Saturday, June 27, 2009

How Australia will win its bid for the World Cup

During a speech at the Press Club gallery, FFA Chairman Frank Lowy said that Australia had embarked on a Herculean task in trying to win the right to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cups.

Victory, he said, would fulfill the countries’ wildest dreams.

There is another eighteen months for the FFA and the rest of Australia to inform, impress, influence and inspire the members of the FIFA Executive Committee.

Frank Lowy says that the philosophy that underpinned the revival of football at a local level is the same that motivates the World Cup bid.

The economic impact of hosting a World Cup will be huge.

The FFA commissioned Price Waterhouse Coopers to undertake an economic impact analysis of hosting the World Cup and the Confederations Cup.

A joint PWC/Monash University study estimated the impact as a $5.3 billion increase in GDP and a cumulative employment effect of 74,000 jobs.

The decision on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will be made in December this year.

This is the first time that a decision for two World Cups will be made at the same time.

The bidders Australia will have face are favourites England; a strong Iberian bid by Spain and Portugal; a resource rich Russian bid; other Asian bidders Qatar, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea; and North America’s Mexico and the United States.

To win it, the Australian bid require 13 votes. There are 24 members in the FIFA executive who will decide.

The nine bidding associations go into a ballot. Each member of the 24 member executive including FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, vote for one country.

What happens then is the country that has the lowest number of votes will be eliminated. The same process of elimination begins again until finally there is one country remaining.

There are four members from Africa, four members from Asia, three from Central and North America, eight from Europe, and three from South America and one from Oceania.

So how will Australia get those 13 votes needed during the first round of voting?

You would suspect that the members from the bidding countries on the FIFA executive that vote Japan, United States, Belgium, England, Russia and Spain will vote for themselves.
Oceania has stated on the World Game TV programme that they will vote for Australia. So count one to the Aussies there.

So how will the rest of Australia inform, impress, influence and inspire the members of the FIFA Executive Committee?

The bid and TV ad slogan Come Play was one way of doing it. As well as the website where ordinary fans can sign up and interact with Socceroos.

A Facebook site has also gone up with up-to-date information about the bid.

Why choose Asia?
First, the FFA has to convince the world to choose Asia ahead of Europe or North America. The World Cup has only been in Asia once during its 80 year history.
During the speech, Frank Lowy spoke about the might of Asia’s political and economic power, and how it was rising around the world.

The wealth of Asia continues to grow, he said in his speech. “It is where the customers are for goods and services, and for football.”
He added that the biggest television audience for the World Cup, by far, lies in Asia, not Europe or America.

According to IATA, in 2014 there will be more people flying in Asia than in Europe or America.
Lowy outlined why Australia is a better choice that Europe, saying it was: “Like putting a cherry on top of a gigantic chocolate cake.” He added “Europe is a mature market – it is already overflowing with the highest quality football on a weekly basis.”

Of the United States, he said: “Even under the rosiest scenarios, (it) will remain problematic for football given the unique characteristics of that market and the entrenched competition from other sports.”

So the FFA has convinced the Wworld to go with Asia, why then choose Australia?
Frank Lowy outlined six points:
1) The first was Australia’s record of Safety, Organisation, Friendliness at major events

2) The Australian bid has support from all levels of government to mount a genuine national bid. Frank Lowy has said: “From the outset the Prime Minister has provided unequivocal support, and his personal involvement, including a direct appeal to delegates at last year’s FIFA Congress in Sydney, has made a huge impact.”

3) Australia has the infrastructure. FIFA technical requirements for the 2018 and 2022 bids state that the bids should have:
* A minimum of 12 stadia, at least two of which must hold 80,000 fans
• 10 stadia which must hold a minimum of 45,000 fans
• Training facilities for 32 teams; and,
• Five-star accommodation for a minimum of four teams, the FIFA organisation and match officials in every host city.

4) The World Cup in South Africa will be in winter. So the far from being a problem, the FFA believes that the weather, distance and time zones and the Australian climate delivers a situation for perfect football weather in June and July.

Speaking about the weather and time zones, Mr Lowy said: “Too much was made of Australia’s so-called geographic isolation and time zone differences” He went on to say that the the 1 billion viewers in China, and the billions in India, Japan, Korea, and South East Asia, would appreciate being close to Australia’s time zone.”

5) Australia has generated enormous goodwill in world football over the past few years, especially during the last World Cup in Germany. The Socceroos excited everyone. And it’s worth noting that in terms of ticket sales to the 2006 World Cup, Australians ranked fifth in the world and Australia’s group games for the World Cup in South Africa have already sold out.6) Lowy also spoke about how the FFA was being recognised in FIFA and the AFC.

The chairman of the FFA said: “It was no coincidence that senior Members of the FFA had been recognised and are now serving on key Committees of regional and world football.”
So the other bidders have famous heads of state, famous sports stars and celebrities. Australia secret weapon is you and me.

The FFA say they will have to inform, impress, influence and inspire the members of the FIFA Executive Committee. There is eighteen months before the decision.

Do you think we can do it?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sydney FC Now Showing At The Movies

LAST week I saw a Sydney FC player at the movies, an old one scoring goals against Premier League teams, and new Sydney stars causing havoc against local teams.

The movie in question is Goal 3. And the spoiler alert is that John Aloisi features in the film, the Sydney FC striker's third goal for the Socceroos in the 3-1 win over Japan at the 2006 World Cup features in a montage of World Cup moments during the film.
Perhaps Sydney FC's new PR agency One Green Bean whose brief is to" promote season tickets by leveraging the profiles of key individual players ahead of the first home game of the club's fifth season on August 16" could use that cameo to sell some season tickets.

Sign Benito Up
The old Sydney FC player who was scoring goals against English Premier League teams was none other than Benito Carbone. The former Sheffield Wednesday player was called up to the Aston Villa Masters team on June 13, and took part in the Midlands Masters, where his team lost in the final to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Benito Carbone was awarded player of the tournament and golden boot winner.

Benito was in England trying to crack a contract with an English club and looked fit and in good condition even though the indoor tournament that included Birmingham, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers was an overage tournament that featured former players from those team like Tony Daley for Villa and Dean Gordon for Wolves.

Sydney FC fans will remember the Italian maestro's superb debut performance against Adelaide United when he beautifully set up goals and scored a screamer.

That was during the ill-fated Terry Butcher reign when the midfielder's guest appearance ended after only three games when he got injured against the Central Coast but that was not before the 37 year old scored a grandiloquent free kick.

So why not enquire for the little Italian again his rate would be cheaper than the last he played Sydney FC.

Still feels like Déjà Vu
In my previous blog I wrote that this season feels like the first one due to the new coach Czech Vitezslav Lavicka being a strict disciplinarian like first season coach German Pierre Littbarski, as well as the run of undefeated friendly games making it feel like it was déjà vu all over again.
Well that run included winning nine competitive games in a row, 15 including friendlies, part of that run included winning the Oceania Championships that got Sydney FC to the Club World Cup in Japan.

The last friendly win for the Sky Blues was a 4-0 smashing of Manly United that took the current run of friendly win to six games.

However none of those games have been against A-League competition. The game against North Queensland Fury is the first big test and that will be at Shark Park in Cronulla on June 27.

Another game against A-League opposition has been planned with Sydney FC returning back to school with a game against the Central Coast Mariners at Knox Grammar School. Make sure you wear the blazer and tuck your shirt in otherwise it's detention with that overly friendly English teacher for you!

The school motto is virile agitur which translates to The Manly Thing Is Being Done. It leaves this football writer with no option but to ask which one?

Hopefully it's just football. The season proper is getting closer and there are enticing friendly games against North Queensland and Central Coast to look forward to. It will be a good chance to see which Sydney FC stars will shine in season five.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Guus Hiddink: Russia's Style Is Unique & Attractive

The Russians just love 'Tsar Guus' and the way his team is playing...

Right after the World Cup qualifier against Finland on June 10, which Russia won 3-0, Sport-Express published the headline 'The national team, we love you!' on the front page the day after victory in Helsinki.
On seeing the headline, Guus Hiddink told the newspaper, "It’s very pleasant and I think the national team deserved it.
"When we played with Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein in spring, we earned six points, but the team didn’t show overwhelming football. Russia won these matches thanks to our high class.
"Our game against Finland required more emotions from players. We prepared for it very seriously as we knew that we had no right to lose points in Helsinki."

Russia’s most complete performance since their Euro 2008 quarter-final win over Holland saw Hiddink’s side put three unanswered goals past the Finns to move a step closer to the 2010 World Cup.
It was Dynamo Moscow’s Alexander Kerzhakov, back in the side after more than a year out of the national team, who scored the first and second goals of the match.
He got his first by rounding Jussi Jaaskelainen to slot in the first after a delicate lobbed pass by Andrei Arshavin. The second came after the in-form Vladimir Bystrov weaved through the Finland defence and hit a shot that was pushed out by Jaaskelainen to the grateful feet of Kerzhakov in the 53rd minute.
The opener was the first at international level for the former Sevilla striker, left out of the Euro 2008 squad despite being Russia’s top scorer in qualification, since September 2007.

