Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Nothing to Fear but the Referees

Sydney FC have bowed out of the Asian Champions' League with considerable honour.

Completely outplaying the Japanese champions on their home turf, moving the ball around fluently and embarrassing their opponents in the fitness stakes, Branko Culina's side gave a clear indication that Australian sides will be competitive in the ACL for many years to come.

Sydney's experiences in the competition have neatly mirrored the Asian adventures of our national sides; there is a distinct element of fear in the approach that Asian sides have taken to games against Australian opposition, and it's not unusual to see nine or ten men ranged behind the ball if a side is prepared to press high up the park from the outset, as Sydney FC did in Saitama.

Furthermore, the fact that there is such a penchant in Asia for elderly, mostly unfit South American players in attacking roles means that the Asian club sides are often surprisingly ineffective on the break.

Of course, the shadow over Sydney's ACL experience has been the cowardly refereeing they have encountered almost everywhere. Tonight's man in the middle was not quite as bad as his Singaporean colleague in the Shanghai game, but there was still plenty of high-level play-acting from the Urawa players, and almost as much time-wasting as Shanghai Shenhua indulged in. This time, it was the substitutions which took an eternity (not to mention the throw-ins).

Branko Culina deserves great credit for rejuvenating a side that looked so short of puff towards the end of the regular season (one does wonder what Anthony Crea was doing during that period). And, although this has been relentlessly overstated by some, their style of play has been easier on the eye during the ACL as well. In A-League Version 3, I feel that Sydney fans can look forward to better entertainment at Aussie Stadium than they have experienced since the competition began.

Congratulations in passing to Travis Dodd, for becoming the first Australian to score a hat-trick in the Asian Champions' League.

Sorry Mikey, you maye feel Sydney have moved on, but frankly, Sydney have gone backwards. Under Butcher, they averaged 1.52 points a game. Under Culina (who has a full squad and is playing against what we all now recognise as inferior opposition) 1.50 points per game.

Butcher, with all of his issues, even has a slightly better goals per game average. His team managed 31 in 23 games, wheras Culina's team managed only 8 from 6. And let's face it, Sydney were playing VASTLY over-rated, under-performing teams.

Sydney may well have looked fit last night, but this game was played in Japan, and it's cool there. By all accounts, Sydney were out on their legs after 70 minutes: come the Aussie summer, and it'll be business as usual.

All of the issues are still there: fitness, indiscipline, awful finishing, a selection of rubbish to choose from.

However, I suspect this will all change when Sydney sign a quality player from Europe as their marquee.....errrr.... :-)
Oh beeds, you're a persistent bugger... ;-)

Just accept it mate, we are playing rather better football under Culina. Whether this will translate into better results eventually is another thing (for one thing, the defence needs a bit of reorganisation ATM - Fyfe on the left doesn't work).

I agree the sides we've met in the ACL have been over-rated, but something that's worth keeping in mind is that both Shanghai and Urawa probably sat back against us so much because we came at them really hard initially and put the frighteners on them. And that, IMHO, was unlikely to have happened under TB.

We'll see how the next season pans out. We need two or three players in the right positions (specifically, right-back, left-back and another striker), but if we can get them, I'll happily back us to make the finals again, and probably go a bit further than in 06/07.
You may well have played better football. But you also admit that you played football that had teams putting ten behind the ball: a style which Sydney are palbably unqualified to be a success at.

Ask any Arsenal fan what he / she would rather have: play nice looking football and flop, or maybe grind it a bit and have a decent cup run?

Culina should have succeeded in at least getting this team to the next round: his patronage of Dzrilic saw that this would not happen. Those teams that Sydney played in the ACL...I think Ricky Herbert's NZ side would beat them.

And we all know that Dzrilic will be first-choice next year.

That said, I didn't watch the games (I'm laughing now).

Good blog as always but a bit too kind to Sydney FC. They certainly played very nice football at times and went out and played positively most games - BUT - they desperately need to find a way to break down defensively oriented opponents. (Melbourne Victory will need to do this better than they have in the past as well).

Referees? Refereeing was bad - and Asian sides made the most of any physical challenges that the Aussie sides did. But - Sydney FC also benefited from the most profoundly wrong penalty decision ever seen - although Talay wasted it.

Branko certainly likes to pass the ball and Brosque, Carney, Corica and even Zdrilic looked better. But to play only Zdrilic up front against Urawa was a terrible miscalculation - Brosque was completely wasted on the right and Carney played to deep to be effective shooting on goal. This was a game Bling FC had to WIN!!! Might as well have lost as drawn.

A case of what could have been for Sydney but the reasons they failed to get through are all about themselves, not the refereeing or the theatrics of Shanghai or whoever.
Fair points Antony. I still maintain it was largely a question of personnel, insofar as there weren't really any other suitable options up front. Everyone complained after the Shanghai game about Glavas not being brought on, but truth be told he has been lousy for us in the trial games. Casey, too, was all over the shop the one time he appeared for us as a striker (rather than a right-winger).

As for Brosque on the right...

My question to Terry Butcher at the very first SFC post-match press conference of 2006/07:

"Do you think it's a problem that your two main wide attacking outlets are both so left-footed?"

His answer:

"No, I love left-footed players. I was a left-footer myself."

I wonder what Culina thinks.
Yes... but why not play Zdr. and Brosque as out and out strikers?

Branko can only work with the squad he's got though, true enough.

Do you think a quality marquee should be a striker, or a playmaker? SFC would seem to need a striker more at the moment with Corica and Talay doing a reasonable job in midfield.
...Yes... but why not play Zdr. and Brosque as out and out strikers?...

I just don't see Brosque as a natural striker, to be honest. He's often painfully slow at "pulling the trigger".

...Do you think a quality marquee should be a striker, or a playmaker? SFC would seem to need a striker more at the moment with Corica and Talay doing a reasonable job in midfield....

Absolutely. ATM we desperately need another striker, marquee or not.

I've suggested elsewhere that Tolgay Ozbey (who was briefly with SFC at the end of A-League season 1) might be worth another shot. He barely got on the pitch at Newcastle, but he's been scoring for fun at Blacktown and I think he'd actually work quite well in combination with Zdrilic.
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