Brazil 2014 World Cup Review

20 July 2014

Brazil came to the party and delivered a spectacular World Cup. It will be remembered for the exhilarating football, especially during the group phase, the people, Brazil itself and the meltdown of the Brazilian national team. Despite many accolades of a new found Germany that took the game to a new level, they will be mostly remembered as being the most polished and cohesive team of an entirely pragmatic bunch.

Pragmatism continued as a theme for the World Cup itself. Everything worked as expected. People could get around to the venues easily. No real crowd troubles. No real security lapses. No real concerns with referees. No crazy interventions by FIFA. No controversies. That’s the mark of success and, with the quality of games and football and a deserving winner, that made it one of the great World Cups. Not the greatest. One of the greatest. More on that later.

Germany

Germany’s win is still a bit perplexing. They weren’t heavily spruiked before the tournament, they remained inconspicuous throughout, and simply did enough in the final to win. If not for that 7-1 over Brazil in the semi final, the rapture over Germany’s success would be much lower. After brushing aside Portugal in the first group game, they relatively struggled against Ghana, USA, Algeria and France. Even Argentina had enough chances to win the final, and then we’re finding ways to laud another team.

It takes a moment to ponder all the other teams and realise that there was no clear stand-out. Factor in the recent form of German club football, especially having six Bayern Munich players in a starting team, then Germany begins to make sense. That still doesn’t make them exciting, nor that they delivered an exciting new brand of football that will set a trend for the world.

It seems that much of the elite football commentary are desperate to ascribe something special to Germany just so that it took something special to lift THEIR World Cup, rather than some less inspiring and perfunctory unit. The significant ground that Germany made and that the saw the heaviest investment was in talent and player development, of which there’s no dispute they had all round the most talented team on the pitch, and with plenty in reserve sitting on the bench. To describe the essence of Germany in this World Cup: clinical, professional and accomplished.

Brazil

No surprise that Brazil wouldn’t cope with the pressure in the semi final. The surprise is the magnitude of the capitulation. They were a total debacle and probably did themselves a favour. Brazil’s real problem – evident for some time now – is it needs an attitude adjustment. No team has a divine right to win. Even though this Brazilian team was quite poor in comparison to others, the lesson to learn is to get used to losing. All other nations go through phases of their national team being poor. It’s part of the journey that makes sport so intriguing.

It’s not always about the winning. Fred and his cohorts delivered their nation a reality check. Better to be hammered in two successive games and learn your true place in the world than reach the final and lose to Argentina and proclaim it a national tragedy. Brazil would never recover from that, clouding itself in a belief the result was merely an injustice on their divine right to win. Now they know there’s no injustice. They received the right justice. They have serious footballing problems, and cultural problems. As Les Murray so eloquently observed, get back to the “jogo bonito”, and just let the results flow from there. Selling out your soul in the name of winning at all costs is not the way to guarantee true happiness for your people.

Third Place Game

It’s a farce. You’re in a knock-out tournament. When you lose, you’re knocked out, that’s it. No one cares about a dopey third-placed medal, and barely anyone remembers. All World Cup aspirations are to reach the final and then hope to win. To render another defeat on a team that’s already had their dream shattered, it’s soul destroying. Until one team makes a real issue of it, the charade of the match will continue.

Netherland’s coach Louis van Gaal mocked the play-off pre-match, then preceded to field a strong team and show joy in winning it. Maybe that’s more to do with getting in a kick on Brazil while they are down; you rarely get such opportunities to record wins over Brazil. One brave team needs to make the match a farce and treat it with disdain. Field all reserve players and just sit around the backline when in possession.

Goal Line Technology, Offsides and Referees

Great for the viewers at home to see the goal-line technology in action. In practice, it was never needed. In one match the referee might have waited for the confirmation (apparently that only takes 1 second) of a ball that was clearly over before the goalie dragged it back. There’s countless wrong offside calls that deny goals and goal chances in in every game that should be addressed, yet FIFA focuses on something that might fix a refereeing error once every 20 years?

While the referees did falsely call many plays as offside, credit actually must be give overall as countless times the line-ball decisions were allowed. Some plays might have been a whisker offside. All fine because FIFA dictates to favour the attacker. It then became depressing that even when the referees got it right, the commentators would dwell about a potential offside. Geez. Even if you want to ignore FIFA’s edict, the spirit of the law was to stop strikers loitering in front of the goal. It was never meant for the cynical and tactical device that it has become whereby anyone with a eyebrow offside must be halted for being a rampant cheat and grabbing a gargantuan advantage to score. Let it go. In fact, FIFA should amend the real that offside is only when there’s clear space between the body of the attacker and the last defender. Meaning, the attacker can be a full body-width “offside” under the current goal-denying culture of the game.

