Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Belgium is out of the World Cup after losing to Argentina in the quarter-finals but a lack of experience as well as a lack of ideas played a part in Rode Duivels elimination from the tournament.
Marc Wilmots’ team had won all four of its World Cup matches it had played at Brazil 2014 until facing the Albiceleste.
A solitary goal from Gonzalo Higuain was enough to give Argentina the 1-0 win but the scoreline does not reflect the gap in quality between Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella and Wilmots.
Both Sabella and Wilmots had great players to work with but Wilmots had the younger roster at his disposal. Belgium had the third-youngest team at the World Cup with an average age of 25.5 years.
It was Sabella who played his cards right when the two teams played against each other in Brasilia. Even when Higuain scored after eight minutes, he looked happy to keep that lead.
Argentina could have won by more goals if it really wanted to or if luck went its way. Higuain hit the crossbar in the second half and Lionel Messi was denied a goal at the end after he was one-on-one with Belgian goalkeeper Thibalt Courtois.
Belgium, on the other land, was slow and predictable whenever it had possession and despite trailing throughout the match, the Rode Duivels lacked urgency. There is no doubt that Belgium has some gifted individuals but they could not provide the magic needed to get a result for their team.
This game had probably exposed the shortcomings of Wilmots as a coach. Throughout the tournament, he relied on his substitutes to change the game for his team and against Argentina, it did not work. Argentina was solid at the back and goalkeeper Sergio Romero was not forced into making any breathtaking saves.
There has been criticism of Wilmots’ usage of four natural centre-backs in defence and that there weren’t any natural full-backs used by him. Jan Vertonghen can advance from defence from his natural role at centre-back but he did not do too much as a left-back at this World Cup.
This is where Wilmots should have used the rigid four-man defence to his advantage. The defenders could have stayed back and his forwards could have stayed in the final third and press the opposition defence.
Kevin De Bruyne was a fine performer as an attacking midfielder and Dries Mertens was more suited to a super-sub role instead of being a starter but the Belgian attack lacked great flexibility and movement throughout the tournament.
It’s debatable if anyone else had better wingers to work with than Wilmots. Aside from De Bruyne and Mertens, Wilmots could count on Kevin Mirallas, Eden Hazard, Adnan Januzaj and Nacer Chadli to provide trickery or pace down the wings. For a team with many wingers to work with, the Belgians were too slow and unimaginative.
Wilmots was the assistant coach of Belgium for three years before getting the head coaching role in 2012. Since taking over, he has been credited for uniting the Walloon-speaking players and the Flemish-speaking players in the team.
Wilmots may be good at being a man-manager but he has shown a lack of tactical nous. If he is going to coach Belgium at Euro 2016, he needs to make changes to his squad or tactics.
If he keeps relying on his star players to constantly create chances out of nothing, Wilmots could end up being the coach that prevents this team from being great instead of being the one to properly nurture its talent.
Friday, 27 June 2014
The suspension that FIFA handed out to Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez was too lenient.
Suarez has been banned for nine competitive fixtures for the Uruguayan national team and he has also been banned for another four months from any type of football activity. FIFA also gave Suarez a fine of 100,000 Swiss Francs (AU$118,763.90).
It is a very soft punishment by FIFA after he had bitten opposition defender Giorgio Chiellini in Uruguay’s 1-0 win against Italy at the World Cup.
This is not a new thing for Suarez because he has committed this offence on two previous occasions at club level.
In 2010, he had bitten PSV Eindhoven midfield Otman Bakkal when he was an Ajax player. The KNVB suspended Suarez for seven Dutch Eredivisie matches and he was labelled by the Dutch press as “The Cannibal of Ajax”.
Last year Suarez had bitten Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in an English Premier League match and he was suspended for 10 matches by the FA.
Before the sentence was handed down, there were reports that said Suarez was going to be banned for two years for biting Chiellini.
A lengthy suspension like that would have been appropriate because it would mean that FIFA would be taking a real stand against this sort of behaviour.
FIFA likes to promote “fair play” and place great emphasis on it. A two-year suspension for Suarez would have been FIFA’s way of saying that the concept of fair play is something it takes very seriously and that the bite on Chiellini is the antithesis of fair play.
Sports athletes are meant to be role models for young children and there is nothing conventional or saintly about the way Suarez acts. His actions send a wrong message to children worldwide.
Italian kids could assume that it is a common act for opposition players to bite them. Uruguayan kids could believe that biting an opponent is OK as long as it helps your team to win.
