Category Archives: Monday Morning Lowdown

Monday’s Magnificent Five


Torres Chelsea

#elnino

Each Monday we select our own 5 a side outfit from the weekend’s action. Think of it as our own Nike commercial in a steel cage on a floating island.

Goalkeeper

At the back we’ll opt for the impressive Ben Foster (West Brom) who stretches his man of the match run to 6 home games on the trot. The retired international produced another stellar display against Midland’s rivals at the Hawthorns including two fine one on one saves from Agbonlahor and a commanding presence around his own six-yard box. His autograph will be critical going forward for the seemingly established yo-yo club.

Defenders

While Roger Johnson was tempting (sic), we’ll take Gary Caldwell (Wigan) who kept the irresistible Newcastle front four to an afternoon of no returns. Caldwell seems a leader his teammates are willing to follow, adding inspiration that teams such as Wolves, Blackburn and QPR are severely lacking. His direction on the field is pivotal, being at the heart of Roberto’s improving back 3 experiment, with his dogged determination overcoming the on occasion unfashionable style.

Midfielders

Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal) is included as much for his month of April than the disappointing draw with Stoke. Criticised for basically not being Wilshere for much of 2012, he seems revitalised for no apparent reason, but we fancy Arsene’s slight change in touch line uniform to have done the trick. Whatever the case, the Czech international has finally produced in an Arsenal shirt, working both forward and back, to be the centre of the Gunners strong push towards a disappointing quarter final exit in Europe in 2013. Once again, Tomas found space between the lines against the Potters, providing the goal for RVP on a tray made of the finest in silver and adorned with the most opulent in decoration.

We’re cheating here and you can sue me (please! Could use some publicity) for fielding Luis Suarez (Liverpool) in an attacking role in behind our front man. Meh. Little Luis finally combined promise with outcome in a long overdue display of ruthless efficiency. The provocative Urugyuan, who is never too far from the headlines, was able to write his own this week, with a finish from 55 yards that the footballing public will have rammed down their throats for many years to come. Suarez’ creative flair was too much for the Canaries on an otherwise forgettable occasion.

Forwards

Fernando Torres (Chelsea), our absolute favourite at FFTD, leads the line after he finally produced the return his endeavours over recent times have deserved. It would be difficult to find a more criticised sportsman anywhere on Earth, but his long golden locks seem impervious to his boo boys. This effort was more than just goals, including tireless movement that proved far too much for an incompetent Rangers, outstanding hold up play that afforded Mata and Sturridge particularly, more space than Victor Valdes last Tuesday evening and a staggering work ethic that saw him tracking back to challenge in his own area at least four times by our count. Simply irrepressible. Nothing like finals footy to add a bit of motivation…

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Australia not particularly amUSing…


If you missed the action, then have a squiz – our write up of the final Socceroo hit out before their campaign begins in earnest against Germany.

After 120 minutes of watching the bare, dead grass hill at the training facility in Johannesburg, we’re just about exploding with anticipation and exuberance for next Sunday night. Against the Yanks, Australia faced a stern test. As previously noted on FFTD, American are decidedly similar to the Aussies in their style and set up. So, it was pleasing to see the Socceroos dominate possession for long periods. Lucas Neill and his mates were solid, if unspectacular, and seem to be improving slightly with each outing. After a dull opening 20 minutes, the game came to life, with fluent attacking moves by both sides. It wasn’t the usual style for Australia – boring definitely not a valid tag this time round. Expansive would be more apt.

But after just about every optimist in the football world, including yours truly, waxed lyrical that Verbeek’s results only business is perfectly acceptable, the Aussie’s first loss in 9 months, isn’t an ideal preparation for the World Cup finals.

Ratings

Pim Verbeek – 8

It looks as if Verbeek has settle on his preferred starting eleven. His back 4 may as well be carved into Table Mountain, but they’re still a few question marks over fitness of key players and their likely replacements. In the past, Pim has been wary of throwing players straight into the side following lengthy lay offs, and ordinarily automatic selections, Kewell and Emerton, must be pushing hard to make the gaffer buck this trend. Garcia is apparently the most likely replacement for Emerton, with the other possibility apparently being to move Culina right and forward, and give the impressive Valeri a spot next to Grella in front of the back 4.

