This is my blog on the unpredictable world of football. Hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Flores bids Adios to Adelaide

Last season's Johnny Warren medalist (Player of the year) Marcos Flores has signed a two-and-a-half year deal with Chinese club Henan Jianye. The Argentine player will earn triple what Adelaide United were offering in his new contract at around $800 000 a season. Flores lit up the A-League in his one and only season with that South American flair football fans know and love. Whether it was freakish passes or scoring superb goals Flores was a genuine star and at times last season, kept Adelaide out of trouble. It is also fair to say that Flores is one of only a handful of overseas players to challenge Melbourne Victory star Carlos Hernandez to being the most successful import player.

A-League fans will be quite aware of his ability, but for others out there who may not of heard of the lad let me show you some of his brilliance. Here is the highlights of a brilliant season:

Impressed? I thought so. Here are his two best goals from last season in isolation:

Not bad huh? Both goals would have many strikers world-wide jealous. Flores will be sorely missed by not only the red army of Adelaide, but the league as a whole. He was a top class player and an absolute pleasure to watch. Muchas gracias Marcos Flores.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Joey's Come Back Against Cote d'Ivoire

The future of Australian football looks promising after a come from behind victory against Cote d'Ivoire. It was fighting display as the Joeys (Under 17's) scored two goals in the second half to cancel out Cote d'Ivoire's opener in the 18th minute. Dylan Tombides was the stand out performer for the Joeys, scoring the goal that sealed the victory with 12 minutes remaining and secured three points in a tough group for the Aussie's in the under 17's world cup.

The first half was very sloppy by the Joeys, it looked as if they were nervous early on. A defensive error by Tom King lead to the first goal as he took too long with the ball allowing Souleymane Coulibaly to take the ball and shoot powerfully with his left foot into the bottom corner making it 1 nil to the Ivorians. There were glimpses of what was to come as Corey Brown delivered a brilliant cross later in the half, but Jesse Makarouns could not rise high enough to connect with it. Cote d'Ivoire kept pressing and had numerous chances denied by some great defending by the Joeys. Cote d'Ivoire kept most of the possession in the first half and it showed as they went to the break with the 1 nil advantage still intact.

The second half was much brighter by the Joey's after a few choice words from manager Jan Versleijen no doubt. A substitution was made by Versleijen in order to freshen things up at the back where Jake Monaco was unfortunately exposed numerous times. Monaco came off for Riley Woodcock and it looked a positive move by the manager. But it had little bearing on the first goal of the half as Makarouns played a neat one-two with Hernan Espindola before smashing home a cracking left foot volley from all of 25 yards making it 1 all. The Joeys then looked to be on the front foot as Makarouns - a Perth Glory signing - got more involved after a weak first half. He went in search of another after receiving the ball on the left hand flank, just outside the box. Makarouns sent in a right foot curling effort that curled away from goal after Cote d'Ivoire 'keeper Konate got his fingertips to it. Versleijen decided to make the most decisive change of the match, however, bringing on Teeboy Kamara for the Joeys and he proved to be a handful. He streaked down the left flank numerous times. Kamara then went on a run where he cut inside looking to shoot at goal from just outside the box before a Cote d'Ivoire defender got the ball. He was tackled brilliantly by a Joey and the ball popped out to the right hand side of the box to a lurking Tombides. He didn't need a second invitation as he drew two Cote d'Ivoire defenders before cutting inside onto his left foot and driving home superbly to score what would be the winner. Cote d'Ivoire pressed late on and produced a wonderful save from Adelaide United recruit Paul Izzo. The Joeys can now build on a much better second half in anticipation of their clash with Brazil's under 17's on friday morning (Australian time). Lets home big Sam Allardyce (West Ham manager) is watching because this kid Tombides is a real talent.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Silly Season Starts

Big names, big money and big clubs, yes its transfer time again. It is set to be a big European summer of sales from the biggest clubs letting go ailing stars and chasing new, young talent. It is also the last transfer window before FIFA's fair play rules come in where clubs are basically not allowed to spend more than they earn - so Manchester City may start slipping back down the ladder. Although the transfer window doesn't officially open until the first of July lets take a look at the deals that have already been done.

The biggest move so far? German shot stopper Manuel Neuer leaving his boy-hood club Schalke 04 for Bavarian giants Bayern Munich. The money involved I hear you ask? Although the deal will not be made official until the 1st of July when the transfer window opens, it is rumoured to be around the £20 million mark. What most people don't understand with football transfers - the casual football supporter - is that this £20 million is not what Neuer gets, this is the fee payed by Bayern Munich to Schalke 04 to secure Neuer's services for the next five years. Bayern Munich have also added Brazilian defender Rafinha to its squad after his unsuccessful stint at Genoa.