Kerzhakov A Risk
Speaking about the in-form Dynamo striker, Hiddink said it was a risk including him in the lineup.
"We took the risk and capped Alexandr Kerzhakov as a starter and he scored two goals. This striker deserves kind words. Since the first day of our pre-match preparations he demonstrated his eagerness to play in Finland," he said.
"It’s very important that Kerzhi behaved like a full-fledged member of the team. Partners helped him feel at home in the national team again."
After the match with Finland, Kerzhakov admitted that he was surprised with the changes that occurred in the national team during the year and a half he was absent.
"We really made a giant step forward. Russia advanced in FIFA rankings. And at the same time I assure players that it’s not our limit and they can achieve even more success," the forward said.

Hiddink also spoke about how he wanted Russia to dominate the game, to play with confidence and work hard for each other.

"We set players to dominate the game from the very beginning and dictate their play on Finland. We always study our opponents’ strong and weak sides and build our game in the way that our team manages to show all best qualities," he continued.
"Russian national team loves playing football. During the last three years the team worked their own unique playing style, which could be called attractive. I suppose that Russia’s football style became recognisable.
"At the same time I like that players understand importance of rough work. In Finland our defenders, midfielders and strikers pressed the opponents very well.
"Confidence in our superiority became the main component of our victory. And players’ physical form also let them move on the pitch all the time and create dangerous moments in Finland’s penalty area."

Arshavin In Form
Hiddink also praised Arsenal star Arshavin, who looks like he could win back the captain's armband.
"Let’s not predict what will happen in future. Both Arshavin and Kerzhakov played wonderfully in Helsinki, but I don’t know in which form the candidates to the national team will come in two or three months. They need to prove their worth for a place in the starting eleven all the time," the Dutchman said.
"As everybody knows Andrei Arshavin wore the captain’s band during Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. I deprived him of it after his silly red card in Andorra.
"I think now it’s time for him to get back the armlet back. He is a real captain, he always gives 100 per cent on the pitch and what is also important can speak English. I would like young Russian players to begin studying foreign languages already now, as it will help them in their career."

Ready For Argentina & Messi
Hiddink was also looking forward to the friendly game against Argentina on August 12 in Moscow.
He said, "Next time the national team will gather to prepare for the friendly match against Argentina, which will take place in Moscow on August 12. I was very happy when the Russian Football Union managed to organise this meeting, because it’s very interesting and challenging to play against one of the world’s strongest national teams.
"Argentina represents Latin America, which football school differs from European style. Taking into consideration the next year’s World Championship, where I hope Russia will play, this experience will be very useful.
"I expect to see the full stands at this game. Result of this friendly match is not very significant, but I hope we will see entertaining football from both sides."

The 3-0 win against Finland, a repeat of last autumn’s result, leaves Russia a point behind Germany in second place after six games in Group 4. The Germans visit Moscow on October 10.
The first-placed team in the group qualifies automatically for the 2010 World Cup, to be held in South Africa. The second-placed side will face a play-off match.

Next Up, Liechtenstein
The next qualifying match for the Russian national team is against Liechtenstein and will take place on September 5 in St. Petersburg. The hosts will start pre-match preparations on August 31 or September 1 in Moscow or St. Petersburg.
After the game, the team will make for Cardiff for the qualifying fixture with Wales, which is scheduled for September 9.
"We think that national team should play only in Moscow," said the general director of the Russian Football Union, Alexey Sorokin.
"We are hopeful that we will see the full stands at the match against Liechtenstein in St. Petersburg. People love football very much and a big group of fans from St. Petersburg came to support Russian team at away game against Finland in Helsinki."
UEFA GROUP 4 (after six games)
Germany – 16
Russia – 15
Finland – 10
Wales – 9 (7 games)
Azerbaijan – 1 (5 games)
Liechtenstein – 1
Con Stamocostas

Russian Football Rocked By Match-Fixing Scandal

On Wednesday, Russia Today reported that the Russian Football Union was investigating claims of match fixing, following suspicious betting patterns during Terek Grozny's 3-2 win against Krylia Sovetov last Saturday.

As reported in the Russian Premier League roundup on Monday, it was a great result for the Chechen side Terek Grozny as they beat a Krylia outfit that were looking to go top.

Romanian Daniel Pancu gave the home team a 2-0 lead, the 31-year-old scoring in the eighth and 38th minutes.

Krylia striker Evgeni Savin then repeated the feat by getting his own double in the 47th and 51st minutes of play to tie the game.

The hero for Terek was Russian defender Sergeiy Bendz, who won the game with a goal in the 85th minute.RIA Novosti said that Russian sports media reported before the game that one individual had staked $400,000 on a Terek win on the Betfair Internet betting exchange.

Furthermore, despite Krylia being eight places above 10th-placed Terek before the match, some 96 per cent of bets placed were on a home victory. After the news broke, a number of bookmakers stopped taking bets on Terek taking all three points and odds for a home victory dropped rapidly with other bookies.

Russian football has often been plagued by rumours of fixed matches, with Terek's 2004 Russian Cup final triumph over, ironically, Krylia, alleged to have been bought for $6 million. The claims have not been proven, however.

RFU President Ashamed
What is a great result to some is match fixing to others. The president of the Russian Football Union, Vitaly Mutko, said he was ashamed of Krylia Sovetov.
“I watched the game and I didn’t like it at all. Every team has its problems. We can say that the flight was difficult, or something else. But every club has its fans, and I am very ashamed of Samara, who has a multimillion army of fans.

The Russian Football Union Commission on Ethics will be analysing this match,” Mutko said to

He added that ultimately it would be a matter for police to deal with.Terek Coach & Chechen President Deny AllegationsTerek's coach Vyacheslav Grozny and the club’s president have denied all the claims, and the Chechen President, and the team’s greatest fan, Ramzan Kadyrov, believes them.“We do not need such fixed victories. I just don’t understand how this is possible. It’s unpleasant even to talk about it. We never rig victories. We are not like that,” Kadyrov said to Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

He added that the top teams in the Russian Premier League won’t sell games because they have no shortage of money.

These are interesting developments, as coach Grozny has been critical of referees and was particularly furious after the Chechen side lost 2-1 to Tom Tomsk in West Siberia during matchday seven.After having four goals ruled out in seven games, Grozny had some strong words to say to the Russian media about referees and some “hucksters” that were trying to undermine his team’s cause.

He said, "Someone doesn't want to see Terek in the Premier League. I'm not talking about the Russian Football Union or the Russian Football Premier League [Russian football's governing bodies], but rather some hucksters who don't feature anywhere officially. It looks like there are ways to influence the outcome of games."We are gathering information and will name names."

Krylia Coach Rumoured To Quit
Straight after the match, rumours appeared that Krylia Sovetov coach Leonind Sloutsky would leave his job, despite the club having one of their best seasons in recent years. A win in Grozny would have allowed them to go top of the Russian Premier League ahead of summer break.But the coach himself calmed the fans, announcing that he’ll stay with team.

He also said the Grozny match fitted all the fair play standards, denying the fixing allegations.“This was a real game of football, although, yes, both sides committed a lot of mistakes. As a result, we were losing first, then managed to come back into the game, but in the end conceded a goal. There were a lot of harsh tackles and even injuries. So it’s senseless to speak about match-fixing,” Sloutsky said.
And Krylia’s biggest name, Jan Koller, says he doesn’t believe the game was fixed.The Czech striker didn’t appear on the pitch in the Chechen capital, which also raised suspicions. Later, it was announced that he had suffered an asthma attack.“I don’t think that the Krylia players gave the game away. If I’d found out the game was fixed, I would have left the team,” Koller said.

RPL Won't Investigate
Russian Premier League (RPL) spokesman Igor Budnikov told the press, "There are no grounds on which to carry out an investigation into the match. Furthermore, the RPL is not the organisation to carry out an investigation; this should be done by special bodies. We are, of course, aware that after the game in Grozny there were lots of rumours, but so far there is no proof."

This is not the first scandal involving Terek Grozny. Last year, referees sent an open letter to the RPL and RFU which said they refused to work in Chechnya if cases of psychological and physical pressure on the arbiters continued there.It followed an incident after Terek’s game against Lokomotiv Moscow, when referee Aleksey Kovalev was beaten up by unidentified persons in the Dynamo arena.Back then, Grozny team’s stadium was disqualified and the club was fined 500,000 roubles (around $13,000).

The problem of fixed games exists in Russian football, with one or two suspicious matches every season, says Marc Bennetts, author of 'Football Dynamo - Modern Russia and the People's Game'.

When asked recently by the website as to what percentage of teams were involved in fixed matches outside the Premier League, Andrei Panferov, a defender for Far East Russian side SKA-Energiya, said, "Believe me, a lot. Not just one or two sides."If you have money and I have none, and you give me a certain amount, then you will want something in exchange."I'll take the money and do want you want. That's how it has always been, not only in football, but also in general in Russia."

Con Stamocostas

Thursday, June 18, 2009

WORLD CUP 2010: Super Pim And Super Tim!

There's plenty for Australia fans to cheer about 12 months out from the World Cup.

There were two amazing performances during the Socceroos comeback win over Japan at MCG last night.
Pim Verbeek put aside his pragmatic nature and serenaded the country with a beautiful rendition of the national anthem that caused tears of laughter to run down my face.

