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Archive for October 2006

Aussies set up Kiwi date

Australia will now meet New Zealand in the ICC Champions trophy semi-finals after dispatching host side India this morning in Mohali. With India's big guns failing to fire apart from Virender Sehwag (65) and captain Rahul Dravid (52) despite the tremendous home support, they could only manage a total of 248 runs.

Australia reached the target with four overs to spare and now set up a semi-final date with trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand. On paper you would think that Australia will win this match but New Zealand played quite in their last match against Pakistan and if they reproduce that form I won't be surprised to see them in the final.

I was impressed with England's victory over the West Indies. With nothing at stake for England they played quite well to get England's only victory in the tournament. When the West Indies scored 272 in their innings I thought that was it for England but they came back and scored more than 200 runs for the first time in this tournament. Maybe it was a question of performing well when not under pressure.

The other semi-final will feature the West Indies and South Africa. Despite the loss to England I will still put my money on the West Indies to reach the final for the second time in a row.

Make or break for Butcher

Just looking at this week’s round 10 A-League fixtures it’s very hard to ignore that the most eye-catching one is probably the Sydney/Perth clash. For a start both teams lost their round 9 matches but more importantly for Sydney the winless run has now been going on for some time with only three matches won so far.

I think Terry Butcher would be the first one to admit that football is all about results and when you get results everybody is happy and when you don’t it’s a totally different scenario. In his case he is not getting the results and hence the pressure is on him.

To be fair to Butcher he hasn’t been fortunate with injuries and suspensions and also the Benito Carbone injury and the subsequent cancellation of the proposed long term contract didn’t help either.

Talking about injuries, against Victory, Sydney had the upper hand but when Mark Milligan and Steve Corica went out through injuries the team struggled to maintain the momentum of the first half and subsequently lost the match.

Against Perth Sydney simply has to win or maybe at the minimum draw otherwise the pressure will be unbearable. Sydney is at home for this match and under pressure sometimes that doesn’t help because the crowd expectation will just be great.

We all know what happened to Nick Theodorakopoulos at Newcastle. The team had a winless start to the season and the club thought it was the time to change the coach. Whether that decision was good or bad is something else but the decision had to be made that led to the coach's exit. I am not saying that will happen to Butcher but it could.

Looking at the other fixtures, the Queensland Roar versus Central Coast Mariners match should be an entertaining one and I can't just imagine that the Roar can lose two games in a row at home.

Adelaide should test Newcastle’s resurgence and I won't be surprised with a draw in this match.

Lastly but not least, I expect Victory to come out with something from their match against New Zealand Knights even if it means a draw. You just don’t know with Knights, against Adelaide in the second half they played quite well and yet in the first half of that match they were all but ordinary.

Television decides Olympics schedule

It’s sad to see that the swimming finals have now been re-scheduled to take place in the morning at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This I understand will enable the finals to be shown live in the evening in the US and this will be good for television ratings.

This is unfair for some of us television viewers in Australia and the region who were supposed to have watched these finals live during the evening our time. Now they will be shown in the morning Melbourne time which doesn’t help us at all.

When Beijing won the right to host the Olympics we all thought that was good for the Australasian time zone because we were going to have another chance to watch the Olympics in times that suited us best just like the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

In Athens the events were shown in their ‘normal’ scheduled times and we never complained that it was early morning our time because we knew in Beijing we were going to watch the those events in the evenings until now when television is now determining schedules.

I don’t think London 2012 will change the schedule to suit prime time American viewing. In either case it won’t benefit us anyway.

The only good news to come out of this is that at least athletics finals will be shown in their ‘normal’ time slot in the evening and that’s going to suit us, at least for now.

Windies stun India

The West Indies joined the Kiwis in reaching the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy tournament by beating India by three wickets in Ahmedabad, India. I think this was the most entertaining match so far in this tournament.

The Windies did well to keep India's haul at 223 and I think India never recovered from the moment they were 69 for three. The West Indies showed that their beating of Australia was no fluke and on this form they could see themselves in the final once again.