Then there are the developing nations in Africa and Asia who are still trying to learn more about the game. If a child from one of those continents saw what Suarez did, he/she could think that it is just a part of the game.
Biting offences aren’t the only wrongful deeds that Suarez has committed. He was sent-off in the 2010 World Cup Uruguay v Ghana quarter-final for saving a shot like a goalkeeper on the goal-line. Asamoah Gyan missed the resultant penalty in extra time and the Celeste won the game on penalties.
He was suspended for eight EPL games after racially abusing Manchester United’s French defender Patrice Evra and he was also suspended for one match after sticking his rude finger up at Fulham fans.
It is disappointing to see that someone as talented as Suarez needs to resort to this kind of behaviour. He is a match-winner thanks to his prolific goalscoring but he has that “win at all costs” mentality too.
Regardless of how talented a player is, he should not commit acts of cynicism or anything that is downright despicable.
FIFA should have taken a stand against Suarez so he could stop committing such distasteful acts on the football pitch. A nine-match suspension is soft.
Tuesday, 24 June 2014
Spain needs to make changes and bring in the next generation of stars after being eliminated from the World Cup.
La Furia Roja is out of Brazil 2014 after losing its first two matches to the Netherlands and Chile, making the 3-0 win against Australia an irrelevant one.
The Spaniards were considered to be a contender to win the World Cup and even become the first team since Brazil in 1958 and 1962 to win back-to-back titles.
Coach Vicente Del Bosque relied too much on some of the stars from the past and it backfired on him and his team. Spain’s tiki-taka football looked slow, static and predictable against the Dutch and Chileans and the reliance on the veterans played its part.
Iker Casillas had arguably his two worst performances as a professional goalkeeper when the Netherlands thrashed Spain 5-1 and Chile disposed of the Spaniards 2-0. Casillas lacked confidence and his errors played a huge role in Spain conceding as many goals as it did.
Midfielders Xabi Alonso and Xavi are in their early 30s and the World Cup looked like one tournament too many for them. They could not handle the physically stronger Dutch players or the faster Chileans.
Fernando Torres was another player who should not have played at the World Cup. He did score against Australia but the match was a dead rubber. He has not been impressive since becoming a Chelsea player in 2011 and he has looked like a shadow of himself for the last few years.
If selecting those veterans was a mistake, Del Bosque’s worst mistake has to be convincing Brazilian striker Diego Costa to switch allegiances.
After playing a few friendlies for Brazil, Costa was Spain’s centre-forward at the World Cup and it was an unsuccessful move. He won a penalty against the Dutch but he failed to score in the tournament.
It’s puzzling to work out why Spain would call-up Costa in the first place. Cesc Fabregas did well in the false nine role at Euro 2012 so why change a winning formula? Even if Del Bosque wanted a more traditional centre-forward, he could have used a Spanish-born player like Alvaro Negredo or Fernando Llorente.
Negredo scored nine goals in 32 EPL matches as Manchester City went on to win the Premier League title and Llorente scored 16 goals in 34 matches as Juventus went on to win the Serie A title.
Llorente is not the only Italy-based player who should have gone to the World Cup. Right-winger Jose Callejon and central midfielder Borja Valero were worthy of selection too.
The Serie A is not as strong as it used to be and Spaniards usually struggle on the Italian peninsula but Callejon and Valero merited spots in the Spanish squad.
Callejon scored 15 goals in 37 matches for Napoli in his first Serie A season and Valero has been Fiorentina’s midfield general for the last two seasons.
Spain has plenty of depth in central midfield and most of the players are in winning teams but Valero has been a real standout in the Serie A since arriving in Italy two years ago.
The Spanish need to bring in more stars from their youth teams now. Players like Marc Bartra, Gerard Deulofeu and Thiago Alcantara probably weren’t good enough for this World Cup but they are the type of players La Furia Roja could be relying on at Euro 2016 and Russia 2018.
Spain still had some youngsters who were good enough to play at this World Cup such as Iker Muniain, Isco, Alberto Moreno and Daniel Carvajal.
Athletic Bilbao midfielders Ander Herrera and Ander Iturraspe are in their mid-20s but they too could have made Spain’s final 23 for the World Cup.
Del Bosque was perhaps spoilt for choice but he probably should have left out some of the old faces when he selected Spain’s squad for the World Cup.
This marks the end of a generation and a new one will be expected to emerge. The players are there but regardless if Del Bosque stays as coach or a new one comes in, the newcomers must play ASAP.
Thursday, 19 June 2014
Uruguay needs to get a result against England if it wants to progress beyond the group stage at the 2014 World Cup.