The second great performance was of course super Tim Cahill two goals. But first let’s examine the dulcet less tone performance of the maestro Verbeek.

Singing Pim

Right after the Socceroos arrived at the airport after achieving qualification against Qatar the ever friendly Sydney media along with Ben Buckley, Pim Verbeek, Frank Lowy, Lucas Neil, Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarz were ushered into a room for a press conference.

At the press conference asked Pim Verbeek if he would sing the national anthem as that is a deal he made once the Socceroos had qualified for the World Cup. With Frank Lowy sitting next to him cracking a large smile which then turned into laughter, I waited for a response, but as luck would have it the press conference was cruelly cut short and no answer was given.

After the press conference Goal .com reporter Chris Paraskevas congratulated Pim Verbeek on World Cup qualification, the friendly Dutchman thanked Chris and then spent time signing autographs from fans and posing for photos. Goal .com again asked if he would sing the national anthem in Sydney.

He responded with a “maybe”

Then as the aspiring Travolta left the media and fans walked towards the airport exit with his wife, Verbeek turned back to and said something in the direction of Chris and I. Unfortunately we couldn’t hear what he said clearly as he had walked some distance, the Dutch accent also contrived to make what Pim was saying inaudible.

After hearing Pim Verbeek sing the national anthem on Fox Sports before the game I think back at that moment and entertain the possibility that perhaps Pim Veerbek gave a few bars of the national anthem or maybe he was just talking to someone else.

Super Tim
Tim Cahill the PFA player of the year the man who has so many history creating titles in Australian football to his name reminded everyone if anyone had really forgotten that he is the man!

Australia has no greater example of a superstar, a world class football player and an all round top bloke,

He is a scientist of scoring, inventing ways to sneak in behind, leap above opponents and time his runs and appearances in the box to perfection.

Tim Cahill already has painted one World Cup masterpiece and in South Africa in one year’s time I cannot wait to see what he will unveil.

I think we have not seen the best of Tim Cahill for Australia. At the last World Cup in Germany he was not fully fit and you have to wonder what a fit Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill and Brett Emerton will do once let loose on the African continent.

There was some great work from the players around him especially Nicky Carle I saw him score a volley from outside the box when he debuted for Sydney Olympic as 15 year old in his first ever professional football game.

A great ball by another ex Sydney Olympic player Jason Culina to tee up Carle for a shot just gave the fans and watching coaches a taste of what Carle offers to the team.

His involvement, hard work and combinations with his team mates will impress Pim if he keeps on performing like that. He has only been on the park for 98 minutes during this qualification series but it has been full energy, creativity and hard work.
All Nick Carle has to do is sing from the same song sheet as Pim “hum us a few bars” Verbeek and he will be in South Africa.

Jason Culina has run further than anyone in the Socceroos squad during this qualifying campaign and I bet he backs up for another 90 minutes for Gold Coast United when the play against the North Queensland Fury next week.

Josh Jesus Kennedy has had many blasphemous puns and innuendos attributed to his goal scoring feats but the football God’s forgive such deeds when the striker has such as good record and has been a big part of the Socceroos success. Our Jesus has had no striking disciples next to him; Jesus has been doing it most of the time solo without a wingman or sidekick to lessen the load.

Lucas Neil has been solid if not spectacular; he looked motivated against Japan that sneaky backing towards the goal to head away a Japanese free kick will go some way in erasing the bad vibes some fans felt after he missed the Bahrain game with the “yellow gate” card confession.

Special mention to Mark Schwarzer who had gone from instilling a sense of fear into the average fan every time there was a high ball floated into the box to the outstanding keeper we watch now.
He is the keeper of the clean sheets and while you really can’t say he is safe as bank in these harsh financial times any more he is the rock at back for the Socceroos.

Good to see a big crowd at the MCG for the game, it was no surprise really as The Socceroos- Japan rivalry is building quite nicely. For all the jokes about bleak city Melbournians can teach Sydney folk a thing or two about community.

Bring on the World Cup in South Africa, I never get tired of saying it, I will never get tired of thinking about it or talking about it. I can’t wait to walk around South Africa in a year’s time yelling out TIA (This is Africa) everywhere I go.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Russian Premier League Update: Matchday 12

The RPL is back with upsets galore, new leaders and weird nicknames, in an action-packed matchday 12.

The Citizens FC Moscow climbed to the top of the Russian Premier League with an excellent 2-0 win over a lacklustre CSKA in a round that was dominated by upsets. Former leaders and current champions Rubin Kazan lost at home to giant killers Rostov while Spartak Moscow jumped from seventh to third with a home win against FC Khimki.

Top & Bottom

European Places

(Top two qualify for Champions League group, third qualifies for the Champions League second qualifying round, the fourth- and fifth-place teams qualify for the newly named UEFA Europa League.)

FC Moscow 23pts, Rubin Kazan 21pts, Spartak Moscow 20pts, Kryliya Sovetov (Samara) 20pts, Dinamo Moscow 20pts, CSKA Moscow 19pts, Zenit St. Petersburg 19pts.

Relegation Places
(The bottom two teams are relegated to the First Division.)
Spartak Nalchick 8pts, FC Khimki 4pts.

Top Scorers
Wellington (Spartak Moscow) 7 goals; A. Kerzakhov (Dinamo), Sergey Kornilenko (Tom Tomsk) 6 goals; Alex (Spartak Moscow), Dominguez (Rubin Kazan), Pavel Pogrebnyak (Zenit), Pancu (FC Moscow) 5 goals.

Saturday, June 12

Rubin Kazan 0-2 Rostov-Na-Donu

The majority of fans of the 15,000 fans at the Tsentralnyi Stadium saw Rubin lose the game and top spot on the RPL ladder, although they still have a game in hand.
It seems Rostov only like beating the big teams; the giant killers of the RPL this season last won five games ago, and that was against Zenit. They also upset CSKA Moscow during matchday six.

The visitors grabbed a surprise opening goal on 32 minutes, when Aleksandr Cherkes whipped in a superb cross to the feet of striker and 2007 RPL top-scorer Dmitri Akimov.

Right before half-time, Rubin Kazan were left with 10 men when Rostov’s Serbian striker, Branimir Petrovic, sent a great pass to Akimov, which resulted in a penalty and a red card for Evgeny Balyaykin. However, Akimov's penalty was saved by Sergey Ryzhikov.

Ten minutes into the second half, Rostov sealed the win when another Serbian, Dushan Angelkovic, went on a forceful run before setting up Akimov, who made no mistake and scored his second of the match.

Form Guide - Last Five Games
Rubin Kazan - WWDWL Points: 21 Position: 2nd
Rostov-Na -Donu - DDLDW Points: 18 Position: 8th

Spartak Moscow 1-0 FC Khimki
Depleted Spartak jumped from seventh to third after playing without four of their top players, outclassing lowly Khimki in front of 9,000 at the Luzniki stadium.
Spartak converted their first chance after 30 minutes through German left-back Malik Fathi.
Khimki are still without a win in the league this season.

Form Guide - Last Five Games:
Spartak Moscow – WDWLW
Points: 20 Position: 3rd

FC Khimki - DDDLLPoints: 4
Position: 16th

Dinamo Moscow 1-1 Kuban Krasnodar
A small crowd of 6,223 at the Noviye Khimki stadium saw Kuban open the scoring through Ghanaian international Haminu Draman, the 23-year-old stunning the home crowd by scoring in the first minute of play.
Alexander Kerzhakov continued his good form for both club and country, with a penalty in the 34th minute.
Dinamo missed out on a great chance to go top of the RPL after only drawing.

Form Guide - Last Five Games:
Dynamo Moscow – LDWWD
Points: 20 Position: 5th

FC Kuban Krasnodar - DLWLD
Points: 13, Position: 11th

Terek Grozny 3-2 Kryliya Sovetov (Samara)
A great result for Chechen side Terek, beating a Kryliya Sovetov outfit that were looking to go top.
Romanian Daniel Pancu gave the home team a 2-0 lead, the 31-year-old scoring in the eighth and 38th minutes.
Krylia Sovetov striker Evgeni Savin then repeated the feat by getting his own double in the 47th and 51st minutes of play to tie the game.
The hero for Terek was Russian defender Sergeiy Bendz, who won the game with a goal in the 85th minute.

Form Guide - Last Five Games:
Terek Grozny - DLWDW
Points: 16 Position: 10th

Kryliya Sovetov (Samara) - LWWDL
Points: 20 Position: 4th

Sunday, June 14 2009

Tom Tomsk 1-2 Amkar Perm

Tom Tomsk's last victory was against Terek Grozny during matchday seven.
They got off to a good start againt Amkar with in-form Belarus striker Sergey Kornilenko opening the scoring in the 20th minute.
Before the game, Amkar head coach Dimitar Dimitrov said, "I have never come across with the absence of eight players from the starting eleven in my coaching career. So we have nothing to do but to cap our youngsters from the reserve team."

The home side would have been peeved when Bulgarian Georgi Peev equalised on 55 minutes, and ten minutes later the majority of the 10,000 at the Trud stadium would have felt sick when Serbian forward Predrag Sikimic put the visitors in front with what turned out to be the winning goal.

