.

Maybe I'm wrong. I'm still far too new to all this to get cocky, but I reckon these three assumptions are all looking very shaky.

Meanwhile, for me, soccer is so much fun, a window to the infinite in humanity, society and modern history, and a brilliant way to be a father and a community minded person. But the A-League? Tip on ladies and gentleman, but in truth I'm slowly becoming disillusioned with an elitist, top-down contrivance.

Go the Roar. Go the Red-Eye Pirates. And go the West End Terrors. May all the games be FUN and free of serious injuries.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Good Week Overall

It's getting late and I'm on my third (and last) whiskey, and I just feel like writing something, so here's the week in review.

Obviously a win would have been great for the Roar, but I remember seeing the Roar beat Wellington at Suncorp Stadium two weekends ago, along with the revelation of Zullo and Kruse, and I remember thinking, "Hell, that was a breakthrough, but the next two games are away against the two top teams Central Coast and Newcastle - if we get through those, ok I'll be happy." A win and a draw was fine and, risking the revenge of hubris, I reckon with Tiatto back we can watch the boys beat Perth at home next week, so overall I'm pretty cool with all that.

And as I blogged earlier in the week, our Futsal team (The Red Eye Pirates) won 4:1 on Tuesday, so this morning topped off a good week when Jacob's Indoor team (The West End Terrors) won 6:1 against 'The Blues'. Why, oh why, do they have to so often concede a goal in the opening minute? It's like they wander on to the pitch still thinking about X-Box or Runescape or something, and then realise where they are only after the other team scores. It was the fate of their outdoor team as well. It's like the way they prepare mentally for the game is to go one down. How can I prepare them mentally before they go on the pitch? I'm sure Newcastle is thinking the same thing at the moment. Anyway, Jacob was in goals for the second half and although he wasn't under too much pressure (the Blues weren't that good) he kept his own clean sheet. Congrats to Stav (2), Max (2), Cal and Declan for the goals. Fun was had for all.

It was a good week. It's an embarrassing thought, but my emotional state at a given time is hugely influenced by the fortunes of these three great football teams, The Queensland Roar, The Red-Eye Pirates and The West End Terrors, in no particular order.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tipping Away Round Nine

This is a post for tipping on.


Tipping Away Round Nine

This is a post for tipping on. I'll add my own in a comment soon.

I love Futsal. Last night Our team The Red Eye Pirates (Arrrrrghhh!) won 4:1 thanks to goals from Craig (2), Imogen and Abel.

It was a bit physical, and maybe I started it because I fouled someone early on to save a goal. They didn't capitalise on the free kick thankfully, but the same girl who I fouled (running out of the goal area I just sort of charged her down I think, but I can't even remember the exact details; I was just getting the ball) was the one who scored in the second half. I was caught out of position and she struck very well, so I couldn't even mind losing the clean sheet, but just had to turn around and say, "Nice shot. Well done." We were already 3 up I guess so such sportsmanship was easy.

Then the same girl again, competing with me for the ball, went to pull the trigger on a ball she must have thought was still loose and ended up booting me square in the jaw. I was down for about a minute, and although I can't remember this Imogen reckons I asked, "Where Am I?" twice. But I got the ball, and I was fine after the minute of throbbing headache. Needless to say my jaw is very sore this morning, along with quite a lot of me actually, but I still have a tongue and all my teeth minus a couple of small chips.

We played much better this week in general and it would have been a very happy evening if not that 30 seconds from time Kitty and a big bloke from the other team went hard for a ball simultaneously and Kitty was left weeping on the pitch. It wasn't a foul, just one of those, 'irresistible force meets irresistible force' situations, and the weaker person's leg gives. It ended the game, and I just hope her leg isn't broken. Unfortunately I doubt Kitty will be playing for a while, but she's young and who knows yet? She was having a great game too.

I really love this game and I love being in goals. In truth, despite the convincing win, we can't use this game as any benchmark because it was this team's first game (I think) and they really weren't that good. I didn't get a touch for the first five minutes and we probably had four times as many strikes as they did. But we're getting the crossing into the goalmouth thing happening again, and Imogen and Abel in particular were appearing fast in front of me for defense. Improvement, but we can't be content with it. There will be much tougher teams.