Shock, horror, Brazil 2014 really should be remembered for the excellent refereeing. That won’t happen because excellence in refereeing means they are oblivious to our senses. It’s only when they are poor that the referees are noticed. While they can never be 100% correct, even if video referral were added, they were almost as correct as they could realistically get.

The worst decision and the best decision I saw came in one match. The best being the penalty and yellow card when Arjen Robben was fouled early in the third-placed game. The commentator, as did many pundits, said it must be a red and the foul was outside the box. No. Being given a penalty actually provides a greater goal scoring chance, not removing one, while Robben fell inside the box. Let’s say you want to adjudge it as outside, then yes it would be a red because a goal chance was snuffed. So, after 3 minutes, we have no goal for the Dutch and Brazil a man down for the rest of the match, or do you want the Dutch a goal up and Brazil will a full team to try retrieve the game? I know the outcome I want: the one that is best for football.

The worst refereeing decision was when Oscar was given a yellow when it was a clear foul on him. The score was 2-0 when it potentially it’s 2-1. While the referee excelled with the Robben decision to preserve the game, he totally fluffed the one on Oscar to prevent it really coming alive.

Predictions

Since I was holiday just prior to the World Cup, my predictions were made as the group phase was well under way. The draw is always the key, and that allowed three out of the four semi finalists to be predicted. The miss was Germany, who were scheduled to meet France in the quarter final. France seemed to be the hot team of the tournament while Germany struggled after their initial 4-0 rout of Portugal, so favoured France. From there I expected France to humble Brazil and then there’d be a close final with Argentina. Initially leaving the result to fate as to whichever team was in dark blue due to a clash of strips, it was later realised there would be no clash of home strips so France would be dark blue and Argentina their light stripes. France the world champions.

In hindsight, the only change I’d have made had I predicted before the tournament was Spain to win their group and be in Netherland’s spot of the draw, so a Spain vs Argentina semi final a lock. The other side would be Brazil vs Netherlands in the R16 game, and most likely would have picked Germany to reach the semi. France struggled to qualify and would never have been on my radar. The unknown is Italy. Had they won their group they’d have faced Spain in the quarter final. Had they been second, it would have been Brazil or Netherlands in a QF. Either way, I’d have certainly expected Spain to triumph in their semi final, and most like Brazil to eke their way into theirs. While always believing Brazil will fold under the pressure somewhere (most likely the SF), that meant a Germany vs Spain final.

Best Goals

After finally seeing the entire goal from Tim Cahill, it’s number one because of the build-up from kick-off and for the purity of execution of a shot that had an ultra high difficulty level. It triumphs James Rodriguez’s for Colombia for that was more a pot-shot and only made more spectacular with the controlled juggle that preceded it. I rate it third overall. David Luiz’s stunning free kick for Brazil against Colombia is second because it’s far more deliberate and skilful, and, again, the execution was sublime for something of a really high difficulty level. Van Persie’s flying header for Netherlands against Spain in fourth.

Missing in many lists is David Villa’s goal against Australia. On top of the delightful back-heel sweep to score, the goal was preceded by a 15-pass build-up that ripped the entire Australian team apart. These expansive and elaborately constructed goals are far more satisfying than the long range pop-shots. While they are spectacular, they are largely hit or miss, with 90% of them heading into the stands.

Sweeping counter attacks are also special. France delivered a few of those, especially against Switzerland, Mexico might have delivered one against Croatia, Holland hit Chile with one, and there’s a few others I can’t remember. Either way, the onus should be more on broader footballing elements when adjudicating best goals. These top 10 lists really should have a mix of goals in them, not just the long range bombs.

Player of the Tournament

No doubt it’s Arjen Robben of Netherlands. It was the spark of that team and by far the tournament’s most dangerous player, and the tournament’s most dangerous player. The fact Argentina’s Lionel Messi actually one the “Golden Ball” is just stupid politically correctness of FIFA. The world’s best player of his generation had to be rewarded somehow if his team could not win the Cup itself. The simply fact of the matter is that when Messi had the chance to score a goal in the final and deliver Argentina the World Cup, he fluffed it. Whereas Robben delivered all the time. As did Colombia’s James Rodriguez. He really carried that team more than anyone carried a team, and was the tournament’s leading goal scorer. He’s second pick, so Messi at least third.

Moments

For all Brazil’s heartache, they did produce the most abiding moment of the World Cup: the disbelief on the faces of their fans in the crowd. As Germany piled up the goals, it really was stunned disbelief and the feeling of watching a trainwreck in slow motion. How much more could they take? Then it was just resignation to defeat, and pleas to stop the punishment. Enough damage had been done.