Form Guide - Last Five Games:
Tom Tomsk - LDDLL
Points: 12 Position: 13th

Amkar Perm – LDDLL
Points: 11 Position: 14th

FC Moscow 2-0 CSKA Moscow
The game of the round saw the Citizens of the capital go top! FC Moscow have not lost a game since the opening round of the RPL, and that was against Dinamo away.
CSKA fall from second to sixth.
Alexander Samedov got the first goal in fourth minute, some horrible defending gifting the 24-year-old the opener.

Five minutes into the second half, Bosnia and Herzegovina star Branislav Krunic latched onto a poor pass and netted with a curling effort.
An off day for CSKA, the army men have lost their last two games; but smiles all round for the Citizens as most of the 12,000 fans at the Eduard Streltsov Stadium sang we are top of the league.

Form Guide - Last Five Games:
FC Moscow – DDWDW
Points: 23 Position: 1st

Points: 19 Position: 2nd

Saturn Moscow 2-0 Lokomotiv Moscow
The Aliens of Saturn Moscow are now undefeated in last their five games. Their form has turned for the better following a change of coach, and since shipping nine goals in two games, the Aliens have finally found their inner footballer.
The 9,000 Aliens at Saturn Stadium Moscow saw them beat Lokomotiv 2-0 with goals in each half.
Brazilian defender Zelau and former Loko icon and captain Dmitri Loskov got onto the score sheet.
The Railway Boys must be making their fans dizzy winning one week losing or drawing the other.

Form Guide - Last Five Games
Saturn Moscow – DDDWW
Points: 13 Position: 12th

Lokomotiv Moscow – DWLWL
Points: 16 Position: 8th

Spartak Nalchik 2-2 Zenit St. Petersburg
Spartak Nalchik have not won a game since matchday six, so holding Zenit to a draw is a good result for them.
Igor Semshov opened the scoring for the visitors in the 32nd minute of play.
Kazbek Geteriev then gave Spartak Nalchick the lead with goals before and after half-time; however, Russian international Aleksandr Anyukov levelled the game on 61 minutes.

Form Guide - Last Five Games:
Spartak Nalchik – LDDLD
Points: 8 Position: 15th

Zenit St Petersburg - WLLWD
Points: 19 Position 7th

RPL Top Performer:
Top performer of matchday 12 is Dmitri Akimov. The FC Rostov striker got a double against Rubin Kazan and could have got a hat-trick but missed a penalty.

RPL Odd Spot:
Amkar Perm had eight first-team players out due to injury and suspension and still managed to beat Tom Tomsk away from home.

RPL Hot Spot:
FC Moscow are leading the RPL table for the first time this season. The Citizens have not lost since the opening round. Formed in 1997 and now owned by the Moscow city government, FC Moscow’s nickname translates to the same as Manchester City’s: the Citizens.

In 2007, Man City established partnerships with a number of top clubs from around the world, and FC Moscow was one of them.

They were initially called Torpedo-ZIL. The club was sold and renamed Torpedo-Metallurg before being transferred over to the city government and renamed once more as FC Moscow in 2004.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

World Cup 2018/2022: It's About You And Me, Australia!

Everyday Australians are the secret weapon in the fight for the right to host football's showpiece event.

In a recent article I penned for, I urged the Football Federation Australia FFA to find a secret weapon so Australia could fight the bids of England, USA and Russia. Those bids had some big hired guns.

The US has Barack Obama, England has David Beckham’s golden balls and Russia were going to get ex-Aussie coach Gus Hiddink to help spruce up their bid.

My suggestion of putting three of Australia’s most famous and beautiful actresses in a Socceroos shirt and having AC/DC play 'It's A Long Way To The Top' at the launch fell on deaf ears. Perhaps I should keep such fantasies to myself...

Instead, the FFA Australia has its own secret weapon for its World Cup bid.

And that is you and me, Australia; we, the people, are the secret weapon.

The World Cup Bid launch included 1974 FIFA World Cup Socceroo Harry Williams, Socceroos captain Lucas Neill, newly crowned Australian Player of the Year Mark Schwarzer and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The chairman of the FFA, Frank Lowy, spoke about Australia’s secret weapon, it s position in Asia and Australia’s proud record of hosting major events.

Australia’s “secret weapon” is the Australian people, and Australia as a destination.

“People from all over the world want to visit our country.

“Thanks to the performance of the Socceroos at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, as well as the many thousands of Australian fans who followed them, the rest of the world has a very positive view of us.”

Frank Lowy told an audience of politicians, media, past, present and aspiring Socceroos and FFA partners that:

“We believe this bid is realistic and it’s achievable,”

“Hosting the World Cup would provide Australia with an unparalleled opportunity and give Australia a lasting and living legacy for generations to come.

“On the world stage, there is no event with the same level of global appeal or audience reach as the FIFA World Cup.”

For Australia to host the World Cup in 2018, South Africa, Brazil and then Australia, it would mean that the World Cup would be away from Europe for 20 years.

The sceptics, in and out of Australia, say that FIFA would never allow that to happen. However, with Australia entering the Asian confederation in 2006 and Asia being one of football’s fastest growing regions, the FFA believes it has a great chance.

The benefits of a World Cup being in the Asian confederation for only the second time in its history will be clear to FIFA, as their biggest objective is to grow the game.

The World Cup being played in Australia with its close proximity to Asia in distance and time zones will help go some way in achieving FIFA’s responsibility to reach out and touch the world, using football as a symbol of hope and integration.

Mr Lowy spoke about the benefits of Australia being in Asia, saying that the cumulative global television audience in 2006 was 26.2 billion, with the single largest audience group coming from the Asian Football Confederation, of which Australia is a member.

“Asia is on the rise economically, in terms of goods and services and in football,” he said. “Australia is part of the Asian Football Confederation and is in the Asian time zone.”

One of the benefits of hosting a World Cup in Australia is the great record the country has in hosting memorable sporting events. Lowy also spoke about Australia’s record at the launch.

“Bidding for, and hosting, the FIFA World Cup is a natural corollary of our proud history in staging major events as a strategy to grow, develop and promote Australia as a nation.

“Events such as the 1956 and 2000 Olympic Games, four Commonwealth Games, the Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Indy 500, the Rugby World Cup, the Cricket World Cup, the Australian Open, the FIFA World Youth Cup and World Youth Day have all added to Australia's reputation and image as a nation, and as a serious and credible contender in major event hosting and management.”

Also at today’s launch, the FFA unveiled a website for Australia’s bid at, which is a football-themed social networking site. “We invite people from all over Australia and the world to join the bid by signing onto our website,” Lowy said.

The FFA also unveiled a promotional film which showcases Australia as a destination, as well as highlighting its football and event hosting credentials, encouraging the world to ‘Come Play!’ The film features the Socceroos as well, as a ball travelling around Australia visiting every state and territory showcasing cities, stadia, the outback, wineries and beaches with everyday Australians in a playful mood.

The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made an appearance in the promotional film.

“We are delighted that the Prime Minister accepted our invitation to be in the promotional film, as it emphasises to the international community that our bid is backed by the Government. “This bid is for football, but it is also for Australia,” Lowy added. “We have many milestones between today and when the decision is made and we hope that all Australians can join this bid 100 per cent.”

FFA will be required to make a final presentation to FIFA, football’s world governing body, in December 2010, prior to a decision being made. “I have the personal commitment of our political leaders to this bid,” said Mr Lowy. “We have the goodwill and support of other sporting codes around the country. “And we now invite all Australians to enlist in what we hope will be an exciting and successful campaign to bring the greatest show on earth to the world’s greatest playground.” The campaign to bring the World Cup to Australia begins now.

The perception of Australia as a safe welcoming country that loves sports is one of the bids biggest selling points, as well as being part of fastest growing region in football, Asia.

The FFA will have a fight on its hands to sway the 23-man FIFA executive committee in choosing Australia over the other bidders.

Sydney got the Olympics in 2000 against all the odds, why not believe that the World Cup could come in Australia in 2018?
The FFA believes it’s about you and me - do you?
Con Stamocostas,

Saturday, June 13, 2009

How Did The Beautiful Game Get So Ugly?

On a week where there should have been celebration, the usual suspects have taken cheap-shots at the beautiful game.

I turned up at the airport on Monday to greet the returning Socceroos, after they completed a historic back-to-back World Cup qualification.

Expecting to see a welcome befitting our heroes, I instead saw an unremarkable sight of few fans. The media gallery was there to greet them but they outnumbered the supporters ten to one.

Sydney’s reputation as the city of the one-night stand proceeds it. It was a beautiful Sydney day, and a public holiday, so why the small crowds?

Football Federation Australia (FFA) sent out a press release to the media but obviously the common fan did not know about it.

After qualification, the 20-20 cricket and the AFL led the news, while Channel 7 - who do the best job in the country in ignoring football - did not even have the Socceroos arrival in their sport report that evening.

The exclusive broadcaster of the Socceroos, Foxtel, did the same as the mainstream networks, hiding the team's historic back-to-back qualification behind other sports in their reports all day.

