Friday, July 27, 2007

U/20 World Cup Ramble #3

As I mentioned in the previous post, the Scottish team made a defensive error when they conceded their first goal against Japan.

Monday 2nd July, 2007

In hindsight it's awfully clear that the Scots didn't make the right decisions. Both of them. Both wanted to smash the ball away. So three things: a connection with the ball and putting some distance on it while playing it away from the goal. It was all under pressure (from Miroshima) too, so there was no room for error. So, we don't really need hindsight or even the goal to be conceded to see that clearing difficult balls is a risky way to play.

A slight bobble can also be difficult to react to when you've already wound up your kicking leg - just ask Paul Robinson!

So what could the Scottish players have done? Instead of trying to do too much, do just enough and play it safe. 'Safe' is away from the opposition, and if the opposition attcks the goal directly through the middle of the park, then 'safe' is the flanks - the sidelines. In order to end the Japanese attack, all the Scots had to do was connect with the ball and direct it to the sidelines with a slightly angled foot.

No need for a kicking action; there should be more than enough momentum on the ball so that the defender can simply place his foot to change the direction of the ball. This would have easily been the safer option, especially in the case of the goalkeeper as he only needed to keep the ball away from Miroshima - who was directly ahead of him.

Against Geelong on the weekend, relatively new Victory signing Matthew Kemp irritated me as hw would always do the same thing - blindly thump the ball forward. While it never backfired on him, it's not good play (after all, you're simply trying to get rid of the ball), and there's no thought involved. No consideration as to how to wisely use the ball or get it to a team-mate. It's not attractive to watch, nor is it a good example for junior players.

Go down to your local ground and you'll see this kind of play throughout the match. From the desperate situations when there is no time for the kids to think to when the ball has just been won. You may even find yourself lucky enough to see it from kick-off! What's the point of it? Let me not even mention how many times you may see a kid miss the bal entirely, putting the entire team in danger!

I've ended up rambling, but the long kick is too often abused in football, and it needs to be cut out. Or at least reduced, play a possession game and develop the play towards a goal. Pass the ball around, and learn to look after it. If the play is there, the goals will come.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

U/20 World Cup Ramble #2

The second U/20 World Cup match that I watched was Japan vs. Scotland. The significance of watch the Japanese kids play is that we (as in Australia) were knocked out of the Asia Cup by the senior mens team.
Monday 2nd July, 2007

I've been enjoying watching the kids far more than the senior South Americans/Central Americans/North Americans. Funny how they are just kids - but they are awesome to watch.

Last night only Japan vs. Scotland was shown. Let me tell you, the Japanese kids were phenomenal to watch. As a result, I worry about the future of our Socceroos.

These Japanses kids love to do things with the ball. Step-overs, all kinds of turns, stepping on the ball... they have great ball skills. And they're not just show-ponies, they can play the ball very well. Japan would is the future of Asian football.

I can imagine Fossie this Sunday on SBS, talking about the ball skills and technical ability of the Japanese. Dad says it's the Brazilian influence - and he must be right. A lot of Brazilians have finished off their professional football careers in the domestic league of Japan. And you can see the influence it's had on the Japanese youth - who are now coming through. Australia had better be afraid. :)

One kid who particularly stood out for me was Miroshima. I'm pretty bad in how I only keep an eye on one player - I suppose it's a fault that I need to eradicate ASAP. A bit like Acosta, it was Miroshima's attitude that attracted me to him.

He had a chance relatively early in the match to volley the ball into goal. He had to do a few things as the ball came from his left and the goal was in front:
  • connect with the ball,
  • change the direction of the ball into goal,
  • avoid the goalkeeper,
  • and maintain some sense of balance while in the air trying to meet the ball.
After all that he missed. But instead of putting his hands up to his head and getting lost in the miss, he smiled (or rather, grinned) about it and carried o. Not to say that he enjoyed the miss, but it was the attitude of, "Oh well, it could've been really something," and getting on with the job at hand.

He ended up scoring Japan's opening goal. A long ball bounced near the Scottish defence, where the centre back completely missed the ball as he tried to clear it. So the ball went on to bother the Scottish 'keeper. Miroshima chased the ball down from the initial bounce. While the 'keeper got to the ball first, Miroshimas presence in the vicinity meant that the 'keeper had no time to muck about with the ball. So he assumed his British ways and smashed the ball forward. Which is exactly where Miroshima was. The ball went directly into the Japanese, bounced off him and went past the 'keeper. Miroshima controlled it and tapped it in.

[I get distracted on this event - I'm going to make it a seperate post to this.]

The match finished with Japan beating the Scots 3-1. The other two Japanese goals were rockets, especially the third - it was too hot for the Scottish 'keeper, who actually got to the ball - but the strength on the shot was too good. The Scottish goal came from a lovely throughball, which was received and shot at goal with. The Japansese 'keeper saved that, but a Scot was there for the second ball. There were also some Japanese defenders nearby, with one on the line who could've stopped it.

I figure he didn't as he might've run into the goalpost in the process. Perhaps he considered the 3-0 lead and thought a possible injury wasn't worth it. Especially this early in the tournament (first match). Although, as Dad correctly pointed out (or argued with me), should the Scots get another goal, we'd suddenly have a very different match on our hands, and that the Japanese shouldn't relax or be comforted in that buffer.

In the end it didn't happen, but I suppose that doesn't make my dad any less right.