Second to Brazil would be the demolition of Spain by the Netherlands. While you could attribute that game as just a freak of sports, especially since many of the goals were circumstantial rather than Spain being actually dismantled or played ultra bad like Brazil did, the follow up loss of 2-0 to Chile confirmed a reign prematurely halted. That match also impacted directly on Australia, eliminating them from the competition. Up until that point, had Spain beaten Chile, Australia was still alive, needing to beat Spain in their final match.

Yellow Cards and Suspensions

FIFA’s a joke. With the paucity of yellow cards, media was criticising FIFA for allowing referees to be too lenient so to prevent the stars of the sport being suspended from games. So guess who’s wiping yellow cards before the semi finals start to prevent any star players being suspended for the final on a second yellow? FIFA! This was rushed in for the last World Cup, and remains for this one. UEFA just announced a similar rule for the Champions League.

Yellow cards will always remain problematic because they are no deterrent. Clearly the powers that be also don’t like players being suspended for future – especially bigger – games. Not only are they denying the player a golden moment in life, they are rewarding a future team that was irrelevant to the game in which the suspension occurred. The answer is simple: If a red card means permanent expulsion, a yellow should be a temporary one. At least 10 minutes as a start, maybe 15 to really have the cards respected and the players curtail poor behaviour. That way the team is immediately and properly punish, while the infringed team gets the direct reward of a “power play” of sorts.

Neymar

Sad to say, that’s the culture of the sport in South America – to cheat. We hear it all the time, it’s intrinsic to South and Central American teams to beat authority, to bend rules, even break rules, all to get one up. This “assault” in the quarter final that led to a fractured vertebrae is no different. The motive was to beat authority, not to injure Neymar. It looked harmless; only the result made it problematic, hence calls for a red card or some sort of post match punishment.

Let’s look at it if it was the first minute and the foul had no consequences of injury, and the Colombian is red-carded. Suddenly we’re all hysterical that the game was ruined by the referee’s over-zealous action, and that Brazil could just breeze past Colombia. Sorry, we can’t have it both ways. It was a dirty game in which Brazil committed 31 fouls. We either disdain this culture of cheating and applaud the courage of referees to give red cards, or we continue as normal.

Asia and World Cup Qualifying

As much as Asia’s results were poor of winning no games and achieving just 3 draws, this World Cup is a reality check that Europe and South America still dominate the sport. Argentina vs Germany in the final. Yup, we’ve never see that before. Or Brazil and Netherlands in the semi finals. While it’s easy to pick on Asia’s teams in last place of their groups, let’s not forget that seven of Europe’s 13 teams failed too, as did 3 of Africa’s. The two African teams that progressed had Asian teams in their group, and were then promptly beaten in R16 by Europeans. In the test against Europe and South America, Africa failed just as much as Asia did. Then you really should exclude Algeria, because they are more an Arab team and benefiting from so many French born players. From black Africa, the region Pele famously predicted they’d win the World Cup by 2000, they went backwards.

CONCACAF continue to be just two teams: USA and Mexico. Both eliminated in R16 too. In fact, Mexico has never progressed past R16, while USA’s only success was in 2002. Of Costa Rica, the third team that reached the knockout stage, only once in 20 years you might see that happen. Then they were lucky not be bundled out by Greece.

The solution? Nothing. It’s a tournament to represent the world, not necessarily the best 32. Otherwise, you should have a world qualifying phase, rather than by confederation and the squabble for spots.

Maybe there should be a world qualifying phase? Split the world into 4 regions: Europe, Africa, Asia/Oceania, Americas. Each get four direct spots, which could be based on their continental championships. Then you have 8 world groups containing a team from each region. Play round robin home and away. The winners and best 7 second placed teams go to the World Cup. The final spot is reserved for the host. This process would do more to help the weaker regions by playing serious games and against serious opponents, rather than mostly beating up their own to qualify.

Australia – Results Matter

It is about the results. You can’t tell anyone that had Australia been hammered 5-0 in every game that we’d have learnt anything or, indeed, been happy with “the result”. The fact Australia returned acceptable losses, pushing Chile and Netherlands in the process, is a “good result”. That’s because Australia exceeded expectations. So when you say “results don’t matter”, the real implication is that “unrealistic results don’t matter”.

Reality is that if you’re not playing for results at major tournaments, then why bother to show up? As we saw from Ange Postecoglou and some of the boys and many fans like myself, the fact Australia did not get a tangible result of at least 1 point or even a win, it was very disappointing. Missed opportunities will be long rued – especially that game against the Dutch in which Australia briefly led 2-1. While such losses will be tolerated for this World Cup given the inexperience of the team, it won’t be for the next.