Foxtel do have to peddle AFL and Rugby League since they paid so much for the rights.

Considering that Australia's game against Uzbekistan on April 1 had a record audience for pay television, logic would suggest that the Socceroos' achievement would be headline news.

Terror Strikes

The day before the game, the Sydney tabloid The Daily Terror had a picture on the back page of coach, Pim Verbeek, labelling the Dutchman not as a great coach who had achieved something no one else could do.

No, Pim Verbeek was demonised as doer of evil deeds and the charges levelled at him included holding soccer back and my favourite charge against foreigners, being 'un-Australian'.

The tabloid paper was upset at his not allowing any media to speak to his players at the pre-match press conference, which is a normal practise by Verbeek before a game.

In any case, FFA boss Frank Lowy, CEO Ben Buckley, midfielder Tim Cahill, captain Lucas Neill and Mark Schwarzer were there to feed the chooks on Monday, so why make the big fuss?

If you ever snub The Terror they won’t be quiet about it. Josh Kennedy got the winning goal against Uzbekistan and the next day at the airport he didn’t feel like talking to the media at the airport. The following day in the paper the snubbed Terror journalist demonised our 'Jesus' in that special terror way.

Here is just a little of the tabloid's handy work:

“Here we are in the week when Australian soccer should be shouting from the rooftops that it has arrived on the world scene and the man who steered us there is pulling down the shutters on the whole show.

"Verbeek has placed a media ban on all players ahead of tonight's match, outside of his normally dull press conferences.

“Remember, this situation has been created by the same man who complained how disappointed he was to see soccer so far back on the countries sports pages."

And so he should complain, sports editors around the country should hang their heads in shame as Australia competing at the world's biggest sporting event ranking in third is just un-cool.

“After their heroics in foreign lands, the Socceroos deserve a better welcome home."

They do deserve better treatment especially by the media who by their own ignorance have yet to realise that this is the world game. And not appreciating Australia’s place in it is un-Australian.

The Game

I took my 11 year old cousin Gabriel to the game. He plays for Tim Cahill's old junior team, the Marrickville Red Devils. It was his first time to a Socceroos match, and the Australian attacking midfielder in waiting posed this question to me after the game.

"Why doesn’t Pim pick Nick Carle to play the whole game?"

"That's a good question," I responded.

Perhaps he realised from my constant groaning and sighing every time Brett Holman lost control with his first touch or misplaced a pass, I would just yell “bring on Carle”.

With eight minutes to go Pim was teasing us all, the noise that the 40,000 freezing, cheering fans with their cold and swollen tongues made when Nicky Carle came on indicated that they were thinking the same thing.

You could see the interplay with Vince Grella, Jason Culina and Carle in the second half was much quicker in tempo than when Holman and Mile Jedinak where on the field.

Holman has received more chances to play for the Socceroos than Cronulla Sharks players at NRL board meetings.

So here is where I am going to use some reverse psychology and implore Verbeek never to pick Nick Carle. Don’t pick him again. Stay true to your beliefs and build up slow.

Mark Bosnich had some interesting insights about Scott McDonald and Harry Kewell, that the build up in the Socceroos play is too slow. By the time the ball gets to them they are covered.

In defence I thought Chris Coyne had an okay game, his distribution at the back was off on occasion while a fitter looking Mark Milligan has lost all the junk he was carrying in his trunk and although he didn’t disgrace himself, I feel he kept on trying to find the killer ball too often.

Mile Sterjovski is a key squad player for the Socceroos, he gets in good position to score goals.

It’s been a weird week, back-to-back qualification and looking forward to a big party in South Africa in a year’s time should be the only food on the menu.

Instead headlines and comments like these from sections of the media leave a sour taste in our mouths:

“Why Pim is holding soccer back” and “it is Pim’s petulance and disdain for Australian culture which is holding the game back”

I for one celebrate the achievement Pim and the Socceroos have attained. I fantasise about revenge against Italy, embarrassing England and shutting up those who wish to fight ugly so I can concentrate on enjoying and celebrating this beautiful game.

Con Stamocostas,

Monday, June 8, 2009

A-League Comment: Gold Coast & North Queensland - The Fury Of The Hour

The A-League's newest clubs look set to form the biggest rivalry in Queensland.

The A-League has shown us that when it comes to a fight, don’t mess with a Queenslander, especially a Northern Queenslander.

Just like the greatest rivalries in history - David and Goliath, North versus South, and Boss Hogg and the Dukes of Hazzard - meetings between Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury should be fierce and fascinating ones.

During the last week I have sat down at my desk, slipped into my reading slippers and grabbed a box of popcorn, fully entertained by the two teams' pre-season stoush.

The fight was all over a friendly that turned into anything but.

First the Fury announced that Gold Coast had cancelled the game:

“Gold Coast United have withdrawn from their commitment to play NQ Fury in a pre-season clash in Cairns, leaving Fury officials stunned & angry.”

Fury chairman Don Matheson labelled the episode a disgrace and poked fun at the private jets that Gold Coast owner Clive Palmer boasts about.

“I can only apologise to the people of Far North Queensland who have shown their support for our Club and football," he said.

"I just can't figure out the Gold Coast decision, maybe all three of the Board's jets were in for service that week."

Professor Palmer (I heard a joke that started the same way), owner of Gold Coast United and the second richest man in Australia, then gave the reasons why the game was canceled.“We would have had to pay for the flights up to Cairns or Townsville so that would have been an extra expense, said Gold Coast United CEO Clive Mensink.

The Fury and their Players
“In the case of the game in Cairns, we were advised of some uncertainty regarding the availability of the stadium that was to host the match and we have subsequently questioned the standard of the opposition given their recent performance in Singapore."

Angry at the FFA
“FFA’s short-sightedness in scheduling five out of our first seven Hyundai A-League games away from home is the only disgraceful Board decision.”

In response to the cancellation Don Matheson then offered to play the Gold Coast at their home ground.

“I don’t understand the Gold Coast’s reasons for canceling the Cairns game, but I do understand Professor Palmer’s resolve to bring quality football to the Gold Coast, so I’m willing to send my boys south in the interests of lifting the game’s profile in Queensland.”

The Fury where also the first to draw their swords:

“I’m sure a match between North Queensland Fury and Gold Coast United would create the same level of interest, if not more, so at the sake of sounding clichéd: let’s play the game Professor. You can run but you can’t hide."

A day later everyone finally made up.

“Professor Clive F Palmer, today acknowledged North Queensland Fury’s acceptance of his open invitation to reschedule the proposed pre-season match between the two clubs to Skilled Park, and has locked in June 23rd for the clash.”

The Fury of the Heat
The heat does some strange things to people noble winner for literature Albert Camus can attest to that. So why did the Fury play their first professional game in Singapore against a Singapore side no-one has heard of? The 1-0 loss they suffered is forever written in annuls of Wikipedia, for future generations to wonder; why this team decided to play their first ever match in Singapore?
Robbie Fowler had a groin injury and could not play in that game. How many times will we read that when the Fury squad is announced before they play?

Melbourne and Sydney Quiet
The Gold Coast and NTH Qld are making plenty of noises while the two biggest clubs in the country in no specific order Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC have been a bit subdued.
Save for some trial games it has been quite for both teams, perhaps because both squads have been finalized for a while; a symptom of such a short A League season and such a long off season in between.
Both clubs have signed their marquee players on two year contracts. That is what makes the headlines. Maybe a fresh approach for the Marquee concept needs to be look at?

Fury Young Guns
North Queensland has been trialling some interesting players Roy Krishna from Waitakere United and Osama Malik from Adelaide United are two young players who caught my eye at the recent Club World Championship where both showed their pace and skill after coming off the bench.

I have been reading all about Nth Queensland Fury exploits courtesy of an excellent fan blog called The Journal here is the address:
Yesterday the Fury lost to the Central Coast Mariners 1-0 at Jardine Park in Rockhampton; the goal scorer was former Napoli man Giorgio Di Vicino.

The Fury and Gold Coast have showed the rest of the A-League how to build a rivalry. The Fury has already anointed the Gold Coast with an offending nick name “The Gold Coast Chavs” and the Gold Coast has offended almost everyone. June 23rd up on the Gold Coast the Fury will be hoping to get one over their state rivals, I will be getting out the popcorn.

Con Stamocostas,

Australia's Best Goalless Draw Ever

It's time to celebrate as the Socceroos are going to their second World Cup in a row.

It is the best 0-0 draw you will ever watch, qualification for a second World Cup in a row. South Africa and all its magic moments to come; a grandiloquent occasion like no other awaits us all; and we are only 368 short days away.

A whole year to think and talk about it, a whole year to think of teams the Socceroos could face; England would be tasty, payback against Italy would be great and full of redemption.

The game had almost went to script Tim Cahill’s overhead kick mirrored the one he did against Chelsea however the post received the brunt of the forceful shot rather than the back of the net. His barnstorming shot in the second half was just as brutal in power.

Also in the second half Josh Kennedy tried an audacious chip from outside the box but for once Jesus didn’t produce a miracle instead the excellent Qatar goal keeper saved, and he did that the whole game thwarting the Socceroos on numerous occasions.