Enough with the speculation…

It’s difficult to judge tactics based on friendlies, but trailing at half time afforded the world a chance to see the Socceroos reaction. In the 2nd period, the green and gold looked lively going forward and there was a noticeable shift in emphasis towards attack. No more dull piggy in the middle featuring Moore, Neill and the opposition’s front man. Rather, Rukavytsa added a cap to his tally and Chipperfield, most particularly, was given free reign to play further forward. For the last 30 minutes, the Aussies played with two strikers up front (which looked promising) and a back 3. Chipperfield popped up in the attacking box regularly and demanded a fine save from Hanneman to deny him a meat pie. Pim showed that Australia have a plan B. Plan A is clearly a possession game, with plenty of crosses from overlapping wing backs, and a high defensive line that compacts the players into almost half the pitch. This almost eliminates the midfield from the game, which is certainly Australia’s weak point.

The best quality that Verbeek possesses is, undoubtedly, his ability with the media. Always a willing participant, he seems to have years for the press. He’s never one to cut an interview short, or shy away from the tough questions. He gives honest and fair answers. He’s not one to shy away from a little controversy, having already opened fire on everyone from Gordon Strachan to the training pitch. It’s so refreshing to see a polite Dutch man being interviewed on channel 513, especially when compared to the AFL and NRL roughians who are almost illiterate. Verbeek seems to understand that the media need a story, and often it’s better to give them something to work with, then have them chasing players for scraps.

Mark Schwarzer – 7

Not Schwarzer’s best outing, but kept his side in the match on more than one occasion. HIs reflex save early in the 2nd half was vintage Schwarzer, and his fingertip save to deny teammate Dempsey ensured he retains the bragging rights until next time. The shot stopper is denied a better number, as in PTS’ opinion he should have done better in handling the opening goal, which on replays didn’t hit the top corner, but was closer to the centre.

Luke Wilkshere – 7

Wilkshere wasn’t as dominant as he was against the Danes, but his crosses are still world class. It’s difficult to point the finger at one defender for conceding the most goals in a match in forever.

Lucas Neill – 6

Neill was undone by the relatively unknown forward pairing for the Yanks. He was beaten for pace on more than one occasion and seems to shout at the referees or his assistants more than himself. Neill’s characteristic marauding runs into the attacking half weren’t evident either. It seems that Neill will be a fulcrum for the Socceroos – he was often the one to snap and play the long ball from his own half. Got plenty of practice passing to Craig Moore too.

Craig Moore – 5

Moore is still unconvincing, and it’s difficult to judge his credentials against the likely candidates as no one else gets the slightest whiff. I personally don’t mind this – it fills the lad with confidence and gives him plenty of time to build a partnership with Lucas. Moore looks slow and poor on the ball. The injury to Kisnorbo all that time ago could prove costly in the long run.

Scott Chipperfield – 8

In the first half, Chipperfield looked more Monash division 7, than outstanding World Cup prospect as he was labelled by PTS. But as the match developed, Scotty provided plenty of quality service and a genuine attacking threat on the left flank. Simon Hill and Andy Harper confirmed the sugar man’s assertions that Chipperfield is a handy striking option, and it could be a handy option if the Socceroos fall a goal or two behind. Chipperfield gives the Aussies a classy left back, who will be a key man over the coming weeks.

Vince Grella – 4

Oh Vincenzo. Grella just about couldn’t have done anything more to risk his starting position in the side. His crucial error led to the opening goal. He gave away cheap possession consistently and another game saw yet another cynical challenge from the Blackburn contracted midfielder. Grella is always looking for the easy option; playing the ball sideways and backwards seem to be the 1st choice every time. No matter if the counter is on… just stand on the ball and look for Neill or Moore behind him. This lack of confidence is becoming a worrying feature of the Socceroo’s play, and Grella is the number 1 culprit. He looks to have a heavy touch, and lacks a yard of pace – if he fails against Germany, Valeri will could be a starter.

Jason Culina – 5

Was dragged on the hour mark after a largely anonymous display. Doesn’t offer the same robust defending as Grella and doesn’t have the pinpoint range of Valeri, so could find his position under fire if Kewell and Emerton are fit. Once again he was pushed wide and further afield by his manager, but was soon replaced by Vidosic. Despite PTS’ doubts, Culina showed he still has the “long range strike” arrow to his bow. Uninspiring.