Media

The only flaw with the coverage was Martin Tyler in the commentary box. He saps the energy from any game with his inane waffling. He’s been poor for 20 years now and the way he drifts off, it’s now far more frequent and lengthy these days. The best case in point was Germany’s seventh goal against Brazil. Germany’s in the attacking third and Tyler is waffling on, then suddenly there’s a goal and he needs to reanimate again. He should have been already animated. SBS probably doesn’t get much choice with Tyler, as he’d be part of a generic pool of English commentators for the English speaking world.

For an area that Australia could control, Craig Foster was a trainwreck as “special comments”, or whatever you call the audible verbal spasms he makes. Especially against Spain, the jingoistic coaching and cheering on every play was a national embarrassment and a disgrace. How about a touch of professionalism? He’d probably be the first to mock the patriotic commentary that Channel 9 does for cricket, and here he is acting like an infant. With Les Murray sadly now hosting his last World Cup, let’s hope Fozz is consigned to those more static hosting duties. The bonus for Australia is that there only three games in which Australia had to tolerate Fozz whereas Tyler was up almost every match day.

Other than the commentary debacles, everything was superb. The vision, all the studio hosts and studio experts and the support shows (sad that no World Cup show on Monday to review, hum, the world cup final!) – SBS might have delivered the best coverage of any major sporting event Australia has seen. All other Australian media was brilliant too, with News Ltd and Fairfax having comprehensive coverage, not to mention pay-TV Fox Sports having daily shows. Australia was so spoiled this time. It was amazing.

The Best Ever World Cup?

Was it a great World Cup? Yes. Was it the best ever? No. I still rate USA 94 as the best ever World Cup. After a gripping group stage, the knockout stage of Brazil 2014 was riddled with boring draws and predictable results. For all the talk of unpredictable results, that was mostly in the group stage. Come the knockout stage it was situation normal. All the group winners won their R16 match – the first time that had never happened. Of the lesser lights like Costa Rica and Belgium that made quarter finals, they couldn’t progress, with the semi finals involving traditional big guns of Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Netherlands, with the final Germany vs Argentina. Hardly anything to portend a new world order in football.

In contrast, USA had an equally vibrant group stage, followed by an amazing knockout phase. Goals were as prolific with USA 94 averaging 2.6 goals per game in the round robin compared to 2.8 for Brazil 2014. That marginal difference is explained by the greater number of blow-outs in Brazil, not higher scoring competitive matches. Portugal, Spain, Cameroon, Honduras and Australia all conceded at least seven goals, while in USA only Cameroon (mostly from one game) and Greece conceded at least 7 goals.

In the knockout phase, Brazil 2014 returned a measly 2.2 goals per game (1.8 if you ignore the German whitewash of Brazil in the semi final), compared to 3 goals per game at USA 94. Even the memorable knockout matches, there were none in Brazil, compared to classics at USA 94 like Romania v Argentina, Italy v Nigeria, Netherlands v Brazil and Bulgaria v Germany. If not for the rubbish final, USA 94 would have been just about perfect. Mexico 1986 probably comes second of those World Cups I’ve seen, with Brazil 2014 in third. If I’m to factor in Australia’s involvement, Germany 2006 will always have a special place in the heart.

That was Brazil 2014 – The Twentieth World Championship of Football

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Bigotry rears its ugly head again – and it’s us

27 January 2014

The day after Manchester City purchased an 80% controlling arm of Melbourne Heart, Melbourne’s Herald Sun ran this cartoon:

Melbourne Heart New Owners (c) Herald Sun

Melbourne Heart New Owners (c) Herald Sun

While the odd twits on twitter immediately ran with it accusing the HS used the cartoon to “welcome” the investment of money by the Arab-owned Manchester City, it wasn’t until SBS and their theworldgame website that a full exploitation of it came to fruition. Philip Micallef, who says he did not derive any pleasure from writing the piece, said this:

In a case of bad taste at best and blatant racism at worst, it published a cartoon depicting an Arab sheikh and a set of ‘cheer girls’ dressed in black burqas ushering the Heart team onto the field. A caption read “That should sheikh up the A-League”. What on earth was the Herald Sun thinking?

Did it think at all about the ramifications of publishing such a tasteless cartoon in the present political climate? Did it realise that as host country of the 2015 Asian Cup it is Australia’s obligation to welcome the participants not poke fun at their culture? Did it really believe that its hundreds of thousands of readers would approve of such ignorance and opportunism or, more seriously, find it funny? Did it honestly expect to get away with its flagrant disregard for basic human courtesy.