For once Qatar gave the Socceroos limited space and where enthusiastic when challenging for second balls.

Harry Kewell looked fit and cut, he was gambolling past defenders with acceleration and trickery like he was 18. Two great runs in the first half where not rewarded with a goal and a blistering right foot shot from outside the box brought the best out of the Qatar keeper.

What price would you pay to see a fit and hungry Harry Kewell at the World Cup in South Africa?
The boy wonder ran on one leg in Germany 2006 and was still influential.

During interviews when Harry injured he would say that to make a full recovery from injuries it take s the same amount of time as you were out before you can get back to what you where.

Well the news that Harry Kewell’s new coach next season at Galatasaray will be ex Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard get's this scribe thinking that another season like the last and Australia and the World should expect a special performance by Harry Kewell.

That includes all the players. Most of the current Socceroos first team are in the prime of their careers. They already have a World Cup experience behind them. The players first will be looking to achieve a smiler feat as they did in Germany 2006.

It wasn’t the leading story on some mainstream news agencies in the morning, but when the World Cup comes around in June next year, those who are ignorant to the achievement will be on the bandwagon as the whole country will join in the Socceroos journey at South Africa 2010.

The Australian football fraternity will be expecting Australia to perform well at South Africa 2010; those with sanguine temperaments will hoping to go one better and get to the quarter finals; while the delusional and insane will be thinking, lets win this damn thing!

Con Stamocostas,

Friday, June 5, 2009

Guus Hiddink: I Missed Russia

Fresh from FA Cup glory, 'Tsar Guus' looks forward to the crucial World Cup qualifier against Finland

Russia coach Guus Hiddink spoke to Russian newspaper Sport-Express about how he missed the country during his half-season stint at Chelsea."

You cannot even imagine how I missed Russia; in the morning while going to the airport I anticipated my meeting with the Russian capital," he said.

"I am looking forward to seeing all my friends and those working with me in the national squad.
"As you can see I arrived to the hotel a bit earlier than others. But in the evening when everybody comes I will communicate with them with pleasure.

"After London I went to Amsterdam to see my father. He was seriously ill for several months but now fortunately is pulling through.
"He has a smile on the face and I am happy to see it. I visited him on Tuesday."

Renewed Energy
The former Australia, South Korea and Netherlands boss continued, "I am having much energy still and after London I am already fully focused on the affairs of the Russian team.

"Recently I worked in very hard conditions. Starting from February I had only five days off, can you imagine?
"I get power from people I communicate with. When you really enjoy what you are doing you never feel tired.

"Last weekend we closed the chapter of my English career very efficiently. I think we can be glad with our results. Chelsea advanced in the overall standings and thus secured a direct way to the Champions League.

"The club won the English [FA] Cup and I think we looked quite good in the main European Cup."

Just Rumours
Hiddink then dismissed the suggestion that he would stay on at Stamford Bridge in an advisory role, and refused to comment on the club's reported interest in CSKA Moscow star Yuri Zhirkov.

"There are only rumours that I am going to continue my cooperation with Chelsea. I am not having any official position in the club," he said.

"And even if I am going to arrive to London I will do it only in order to see the Russian players in the English Premier League.

"I know the rumours about possible transfer of Yuri Zhirkov to Chelsea but I won’t comment on this. I am here not to discuss it but to work with the national team."

Kerzhakov & Aldonin Impress
The Dutch tactician has recalled Dynamo Moscow forward Alexander Kerzhakov to the Russian team for the first time since Euro 2008.

The 26-year-old scored twice against Tomsk on the weekend in the Russian Premier League. CSKA’s Eugeni Aldonin also has been in good form, scoring a Russian Cup-winning goal over the weekend against Rubin Kazan.

"After Kerzhakov and Aldonin were capped for the national team they were much inspired that showed great display last weekend," Hiddink said.

"I am happy that the call-up to the national team added so many positive emotions. Both these players have been showing football of a high class and that made me invite them to the squad.

"I always follow the principle: if a player deserves a cap he will get it. When Kerzhakov returned from Spain he was not in his best form. And I did not invite him because of this.

"And now the forward looks fresh and plays efficiently, and can help the national team, so how could I possibly leave him out?

"Aldonin, Kerzhakov and [Vladimir] Bystrov can even appear in the starting line-up but on the other hand there are variants when they can be left on the bench."

Starting XI Undecided
Hiddink confessed that he did not yet have a crystal-clear idea of how Russia would line up for their World Cup qualifier against Finland on June 10.

"I have not yet decided the starting eleven. I have several questions that can be answered only during the training sessions," he said.
"In particular I should see how the newly arrived will look. One cannot forget that [Dimitri] Torbinsky and [Diniyar] Bilyaletdinov are sidelined because of injuries and Semak missed the Russian Cup final for the same reason. Moreover, Aleksandr Anyukov is suspended and that is a big loss for us.

"I know the group standings very well and realise that the draw will guarantee a second place in the group for us and thus a play-off match.
"But we are thinking only about the victory. And we understand that the match in Helsinki will be very difficult, they played well against Germany that managed to tie the game with great difficult.

"I am sure the coming match is one of the key games in the current World Cup qualifications. And we are going to Helsinki to win three points."

Kolodin: Three Points The Target
Dynamo and Russia defender Denis Kolodin spoke to Sport-Express about the upcoming clash in Helsinki.
"Now I think only about our rivalry with the German side for the top-spot in our qualifying group," he said.

If we want to head the group standings, it’s necessary to beat our opponents Finland, Wales, Azerbaijan, Liechtenstein and Germany. But if we lose points in Helsinki, it will be very hard to fight for the top spot.

"Having lost points in Helsinki Germany outplayed all their rivals, including Wales in away clash. Russia will have to play against Wales, so we have no right to fail in Helsinki."

Con Stamocostas,

World Cup 2010:You Never Forget Your First Time

Australia could make history by making back to back World Cups for the first time, and also be the first country to qualify for South Africa 2010

(Picture:Josh "Jesus" Kennedy, will he be the Messiah again for the Socceroos?)

Qualification is nigh, South Africa is only 90 minutes away. One point against Qatar who is still fighting for the third playoff spot is all the Socceroos need to get to the World Cup.

It won’t be easy Qatar will be no push over. The Maroons need to beat Australia at home or Japan away to have any chance of getting that third playoff spot.

But is the Bruno Metsu coached side really a threat to spoil the party? Australia has thrashed Qatar home and way in previous World Cup Qualifying games.

Close to four am Sunday morning Sydney time the Socceroos are going to create new history by going back to back and being the first country to qualify for a World Cup.

Diminishing Returns
The economic concept springs to mind looking at Australia’s impending qualification. Drinking from the qualification cup the first time quenched the thirst after missing out on World Cup participation for 32 years.Will drinking from it a second time be not as refreshing as the first?

The concept will tell you after the first time the second drink becomes less refreshing. Some folk have said that if Australia does clinch qualification on Sunday morning then it could be a bit of an anti-climax compared to the excitement of extra time and penalties four years ago against Uruguay, when the feelings where of jubilation, relief, joy and ecstasy.

Those are a lot of feelings for one moment, and it will be hard top that dramatic evening in November 2005.

Vince Grella also spoke about that night during the Socceroos preparation in Dubai this week:

“I don't think you can simulate that feeling ever again.“I think that just sits in the history books of Australian football and will never be touched again.” the Backburn midfielder said.

Qualification-Take Two
Playing Qatar in 45 degree heat and only needing a point to qualify doesn’t sound as sexy as coming up against the divine right that Uruguay supposedly had, never mind the revenge factor, and the 32 years wait.

There will be celebration around the country if the Socceroos get the result they need against Qatar; however the feat will not be seen by all as the game will witnessed by thousands rather than millions, given that to view the event you have to find a cable TV somewhere.

Hearing about it on morning breakfast radio or morning TV shows will not be the same as watching it happen live in front of you.

The game in Doha could see Australia be the first country to qualify first for South Africa a scenario that Australia faced against Uzbekistan back in April. The Socceroos depended on other results in other games later that night; but it wasn’t to be, so the “First Take” against Uzbekistan was a good dress rehearsal.

Facing Qatar is “Take Two” for qualifying for South Africa 2010; hopefully the Socceroos can remember their lines and get the point they need.

The Game
The Socceroos now have their destiny in their own hands, on Sunday morning at around two am the team will be greeted by 45 degree Doha heat and a small but loud and enthusiastic crowd which will sing (some with their own microphones and PA) all game.The squad will be missing starting players Luke Wilkshire (suspended), Craig Moore (not fit) and Tim Cahill might be missing because of a nock he picked in the FA Cup loss to Chelsea over the weekend. Brett Emerton who loves scoring against Qatar is also missing with a knee injury; he also missed the last two games.

The other remaining question of this game will be Pim Verbeek tactics. Will he change his pragmatic safety first view? I doubt it, judging from Verbeek’s previous tactics and squad selections in away games, don’t expect any Nick Carle’s or twin strike force. A packed midfield and a lone striker will be Pim’s weapon of choice.