Mark Bresciano – 7

Bresciano lifted markedly with his all round effort, if at times his execution was lacking. The baldy came under fire by yourcorrespondent2010 after their showdown with Denmark, but hit back with a big effort. He was constantly harrying the opposition, and the only player consistently “closing the space”. He offered enough pushing forward with some decent service and runs off the ball. He popped up in the box in the second half and blasted straight at the keeper.

Richard Garcia – 5

Another disappointing display from the Hull boy, who presents so much to the judging table, but seems to lack any real taste or finesse. Unfortunately, he is another player described as anonymous at best. David Beckham was present in the stands to witness Garcia amass a grand total of 7 touches. He did little to enhance his starting chances and will hopefully make way for a fit and rearing Brett Emerton.

Tim Cahill – 7

Cahill was quiet during his limited game time and didn’t return after the break; apparently nursing a worrying neck complaint. In typical Cahill fashion, he produced a smashing finish to keep Australia within striking distance. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to find enough of the ball in the Australian set up and hasn’t passed to Kennedy once yet. Worrying indeed.

Josh Kennedy – 6

Kennedy is still a legitimate concern. He causes his fair share of problems for the opposition, but hasn’t scored for a steadily growing period. He missed at least one guilt edged chance last night with his noggin and another big chance at his feet. Clinical is unfortunately not the word. To be honest, Kennedy looks lazy, disinterested and out of depth. Constantly with back to goal, and giving away possession on countless occasions, when the bean pole isn’t ruthless with his head, it is difficult to justify his spot in the team. A returning Kewell has started the inevitable grumblings from supporters to start Australia’s golden boy at the top of the formation. By contrast, Harry seems to attract the ball and action at all times, and is always genuinely exerting himself for the cause. The talismanic figure has been sorely missed, and his impact on the side has been underestimated by many. Personally, I’d still give Kennedy the starting spot, and play Kewell as a genuine number 10 from the bench after we trail by a goal at half time against the Germans. (3 – 1 is the tip… same as last time against Japan… Cahill twice, same as last time…)

Off the bench, Valieri pushed his claim for a starting berth, fulfilling the pivot role with consummate ease. One particularly accurate diagonal ball caught the affection of Simon Hill, but his efficiency has long impressed FFTD. Robust in the middle of the field, he is doing his chances no harm. Vidosic had limited chances, but still embarked on at least one of his characteristically long winded runs. Rukavysta was afforded minimal time on the pitch, but had one shot on target and could be a valuable asset when goals are at a premium.

Final Verdict

In attack Australia showed plenty of the “attacking fluidity” Pim Verbeek would have been searching for. The Socceroos were patient in their build up (often painstakingly so) and dangerous every time the ball was swung towards Jesus up front. It is particularly  heartening to report, with conviction, that the Socceroos always seem a chance to score when the cross comes in. (Particularly true from the right sided Wilkshire) The other dominant positive was the fitness that seemed to shine once more. At the back end of both halves the boys looked the stronger – true of their last 2 outings as well. At altitude this could be an enormous factor. There were plenty of negatives however. Against a quality opposition forward line, the Aussies leaked plenty of chances. Despite the American’s star striker “Altidore” looking decidedly bored on the sideline, replacements Buddle and Findley caused plenty of problems. They beat the offside trap, scored off a cross and found the backline achingly slow. With comparison to the US, Australia looked lethargic and disjointed up front for the first 70 minutes. Under Hiddink a prominent feature was a defence that started from the strikers. Supremely fit, the Aussies afforded their opposition minimal time on the ball over the 90 minutes. I kinda miss Guus shouting for his players to pressure, pressure, pressure.

Overall, a high-quality match that was played at roughly a 87% intensity. With a final week to prepare, the Aussies will look to apply the finishing touches to a developing machine. England here we come…

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17 – 24th May


Stuck at work? Live for the weekend? Turn back the clock just a little and relive all the weekend’s action on footballfortheday.wordpress.com

This column will be a whole lot fancier during the regular season.