Australia arguably embraces multiculturalism like no other country and the Herald Sun’s cartoon went against everything that we stand for. I refuse to believe that there were more sinister motives at play here like purposely damaging the event’s credibility behind the publication of the controversial cartoon. However if the newspaper’s intention was merely to have some fun, surely it must have known that what is considered ‘just a bit of fun’ by us might not be seen as ‘fun’ by people from a different background, whether they live in Australia, Indonesia or Iran.

Ironically, Micallef’s description of the cartoon, “depicting an Arab sheikh and a set of ‘cheer girls’ dressed in black burqas ushering the Heart team onto the field”, is stunning for its accuracy and simplicity. Should the girls be dressed in bikinis? That would have stripped these women of their basic human courtesy. The intention of the newspaper was to satirise the news, as it does every single day about the biggest story. In a country that arguably embraces multiculturalism like no other, then no group should should be excluded, or we make a blanket law that protects all groups.

The real heart of the issue is not this cartoon by the HS, it’s again this vendetta by SBS and “us”, the football public, against a news operation because we are so insecure and precious about our flaws in the game. Craig Foster, in his Fairfax column about the purchase, also made a sleight at “half” of the media in Melbourne, only because that “half” doesn’t have him on their payroll. This grievance is built particularly that certain media outlets have the temerity to report crowd trouble and violence associated with our game, and therefore are anti-football. While I, the biggest proponent of free speech, especially when it comes to satire, did find this cartoon a little unsavoury, in no way would that suddenly propel me into a tirade of ridiculous claims of xenophobia and that a news operation is trying to destroy the game in this country and create racial hatred. At most, I’d suggest HS is better than this, that it doesn’t match their general reportage of the game, so is it worth the risk of upsetting their true enemies? No, not the risk of upsetting Muslims. They’ve actually fled to this country because basic freedoms are allowed. It’s the risk of upsetting the rapacious and hypocritical traditional football media. If a Catholic-run club bought MH and the cartoon had a group of priests cheering with “GO BOYS” across their tummies, would there be an issue? Not only would we all be laughing it up, the cartoon would be immediately inducted into the Hall Of Fame of Cartoon Satire.

If only such scene as depicted were even true. In these despotic nations, women aren’t even allowed to attend games. The only time I’ve seen such a breach of this ultra sexism and misogyny was after the Iran Game, where TV scenes in Tehran showed women “breaking free”, to fill the streets and the national stadium, unable to keep further suppressed their desire to grandly celebration their nation’s success. Yes, they were dressed like this, except for any lettering on their clothes, nor carrying pom-poms. Mark Knight, who is a superb satirist and indeed has mocked the Catholic religion in cartoons because NO one is immune to his wit, erred in that he should have used sheikhs, not women. Then again, what message is actually offensive? I see a despondent sheikh annoyed that women are out celebrating a football team, and this could shake up the A-League. Or maybe it will shake up the Islamic religion? Maybe it’s our own sensitivities that Arab Oil and Tourism, often built on slave labour, are funding this new club. Much like we’re aghast that Qatar “bought” the 2022 World Cup. Instead of confronting our insecurities, we attempt to brush it aside, and throw around labels like “racism” and “xenophobia” to distract from our own uneasiness by tarnishing someone else. The classic case of self-absolution by diminution of others.

It wouldn’t be so deceitful this crusade against HS if there was at least a minuscule attempt at balance by SBS. Fine to trash them for the cartoon; it’s disgraceful to use it to impugn the daily coverage as anything even remotely near similar. On the day of the announcement, the HS homepage had a massive headline reporting this great news. That led to at least four fully featured articles of news, opinion and video – all positive. In fact, you could visit HS every day and look under sport then football (note football, not soccer), and see an expansive and positive coverage of our game. When is that ever mentioned by SBS? Never. Of course, it doesn’t tickle the agenda of biased media against our poor, wretched souls struggling to survive. So it’s the cartoon, the once since probably never cartoon, that gets all the attention.

The absurdity of our crusade is even more ridiculous when our goal is to make football mainstream. There’s no bigger mainstream newspaper than the HS, serving the biggest A-League and sports market of Melbourne. Instead of recognising their otherwise superb coverage of the game, we continue to malign them, and push a lie. When SBS was an outcast from A-League coverage because they snubbed the inaugural rights and almost weekly either by Les Murray, Craig Foster or Jess Fink via their TV shows and website undertook hit-pieces against the A-League, who’s been responsible for the huge resurgence and growth and knowledge of the domestic game? News Ltd – via Fox Sports and their newspapers, with Fairfax also superb. They rescued the domestic game of which now SBS can capitalise upon. Without these mainstream organisations exposing the sport to the mainstream, the sport would barely register beyond that of the NSL days. A reader’s comment in Micallef’s article said he’s never read HS, yet here that person goes making judgements – judgements based on total ignorance and the football community’s agenda of bias and deceit alleging an anti-football media. While SBS is still doing hit pieces on News Ltd, isn’t it any wonder that people like Rebecca Wilson will still reciprocate against us?