Loyalty seems a big theme in Pim’s squads as Brett Holman’s selection can attest to that. The AZ midfielder can divide opinion of fans and pundits alike. He has only played 17 games this season and has only featured in three of the last 20.Josh (Jesus) Kennedy has been playing games for relegated Karlsruhe, and after figuring prominently in the last six of the season the player with a record six goals in 12 games for the national team should be a good chance to start.

I’m sure some fans are thinking “give Jesus a chance” especially since Mark Viduka has not agreed to join the Super June campaign. Maybe it’s time for Pim to show Jesus some love?

The Future
One of the negatives has been the lack of young players breaking through to the senior side, only Mark Milligan and Mathew Spiranovic has made the side from the Olyroos team that played at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. David Carney and Jade North are in the Super June squad and where in the same Olyroo side but where picked as over aged players.

Bruce Djite and Dario Vidosic made the senior Socceroo squad for uber June and their inclusion will please many fans, the outrage over their non -selection in the Olympics squad only tempered by their inclusion in this one.

James Troisi is a member of the Oyroo squad that can count himself unlucky to not be picked, as he has played 29 games and scored six goals for his Turkish club Genclerbiligi this season.

Speaking of young players, 20 year old Rhys Williams gave up trying to speak Welsh and has pledged is allegiance to the Aussie flag, picking the Socceroos even though he had played 10 times for the Wales under -21 youth side.

Rhys is a fine example that one simple phone call could get you to the World Cup.

Hopefully all goes well in the sticky heat and humidity of Doha the Socceroos qualify with a win and the country can celebrate and look forward to a South African adventure in 2010. Even if the country doesn’t go off like a frog in a sock most fans will be delighted; even a small jig in celebration of this history making achievement will be called for.

Con Stamocostas,

Thursday, June 4, 2009

World Cup Fan-vs-Fan: Qatar - Australia

Two fans from very different football nations clash:

This Saturday in Doha, Australia need just a point to qualify for South Africa. The hosts Qatar need three points to keep their dreams alive. talked to Ahmed Ashry in Qatar and Australia's Con Stamocostas to get the lowdown on their respective teams...

Can Qatar defeat Australia?

Qatar - We don't have any option except to win. The problem is that Australia hasn’t conceded any goals yet. I hope the first one will be in Doha... to be frank it is very difficult to defeat such a big team, especially with our current situation when we lack confidence.

Australia - On previous form between the two teams, the answer is no. However, this is a World Cup qualifier and Qatar are still fighting for the third playoff spot. They need to beat or Australia at home or Japan away. So this may be the one to go for, looking at it from the Qatar point of view.

Australia have defeated Qatar easily in the past. Why?

Qatar - Because until now Qatar haven’t played as a team or as men. Unfortunately, we started the match with only one idea - that we will lose. It is a bad way to start any match.

Australia - Some pundits have said the Qataris have been intimidated by the big-name Socceroos players. During the last three games Australia have played Qatar, there has been too much space allowed for the Australian team to make passes and runs, and some of the defending by Qatar has been inadequate.

The truth is that the Socceroos are just better players than their Qatari counterparts. Save for the Uruguayan-born striker Sebastian Quintana, none of the Qatar players have shown that they can match the Socceroos as a team or individually. Most of the Australian team are playing in the top leagues in Europe, and playing in top-quality European cup competitions - not forgetting that valuable experience of already playing in a World Cup. The gulf in class has been wide, save for a few minutes in each match where the Qatar team has been on top.

What does it mean for Australia to be so close to South Africa?

Australia - It means everything if you are a Socceroos supporter. As a fan you are part of the biggest football party in the world. Germany was amazing and with Australia so close to confirming their spot in South Africa, you just want to relive Germany all over again.

The nervous wait before the World Cup starts. Which teams are going to be in your group? The anticipation, anxiety and nervous feelings you get before the first game is played. The fact the whole world is watching with you just creates a special feeling.

What are the reasons for Qatar's bad form?

Qatar – The players don't believe in their abilities. Bruno Metsu is a great coach and we can't criticise him at all but the team believes that it is not good enough. When we get back our confidence we will play better

Are you satisfied with your coach?

Qatar – Although results have been poor, he will stay a great coach and I am sure if he had more time then he would get great results. You can't judge him from one or two matches or even on one competition. We have to create stability in coaching positions and Metsu is well known as a good coach so we should stick with him.

Australia - On the whole, yes. We are close to a World Cup. But the feeling I have is that I know that the players can do better. We saw it in Germany, they can play better than they are currently doing and some fans think it’s the coach.

This is the first time Australia has gone through a group qualifying since it became part of Asia. Some of the tactics like playing a lone and sometimes no striker, flooding the midfield, are just insurances of getting Australia to a World Cup. I would like to see a bit more attacking football, but happy that we are almost qualified.

Some people criticise Qatar's overseas players, what is your opinion?

Qatar – This is modern football. Why don’t they talk about other players in other countries such as Amauri or Pernia? These days, it is a practice to sign players to your team when there is possibility. What I really ask is, why do people only focus on Qatar? Tunisia, Germany, Italy and Spain, all of them have foreign players.

Australia - My opinion is that all countries do this sort of thing. Australia had a lot overseas-born players in the 1974 World Cup squad in Germany. Migrants have generally played football in Australia and a lot of the current Socceroos squad are migrant children. So it’s pretty hard to point the finger. On the other hand, FIFA must not allow a situation to exist where each team is filled with Brazilians - no-one wants to watch just Brazilians play at a World Cup. It’s the difference style of cultures that make it interesting.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Qatar - The team can't defend as a professional team but we have the money so we can be improve this quickly.

Australia - We are in winning form. The team is confident it can get the results it needs, even if it isn’t pretty at times. The midfield is strong and organised. Josh Kennedy is our main weapon up-front - even half fit he can score goals. Mark Schwarzer has been our best player, he organises the defence well. Bresciano, Kewell and Tim Cahill can get us goals but not all have been fit and in form. Scott McDonald - all of Australia will be relieved when the Mac strikes.

Our weakness is our depth and lack of genuine pace and flair. If Australia loses players through injury then the players replacing them have not been playing regularly for their clubs or are playing their football at a lower standard.

The team has no real speed merchants; Brett Holman is quick but that is about it. Beside Harry Kewell, Australia don’t have too many creative players either.

Who is your best player?

Qatar - Hussain Yasser is a very stylish football player.

Australia - Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill, I cannot choose between both.

Can Qatar finish in third?

Qatar - Possible but very difficult. I think that we have a 30 per cent chance.

Australia - If Japan beat Uzbekistan and Australia beat Bahrain they can, but they also have to beat Australia at home or Japan away.

If not, what is next for Qatar?

Qatar - We have to be prepare well with Metsu for the next Asian Cup and then the 2014 World Cup. We have to start learning how to defend as a team and how to be focused during the match.

If Australia clinch qualification, what is next on the list?

Australia -
The next thing on the list is trying a more attacking formation in the last two games and in the friendlies that Australia will play leading into the finals. Perhaps experiment more by bringing in some players with speed like James Troisi and Nikita Rukavytsya and the forgotten David Williams and Nathan Burns. Maybe some A-League players like Newcastle Jet Ben Kantorovski and perhaps even Ljubo “the lip” Milicevic.

How do fans feel at the moment?

Qatar - We don't have big hopes, as our previous results were enough to destroy our dreams. It is football and if you think big you may find nothing.

Australia - The fans feel excited about qualifying for a World Cup again. FIFA recently reported that, “Due to a high demand for certain team-specific ticket series, these tickets are no longer available for the following countries: England, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Ireland and Netherlands.”

To be honest, Australia has never qualified for many World Cups, so I am not sure what the reaction will be when it happens. I hope there is dancing in the streets when that moment comes, even though it will be 4:00am in the morning. Everyone is excited about seeing the Socceroos play at the World Cup again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

CSKA Triumph Over Rubin To Win Russian Cup

Zico has added to his cups wins in Brazil, Japan, Turkey and Uzbekistan, with victory in Khimi.

1 Jun 2009

CSKA Moscow beat league champions Rubin Kazan 1-0 in the Russian Cup final on Sunday.
The Army Men achieved back-to-back Russian Cups and their fifth Rambler title overall.

CSKA’s Russian international midfielder Yevgeny Aldonin won the game right at the death, the 29-year-old scoring one minute into added time.

The two clubs met in the Russian Super Cup right at the beginning of the season and CSKA took that match 2-1. So, Rubin were looking to exact revenge against the capital outfit.

The Super Cup was held at the Luzhniki stadium but this time the final took place in the Arena-Khimki stadium near Moscow. Cup finals have traditionally been held at the Luzhniki, but as CSKA play the majority of their home games at that venue (which has an artificial pitch), the Russian Football Union felt that they would have an unfair advantage.

Lokomotiv Moscow's 28,000-capacity ground could not be used as they were playing Spartak Moscow in the Russian Premier League over the same weekend.

Rubin, who are top of the Rusian Premier League with a two-point lead over second-placed CSKA, hail from Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, some 770 kms (450 miles) from Moscow.

Right before the game, Rubin’s Turkish midfielder Gokdeniz Karadeniz said that the former Red Army side had an advantage in the final.
"Even if the game is taking place in Khimki you must understand that it doesn't change much," he told Sport-Express. "Our opponents will feel at home there. After all, their fans won't have to travel a whole day on the train to get to the game."