The game was our last pre-season friendly, so next week is serious. Just hope Kitty's OK. I'll keep you posted.

May the games this week - all of them everywhere - be fun for all and free of serious injury.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tipping the Opening of the Second Round Robin

Well the first Round Robin of the Blogger's Cup is over. The Roar fans as a block are still doing terribly, including Cecilia, who is of course a secret fan. Mike needs to be tested for performance enhancing drugs. But we all have to maintain mental strength, and it's good to see you back into the fray John, after perhaps a moment of doubt in yourself (and the Roar) last week. Jacob, the defending champion, is still in the middle of the pack, and things can turn around very quickly.

Upon a gender analysis, it's clear that women's football tipping still has a long way to go before it is truly competitive. (I just know I'll regret saying that.)

Here are my tips for Round 8:

Adelaide vs Melbourne:
United 2:0

Perth vs Sydney:
Draw 1:1

Newcastle vs Wellington:
Jets 2:1

Central Coast vs Queensland:
The F'ing Roar 1:3

Last week was a brilliant week by the way. Life seems so simple sometimes. The Red-Eye Pirates, my futsal team, won their game on Tuesday night, 3:2. The Roar won their game, 2:1. Then Jacob's team The West End Terrors (the name has been watered down due to parental pressure) won their first indoor soccer game 3:2 on Saturday (deservedly coming back from 2:1 down at half time, after leading 1:0 at the first - bloody exciting game). The news of the loss for the Young Matildas, sad though it was, did not manage to dampen my week too much.

Tonight was the third futsal game for the Red-Eye Pirates. I am the goalie full time and I love it. I looked forward to tonight all week and I'm already looking forward to next Tuesday night. I think we have a strong team, but more importantly it's a very cool team. It's fun, we all drink and smoke afterwards, we seem to really like each other, and it's well organised by Harmonie and Dorian, our managers who sub each other while the other looks after their baby.

The mixed team thing is odd, where if a bloke scores, a chick has to be the next scorer (not the other way round). It's obviously a positive-discrimination device, which is fine, but I'm not sure if it works. As goalie I know that after a bloke scores I simply don't have to worry about the blokes - I can ignore the fact that a bloke has the ball and is right in front of goal and directly mark the girl looking for the cross. Imogen, our best defender (at least I feel most secure when it is her in front of me), said the same independently of my observation - "when it's the girl's turn just shut down the girls." So the prophesy is fulfilled - the girls find it harder to score. I'm new to the game but I'm just holding a question over this rule.

Anyway, for the records, we're still playing pre-season friendlies, but our first game "we" lost (can't remember the score), though I was being lent to the other team, the second game was last weeks' which we won, and this week we lost 6:0. Why I'm not really upset about this is because I played well and made a lot of saves and the main people hammering us were loans from our team, Lara and Craig. Critically I have to say that we were pretty boring up front this week, almost all of the shots being fairly long hopefuls and very little crossing across the box, which is crucial in futsal. Needless to say, Craig and Lara were crossing to each other beautifully.

Having a drink with a few of the team after the game, I realised that all the people present were over 25 (most over 35) and had only gotten into the game in the last few years (about 6 at most). I asked everyone how they got into it and heard their various stories. All apart from me came into it through friends, playing the game. I was the only one who followed the Roar. It's not that they weren't enthused by the idea, and I'm going to invite the whole team to the next home game sure that some will come, but it's food for thought for anyone interested in the growth of the A-League. They watched the Women's World Cup. Soccer in its various forms is growing exponentially in the community. The futsal center we play at is just starting its second season, and it is chocked with teams. But... well... the A-League ain't on TV.

May the tens of thousands of soccer games around the world this week be a hell of a lot of fun for all concerned, and be free of serious injury.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

In Defense of Reinaldo

There is no question that the Roar has some striking issues. From accounts all over the place Farina has got the boys in haz-chem orange playing some great attacking football, ostensibly there's a solid defense, the midfield looks like a well-oiled machine at times, but there's that problem in front of goal. Here is the Roar player who many fans seem to want to scapegoat. I think that is a big mistake.

