While it’d be melodramatic to describe Stoke City’s recent problems as a crisis, few can deny we have hit a dead-end. A mere four goals in eight league games tells its own story. Every aspect of our forward play needs work. Too often we rely on crosses (which vary in quality) from which we rarely have enough players in the box to trouble opposition defences. When Stephen Ireland squandered a glorious opportunity against West Brom, it was clear we’d draw another blank. Another disappointing aspect of our play is how wasteful we usually are with set pieces. Our corners are cleared with the minimum of fuss and free kicks rarely trouble the opposing keeper. Asmir Begovic made a string of saves to keep us level. We should all be grateful to Begovic because our attacking play is so fruitless the moment we concede a goal it may well be game over. Our decent start to the season has fizzled out as we slide closer to the relegation places. Within our squad we have the ability to comfortably address the problems and get back to winning games of football. There is often talk of systems and strategy but the key to lifting the assembling clouds could be the result of something as simple as shooting practice.
Helgar Osieck’s removal from the Australia manager’s job is no shock. Nobody denies Brazil and France are very good teams but to lose both 0-6, and look utterly helpless in doing so is indicative of deeper problems in the camp. Osieck’s reign wasn’t a failure. Reaching the final of the Asian Cup in 2011 was a substantial achievement. Combine this with World Cup qualification and his tenure was far from a calamity. Despite this, the national team had stagnated. Too few youngsters gained experience and, as a collective, the old guard look a spent force. Thoughts immediately turned to a successor. There has been a clamour for an Australian manager to be appointed. Understandably, Ange Postecoglou’s name had been mentioned. It should be borne in mind club and international management are two different kinds of jobs with different demands and expectations. Postecoglou’s success at Brisbane Roar was borne of intense work with the players as a team and as individuals. At international level managers don’t get so much time to impose themselves. In addition to the World Cup the new manager has to be aware of the Asian Cup in 2015. As host nation, Australia will be expected to challenge for the trophy. The days of Australia being a football backwater are long gone. One thing is for certain….. the new Australia manager will have to be prepared for pressure.
Brisbane Roar have started the A-League season in style with a 100% record from the first two games. Saturday night’s 4-0 thrashing of Sydney was a boost for everyone. Without wanting to belittle a very good performance, the point has to be made, it’s difficult to ascertain Roar’s potential for the season from Saturday mainly because Sydney were so poor. They looked utterly demoralised and from the moment Brisbane took the lead the result was never in doubt. Frank Farina must feel bewildered by such a lethargic display from his players. It’s a fantastic start to the season for Brisbane but bigger challenges lie ahead.
England have qualified for the 2014 World Cup. Sensibly, Roy Hodgson has acknowledged England aren’t among the favourites to lift the trophy. His words may be seen as negative or defeatist when it was merely a realistic appraisal of England’s possibilities. The quarter finals are by any historical measure a good performance for England and the problem is some people seem unable to accept it. Our record since 1966* isn’t great. In the last 47 years we’ve reached a World Cup semi a Euro semi and several World Cup quarter finals. In the same period Holland have reached three WC finals, a World Cup semi final and won the European championship. Bulgaria have reached a World Cup semi final. Sweden have got to a World Cup semi final and a European semi final. Poland have reached a World Cup semi final and finished 3rd in 1974. Soviet Union reached two European Finals. Belgium have reached a European final and a World Cup semi final. Turkey have reached a World Cup semi final and a European semi final and, of course, Greece were European champions. They are all middle ranking European teams and their records easily match England’s. Looking at Europe’s elite, In 2002 and 2008 the Germans were considered to be poor yet still reached the final of the respective competitions. Similarly, Italy were unfancied in last years Euros yet reached the final. France have twice been European champions as well as World Cup winners. So since 66 our record, when compared to other European football nations, rarely rises above mediocre. Despite this people got annoyed because, for example, we didn’t ‘win anything with Sven.’ It’s unlikely we’ll win a competition whoever the manager is! We’d all love to but actually expecting England to win a tournament is wishful thinking. There’s no great tradition to justify that sort of demand. In a tournament, if we get past the group stage we’ve fulfilled expectancy. From that point we may or may not make progress but we certainly need the luck of the draw….. as soon as we face a side with genuine aspirations to win a tournament we get knocked out. 1990 was great fun but, with all respect, Belgium and Cameroon weren’t contenders to lift the trophy. Next year we should enjoy the tournament and enjoy England’s presence… and leave silly groundless expectation s to one side.
*our record before 66 wasn’t great…Bela Horizonte anyone?
As required, England won the final two qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland. Both victories were put on track with goals by Wayne Rooney. In the aftermath of qualification Rooney’s contribution has been overlooked. Some have suggested throughout his career Rooney has failed to fulfill his potential so let’s examine the facts. At the age of 27 Rooney has won five Premier league winners medals. He also has a Champions League winners medal and two runners-up medals. For England he’s scored 38 goals in 86 appearances and still has the potential to reach 100 caps and may yet beat Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 goals. His failure to score in the two World Cups he’s played in remains a source of frustration. Hopefully in Brazil next year he’ll rectify that and make a lasting impression on football’s biggest show. It’s ludicrous to suggest his career is anything but successful.