La Celeste lost 3-1 to Costa Rica on Saturday and Los Ticos were able to expose the weaknesses of Oscar Tabarez’s side.
Tabarez has called-up too many veterans from his country’s 2010 World Cup campaign and the team has not got many youngsters available.
Diego Forlan was Uruguay’s star four years ago but he is now in the twilight of career and Tabarez cannot rely on him to score goals or even create them. Aside from a few free-kicks and a deflected shot on goal, Forlan did little against Costa Rica.
Fernando Muslera was quiet in the first half but in the second half he could not handle the Costa Rica shots.
Joel Campbell starred for Los Ticos in attack and his pace gave the Celeste problems. The Uruguayans will probably struggle to deal with the pace of Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge when they play against the English.
Costa Rica exposed Uruguay’s weakness at defending from set-pieces. Christian Bolaños took free-kicks from the wings and one of them resulted in a goal scored by Oscar Duarte.
Tabarez is a pragmatist and sometimes that can backfire. A coach will create roles for players and they don’t work. Martin Caceres is a right full-back but he played on the left. Now that Maxi Pereira is out for the England game because of suspension, Caceres should play in his natural position.
Christian Stuani played as a right-winger but it is not his position. He might have done well against Jordan in the World Cup play-offs in that role but his best role is as an out-and-out striker. If he has to play, he is better off coming off the bench.
I have suggested that Uruguay should use the 4-4-2 formation against England. This formation will be similar to what Tabarez used four years.
The formation was a 4-4-2 cum 3-4-3 in 2010 but this time Tabarez should use a 4-4-2 formation that becomes a 3-4-1-2.
When Uruguay moves to a 3-4-1-2, Alvaro Gonzalez and Walter Gargano would protect the defence but Caceres and Alvaro Pereira would run down the wings and Gaston Ramirez would play behind the strikers.
Ramirez is a false right-winger in my formation. His role would involve him starting from the wing but he would be given freedom to roam in the middle of the attack. Caceres would patrol that right flank and move into midfield when Ramirez attacks.
This is the main difference with the formation in 2010. Forlan started in attack but he could drop back and play as an attacking midfielder.
I would start Jorge Fucile at left-back but he would move into the centre of defence when Uruguay has the ball. Off the ball, he should limit the space to Sterling to do any damage.
One of the other main differences is that Edinson Cavani was used as a right midfielder in South Africa and he would join the attack whenever possible. Here he should just stay in the forward line and finish whatever chances he gets to score.
Luis Suarez will be the key for Uruguay because if he is fit enough, he can win the game on his own yet he needs to be given the right platform to perform.
England’s young team should be able to beat Uruguay’s veterans. If Tabarez sets the team up like this and Suarez is fit, there could be some hope for the Celeste.
Greece needs to get a result against Japan in its Group C match at the World Cup.
The Greeks looked outclassed in their 3-0 loss against Colombia but they did have some of the possession in the first half.
Fernando Santos’ team lacked quality finishing as well as some flair against the Colombians but it should fancy its chances against the Japanese.
Japan became more defensive after Keisuke Honda scored the first goal in its game against the Ivory Coast and then the Elephants came back and won 2-1.
Greece’s players look more built than Japan’s ones but there are other reasons for anyone to tip the Greeks to win this match.
For the Ethniki to obtain a win, Santos will need to make some changes to his squad. He has been reliant on veterans and now he needs to freshen up the team.
My proposal is instead of using the 4-4-2 or 4-3-3, Greece should line-up in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Panagiotis Kone would play closer to the opposition penalty box and Georgios Samaras could patrol the left flank.
Georgios Tzavellas should start as the left-back. Jose Cholevas struggled at Euro 2012 and was replaced by Tzavellas. At that time, the move worked and if Santos makes that change for the Japan game, it could work again.
Cholevas is weak defensively and leaves too many gaps for opposition right-wingers. Tzavellas has shown that he is better at international level and he could even take the free-kicks.
Panagiotis Tachtsidis should be brought into the starting line-up. I consider him to the Greek Sergio Busquets because of his tendency to pass sideways and backwards.
Tachtsidis has started to play more forward passes than the Spanish midfielder since moving from Catania to Torino in Italy’s Serie A and he could the type of player to help maintain Greece’s passing fluidity.
Ioannis Fetfatzidis aka “The Greek Messi” would be an ideal option to replace Dimitrios Salpingidis on the right-wing. He has the trickery and the pace to unsettle opposition defenders.
