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Archive for September 2006

Bye Fox Footy, welcome Fox Sports 3

Early tomorrow morning the Fox Footy channel will be axed after 5 years on air and also tomorrow sees the launch of Fox Sports 3 another general sports channel to add to Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2. I will miss the Fox Footy channel for its live coverage of Saturday and Sunday AFL matches and then the repeats during the week. Having said that I never understood why it continued to run during the AFL off-season.

The Fox Sports 3 is a welcome addition and will mean that Foxtel will be able to show many live games at the same time. This will also mean that from now the English championship matches will be shown live rather than delayed as has been the case so far save for one or two matches.

With the AFL season finishing today with the AFL Grand Final the Fox Footy channel will sorely be missed for real when the AFL pre-season tournament begins next year and suddenly there is no place where you can catch up with any missed matches at any time.

The first local sport or match to be shown live on Fox Sports 3 will be the A-League top of the table encounter between Melbourne Victory and Queensland Roar.

Inter top card list

Its only two rounds of the UEFA Champions League and already it doesn't look right for Inter Milan. They have scored no goals and have no points but where they are tops is in the card list with 5 yellow and 3 red cards.

Its too early to suggest that they will fail to qualify for the next round because if they win all their remaining four matches which the can given the superb squad that they have then they will have 12 points but they should treat each of the remaining matches as a final. They will also need to be disciplined otherwise they could end up missing key players at key moments.

Elsewhere, there are 100 percent records for Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Valencia, Arsenal, Man U and Lyon. Its always good to have points in the bag and that should ease the pressure for these teams going into the third match.

The Grand finals weekend

Most of the focus for the coming weekend in Melbourne will be around the AFL Grand final between Sydney Swans and the West Coast Eagles and there is another grand final, the National Rugby League one and this one features a Melbourne team. For the second year running we are hosting inter-state teams in the final and also these are the same teams that battled it out last time around.

Although there is no Melbourne AFL team involved this year, the Melbourne rugby league team Melbourne Storm will be playing in NRL grand final on Sunday in Sydney against Brisbane Broncos at the Sydney Olympic Stadium. Like Melbourne, Sydney is hosting a final that doesn't involve the host city team.

With the AFL and NRL becoming more and more national I think its good to see teams from other states playing in the finals and at the end of the day its a question of the best team winning.

In that vein I am hoping that West Coast will beat Sydney and that the Storm will bring the NRL trophy back to Melbourne.

Australia's Davis Cup struggle

I wasn't very much surprised to see Argentina knock out Australia in the Davis Cup in Buenos Aires. It was always going to be an uphill struggle for Australia against Argentina in the Davis Cup semi-final on the clay courts of the Parque Roca Stadium.

At this moment in time Australia doesn't have the kind of players to win against the David Nalbandian led Argentinian team because the moment Lleyton Hewitt lost to Jose Acasuso in the rain delayed second rubber it was hard to see where another win would come from.

The off-court issue of body guards and security or lack of it was an unwanted distraction in a match were chances of winning were always going to be slim for Australia. First, the playing surface was clay which the Argentinians are quite good at and then there was a more than vociferous crowd support that even included football legend Diego Maradona.

For Australia to reach the semis with the players they had is a good achievement on its own and compared to the other three Davis Cup semi-finalists, Australia's line-up was arguably the 'weakest' in ranking terms. I hope Mark Philippoussis will continue his climb up the rankings because with two good players you can go far in the Davis Cup.

Victory's Telstra Dome decision right

I think Melbourne Victory has made the right decision to play six of the last remaining eight A-League home matches at the Telstra Dome. There was no point having sell-out matches at the 18,000 capacity Olympic Park stadium week in week out whilst denying a lot of fans a chance to watch A-League football live.
I was there at the Telstra Dome for the match against Sydney FC and compared to Olympic Park it was a more comfortable venue that catered well especially for families with young children with its world class facilities. Olympic Park on the other hand is good for the fact that fans are quite closer to the action but the facilities cannot be compared to the Dome whichever way you look at it.
What's left now is for the Victory to feel comfortable at the Dome where the turf has been criticized for being a bit hard by other football codes. I also hope that people of Melbourne will turn out in large numbers for those six matches to justify the move.

