Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tommorow Night - the Scenarios

AFC Rules:

In the league system the ranking in each group is determined as follows:
i. Greater number of points obtained in all group matches;
ii. If two or more Teams are equal on the basis of the above criterion, their place shall be determined as follows:

a) Greater number of points obtained in the group matches between the Teams concerned;
b) Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the Teams concerned;
c) Greater number of goals scored in the group matches between the Teams concerned;
d) Goal difference in all the group matches;
e) Greater number of goals scored in all the group matches;
f) Kicks from the penalty mark if only two Teams are involved and they are both on the field of play;
g) Drawing of lots


Australia win, Oman fails to win -> Iraq top group, We go through ahead of thailand on virtue of head-to-head record.

Australia win 1-0, Oman wins 1-0 (generally if Oman and Australia both win by one goal) -> All teams on Four points, Iraq and Thailand go through on goal difference.

Australia win 1-0, Oman wins 2-0 (Generally if Australia win by one goal, Oman by two) -> All teams on four points, Thailand goes through with best goal difference, Iraq goes through on goals scored.

Australia win 2-0, Oman wins 1-0 (generally if Australia wins by two goals, Oman by 1) -> All teams on four points, Iraq goes through on goal difference, Australia goes through ahead of thailand on goals scored.

Australia win 2-0, Oman wins 2-0 (generally if both Australia and Oman win by two goals and scoreline is the same or Australia scores more goals) -> All teams equal points and goal difference, Australia and Iraq through on goals scored - If Australia score enough goals they could go top.

Australia wins 2-0, Oman wins 3-1 (generally if both Australia and Oman win by two goals and Oman score one more goals than Australia) -> All teams equal points and goal difference, Iraq goes through on goals scored, Australia and Oman must draw lots to decide who goes through.

Australia wins 2-0, Oman wins 4-2 (generally if both Australia and Oman win by two goals and Oman score two or more goals than Australia) -> All teams equal points and goal difference, Iraq and Oman through on goals scored (conspiracy theorists take note)

Australia wins by 3 goals, Oman win by less than 3 goals -> Iraq and Australia through, Australia could finish top if Oman win by two goals. If Oman were to win by one goal and Iraq score 1 goal (ie. 2-1) then lots would be drawn to determine group winner, if Oman were to win 1-0 then Australia would top group, 3-2 to oman or higher numbers would mean Iraq would top group.

Australia wins by 3 goals, Oman by 3 goals -> Australia and Oman through, Australia top on goals scored if scoreline is the same or more goals to Australia, if Oman score one more goal than Australia lots are drawn to determine group winner, if Oman score two more goals than Australia then Oman finish top.

Australia wins by 3 goals, Oman by more than 3 -> Australia and Oman through, Oman top.

Infighting and Australian Football - My Theory

Note the following is just a theory, it is something I believe to be close to the truth, in regard to what is happening to the Socceroos and Australian Football:


November 8, 2004: SBS wins the rights to Socceroos matches untill 2007, new CEO of Soccer Australia, John O'Neill is delighted that these games will be shown live around Australia on Free to Air Television.

January 1, 2005: Soccer is officially changed to Football, the revolution of Australian Football begins.

Ever since this revolution began, rivalries, differences of opinion and factions have been present throughout all areas of Australian Football. I'm not talking about the small disagreements, criticisms and opinions that are perfectly healthy in sport - I'm talking about a real hatred between certain areas of the football community.

It even extends to TV broadcasting. Since Soccer Australia became the Football Federation they have never signed any TV rights to SBS, clearly this is not just because of the money Fox Sports have offered them, but also points to the fact that the FFA does not agree with SBS's 'attitude' - the Anti-British agenda, the desire for Australian football to focus on technical ability etc.

Fox Sports have quickly developed a large, and unfriendly rivlary with SBS - many, sick of the SBS agendas, have turned to Fox Sports - it's not hard to see why, but at times Fox Sports have gone too far. Graham Arnold comes onto Total Football, his old mate Robbie Slater asks him some very easy questions and the tough questions, that the likes of Craig Foster would ask, are ignored.

2006, Guus Hiddink takes the Socceroos to Germany, they work wonders and the country falls in love with them. Quickly they are the national team that Australians truly associate with, they are the role models that parents love to see on the back of a wheet-bix box, rather than the AFL, Cricket and Rugby players who (or at least some of them) are constantly involved in ugly nightclub incidents etc.

Graham Arnold has spent time under Hiddink, it seems logical that he should be able to carry on the Hiddink philosophy. In a way Arnold has 'copied' a lot of Hiddink's styles. He's played a similar system, he's trained the players hard, unfortunately he's not Hiddink. You can't just take some of what Hiddink did and emulate it, you have to think for yourself.

At the Asian Cup, Arnold's relationship with some players has hurt him. When problems have come up, it's been impossible for him to take a position of complete authority and get the players into line. But what are these problems?