The West Indies have Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan though to thank after both hit half centuries to stun the vociferous Indian crowd. But the highlight of the match for me was towards the end of the West Indies innings when the Windies needed just ten runs from two overs.

Now the match between Australia and India on Sunday has suddenly become more like a final with either team needing a win to stay in the tournament. India will have the crowd support behind them and against Australia they will every bit of it.

On the same token England’s tournament is now over and their last match against the West Indies will just be playing for pride.

New Zealand storm into semis

New Zealand became the first team to reach the ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals in India early this morning when they beat Pakistan by 51 runs.

I thought Pakistan were going to beat New Zealand especially after Pakistan's impressive performance against Sri Lanka but New Zealand posted a good score of 274 for seven wickets when they went in to bat first. In reply Pakistan could only manage 223 runs.

Now Pakistan will need to beat South Africa to reach the semis and this will be a match in which whoever wins will reach the semis. This is because South Africa beat Sri Lanka by 78 runs despite the best efforts of the Sri Lanka bowlers who restricted South Africa to only 219 runs.

I still think Pakistan will reach the semis but on their day the South Africans can just about surprise anyone and so this looks like its going to be an interesting contest.

Schumacher bows out fighting

Michael Schumacher finished fourth in this morning's Brazilian Grand Prix after a typical fight to the end kind of drive that will sorely be missed as this was his last F1 race.

For Schumacher I think the championship was lost when his engine failed him in the Japanese Grand Prix but still he fought hard in the Brazilian Grand Prix to earn fourth place. The requirement that Alonso had to fail to score and then Schumacher win the race to win the championship was always going to be hard to achieve and in the end it never happened.

In a race like this where most of the focus is on Alonso and Schumacher it’s easy to forget drivers like Jenson Button who started fourteenth on the grid but finished on the podium. To get an idea his teammate Rubens Barrichello had started fifth on the grid but could only muster seventh.

I still wonder though whether Schumacher would have won the race had he not had a puncture. I think he would have got on the podium at least but winning maybe not, who knows.

Renault had double victory getting the constructors title after netting five more points than Ferrari. I never doubted that Renault would get given that both their drivers have been consistent scoring points throughout the season.

Mark Webber finished the season the way he started it. He didn’t finish the race but this time it was nothing to do with the car itself but a collision with teammate Nico Rosberg. Next race, our own Melbourne Grand Prix!

Champions Trophy so far

Now that the first round of matches for the Champions Trophy is finished, I think its time for me to look back and review what has happened so far.

The most surprising result for me was the defending champions Windies victory over Australia. I thought Australia had done well to restrict the Windies to 234 runs in their innings but that run total was enough for the Windies to win the match.

Now Australia has to be beat England in their next match to try and reach the semis. I wasn't very much surprised by England's 125 runs against India. Its very hard playing against the hosts but scoring 125 doesn't help as well and so the England/Australia match has suddenly become very massive.

When New Zealand went all out for 195 runs against South Africa I thought South Africa had the game in the bag but South Africa's response wasn't up to scratch scoring a lowly 108 runs in reply. Unless something drastic happens its very hard to see South Africa reaching the semis especially when they still have to play the consistent Sri Lanka and the impressive Pakistan.

Its interesting to note that so far only the West Indies/Australia match has been played over the whole one hundred overs with all the other matches falling short of that number. I am hoping that in the next round of matches we will see some more entertaining cricket.

Baggies look to Mowbray

As a Baggies fan I was a little bit relieved that the club at last managed to get a manager to replace Bryan Robson in the form of Tony Mowbray. The team has been doing well since Robson's departure and now lie a comfortable fourth on the table and just seven points from the top team Cardiff.

I never doubted whether Robson would be able to get promotion because he has a good record of getting promotions with Middlesborough. So I was surprised when he was shown the door after not so good results and the worst for me being the first team to lose to Sunderland.

My only issue with Robson is that I felt that once the team got promoted he wouldn't then be able to sustain it in the Premiership and before long the team becomes a yo-yo team going in and out of the Premiership which is clearly not good.

Now comes in Mowbray. From what I have read from BBC's 606 he has done a good job at Easter Road and Hibs would rather wish he stayed. Well, that sounds good.

