Friday, April 30, 2010


World Cup Quiz, Part 5

The answers for the fourth instalment have been revealed here, so it's time for another journey into football nerd territory.

The Substitutes

1. Who was the first player to appear as a substitute in a World Cup?

2. And who was the most recent?

3. Once, in a World Cup final, a substitute was himself later substituted. Who was the player and what was the year?

4. After coming on as a substitute in the 1990 World Cup final, Argentina's Pedro Monzon made history. How?

5. In three successive World Cup finals, three substitutes got on the scoresheet. Who were they?

6. A second-half substitute once scored a hat-trick at the World Cup. Who was he?

7. The dismissal of Gianfranco Zola only twelve minutes after he came on at the 1994 World Cup caused general indignation, but the next World Cup featured an even quicker dismissal for a substitute. Who was he?

8. "But that's mad!" - the cry of the player who went off in one of the most infamous substitutions in World Cup history. Who was the player, who replaced him, and why?

9. In the substitute "era", only two sides have won a World Cup final without making any substitutions. Who?

10. Of Roger Milla's four goals at Italy 1990, how many did he score as a substitute?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


The Road to Madrid

It's hard to imagine a better mise-en-scène for the respective second legs of the Champions League semi-finals. Barca requiring at least two goals without reply against a resolute Inter, and Bayern Munich, the masters of the away goal, defending a lone-goal victory in Lyon.

For the latter tie, Bayern must be the favourites, even without Franck Ribery. As for the's too close to call.

It is another tribute to Inter's determination under Jose Mourinho that they didn't fall to pieces after an early goal against the run of play, scored when they were exposed badly on the right. Instead, they gradually and patiently gained control of the game, and ran out deserved 3-1 winners.

It was significant that Lionel Messi, who seemed not entirely certain of his role, was only once left one-on-one with his putative opposite number, the venerable Javier Zanetti. There was usually an Inter midfielder shielding Zanetti from single combat with his compatriot, and in fact the Inter captain often slid into a virtual third centre-back role, to shadow Messi's drifts into the middle. The resultant space on the right was not properly expoited by Barca; Dani Alves's crossing, not for the first time this season, was poor.

At the other end, Wesley Sneijder has received some deserved plaudits, but don't forget Diego Milito, who was involved in all three goals. The hard-working Argentinian might not receive the gushing reviews that some of his colleagues regularly attract, but he has shown himself to be one of the most reliable and dangerous strikers in Europe over the last few seasons - another South American late bloomer, along with the likes of Lucho Gonzalez and Lisandro Lopez. Proof that you haven't quite missed the boat if you're not a European star by 21.

The other semi was a rousing affair, even if only one goal was scored. Just when the tide seemed to be turning (even before Franck Ribery's dismissal), Lyon somehow froze, allowing the reinforced Bayern midfield to blossom, and Arjen Robben to dictate matters in his usual imperious style. When it was back to 10 v. 10, it seemed only a matter of time, but it took another brilliant strike from Robben to make Bayern's pressure pay.

Louis van Gaal's substitution of Robben towards the end was quite inexplicable. Bayern seemed in a menacing groove, and a second before the full-time whistle seemed more than likely. Instead, Robben went off, Lyon assumed the initiative, and the Germans were in fact lucky to reach the end with a clean sheet.

It should be enough to get them through in France, however. Lyon's defence has been admirable of late - Cris, the Brazilian centre-back, was magnificent in the quarter-final against Bordeaux - but there should be enough firepower in the Bayern ranks, even without Ribery, for a goal at the Stade Gerland. Thomas Muller looked surprisingly effective operating on the left in the second half in Munich, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the youngster starting there in Ribery's place in the second leg.

Friday, April 23, 2010


World Cup Quiz, Part 4

The World Cup anorak festival continues. I am pleased to announce that the following quiz has been deemed acceptable according to the FFA's National Football Curriculum. Answers to Episode 3 can be found in the comments here.

Here we go:

The Numbers

1. Which World Cup featured the highest ratio of goals to games played?

2. And which World Cup had the lowest?

3. Which is, to this day, the only team to have racked up double figures (of goals, that is) in a single World Cup match?

4. Which is the only World Cup game to have finished with nine players playing against nine?

5. Which team scored the most goals at a single World Cup?

6. How many goals were scored in World Cup opening matches between 1966 and 1982 (inclusive)?

7. Which postwar World Cup embarrassingly attracted fewer than 6,000 spectators for one of its semi-finals?

8. Which has never been the sum of both sides' goals in a World Cup final: 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8?