I think these problems stem from the fact that the Australian players aren't prepared to put in the massive effort and make the sacrifices they made last year. This has been shown by Josip Skoko, Craig Moore and Scott Chipperfield who decided not to take part. Chippers has a valid reason, he is having a child. But what was Moore and Skoko's reasoning? Purely to put their club first? I doubt it.

So why, then, did Moore and Skoko decide to miss the Asian Cup? It is now clear to me that they knew the team was not 100% united. They, probably graciously, decided to sit out the tournament as it would be best for the team. And of course their club commitments would have played a part in their reasoning.

The first sign we all should have noticed that something was right, was the Mark Viduka situation. Viduka was ready to retire from the national team yet was convinced to change his decision in only a few hours. The question must be asked: why did he want out? Commitment to his club, again makes it sound like there is a lot more to the story than the media found out. Would it be too much to suggest that Mark Viduka, a good friend of Craig Moore, a good friend of Josip Skoko, knew of the factions forming in the Socceroo team and decided it would be better for him not to play.

For Graham Arnold, this was too much, he knew that without Viduka, the Asian Cup would probably be out of reach. He was no doubt desperate to get Viduka back, he offered Viduka the captaincy and probably would have done anything he could to get Viduka to play - you can't blame him for that.

When asked about his reversal, Viduka told a story about how he was holidaying in Croatia and saw someone wearing an Australian shirt, and saw his son singing the Australian national anthem. Viduka said that these things rekindled his passion for the Socceroos. Reading between the lines, I expect that in reality, these things in fact made Viduka remembered that playing for the Socceroos was representing his country. He realised that it would be disrespectful to his country to withdraw because of ill-feeling amongst the team, he remembered that it should be about the football, not team relationships.

And so Viduka's decision was reversed, he was given the captaincy and commited to the team for the Asian Cup.

This would not have sat well with Lucas Neill. Lucas Neill is someone that has known Graham Arnold for a long time. They are good friends, and their relationship would have grown even stronger last year at the World Cup. When Neill learnt that Viduka had been named captain, he wouldn't have been happy. He may have even been promised the captaincy by Graham Arnold, and to not recieve the captaincy, something he desperately wants, would have hurt.

Make no mistake, Neill is probably the most passionate player in the entire Socceroos team - to loose the captaincy to someone like Mark Viduka, who days before had wanted to retire, would have made Neill angry. Neill has had an awful tournament, and it seems obvious that the reason for this is his anger at not getting the captaincy. It would also explain Arnold's assessment of Neill after the game against Iraq. Arnold may feel that Neill is the reason this tournament has gone so very wrong.

And of course this is not the sole cause of a rift amongst the Socceroos. For a long time there have been two 'factions' of the Australian team. There is the group of players who grew up in Sydney, have little 'ethnic blood' in them - People like Lucas Neill, Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell (although I'm sure Harry is one who is mature enough not to take sides - hence his nice interview on Friday). There are also those like Mark Viduka, Josip Skoko, Sterjovski, Schwarzer, Bresciano etc.

Now you can't expect every player in a team to like every other player just as much as any other player - you can't expect a team to have no groups or factions. Unfortunately the Captaincy issue, and no proper authority from Arnold, has meant that the differences between these factions have become so serious that they hurt the national team.

The two factions amongts the squad are indicative of the factions amongst the whole of Australian football. You have your Fox Sports faction, and your SBS faction (the nicknames I give them). You have people like Rale Rasic, Les Murray, Craig Foster, then you have Simon Hill, Andy Harper, Graham Arnold, and prehaps even the FFA.

That's right, the FFA themselves have taken a side, they haven't given SBS any tv rights since 2004, when anyone will tell you that some level of FTA coverage would be good for the game. The FFA loves the attitude of Fox Sports, and others who take similar viewpoints like the FourFourTwo magazine.

The FFA have even given Channel Ten rights to a football game later this year, when Sydney play against Los Angeles and David Beckham. According to the Sunday Mail today, Les Murray was furious at this, he knows that the FFA don't like them - and now he hates that people like him are being driven out of Australian football, when people like him have every right to be involved in football.

Now I don't want to take sides, but I am currently watching "The World Game", and Craig Foster has got it exactly right. He is someone who knows the players, and he has talked about a rift that has been going on for a long time, when talking about Lucas Neill he said it correctly that Neill has not suddenly developed new feelings - this is an ongoing issue and it stems right through into the entire Australian Football Community.

Over the past couple few days, the media has brought a lot of this into the open and it has hurt.

The FFA have today had a press conference, and both Arnold and Harry Kewell denied any rift amongst the Australian team. Is it any suprise that Kewell was at this press conference - someone who is good at not taking sides - rather than Viduka who is obviously involved in the rift? If there was no rift, why wouldn't Viduka be the one at the press conference denying it?

All the most important people at the FFA were at this press conference, they obviously know how big of an issue this is.