And here we have a package of highlights from Youtube. That first Japanese goal still infuriates me. But I'm too tired to write up the post exclusively about that right now. And I'm annoyed at Melbourne Victory too.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

How to read penalties.

Of course, if the player is experienced, it's not so easy.

The following figure is taken from Alex Walsh's The Soccer Goalkeeping Handbook (1998):

Hopefully it won't be an issue using it, but it's very useful in posing the following question: if the first taker of the penalties MUST score in order to reduce the confidence of the opposition goalkeeper, increase the pressure of the opposing team and generally set a good example for the rest of his team - why did Kewell kick to the obvious side (position C in the above figure)?

I suppose you could ask the same of Neill - but he was knackered... and not the first taker.

Letter to Graham Arnold

It's half-time. It's the first time I've watch Australia in the Asia Cup. I'm very upset and frustrated. So I've decided to write a letter.

Dear Graham,

Could you please stop giving instructions throughout the whole match. It's quite annoying to listen to as an outsider, I can only imagine how the players feel. You're not letting them play their own game, so they seem to be playing a 'stale' kind of match.

I am also unhappy with the players' fitness. I recall Guus had them whippet-thing. Now I see tummies showing under the green and gold.

Best of luck in the second half,

(a concerned fan)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

U/20 World Cup Ramble #1

While I was away I had both the Copa America and the U/20 World Cup to watch. Sometimes they clashed, in which case I would watch the 'kids' as their quality of play and the lessons learnt by watching them were superior to the Copa America.

As Postecoglou had failed us, I went for Argentina - naturally. Their first match was against the Czech Republic. A while ago now, but I kinda blogged in my notebook:
Sunday 1st July, 2007

Anyway, last night the kids lost. Not on the scoreboard, but they didn't get their objective - which was to win the match. It finished 0-0 and at 80 minutes, when the Czech coach/manager/whatever took off his cute-as-pie striker* (Fenin) and put on another defender it was obvious that the Czechs were playing for a draw.

The Argentinians threw everything they could at the Czechs, but I think they beat themselves in not being able to score. There was a chance very early in the match when there were three (or at the very least two) Argis on the left side of the penalty box, but none of them could ever get the ball to sit where they wanted it to. That early in the match I am happy for them to use the condition of the synthetic pitch as an excuse.

A few minutes later there was a similar opportunity. I can't remember it all that well, but I know that at that moment I couldn't put the blame on the poor condition of the pitch. It was a poor shot, or straight to the Czech keeper. Perhaps there were two parts and the follow up was awful.

As the match wore on, we just couldn't score! Mind you, the Czechs had loaded the defense. You'd see two little Argis trying to do something with the ball, with at least six Czechs about them. And the Czechs weren't exactly small. But at that age, size is just height - it doesn't really slow you down. Big in build, but I suppose their muscles aren't all that heavy yet.

Though I'm convinced the Czech 'keeper is massive.
[Random stuff here as I was trying to figure out why his goalkick motion bothered me - turns out his supporting leg is too far behind the ball, meaning he has to reach to kick the ball. Brute strength gives him a massive distance, but really, he can't kick.] He seemed agile enough, but the amount of times the Argis would give the ball to him made his job somewhat easy. I fear that he's only going to get bigger, so I hope that he limits his weight work and focuses on agility.

Back to the kids - one kid who I thought had lots of spunk was a second half sub for Argi. Hard to miss visually with his head of curls and crazy bandaged up face. #20 I think - Acosta?

He came onto the pitch full of instructions from the coach/technical director and then he'd be all over the park - but in a good way. Favourite moment was when one of our players was fouled and a couple of our kids went to argue to the ref. For f@%&'s sake! We're losing! (Kinda.) Let's get on with the match!!!

And along comes Acosta - not to argue with the ref though. No, he grabs one of his team-mate's hands and pulls him away from the ref. Then he comes back and pulls the other one away. Clever boy. :) Cute too, like seeing two little schoolkids in their matching uniforms and holding hands because their teacher told them too. Well, we had that in primary school so that someone always knew where you were. And I suppose it's easier to count pairs than heaps of individuals.

So I like Acosta from that moment on - spunk AND brains. I hope he's well looked after and developed properly as a player. He's got a good head by the looks of it. And as important as time-wasting can be (and I am such a fan of it too), it's also important knowing when NOT to waste time.

[Random rubbish about the only comment I yelled out at the Richmond match I attended the Friday before I left about letting the other team waste time while you're losing. Back to Acosta...]

There was a little bit of a save he made too, which I'd kinda forgotten about, since I only remembered the keeper's error instead. A Czech had broken through and the 'keeper (Romero) came out - off his line, right out of the box. No man's land. He went for the ball, but instead of smothering the ball with his body, he came out and tried to tackle with his feet - like any field player would. Trouble is, it didn;t exactly come naturally to him and the Czech got past.

By this time two Argis had come down, Acosta one of them - he must've run the length of the pitch! It had been a counter of sorts and I suppose Acosta could run that length so quickly as he had fresh legs. The Czech shot, trying to get the ball in front of the two Argi 'defenders', but Acosta was too fast. Love that kid already. :)

I found this Youtube of match highlights. You won't see the first Argi attempt, or Acosta leading his team-mates away, but you can see the second attempt and that awesome run. Watch for the bandaged head at the edge of the box at about 7:30 after the Argi corner.

Anyway, we're now playing the Czech Republic in the final. I'm scared. If it stays as a 0-0 draw... have you seen the Czech boys penalty kicks? The kind of kick where even if the goalkeeper catches it, he goes in the goals too!