9. Which team in the 16-team World Cup era used 19 of its 22 allotted players on the way to winning the tournament?

10. 1+1+1=2. Which referee and which game am I referring to?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Bringing Them Home

Is this desperation on the FFA's part?

Perhaps not, although College Street at least seems to have woken up to the fact that the A-League needs to attract new fans, and fast. Although the "Aussie marquee" initiative is a perfectly good idea, it's hard to see how it will affect matters substantially. Few of the Australians in Europe likely to return in the next couple of years would be box office for fairweather fans.

SBS's blogger-in-chief has used the announcement as the spur for another suggestion to splash the cash in Asia, but I still feel that Latin America (not necessarily Brazil, incidentally) will ultimately prove a more fertile hunting ground if the clubs are interested in bringing genuine quality to the league. Yes, there will be a few misses for every hit, but if the hits are of the calibre of Carlos Hernandez, Fred or Cassio, it's a worthwhile undertaking.

The main problem with Asian recruitment, as Aurelio Vidmar pointed out at the FFA's coaches' conference a couple of years ago, is simply the cost. The wages in Asia are often astronomical compared with Australia, yet the standard is not significantly superior to the A-League (with the exception of Japan). Mark Rudan and Sasa Ognenovski, two defenders on the downhill run of their careers, forsook the A-League for a massive pay increase in Asia, Rudan in the Japanese second division. To offer good Asian players a suitable incentive to stray is not easy.

Newcastle may be satisfied with their acquisition of Song Jin-Hyung, but other Asian imports have been less than dazzling. Brisbane's fans are probably still wondering who was ultimately responsible for the Zhang Yuning embarrassment.

But back to the state of the A-League. An Aussie marquee player, sadly, will not fix the more fundamental problems: invisible marketing, colourless generic club branding (the spirit of Matt Carroll lives on), persistent on-field mediocrity, and poor management of the expansion issues. The FFA have been prudent to retain and gradually loosen the salary cap, but clubs seem to be getting less value for money with every season.

A change of mentality in the coaching ranks would be most welcome as well...but that is unlikely to happen as long as the current smug merry-go-round continues.

Friday, April 16, 2010


World Cup Quiz, Part 3

Third instalment of the KNVB-approved World Cup quiz below. Answers to the second exciting episode can be found in the comments to this post.

Up next:

The Goalkeepers

1. Two players have appeared at five World Cups, and one of them is a goalkeeper. Who is he, and which country did he represent?

2. Which of the following distinguished goalkeepers never appeared at a World Cup: Pat Jennings, Ricardo Zamora, Peter Bonetti, Neville Southall, Lev Yashin?

3. Which World Cup-winning goalkeeper subsequently ran an auto repair business named "Liar Motors"?

4. A goalkeeper who appeared in four World Cups is probably best known for an embarrassing moment at the 1970 tournament in which Pele memorably wrong-footed him by moving away from a through-ball. Who was he?

5. Another highly embarrassing goalkeeping gaffe occurred at the 1990 tournament, when a goalkeeper attempted to dribble past a striker near the half-way line, and failed spectacularly, thereby leaving the forward with an empty net. Who was the goalkeeper (and the striker)?

6. A goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup appeared in probably the most colourful outfit ever seen at the tournament. Who was he?

7. Who was the first goalkeeper to make a save in a penalty shoot-out at the World Cup?

8. In 1982, a goalkeeper committed perhaps the worst foul in World Cup history, one which necessitated a lengthy stay in hospital for the sufferer. Who was the goalkeeper and the man fouled?

9. Which World Cup-winning goalkeeper wore the number 5 on his back throughout the tournament? (Supplementary question: why?)

10. Two goalkeepers kept four successive clean sheets at the 2006 World Cup. Who were they?

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Spider Bites

A bomb disposal squad would be required to defuse the various explosives lobbed at the A-League by Zeljko Kalac in this "exclusive".

Kalac has quite a history of, to use a polite term, frankness. Long-term followers of the Socceroos will not have forgotten his self-serving, unprofessional digs at Mark Schwarzer just prior to the 2006 World Cup, which rebounded on him spectacularly in Stuttgart.

Now, apparently, Sydney FC's players are "brain-dead", A-League coaches "have no idea", Branko Culina (among others) is "paranoid", and, wouldn't you know it, players would "kill" to have the likes of himself in charge. Not that there is any opportunism involved in his scattergun diatribe, of course.

The condescending attitude shown by Kalac towards domestically-based players has already been evinced by two former Socceroo colleagues of his, Paul Okon and David Zdrilic, at state league level. And this goes to the heart of Kalac's argument that ex-Socceroos with impressive Euro club resumes should be given preferential treatment: in the first place, this is already happening, and in the second, it occasionally blows up in the face of their employers.