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt as a reader of all media, and with subscriptions to News Ltd and Fairfax, is that those claiming bias are the most biased people themselves. Politicians and their sympathetic stooges are notorious for it. We, football, are even worst, being the most precious and insecure lot in history, and with still so much growing up to do. We’re the ones painting football in a bad light. We defend loutish behaviour at A-League games by condemning any media that dares report it. We now refuse to question our concerns raised by a satirical cartoon about Arab money flowing into the game. Of course, it’s Arab money that owns an English football club as well. Oops, that’s another concern. Anything British influencing the game in this country is supposed to be extirpated; what happened to that crusade? Yep, washed away once Arab mega dollars are thrown into our face.

The defintion of bigotry: “Intolerance towards those that hold different opinions from oneself.” Are we that? We’re even worse. We’re intolerant towards those that hold the same opinion as ourselves and when those very people are outsiders to us. Shame, shame, shame.

Source: http://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/philip-micallef/blog/1179682/Bigotry-rears-its-ugly-head-again

More: socceroorealm.com

Osieck slams ever increasingly irrational critics

10 October 2013

Holger hits back

At the press conference to announce the squad to play France and Canada over the upcoming days, Australia’s coach rebuts innuendo that he’s failing as national coach because the Socceroos don’t play nice enough, that it was too much of a grind to qualify for the World Cup, and they couldn’t compete with Brazil the “friendly” international match last month.

With France to be played Saturday morning AET, comes more innuendo that if there’s no “result” in that game, then Osieck could be heading for the door. He took the moment to slam his critics with a reality check about his appointment and mandate, answer the issue of his choice of player personnel, examine the result in Brazil, and explain the seemingly strange decision of not using Tom Rogic from the start of the game…

”It is impossible for me to respond to that question (if he’ll be sacked after the French game). I have a contract and I have fulfilled my mandate so far and now we are in the process of preparing for the finals, but if you want to put this to me I am the wrong person to talk to. I am not informed of what has been said or written about me. So far there has been no need to talk (with Football Federation Australia) about my situation. What’s the rationale behind it? We are in the early stages of preparation for Brazil. We are there while other major football nations are still struggling to qualify and some won’t even get there. To question me then is a little bit out of order. As an organisation, and the technical department is part of the organisation, we are all in the same boat and we should row in the same direction. It would be very unwise not to do so and I do not have a feeling of anything different. I know what I am doing.

”If you look at recent history when younger players were given the opportunity they found it hard to adapt to higher standards. In June during our qualifying campaign our more experienced players did well and got us through to the World Cup. I am still looking to give opportunities to other players to step up and get into the team.

“One thing we have to consider is our status when we went to Brazil. I would like to emphasise that this is an explanation not an excuse. The players from the A-League and Middle East I called in were still in pre-season and Tim Cahill and Luke Wilkshire had to pull out due to injury. When you cannot compete physically with your opponent then your whole game falls apart. I am confident that when we are at full strength and our boys are in full playing rhythm then the team’s overall performance will definitely improve. It was a bad defeat, the worst in my career, but we will not break down and will carry on and follow our plan and direction. I expect a strong reaction from the boys in Paris.

”Tom Rogic is almost an eternal topic. I know how good he is but he is not playing. He is not in Celtic’s first team and he occasionally gets on. I had him in Brazil and he came with a groin injury so he was not fit. He spent more time on the medical bench than on the training pitch. In order to give him some psychological boost I gave him a few minutes to make him feel that he is part of the group. But right now he is not fully fit so I don’t think he will start in Paris. We have to acknowledge that and it is a matter of making some diligent research and look into the position of a player. I mean, what is he doing in his home environment? Why is he not playing? Is he not as good as we expect him to be? That is the problem but I can assure you that I am on top of it because I have all he necessary information. I wish he was fit and he could play as a starter but at the moment circumstances do not permit this.”

Holger’s comments say it all. This jihad we’re on to get him sacked makes no sense.

The mandate was to qualify for the World Cup; it wasn’t to excel away to Brazil in an inconvenient and dopey farclie. Brazil recently beat Spain and France 3-0 so we really have a bloated regard for ourselves that should do better than.