Even as I write, the SBS reporters have just made claims about Neill and Arnold blowing up at the media. Apprently Arnold told a reporter that he "knew where these rumors were coming from and would deal with it", while Neill apparently got angry at the media during a training session. Of course the SBS journalists are reporting this as they are the ones who were involved, and it is no suprise that Arnold and Neill are angry with SBS...

Arnold's reported comments interest me, chances are you will see players on "the other side" of the rift in the Socceroos missing from tommorows game.

Enough of the problems, what needs to be done?

Well I can say that, although Arnold is only a small part of the problem, he needs to go. An international coach is desperately needed, not just because of the superior knowledge that he would bring, but because there would no longer be a conflict of interest and the new coach would be able to bring the players into line, by treating them all equally, and making sure they assert their authority.

However this will not solve all the problems, the FFA are the ones who must get rid of their bias and become balanced. It seems to me that the way the FFA have approached this in the past year or two has been to try and destroy the "SBS side" of Australian football. This is not the right approach, the FFA must be fair and balanced to try and remove the rift, rather than destroy one side of it.

Short term, those that have to put this rift behind them are the Australian players, they are all much better players than Thailand, who they play tommorow, and if they can put their differences aside, they can win and progress to the quarter finals of the Asian Cup. If there is one person who deserves this more than any other it is Mark Viduka. This will be Viduka's last tournament for his national team, and it would be a terrible tragedy if he were to go out on such a sour note. The Socceroos are good enough to even go as far as winning the tournament, and only that will get rid of the hurt that this tournament, and what has gone on at this tournament, has created.

I'm sure the Socceroos will be fired up after what has happened this weekend, let's hope they can win tommorow and remind us again of that team that truly represented the nation at last year's world cup.

Bye for now,

Friday, July 6, 2007

Living Up to Expectation

It's official, David Beckham's LA Galaxy will travel to Sydney to play SFC on November the 27th.

Along with the announcement came a lot of hype, the Football Federation of Australia was quick to point out that profits from the game will go to the entire league, in fact it appears (reading between the lines) that this is a game organised by the FFA and LA Galaxy, not Sydney FC and LA Galaxy as you would usually expect in a friendly between two club teams.

In my view the FFA is starting to overstep it's authority. There comes a point where the governing body needs to step back and let the clubs control themselves. You don't want to end up like the AFL where the clubs can't so much as breathe without AFL approval. The English Premier League is a much better example, of where the system works well. The FA (who run the EPL) know their place. They let the clubs control themselves, sure they step in when required and they never let anything get out of hand, but the clubs are allowed to make their own decisions, and run themselves. They simply provide a competition, in which they can compete.

Prehaps I am being harsh, after all the FFA's involvement in this decision has resulted in what will be a fantastic occasion for Australian football. Unfortunately I think the hype around the game may lead to dissapointment, and prehaps criticism, if the game doesn't live up to expectations.

One article described the match as 'a guaranteed sell-out', considering that the Socceroos recent game at Telstra Stadium was 15,000 people away from selling out, on a Saturday night, selling out the stadium for a Sydney FC game on a Tuesday night is, for me, unlikely. No doubt there will be a good crowd at the game, and anything over 50,000 would, and should be viewed as, impressive. However considering the hype surrounding the game, many may end up looking at this sort of crowd and saying it is a massive dissapointment.

Something that excites me is that Network Ten will be showing the game live nationwide in High Definition. Live, Nationwide free-to-air coverage is something that both AFL and NRL have struggled with, and for football this is a major statement. It was reported that Ten have paid a fair bit of money to show the game, obviously they expect it to rate. The question must be asked, what if it doesn't rate highly? I'd say there is a good chance the ratings won't be that high, probably because people aren't going to watch an entire match just because of one player (Mr. Beckham). The worry is that Ten will see these ratings, and think that it reflects badly on football, when in reality there would probably be a lot more games that would get higher ratings, if given a chance on FTA. I guess there is also the hope that the game pulls really big ratings, if it does, then you can probably look forward to a big more footy on FTA in the future.

One more issue to consider is how the game will actually play out. Can Sydney beat the Galaxy? Will it at least be a close contest? I guess this is tough to predict, after all being only a friendly it is tough to predict how seriously the game will be taken, let alone the form that the teams will be in at the time. Many have been critical of the choice to play this game in Sydney, against Sydney FC, rather than in Melbourne against the A-league champions. To me this doesn't really matter, it seems obvious that Sydney were the ones pushing for this game, and good on them for getting what they set out to do. I certainly hope this starts a trend though, I'd love to see a few more international teams in Australia to take on A-league sides in the future - apparently EPL teams are interested, now that would be something to get excited about.

For football's sake, let's hope Sydney v LA can live up to expectations, but I think you'll agree, that we shouldn't be focusing too much on one game, when what is really important is the success of the A-league and all of it's clubs.

Bye for Now,