Salpingidis has been a talisman for the Greek national team but Fetfatzidis represents the present and future of Greek football.
Kone would be best utilised if he played closer to goal. He was Greece’s best player against Colombia and he was the Ethniki’s best offensive threat.
During his time at Serie A club Bologna, he has had a habit of scoring spectacular goals. Perhaps with better supply against the Japanese, he can replicate the magic with the Greeks.
Samaras should not start as a support striker and he should play on the left flank. He can patrol the left side of the pitch, he has great stamina, a great work ethic and fantastic ball control. His finishing leaves a lot of be desired though so he better off creating chances than finishing them off.
For all the changes and additions to the Greek team, the real key is to start Kostas Mitroglou in attack ahead of Theofanis Gekas. The veteran striker has never starred at a major tournament for Greece and he was the Ethniki’s weak link against Colombia.
Mitroglou was Greece’s hero against Romania in the World Cup play-offs, and even if he is not 100 per cent fit, he would surely present a greater threat to the Japanese defence than Gekas.
Greece has been reliant on experience and defensive tactics but Santos needs to bring in younger players to help implement offensive tactics.
If he makes these changes, Greece could have what it takes to beat Japan.
Monday, 9 June 2014
Here are some matches involving Fitzroy Lions in their VFL/AFL days. Most of the footage comes from the 1980s and 1990s but they are still good memories of the Roys.
There are also some pre-merger clashes between Fitzroy and the Bears too!
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
David Moyes has been sacked as the manager of Manchester United and failing to fit certain players into the team was probably the cause of the Red Devils’ fall from grace.
Replacing a football legend like Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to be a demanding task for Moyes and unfortunately the results didn’t come his way.
For some people, the decision was perhaps made later than expected. As former Chelsea player-manager and Italian international Gianluca Vialli put it: “David Moyes, in Italy, would have been sacked three times now.”
In Serie A, club presidents have a reputation for being trigger-happy but in the English Premier League, it isn’t the case unless Chelsea comes into the equation. Despite the calls for Moyes to be sacked ages ago, the United hierarchy were willing to give the former Everton manager time to prove himself.
Qualification for the UEFA Champions League is a mathematical impossibility now. That was confirmed after the Red Devils lost 2-0 to the Toffees, which resulted in Moyes’ axing.
So why were things so bad for Moyes?
Aside from him replacing Ferguson as Manchester United manager, Moyes struggled to create a cohesive unit, and has been criticised by fans and media alike for managing a team that plays with a simple approach.
Moyes bought Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini from his old club and he too has struggled to replicate the form he had with the Toffees.
Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa has been overlooked by Moyes on many occasions this season but if Moyes struggled to accommodate a creative genius like Kagawa in the team, he had more trouble fitting two in after Juan Mata arrived from Chelsea.
Moyes would have been better off using Kagawa as an attacking midfielder and Mata as a left-winger like he was at Valencia.
Probably the only positive for Moyes’ midfield this season was the introduction of Kosovar-Belgian winger Adnan Januzaj.
He made his debut in United’s 2-0 win against Crystal Palace but he grabbed the world’s attention when he scored both goals in a 2-1 win away to Sunderland. His impact waned a bit since then but that has not stopped a plethora of national teams wanting to call him up.
Portuguese winger Nani has made little impact this season and he could be on his way out of Manchester. Rumours of Dutch striker Robin Van Persie leaving had come up during the season because he reportedly didn’t see eye-to-eye with Moyes. With Moyes gone, he could stay on.
In attack there have been issues too. Van Persie has had fitness and form concerns, Danny Welbeck has not been influential either and Wayne Rooney had issues with his contract. Javier ‘Chicarito’ Hernandez has not been the impact player off the bench that he was under Ferguson.
For all the issues Moyes had in finding his best midfield and attack, his defence was more of a concern. United do not have a star defender in his prime. Nemanja Vidic looks set to join Inter Milan but Patrice Evra should leave too and Rio Ferdinand should consider retirement.
Ryan Giggs is now the interim manager at Manchester United. He is a club legend so he would be able to motivate the players and he is better off hanging up his boots anyway.
At 40 years old, Giggs has achieved plenty of success in his career and a new generation of players should have their chance to prove themselves.
A possible candidate to take over next season is Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal. He has been linked with the Tottenham Hotspur job in the past but Manchester United would give him more funds for players and he can still work with the players available in the present.
United has been having issues in the post-Ferguson era and Moyes could not obtain results on the pitch. The roster needs improving but Moyes was not capable of working with what he had at his disposal.