He has tried many young players. Other than Robbie Kruse and Tom Oar, they haven’t stepped up. The key example is that game against Oman, escaping with a 2-2 draw after key experienced players missing. After that, they’re back, and we raved about the “performance” against Japan and ecstatic that we won last two must-win games to qualify. The recent EAFF Finals was a massive experiment, and only Mitch Duke elevated himself.

For the key personnel issue vs Brazil, Rogic, we learn he had a groin strain and he’s not even playing for his club much. It would have been derelict of Holger’s duty to start him. Then we’d be complaining about giving the kid a suicide mission.

We’re also obsessed with “performance”. This isn’t figure skating. You don’t get judged on technical merit and artistic style. The definition of “result” is results. Facts are Socceroos are at an ebb and there’s little much on the immediate horizon. We’re not a club team that can go buy and recruit players. It’s a representative team. The reservoir exists only as the rain falls. We’re also not a world power despite some of our overblown egos wanting to believe. If we want results, then expect to see it ugly. I’d rather be Greece Euro 2004 than playing cute football losing 2-0 all the time just to appease a few smug purists watching too much Barcelona.

Critics become more irrational

The squad for France and Canada does not include incumbent goal keeper Mark Schwarzer. Mitch Langerak is expected to make his debut. So here is another example of Osieck trying a new player. As he should, since Schwarzer moved to Chelsea and is spending much of the time on the bench. Osieck wants players playing regularly. He showed that with Rogic and now with Schwarzer. It doesn’t matter the level of your potential talent or your experience. You must be playing regularly with your club and in form.

In the face of this, Philip Micallef, the normally more pragmatic side of theworldgame website team, stepped up from the likes of Les Murray and the ever whiny Craig Foster with an article “D-Day in Paris will force FFA’s hand”. It’s quite amazing that earlier in the week that SBS “soc jocks”, via twitter, slammed Melbourne’s Herald Sun for “dampening” the A-League season merely by reporting an increase presence by police and clubs to stamp out troublemakers at Saturday’s Melbourne Derby. Here SBA are, on their flagship website, dampening the Socceroos World Cup preparations. Can’t we just watch the match in Paris without the ogre of the coach sacked?

At heart, Micallef called for Osieck to be sacked if it all goes wrong against France, using the precedence of Guus Hiddink suddenly replacing Frank Farina as coach just prior to the Uruguay game of 2005. Of course, situation is much difference as Farina had already failed in one qualifying campaign so Hiddinck was recruited to complete the job (as Osieck already has done). Second, the key criticism of a team too old would not be addressed by Hiddinck anyway. He would persist with the tried and true experienced players, not throw around youth. No serious international coach would consider such a proposal.

The real doozy from Micallef’s article was the call that, “What FFA could have done is look for a coach who was prepared to forgo qualification and personal ambition and concentrate on building a team for the future”.  Are we serious? So three years ago, FFA says forget the next World Cup, play younger players so we’re better for 2018? No serious coach would accept this. Holger already admitted that he wouldn’t in the press conference above. The FFA would be laughed into the loony bin at such a proposal. Fans would not accept it either if they applied one second of rational thought.

The sheer arrogance of the proposal defies belief. If we can’t perform well at the World Cup we don’t even want to attend? What sort of message is this. We’ll just forsake playing on the grandest stage in sport because we fear losing a few games? How weak, pathetic and insecure are we. This arrogance is something I never thought we’d see in our sport. It’s been the domain of yobbo cricketers and conceited swimmers. Now we’re even worse. We’re not the humble, proud sport anymore. We’re the arrogant, spoiled brats. If ever the day comes FFA does act so disgracefully and shunts World Cup qualifying for youth experimentation in the guise of speculative long-term, non-guaranteed and mystical success, well may we say God Save Australia, because nothing will save our reputation.

Sources:
http://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/socceroos/news/1168293/Socceroos-boss-Osieck-hits-back-at-his-critics

http://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/philip-micallef/blog/1169435/D-day-in-Paris-will-force-FFA’s-hand

Red card to soccer hooligan sympathisers

We as a sport are to blame for crowd troubles, not the media for reporting it…

07 October 2013

As the A-League season is about to start, so too does the “fear mongering” from the mainstream press. Or does it? Melbourne’s Herald Sun today ran a report detailing a much tougher and targeted stance by Victorian police and the two Melbourne clubs, Victory and Heart, to stamp out flares and vandalism and the odd punch-up at Melbourne derbies. The two clubs play on Saturday night.