Melbourne Missing September football

Last weekend there was no AFL football at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and there is also no football again this weekend at the MCG. This is because we didn't have a Melbourne team finish in the top four in the AFL because that way you would gain home advantage.

Until two years ago there was some football at the MCG but it was a bit unfair on the interstate teams having to come and play in Melbourne when they should have had home advantage because they finished in the top four positions of the ladder.

The football we should be having though is the rugby league match between Melbourne Storm and St George Illawarra. The Storm won the minor premiership and also beat Parramatta in week one of the finals and yet because of the rugby league rules they have to go and play in Sydney. This was going to be the only football in Melbourne this coming weekend but for now all we can do is wait for the AFL Grand Final on the last Saturday of September.

Walking with God

This morning I was reading the passage of Scripture in Genesis chapter 5. Its interesting to see in this chapter how the Bible chronicles the number of years that people lived like Jared who lived 962 years then later he died but then you notice something different with Enoch. Among the people listed, Enoch lived the least number of years and had children like most before him but it is then written that he walked with God.

I have read this passage a number of times before but for the first time I was just struck by the number of years that Enock lived, 365 which is the number of days in a year. This to me then poses the challenge of walking with God every day of the year.

Enoch's impact had nothing to do with the number of years he lived but the purpose thereof. Therefore he didn't go the way of all those before him but God took him away(v 24) and here we have the first record in the Bible of a person who didn't die.

Federer posed for greatness

As if he is not great already, I think Roger Federer is posed for even more greatness surpassing Pete Sampras record of fourteen grand slam titles. After his US Open win over Andy Roddick he now only needs six more grand slams to overtake Sampras and with the he way he is playing its now a question of when and not if.

Looking back at 2006, for the three grand slam titles he won he probably played the worst at the Australian Open where he dropped a total of four sets because he only dropped two at Wimbledon and just one at the just completed US Open. Before losing to Nadal in the final at the French Open he had only dropped just one set and this shows he has got so much more in reserve.

I think its the French Open that is going to prove difficult to get given that Nadal is almost unbeatable on clay at the moment.

Tussle to the end in F1

Its going to be an interesting finale in F1 with only three races to go in China, Japan and Brazil and with the points gap between Alonso and Schumacher now just two. The one week turn-around between China and Japan should make it even more intriguing because there is not going to be much room for adjustment and testing for the teams between the two races.

I always thought that it was going to take an Alonso breakdown or something like that for Schumacher to close the gap and that happened on Sunday in the Italian Grand Prix. The points system in place now makes it hard to close the gap especially if the other driver finishes just one or two places behind because that would constitute just two or four points difference.

To make it more even more interesting there is also the battle for the constructors title between Ferrari and Renault. It will depend on Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella also finishing well in the last three races because for constructors you need both drivers to be performing well. I think this will go to Renault.

I was a bit saddened to see Schumacher retire from F1 because he has been a very good driver but from a Ferrari point of view Kimi Raikkonen should be a good replacement.

Finally, with the season Mark Webber has had it was good to see him finish a race even though he wasn't in the points.

2006/7 UEFA Champions League Season Preview

This year's UEFA Champions League kicks off on Wednesday morning Melbourne time and for the first time in many years there is no Juventus and another team that is missing is Ajax Amsterdam but the competition should still be very interesting. There are going to be some mouth watering fixtures and one of them is Manchester United/Celtic and then the other Barcelona/Chelsea.

Group A is very interesting with Barcelona facing Chelsea again. I think Barcelona are stronger than what they were last season with the addition of Thuram and Zambrotta and they should come top in this group with Werder Bremen and Chelsea fighting it out for second place.

Group B brings together Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. This looks like a straight forward contest between Bayern and Inter for the first two places but I think Sporting Lisbon and Spartak Moscow could cause some upsets especially when playing at home.

Three weeks ago I would have said Liverpool are red hot favourites to win this group but having watched their last three league matches I think its a pretty open group with all teams PSV, Galatasaray and Bordeaux plus Liverpool having a good chance. PSV have done well in the past two seasons but that was under Guus Hiddink and we will have to wait and see what happens this season.