CSKA manager Zico also spoke to the newspaper before the game.
"I've managed to win quite a few cups in Brazil, Japan, Turkey and Uzbekistan," he said. "I hope I'll be able to add the Russian Cup to that collection on Sunday."

CSKA went looking for early goals and created some danger in Rubin’s box in the opening minute.

However, the Army Men did it the hard way, with the Moscow club reduced to 10 men in only the 13th minute, after Russian under-21 international midfielder Pavel Mamayev was sent off after bringing down Argentine playmaker Alejandro Dominguez as the last man.

Rubin didn’t give up their cautious play, despite the advantage in numbers. They controlled the ball well, but it was CSKA who created the biggest chances of the half.

Kazan 'keeper Sergey Ryzhikov produced a skilful save from a header that Niger striker Moussa Maazou connected well with, the cross coming courtesy of a free kick by Brazilian attacker Daniel Carvalho.

The game remained equal in the second half. It seemed that Rubin were waiting for CSKA to get tired and/or make a mistake.

A draw and extra time was looming as normal time was coming to an end. Then Yevgeny Aldonin announced himself as the hero. The midfielder launched a powerful shot from outside the box in the first minute of stoppage time, slotting the ball straight into the lower corner and leaving Ryzhikov no chance.

There were four minutes left to play, but shocked Rubin failed to grab an equaliser, meaning CSKA lifted the Russian Cup for the second year in a row.

CSKA boss Zico, who took over at the club in January, has now won his first Russian trophy.

The Rubin Kazan coach, Kurban Berdyev, was gracious in defeat when he spoke to Sport-Express:
"I congratulate the Army Men with a well-deserved victory. The international experience they have is an invaluable thing, which is especially necessary for such matches. And this experience paid off today. In such games it’s important to endure and to play to the end. These are the things we must learn from CSKA."

The Army Men will now have the trophy in permanent keeping as they have won it for the fifth time.

Con Stamocostas,

Russian Premier League Update: Matchday 11

The exciting action continued in the RPL as Zenit St. Petersburg stopped their slide down the ladder by beating Kuban Krasnador.

The Moscow city derby between Lokomotiv and Spartak was a slaughter as the Railway boys triumphed, and the game between the teams in equal second, Kryliya Sovetov and FC Moscow, finished in a draw. CSKA beat Rubin on Sunday 1-0 to defend their Russian Cup title.

What You Should Know About The RPL
As of 2008, the RPL champions qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage, as well as the runners-up. The third-placed team qualifies for the Champions League second qualifying round. The fourth- and fifth-place teams qualify for the newly named UEFA Europa League. The bottom two teams are relegated to the First Division.Unlike other European football leagues, the league typically runs in summer, from March to November, to avoid playing games under the cold and snowy weather in winter.

Top & Bottom

European Places
Rubin Kazan 21pts; Kryliya Sovetov (Samara), FC Moscow 20pts; CSKA Moscow 19pts; Dinamo Moscow 19pts; Zenit St. Petersburg 18pts.

Relegation Places
Spartak Nalchick 7pts; FC Khimki 4pts.

Top Scorers
Wellington (Spartak Moscow) 7 goals; Alex (Spartak Moscow), A. Kerzakhov (Dinamo), Dominguez (Rubin Kazan), Sergey Kornilenko (Tom Tomsk) 5 goals; Pavel Pogrebnyak (Zenit), M Jakubko (FC Moscow), Jan Koller (K.Sovetov), S Semak (Rubin) 4 goals.

Amkar Perm0-2 Saturn Moscow

The newspapers in Saturn would be running the headline: “Aliens lift off the bottom” and “Saturn runs rings around Amkar” after goals to Vladimir Kuzmichev in the 30th minute and one to former Russian international striker Dmitri Kirichenko on 61 minutes gave the Aliens a much needed 2-0 win.

The victory at Amkar Perm’s home ground the Svezda Stadium in front of 11, 000 fans took Saturn and their rings out of the relegation positions and into 13th place, three points clear of Spartak Nalchick although they have a game in hand.

Form Guide- Last Five Games:

The Aliens – LDDDW
Points: 10 Position: 13th
Amkar Perm – LDDLL
Points: 8 Position: 14th


Tom Tomsk 2–3 Dinamo Moscow

The 12,000 at the Trud stadium saw a high scoring entertaining affair as Dynamo Moscow surged back into contention with a 3-2 win.

Dinamo took their good form with them after beating Zenit last week and they burst out of the blocks with goals to newly recalled Russian international Alexander Kerzhakov who scored with a perfectly curved free-kick just nine minutes into the game.

Then another goal came three minutes later to left midfielder Dmitri Kombarov who slotted home from close range after an assist by brother Kirill.

With halftime approaching it was Dmitry’s turn to assist. With another defence-splitting cross Kerzhakov made it 3-0, the 25 year old scoring his fifth of the season.

It was as they say a game of two halves and Tom Tomsk obliged the saying with goals to their Belarus striker Sergey Kornilenko. The first came in the 65th minute with a header and the 25year old got his second with a 73rd minute penalty, the Belarusian taking his tally for the season to five goals.

The Blue and Whites move up to fifth and are only two points off leader Rubin, although the Kazan side does have a game in hand.

Form Guide- Last Five Games:

Tom Tomsk- WLDDL
Points: 12 Position: 12th

Dynamo Moscow–WLDWW
Points: 19 Position: 5th

Rostov-Na-Donu 1-1 Terek Grozny

Rostov and Terek could only manage a draw at the SKA SKVO Stadium in front of a 9,000 strong support.
The Chechen side open the scoring through 29 year old midfielder Shamil Lakhiyalov who got the first goal on 26 minutes.Maxim Astafiev equalised for Rostov on 55 minutes
Rostov has not won a game in six attempts while Terek add this away draw to their first win in eight games against FC Khimki during matchday 10.

Form Guide- Last Five Games:
Rostov-Na -Donu - LDDLD
Points: 15, Position: 7th

Terek Grozny - LDLWD
Points: 13 Position: 10th

Zenit St Petersburg 2-0 Kuban Krasnodar
A good crowd 20,000 at the Petrovski Stadium 20,000 saw goals to 31 year old Igor Semshov in the 38th minute and another just before the halftime break to Konstatin Zurianov give Zenit a much needed 2-0 win over the Canaries of Kuban.
After Zenit lost their last two games both away to CSKA and Dinamo Moscow, and with news that Coach Dick Advocatt was leaving to join Belgium as head coach, the club was headed for a mini-crisis until they beat the Kubansty.
Zenit are now three points behind leaders Rubin.

Form Guide- Last Five Games:
Zenit St Petersburg -WLWLL
Points: 18 Position 6th

FC Kuban Krasnodar - DDDLW
Points: 12, Position: 11th

Lokomotiv Moscow 2-1 Spartak Moscow
Somewhat of an upset as the old city rivals Lokomotiv and Spartak Moscow clashed at the Lokomtiv Stadium in front of 28,000 Moscowvites.

Eleven yellow and three red cards were shown on Saturday, with one Russian news agency calling the game a slaughter.

The Railway Boys opened the scoring on 22 minutes trough their Brazilian defender Bentas Rodolfo. The youngster Aleksandr Milchenkov then doubled the lead for the Railways Men, the 20 year old netting on 37minutes.

An exciting finish to the first half culminated with in form Brazilian Alex makeing the score 2-1 at the break

The Lokomotiv fans had an anxious wait as 25 year old striker Dmitri Sychev got his marching orders with a red card in the 51st minute and so did second half substitute Brazilian striker Fininho late on.

The red cards where being handed out like confetti at a 21st birthday party, and Pereira Rafael Carioca for Spartak also was sent off in the 80th minute.

The game was the first at the helm for Loko’s old-new coach Yury Semin, who returned back to Moscow after a triumphant season at Dynamo Kiev.

Form Guide- Last Five Games:
Lokomotiv Moscow – WDWLW
Points: 16 Position: 8th

Spartak Moscow – LWDWL
Points: 17 Position: 7th

Kryliya Sovetov (Samara) 1-1 FC Moscow
It was equal second taking on equal second in this top of the table clash.
Two goals in the first 20 mins had the fans at the Metallurg Stadium in Samara on the edge of their seats.
Alexander Samedov opened the scoring for FC Moscow, the 24 year old netting in the10th minute Jan Koller got one back for the home side six minutes later.

However both sides failed to take the opportunity to go top with a win, the draw favouring Rubin and CSKA.

Form Guide- Last Five Games:
Kryliya Sovetov (Samara) - LLWWD
Points: 20 Position: 2nd
FC Moscow – WDDWD
Points: 20, Position: 3rd

RPL Top Performer:
Top performer of Matchday 11 is newly recalled Russian international Alexander Kerzhakov, with two goals against Tom Tomsk.

RPL Odd Spot:
The game between Amkar Perm and Saturn Moscow saw an instrumental version of Stevie Wonders “I just called to say I love you” played before the game. The RPL update thinks that is not the most intimidating music you can play before a football game.

Dasvidania, till next week.

Con Stamocostas,