Staying with the Bundesliga, young Turkish international Nuri Sahin will be going to the Spanish capital to link up with Real Madrid after helping his team Borussia Dortmund to the Bundesliga title. Sahin is not the biggest name in world football but if he can press his way into Mourinho's starting XI he will be well on his way to super stardom. Also leaving the Bundesliga will be Hamit Altintop, another Turkish international. He leaves Bayern Munich having won six titles with the club, but lets have a look at what he does best:

To the Serie A where champions AC Milan have bolstered their defence with the signings of Phillipe Mexes from Roma and Nigerian international Taye Taiwo. AC Milan have also secured the permanent services of Ghanian midfielder - and star of their 2010 World Cup campaign - Kevin-Prince Boateng. In Italy often clubs will buy players in a 'dual ownership' deal and this was the case for Boateng where both AC Milan and Genoa agreed on a 'dual ownership' deal for him from Portsmouth. To explain a 'dual/co-ownership' deal briefly, a team can offer to 'co-own' a player with a team bidding for a player, in this case Genoa put in a bid for Boateng, Milan offered co-ownership in which they payed the players wages for this season and Genoa except and let the player join Milan for a season. The clubs can then decide where the player will play next season with the help of the Italian football association. In this case AC Milan bought Boateng after a stellar season outright from Genoa. AC Milan however lost midfield maestro and club stalwart Andrea Pirlo to rival Juventus. Pirlo has signed for three years and looks to be a big signing for the Turin giant. Lazio have undoubtedly picked up what will be one of the bargains of the transfer window in Miroslav Klose. The German striker is renowned for his international goal scoring record (48 goals in 98 caps - 14 of those goals coming from the 19 games he has played at World Cups putting him only one goal behind Brazilian super striker Ronaldo) and will be going to Italy without a fee to his former club, Bayern Munich, because his contract expires on the 30th June.

Now to the English Premier League where Manchester United have finally got their target Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers in a deal expected to be worth £16.5 million. The 19 year old defender will link up with national team-mate Chris Smalling as understudies to the brilliant centre-half pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. Fergie has landed yet another gem and this young lad is definitely one for the future. Another one for the future of England is Jordan Henderson who is currently taking part with both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling in the Under 21's European Championship. Liverpool have shelled out a fee of £16 million for the lad from Sunderland. Damian Comolli - Liverpool's director of Football - believes the youngster has the potential to be a star for club and country making him a vital signing for the understrength Liverpool squad.

Finally to the A-League where Gold Coast United has had an exodus of players. Jason Culina has left the club to link up with his Dad - who is Manager - of Newcastle Jets. Shane Smeltz has also left Gold Coast for Perth Glory in a lucrative deal. Bas Van Den Brink has joined Smeltz at Perth after an unsuccessful spell in the Korean League recently. Gold Coast however have made up for these losses only recently as they have got Olyroo (Olympic Football Team Under 23's) hopeful Dylan McGowan on loan from Scottish club Hearts and have landed Dutchman Paul Beekermans on recommendation from former player Bas Van Den Brink. Perth Glory look to be assembling a dominant squad as they added former Manchester United midfielder Liam Miller from Scottish giants Celtic. Miller will get the chance to play his former club straight away in a friendly match between the two sides on July 9th in Perth. Alex Brosque also left former club Sydney FC controversially after receiving a dream offer from Japanese club Shimizu S-Pulse. Brosque however had every right to leave Sydney as he had a buy out clause in his contract that Shimizu met, leaving red-faced. Scouse legend Robbie 'God' Fowler has ended his career after leaving Perth Glory. The striker was expected to go round for one more season with new strike partner Shane Smeltz, but has cited a need to go back to England to be closer with family and friends for his exit. Melbourne Victory have lost captain and club legend Kevin Muscat to retirement. This will have players the league over breathing a sigh of relief after seven seasons of harsh tackling from the defending dynamo. Robbie Kruse reborn at Melbourne Victory has secured a deal with Fortuna Dusseldorf in 2.Bundesliga. The A-League is also awaiting the decision of, arguably Australia's most talented player to ever grace the pitch, Harry Kewell. He has been linked with numerous clubs and could potentially rescue the A-League single handedly with his involvement on and off the pitch. Fingers crossed our Harry comes home for the adoring Australian public.

These are just some of the signings so far in what promises to be a spectacular summer sale. We are yet to see any signings from big-money-spending Manchester City, but that will change sooner rather than later as they pursue a number of targets as they look to strengthen their squad even further for Champions League football next season. Once again Arsenal are going to be put to the test as captain Cesc Fabregas is targeted by home-town club Barcelona for a dream move back. Wenger may be resigned to losing his star midfielder this time round as Fabregas wants silverware. Samir Nasri is another player that is potentially eyeing a move elsewhere, although he says it depends on Wenger's willingness to spend money on strengthening the squad, something he's not good at. So folks sit back and enjoy the ride as the silly season looks set to swing into gear in the coming weeks.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Second String Socceroos Show Depth

After a 3-0 crushing of the All Whites (NZ's mens Football team) and a lively 0-0 draw with Serbia the Socceroos mostly second string squad has shown manager Holger Osieck he has some depth coming into the 2014 World Cup qualifiers beginning in September. Depth will be crucial during a rigorous qualifying campaign which sees the Socceroos cover plenty of miles in travel to some exotic and obscure parts of the Asian continent. There will also be times no doubt where some of our top guns in Europe will not be realised from their club because the Asian and European seasons run at different times. Add to this the fact of life in football of injuries and suspensions, it was refreshing to see players showing they could make the cut at international level.