With the team we have at the Hawthorns we should get promotion at the end of the season even if it means going through the play-offs but the problem is that I am not so sure whether we now have a manager who is capable of making the Baggies stay there without flirting too much with relegation.

This is I think more than anything else is the challenge that will face Mowbray as he takes the reigns at the Hawthorns.

Time to Salute Victory

I feel now its time to acknowledge how well Melbourne Victory has played over the last seven matches in the A-League. Victory has completed a third of the season without a defeat and that’s something that we couldn’t dream of last season.

I think there are a number of factors that have led to this success.Victory did well in bringing in the Brazilian trio of Fred , Alessandro and Claudinho and of these three I think Fred has already made a big impact. He is a player with such good vision he can get some good through passes and also his off the ball is quite good making it hard for the opposing team to trek him. When the team had needed to dig in deep he has also played his part in not neglecting his defensive duties.

Alessandro is the most exciting of them all and he has given Victory a few penalties. I think he doesn’t the release the ball early enough but I hope he will back in the starting line-up soon. I also think that Daniel Allsopp’s form is partly due to the arrival of Claudhino because now there is real competition for places and any slip ups one can easily end on the bench.

Grant Brebner and Adrian Caceres have also been good additions to the team and Caceres came on for Alessandro against Perth and added some steel to the midfield and capped it all with scoring the first goal.

The fixture list has also helped the season. The fixture list has now matured and compare to last season when Victory would play four successive home matches in October and then followed by something like four successive away matches in November. This time its at least a maximum of two away or home matches and that doesn’t put too much pressure on the players like last year when the team wasn’t playing well and had four successive away matches to play.

The other positive factor has been the Victory fans. I remember last season when more that 11,000 fans went to watch Victory play New Zealand Knights. This was a match between the bottom two teams and yet the fans went all the same to support their team and that was very good.

This has continued this season and Victory made a good decision in moving six home fixtures to the Telstra Dome. Now I can decide on the day to go and watch the match and still get a good seat whereas at Olympic Park just a few minutes late and the match is sold out. Also the 10,000 plus memberships has been a good boost.

Captain Kevin Muscat scoring every penalty he has taken has been good. Its good to have such a player in the team especially when a penalty could possibly win you the match.

Looking ahead to the round 8 fixture, Adelaide should give Victory a run of their money at the Dome especially now that Shengqing Qu is back.

Socceroos easily overcome Bahrain

In the end it was an easy match for the Socceroos against a youthful Bahrain team. The Socceroos overran Bahrain for the first twenty five minutes or so and for once I thought we were going to end up with a high score but that never materialised.

Of concern was the second half were despite the possesion, there wasn't much clever use of the ball and the attack was too one-dimensional to be of any concern to the Bahrain defence. This was also a Bahrainian Olympic team who managed to hold their own especially in the second half and had some decent chances on goal.

I would have expected the Socceroos to vary their attack especially on seeing that the wing wasn't working partly due to the excellent defending by the Bahrain wing backs and also lack of co-ordination on the Socceroos part. John Aloisi possibly needed another striker to help him because as a lone striker this didn't seem to work at all.

Marco Bresciano's goal was excellent and it showed the confidence that the player has in his own skill to execute such a wonderful kick when others would have opted for safer tried and tested methods. The first goal by John Aloisi was scored when the team was playing very well and build up to that goal bears testimony to that.

Between now and the Asian championships in July next year I hope coach Graham Arnold will be able to sort out the defence problems and I think upfront will be sorted out once both Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell are back.

Sri Lanka dismiss Zimbabwe

I should start by saying that this was a much improved Zimbabwe performance against Sri Lanka compared to the match against the West Indies but it was far below the expected standards. Managing to restrict Sri Lanka to less than 300 runs was good in itself and the inexperienced Zimbabwe bowlers did quite well to achieve that and the fielding wasn't bad either.

But it was the same old story in the batting department. The three top order batsmen scored a total of tens runs and this does not come anywhere near Sri Lanka's top three who scored a total of 123 runs.

