Monday, November 19, 2007

A mish-mash of thoughts...

....and just a spot of round 13 A-League analysis

APOLOGIES first for not posting of late. Life, lets say, continues to be busy. Of course, the beauty of this world is that the round ball stops for very little, and as always, the past week or so has been chock-full of great stuff, even if I haven't been able to see it all. For once, I've yet to watch all four A-League games, and will hopefully catch up with the games in Wellington and Adelaide soon enough. So, finally, there's no weekly A-League wrap and TRBA team of the week, but I'll incorporate some thoughts around the Roar in this mish-mash of thoughts from another chaotic week in Australian and world football;

We are Reds; it wasn't a classic climax by any means, but how fitting was the setting for the ACL second leg on Wednesday night between the Urawa Reds and Iran's Sepahan. One of the most endearing memories, for me, of the 2007 football calendar, was to have the good fortune of sitting in close proximity to the travelling Urawa fans at the SFS. Just amazing, but the sight at their Saitama headquarters is even better. Fortunately we got to see them (the fans) in action on a few occasions throughout the season (the most riveting was the semi final second leg penalty shoot-out win over Seongnam), and while Holger Osiek's men might have had a bit of fortune along the way, who can begrudge their 12th man the title. Fitting then that the Reds players, led by the man mountain Tulio Tanaka, presented the ACL trophy to the Reds fans, arguably the best supporters in world football. What followed was sheer poetry. It was a fitting way to end what I thought was a fascinating tournament, which is just great to be a part of.

Kruse-Missile; Alot of the talk and attention of late has been on the other kid, Michael Zullo, but Robbie Kruse, for me, continues set a breathtaking pace. As I might have said previously, he was among the three players that caught my eye at Peru 2005 (the others being Patafta and Burns), so it's great to see him get his chance and take it. Against the Victory on Friday he was dynamite, giving Mat Kemp a complete working over, and showing a healthy appetite to work back and drift across the forward line, as he did with the goal. Teed up by the excellent Matt McKay, Kruse took his chance with great poise. Later, he struck the post, but his composure in the box is the stuff of a seasoned finisher. In a league without too many natural and composed finishers, Kruse is a breath of fresh air.

Twin Pillars; How fitting that the Olyroo's two goals in their crunch matchday 5 clash on Saturday night against Iraq came from the two towers in central defence. Hitherto the Olyroos are yet to concede in the third phase of qualifiers, and that's in no small part to the work of Milligan and Leijer, who have looked a splendid combination and will one day (soon on current evidence) play together in the centre of the Socceroos defence. Blessed with plenty of pace and bite in the challenge, they are comfortable at holding a high line because they know they can always make it back. This allows the fullback to bomb on forward, knowing the back two have the pace the cover everything. Against the lively Karrar Jassim and an Iraq side that settled well after the initial half hour, Milligan (despite slow-mo replays showing he was luck to stay on the pitch after elbowing the keeper) and Leijer were outstanding, and helped in no small part by Vukovic (great concentration), McClenahan (surprisingly subtle coming forward) and Topor-Stanley (despite the latter having a torrid period just before the break). With Krisitian Sarkies providing both goals from his brilliant work over the dead-ball (little wonder Arnold is so insistent on starting him), the Olyroos, despite missing Stuart Musalik, were physically too much for the silky Iraqis. They must now dot their i's and cross their t's in what is sure to be an interesting trip. When the Matildas recently travelled to Pyongyang they are reported to have had mobile phones confiscated and contact withe outside world limited, so there are at least a few hurdles left for Arnold and his men . But somehow, with Milligan and Leijer (and you can throw Vukovic into the back three) leading from the back, Beijing no longer looks like a dream. Good luck boys.

Baan-stormer; perhaps the late withdrawal of Tim Cahill decided it for him, but Rob Baan's decision to start Nick Carle in the hole behind the front two in the 1-0 win over the Super Eagles on Sunday morning (our time) is, in my mind, to be applauded. It was a move Arnold appeared reluctant to make (preferring the likes of Holman), but here was the evidence that Carle is the ideal tempo setter, the link man that makes a team tick from his advanced spot in midfield. While, to his detriment, he's not a goal-getting attacking midfielder (like say Cahill), he's better on the ball, and here he played a pivotal role in helping the Socceroos control the match, playing some superbly weighted balls. While the centre of defence, at times, looked shaky, especially when exposed on the counter, Schwarzer came to the resource and the Socceroos deserved their win. Well done to Baan, who's work as a fill-in has been good.

Dick-off; Speaking of fill-in, with only a couple of months till the world cup qualifiers start, the news that Dick Advocaat has decided to take the Russian Ruble might turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Somehow, I never suspected he would quite be the right fit for Australia, so good riddance. A big name he might be, but a bigger ego he seems to be. And when Zenit qualified for the group stages of Uefa Cup recently, it was always likely the club would throw the bank at him. It leaves the FFA in a quandary, with limited time, and with more harsh lessons learnt. As always, interesting times ahead.


Blogger Hamish said...

I've heard criticisms of Frank Farina for not getting Kruse onto the park much earlier in the season when, in fact, it was because he was recovering from what was described as 'severe facial injuries'.

But what's Graham Arnold's excuse?

Tue. Nov. 20, 07:31:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Eric said...

Amen Hamish! If only Kruse had been called up by Arnold, Melbourne might have pulled something out of that game:)

Tue. Nov. 20, 10:19:00 am AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

...But what's Graham Arnold's excuse?...

It's a good point Hamish...remember thinking during the match that he was unlucky to miss out on a call-up to the current Olyroos squad....pity there are no more quals after tomorrow, but if he keeps the form up for the remainder of the season, he could find himslef in Beijing...plenty of competition up front, but thats good.

Tue. Nov. 20, 04:53:00 pm AEDT  

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