When one examines the recent history of Australian football properly, Kalac's complaints are shown to be frivolous. Paul Okon is not the only recently-retired former Socceroo to have had some involvement with the national team setup; Ante Milicic and Ante Juric have been in the mix as well. As for jobs at club level, how much coaching experience had Aurelio Vidmar gained before being plumped in the Adelaide hot seat?

Frank Farina was made Australia coach only a few short years after his retirement. Graham Arnold went straight from his first senior coaching job, an unimpressive one at that, into the Socceroo assistant's chair. After having his career curtailed by injury, Tony Popovic (perhaps the only one of the above whose coaching career has been, thus far, a genuine success) found himself a gig at Sydney FC instantly.

Former Euroroos not getting the breaks? Laughable.

Kalac does have a point when he asserts that the A-League is in need of a shake-up, but he, like the rest of the SBS crew, is barking up the wrong tree. Coaches who did not have stellar careers as players, but whose ability to motivate their charges and display their tactical acumen has been displayed at lower levels of Australian football, currently appear to have no chance of breaking into the select A-League clique.

But far from being ignored of sidelined, the returning Euroroos are habitually given a substantial leg-up. To pretend otherwise is simply disingenuous, not that this prevents certain commentators from doing so with monotonous regularity.

It is surely no coincidence that by far the most successful recent-ex-Socceroo coach in the A-League has been Gary van Egmond, who did spend some time coaching below Australian football's visible surface. The likes of Kalac could perhaps learn something from such humility.

Monday, April 12, 2010


KNVB-all and End-all - another update

The glorious Dutch revolution continues apace, with an innovation which would have provoked widespread ridicule had it been introduced by an Australian.

At the current National Junior Championships:

Although teams will still gain points in the traditional manner for wins and draws, an FFA Technical Committee will also assess the technical performance of each team during the tournament and will award an extra five (5), three (3) or one (1) bonus point(s) based on the manner in which the teams played throughout the week and in relation to their adoption of the principles of the National Football Curriculum.

Football as synchronised swimming or figure skating. How delightfully progressive. Never mind the five goals you shipped, the 4-3-3 shape was impeccable throughout, and the coach manfully resisted all temptation to change things tactically as required.

Yes, football at junior level is about development as much as results. But combining the two in such a cack-handed manner can only produce confusion in the minds of both the coaches and the kids.

And an obvious question needs to be asked: who is doing the judging? One would imagine it is the aesthetically refined "FFA Technical Committee" referred to at the end of the article:

Qantas Australian Under 13 Boys Football Team Head Coach Ante Juric will join the FFA Technical Committee for the 2010 FFA National Junior Championships for Boys alongside Han Berger (FFA National Technical Director), Gary van Egmond (AIS Senior Assistant Coach) , Arthur Pappas (AIS Scholarship Coach), Ron Corry (AIS Goalkeeper Coach), Mike Milovanovic (ACT Academy of Sport Head Coach) and Paul Bentvelzen (Football NSW High Performance Manager).

Note that last name. Scroll down a little, and we find:

Under 13 Boys - Group A - Squads

NSW Metropolitan 1:
Coach: Paul Bentvelzen

Oh dear. Can anyone spot what's wrong with this picture?

Friday, April 09, 2010


World Cup Quiz, Part 2

Time for the second instalment of the TFT World Cup Quiz - answers to the first batch of questions can be found in the comments to this post.

Up next:

The Strikers

1. In the eyes of many, the select club for World Cup strikers contains those who have reached double figures at the tournament. Who was the first to reach ten?

2. Which other member of the double-figure club also boasts the rare distinction of never being sent off in his entire career?

3. Another member of the club, Miroslav Klose, scored five goals at his first World Cup in 2002. What did all five goals have in common?

4. There are a few players who have played in World Cups 16 years apart, but most are either goalkeepers or defenders. Who is a striker to have done so?

5. Which World Cup strikers, all of whom have scored hat-tricks at the tournament, had the following nicknames: (a) Der Bomber, (b) El Buitre, (c) O Pantera Negra?

6. The World Cup Golden Boot award is rarely shared. Who were the last two strikers to do so, and which countries did they represent?

7. One particular forward at the 1974 World Cup, who scored one of the most spectacular goals of that tournament, had a particularly apt name for a striker. Who am I referring to?

8. Gerd Muller held the record for World Cup goals for 32 years until Ronaldo broke it in 2006. How many of Muller's 14 World Cup goals were scored from outside the penalty area?