The measures include…

A DEDICATED police investigations team headed by a high-ranking detective formed to probe all criminal incidents at A-League matches;

RIVAL teams Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart ban flags and banners of splinter supporter groups in the stands, clamping down on the association of rogue fans;

DOB-a-yobbo text messaging hotlines for matches at AAMII Park as well as Etihad Stadium for the first time to encourage fans to alert police and security about troublemakers;

STRONGER ticket entry regulations with members forced to scan their pass on entry and again when they reach certain parts of the ground and;

IMPROVED CCTV and video monitoring of fans.

On the website of Victoria Police…

“We’re determined to make the 2013/14 season the most enjoyable yet – for players, for fans and for police,” he said.

“We want to see more families at games enjoying themselves.

“During the off-season, police have made significant inroads into improving the police response to games by developing strong partnerships with Football Federation Australia, venue officials and Melbourne-based A-league clubs.

“We’re determined not to see a repeat of the anti-social behaviour shown by a small number of trouble-makers at a number of A-league matches last season.

“Police have had enough, players have had enough and fans have had enough.”

These seem very reasonable measures and ideal outcomes given the recurring problems and inability of the clubs or FFA to control the matter. Of course, typical in Herald Sun style, it was accompanied by the sensationalist headline “Red card to soccer hooliganism” despite not even one mention of the word “hooligan” in the crack down by its writer or the police themselves. Other than the headline, that word only appears in the intro.

Equally typical of this report came the gasps of hysteria from traditionalists, led by SBS’s Les Murray on twitter about the alleged crusade against the sport: “Just as we are all excited about the new A-League season, bang, in comes the Herald Sun to dampen spirits and scare the fans away. Disgrace!”, and to Victoria Police “Hogwash. The A-League experience is already the best of any in the country. This is sheer fear mongering.”

It’s not just elite media brushing of he issue as antics “of a few”, so too do supporters. It’s not. Because the culture of the sport tacitly condones it by crying out at being vicitimised and misunderstood, it’s the problem of the many, as further evidenced by this from Murray: “FFA’s lack of understanding of football fan culture etc”. This is patently absurd. Australia is not Europe or the Americas. The use of flares and vandalism are ILLEGAL in our sporting stadiums.

While I’m equally sick as Murray and co of the unruly few tarnishing the game and putting it in the papers for the wrong reasons, I’m even more sick of these powerful, elitist voices  sympathising and assuaging the crowd troubles by blaming media for simply reporting the facts. If that HS article was about cricket, you know damn well us precious lot would not only approve of it, we’d be salivating with gushing pride about the purity of our sport in comparison. Since it’s about football, we becoming pathetic whingers and query that their must be an agenda against us for a newspaper to simply report it.

If football is to continue to grow and become a major mainstream sport in this country, then we must appeal to mainstream Australians. They almost unanimously go to sporting events without lighting flares or destroying chairs and throwing them on the pitch. It’s people like Murray and our clubs that need to set an example. If it is really is just a few bad apples (presumably we say this because we don’t want to tolerate them), then step up against them. Not only should we be happy the HS is reporting this though stance by police and the two Melbourne clubs, we should be helping out. Stamp out the bad behaviour then the newspapers will have nothing bad to report.

For the record, the Herald Sun also has feature articles on the Melbourne Derby, gleefully speculated that there could be a record crowd, and they’ve been previewing the A-League season both in print and online via webpage and video for the past week. This shows the area of true bias – in people like Les Murray and our generally precious and insecure followers of the sport. It’s no coincidence that those claiming bias are actually the most biased people themselves. Maybe if Murray would retweet all HS articles on football, not just the his perceived unsavoury ones, not only would he portray the true and favourable coverage by the HS, he might loosen his own bias.

Sources:

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/football/soccer-clubs-police-crack-down-on-hooligans-at-melbourne-games/story-fni2wcjl-1226733829559

http://vicpolicenews.com.au/news/1592-police,-football-federation-australia-and-a-league-clubs-prepare-for-2013-14-season.html

https://twitter.com/lesmurraySBS/with_replies

10 October 2013: Update

Today the Herald Sun had a double page feature exploring the full squads, analysis and season predictions for both Melbourne Victory and Heart.

Yesterday the Herald Sun had a photo about the Victory/Heart Derby dominating the back page, a news article on the second last page, and a double page spread of four articles including A-League season preview and an article by Ron Reed “People’s game kicking goals”.

Have Les Murray and co tweeted these articles, all of which are available online, or would that hurt the ridiculous “evil mainstream media always keen to slam soccer” agenda? No they haven’t. As said earlier, those most strident about media bias are the most biased people themselves. They don’t see the good, only the bad. That says more about them, and their own little bubble they want to live within.