What you missed…

Just in case you missed it (or listened to Passthesugar, who erroneously claimed that Setanta was the number to punch into your television remote), Chelsea have won their third FA Cup in four years, as a Didier Drogba free kick helped them to a 1-0 win over Portsmouth. A week after winning the Premier League title, the Blues did just enough to claim their first ever English double. Back in search of more silverware at the traditional Wembley, many of Chelsea’s players seemed to fit amongst their initial royal company. On the other end of the scale, it’s been a tough (near disastrous) 12 months for Portsmouth who are consigned to Championship action next season, and still sit in administration. It was all Chelsea early, as Lampard hit the side post with a long range effort. Then Anelka tested shot stopper, calamity James with a low strike to his left. In saying that, Portsmouth weren’t without opportunities; Piquonne had a golden chance to send him team to an early lead, but failed to deflect the cross into the wide open goal mouth. The same could be said for Chelsea’s Solomon Kalou who did better to miss his chance from only 3 metres than he would have if he had of scored. This must be one of the misses of the season (if not longer than that). Incredibly, this also struck the post, and if the woodwork though it’d already had its fair share of the action, there was more to follow. John Terry became the latest player to hid the frame of the goal with a looping header that looked destined to drop below the bar. Drogba always seems the most likely in this type of big occasion and he controversially had his sweetly hit free kick ruled out, despite replays showing at least a part of the ball over the white chalk. This, unfortunately isn’t my own turn of phrase, but “there were more posters than a teenage wall” when Drogba hit the left post yet again. At half time, Chelsea were the better side, but the onslaught predicted on this very site, amongst other places, hadn’t materialised just yet.

On 55 minutes, Portsmouth had a penalty shout after a clumsy challenge from the underwhelming replacement Belletti. Boateng stepped up to take it and to say that he looked nervous would probably be a major understatement. The man was turning his already maroon pants a darker shade. And it followed, that his penalty can only be described by that dark brown substance. Straight down the middle, Cech managed to get his legs in the way, helping to reaffirm his status as a top-flight keeper after a shaky opening to the season way back in August. The miss proved costly, as minutes later Drogba had another dangerous free kick lined up. You always had a sense that the penalty miss would stir the Champions to action, and the Ivorian didn’t disappoint with as he almost passed the ball past the up and down David James. It was a schoolboy error from the Portsmouth wall and equally poor positioning by the man set to stand between the sticks for England in South Africa. Many would have thought Chelsea would get on with the job at this point, but they didn’t have it their own way. Lampard missed a late penalty to leave a strange sensation at the close. In the end, Chelsea became only the 7th side in English history to claim the double, etching their names into illustrious company. A final note: Hardman Michael Ballack was subject to a reckless challenge by the villain Boateng and was replaced with a worrying ankle injury. The German captain has been placed in serious doubt for the upcoming World Cup and adds his name to a long list of key players that look set to miss their show down with the Socceroos. (Raaarrrr)

Game of the Week

Bayern Munich v Werder Bremen  4 – 0

70,000 Germans packed into the Olympic Stadium in Berlin to witness the Cup Final between Munich and Bremen. They anticipated typically powerful German football and this is exactly what was produced. It was also one of their final chances to catch a glimpse of many of the World Cup bound heroes. The two top scores in the Bundesliga faced off in the showdown. The 4 – 0 score line was probably a fair reflection of the dominance of Bayern, filling them with confidence before their assignment against Mourinho and Inter. This was the Reds 16th DFB Cup capping off a remarkable season. Robben was at his lethal best, with several long range strikes on goal, before all the big names etched themselves into German history. Robben, Olic, Ribery and Schweinstager all scoring to put the tie beyond doubt. Try to catch this one if you can, as the teamwork was simply sublime – a perfect example of German soccer and the threat they’ll pose at the World Cup. The last two goals in particular were special.

Goal of the Week

Slim pickings across Europe – it has to be Drogba’s strike to give the Londoners their double. His goal is matched by his post-match celebrations (ontop of a double decker in an inflatable bra)

Video of the Week

If you guys like it, then this could be a beginning of a football advert of the week section… This is an all time classic. Who could forgot playing that funny cage game when we were wee young uns. Happy days.