Now I've cursed him missing good scoring opportunities many times and I had my turn of scapegoating him myself, albeit after being a real observer of football for a total of less than three months. I've kept watching, and realised there's a lot more to see than the wasted opportunities on shots.

I've noted his work rate winning the ball, both in the air and on the ground. I've noticed him setting up opportunities at least as much as getting his own. And meanwhile, everyone else up front in the Roar have failed to score (except for Dario perhaps, and of course we miss him).

Meanwhile, for a team who has rarely managed to score, Reinaldo has scored about as well as anyone. He scored two against the South African side Supersport United, he scored
four in the pre-season, and has scored seven and assisted six so far in the A-League proper (in 30 games played). It's not the most amazing record, but let's keep a couple of things in perspective.

Firstly, Ante Milicic and Simon Lynch are both older and more experienced, and have frankly not only done no better, but do bugger all else on the field as well. The Roar does have a striker problem, but we should be careful to note that it's everyone's problem. What if Milicic, an ex-Socceroo, and Lynch were delivering on their reputations? I'm willing to bet they're paid quite a bit more, after all. Then we'd potentially have a brilliant hard-working impact player who could take defenses by surprise with his speed and footwork. Instead he's expected to be the number 1 striker, on half pay. I wonder if it's because he's Brazilian that he's expected to have been born a genius. He's young and hasn't peaked, in a new country, and yet he has the pressure of the whole fan base focussed on him.

And it's not just the fans. It has become increasingly clear the more I watch this guy that opposition coaches single him out as the one to shut down. Basically if you can pressure Reinaldo out of the game you have beaten the Roar. He is constantly man-marked, often fouled, shirt-pulled and kicked, and generally by players with much more experience. If you don't believe me, watch for it next time. The photos above (from Four Four Two) are good examples. In the first at least the player from behind appears to be going for the ball. In the second, does Vargas even have any idea where the ball is?

They're both from the same game, against Melbourne last weekend. We hear about Moore's great strike (brilliantly defended) in that game. Who delivered him that perfect ball? You guessed right. Watch him. Even under sometimes an ugly level of pressure, he's the one up front working, and I reckon the opposing defenders are bloody well aware of it.

In my view when Moore, Tiatto, Mackay and Oggy all get shots on goal (from defense and midfield) they have Reinaldo to partly thank for drawing so much heat (not to mention delivering balls).

The Roar needs a new striker - no doubt about that. If it is Reinaldo they replace it is idiocy. Milicic is out for a bit anyway, and frankly he should retire as gracefully as possible. And Lynch (I have a lot of Scottish blood by the way so this doesn't come easilly) should be sacked. Zullo has shown some great potential but it would also be a great error to expect him to step up as the number 1. The Roar needs to employ a solid, experienced striker who knows the tricks and can put a few away. Reinaldo will then, I sincerely believe, prove to be the best second striker in the League. Give him some proper time and nurturing, without the pressure of everyone on him alone, and he may well become number one in another season or so.

As addendum here's some comparatively petty reasons to keep the guy. His celebrations are a great draw card for the kids (I know this first hand). And he spends probably more time after the game signing kids' shirts than any other player in the team.

Reinaldo is committed. He's got natural talent. He's working his ass off. If we can see a bigger picture and give him a break he'll get there.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tip On Good People

In the brief history of this tipping competition nobody has got all four results correct for the round before. In the last round no fewer that three of us did so, and another four of us got a very respectable three from four. So congratulations, and especially to Peter, who on his debut has demonstrated he's going to be a dangerous contender.

As a block unfortunately the Roar supporters are doing even worse than their team. Significance? Food for thought? Um... dunno really.

I'm not going to put my tips in concrete yet as I want to put some more thought into it, but this post opens the tipping for Round 7, the conclusion of the first Robin of A-League Version 3.

So good luck everyone. And to the Ineffable Infinite, may the games be entertaining, fair and free of serious injury.

Oh yeah... one more thing Madame Infinite. MAY THE ROAR WIN A BLOODY GAME, ok?