I think Valencia will come top in Group D but its very hard to see which other team will join them in the second phase. The Greek champions Olympiacos have lots of experience in this competition and that should give them a bit of an edge but Roma and Shakhtar Donetsk are no pushovers and so I think this will go down to the last match of the group phase to decide who proceeds to the next stage.

I think Lyon and Real Madrid should easily sort themselves at the top of Group E. Real Madrid should be a better team this season under Fabio Capello. Lyon are more or less the same team minus Diarra who ironically went to Real Madrid and should be able to navigate their way in this group.

Group F is another group where there is one very strong team in Manchester United but with three very good teams Celtic, Benfica and FC Copenhagen comprising the group. Its quite difficult to separate Celtic and Benfica to start with but there is also FC Copenhagen who knocked out Ajax in the qualifiers.

Arsenal haven't started well in the Premiership and should raise their game if they are entertaining hopes of winning this group because Group G has got some good teams in Hamburg, FC Porto and CSKA Moscow. I still think that Arsenal and Hamburg will go through this group with former champions Porto and CSKA Moscow fighting it out for the UEFA place.

Finally Group H and here AC Milan should easily cruise through and it should be an even battle between AEK Athens, Anderlecht and Lille. I think it will be a good chance for the other three teams to reach the group stages for the first time and it could come down to goal difference to decide the second place and UEFA place.

Eye opener for Socceroos

The Socceroos lost to 2 nil to Kuwait this morning in match so many people expected them to win. This result showed why the FIFA ranking counts for nothing when it comes to playing in a home and away series. Kuwait were playing in conditions that they are familiar with and they had the home support behind them and the Socceroos just couldn't navigate the conditions.

I think this defeat came at the right time because Australia had already qualified and it wasn't in the crucial World Cup qualifiers. However, this shows us that we should expect tough matches in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers and every game will need to be taken seriously.

It will not that easy because a lot of teams are not going to give up easily when playing at home and a high priced opponent like Australia and therefore the Socceroos will have to dig deep to grind a result.

This then means that there is a need to win all the home matches because the away ones are unpredictable. This wasn't the case in Oceania where the only match that posed problems was the last match against the fifth placed South American team.

Nadal falls to Youzhny

I should say the US Open is a bit difficult to follow because of the time zones but this morning from around 6am I managed to watch Rafael Nadal play Mikhail Youzhny in the quarter final match in which Nadal lost.

I was expecting Nadal to reach at least the semis this time especially when he was going to meet unseeded Youzhny in the quarters but he was outplayed. So like the Australian Open there will be no Nadal/Federer match in a grand slam.

Andy Murray also bowed out after losing to Nikolay Davydenko but I think Murray has improved so much in the course of the year and should do well with a bit more experience next year.

Earlier in the week it was sad to Andre Agassi bow out having been around for so many years. He was complete tennis player and that explains why he was able to last so long and I miss him greatly. I was good to see such a great player and yet very humble.

Yorke, O'Neill will be missed

It hasn't been a good week for the A-League this week with the departure of Sydney FC's Dwight Yorke to Sunderland and with the news that the FFA Chief Executive Officer John O'Neill will not be renewing his contract when it expires next March.

It was a good job in the first place for Sydney FC to lure Yorke to the A-League but in the end I think Yorke benefited a lot as well from the one year stint with the league champions. He managed to get his form back because he was playing week in week out and that also helped Trinidad and Tobago in the World Cup.

I didn't like the timing of the transfer coming as it were on transfer deadline day and so Sydney will have a hard time finding a replacement for Yorke unless they get a an out of contract player. I was hoping to see Yorke play Sydney at Telstra Dome tomorrow but nevertheless we will play whichever team Sydney puts up and hope that Melbourne Victory will go on another goal rampage.

Now turning O'Neill, he has done a very good job with the setting up of the A-League and organising the Socceroos World Cup campaign and its unfortunate he didn't want to stay longer. My only gripe with his administration was to give A-League highlights to Foxtel instead of giving them to a free-to-air broadcaster. A lot of people without pay TV don't know much about the A-League and had just the highlights been on say SBS or ABC I am sure awareness and interest in the A-League would have been more than it is now. All the same I wish him the best in his next move.