On sunday the 5th, the Socceroos took on the All Whites at Adelaide Oval. It was pouring rain and very windy but it didn't stop the Socceroos as they cruised to a 3-0 win. Josh Kennedy managed a brace in his return to the national team after injury, scoring his first under rather fortunate circumstances. A poor back pass from Jeremy Brockie to his 'keeper Glen Moss allowed the big lad Kennedy to steal through and pass into the net. He had a golden opportunity not long after his first after being played through by Dario Vidosic but Kennedy could only put it over the top. His second goal however came on the hour after a well worked corner from Vidosic found Kennedy's head for him to bullet into the net. The third goal came from home town hero James Troisi who slotted home from the penalty spot after substitute Robbie Kruse was brought down in the box. Troisi was one of the highlights of the first match playing on the left flank. He threatened the Kiwis many times with his bustling runs and footwork, it was brilliant to watch. He was allowed to play the full 90 minutes by Osieck as well which was a nice touch from the manager. 'Keeper Nathan Coe also got a chance to impress against the Kiwis making some great saves whilst never being under complete threat from the All Whites. Neil Kilkenny, Michael Zullo, Matthew Spiranovic and Jon McKain were all given starts by the manager and played well. Robbie Kruse, Rhys Williams, Dario Vidosic and Alex Brosque all came off the bench during the match and put in solid performances.

Two days later the Socceroos backed up their impressive win over the Kiwis with a entertaining draw with Serbia in Melbourne. Adam Federici - coming straight from England where his team Reading lost 4-2 to Swansea in the playoff for the final place in the English Premier League - put in a masterful display between the sticks to deny Serbia on numerous occasions. Brett Holman was the other star for the Socceroos putting himself about all over the pitch in his usual fashion and creating chances. Mile Jedinak had the Socceroos best chance of the first half only for his shot to be blocked by a Serbian defender. Serbia's best chance was wasted by young starlet Adem Ljajic who shot over the bar in the 40th minute. Federici then put in his claim to replacing Schwarzer when he retires with a brilliant save at the feet of fleet footed Serbian winger Zoran Tosic. He backed it up with a wonderful save from a Ljajic shot just before a flair was thrown at his goal, landing very close. Holman's running was paying off and in the 61st minute he could only manage to shoot over the bar before backing it up three minutes later with a trademark long range shot from outside the box that scrapped the left hand post. Not long after Federici was at it again denying Serbia two more excellent opportunities to go in front. Australia's best chance of the entire match came in the 79th minute after some excellent build up play saw James Troisi free on the left flank and one-on-one with the 'keeper only for him to shoot poorly straight at the 'keeper for a routine save. Dejan Stankovic was instrumental as always for Serbia, but was unlucky not to have the usual fire power in front of him to stick away the chances he provided. Tosic was also brillaint for Serbia, he showed his pace and dribbling ability throughout the match.

James Troisi was the stand out from both matches, after not knowing too much about him before these two fixtures he has certainly left his mark on not only the Australian football public, but the manager Holger Osieck as well. For me personally it was great to see young Rhys Williams back in the green and gold after a horrendous run of injuries that kept him out of football for twelve to eighteen months. He is a very versatile player that can easily cover centre back, right back or a holding midfield roll. Osieck seems to prefer him at right back, where he made both of his substitute appearances replacing Luke Wilkshire. Lets hope Williams can now hold his starting berth at club level for Middlesborough, guiding them to promotion to the Premier League. It was also great to see Josh 'Jesus' Kennedy back playing for the Socceroos. He is a big target man upfront that can cause teams lots of problems, he will be handy in the qualifiers against the smaller Asian defenders. Michael Zullo was also given plenty of minutes during the friendlies which was another great sight. Zullo is now playing at left back for his club FC Utrect in the Netherlands. Osieck also used him there in part of both matches and he showed some good qualities. He certainly has the speed and fitness for the role, but he does need to work on his defending a little more, this will come over time and with experience which he is getting plenty of in the Dutch league. I still do not understand Osieck's choice of Jon McKain, he is too old, too slow and technically not good enough for the Socceroos. The playing time he gave McKain should have went to Spiranovic who is a much better prospect. Spiranovic is only 22 years of age and still has a lot to learn, so why not give him this game time during friendly matches for his development? He played some of the match against New Zealand but McKain got the nod over him against Serbia. It is frustrating to see unfortunately, much like the centre of midfield for the Socceroos. The Jedinak/Valeri combination is not working Holger can you not see it? Am I the only one that can? It is at times very painful to watch, with the pair giving the ball away far too much for centre mids. Jedinak and Valeri are too much a like to be paired together in the engine room, they both play the same role at club level, being the tackler and strong man. It's time for Osieck to drop one of the pair to the bench and play Matt McKay or Neil Kilkenny there alongside Jedinak or Valeri. We need someone in the middle of the pitch that can play a pass and hold possession, it is arguably the most crucial position on the pitch. All in all however, it is refreshing to see Australia going after teams and playing some attacking football. Once Holger realises the central midfield problem and fixes it, we will see a more free flowing Socceroos squad.