9. Which of the following great strikers never played at a World Cup: Matthias Sindelar, Alfredo di Stefano, Jimmy Greaves, Denis Law, Angel Labruna?

10. A striker who appeared at the 1998 World Cup was the second-top scorer in his confederation in the qualifiers for the 2010 tournament, and is a certain starter in South Africa, if fit. Who is he?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


An Early Final

So it is to be Barcelona v. Inter Milan in the semi-final of the Champions League.

It's a great pity that the draw matched these two at the penultimate stage, since it was surely the final many neutrals were keenly anticipating. Expansive Catalan flair versus shrewd Italian pragmatism. Eto'o versus Ibrahimovic. And, of course, the fresh-faced decency and dignity of Pep Guardiola versus the endless mind games of Jose Mourinho.

The manner in which both sides advanced this morning gives some indication of how the tie is likely to pan out. Barca were less convincing against Arsenal than the 4-1 scoreline suggested, and for all their impressive cohesion and combination play, it was individual brilliance that made the difference.

Mindful of his re-jigged defence, Guardiola had presumably advised his team to ease their way into the game; in the opening twenty minutes, the backline sat much deeper than usual. When Nicklas Bendtner scored the opener, it looked like a boilover might be on the cards. But no-one told Lionel Messi.

The incorrect offside call against Bendtner on the half-hour proved crucial, and becomes yet another monument to the continuing foolishness of FIFA in refusing to allow such decisions to be referred to a video replay (after a goal has been scored, please note). Instead, Messi scored twice in five minutes, and the tie was all but over.

Against Inter, Guardiola is unlikely to start in such a circumspect manner at the Nou Camp. Inter may be the masters of the breakaway, but Barca's best chance to advance would surely be to stick to their natural style.

As Zeljko Kalac mentioned in the SBS studio, Inter are a very well-balanced team, adept in every department, and seem to be playing with a real sense of purpose in Europe this season. There is a calmness and sense of effortless control about Mourinho's side that must worry Guardiola; one felt that seeing off CSKA Moscow - not a European giant, but hardly a poor side - only required them to play to 75% of their capacity (if that). Wesley Sneijder is quickly becoming the most effective No.10 in Europe, the South American quartet are grimly formidable in defence, and there is no lack of talent, or opportunism, in attack.

The winner of this tie will probably take out the competition. Even if they can get past Bayern, Manchester United are not quite the same proposition without Cristiano Ronaldo (and with Rooney not likely to be fully fit for a while yet), while the other three in their half of the draw probably lack the quality to topple Barca or Inter, although a Bayern with both Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery firing would be a tough nut to crack.

Friday, April 02, 2010


World Cup Quiz, Part 1

It's now 70 days until the World Cup begins in South Africa...and time to resume a TFT tradition. A tradition, in fact, that began well before yours truly began calling himself the Football Tragic.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm something of a World Cup nut; not surprising, really, since it was largely the France 1998 tournament that turned me from a football fan into a football anorak. Before the last two World Cup tournaments in 2002 and 2006, I've conducted a World Cup quiz on some of my usual forum haunts, but this time TFT seems the proper place.

First prize in this series of ten quizzes, one per week on a separate World Cup theme, will be advance tickets to the new film about a future Australian technical director, Dr. Strijnloeuw, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the 4-3-3.

First up:

The Coaches

1. A coach once took a club side to the European Cup final and a country to the World Cup final in the same year. Who was he, and who were the two teams?

2. How many times has the World Cup been won by a team coached by a foreigner?

3. Famously, in 1970, Mario Zagallo won the World Cup presiding over a team including his former World Cup team-mate, Pele. In 2002, another coach had the charge of a player whom he'd previously played beside at World Cup level. Who was the coach, the player, and the country?

4. The first two African teams to appear at postwar World Cups were coached by the same man. Who?

5. Bora Milutinovic has coached five different nations at the tournament. With which country did he get the furthest in the World Cup, and when?

6. Which coach at the 2006 tournament quit his job prior to the very first game (only to subsequently relent)?

7. One player each from the 1962 and 1966 World Cup-winning teams ended up taking a different country to the World Cup as coach. Who were the two and which countries did they manage?

8. Two Argentina coaches at successive World Cups were nicknamed respectively El Polaco and El Flaco. Who were they?

9. The following are anagrams of which World Cup-winning coaches: (a) Radical or Slob, (b) Nice Oval Feet?

10. At the 1998 World Cup one of the coaches was officially sacked by his federation after the first two matches. Who was he?

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