Quotes of the Weekend

“In a way you can admire the furiously literal-minded shamelessness of Portsmouth, their utter immersion in the crackhead-scale appetites of the Premier League. While also feeling a bit sorry for the FA Cup, with its foot-bath-level reservoir of dwindling magic, still standing by trying to look dignified and vital while an imported drama of opposites takes place on its lawn.” Barney Ronay of The Guardian. This is quality. If only journalism like this existed in Australia… (Craig Foster and Michael Cockerill you are absolute duds)

I just wish that Italian fans weren’t stuck in the 19fucking80s where angry people search for the most inflammatory thing they can think of to shout and let rip with no thought for the consequences. It was noticeable that from ‘inoffensive’ insults, people descended into racism as tempers frayed – as though it was this latent force ready to burst out under sufficient provocation. I hate it, it makes me feel sick & dirty and in the end I stopped caring about losing the cup. I don’t have any answers to offer right now, just a kind of nausea & despair.” From Spangly Princess and his veritable blog.

*New Section*

Worst Journalism of the Week

“It would take a long shift with a polystyrene beaker on The Strand to collect enough money to pop into the Savoy Grill for lunch. But that would seem a pretty succinct précis of the business plan for “a summer of rebuilding” at many Premier League clubs. Their stomachs are increasingly gnawed by hunger, and their derrières chilled by a cold pavement – but they still want to feast like maharajahs….They have all been swanking around like the masters of a 1,000-year Reich, but suddenly mendacious financing is making mendicants of many.” The Independant’s Chris McGrath gives us this debacle. This is more complicated than my law readings, so in my books, that’s simply not good enough. Give him the sack and hire passthesugar…

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3rd – 10th May 2010


Welcome to the first, albeit abridged (speak to my lecturers about that), version of Monday Morning Lowdown.

What you missed…

Just in case you’re living in a jungle somewhere and you missed it, then Chelsea are champions for another year. Any hopes of final day madness were quickly dispelled by a ruthless Chelsea side intent to be labelled as winners. (and look how sneaky Ancelloti looks in the pic) If you didn’t catch it, then you missed Drogba throw an absolute tantrum and kick his toys all over Stamford Bridge as Franky Lampard steadfastly maintained his role as penalty taker to deny the Drog his golden boot chances. His demeanour was quickly lifted though, as he proceeded to find the back of the hapless Wigan’s (in case you forgot they were playing) net three times, including a penalty later on. United also won 4 – zip over Stoke, but it would be difficult to find a more dejected home crowd at such a drubbing. Watching Ferguson parade around Old Trafford with such a broad grin was quite surreal. Spurs were thumped back to Earth by conceding a 2 goal lead to get done 4-2 at Turf Moor of all places. Arsenal looked ruthless with Van Persie. Liverpool looked as hapless as ever. Can’t remember much of the rest – couldn’t be bothered.

Game of the Week

Motherwell v Hibernian – 6 – 6

Who would have thought it! Hibs had to win to get into Europe so there was a bit riding on the fixture. This will be one of the best games you ever see, and certainly the most remarkable comeback. I don’t wanna ruin it for you, but… whatever, 6 – 2 Motherwell come back to 6 – 5 before they miss a chance to equalise through a penalty and then an absolute screamer gets them level in the 93rd minute. Brilliant!

Goal of the Week

There were some absolute crackers all over Europe. A mention goes to Bojan who scored this clinical finish in midweek:

Watch the equaliser for Motherwell in the above video as well. That is a tremendous strike.

But this week’s gong goes to Mr Luka Modric, who displayed a neat stepover and blasted a left foot thunderbolt into the roof of Brian Jensen’s net. Watch it here. (I wish those idiots on youtube would stop with all the fake videos…)

Moment of the Week

Simply remarkable, remarkable!

Video of the Week

It’s an old one, but it’s great! Every kids wet dream – video games and soccer.

Quotes of the Week

Carlo Ancelloti before facing a jovial press conference with typically broken English, “Just easy questions please because my level of wine is high,” That just about sums it all up doesn’t it.

“When you think of your new USMNT jersey you don’t think, sweet, I’m going to go masturbate now. Well, ok, maybe you do. But I would contend that this is perhaps not the sort of brand association [Nike’s use of a scantily clad model to sell the new jersey] that the USSF would want to promote…Oh well, at least they didn’t paint the jersey on. We’ll give them a few days on that one.” In reference to the new NIKE jerseys, the Sun in England gives a bit of an inappropriate rant.


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