If the West Indies beat Bangladesh today then they and Sri Lanka will go through to the main stage of the Champions Trophy.

Windies blow away inept Zimbabwe

Last night I decided to watch the ICC Champions Trophy match featuring Zimbabwe and the West Indies which was played at Ahmedabad, India. Normally with these matches I would watch the first innings only because by then it will be time to go to bed but this time the whole match was finished before 10:30 pm Melbourne time. This time less than forty five overs were required to settle the match in the Windies favour.

It confirmed to me that this Zimbabwe team has a very long way to go before starting to compete on the highest stage. I think it will be a similar result against Sri Lanka and the match can only be lengthened if Sri Lanka bat first because then they would most probably bat the whole 50 overs.

As you can imagine for a total score of 85, only three Zimbabwe players managed to reach double figures with captain Utseya scoring 27 and the other two were Mufambisi and Chigumbura who scored 18 and 10 respectively.

Alonso almost there

Fernando Alonso's win at Suzuka Japan and Michael Schumacher's retirement on lap 36 means that the defending Formula 1 champion is now the clear favourite to retain his title at the last race in Brazil. For Schumacher to win he will need to win the last race and will also need Alonso to finish outside the top eight, in other words fail to score a point. That's asking for too much I think and therefore Alonso has one hand now on the championship.

The constructors gap has now increased to nine and Ferrari will need a ten point difference between their scores and Renault's in order to win that one. That means if Ferrari get the first two positions then Renault should score at most eight points for Ferrari to win and that doesn't look easy at all but is achievable.

Whatever happens at Interlagos it has been a very interesting season and there could still be some surprises, you just never know.

Moore, Paraguay and the Socceroos

It would have been good to have Craig Moore in the Socceroos team and captain the side against Paraguay at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane but I think the FFA have taken the right decision to suspend him for one match. Whatever he didn't do or did do is unfortunate, the FFA has to be seen to be in control and they have shown just that.

Turning to the match itself, although this is an international friendly, for the Socceroos it also carries some emotion with four players retiring from international football. The foursome of goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac and defenders Tony Vidmar, Stan Lazaridis and Tony Popovic will be ending their international careers at Suncorp Stadium and this is why Moore will be required even more next time because we are losing three very experienced defenders. Also this is the first match to see nineteen of the players who players who made history at the World Cup by reaching the second round.

Paraguay failed to reach the second round at the World Cup in Germany and I think this was more to do with the fact that they couldn't create good enough chances for scoring. Against England they lost to a early goal and even though they tried to come back in the game they just didn't have enough firepower upfront. Against Sweden it was a similar story although they did play quite well and it was only towards the end that they lost.

We should therefore expect a good game from Paraguay and depending on the substititions in the second half I think it will be a scoring draw.

I would have thought the A-League would have taken an international break this weekend. For a start Brisbane Suncorp Stadium hosts this international friendly and then less than 24 hours later Queensland Roar battle it out with Sydney FC at Aussie Stadium in Sydney. You would assume that some of the Sydney and and to a little extent Roar fans who would have attended Saturday night's match are the ones more likely to attend Sunday's match and that makes it a very football congested weekend for them should they decide to attend both matches.

In future I hope the FFA will consider giving the A-League a break in similar circumstances.

Schumacher on top heading to Japan

Who would have guessed that it would be all square points wise going into the Japanese F1 Grand Prix and I can't wait to see what will happen in a week's time. Michael Schumacher leads championship by virtue of having one more win than Fernando Alonso.

After qualifying yesterday I just thought Alonso had the race in the bag and on checking the race weather forecast an hour before the race I just thought it was all in Alonso's favour but the drama in the race itself was the key.

This time there were no penalty points to argue about for the top two drivers and all was going to be decided in the race. I think the Renault team must be wondering how they could have made mistakes at such at an crucial part of the season. Renault are now one point ahead in the constructors championship and I still think they are going to win that part of the championship but for the drivers'its becoming even more difficult to predict.

The result today means that the championship race will now go all the way to the last race which is good for the Brazilians fans. The tight race is also good for the Japanese fans who before have endured races when the championship has already been decided.